Asia,  Destinations,  Malaysia,  Singapore,  Trains, Planes & Rideshares

From Malaysia to Singapore by bus | Overland travel guide

It’s extremely easy to cross from Malaysia to Singapore by land (or vice versa), and it’s cheaper than flying even with a discount airline. The most you’ll spend is $35 USD, and that’s only if you get a VIP bus ticket at a busy time of day.

This past December, I crossed from Malacca, Malaysia to Singapore by bus and spent only $8.50 USD!

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Crossing the Malaysian border by bus

The true cost will depend on where you’re starting, of course. Malacca is about 2 hours from Kuala Lumpur and thus two hours closer to the Singapore border, so the bus tickets are slightly cheaper than if you start directly in KL.

I went with Delima Express because they were the cheapest one leaving at a decent time.

Here’s the thing: I specifically didn’t pick a bus going directly to Singapore because I knew I could do it cheaper…though in the end I only saved about $4 (based on the very cheapest bus ticket to Singapore Queen St.) and an hour extra on travel time, so whether that’s worth doing the crossing DIY style or not just depends on how tight your budget is.

How to cross the Malaysia/Singapore border by bus

Malacca Sentral departure gates

The bus from Malacca Sentral (in Melaka) to JB Larkin (in Johor Bahru) was only $5 USD, plus $0.15 USD for a paper boarding pass.

Malacca Sentral itself is fairly nice, with good food options for a quick bite and modern ticket machines and security gates. It’s easy to figure out where to go and which door to find your bus at, and there are electronic boards where you can see if there’s any delays or changes to your bus.

Intercity buses always stop at JB Larkin, which is the bus station slightly north in Johor Bahru. The VIP/direct buses will go to JB Sentral, which is directly on the border.

Inside JB Larkin (December 2023)

Once at JB Larkin, I went downstairs and got lost for a bit, as the station is huge and crowded! If you want to grab lunch here, there’s plenty of options including fast food like McDonalds. You can even do some last minute Malaysian souvenir shopping if you want!

Eventually I found the doors that said “Singapore buses,” located next to the main ticket windows.

This are where the SBS Transit buses (Singapore’s public transit) stop– yes, Singaporean public buses come into Malaysia and drop off passengers/pick them up again! Extremely handy for commuters or travelers who want to take advantage of the free transfers between bus/metro lines in Singapore. 😉

Here’s the schedule info for Bus 170, which runs between Larkin Sentral and Queen St. terminal.

Weirdly, I had to pay another $0.22 USD for a paper boarding pass to get into the SBS Transit departure room. I think this is just a usage fee or something for the Malaysian side, as I had to buy a normal ticket once on the bus.

SBS Transit buses accept mobile pay and credit cards that have a “tap” payment, so you just need to tap on and then tap off when you exit the bus.

From JB Larkin the bus took us to the border crossing, where we got off to go through Malaysian customs/immigration. This was super easy and the line wasn’t too bad when I went, though I recommend going outside of rush hour (early in the mornings when people are leaving to go to work/school) and weekends (including Friday afternoons) if possible.

From there you go downstairs to the bus loading docks. There are several choices down here, but all of them go to Singapore’s immigration office at the Woodlands Checkpoint, so just pick one that has a shorter line.

Singapore has an automated immigration thing where, if you have a compatible passport, you can just scan your passport page, get a photo taken, and walk through without having to talk to an immigration officer directly. Very fast! (Be sure to have filled out your electronic arrival card beforehand, though!)

Once done, I went over to the bus loading dock and followed the signs for Bus 170, which is the non-express bus. Because I had tapped on to the first SBS bus in Malaysia within the last 2 hours, I had a free transfer!

I stayed on this bus all the way to Queen St. Bus Station, located in the center of Singapore. From there, I grabbed another bus to get over to my hostel in Joo Chiat. By this time I had timed out of the 2 hour journey window, so I had to buy a new bus ticket. In total, I spent $3.14 USD on SBS Transit.

Total costs and time spent

Here’s how much I spent getting from Malacca, Malaysia to Singapore:

Total costs

  • $0 Grab to Melaka Sentral (gifted from fellow backpackers, otherwise $3)
  • $5 Bus to JB Larkin
  • $0.36 boarding passes
  • $3.14 total Singapore bus from JB Larkin to hostel in Joo Chiat

TOTAL: $8.50 USD (with Grab: $11.50)

Note: The total distance fare from JB Larkin to Queen St. Terminal via Bus 170 is S$2.30 / $1.73 USD as of January 2024. I paid a bit extra since I had to get another bus to my hostel.

Time from Malacca to Hostel in Joo Chiat

I started at 7:30 am from my hostel in Malacca, which was 20 minutes away from Malacca Sentral. From Malacca Sentral to JB Larkin was just under 3 hours.

It took an hour to get through both sides of immigration, including waiting for the shuttle bus to get from Malaysian border control to Singapore border control. We got stuck in traffic on the bridge between Malaysia/Singapore for 20-30 minutes, so optimistically it might take as little as 30 minutes to get through everything if the roads are clear (they’re almost never clear).

The bus from Singapore Woodlands Checkpoint to Queen St. bus terminal was just under 1 hour. Then the bus from the terminal to my hostel was another half hour.

In total, it took ~5 hours to get to Queen St. Bus Terminal from Malacca Sentral, not counting the Grab to the starting bus station in Malacca.

Singapore street in Joo Chiat neighborhood

Direct bus to Singapore cost and time

A direct bus to Queen street from Malacca, booked on 12Go, cost about $23 USD for VIP and $14 USD for an express bus (4 hours excluding traffic/immigration processing).

So basically, it takes the same amount of time, more effort, and only a little bit less money to DIY an overland crossing to Singapore from Malacca. If you’re dragging a big suitcase with you, it may be worth it to pay the extra $ and get a direct bus ticket– though you’ll still have to disembark at the border and cross through yourself anyway, as far as I know.

If starting from Kuala Lumpur, the bus to JB Larkin would be roughly $7-9 USD, depending on departure time and type of bus. That’d put you at a total of $10.50-12 USD to get to Singapore, vs. $12 on a direct bus. So…maybe not worth the extra trouble there, either.

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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