Note: This post is a continuation of Best Times to Cross Singapore-Johor Causeway (for normal weekends) without the influence of public holidays. Be sure to read it first as some terminology and assumptions will not be repeated here.
After understanding the behavioural patterns of commuter-workers and travellers at border-crossings on normal weekends, we will study the impact of public holidays in this post.
For public holidays that fall on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, it is not an easy task to predict the congestion probability — it depends on the nature of each holiday, who will be affected and whether it is a holiday in Singapore only, in Malaysia only or in both countries.
All public holidays in Singapore are also public holidays in Malaysia, except Singapore's National Day on 9th of August and Malaysia's National Day on 31st of August.
In one instance, the Chinese's Ching Ming Festival (清明节) or Tomb-Sweeping Day, an observance day, falls on a weekday in April 2017, but the causeway and Tuas Link experienced traffic congestions on weekends as early as 3 weeks in advance. Traffic held-ups reached an excruciating 9 hours at one point on a Saturday.
Ching Ming Festival is the time where many Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia cross the Straits of Johor to pay respects to their ancestors — it is more a "period" and doesn't have to be on the actual day. Travellers and day-trippers will need to take note of such events (not just public holidays) to avoid getting caught in congestions at the border and affect any holiday plans.
Fortunately, public holidays that fall on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays or Mondays are easier to predict. Despite differences in the nature of each holidays, they resulted in one common thing — long weekends.
If Saturday is a Public Holiday in Singapore
When Saturday is a public holiday, that weekend will seem like a normal weekend to most people — but it is a mistake to assume that!
The most affected group of people are the commuter-workers. For Malaysians who reside in Singapore and need to work on Saturdays, this will be a "long weekend" to them (2 days instead of 1.5 days), majority of them will want to go back on the Friday night before the Saturday holiday.
There are also those who do not need to work on Saturdays but their management may declare the following Monday as off-day as compensation for the Saturday holiday. It is an opportunity for workers to go on block-off and make it a long weekend for majority of the commuter-workers. Unfortunately, the general public may not get to know about their Monday-offs.
Similarly, travellers who have make-up holiday on Monday may want to travel during this period and will contribute to the congestions on Friday night and Saturday morning.
On the Saturday holiday, instead of two batches of commuter-workers arriving at different timings (one batch in the early morning and one batch after 11am), they may all arrive around the same time and worsen the congestion.
On Sunday, the number of people crossing the border from Singapore will be lesser except for some travellers and day-trippers.
So, is Sunday a good day to go for a day trip? We will have to look at who will be travelling from Johor to Singapore on Sunday and Monday.
Depending on the number of commuter-workers who are off on Monday, the congestion situation when coming into Singapore on Sunday and Monday may be slightly better than normal Sundays, since the commuter-workers population may be dispersed across the two days. However, since we will not know if most of them will be on Monday-off, it may be safer to assume the worst — i.e all of them will be returning on Sunday.
On Monday, two groups of commuter-workers may converge on the Causeway around the same time after 3pm. One group is the commuter-workers on Monday-off and returning to Singapore at the end of the day. The other group is those working on second shift as per normal. Adding to the fray will be travellers on Monday-off, coming back to Singapore around the same time.
Therefore, it may not be a good weekend for a one-day trip. But for travellers (with Monday-off) who want to spend a night in Malaysia, it may be better to go over on Sunday and return on Monday morning.
If Friday is a Public Holiday in Singapore
When Friday is a public holiday, the weekend congestion scenario will start on Thursday evening instead of Friday evening.
Friday will become the "congestion day" similar to the Saturday-holiday scenario. In addition, there will be a lot more travellers making use of the three-day long weekend to travel.
On Saturday, probability of congestion will be very low with lesser commuter-workers and travellers who prefer to cross the border on non-congested day. Take note that there are commuter-workers who still need to work half a day on Saturday morning. They will be at the checkpoints after 11am.
On Sunday, going to Malaysia will be a breeze with mainly day-trippers. But take note that this is the last day of the long weekend.
The probability of congestion from Johor to Singapore will be very low on both Friday and Saturday. Travellers from Malaysia will cross the border in the morning. Singapore day-trippers will return towards the end of the day. Note that on Saturday morning, some commuter-workers may need to enter Singapore to work for half a day.
On Sunday, the last day of the long weekend, majority of commuter-workers, travellers and day-trippers will return to Singapore. Again, most of them will want to return towards the end of the day. Those who wants to avoid the congestion will start to return in the morning.
From the charts, it is easy to see that Saturday will be a good day for day-tripping in Malaysia. For travellers, it will be better to take extra leaves to extend the long weekend and avoid travelling to Malaysia on Friday and returning on Sunday.
If Sunday & Monday is a Public Holiday in Singapore
When Sunday is a public holiday in Singapore or Malaysia, Monday will definitely be a holiday. It is the same as having a public holiday on Monday.
For these two cases, the long weekend congestion starts on Friday evening.
Saturday will be the highly-congested day as usual.
On Sunday and Monday, it will be a breeze to travel to Malaysia.
From Johor to Singapore, both Saturday and Sunday will be congestion-free. Again, border-crossers will mainly be travellers and day-trippers.
And it will be "Sunday" scenario on Monday.
It is easy to see that Sunday will be a good day for day-tripping in Malaysia. For travellers, avoid travelling to Malaysia on Saturday and returning on Monday.
To Sum it All
For Singapore day-trippers to Malaysia,
Go on Sunday on normal weekends or when Saturday is a public holiday. Make the trip early in the morning and return by 2pm.
Go on Saturday if Friday is a holiday. Return at any time.
Go on Sunday if Sunday or Monday is a holiday. Return at any time.
To save all the hassles on weekends, take leaves to go / return on weekdays.
Above are how I have been going in and out of Malaysia without wasting time in congestions.
Read: Johor Story 1: A Day Trip to Johor Bahru after Border Reopened (on a Saturday after Friday-holiday)
Read: Johor Story 2: A Day Trip to Pekan Muar from Singapore (on a weekday)
Read: Johor Story 3: A Day Trip to Pelangi (Johor Bahru) for Local Food (on a normal weekend's Sunday)
For Singapore holiday-goers, don't try to save annual leaves by sticking to weekends or long weekends. Being caught in human / traffic congestions should not be part of a travel plan — do plan to avoid the congestions rather than allocating time for getting caught in one. Taking a day's leave on Friday can avoid going on a congested Saturday. Similarly, a Monday leave can avoid coming back on a congested Sunday.
For foreign travellers (including Malaysia holiday-goers to Singapore), avoid peak hours when crossing either into Singapore or Malaysia. The best time is always on weekdays or Sunday morning.