How to Travel from Singapore to Malaysia by Bus

Jun 23, 2019Malaysia, Singapore

In this Malaysia-Singapore travel post, I’m going to show you an inexpensive and pain-free way to travel from Singapore to Malaysia and then back to Singapore by bus. I wrote this post because the first time I was in Singapore, I struggled to find info online about how to cross into Malaysia, and I thought someone else might be struggling, too.

The best part about this post is that I’ll tell you what you need to do to avoid having your bus leave you at the border or having to pay a huge fine because you didn’t have your shit together when crossing into Singapore. 

Singapore’s immigration is TOUGH and UNFORGIVING!

I’ll walk you through how I traveled from Singapore to Malacca (also spelled Melaka) and then from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore so you can let go of your anxieties and enjoy the ride. 

So, grab your passport and camera, and let’s take a bus to Malaysia!

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  For more info, read this website’s disclosure page. 

8 Things to Know Before Traveling Between Singapore and Malaysia

Before we get started, we must cover eight very important points about traveling from Singapore to Malaysia and also from Malaysia to Singapore.

1.  I don’t know about you, but having read Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar, I had assumed there was a train between Singapore and Malaysia. Also, the Man in Seat 61 says there is. There isn’t. There’s only a bus. And a plane.

2.  Singapore does NOT have a large central bus station. Instead, there are several pick-up locations throughout the city (but NOT in Chinatown). You may either find a small one-room building in a parking lot or you might just pick up a bus on the side of the road.

3.  Bus tickets to popular destinations like Malacca and KL sell out early. Don’t expect to buy a ticket on the day of departure. Book early! Like several days early.

4.  Buy your tickets online. Not at some station or office. The most user-friendly online ticketing agency is 12Go Asia. Easy Book is less user-friendly but has more bus companies.

5.  Buses may leave you at the border if you take too long to get through immigration. Singapore immigration is strict, and they won’t let you enter for several reasons:

  • You can’t show onward travel like a ticket to another country.
  • They don’t like the way you look.
  • You stay in Singapore for 30-90 days, leave for a few days, and try to return to stay another 30-90 days. Singapore immigration is onto this trick. There are countless sob stories online about people being detained and denied entry. In the future, you might then never be allowed into Singapore. 

Written on every ticket I bought to cross the border were the words, “We will only wait for 30 minutes at immigration.”

I met a woman from Germany who got left at the border. She had gotten hung up at immigration because she couldn’t access proof that she had an onward flight out of Singapore. She had a ticket to Bali, but she had no internet service to retrieve her electronic ticket. Eventually, she got through, but her bus had already left.

6.  Arrive early or have the Malaysian currency (Ringgit) on you when you get to Malaysia. I had a hard time finding an ATM in Melaka that would accept my bank card.

7.  Check to make sure Malaysian immigration stamps your passport. One of the other bus passengers said that sometimes they forget to even stamp it!

8.  You are NOT allowed to bring any alcohol from Malaysia into Singapore. If you do try to pass through the green line at customs, and you are stopped and checked, you’ll be heavily fined. Customs in Singapore won’t usually accept the excuse that you just didn’t know.

You are still NOT allowed to bring chewing gum into Singapore. There are other prohibited and restricted items and amounts that you can find out more from the Singapore Customs’ website.

However, as of the date of publication of this article, you are allowed to bring up to a certain amount (I think it’s 1 liter, but please check) of spirits, wine, and malt liquor into Malaysia. Because laws change, please double check if this information is still accurate at the time of your travels. Here are the rules and regulations from the Malaysia Customs’ website.

How to Get from Singapore to Malaysia

STEP #1:  How to purchase bus tickets to Malaysia

Obviously, the first step is to buy your ticket. I prefer to use 12Go.Asia as their website is just more user-friendly than other sites.

I’ve also used Easybook.com. They have more bus listings than 12Go, but their site can be a nightmare to navigate for first-timers. I made a huge mistake once when booking tickets on Easybook that cost me due to the structure of their site and me being in a hurry. I’ll tell you about it later in this post.

Using 12Go Asia’s Booking Website to purchase bus tickets to Malaysia:

After you enter your departure, destination, and date of departure, you’ll get a list of many buses for your route. Perhaps up to 75 bus listings for your particular date. Overwhelming, isn’t it?

The listings on 12Go are arranged according to bus terminal. This arrangement makes it easy to find the most convenient departure point.

If you look at Easybook’s bus listings, it’s arranged in order of time with the bus terminals mixed together. It’s very easy to choose the wrong departure terminal or destination terminal if you’re in a hurry or if it’s your first time in Malaysia or Singapore. This happened to me! But I’ll tell you about that later.

There are a few things about the bus listing that can be confusing for first timers in Singapore.

Departure Point

At the time I wrote this article, 12Go Asia listed 4 bus departure points. They’re not really terminals since for some of them, they’re just a pickup point on the side of the road.

1. Golden Mile Complex5001 Beach Road, Singapore – If you’re staying in Kampong Glam, this bus stop is super convenient. I was staying at The Pod (highly recommend this hostel) and it was a 5-minute walk! I used this one when arriving in Singapore from Kuala Lumpur.

2. Golden Mile Tower5001 Beach Road, Singapore – The address is the same as the Golden Mile Complex. I have to admit that I’m not sure what the difference is. 

3. City Plaza810 Geylang Road, #01-70 A Singapore 409286 – This bus stop is farther away from the tourist center, so it might not be as convenient to use for most of you.

4. Queen StreetBan San Street, Singapore – This terminal is in Little India, so it’s convenient if you’re staying there. This is the one I used when departing Singapore.

5. Boon Lay221 Boon Lay Place, Singapore 640221 – This departure point is on the western side of the island, which is quite far from the central part of Singapore.

Bus Companies

12Go Asia lists 3 bus companies, whereas Easybook (https://www.easybook.com/) lists 16 bus companies. The 2 main companies that travel between Singapore and Malaysia are Star Mart Express and 707-Inc.

When leaving Singapore, I used KKKL, but I don’t see it listed on either booking site anymore. From KL to Singapore, I used Billion Star. They showed up at the bus stop 30 minutes late with a different name on the bus and double-booked seats. I don’t recommend Billion Star. 

Destination

You’ll often see the same bus company and the same departure time and point listed several times. The only difference is the drop-off point and thus costs are different. The same bus can drop you off at several different points in the same city. For Melaka, you can select to arrive at the central bus station called Melaka Sentral or at a hotel in Melaka.

Step #2: Departing Singapore

I booked my ticket for Malacca (Melaka) the day before departure, which was a Sunday. Only three seats for the 2:00 bus were still available. All the buses leaving after 2:00 pm were full. It cost me S$21.20 (US$15.49).

I took a Grab from Chinatown to the Queen Street bus station, arriving 30 minutes before my bus was to depart as suggested by the bus company. My Grab cost S$9.

The Queen Street Bus Terminal is a tiny one-room building in a parking lot. That’s it. It’s easy to find. Passengers wait outside on the sidewalk. There are no chairs to sit on. You either stand or sit on the ground.

Both 12Go Asia and Easybook recommend arriving thirty minutes before departure. That seemed excessive given the fact that there were no places to sit and wait in Singapore or in KL.

There was a little slot in a window where I gave the bus company the print-out of your ticket voucher. 12Go Asia recommends printing it out as some places don’t accept tickets on screens. However, throughout my travels in Malaysia, I saw other people just show their phones. Later on in my travels, I also just flashed the ticket on my phone.

In exchange for my voucher, I got a scrap of paper with my seat number. Not the most professional.

The bus came a few minutes before the 2:00 departure. I put my bags under the bus and got on. No one asked to see my ticket.

It was a regular-sized bus; not a minibus. However, there were only nine rows, so everyone had ample legroom.

No loud music or television.

A very nice comfy quiet bus ride.

By the way, Malacca is the old spelling of the city and the one that bus companies still use. Melaka is the official spelling in Malaysia. Same city.

Step #3: Singapore Immigration

The bus drove to the border of Singapore and Malaysia. Everyone got out with their passport and left their luggage on the bus.

Here’s a SUPER important tip:

There are lots of busses, and they all look the same. Take a mental picture of your fellow passengers and stick with them so you can get back to the right bus.

Maybe you think I’m paranoid, but as a solo traveler, a bus leaving me behind is one of my greatest travel fears. 

When I got to immigration, a machine scanned my passport. After that, it did the same with my fingerprints. My name came up on a screen allowing me to leave Singapore. Finally, I put the arrival card I got when I arrived in Singapore into a container. 

Then I found my group of bus companions to wait for our bus to pick us up. 

Busses cannot wait for more than 30 minutes at immigration, so if you have trouble at immigration or customs and you take too long, your driver might leave without you.

Step #4: Malaysia Immigration and Customs

When the bus got to Malaysia, everyone got off and took all their luggage with them to Malaysian immigration. 

Get into the international passport line and not the one for Malaysians. The signage was unclear.

Try to avoid the lines for tour groups from China. Chinese tourists need to have a visa to enter the country, and this slows the line down.  This happened to me. If I hadn’t gotten stuck with a lot of other passengers from the same bus, I would have been worried that the bus would have left without me. 

Malaysian immigration only asked me how long I was staying in Malaysia.

Here’s another IMPORTANT tip that a passenger from Singapore told me. Make sure that immigration stamps your passport! She said that sometimes immigration forgets to do it, and when you try to leave Malaysia, you’re in big trouble. Double check that they do this!

Next, you’ll need to have your bags scanned at Customs. Malaysia has a few restrictions on what you can and can’t bring into the country on their Customs’ website.

Step #5: Arrival in Melaka

The bus stopped one time for a bathroom break for ten minutes. Bring toilet paper.

It took almost four hours to get to Melaka.

I was supposed to have gotten off at Melaka Sentral bus station, but the bus driver offered to drive me to my hotel for S$5. I thought this was a great deal!

The bus didn’t drop me off exactly in front of my hotel. I had to walk for about 10 minutes. Most tourists stay in Chinatown, the old area of the city with the shophouses and near the Dutch colonial buildings.

Getting cash in Melaka

When I got to Malaysia, I didn’t have any Malaysian currency. Ringgit. I thought it would be easy to use my American bankcard at an ATM. Wouldn’t you assume that the most touristy part of town would have tons of ATMs?

Wrong!

There is ONE ATM in all of Chinatown. ONE. It’s at a 7-11 store. And it didn’t accept my card. A pretty common occurrence for me in Malaysia.

It was late at night and I was really tired, but my hotel needed a security deposit (go figure!) and my stomach needed food. I had to walk for thirty minutes outside of the central tourist area along dark deserted streets looking for an ATM. I tried two before I got to May Bank.

Whenever you use the ATMs in Malaysia, you get an ominous warning message about paying attention to the people around you and protecting your money. Nothing happened, though. In the future, I’m not going to arriving in a new country at night without any of the country’s currency on me.

Traveling by Bus from Malaysia to Singapore

I traveled from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Before leaving KL, I made sure I had a paper copy of my ticket out of Singapore. Because my phone was using a local Malaysian SIM card, I couldn’t access the internet when I crossed into Singapore.

Step #1: Purchasing Tickets

I purchased my ticket several days before leaving for Singapore. Here are the three most common departure points in KL:

1. Berjaya Times Square: a bus stop on the side of the road; it’s near Chinatown and the colonial area of KL. This is where I departed from.

2. KL Sentral: main bus station; it’s also near Chinatown. I find KL Sentral to be really confusing, so I avoided this one.

3. Terminal Bersepadu Selatan: the bus station for buses going south; it’s inconveniently located in the southern part of the city. According to Google Maps, it’s a 16-minute car ride. 

I bought my ticket from Billion Star Bus Company for a bus leaving in the late morning from Berjaya Times Square. 

#2 Departing Kuala Lumpur

I was staying at the Backhome KL Hostel in Kuala Lumpur. It was about a five-minute ride with Grab to the bus stop. When I arrived, there were already lots of other people waiting for their busses. There were already a couple of busses, but none of them were mine. There was one bus company kiosk with a bus employee helping people, but it wasn’t the company I was using. 

My bus arrived 30 minutes late. When it did finally come, the name of the bus didn’t match the name of the bus company (Billion Star) on my ticket. Confusing. If one of my fellow passengers hadn’t asked the driver, the bus might have left without us. 

#Step 3: Drive to the border

The ride to the border of Singapore and Malaysia was uneventful. We stopped for a half-hour for lunch. 

Ask the driver for a Singapore arrival card to submit to immigration upon getting to Singapore. Our driver didn’t have enough cards for everyone. Another reason not to take Billion Star. 

 Step #4: Malaysian Immigration 

The bus will drop everyone off at immigration.  Take your passport but leave your luggage on the bus. 

The same bus will pick you up on the other side of immigration. 

Step #5: Singapore Immigration and Customs

Take all of your belongings off the bus and walk to immigration. Sometimes the lines for international visitors are quite short, while other times they are super long and slow. 

I had no problems passing through Singapore immigration. I had my onward ticket ready to show them, but they didn’t ask for it. 

Don’t rely on your phone to show your ticket. You might not have cell phone reception. I had a Malaysian SIM card, which I was told I could use in Singapore. However, it didn’t work in either Singapore or Thailand.

After immigration, you’ll need to pass through customs. If you have nothing to declare, go through the green line. If you do, head for the red line. Remember that you are forbidden from bringing in alcohol from Malaysia, chewing gum, and a few other things. Fines are steep and officials are unforgiving.

We had to wait for a long time for a few people to pass through immigration. It felt like more than 30 minutes. Luckily, the bus driver didn’t leave without them. 

Step #6: Arrival in Singapore

When we arrived in Singapore, the bus stopped on the side of the road at the Golden Mile Towers, my destination. It took around 5 hours from KL to Singapore. 

Where to stay in Singapore

I generally prefer to stay in hotels and small guesthouses when I travel but because they’re so expensive in Singapore, I stayed in hostels. If you don’t want to be in a dorm room, there are private rooms in hostels as well.

During my first trip, I stayed at the Adler Hostel in Chinatown. Lonely Planet raved about the place. While the location of the hostel was super convenient, the dorm rooms and bathrooms weren’t so nice for the prices they were charging. Breakfast wasn’t included either.

I also stayed at the Pod in Kampong Glam and had a better experience. This was a newer hostel with a cheaper price and the best free hostel breakfast EVER (no exaggeration here). The staff was very helpful and professional. The facilities were very clean. Showers were clean and super convenient to use. I would definitely stay here again.

You can read my detailed Singapore itinerary post with a full review and lots of useful tips for traveling in Singapore. For tips on how to travel more cheaply in Singapore, check out my post on How to Save Money in Singapore. There are tons of useful tips on the best way to get to the airport and lots of info on free tours.

Where to stay in Melaka

I stayed at the fabulous Aava Malacca Hotel along the river in Chinatown. Best hotel in Malaysia. Gorgeous hotel in a traditional shophouse. Infinity pool. Decent price and centrally located. I paid US$45.

You can read my review of the hotel in my Malaysia Itinerary and Travel Guide.

I also have a review of the hotel and a Melaka itinerary post with lots of useful tips for traveling in the city.

Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur

I stayed at one of the best hostels in Asia: Backhome KL Hostel. A gorgeous, centrally located hostel. Friendly staff. Clean facilities and a decent breakfast. Aweseom price.

Singapore and Malaysia are great places to visit. If you know where to buy bus tickets and what to expect when crossing the border, it can be a breeze.

Thanks for reading! ♥ Happy travels! 

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4 Comments

  1. your story is excellent my wife will be travelling from malaysia to singapore on the 13december the bus company called billion shuld not be used what other bus company in malaysia would you recommend the price is not a problim but if theirs assistance especially at the border post some bus company do assist what would you reccomend thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Arnold,
      I have to admit that I’m not sure what other bus company to use. I’m not even sure that there is a bus company that would assist your wife. The driver doesn’t go with the passengers through immigration and customs. He/she goes through another gate and then meets the passengers on the other side of the border. Your best bet is to make friends with someone on the bus and/or follow the other passengers. Your other choice would be to join a tour group in which the guide goes with the passengers through immigration and customs. – Julie

      Reply
  2. My daughter and I are leaving for our first trip to Malaysia this summer. I read your blog and look forward to my trip! Thanks so much for your advices!

    Reply
    • Your welcome! I hope you have a terrific time in Malaysia! I really enjoyed my time there!

      Reply

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About the Bamboo Traveler

Julie Krolak

Hi! I’m Julie, the Bamboo Traveler!  This blog is devoted to helping the inquisitive traveler explore a country’s history and culture. On this site, you’ll find itineraries to help you plan your trip, reviews to help you make more informed decisions, lots of history and cultural information to help make your travels more meaningful, and book recommendations to help you understand a place more deeply.

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