Malacca Tip: Singapore to Malacca on a Shoestring
(Updated on 24 July 2017)
Malacca (or Melaka locally) is around 3 hours' journey from Singapore. It offers visitors a wide range of attractions for short and leisurely getaways. Malacca's Chinatown and historical sites bear evidences of Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and British influences in the old days. Modern offerings include a sky tower, boat rides, shopping centres, maritime museum, and more. The night market along Jonker Walk is always crowded on Friday to Sunday nights. This is where visitors go for cheap buys and eats.
There are several ways that travellers from Singapore can get to Malacca:
1. Free & easy tour package
2. DIY with reservations prior to trip
4. Go via trains
5. Go via buses and without reservations
6. Flying... well, there is no flights between Malacca and Singapore
Let's look at each of these, except 6, and compare each of their merits and demerits.
Basis for comparison
Assume a 3D2N trip over a weekend — i.e go on Friday, back on Sunday. Room rates are usually cheaper on weekdays but since most Singaporeans go on weekends, we will use weekend rates to compare.
All rates shown are obtained from websites of tour agencies, bus companies, hotels, etc. at time of writing this post. Figures shown may vary in future.
Exchange rate is SGD 1 : MYR 3.1 at time of writing.
Option 1: Free-&-Easy Tour Package
For those of you who prefer hassle-free and luxury stays, simply drop into a tour agency and get a travel package that includes both a hotel stay and 2-way transfers. And pay more.
No need to plan at all (you will be paying the tour agency to do that).
Coach usually drops and picks up guests directly at the selected hotel.
Tour packages are usually for "two-to-go", so solo travellers will need to pay more as hotel room is usually for two occupants unless there are single rooms.
Selection of hotel is only from few options provided.
Time schedule is determined by the tour agency and they can change it anytime without your consent.
You cannot choose the type of coaches. If there are overwhelming takers for a particular travel period, the agency can request for a coach with more seats instead of those with lesser and bigger seats. There will be no refund on the difference in coach fares.
Need to gather at a specified place to take the coach (usually in the city area). If anyone is late, all will wait and be delayed.
Breakfasts are usually included. Probably the same international buffet every morning when there are good and cheap local fares everywhere. Anyway, you will be paying for the breakfasts once you sign up for a tour package.
All payments are in Singapore dollars.
The cost of a typical tour package (using a popular hotel in Malacca) is as follows:
Room in Hotel X (weekend rates):
- Twin-sharing: S$109.00 (1st night / pax)
- Single: S$152.00 (1st night)
- Extension: S$95.00 per room per night
- Included in room rates
* Transport costs may be charged separately by some tour agencies
Working out the costs for 3D2N:
Total for 2 persons = S$313.00 (or S$156.00 per pax)
Total for 1 person = S$247.00
As shown above, it is usually more expensive for solo travellers to take tour packages because the rooms are usually twin-sharing.
Option 2: Do-It-Yourself with Reservations Prior to Trip
DIY with reservations requires some planning to get from point A to B and vice versa. It is not that difficult. Once the accommodation and transfers are booked, you can relax and enjoy the trip.
Flexible and according to your time schedule.
Preferred choice of coach type, where to board and where to drop. When heading to Malacca, you can choose to drop at somewhere convenient for lunch or coffee before check-in. When coming back, you can choose a different pickup point instead of the hotel of stay.
Preferred choice of accommodation. You can get either hotel, budget hotel, guest house or home stay, depending on your comfort level and budget. Do make use of discounts from hotel booking platforms, like Agoda.com, to get cheaper rates.
Need to gather at a specified place to take the coach. If anyone is late, the coach will leave without them.
All payments are in Singapore dollars. If bookings are paid by credit card in Malaysia ringgit, bank conversion rates will be used. Bank rates are usually lower than SGD 1 : MYR 3.1 as they are converted from MYR to USD, then from USD to SGD using their own markup rates, thus resulting in more SGD to be paid later.
Let's use the same hotel as Option 1 for comparison:
Room in Hotel X (with discounts via Agoda.com):
- Standard double room: S$96.00 (per night)
- 1-way transfer: S$27.00 per pax
* Typical coach fares when booking online (can range from S$21 to S$33 on a Friday, and mid-range is at S$27, ref: BusOnlineTicket.com)
Working out the costs for 3D2N:
Total for 2 persons = S$300.00 (or S$150.00 per pax)
Total for 1 person = S$246.00
The slight cost savings for two persons is mainly from the discount via Agoda.com. For solo travellers, there will not be much cost savings staying in a hotel room — better to find other accommodations with single rooms.
Without being restrained by a tour package, there is some flexibility in choosing cheaper coaches (using 44-seaters) to reduce cost. But, it depends on individual comfort level.
Option 3: Self-Drive
Technically, self-drives should not be in the comparison as not everyone owns a car. But let's list out the merits and demerits for those who are thinking of driving to Malacca.
Very flexible in time schedule — except when caught in traffic jams on weekends.
Need to know the roads and turns to get to Malacca.
High transportation costs. Need to pay vehicle entry fees and toll charges at the checkpoints, highway toll charges and petrol.
Vehicle can breakdown mid-way and ruin a holiday — you can't just dump the car.
The historical sites in Malacca has narrow roads (mostly single lanes and one-ways) and always congested during weekends with vehicles from other West Malaysia states, Singapore and also Malacca locals.
Chances of finding parking lots near places of interests are near impossible. The only use of a car is when going to secluded places outside of the city centre.
Fatigue when driving can result in accident, especially on the notorious North-South Highway. Make sure your car insurance has coverage that extends to West Malaysia.
To sum it up, there are too many cons to drive there.
Option 4: By Train
For those who have too much time and money to spare, you can try taking a train. The nearest train station is at Tampin, about 40km from Malacca old city.
Malaysia's railway operator, KTM Berhad, overhauled their website last year and recently on 21 July 2017, but ended up in Melayu only, dropping the English version. The railway network from Johor Bahru (JB) to Gemas is currently being upgraded, so train schedules are subjected to change anytime. Any information dated before Feb 2017 are no longer valid.
Note that there are no direct trains between JB and Tampin with effect from Feb 2017. All trains will stop at Gemas station for changing trains. Between JB and Gemas, the trains are still the old ones. The newer ETS (Electric Train Service) trains are used from Gemas to Tampin.
Trains between JB and Gemas are slow, taking 4 hours or more.
Using a taxi between Tampin and Malacca takes around 1 hour @ RM 70+.
A local bus runs between Tampin and Melaka Sentral but stops every now and then. This will cost you 3 hours.
Reservations for train tickets starts one month prior to the travelling date. If you are taking a train on weekends, do book one month ahead as they get sold out fast as Malaysians working in JB or Singapore usually head home over the weekends.
Long travelling time, higher costs, long train delays, etc. Pretty obvious why this option is not popular.
Direct Links to KTMB Website:
For Intercity trains between JB and Gemas, see here.
For ETS trains between Gemas and Tampin, see here.
Option 5: Do-It-Yourself Without Reservations
From Option 2, we push a little further to save more money by using Malaysia's public transport network without prior reservations. It takes a little homework to find the way to Malacca from Singapore or read my article below. Reservations for lodgings are usually preferred as booking online with discounts or last-minute deals are normally cheaper than walk-in rates.
Let's look at the costs for getting from Singapore to Malacca and back.
Getting to Malacca:
SBS Bus 170 from Kranji MRT Station to Larkin Sentral: S$2.20
27-seater Coach to Melaka Sentral: RM21.00
Domestic Bus 17 to Dutch Square: RM2.00
Bus 17 from Old Town to Melaka Sentral: RM1.50
27-seater Coach to Larkin Sentral: RM21.00
SBS Bus 170 to Kranji MRT Station: RM2.20
Working out the Transport Costs
= S$2.20 + RM48.20 (S$15.55)
= S$17.75 per person
Without looking at the cost of accommodation yet, the total transport costs is already reduced from S$54 (S$27 x 2 from Option 2) to S$18, saving you S$36.00!
The computation is somewhat conservative and using SBS Bus 170, check the article below for more details on using other options and costs. It can help you to further reduce the transport costs to just S$15.00 2-way!
Cost breakdowns and more details
If you choose a mid-range hotel for, say, S$40 per room per night, your total costs for 2 nights lodging and 2-way transports will be less than S$100 (and only about S$116 for 2 pax). And S$116 is 63% off the tour package rates for 2 persons (S$313)!
Further savings can be achieved by going for cheaper coach types and budget accommodations. This option is also the best for solo travellers.
Save on transport costs and accommodations.
Flexible schedule. If you start the journey before 8:30am and reach Malacca before 2pm, you can drop anywhere for lunch before heading over to the accommodation for check-in (which is usually after 2pm).
Pick a suitable accommodation according to your own preference. Choose desired room type, location or proximity of accommodation, with/without breakfast, etc.
Need to change between intercity coach and domestic bus at Melaka Sentral.
Have a great getaway to Malacca! And go on a shoestring.