Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Public bus: Singapore to Johor Bahru (and beyond)

There is a very affordable method to take the public bus from Singapore to Johor Bahru (JB) for a day trip or to the Larkin Bus Terminal for buses to other parts of Malaysia. Bus fares bought in JB to parts of Malaysia are significantly cheaper than bus tickets purchased in Singapore. You can compare private bus company fares using this website (note: I've bought tickets on the site before, very useful).

I will discuss the costs, pros and cons of taking public buses versus private bus at the bottom of the post.

Jump to parts of this post:
Departing Singapore
Crossing the link to JB
Arriving in Malaysia
Larkin Bus Terminal
Pros and Cons
Take the MRT to Kranji station and follow the crowd out of the exit to where the buses are (it'll be obvious!) Take bus 170 to Woodlands Checkpoint to exit the Singapore border. Bus 170 costs S$0.87 with the EZ-Link card and S$1.50 by cash.

Especially if you're going on a weekend, depart early. I was there at 7:30am and there was already a long queue of about 40 people that was continuously growing. Alight with everybody else at the Woodlands Checkpoint, have your passport ready and exit the Singapore border.

Bus 170; source:

Woodlands checkpoint; source:

Once your passport has been checked, exit the doors to the bus terminal outside. It will be hot and probably crowded. You can look for bus 170 to take you to the Johor Bahru checkpoint to enter the Malaysian border. In my case, I took the CW2 and paid RM2.60 which included the bus fare beyond the JB checkpoint to Larkin Bus Terminal.

Singapore to JB; source:
The bus will alight at the Johor Bahru checkpoint and just follow the crowd to have your passport checked again to enter Malaysia. Once that is done, walk down the wide corridor and down an escalator to find the bus terminal. We boarded the CW2 bus again since we already paid for the trip to the Larkin Bus Terminal. You can take other buses (they will be labeled!) to the centre of JB for shopping and the likes.

Johor Bahru checkpoint; source:
There will be many private bus companies offering rides to many places in West Malaysia. But popular destinations like Malacca do get sold out quickly! It costs RM20 to bus from JB to Malacca compared to S$21 from Singapore to Malacca. Approximately S$1 = RM 2.6. You can read about my experience taking the bus from Singapore to Malacca here.

Larkin Bus Terminal; source:
Bus 170 S$0.87 + CW2 RM2.60 (S$1.00) = S$1.87

This trip can vary from 1.5 to 3 hours depending on traffic. My trip took 3 hours because I went on a public holiday.

If you're considering going to other parts of Malaysia via Larkin Bus Terminal at JB for the cheaper fares there are some pros and cons. The most evident pro is saving costs but you may be sacrificing or saving time.

The first time I went to Malaysia I took a bus from Singapore to Malacca. The bus dropped us off and picked us up at every checkpoint so we did not have to look for a public bus. It was convenient and we got to sit in an air-conditioned vehicle. However our entire trip from Singapore to Malacca was delayed by 2 hours because a few passengers were held up at the border (possibly due to passport problems?) so all the passengers on the bus had to wait for them. That resulted in arriving in Malacca late and cutting short our sightseeing.

The second time I went to Malaysia I took public transit to JB before buying a ticket to Kuala Lumpur. Cost: Public bus $1.87 + Private bus RM34.30 (S$13) = S$14.87 to travel from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur which is twice the distance of Singapore to Malacca (private bus S$21). 

This second time was a public holiday and very very crowded. At both the Singapore Woodlands checkpoint and the Malaysia Johor Bahru checkpoint we alighted the bus and followed the crowd to get to the checkpoint by foot when the bus was nearby but stuck in traffic. The walks were about 10 minutes but the ability to be mobile because we only took public transit is key. If I had purchased a private bus ticket I would be forced to wait for the vehicle because it would take me beyond the border.

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