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  • Rick

Best Times to Cross Singapore-Johor Causeway (Woodlands)

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

Traffic congestion at Woodlands Causeway

The most daunting task of travelling to Malaysia from Singapore via Woodlands Checkpoint is crossing the Straits of Johor using the causeway. The road-and-rail link between the two countries is usually heavily congested on weekends, a time where most people chose to get on the road-link at the same time.

To find the best times to cross the causeway, we need to understand who, why and when will the people be at Woodlands Checkpoint (for going to Malaysia) and Johor Bahru Checkpoint (for going to Singapore).

The majority of the "who" will be:

1. Commuter-Workers. There are more Malaysians going to Singapore to work than Singaporeans working in Malaysia. Most of the workers that need to cross the causeway on working days are blue-collar production workers. There are also Malaysians with Permanent Resident (PR) statuses who reside and work in Singapore but return to their hometowns over the weekend.

2. Tourists. These are foreign travellers and holiday-goers, but mostly day-trippers from Singapore to Johor Bahru due to higher exchange rate when converting from Singapore dollar to Malaysia ringgit. Most Singapore day-trippers drive, which worsen the traffic conditions during peak hours.

3. Students and others. This population is too small to be of concerns.

Note the following points too:

1. Workers can either be working on shifts or on regular time (from 9am to 5pm). "Workers" also includes those who drive cargo-carrying lorries, long container trucks, cars and motorcycles, which are the main reasons behind all the traffic jams.

2. Singapore imposes a Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) fee on foreign-registered vehicles from Monday to Friday but exemption granted between 5pm to 2am. Most foreign-registered vehicles will aim to reach Singapore checkpoints after 5pm on weekdays. During school holidays, the exemption starts at 12pm.

3. Timings for tourists and others are non-deterministic.

Normally, weekdays are the least congested with smoother traffic outside of peak hours. Weekends are when the causeway is usually congested, but not at all times. If you can understand the flow of people going through the checkpoints, you will be able to find the right time to cross the strait to-and-fro without being caught in both the human and traffic jams.

On Weekdays

Weekday routine is largely similar from Monday to Friday. However, as Friday is also a weekend after working hours, things can be a little different.

From Singapore → Johor Bahru

1. In the morning, there are not many Singaporean workers going over to Malaysia to work, so this is not an issue.

2. Singapore day-trippers (housewives, retirees, people-on-leaves, etc) will cross the causeway at around 8am as most shopping centres will open at 10am.

3. Container trucks and goods-carrying lorries going to Malaysia will arrive at the checkpoint after 9am.

4. After 3pm, Malaysian production workers on first shift will start to turn up at the causeway to return home.

5. After 5pm, the main bulk of Malaysian workers on regular working time will be at the causeway. This will usually cause congestion at the immigration checkpoints and petered out by 8pm (except on Friday).

On Friday evening, there will be more people crossing the causeway, including those who resides in Singapore and going back to their hometowns over the weekends. Some holiday-goers to Malaysia may also choose to cross the causeway at this time without having to take annual leaves.

6. After 11pm, workers on second shift will reach the causeway.

From Johor Bahru → Singapore

1. As early as 5:30am, Malaysian workers will start to cross the causeway, especially those in the first shift. Students studying in Singapore will also be crossing around this timing. The crowd will petered out by 10am.

2. Around 4pm, Malaysian workers on night shift will be waiting for private buses inside Johor Bahru CIQ's bus waiting area. The blue-painted private buses often caused congestion in JB CIQ due to workers arriving late. Most often than not, the bus drivers will also try to earn extra income by picking up other commuters and waited in the main lanes (only 2 lanes) instead of the bus bays. This created a bottleneck that resulted in bus congestion on the road leading to JB CIQ as early as 4pm — every weekday.

3. Around 4.45pm, foreign-registered vehicles will start to traverse slowly on the causeway so they can reach Singapore just after 5pm to avoid paying the VEP. Some drivers may even park their vehicles on the Malaysian side of the causeway when they realised they are too early.

On Saturdays

Although Saturdays are weekends to most people, they are not so for people who need to work another half a day on those days. This is a major oversight for many people who choose to cross the Straits of Johor on Saturdays.

From Singapore → Johor Bahru

1. Malaysians who do not go back to their hometown on Friday night will do so on Saturday morning.

2. Weekend holiday-goers for 2 days in Malaysia will also travel to the causeway on this day. Most tour buses will depart as early as 6am to avoid the congestion that usually worsen around 8am. Due to high demands on Saturdays, there will be busloads of people reaching the checkpoint at regular intervals from no less than 10 bus companies.

3. Singapore day-trippers will join in the fray after 8am. Since most shopping centres open at 10am, they usually won't go in too early. Most ended up reaching the shopping centres after 12pm or turned around at Woodlands Checkpoint.

4. After 10am, cargo-carrying or empty trucks will begin to return to Malaysia after the morning run — for those who need to work on Saturdays.

5. After 12pm, Malaysian workers, including those residing in Singapore and need to work on Saturdays, will start to turn up at the causeway. This adds more crowd to the border-crossing and can last till 8pm.

6. After 5pm, more Singapore day-trippers will cross the causeway for dinner or late-night supper. These group of people usually drives and extend the traffic congestion to 10pm.

From Johor Bahru → Singapore

1. Malaysian workers will cross the causeway in the morning for those needing to work on Saturdays. The crowd will petered out by 10am.

2. Malaysian day-trippers or tourists to Singapore will cross the causeway at any time of the day.

3. Singapore day-trippers will return home usually towards end of the day.

On Sundays

The good thing about Sundays is that majority of the commuter-workers don't need to work — except those in retail line.

From Singapore → Johor Bahru

1. Singapore day-trippers will go over around 8am and at any time of the day — usually before 2pm.

2. Malaysian tourists to Singapore will return at any time of the day.

From Johor Bahru → Singapore

1. Usually after 3pm, holiday-goers and day-trippers will start to appear at the causeway to return to Singapore. This may last until 8pm or later.

2. Malaysian workers residing in Singapore and need to work the following day will also return to Singapore.

The Time Charts

Putting all the information together, we came up with the time charts below using our best estimation. Each shade represents 20% congestion probability. The darkest shade is 80% to 100% congested.

From Singapore to Johor Bahru

SG to JB Time Chart (Normal)

From Johor Bahru to Singapore