Updated: Oct 26, 2020
IKEA Tebrau in Johor Bahru opened on 17 November 2017 and large crowds flocked to the outlet during the year-end holiday season. I avoided making a trip there during that period. Three months had passed, it was about time to pay the outlet a little visit and also since my new house was coming, I needed to get new furniture.
So, I decided on a little bargain-hunting trip to IKEA Tebrau to get some small items cheaply at the same time. And I asked my sister along.
Before making the trip to IKEA Tebrau, I did some homework to decide if it was worth the effort to go all the way there instead of the IKEA outlets in Singapore. So, I looked up several items that I needed on ikea.sg and compare their prices with the same items on ikea.my. Not all items were cheaper in IKEA Tebrau but I found two small furniture that were on promotions and cheaper than in Singapore.
1. LISABO Coffee Table @ S$99.00
2. BEKVÄM Step Stool @ S$24.90
The prices indicated on ikea.my were RM249.00 and RM59.00 respectively. The day's exchange rate was S$1 : RM2.955, so the equivalent prices in Singapore dollars are S$84.26 and S$19.96 — total cost would be S$104.22 and around S$20 cheaper. It was not a lot of money but it reinforced my reasons to make the trip.
Also, I tried to keep the expenditure amount below S$150 equivalent so as not to pay an additional 7% GST on entering Singapore. Otherwise, it would reduce the margin that I was trying to save.
(Update: The S$150 limit for no GST had been revised down to S$100. Watch your expenditure.)
Getting to IKEA Tebrau
One piece of information that I could not obtain from IKEA's mobile website was the shuttle bus schedule and location from JB Sentral to IKEA Tebrau. So I searched on Google and found a "supposedly-trustworthy" website that provided some information. Unfortunately, it stated the wrong location for the shuttle bus — since the website is wrong or may be outdated, I will not reference it.
We waited at the bus stop in front of JB Sentral for the 11am shuttle bus. It did not materialise of course. After waiting for 15 minutes, my sister launched the Grab app and hailed a car. It was RM15 to IKEA Tebrau.
By using Grab, or Uber or taxis (RM20-25), my margin of savings was slashed. I was hoping that we could catch IKEA's shuttle bus on the way back from IKEA or else the supposedly bargain-hunting trip would be just a farce.
Checking Out IKEA
IKEA Tebrau was situated right beside Aeon Mall Tebrau City in a large building by itself. Frequent day-trippers to the Aeon Mall would be familiar with the area. I had been to the mall once several years ago but hardly remember its surrounding.
The floor areas of IKEA Tebrau was much bigger and spacious than the two IKEA outlets in Singapore.
The showroom was on the second floor and the market hall, self-collection section and check-out counters were on the ground floor. The design concept was the same as in Singapore. The items on display in the showroom seemed somewhat fewer — probably because it was still quite new. But there were many more items in the market hall. Several items that were sold out in IKEA Singapore can be found here too.
As usual, we checked out the showroom for small furniture and items that were not available in Singapore. And also noting the rack and section numbers for our desired items.
Lunching at IKEA Tebrau
To make the trip bargain-worthy, we had lunch at IKEA's restaurant (Halal). We ordered several dishes just nice for two person — the reason why I asked my sister along was so we could order more things to try.
A breakdown of the meal with selling prices in Malaysia and Singapore:
1. Baked Chicken Leg - RM13.90 (S$6.50)
2. Vegetable Balls - RM3.50 (S$3.00)
3. Smoked Salmon - RM9.90 (S$6.50)
4. Lotus Leaf Rice - RM8.80 (N/A)
5. Sausage Spring Roll - RM1.00 (N/A)
6. Coffee - RM2.00 (S$0.50)
The total cost of the lunch was RM39.10 — approximately S$13.20. Both the spring roll and lotus leaf rice were not available in Singapore. A similar meal in Singapore, but excluding the two non-available items, would add up to S$16.50. So, it was cheaper to feast in IKEA Tebrau.
As IKEA in Malaysia served only Halal food, they had beef ribs (RM34.90) instead of pork ribs (S$11.90) in Singapore. However, the prices were about the same.
Update: 28 Feb 2018
I went to IKEA Alexandra for its IKEA Family Preview Sale and had lunch at its restaurant. There were lotus leaf rice (S$6.80) and spring roll (S$1.20) on the menu although they were not listed on ikea.sg website. So our meal in IKEA Tebrau would cost about S$24.50 in Singapore for the similar meal. Dining at IKEA Tebrau was about 50% cheaper.
Getting the Items
After lunch, we went to get the items we wanted in the self-collection section. When collecting the LISABO coffee table package from the shelve, I realised something to my dismay. The coffee table was packed in a 90cm x 45cm long box and weighed 8Kg. It would not be easy to carry it across the customs into Singapore using hands and taking public transport — I should have brought along my retractable 2-wheel hand cart.
After weighing on the tediousness, I put back the coffee table and settled for just the step stool, which had a smaller packaging and easier to carry in a big carrier (similar to IKEA's carrier) that I brought along. I kept the receipt in case I need to prove to custom officers in Singapore that my total purchases did not exceed S$150.
It turned out that I did not have a successful bargain-hunt on this trip, but I would be back again for the coffee table and better equipped next time.
Some tips after two trips to IKEA:
Short Walk to Aeon Mall Tebrau City
After paying for the items, we had about an hour to go before the next shuttle bus at 5pm, so we decided to walk over to Aeon Mall Tebrau City to get some daily necessities while killing time. And we walked pass the bus stop for the shuttle bus on the way to the mall, which was just across a road.
It was real convenient. There was also a Tesco Extra supermarket beside Aeon Mall but we did not have much time to explore it. We bought what we needed in Aeon supermarket and headed back to the bus stop before 5pm.
Getting Back to JB Sentral
The 5pm shuttle bus departed from IKEA on time to JB Sentral.
The shuttle bus actually stopped at the bus stop in front of the OLD Johor Bahru Railway Station, now known as KTMB Muzium! We were waiting at the wrong bus stop in the morning.
The shuttle bus information was accurate on IKEA's desktop-version website, but it was not shown on the mobile-version — an unfortunate hiccup in the web design. When on the road, it was the mobile version that travellers would rely on. When we could not find the bus information on IKEA's website, we had no choice but to refer to a 3rd-party website that gave us the wrong information.
Anyway, I wrote my own version:
Back to Singapore
We expected to be caught in traffic congestion on the causeway — a norm after 4pm on weekdays —and decided to have dinner at City Square, opposite JB Sentral. At around 7pm, we started to make our way back to Singapore.
However, we were still caught in the congestion on the Causeway to Woodlands Checkpoint. Although there were not many cars going to Singapore at that time, there was a long queue of buses and they dropped loads of tourists and Singapore residents, returning from their Chinese New Year holidays, at the checkpoint. It took us about an hour to clear the custom.
Well, it was expected during festive season.
In conclusion, apart from having a cheaper meal at IKEA Tebrau, I did not save any money on my purchases due to the unexpected Grab ride. But I got smarter on subsequent trips.
Anyway, I made mistakes, you learned something: