Starting 2 October 2019, AirAsia will commence direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Tanjung Pandan on the island of Belitung, Indonesia.
Good news? Great news! Because Belitung offers everything you need for short trip away with the family. In one hour and 40 minutes, you can be relaxing on one of the white sandy beaches of Belitung. This island is located on the east coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.
Belitung island is the only place in Sumatra that I visited. Living in Jakarta as an expat at that time, it was often difficult to find an ideal vacation spot for my family. Although Bali, the Gili islands and other mainstream destinations were available at my doorstep, I struggled to find a place that suited my family’s needs. I’m not saying that my family is THAT difficult, but we wanted something affordable, beautiful and enjoyable for everyone, including my young children. I stumbled across the idea of Belitung after a friend recommended it and soon decided it may fit the ideal holiday for us.
Things to do on Belitung island
Visit Sendang Beach, a great place to see the sunrise if you’re an early riser. Make a trip to Pulau Basir, the world’s smallest island made entirely of sand and covered with starfish.
The two most beautiful beaches on Belitung are Tanjung Tinggi and Tanjung Kelayang. This last beach is covered by huge granite rocks.
An excellent place for snorkeling with kids of any age is Lengkuas island, don’t miss this! Many hotels also have scuba diving equipment for hire, but we did not go for scuba diving. Island-hopping is also a fun way to spend time with kids around Belitung.
For a romantic getaway without the kids, you could go to Leebong island, a small island not far from Belitung. Check here for availability, as this is a private island.
Local tour providers can take you on boat trips, cultural trips, hiking, cycling, kayaking, jungle trekking and tubing on the river.The Beraye waterfall and swimming hole at Mount Tagam make for a nice day trip. In the Batu Mentas nature reserve, you can spot the endangered Tarsius monkeys.
Andrea Hirata Museum
A visit to the Andrea Hirata Word Museum makes for a lovely afternoon day trip. This museum is in east Belitung and is the first and only literary museum in Indonesia. Compact and colourful, the museum features exhibits of Indonesian writer Andrea Hirata. Enter the museum and feel the atmosphere. You will see photos of the writer with inspirational sentences, among which his famous quote: “Dream, because God hugs your dreams”.
It took us 2 hours to get there by car. It’s a great place to take some beautiful photos, but I would not recommend going with young kids; they will be bored after 30 minutes into the tour. For those who love Instagrammable spots, this museum might be enjoyable. But if you expect to see a real museum, you won’t find it here.
Where to stay on Belitung island
We stayed at the Fairfield by Marriott Belitung for seven days. The ocean suite was perfect for us and our kids. Very spacious and functional with an additional living room, powder room and fast internet connection… hallelujah! We got to watch the beautiful sunset from our balcony. Unfortunately, we didn’t swim in the ocean. There were works going on and the ocean is quite far from the hotel. However, we did enjoy the nice swimming pool with a depth of only 130 cm, so our children could swim safely.
There is no children’s playground onsite. If you prefer water sports, it’s worth checking out the Hotel Santika Premiere Beach Resort Belitung or the Lorin Hotel. Breakfast at the hotel was mostly for local taste, but they did not refuse my cheese request.
Restaurants in Belitung
There aren’t really any stand-alone restaurants in the Western sense on Belitung, but there are many sedap (tasty) local delicacies! The holiday resorts have decent restaurants, while the towns have a collection of simple warungs (eating stalls). We ate some yummy fresh seafood and some special Belitung cakes. For those needing a dose of Western food, Kentucky Fried Chicken just opened a store in downtown Tanjung.
These are some Belitung eateries that deserve a special mention:
- Mie Belitung Atep: a famous noodle house in Belitung. The shop owner is a friendly lady, who will occasionally chat with customers. One portion costs 10,000Rp/RM2.90. Portions are quite small, so probably you will order more than one. Ask the locals how to get there.
- Restaurant KM: a restaurant selling homey Chinese-Belitung food. It is located in Kelapa Kampit (east Belitung).
- Drop by for a nice cuppa @Kongdjie Coffie in Tanjung Pandan, they’re still making coffee the traditional way, by roasting beans over a charcoal fire.
How to get around Belitung
Tourism and traffic aren’t very big on the island yet and Belitung is small, so almost any place on the island can be reached in less than 2 hours.
There are usually drivers hanging around at the airport where you arrive and you will need to negotiate the price for your ride to your hotel. I negotiated our ride for about 10 USD (RM42). Alternatively, when you arrive at the airport, ask your hotel to pick you up from the airport (which the upscale ones will do anyway).
To hire a driver and car for the day to get to the beaches, it will cost about 40 USD (RM168). You can ask your driver to arrange a boat trip, which I would highly recommend.
You can also rent scooters for IDR 75,000-125,000/RM22-37 (excluding fuel). Please check the scooter condition before you take the keys. The kids really enjoyed riding with us on the scooters.
You can download the Gojek and Grab apps into your phone, for scooter and car transport and pay according to the stated price. If you’re looking for taxi’s, best to call Street Taxi Belitung on +62 82283015555. The drivers are professional and under strict guidelines not to overcharge tourists. Street Taxi Belitung is licensed and regulated. To guarantee an airport pick up or drop off, it is best to book before you land or wait at least 20 minutes for Street Taxi to arrive after you call them.
For island hopping, you can pretty much hire a boat from any hotel reception or directly from the boat captain on the beach. Prices may vary from IDR 500,000 – 800,000/RM150-230 per day, depending on the size of the boat.
Belitung Island is a breathtaking spot, untouched in its beauty, and a place I highly recommend visiting, with children of all ages!
Text: Janet Diekmann