Welcome to my guide to Mersing, the town that you have to go through to get to some of the most beautiful islands in Malaysia. Such as Pulau Tioman, Pulau Besar, Pulau Rawa, Pulau Tengah and many more.
I’ve broken this guide up into a few sections that you can skip to by clicking on these links.
1. How to get to Mersing / Tioman Island.
What / Where is Mersing?
Mersing is a southeast Malaysian coastal town that travellers have to go through to get to Tioman Island and other islands off the southeast coast of Malaysia. Other islands include Pulau Besar, Rawa, Sibu, Tengah and many more.
Essentially there can only be one reason why you are headed towards Mersing, and that is because you are heading to Tioman or one of the other tropical islands. There is literally NO other reason you would go there. Unless of course are actually Malaysian and are heading back to your hometown for the holidays (balik kampung!)
You’ll probably only be here for short while so I’ll make this as short sweet and as comprehensive as possible.
Welcome to Mersing. / Selamat Datang ke Mersing :)
How to get from Kuala Lumpur to Mersing.
If you’ve just arrived in Malaysia and you are heading to Tioman straight from the airport (KLIA or KLIA2) then you will need to take a shuttle bus / taxi to the TCS Bus Station (which is brand new and looks more like an airport than a bus station) and catch a connecting bus from there to Mersing.
Time: 5 to 6 hours.
Cost: RM60 (US$17)
How to get from Singapore to Mersing.
However, closer doesn’t necessarily mean quicker.
Getting to Mersing from Changi Airport involves taking a taxi / LRT from Changi to either Queen Street Taxi Junction and getting a taxi across the border:
Price Taxi: S$12 per person or S$48 per vehicle. [From Queen Street to Larkin]
Price Bus: S$3.5 per person. [From Queen Street to Larkin]
Then catching a bus or another taxi from either TK station or wherever the taxi driver dropped you off.
Time to Mersing: 2-3 hours
Price: RM20 (US$5) [Bus]
These are basically the only options of getting to Mersing / Tioman now that there is no longer a functioning airport on the island.
Here is a good website for the taxi information – http://www.taxisingapore.com/singapore-to-malaysia/
Here is a good website for the bus schedule – http://causewaylink.com.my/singapore-bus#/-1/
2. Accommodation in Mersing.
Traveller’s that require accommodation in Mersing always have two things in common – they are either arriving very late, or have just missed the last ferry (or, worse, have discovered there is no ferry due to tidal reasons) and they need to find somewhere to sleep. Somewhere that isn’t as “god-forsaken” looking as the rest of the Town.
Fear not fellow traveller’s; here is a list of accommodation options in Mersing that won’t have you running for the hills. It is important to note that there are actually many options to choose from but we are purposely leaving out those that we think are terrible. We haven’t stayed at all of these but we have heard they are pretty the best available.
Hotel Havanita: Apparently the best hotel in town (certainly looks the best) but isn’t cheap and isn’t close to the jetty.
Timotel: Apparently the second best in town but again, not cheap and on the wrong side of the bridge.
Mersing Inn: Right opposite popular (and good) restaurant – Calypso Cafe. Cheap and 5 min walk from jetty.
Riverside Hotel: Well priced, close to jetty and apparently quite clean. 3min walk from jetty.
Hotel Seri Malaysia: Has a pool but the one time we stayed there all the rooms were mouldy. Not the cheapest either.
3. The Mersing Bus Stop.
Like most things in Mersing, the bus stop is close to the centre of town. Conveniently, and surprisingly well thought out, a brand new covered walkway has been built for travellers arriving in Mersing. The walk way begins at the bus stop and works it’s way up and over over a busy road into town.
The bridge section doesn’t have stairs so it’s perfect for people with roller-luggage.
4. What to do in Mersing while waiting for the ferry.
However, if you do have some time to explore the town a little then I recommend heading down to the beach for an evening stroll. There is a relatively nice walkway and even an outdoor gym for anyone feeling active. There are only usually between 2 and 6 people at the gym so it’s always empty.
Mersing beach itself is a pretty dirty. There is always filth and litter washing up from who knows where and is generally not a clean environment. The locals don’t seem to mind though and every evening there are families that enjoy the cool breeze coming off the South China Sea.Mersing beach is not for swimming. In the last 16 months I have not seen one person swimming there – you would most definitely catch a disease if you tried.
If you have time and want a nicer beach experience then Air Papan beach is where you want to go. My wife and I are usually here in the evenings. We jog, play soccer and sometimes even swim, it’s much cleaner, there is white sand and beach facilities. Air Papan is a 15min drive from Mersing, so you would have to find transport to get there. The drive along coast to Air Papan is stunning, it takes you through coconut palm groves and winds through rice paddies. The sunsets over the rice paddies and makes for some awesome pictures. The town itself has no real attractions to speak of but visiting the Chinese Temple, The Hindu Temple and the main Mosque (Masjid Jamek) are definitely worth a few photos. Mersing is easy to walk through. The town centre is made up of three (short) main roads and you can get a good idea of everything in the town within 30 min of walking around. Which is good because it’s hot here.
Welcome to #Mersing! Our new town’s official welcome board. #vmy2014 cc @TourismMalaysia A photo posted by Vaughan McShane (@vaughanmac_) on
5. Map of Mersing.
Below is a custom-made Google map of Mersing showing everything that I think is worth your time. There are restaurants, cafe’s, hotels, places of interest and places to drink alcohol all highlighted in various colours. Click on the Markers for more information.
6. Where to Eat in Mersing.
The below are all marked out on the map of Mersing that I’ve made. All to often I see foreigners wandering around town looking for a place to eat or drink. They all look a little lost and most of the time they end up at the worst places in town looking very uncomfortable. I always wish I could tell them that there is a better place just around the corner but I think the restaurant owners would hate me of I went around doing that. So hopefully you find this article before you end up in the same situation.
- Calypso Cafe – Malay / Western
- Calypso is the foreigners friend. Clean, cool and trendy, you can immediately tell it is a huge cu above the rest of the restaurants in town. Calypso serves a mixed menu of western and local Malay foods and often has funky music playing too. The owner is extremely friendly and we have no worries punting her establishment first. We go there at least once a week. No alcohol is served here as it is a hall restaurant.
- Restaurant Syed Ali – Indian
- For those who have an Indian palate, Syed Ali is one of the cheapest and best little (Mamak) restaurants you’ll find in Malaysia. We’ve been all over the country and I like our one the most. There is nothing clean or fancy about the restaurant. Cats are all over the place and it’s a little bit scattered but the food is great. Roti Kosong, Lamb Curry (Kambing Kurri) and Tandoori Chicken are my favourite things to order. I usually order them all at the same time and the whole meal for two of us is around RM15. Very cheap. No Alcohol is served here.
- Greenhouse – Thai EDIT: GREENHOUSE IS NOW CLOSED (We are so sad about this.)
- This little haven is a little bit out of town unfortunately and I doubt many traveller’s have been. But it’s really not that far. Walkable actually. It’s probably a 10-15min walk from town and it really is the best Thai we have had in Malaysia. That’s because Mike, the owner, is from Bangkok. Mike is truly a friendly guy and one of the most well-travelled people we’ve met in Mersing.
- Our favourite foods are Tom Kha Gai (Tom Yum but with coconut milk), Dagin Bakaar (sliced meat), Stuffed chicken, Pad Thai (Of course) and a few others. The menu is large and in English . No Alcohol is served here either.
- Mersing Seafood – Chinese
- Located on the “Main” Main Rd, next to Guardian, Mersing Seafood has the reputation of being one of the best Chinese restaurants in Mersing. We’ve eaten there a few times and haven’t been disappointed. They are about twice as expensive than any other restaurant in Mersing too but overall, you still get value for your money. Tip: When eating Chinese order several dishes from the menu and share between you. Alcohol is served for those that would like a cold beer.
- The Port Cafe – Malay / Western
- Probably the most popular restaurant among foreigners in town. Chiefly because of the location. The Port is right next to the ferry and makes a good hangout place if you are only waiting a couple of hours until your ferry arrives. The Port serves more western food than any other establishment in town but that doesn’t mean it’s better than any other food in town. Also, the price is higher than Calypso which is run by the same family. The port provides shade, fans and wifi too which is great. We recommend the pizza. No alcohol is served here but they do have plenty of refreshing alternatives.
- Ee Lo – Chinese
- Another Chinese restaurant we like to go to in town. Ee lo serves great Chinese dishes at a slightly cheaper price than Mersing Seafood and because its more centrally located, there are generally other foreigners here. Alcohol is served.
- Xiang Gao
- Located right next door to Ee lo, Xiang Gao is a bakery / restaurant here in Mersing. Xiang Gao has a small selection of meals but a fairly nice interior. There is wifi and small little bakery treats to choose from too. I like the bread pudding.
- Fong Kopitiam
- Very popular with the locals, Fong Kopitiam is a restaurant / beer garden type of establishment just a few shops down from Ee lo. We’ve never actually been to Fong Kopitiam (Kopitiam literally means coffee (kopi) shop (tiam) – it is a mixture of Malay and Hokkien) but it always looks clean and there are always locals and foreigners there.
7. Mersing Jetty and Tioman Ferry Schedule.
If you are coming to Mersing to go to Tioman then it is essential to know where the ferry is. Please see the above map showing you the typical route directly from the bus stop to the ferry terminal. If you are coming to Mersing via taxi, your driver will just drop you off right at the jetty if you ask him.
Getting Tickets for the Ferry
When you get to the ferry you will notice that there is no clear instructions on how to get your tickets and board the ferry. I wish it were more clearly laid out because when it gets busy you have to stand in about four or five queues before you get on the boat. Below are some instructions, to help you with the crazy process.
- When you get to the ferry terminal head straight to the Bluewater Ferry tickets counter.
- Ask them for return tickets to which ever bay on Tioman Island that you are headed to – you don’t have to buy return tickets immediately – Bluewater does sell tickets on the Island back to Mersing.
- Once you have bought your tickets you need to register for the ferry at the counter to the right of you.
- After buying your ferry tickets and registering for the ferry you must go the the Marine Park Permit counter. You will need to buy one Marine Park Conservation permit per person.
- Now depending on how much time you have you need to decide if you are going to sit and wait in the official seating area straight away or if you want to explore the town / get something to eat and drink in the meanwhile.
- When you head into the official seating area you need to collect your boarding pass before you sit down / queue for the ferry.
Altogether it is a very disorganised process and it’s not difficult but it can be frustrating when you are in a rush or don’t know what you are doing.
What to do at the jetty
If you have a few hours before your ferry it is worth heading into town on foot to buy goods at the 7/11 or grab lunch at Calypso as opposed to going to the Jetty Plaza – which is a terrible looking place set up for vendors to sell their goods. The concept is good but the building is not maintained, dirty and not where you want to spend your time. Check out the Google Map above that I made above for places worth going in Mersing.
That’s really all I can think of to help travellers navigate through their short time in Mersing. It’s fairly comprehensive and if you would like me to answer any questions that you might have please ask me in the comments.
Have fun on the islands!
A photo posted by Vaughan McShane (@vaughanmac_) on
Rural Malaysia. This is a typical home in our little Kampung (village) that we’ve lived in for the last year. As good as it looks, you can see why we getaway often! I’ve always been torn between big city lights and the country life. I’m super grateful for zero to no crime and violence, but we do miss the conveniences! A photo posted by Vaughan McShane (@vaughanmac_) on
Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately, but I’ve been hanging out with these guys. Good to be back :) A photo posted by Vaughan McShane (@vaughanmac_) on