If you intend to run screaming from Singapore over the Chinese New Year weekend, you’re not alone—the rest of Singapore is trying to get out of here like it’s a burning building. Plus, this year it’s going to be even crazier. With Chinese New Year falling on Thursday and Friday this year, you get a 4.5 day weekend even without taking a single day of leave if you count the half day on the eve that most humane offices give their workers.
When the fire alarm goes off, if you don’t start running towards the nearest fire escape, chances are you’ll be trapped in the building till you die of asphyxiation. The same goes for CNY, except it’s the CNY songs sung in high-pitched voices that will suffocate you. Fortunately, there are still some options for those who are really desperate to escape.
So air tickets are 10 times more expensive than they should be over the Chinese New Year period. Well, just as one hapless recruit tried to swim away from Pulau Tekong, hardcore CNY haters can escape by sea to Batam.
A return ticket to Batam departing from Harbourfront Centre costs just $48 over the Chinese New Year weekend, including all taxes and fees. Best of all, you won’t have to worry about facing nightmarish traffic jams.
To honest, there isn’t that much to see or do in Batam, but then again neither is there in Singapore, especially over Chinese New Year when everything is closed. People go to Batam to escape the in-your-face shopping malls and crowds. Laze on the beach at Waterfront City, indulge in some seafood and just be happy you’re not back home fielding questions from nosy aunties.
Cost of return ticket: $48
2. Tioman Island
In spite of the crazy traffic jams, Malaysia is an attractive destination mainly because you can avoid paying inflated air ticket prices, whether by driving up on your own or taking the bus. But the scourge of Chinese New Year strikes even our neighbours up North, and Thursday and Friday are public holidays in all states except Kelantan and Terengganu. Great.
But guess what, on Tioman Island, none of that matters, since you’ll be spending your time scuba diving, swimming and sunbathing intead of hitting up shops and restaurants. The sun and the sea don’t stop just because it’s Chinese New Year. You just need to take a bus or taxi ride to Mersing, which is less than 2 hours from JB, and then take a ferry to the island.
Your best bet is to buy a bus ticket from Singapore to Mersing at $22.50, and then buy a ferry ticket at the pier (about 70 MYR for a return ticket) directly to Tioman Island. Bus tickets from Mersing to Singapore are sold out at the moment, so you’ll have to take a cab from Mersing to the Causeway at JB on your way back. Be prepared for massive jams.
It may not really be Singapore-style to go without an all-transport-provided package, but you’ll meet lots of fellow travellers independently muddling their way to Tioman. If you’re in a group of less than 4 people, buddy up with some strangers so you can share a cab back with them on Sunday.
Cost: Less than $100 for Bus + ferry + shared taxi
You either love or hate Jakarta. As a tourist destination, it’s a bit like Singapore—if you like eating, shopping and partying, it’s awesome, but if you hate crowds or traffic stay away. Still, only Thursday is a gazetted public holiday, which means most shops will be open on Friday and remain open all weekend.
Flights to Jakarta can normally be bought for less than $100, but you can still get flights that will let you get away from Thursday to Sunday over CNY for little more than $200. Those who have been haunting the usual budget airline websites might wonder where to find this very special price. Well, the cheapest tickets are currently over at Indonesian carrier LionAir, which is why you might have missed them. That’s way better than paying $500 to go to Bangkok over the same period.
4. Mount Bromo
Dying to do something outdoorsy over the CNY weekend but dismayed that it costs over $500 to go fly to Kota Kinabalu? Visit Mount Bromo in Indonesia instead for a fraction of the price. Mount Bromo is an active volcano that most hiking/mountaineering fans in the region would have heard of.
It’s situated about a 3 hour drive from Surabaya, which at the time of writing is still an acceptable $300+ flight on Jetstar Asia. Most people do the Bromo hike as part of a 2 day tour and pick up is available from Surabaya, so by flying on on Thursday and departing on Sunday you’ll be able to do that plus chill out in the city for a day or two.
Cost: $300 for flight to Surabaya
5. Kuala Lumpur
Even if you’re one of those Singaporeans who know KL better than they do Singapore (new malls don’t spring up quite so often so it’s easier to keep track), don’t write off a visit over CNY quite so soon. While Chinese-owned shops may be closed over the long weekend, the major tourist attractions will all be open, as well as all non-Chinese-owned businesses.
So you might not be able to visit your favourite massage joint, but you can still check out the Batu Caves and the Petronas Twin Towers. Air tickets are more expensive over this period but still affordable at $200+ for rides on Air Asia, while bus tickets will cost you about $100, although you’d better avoid drinking too much water because it’s going to be one long ride before the next toilet break, thanks to tne CNY jam.
Cost: $100 for bus ride, $200+ for flight
And remember, if you are planning to take a trip, making sure you’re well covered is just as important as enjoying the trip itself! And if figuring out what travel insurance to get is too much of a headache for you, we’ve made that simple with an easy-to-use Travel Insurance Wizard. So travel with peace of mind and focus on enjoying yourself!
Are you planning to go on holiday over the CNY weekend? Tell us about your plans in the comments!
Magnus von Koeller