Bintan is located in the Riau Archipelago of Indonesia and is just a 40-50 minute ferry ride away from Singapore. In fact, Singapore is the closest major city to this island! Once a powerful trading port, Bintan Island is now being developed as a major tourist destination in Indonesia. Bintan is home to about 400,000 locals of different ethnicities, including Malay, Bugis, Chinese, Orang Laut, and others. The majority religion in Bintan is Islam, similar to the rest of the nation (with the exception of Bali).
Bintan’s time zone is GMT +7, just one hour behind Singapore. Like most countries in the Malay Archipelago, its climate is hot and humid with dry seasons between March and October, and the monsoon season usually towards the end and beginning of the year. Bintan is known for its beautiful beaches, rich historical sites, amazing fauna, as well as abundant Chinese temples and seafood restaurants. Some good places to visit on Bintan Island is Tanjung Pinang, which is the capital city, as well as the surrounding islands.
Bintan is a tourist destination, so it’s no surprise that the locals here are warm and hospitable. Locals here are animated in nature and friendly physical contact during conversation is often the norm especially when they really like you. However, because it has a Muslim majority, it is also important to note that romantic gestures in public such as hugging and kissing are generally frowned upon and swimwear is best worn only at the beach. A good rule of thumb is to err on the side of conservative dressing when going around Bintan, especially if you want to give a good first impression to the locals. Some other helpful tips include:
When talking to the locals, it’s respectful to address older men as “Pak” and older women as “Ibu”, and it’s important to always be polite.
It is not polite in Indonesian culture to raise your voice or say no directly, so if someone is fidgeting around to do something for you or delaying it, it may be that they cannot actually do it for you.
If you are greeting someone that is a stranger, it’s best to say hello while putting your hand on your chest, instead of offering a handshake.
Bintan is generally a safe island, but some things you may want to remember to stay safe are:
Always keep wallets and bags close to you and keep them in view to avoid falling prey to pickpockets.
Bring enough insect repellant; like most islands, Bintan has its share of six-legged critters too!
Always heed warning signs on the beach; if it says it is unsafe to swim in an area, don’t do it. If the currents start getting stronger when you are in the ocean, it’s best to move back to shore immediately.