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  • Writer's pictureRick

Going Over the Border to Malaysia in 2023? Let's Plan!

It's a new year and COVID-19 situation has improved drastically around the world. It will gradually become much safer to travel without medical checks and quarantine restrictions. And hopefully, the costs of travel will become more affordable although high inflation is unlikely to improve any sooner.

I have travel plans that were shelved for 3 years and will try to work them into my schedule from 2023 onwards. But I will still make short trips to nearby Malaysia whenever possible.

In April 2022, when Malaysia reopened its border with Singapore, I wrote a post on the long weekends in 2022 where I would make use of to cross the border to Malaysia without "participating" in the congestions at the customs. Below is a summary on some of my trips in 2022 (excluding quick trips on normal weekends).

Notice a few things:

  1. I made use of long weekends (minimum 3 days) to go on day trips to Johor Bahru only — although I could have travelled further. The main objective was to avoid crossing the border to Malaysia on the first day and back to Singapore on the last day when heavy congestions were expected at the customs. Another reason being that there would be more tourists at popular tourist spots, like Malacca and Ipoh.

  2. My longer trip to Malacca and day trips to Muar and Kluang were outside of any public holidays or long weekends when there were lesser tourists and lesser Malaysians, who work in Singapore, returning to their hometowns. Bus tickets are readily available when there are lesser commuters on the roads.

  3. For the trip to Batu Pahat and Pontian (21~23 Oct) where I did make use of a long weekend, I went over on Friday morning and back on Sunday (not on the last day of the long weekend). I avoided crossing the border during congested periods. The destinations that I picked were also not tourist spots.

  4. I avoided the Christmas long weekend entirely when heavy congestions were expected and went over the border on the following working day. There were still delays at the customs but not as bad. I will give a buffer of 2 days next time.

  5. New Year's Day was always a good day to go over the border. I went to Johor Bahru on 1 Jan 2020 (a weekday) before the pandemic and again on 1 Jan 2023 (a long weekend). Many people will not want to travel on New Year's Day as they want to "rest" and get ready for school or work in the new year, but it was the best time for me.

The good news: there will be more long weekends to come in 2023! And I will continue to cross the border when possible but I will plan to go places that I have yet to visit.

Update: Vesak Day holiday was amended from 3rd June to 2nd June, from Saturday to Friday, making it officially a long weekend for everyone.

Bear in mind that Singapore's public holidays are also public holidays in Malaysia, except for National Days of both countries. When Singapore's residents don't have to work, so do Malaysia's residents, except for those in retail lines and public sectors. Thus, depending on the nature of each holiday, it may or may not be a good time to cross the border.

There are 8 long weekends in 2023, including New Year's Day for 2024 as it starts on 30 December 2023. At the time of writing this post, New Year's Day for 2023 was already over, so left with 7 long weekends going forward.

The upcoming 4-day Chinese New Year (CNY) long weekend may not be a good time for travelling to Malaysia, especially to Chinese towns, as many Chinese businesses may be closed for 1~2 weeks. Popular tourist spots, like Malacca, Ipoh and Penang, may also be crowded with tourists, especially after China's reopening of its border on 8 Jan 2023 for China citizens to travel overseas. At the same time, many Chinese in Malaysia, including business owners, may also want to return or visit China after the 3-year hiatus. Furthermore, there will be massive movement at the border-crossings where Malaysians working in Singapore, especially Chinese, will return to their hometowns for the festive season. Most shops will also be closed on the eve and first 2 days of CNY.

However, the weekend before CNY may be a good time to cross the border as lesser Malaysian workers will want to return home since the following weekend will be longer than usual and many will be taking annual leaves. The weekend after CNY may also be a good time, but Chinese businesses may remain closed except for shopping malls. Most Malaysians will not want to travel back again after returning just few days before.

The other 6 long weekends are due to Good Friday (forever a long weekend), Labour Day, Vesak Day, Deepavali, Christmas Day and New Year's Day for 2024. The only two holidays that fall on weekdays are Hari Raya Haji and Singapore's National Day. On a side note, Malaysia's National Day (31 August) is also on a weekday.

For me, I will probably plan one-day trips to Johor during each of the long weekends and also on the two weekday-holidays. I will avoid the Christmas Day long weekend totally since I may go over during New Year's Day a week later.

For those working in companies that mandate Mondays off for Saturday holidays, there will be 1 additional long weekend for Hari Raya Puasa. However, when planning trips to Malaysia, it will be hard to determine if these holidays can be considered normal or long weekends as not everyone will have the following Monday off. Personally, I will consider them as normal weekends and avoid crossing the border on Saturday morning and Sunday late afternoon. Or, I may plan trips to other regions around the holidays.

Furthermore, Hari Raya Puasa and Labour Day are on two consecutive weekends and are perfect for planning longer trips to wider destinations. It may be a good time to travel before the mid-year school holidays.

In summary, there will be one group with 7 long weekends in 2023 and the other group will have 8 — around the same number in 2022.

Year 2022 and 2023 are blessed with many long weekends, so don't waste them. Come 2024, the number of long weekends will drop drastically to just 4 (not including New Year's Day for 2024).

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