Malaysia Travel Guides

Johor Bahru to Singapore: The best of both worlds on a budget!

Travelling from Johor Bahru to Singapore is easier and cheaper than you may think. We show you how you can visit and explore the wonders of Singapore but avoid the costly accommodation prices by staying in Johor Bahru.

Travelling from Johor Bahru to Singapore

There are several ways of getting from Johor Bahru to Singapore, however we opted to take the public bus since it’s the cheapest mode of transport. The bus departs from the main terminal hub in Johor Bahru (J B Sentral) and arrives at Woodlands CIQ in Singapore.

In order to cross the Malaysia/Singapore border, we had to go through two immigration checkpoints – one at Johor Bahru Sentral in Malaysia and another at Woodlands CIQ in Singapore. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Here’s the steps we took…

(1) Getting to Johor Bahru Sentral

For us, Johor Bahru Sentral was just about in walking distance, but the cheapest and easiest way to get to Johor Bahru Sentral for most people will be by using the app Grab Taxi. Simply book a car online which arrives within minutes and pay your driver in cash. A 10 minute journey shouldn’t cost more than around 5 ringgit, which is significantly cheaper than the standard metered taxis.

(2) Arriving at Johor Bahru Sentral

We arrived at Johor Bahru Sentral in the early hours of the morning, 5am. The station was already very busy so we quickly made our way to the immigration checkpoint which is about a 10 minute walk. We didn’t really know where we were going, so just followed the crowds.

Don’t forget your passport! – Since you are crossing the border into another country, you will need your passport. This is required when travelling to and from Johor Bahru to Singapore.

(3) Passing Johor Bahru Sentral Checkpoint

It was a little bit of a shock seeing so many rows of long queues at the Johor Bahru Sentral Checkpoint. However there were a lot of counters available and the checkpoints were well organised.

Johor Bahru Sentral Immigration checkpoint
Passing through Johor Bahru Sentral Immigration checkpoint

After about 40 minutes of queuing, we were through the first immigration checkpoint and made our way to the bus terminal at Johor Bahru Sentral.

Leave yourself plenty of time! – It is a well known fact that the entire process of crossing the border can take up to two hours – not because of distance, but due to the sheer volume of people travelling.

(4) Getting to Johor Bahru Sentral bus terminal

Once you have passed the first immigration checkpoint in Malaysia at Johor Bahru Sentral, you will reach the bus terminal.

The bus costs SGD $1.30 – $1.80 for a single journey. There are various routes to choose from which take you to different bus interchanges and MRT stations, but don’t get too hung up on the details – They all go to Singapore.

(5) Getting to Woodlands CIQ

The bus we chose was packed so we had to stand up, but the journey over the bridge took no more than 30 minutes (although traffic is back to back) and we were dropped at the Woodlands CIQ Immigration checkpoint.

(6) Arriving at Woodlands CIQ

We arrived at Woodlands CIQ and made our way to the second and final immigration checkpoint of our journey. The queues here were shorter than the first immigration checkpoint in Johor Bahru. This checkpoint only took about 30 minutes to complete.

Once through Singapore immigration we walked about 10mins to the Woodlands MRT Station

Top tip – Bring Singapore Dollars with you! We weren’t able to buy a train or bus ticket with our Malaysian Ringgit and had to find a cash machine

Singapore Kranjii MRT station platform
Like the London Underground but better: The MRT trains in Singapore are a pleasure to travel on!

The MRT trains will take you pretty much anywhere you’d want to go in Singapore. We recommend buying an EZ Link contactless travel card which is the simplest way to get around. It can be used on MRT, LRT trains and buses – This includes your return journey back to JB.

(7) Arriving in Singapore

Singapore is an incredibly easy place to navigate. The MRT is clean, efficient, air conditioned and fast! All signs and announcements are in English so it’s near impossible to get lost. And if you do, just ask someone! We found everyone to be incredibly helpful and friendly.

(8) One day in Singapore

In between organising a visa application, we took in the sights and sounds of the city such as dining at delicious Hawker Centres, visiting the beautiful Botanical Gardens, strolling around Clarkes Quay and Fort Canning Park.

Singapore is also a great place to pick up cheap electronics. After spending much of our time in remote places, this little trip gave us an opportunity to stock up on a few necessary items ahead of our future travels.

(9) Singapore to Johor Bahru

The return journey from Singapore to Johor Bahru is exactly the same process. The Woodlands Bus Terminal was slightly more complicated to navigate, so look out for the guys in orange high vis jackets – they will help point you in the right direction and make sure you get on the correct bus.

We left the city at around 6.30pm which was the rush hour peak, so the queues through immigration at Woodlands CIQ were particularly long. All in all, the journey back took about 2 hours.

Benefits of staying in Johor Bahru

Much cheaper accommodation

Johor Bahru Old Town
The city of Johor Bahru offers more affordable living than its Singaporean neighbour

Hotels on offer in Johor Bahru were significantly cheaper and better value than anything we could find in Singapore. We stayed at the Baguss Hotel & Serviced Apartments and paid 55 ringgit per night. This included an ample breakfast, AC, WiFi and an extremely well equipped, large and comfortable room. Perfect for a week-long stay!

A word of warning – the Malaysian Government have recently laid on a new tourism tax for hoteliers and ask 10 ringgit extra per night on top of what you have paid for the room. We found this out the hard way at check-in. Make sure you read the (very) small print when booking online and be prepared to pay in cash on arrival.

Great food, cheap prices

Roti Canai E & Y restaurant Johor Bahru
Our favourite place was a 24 hour Indian restaurant called ‘E & Y’

Although Singapore is known for its famous Hawker Centres, we’d heard that Johor Bahru also offered a thriving food scene. As soon as we arrived, this was evident and we were super excited to get stuck in!

Right around the corner from our hotel was a street packed full of mouth-watering local restaurants serving up a mixture of Indian and Chinese cuisine. With huge tandoors on the street plus Roti Canai and Tandoori Chicken to die for, we could have happily eaten here every day. Prices were extremely affordable at no more than 7-10 ringgit for two persons, including a delicious Kopi Cham (iced tea and coffee mix) which is a must-try when in Malaysia!

Less tourists, cheaper prices

Johor Bahru (often referred to as JB) isn’t exactly on the typical tourist radar. Many people choose to live in JB but commute across the border daily to work or study.

Singaporeans on the other hand, are regular weekend visitors to Johor Bahru as they hop across to enjoy lower cost fuel, food and shopping. So overall, JB is a much cheaper alternative to Singapore.

Conclusion

The entire experience of travelling from Johor Bahru to Singapore was stress free, interesting and relatively straightforward. If you want or need to go to Singapore but are travelling on a strict budget, then we highly recommend this process.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel: We won’t be staying there anytime soon 😉

There are regular flights to Johor Bahru from all across SE Asia. If you don’t wish to break the bank, Johor Bahru is a great alternative to staying in Singapore itself.

Have you crossed the border from Johor Bahru to Singapore? Do you have any budget travel tips for Johor Bahru to Singapore? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below 🙂

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