Travelling between the Woodlands Check Point and Johor Custom and Immigration Complex can be a big headache, especially for those who needs to travel on a daily basis, due to traffic congestion at the Causeway. On top of having to bear with traffic congestion, those who drive has to pay quite a hefty sum ever since both sides of the Authorities revised the toll charges last year. Driving through Singapore side of the the check point, the fee is S$3.80 and coming back is S$2.70. On the Johor side of Custom and Immigration, the fee is RM$9.70 for entering Johor and when leaving, it is RM$6.80. These fees are for small cars using the Causeway between both CIQs.
For those who don’t drive, taking public buses is another option. The cost for taking such public transportation is between $2 and $7 each way, much cheaper than driving across the Causeway if you are travelling alone. However, at the Immigration Complex, especially on Johor side, you will find the immigration hall more than half full during peak hours and school holidays. Clearing immigration will take quite a while.
Unless you have applied for the MACS, Malaysia Automated Clearance System, where you could go to the extreme right to use one of the three autogates to get through immigration quickly, you will have to be content with queuing for your turn at the immigration counter. Unfortunately, not all three autogates are always available and working. The fee for MACS is RM$30, less than S$12, per year which is a rather efficient way to get through immigration without joining long queues at one of those immigration counters. On top of that, if you travel to Malaysia regularly, you need not get your passport stamped so often and use up valuable pages of the passport where renewal cost is S$60 or $70.
The trouble for using this bus option is having to rush through custom and immigration on both sides to try to catch the same bus you are taking there, which is more true for private buses where bus frequencies may be once every half an hour. If you miss the bus and having to wait quite meaninglessly at the bus waiting area which is not air-conditioned, it is not a very nice feeling. Besides, the bus can be quite crowded and having to squeeze with many passengers on board even for that short distance across the Causeway, you may find yourself rather tired after this immigration clearing exercise.
The only good thing can come out of this is that you will become quite fit in climbing up and going down flights of stairs and escalators to get through immigration as quickly as possible in order to catch the same bus. You may feel rather young again and this can be quite fun each time to see if you can win the competition by being among the first few back to the bus bay to get up the same bus ensuring you have a seat on the bus without wasting valuable time to catch the next bus.
At the same time you might be annoyed by some oblivious people who walk so slowly and blocking your way, especially those with trolley bags occupying more space than they need on escalators. Moreover, you might even trip over the trolley bags when these people drag them inconsiderately while you are rushing to clear immigration. This can also occur on the bus when some leave the trolley bag on the aisle and when you come up the bus wearing sunglasses, you might not be able to see this obstacle in the bus and thus tripping over this trap as well.
But if your attitude is right knowing all these challenges in taking the bus across the Causeway and are prepared for such a rat race, you can still come up on top of the game. However, having braved this bus immigration clearing operation and survived, and should you find strange noises in your head, fret not. You are not hallucinating. This might be due to the loud and incessant talking by some passengers on board the bus. This is not the same experience you have while taking the MRT trains or buses going from point to point in Singapore. This is a rather unique experience on the buses crossing the Causeway.
By the way these noise polluters are not children but adults behaving like children talking so loudly and excitedly as though this is the first time they are leaving the country. They have no qualms about discomfort others might face with with loud noises in confined space. So if you are prone to phonophobia migraine, taking preventive measures might be necessary or don’t take the bus at all.
If you are coming back from Johor on a weekend, expect pandemonium at the bus bay after clearing immigration. The whole place is so crowded with so many queues and once you get down from the escalator, it is so hard to get through the horde of people. Try doing this when your hands are so full after shopping in Johor Bahru, it is anything but fun. Moreover, you probably won’t know which queue is leading to which bus and this can be exceedingly frustrating, especially this is the first time you use the bus to come back to Singapore.
One more thing, expect smokers to smoke at the bus bay. This will add to your discomfort on top of the frustration you are experiencing. So don’t try this on a weekend. Try to get used to the whole process during a weekday at off peak hours if you want to keep your sanity.
There is another option to get through both sides of the Causeway; that is using the train services operated by the Malaysian Railway Company. From next week 1 July 2015, KTM will operate shuttle services between both sides of the Causeway. There will be 7 trips from Woodlands and 7 trips from Johor. Departure timing is from 6.30 am to 11 pm from Woodlands and 5.30 am to 10 pm from JB Sentral.
Each trip can carry 300 to 320 passengers. The cost is S$5 leaving Singapore and RM$5 leaving Johor which is more costly compare to taking buses. This train option offer another alternative for those who do not wish to take buses and having to go through the trouble of clearing immigration getting up and down flights of stairs and running after buses.
Hopefully, with this additional mode of travel between the two CIQs, those using the Causeway often will have a more pleasant experience.
There will be another mode of travel between Singapore and Johor when the Rapid Transit System linking Singapore from Woodlands near Causeway Point Shopping Mall to Johor is completed in 2018. The RTS will be located next to the Thomson-East Coast MRT line with 31 stations linking the north to the city in the south and then to regions in the east. Nevertheless, there was a report from Malaysia where some hiccups on the upcoming RTS linking the two sides were to be expected.
Until then, for commuters using the Causeway regularly, making best use of one of the existing modes of travel according to one’s needs will have to continue for at least another three years.
So stay strong, stay sane and stay safe. Try to take it easy when things don’t go our way when using the Causeway to travel to Johor and back to Singapore.