Kuala Terengganu is an important and culturally interesting city to visit in the North-Eastern part of Malaysia. Kuala Terengganu is quite popular with people accessing the Perhentian Islands, Palau Redang and Kapas Islands which offer some of the best diving and snorkelling locations on the East Coast of Malaysia. Most of the international tourist uses Kuala Terengganu as a starting point of travelling to Perhentian Islands which attracts during peak season between March and November.
I travelled to Terengganu in late 2019 and explored the interesting cities of Kuala Terengganu, Cherating and Kuantan. This area is ideal for a road trip and offers a contrasting experience from Western Malaysian cities. Here is some useful information if you are planning a Kuala Terengganu trip or island holiday in Perhentian Island or other amazing east coast destinations. Here is some useful information that can help you design Kuala Terengganu Itinerary.
Kuala Terengganu Links
Planning your Kuala Terengganu Roadtrip must include a list of most interesting things to do in Kuala Terengganu. My initial plans were based on the tourist map I obtained from a KLIA2. My curiosity grew as I read more about the cultural history of Kuala Terengganu.
The first thing that I immediately noticed when I stepped out of the airport was the laid back and relaxed feel of Kuala Terengganu City. There was no traffic congestion or overcrowding at the roadside bus stops and shopping areas. Getting closer to the main part of the city shows good urban planning and layout of wide roads and beautiful buildings. The downtown area has the main bus terminal with plenty of electronic stores across the road. A KFC outlet and some nice cafes are plenty in the city area.
Some modern construction has taken place in the last decade, however, driving from KT Airpot to the city area you will still feel a kampong style houses and provincial lifestyle.
Beautiful Crystal Mosque in Kuala Terengganu
Entering the city by the road, you will pass through Kuala Terengganu Drawbridge which is become a landmark of the region. The beautiful Crystal Mosque, another prominent architectural landmark of KT is visible on the right side of the bridge. The beautiful mosque stands in all its glory like with its rich shades of gold and black. Quranic inscriptions are visible on the hills overlooking the bridge. Kuala Terengganu is a predominantly Muslim populated city of Malaysia and enjoys a rich cultural history of early Muslim settlers in the region.
Another fascinating building that captured my attention is Abideen Mosque located in the middle of the downtown Kuala Terengganu. The beautiful white structure with interesting geometric design offers a strong visual appeal if you like exploring the historical architecture of Malaysia.
Kuala Terengganu is also home to turtle conservation in the Rantau Abang Area. Visit the state museum provides an interesting glimpse into the rich cultural history of the region. You can indulge in a wealth of cultural experiences by visiting local batik manufacturing factories as well as a local craftsman who specializes in woodcarving. Day tours are available through local operators in the city centre. More information can be obtained from the help desk a the hotel of your residence
Kuala Terengganu also offers a rich culinary adventure for foodies with a wide array of Malay/Chinese dishes specific to KT. Rice-based dishes are quite popular. Try Nasi Dagan with gulai ikan tongkol (rice with spicy tuna curry), nasi kunyit (rice cooked into coconut milk and turmeric) and Nasi Kerabu (rice cooked with vegetables and local species).
Beautiful Perhentian Islands offering amazing Island Holidays
One of the most important reasons to travel to Kuala Terengganu is easy to access by speed from Merang Jetty to Perhentian Islands. Marang Jetty ( a different jetty in the south of the city) offers easy access to Pulau Kapas (Kapas Island) and Jamia Island, a low cost and easily accessible location which is ideal for a day trip.
The easiest way to reach Kuala Terengganu is to book a flight from Kuala Lumpur . The travel time is less than one hours and local airlines costs under US$ 20 to travel from Kuala Terengganu from Kuala Lumpur. Book in advance to get amazing rates on.
If you travelling with a large group, buses offer a comfortable ride from BTS (KL) to Kuala Terengganu. The travel time from Kuala Lumpur via Kuantan is approximately 7 hours. I travelled by air from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu. From KT to Kuantan I travelled by bus with local bus service costing around RM 30. From Kuantan to KL bus ticket is approximately RM 40.
Planning a roadtrip to Terengganu
Planning a roadtrip from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu? Give yourself headstart as the road trip to Kuala Trengganu is over 450 km and takes 6 hours of non-stop driving. However, if you are more adventurous and not constrained by time, there are a couple of interesting diversions on the way.
Two interesting places to visit between Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan is Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary and Gambang Water Park. These places are very popular for day tours from Kuala Lumpur. Elephant Sanctuary is a great place to explore with kids as they can have a close encounter with elephants. Gambang Park has water slides, a water park and plenty of outdoor activities for kids and families. I recommend spending a day or two at Kuantan . During my road trip, I stayed in Kuantan for two nights and enjoyed local attractions and great food at local restaurants.
Alternatively from East Coast Expressway follow E8 to Kuala Terengganu. Driving is definitely my style of travelling as the quality of interstate roads in Malaysia are world-class and there are plenty of stopovers on the freeway offering quality and cheap food, fuel and other amenities. Don't forget to carry to Touch & Go Card for the express lanes on the freeway as some of the tolls are automated.
Car rentals are cheap and long term rental from KLIA can cost around US30 per day including insurance.
Entrance to Kuala Terengganu
Some places are far apart from each other and public transport is scarce. You can hire a taxi for short trips but this can cost time if you are staying far from the city area. The best way to explore this city and surrounding area is to hire a cheap car from the airport.
In Kuala Terengganu I rented a car under $USD 20/day and explored the city for three days, visiting local beaches, places of attractions, Crystal Mosque and Kuala Terengganu State Museum as well as an interesting area of Marang and Kapas Island. Driving by yourself is the best way to enjoy this interesting city and get the most out of your trip. A road trip in Kuala Terengganu will allow you to explore lakes and waterfalls at the outskirts of the city.
Kuala Terengganu city has an interesting mix of old and new. The modern part of the city is quite well developed with Shopping Malls, Hotels and administrative offices. The lifestyle in adjoining areas is more relaxed and kampung style development stretching for miles. This region is not very busy towards the end of the year as tourist numbers drop before the rainy season. If you do not plan to go to the Islands, transport and accommodation can be quite cheap in October.
Shopping area in KT downtown area
A taxi is a cheap option in Kuala Terengganu, however, I recommend renting a car for a couple of days. The road network in Kuala Terengganu is quite reasonable and roads are not very congested. The hotel we rented was along with the floating Mosque at the Outskirts of the city in Kuala Ibai Area.
1. Explore Chinatown in Kuala Terengganu
Kuala Terengganu has an interesting Chinatown with a number of nice restaurants serving Chinese, Malay and continental dishes. I visited this location a couple of times in day time and night time as well. The popular Turtle Alley is in Chinatown with wall marking and engraving providing information on Turtle Conservation efforts in the area. The riverfront area is popular with weekend markets and plenty of nice restaurants.
Bar 45 Degree is an interesting hangout to enjoy alcoholic drinks and snooker tills late hours of the night.
A popular location for outdoor seafood restaurants (Ikan Bakar Duyong)is located on the opposite side of the river from the waterfront area near Chinatown. I drove across to this section of the town to enjoy some located seafood in roadside cafes. These restaurants attract large crowds over the weekend as the location is ideal to enjoy river views as well as local seafood
Entrance to Chinatown in Kuala Terengganu
Chinatown has a couple of bars and Chinese/Malay restaurants. We crashed at a local bar 45 degrees which stayed open till late. There are a couple of nice Chinese restaurants offering seafood dishes cooked in local sauces and spices. We enjoyed chilli crabs, steamed fish and some interesting local seafood at Restoran Keong Kee.
Restoran Keong Kee in Chinatown KT
2. Enjoy Kuala Terengganu River Cruise
KT River cruise station is located close to Chinatown and is an interesting way to explore the interesting waterfront. The boat tour takes you up to to the Crystal Mosque. The view is amazing in the day time. You will stop at the docking station at the Mosque for 10 minutes to take a photograph. Make sure to book the tour in the day time to enjoy the most. The tour costs around RM 40. Kuala Terengganu Tourism Center is located on the other side of the river. This area is a must-visit in the day time.
Kuala Terengganu River Cruise
3. Explore Kuala Terengganu State Museum
KT State museum is a massive structure split into a number of sections. You will need a good 2 hours to explore all section dedicated to arts and crafts, colonial history, early exploration and mining projects in the region as well as life and art of various tribes that lived in this region. Various sections are dedicated to the history of weaving, weapon making, local crafts including jewellery making and detailed insights into the cultural and religious history of the region.
Some of the vehicle owned by sultans of Terengganu is also on display outside the museum. This location is a must-visit for lovers of Malaysian history and culture.
KT State Museum
4.Beautiful Mosques of Kuala Terengganu
Kuala Terengganu has a rich Islamic history which is evident in amazing architecture in three interesting Mosques I visited in the city. Crystal Mosque is visible at the arrival of the city and is an architectural masterpiece reflecting a good mix of Middle-Eastern and Arab Muslim architecture.
Abideen Mosque Kuala Terengganu
Abideen Mosque is located in the centre of the city and is an oasis of calmness and peace. The architecture is amazing and the main structure and minarets are painted in white. The floating mosque or Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque was located adjacent to Regency Waterfront hotel I stayed in KT.
Zaharah Floating Mosque Kuala Terengganu
5.Batu Buruk Beach in Kuala Terengganu
Batu Buruk Beach is a popular waterfront area with plenty of cafes, Macdonalds and a car Park. There is plenty of open space in the area and is quite popular with families over the weekend and holidays.
This area is popular for excursions and kite flying rather than swimming as water can be quite choppy and dangerous to swim. This beach area is more of a picnic spot with plenty of open space. Swimming is definitely a very popular activity here because of strong currents. People tend to stay late to enjoy snacks by the seaside and cool ocean breeze on a summer night.
Batu Buruk Beach popular for beach activities
6. Pantai Bukit Keluang in Kuala Terengganu
This area is one of the hidden gems in the region offering many outdoor activities, clean beaches and some rocky outcrops on the beaches as well. This area is 10 km from Kuala Besut and is popular with families over the weekend. Enjoy the beach area or several caves as well as lush rainforests.
7. Palau Perhentian Island trip from Kuala Terengganu
One of the most popular Island destinations in Malaysia Perhentians is located off the coast of Terengganu. Most travellers to this Island stop in Kuala Teregannau and catch a ferry from Merang Jetty (as opposed to Marang Jetty which is located south of KT).
Palau Perhentian Kecil is popular with budget travellers. Perhentian Besar is more relaxed and less developed but home to high-end resorts. This Island is more popular with honeymooners and family traveller. Most traveller book a minimum of two nights stay to enjoy most attractions in this region. Perhentian is an underwater paradise and is popular for diving and snorkelling.
Kuala Terengganu has a number of nice 4 star hotels inside the city area. During my first stay, I booked Regency Waterfront Resort at the outskirts of the city located right next to Zaharah Floating Mosque.
This hotel is available under $US 40. This area is halfway between the Kuala Terengganu City and Marang Jetty. This location is quite comfortable if you are driving as the hotel is located approximately 15 minutes drive from the city. If you are not driving, this hotel can seem to be a bit far as a taxi from the hotel to the city centre will cost around RM 20. The great this about this location is a lot of open space, access to a private beach and a beautiful floating mosque located right next to the property.
Here is a list of best-reviewed 4 Star hotels in Kuala Terengganu on Agoda Network
Ming Paragon Hotel
219-E Jalan Sultan Zainal Abidin
Ming Star Hotel
217 Wisma Cemerlang, Jalan Sultan Zainal Abidin
Hotel Tanjong Vista
Lot 4708 Jalan Sultan Zainal Abidin
Hotel Yt Midtown Kuala Terengganu
No.30, Jalan Tok Lam
Felda Residence Kuala Terengganu
Permai Hotel Kuala Terengganu
Jalan Sultan Mahmud
Sumai Hotel Apartment
Jalan Persinggahan, Batu Buruk
Grand Puteri Hotel
PT 3981, Jalan Masjid Abidin
Place2Stay @ Gong Badak
2nd & 3rd Floor, Lot PT 35421, PT 35422, PT 35423, Dataran Austin, Jalan Gong Badak, Kampung Wakaf Tembesu
PT1177P Jalan Kenanga Batu Burok
Bunk & Lodge, Palace View, Town Centre
Jalan Dato' Isaac
Paya Bunga Hotel Terengganu
Jalan Tengku Embong Fatimah, Off Jalan Sultan Ismail
Jalan Sultan Omar
Riverside resort and cafe tanjung sabtu
Lot 5741 tanjong sabtu manir
3rd Floor,Ming Paragon Hotel,Jalan Sultan Zainal Abidin,
Lot 8360, Taman Perumahan Awam Banggol Peradong
Kawaii Homestay, Kuala Terengganu
Masjid Nurul Iman, Kampung Lerek
Shahadan AJ Homestay 2 Beach View
Jalan Sultan Zainal Abidin
ARENA Boutique Hotel Kuala Terengganu
No 49 , Jalan Sultan Ismail, 20200 Kuala Terengganu
PT 29832 Taman Bestari, Depan ILP Gong Badak
Taman Cobe, Kampung Hulu Takir
Vacation Home Near to UMT, UNISZA, Airport, Beach
Jalan Kubang Badak, Tok Jembal
KT Family Homestay
Kg Tuan Mandak
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Regency Waterfront Hotel in Kuala Terengganu
Staying close to the city centre in Kuala Terengganu
During my second stay at Kuala Terengganu, I decided to book the Grand Puteri Hotel is located right in the centre of the city. The location is ideal as the bus stop, shopping areas and restaurants are located at a walking distance from this hotel. The property is well-maintained and you can get great rates by booking with AGODA.
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