Updated: Jun 21
Updated: November 2020
Travellers who visited Singapore will definitely know the island resort known as Sentosa to the south of the island-nation. That island with a giant Merlion, beautiful beaches, Universal Studios, the casinos at Resorts World Sentosa and various attractions, but not all of them know of another island off the eastern coast — Pulau Ubin (乌敏岛).
Known as the "Granite Island" in Malay, rustic Pulau Ubin (or "Ubin" for short) is in stark contrast to the more developed Sentosa island. Instead of posh hotels and restaurants on Sentosa, Ubin has a tiny village with just a few wooden houses and a seafood restaurant. Instead of sky trains, buses and taxis to get around Sentosa, Ubin has some old vans to ferry visitors across the island. The most common means of transportation on Ubin is bicycles.
In fact, Ubin is a "nature park" under the care of the National Parks Board (NParks) of Singapore. The small island is inhabited by a very small population who had stayed on the peaceful island for many years. Go there and meet these friendly people.
Before You Go
Here are some advice for the trip to Ubin.
Apply insect repellent for repelling mosquitoes and stay away from desolated and shady places, don't wander into less-travelled places.
Apply sunblock to prevent sunburn, even on cloudy days.
Wear light-colored, thin, long sleeves shirt to keep mosquitoes away and reflect sun heat.
Standby some plasters and antiseptic wipes (just in case).
Bring drinking water (unless you prefer to buy cold drinks around the island).
Bring cap and raincoat (in case it rains).
Optional: an extra T-shirt if you have further plans after Ubin.
As Ubin is some distance away from the mainland, there is no telecommunications coverage from Singapore carriers on most parts of the island, except in the village. If your mobile device is set to automatically search for carriers, it may lock onto Malaysia's network and incur data roaming charges. Remember to manually set your mobile device to use your carrier's network only.
Getting To Ubin
Take the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) to Tanah Merah Station, go to Exit B, you will see a bus stop near the exit. Catch Bus 2 to Changi Village Bus Terminal (35 minutes). The bus service will end there so not to worry about where to alight. This is the easiest way to get there.
The following services also terminate at the bus terminal:
Bus 29 from Tampines Bus Interchange,
Bus 59 from Bishan Bus Interchange, or
Bus 109 from Serangoon Interchange, it will pass by Pasir Ris MRT Station too but you will need to find the right bus stop.
After alighting at Changi Village Bus Terminal, turn left and walk about 150 metres to Changi Point Ferry Terminal. This is where you will be ferried to Ubin by bum boats. Do note that the ferry terminal is an immigration checkpoint for travellers to Pengerang in Desaru, Malaysia. Photography is strictly not allowed inside the building.
For travellers going to Ubin, custom-checking of passports is not required but foreigners should always carry them for identification purpose — especially on a remote island. Locals should have identity cards on them (this goes without saying). Note that x-raying of belongings will be conducted on the returning trip.
Each bum boat can carry up to 12 passengers. Boat captains will usually wait for 12 people to be present at the waiting area before bringing them to their bum boats. The fare for each passenger is S$3.00 (one-way) to be paid on the boat to the captain. If you bring your own bicycle, pay an additional S$2.00 surcharge and carry it on and off the boat yourself. Not that shared bicycles and portable mobility devices are not allowed to be brought to the island.
Update 28 Nov 2020:
The bumboat fare for each passenger has been adjusted to S$4.00 one-way. The charge for bringing own bicycle remains at S$2.00.
If you bring a pet, you will need to charter a whole boat to yourself.
If there are insufficient number of passengers and you are not willing to wait, make up the shortfall in fares (bear by yourself or split with others if they are willing to share) and the boat captain will commence the journey. The maximum fare is S$48.00 per-trip and exclude bicycle surcharges.
Bum Boats Operating Hours: 6am - 7pm.
Services may be round the clock but may not have enough passengers to fill a boat. In such situation, pay the shortfall in fares. The best timing to have enough passengers will be between 7am to 7pm. So, do be at the Ferry Terminal at between 9am to 10am on weekdays. On weekends, be there even earlier as there may be long queues (including locals) to make the bum boats run to-and-fro like crazy.
The journey across the Strait of Singapore is about 10 minutes and you will get off at the pier near to the village on Ubin. Wait for the captain to berth the boat and give the signal to alight. Those who bring bicycles will need to carry them up to the pier.
And welcome to Pulau Ubin!
Last Kampong of Singapore
Don't be in a hurry to run off somewhere. Explore the last village (or kampong) of Singapore. Situated right beside the sea, the relax and rural seaside atmosphere makes the village captivating to city dwellers, especially the younger generations who grew up in cities. The kampong will show them what Singapore looks like 50 years back.
Unlike many riverside or seaside villages in other countries that are usually polluted by wastes from the villagers, Ubin villagers and NParks staff keep the sea and land pollution-free.
Ubin is a nature park, so do not litter on the island. Keep it clean for the benefits of everyone. Also, try not to smoke or start a fire on Ubin, fire engines need to take boats to Ubin before they can put out any fires (happened in June 2015 due to a bush fire).
Outside the police post, near the jetty, is an old police jeep. It is probably decommissioned. This type of old jeep is no longer in active service on the mainland. And this may be the last one that is still around.
Most of the shops in the village rent out bicycles. A normal bike costs about S$8.00 for the whole day. There are other types of bicycle available, such as mountain bikes, tandem bikes, bikes with baby seats, etc, to suit every preference. Also, there is no need to compare prices between the shops, it is the type of bicycle that determines the price. If you go on a weekend, go early or you may not have a bike to rent. Rental prices also tend to be slightly higher on weekends.
Apart from renting bicycles, you can get drinking water and snacks from the shops. There are some eating places and a seafood restaurant in the village too. You may want to get a bite before moving off or plan your day trip in such a way to return to the village for lunch or rest break.
If you like seafood, try the only seafood restaurant (Season Live Seafood) here. Their prices are comparable to the cooked food stalls in Singapore neighbourhood towns. Note that it is closed on Tuesdays.
There are other eating places too, but opened on weekends only. Hopefully, with more crowds on weekdays, shop owners will be willing to open for business and provide more choices. If the weather is hot, you can get coconut juice and ice desserts at some of the shops too.
Cycle or Walk
Getting around the island is faster and easier using bicycles, but may miss a lot of things, especially if you are looking for lovely animals in the wild. Do cycle slowly and take in the scenery. You can also opt to walk but do start early in the day, it will take almost a whole day to trek leisurely around the whole island.
Don't worry about being lost on the island, there are signboards with maps at every path junctions. If you cannot read maps, keep to the main roads (there is only a few) and ask whoever you meet along the way for directions. You can preview the map at NParks website. Do download and use it offline. There is no network coverage in most parts of the island.
Apart from concrete paths, there are uneven terrains and rocky trails too, so do not cycle too fast, especially when going down slopes — you may collide with other cyclists, knock down someone or fall off the bike and injured yourself.
There are signs to advise you to dismount and push the bike down slopes. Be safe, heed it or the plasters you bring may come in handy. Oh, no signs will advise you to get off the bike and push it up slopes, you will do it automatically after tiring yourself out, hopefully not at the start of the day.