With the Malaysian currency heading south, shopping across the Causeway in Johor has become more attractive than ever. At this point in time, the exchange rate between Singapore dollar to Malaysian Ringgit has already hit S$ 1 to MYR 2.90. Even before such rapid devaluation of the Ringgit in the recent weeks, hordes of shoppers have already been crossing the Causeway to shop on a daily basis. Among these shoppers, some are elderly women pulling along their trolley bags braving the crowds, climbing up and down buses and escalators, and clearing customs and immigration on both sides of the country in order to save money for their shopping trip.
The main shopping destinations are City Square Mall and KSL City Mall. Getting to these two malls are not very difficult. City Square Mall can be accessed all the way from Johor Immigration Complex through links without having to step outside onto the streets in Johor Bahru. For KSL City Mall, a bus trip costing just MYR 1.50 each way from JB Sentral after the Immigration Complex is all that is required.
To head to Johor by bus, there are many public and private buses from a few destinations in Singapore that will bring you to Woodlands Checkpoint. After alighting at the checkpoint, a long flight of escalator will be the first obstacle to reach the custom and immigration hall. You will find many people walking on an accelerated pace because they hope to clear immigration as quickly as possible in order to board the same bus after immigration clearance.
You might find some inconsiderate people standing on the right of the escalator blocking the way for those who wish to walk up the escalator quickly to reach the immigration counter. Beware of obstacles on the escalator as some might be holding trolley bags occupying more space than necessary on the escalator. After leaving the escalator at the top level, many people will be walking on fast pace to an immigration counter with a shorter queue or an auto clearance gate. You might also encounter big groups of people talking and walking slowly blocking the way that might delay your desire to catch the same bus after immigration clearance. Patience is a virtue here unless you can squeeze through a gap between some of these people to get ahead.
After clearing immigration, walk out of the building and take the escalator or flight of stairs down to ground level and turn right to look for the queue for your bus number. Hopefully, you might catch the same bus again as the buses are also subjected to security check before being allowed through to ferry passengers across the Causeway. For some bus services, missing the same bus would mean another 30 minutes wait with nothing to do which is not very exciting to say the least. That is why you will find many people rushing up the the immigration complex the moment they alight from the bus at Woodlands Checkpoint.
Having boarded the bus, you are now heading to Johor Immigration Complex. If there are no traffic jams, you will reach there in five minutes. If traffic is heavy be prepared for longer time to reach Johor Immigration Complex. At times, traffic could be so bad that commuters prefer to walk across the Causeway instead of being cramped up in the unmoving bus.
Once alighted from the bus at Johor Immigration Complex, going up a long flight of escalator just like the same situation at Woodlands Checkpoint is to be expected. The same scenario repeats itself and hopefully no inconsiderate people stand on the right side of the escalator to block those who are in a hurry to clear immigration to move on to their next destination. For those who wish to avoid the escalator, there is a lift just a short distance after the escalator to reach the immigration hall level.
Again, the fast pace walking repeats itself. Visitors will be looking for a shorter queue hoping to clear immigration quickly. During peak hours, or weekends, this would take quite a while where the entire immigration hall could be packed with people. Unless you have applied for MACS (Malaysian Automated Clearance System), where three auto-gates are located on the far right of the hall for auto clearance, the queue is your only option which could take quite a long time to clear depending on the time of the day or weekends.
After clearing immigration, just follow the sign to walk all the way to JB Sentral. The pace of walking for some may still be quite fast as some hope to catch an earlier bus at the terminal to their onward destination. Unfortunately, some group of friends might be walking slowly next to each other chatting away and hinder others who may want to walk faster to get to the bus terminal or City Square Mall.
Upon reaching the Johor Tourism Office, you will have to turn left to follow the signage to JB Sentral walking through a passage which is not very wide. Here, you might encounter some people walking slowly with their heads reverently bowed to their digital altar in humble worship of Apple or Samsung. If you are not that religious, you might be annoyed or even offended. Unless you find looking at the glass panels on both sides of this passage of over a hundred metres in length fascinating with childlike bewilderment, this stretch of walk taking no more than two minutes turning into a slow walk of much longer time would be frustrating.
Coming to the end of this passage, a right turn would soon lead to the exit of the Immigration building. Walking down a slight slope will reach level ground. Toilets are located at the end of this path. The exit is slightly towards the left. After the exit, a travelator is available to lessen some walking. At the end of the travelator, there will be two more fights of escalator to descend. Hopefully, the passage is clear on the right for those rushing to catch another bus.
Having descended two flights below, walking through another passage through a bridge would lead to the bus terminal on the left at the end. Here, you just have to descend another two flights of escalator to reach the bus terminal.
There are many bus services going to different destinations in Johor. To go to KSL City Mall, look out for bus S1 or IM 17 departing every 20 to 30 minutes. Just board the bus and pay the driver MYR 1.50 and collect a ticket. You may have to wait a while for the scheduled departure time before the bus leaves the terminal.
The travelling time to KSL City Mall will take no more than 20 minutes. Along the way, the usual first stop for bus IM 17 will be Holiday Plaza where some passengers might alight. From there, you will be able to see KSL Resort Building in front on the right. The bus will then move on and arrive at KSL City in just a minute or two.
Alighting at this entrance will lead you into KSL City Mall lower ground level with shops and restaurants and stalls selling phone accessories. Tesco Supermarket is located at this level. If you are driving to KSL City, don’t use the Touch and Go card to enter the carpark. Take a ticket from the machine. Simply spending MYR 15 at Tesco will allow you to redeem first two hours of free parking.
KSL City Mall is very popular and during weekends, this mall is packed and finding a carpark lot can be frustrating and difficult. There are many shops, restaurants and hair salons in this mall. MBO Cinema is also located here and there are discounts for cinema tickets on Wednesday. You can easily spend hours at this mall shopping, enjoy foot massage or have your hair done.
KSL Resort Hotel is connected to the mall. Another hotel is being build just across KSL City Mall and more accommodation options will be available soon. This place is ideal for a very short break across the Causeway for some relaxation, cheap shopping and dining. Mobile phone repairs and accessories shops are aplenty over here. Event halls are usually occupied with fairs for clothes or furniture.
Every Monday, night market is set up outside KSL City Mall. A stretch of the road outside KSL City will be closed to traffic from late afternoon onwards. Prices for goods and services over here are comparatively lower than City Square Mall near the Immigration Complex. Shopping in KSL City is very pleasant just like any other malls in Singapore.
To go back to JB Sentral, you could go back to the same entrance to wait for bus IM 17 at the lower ground level. Alternatively, you might exit the entrance on ground level at Coffee Beans. Bus S1 is usually parked outside the entrance on the left if it hasn’t already left on a 20 minutes interval. The bus ride back to JB Sentral Terminal will take around 20 minutes. Cost for bus ticket is still MYR 1.50.
Upon arrival at the bus terminal, going up two flights of escalator and turning right will be heading back to Johor Immigration Complex. Turning left and entering JB Sentral will lead to City Square Mall. The KTM trains are operating from here and the ticketing office and waiting area are located here as well. There are small shops and cafes inside JB Sentral including Starbucks and KFC.
After passing KTM ticketing office and exiting the building, walk across the bridge and City Square Mall is directly ahead. A flight of escalator on the left at the end of the bridge will lead to the entrance of City Square Mall.
Like KSL City Mall, City Square Mall is about the same but more branded shops are found here. Shops like Uniqlo, H&M, Dorothy Perkins, Giordano and Esprit are located here. Restaurants and cafes are aplenty and Cathay Cineplexes are also located here.
Events hall are also occupied with fairs depending on the time of the year where the mall will be decorated to fit the festive celebration of that season. Shopping here is more convenient without having to take a bus after clearing immigration and you are sheltered indoor all the way to the mall.
From the bridge leading into City Square Mall, instead of entering City Square on the left, turning right will lead to another mall, Komtar. There are many shops and restaurants in Komtar as well. There is a factory outlet store that offer discounts to foreign visitors. You need to show your passport though. Over in Komtar, more high end retailers are located here. Marks and Spencer, Metro Jaya, Padini Concept Store, Brands Outlet and F.O.S and many restaurants can be found in Komtar.
So if you don’t wish to travel further for a shopping trip to Johor, visiting City Square Mall and Komtar would be sufficient to keep you occupied for much of the day. Watching a movie at City Square and then continue with more shopping at Komtar could be an option as well. However, for cheaper stuff, a trip to KSL City Mall would be necessary. Making a pair of glasses would be much cheaper in KSL City Mall and if the power of the glasses is not very high, collecting the new pair of glasses within an hour is possible.
So having spent sufficient time and enjoyed your shopping and entertainment in shopping Malls in Johor Bahru, walking back to Johor Immigration Complex with the same hectic scenario is to be expected. Hopefully, you are not unduly delayed by inconsiderate people on the way back if you are in a hurry to catch a bus back to Singapore.
Try to avoid coming back during peak hours. If you are coming back during a weekend, expect the bus bay under Johor Immigration Complex to be crowded and chaotic. You might not even be able to figure out which queue will lead to which bus service. So be mentally prepared to factor in time and effort to return from Johor, especially with your hands now full after the shopping trip.
After successfully boarding a bus from Johor and alighting at Woodlands Checkpoint, the mad rush would start again in order to clear immigration as quickly as possible. The hope to catch the same bus after immigration clearance is the primary motivation for such behaviour. So climbing the long flight of escalator and quicken pace of walking repeat itself one more time here. Hopefully, you don’t run into inconsiderate people taking their own sweet time to delay the process of getting through immigration as quickly as possible.
So this shopping trip across the Causeway does come with some major inconvenience and disruption as well. But if you are aware of what such shopping trips entail and are mentally and physically prepared for such challenges, shopping in Johor could be rewarding given the exchange rate between Singapore dollar and Malaysian Ringgit has already hit a new low of MYR 2.90 to S$ 1. Perhaps spending a night at KSL Resort Hotel before coming home for a short break might even be better to make crossing the Causeway worthwhile.
If you are visiting Singapore, planning a visit to Malaysia across the Causeway might be a good idea. You can then enjoy some cheaper shopping and dining experience. But please make sure you meet the necessary entry requirement into Malaysia such as application for visa in order not to face unnecessary delay at Johor Immigration. In addition, please take precaution should you wish to venture out onto the streets. Beware of snatch thieves from passing motorcyclists. Quite often local ladies don’t carry handbags on the streets in Johor. Be aware of your surrounding and put safety as your top priority. However, if you are planning to stay inside a shopping mall, it is pretty safe. Notwithstanding, keeping personal belongings close to you at all times is to be expected even in a mall.
Shopping trips across the Causeway are common for some people and some are doing it regularly or even on a daily basis. Knowing the way around would make such trips more efficient and less stressful. Cost savings from such trips can be substantial over the long run and that is why for those who have access to bus services into Johor won’t mind the trouble, especially some retirees who wish to stretch the dollar by spending time over in Johor instead of Singapore. So happy shopping in Johor …