Tanjung Balai port, Karimun, Indonesia

Karimun is a small island offerring a range of tourist activities in the Riau Islands province of Indonesia. It is also the name of a group of islands and regency (kabupaten) to which it belongs.

Karimun is located just off the east coast of Sumatra, guarding the southern entrance of the busy Straits of Malacca. It lies west of Batam and to the southwest of Singapore and is the furthest west of the Riau Islands.

Its proximity to Singapore has made the islands quite affluent and busy. Its main town, Tanjung Balai is a bustling port town with a lot of commerce, boosted by tourists from Singapore and Malaysia. Note that it must not be confused with Tanjung Balai in North Sumatra province, a much larger city also known as Tanjung Balai Asahan and an international port. Like Batam and Bintan, Karimun is also listed as a Free Trade Zone area.

Get in


For details on visa requirements for visiting Karimun, please see the Indonesia page. Karimun's Tanjung Balai port is designated as a visa-free and visa-on-arrival entry point. Note that, apparently in contrast with many destinations in Indonesia, Karimun is designated as an entry point for the 7-days visa (that only costs US$10), as of 2014.

NOTE: Tanjung Balai, despite being a visa-on-arrival entry point, is not used to deliver such visas. Hence you may have to wait a while, until the person comes (from potentially far) and delivers the visa. And, of course, be sure to bring the exact amount in US$ to avoid any problem with change.

Karimun does not have an operational airport, so travellers' only option is to get in by boat. Karimun has good ferry connections with Singapore and Kukup in the southwestern tip of Johor, Malaysia as well as the other Riau Islands and the Sumatra "mainland".

Ferry terminals

Warning: there are two ferry terminals in Tanjung Balai. The main one (to Singapore, Batam, Bintan, Malaysia) is at the East-most part of the island. The other one (to local destinations such as Kundur) is 500 m further towards the city center.

From Singapore

Sindo Ferry Formerly Penguin Ferry Services (Tel: +62-777-324355 in Tanjung Balai; +65-62714866 in HarbourFront) and Indofalcon (Tel: +65-62783167 in Harbourfront) ferry companies operate ferries between Tanjung Balai and Singapore's HarbourFront Centre. Between them, they run 4 trips. From Singapore: 08:00, 11:40, 15:00, 18:20 (Singapore time). From Tg. Balai: 07:30, 11:00, 14:00, 17:00 (Tg. Balai time). From Singapore, tickets cost S$56 return before Indonesian port taxes (60,000 Rp as of 2014) or S$31 one-way before Indonesian port taxes (Rp 60,000 as of 2014) from Tanjung Balai. Journey time is about one and a half hours.

The two companies' code-sharing agreement that allows you to board any ferry at Tanjung Balai for the return leg to Singapore is no longer available. If you do not have a confirmed timing to go back, you are not advised to buy return ticket. You can still use an open ticket, and pick up your boarding pass 1 hour before returning to Singapore.

From Malaysia

Several companies operate frequent ferries between Tanjung Balai and Kukup, pontian in the southwestern part of Johor.

From the other Riau Islands

Numerous companies offer ferry services to/from Bintan, Batam and the other Riau Islands.

There are also very frequent ferries (about every 30 minutes) to Selat Beliah, at the North-most point of Kundur island. 15 minutes and 20,000 Rp.

From the Sumatra mainland

Warning:This info may be confused with Tanjung Balai Asahan

Regular ferries link Sumatra port cities like Dumai, Pekanbaru, Selat Panjang (all in Riau province), and Kuaka Tungkal in Jambi with Tanjung Balai. Most of these ferries continue to Tanjung Pinang, the main town in Bintan, stopping at Sekupang on Batam enroute.

From other parts of Indonesia

A Pelni boat KM Kelud leaves Tanjung Balai every Wednesday at 8am for Jakarta, taking 31 hours (Ekonomi/Class III Wisata Rp 255.000/Rp 375.000). The same boat leaves Tanjung Balai every Saturday at 7pm for Belawan, the port for Medan, taking 17 hours (Ekonomi/Class III Wisata Rp 180.000/Rp 260.000). For more information on Pelni departure schedules and fare, contact PT. Biro Perjalanan Karimun at Jalan Nusantara No. 1, Tanjung Balai, Pulau Karimun. ☎ +62-777-324132 (fax: +62-777-327176).

Many ferries (up to 10 a day) for the neighboring islands such as Kundur.

Get around

By mikrolet

The cheapest way to travel in Karimun is by mikrolet. These small minibuses run a fairly standard route and pick up and drop off passengers anywhere along the way. By the way, the locals call them "oplet". You can get almost anywhere in Tanjung Balai for Rp. 3.000. Tanjung Balai to Meral is 2.500rp. However, they do not run outside of the main city.

One of the main types of public transportation, the Oplet, in Karimun

By bicycle

This would be one of the ideal way to explore Karimun. However, yet to find one bicycle renter in the town. However, most of the ferry companies will take your bicycle for a SG$5 fee, so if you are coming from Singapore, just bring one over.


Parade (Pawai) on the eve of Hari Raya by the local Muslims
One of the locals prepares materials for the Jade Emperor Festival
Fire Crackers on Jade Emperor Festival in Meral Kota
A fishing tug seen from a private jetty in Meral, a secondary town in Karimun. Karimun is formerly a fishing village.


Stroll around Tanjung Balai, which is the main town on Karimun Island, and one of the busiest towns in the Riau Islands. You can walk around and explore on your own or you can take a mikrolet (small public bus) for Rp. 2,000.

To enjoy the rural lifestyle on a tropical Indonesian island, you need to get away from Tanjung Balai and go to some local kampung areas in Meral or Pasir Panjang.

Visit the Chinese temples of Klenteng Tua Pek Kong, Vihara Cetiya, Vidya Sagara and Vihara Sasana Diepa in Meral. Take your time to look at the temple drawings such as "General Xue and Lady Fan" and "Lady Warriors of the Yang Family".

Visit the "Air Terjun" (waterfall in Indonesian) which is not far away from Pantai Palawan. You can bath in the man-made pools built to capture the water flowing from the mountain. It's definitely refreshing.

Scene of a street (Jalan Ahmad Yani), the main street of Meral Kota in Karimun. This is the second busiest town after the main town, Tg Balai.


Karimun's main department store is Indo A. Yani Swalayan & Dept. Store in Tanjung Balai. Pasar Swalayan means supermarket in Bahasa Indonesia. This 3 storey department store offers food, clothing, housewares, stationary and basic necessities. Not too expensive.

Padimas Department Store another shopping area in Karimun. Beside it, there is a game centre suitable for the families. Opposite it, is the Padimas Hotel, which is reasonably priced. There is a new Village Cafe also. Cosy ambiance with reasonable priced food and drinks. A large Heineken beer cost Rp. 28 000 only. Do try their new menu. The Cafe is similar to the ones found in Singapore. Great place to chill out and relax.

You can obtain 250g Karimun Utama coffee (Kopi Karimun Utama) for Rp. 7.150 (Agent: Toko Utama, Jalan Nusantara No. 43, Tanjung Balai, Pulau Karimun. ☎ +62-777-21003), local produced Kerupuk, deep fried fish crackers, can be found at Bona Kerupuk Atom 50 and cost Rp. 7.000 per packet. This said, it is much cheaper in the Indo A. Yani Swalayan & Dept. Store.


Bakso, a meatball made from low quality meat is just as popular as nasi goreng. Both are sold from street side stalls, or push carts that make their rounds through the neighborhoods.

Several Chinese restaurants can be found along Jalan Trikora Laut (opposite Holiday Karimun Hotel). This is probably the central area for Teochew-style Bak Kut Teh. Noodles are also available.

The long stretch of open-air food and drink vendors that convenes outside the ferry terminal after 5pm is a great place to try out authentic, cheap Indonesian food.

粿汁( kue chap), address=Pujasera. Traditional food a la Tiochiu. Nice and black soup with white kue.


Try Lasegar, an Indonesian refreshing soft drink for Rp. 3.500 per can. One can of Carlsberg beer costs Rp. 5.500. Try Sosro, an Indonesian refreshing tea, or Chinese traditional herbal tea @ Jl. Trikora no. 15 (next to kedai kopi Ahiang's coffee shop) only cost RP.2000,-


Most hotels are in the very center of the city. Prices are quite similar. Just avoid Paragon, a bit closer to the ferry terminal, but very old and dirty from inside.


Telephone numbers

The country code for Indonesia is 62. The area code for Tanjung Balai is 777.

Postal services

Post office (known as kantor pos in Bahasa Indonesia) in Tanjung Balai is open daily except Sundays and public holidays. Sending a postcard costs Rp. 5.000.

Go next

The nearest airport is on Palau Batam, so you'll need to head back there for domestic flights. For International flights heading to Singapore or Kukup (Pontian, Malaysia) would be the best option. International seaport tax is 60,000 IDR (2014).

Connections by sea are limited to one Pelni boat per week and various fast boat services to different Sumatran ports.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, April 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.