Travelling from Singapore to Malaysia

Bus travel from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur has always been convenient and comfortable, and even with the advent of budget airlines, buses remain the cheapest way to travel. But how hard can it be to plan the journey, and which bus companies are most reliable?

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There are a whole host of bus/coach companies on the SG-KL route, such as Golden Coach Express, Konsortium, Aeroline, Transnasional, Sri Maju, and Starmart Express that provide multiple services each day from the Golden Mile Complex, Vivocity, Boon Lay Shopping Centre, Marina Bay Sands, Beach Road, and even Changi Airport, to Malaysia. Most of the drop-off points in KL, such as Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, Berjaya Times Square, or Puduraya, are strategic enough for passengers to hop off and take the nearest public transport services to their preferred destination/hotel. One of the best booking sites for bus journeys throughout the region is Easybook.com, which also gives you a full list of bus companies and prices.

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All buses (and cars) leaving Singapore for Malaysia will have to enter the customs complex at Woodlands Checkpoint. Passengers will need to alight from the bus – without unloading their luggage – in order to pass through customs and get a stamp of departure. Passengers can then re-board their bus. Upon entering Malaysia, buses will stop within the Malaysia Custom complex, and it is here that passengers must first unload their luggage for scanning and then get a stamp of entry from Malaysian officials in their passports.

Busy at Singaporean Immigration
Busy at Singaporean Immigration

Passing through immigration at Woodlands is pretty easy compared to the Malaysian side, but you will still encounter a lot of queues. It is best to head here as early as possible as many of the tour buses will arrive even before morning rush hour. The early bird catches the worm in Singapore! Besides, the earlier you leave Singapore, the more time you will be able to spend in Malaysia (even better if you’re just hopping across the border for a daytrip!).

How does the chaos at customs and immigration here compare to that of other border crossings in South East Asia? Well, there are thousands more people crossing the Johor Causeway each day than at, say, Aranyaprathat at the Thai border with Cambodia, or at Lao Bao, the Vietnamese border gateway to Laos. Because of this, queues are to be expected, and while the queues are a rigmarole to get through, everything is efficient (at least on the Singaporean side!) with 100% no scams EVER – unlike most of the other border crossings in the region.

Johor Causeway in traffic
Crossing the Johor Causeway by bus

Travelling across the Johor Causeway in traffic is one of the worst experiences anybody can make in either of these two countries. In my opinion, there needs to be at least 4 of these ’causeways’ across the Johor Strait to ease traffic congestion. Whether you have your own private car, or whether you are doing it the cheap way by bus, you will still spend at least an hour in the traffic jam.

aeroline

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The wisest way to cross the Causeway and begin your foray to Kuala Lumpur is to hop on one of the multiple bus companies that play the route. While there are cheaper options available, the undisputed best choice is Aeroline. I purchased my tickets (S$50 each way) at level 2 of Vivocity shopping centre on Sentosa Island. It is quite hard to buy tickets for Aeroline on the web, unless you use their official site, and even then you need a credit card (debit card NOT accepted online). I paid cash in person to the friendly staff in the Aeroline lounge 2 days before my departure. I was offered a choice of seats, and the bus is set out in 2-1 formation, which means that solo travellers can be safe in the knowledge that they won’t have a smelly stranger sitting next to them for the 5 hour journey! With Aeroline, you can also find power sockets at every seat, adequate WIFI (not perfect, though), as well as individual on-board entertainment, just like you would find on an airplane. Meals are also served on Aeroline during the journey, and they are ok, but nothing special. I would recommend that whatever bus company you use on your trip from Singapore to KL you still stock up on sweets beforehand!

On the Shuttle Tebrau train - a great way to beat the traffic!
On the Shuttle Tebrau train – a great way to beat the traffic!

The best option (apart from the bus) is to take the shuttle train between Woodlands Train Checkpoint in Singapore and Johor Bahru Sentral train station in Malaysia. This is operated by KTM and called “Shuttle Tebrau”. The ride from Woodlands Train Checkpoint to JB Sentral by Shuttle Tebrau takes just five minutes and costs S$5 from Woodlands (RM5 from Johor Bahru). That said, this train does not go all the way to KL – you will have to catch another train to head to the capital and elsewhere in Malaysia (i.e. to Penang or Taman Negara or anywhere in the east).

JB Sentral (many buses waiting outside)
A typical bus station in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur is around 3 1/2 hours away from Johor Bahru, so this is always a good option if you’re spending more than a day in Malaysia. Whatever your style of travel, make sure you enjoy yourself while experiencing a different culture, as although Johor Bahru is obviously just a stone’s throw from Singapore, there is a marked difference between the two countries!

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