We all know there are many things that are cheaper across the causeway in JB (Johor Bahru), but to get there requires at least 1 hour (and sometimes, 3 hours) of travel through the immigration checkpoint. Considering the time and effort involved, I’m always on the lookout for faster, cheaper, and more convenient ways to make the journey. And because I can’t have a carload of goods to bring back home with me (mainly because I don’t have a car), I have to be selective on what I buy that would justify the trip there. Here’s what I do.
How to Get to JB Sentral – Fast and Cheap
Going to JB by car can be quite troublesome. It can get very busy and the wait can be horrendous. If your car is Singapore-registered, you also have to make sure your fuel tank is 3/4 full before leaving Singapore, otherwise you might be fined. But having a car would give you more flexibility and options as to where to go, and of course, it would give you the ability to buy larger items.
But if you just want to take a quick trip to JB and only wish to purchase a few items, I would recommend taking the Causeway Link shuttle bus. Causeway Link has 10 cross boarder routes. Some buses go to the Larkin Bus Terminal, others will go to JB via the 2nd Link. The bus I normally take is CW5, and it departs from Newton Circus and just goes to JB Sentral.
Cost of CW5 Ticket
The cost of the ticket is S$3.30 from Newton to JB Sentral, and RM3.40 from JB Sentral to Newton. The frequency of the bus is 20-30 minutes. The one I took left Newton at 9.40am. You can purchase your tickets immediately before boarding the bus (cash only, and no change will be given). Once you get your ticket, hold onto it because you’ll need it again to board another bus (same service number) after you clear the Singapore immigration checkpoint. The second bus will then take you to the Malaysia immigration checkpoint.
Other Buses that go to JB Sentral
There are also other forms of public transport that go to JB Sentral, including SBS buses 160/170x or SMRT bus 950. For SBS and SMRT buses, you would just tap in and out as usual using your EZ-Link or NETS card. Taking a bus, whether you choose to take Causeway Link or a SBS/SMRT bus, means you won’t be as affected by car traffic because there are designated bus lanes.
This whole process (one-way) will take from 1 to 2 hours on a good day. On Friday evenings, weekends or Public Holidays, it can take 3 or more hours.
For more ways of getting to JB from Singapore, including other destinations like Legoland and Larkin, please see businterchange.net.
What I Usually Do & Buy There
After the Malaysia immigration checkpoint, you can proceed to the linkbridge which connects to JB Sentral. At JB Sentral, there are 2 malls that are easily accessible by foot – City Square and Komtar JBCC.
1. Eat & Watch a Movie. At these 2 malls, you’ll find an assortment of familiar restaurants such as Swensen’s (Season), Seoul Garden, Nandos, and Secret Recipe. The selection and menu may be a bit different, but the prices are about 15 to 30% cheaper.
A regular 2D adult movie ticket at City Square’s mmCineplexes is RM18 (approx. S$6). I’ve heard that other cinemas are cheaper, but mmCineplexes is convenient and easy to reach on foot.
2. Stock up on Certain Medications. Most medications are cheaper in JB. Some medications, like oral contraceptive, don’t require a prescription. Just how much can you save? A one-month supply of the oral contraception that I typically get at KK Hospital cost me around S$21. At Caring Pharmacy in JB Sentral, I bought a similar oral contraceptive for RM40 (approx. S$12.70) for a 3-month supply (S$4.23 per month)! This means I was paying 500% more to get the medication in Singapore.
3. Stock up on Contact Lenses. Similarly, contact lenses are usually cheaper in JB. A pack of 6 lenses cost me RM86 (approx. S$28) at JB whereas I typically would pay S$41 or more for the same brand and pack.
Although most electronics are cheaper in JB, I’ve never tried buying any mostly because I’m rarely in need of any electronics. But some people who have bought items there say they sometimes have trouble getting them serviced back in Singapore. Also, if your purchases are valued to be $150 or over (for a trip that is less than 48 hours), you might need to pay GST upon your return to Singapore.
I also don’t buy groceries there, mainly because the savings usually don’t justify the trip. Also, anything that needs to be kept refrigerated would just lose its freshness by the time you return home.
What Others Do in JB
Some people will go to JB for a massage. Others will stock up on personal care items at Watsons or Guardian (people tell me they can save about 20-30%). I’ve also heard of people who go to JB just to buy milk powder and diapers.
Here’s an interesting article on 19 popular things Singaporeans do in JB. There are also tons of online articles on other JB destinations (that require taking a taxi or bus). Personally, I have not wandered far from JB Sentral, as I find it to be convenient and have everything I need. Perhaps if I were looking for a particular item or brand, or wanting to eat at a specific restaurant, I would consider taking the time to venture out and explore more of JB.
So what sorts of things do you do or buy in JB?