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  • Writer's pictureRick

SG-JB Crossing: Cross the Border with Shuttle Tebrau + Tips

Crossing the Singapore-Johor border using cross-border bus services is the most convenient way to travel to Johor Bahru or to wider Johor of Peninsular Malaysia. Driving one's own vehicle is not recommended as it usually results in or gets caught in traffic congestions between the immigration checkpoints — it is really a waste of time.

Apart from various cross-border bus services, a shuttle train service is also available for crossing the border. Known as "Shuttle Tebrau", the shuttle train service is operated by KTMB (based in Malaysia) since 2015. Each train service ferries up to 320 passengers between Woodlands Train Checkpoint and Johor Bahru (JB) Sentral and is often tauted as a "5-minute" service — barring any train delays.

I have used Shuttle Tebrau several times — especially during expected peak periods (weekends, school holidays, public holidays and peak commuting hours) — but will prefer to use bus services most of the time since I usually plan my trips outside expected peak periods.

I will share the sequence of events — and some tips — when taking the shuttle train to and fro between the two checkpoints.

From Singapore to Johor Bahru

First, reserve your train tickets, including return ticket, well in advance especially if your are planning to travel during peak periods. For convenience, download "KTMB Mobile" app from respective app stores, register an account and purchase the train tickets under the Shuttle Tebrau section. E-tickets (with QR code) will be saved in the app without having to print it out.

Tip 1:

Screenshot the e-tickets — especially the return ticket — just in case you have no roaming data when in Malaysia. Make sure the QR code is displayed fully in the screenshots.

The train fare from Singapore to JB is S$5 whereas from JB to Singapore is RM5 — with effect from 1st August 2024, Malaysia citizens will pay only RM5 for all tickets between Singapore and JB.

Since you will be booking tickets from Singapore to JB, the tickets will be priced in Singapore dollar. Which is to say, if you book the return ticket together with your Singapore-to-JB forward ticket, you will be charged a total amount equivalent to 2 times of S$5 = S$10. That means you will be paying S$5 for the return ticket instead of RM5.

Tip 2:

In order not to pay S$5 for the return ticket, book your forward and return tickets separately. A separate booking for the JB-to-Singapore ticket will cost only RM5.

(I last took the shuttle train in March 2023.)

On the day of travel, arrive at Woodlands Train Checkpoint (Singapore) at least 30 minutes earlier. The gate to the immigration area will be closed 20 minutes before the scheduled train departure time. You will not be allowed to enter the immgration area once the gate closed.

Tip 3:

Woodlands Train Checkpoint and Woodlands Checkpoint are interconnected. If you missed your train, continue walking along the long corridor to Woodlands Checkpoint, clear immgration and use any cross-border bus services to cross the Causeway to JB CIQ.

During peak periods, shuttle train services are usually fully-booked, which means there will probably be 320 passengers going through the customs for each train service. After clearing customs, wait in the holding area for the train. If the train has just arrived, it will need to offload all its passengers before boarding is allowed.

Note that if your passport or visa has some issues at either customs, you will likely miss the train — yup, the shuttle train will not wait for anyone.

It will take some time for 320 passengers to board the train, find their carriages and seats, etc. So, be patient. If you board the wrong carriage or not able to find your seat, just stand — it is only about 5 minutes to JB Sentral.

Once the train arrived at JB Sentral, alight and follow the crowd to clear Malaysia customs. Note that you will exit the immigration area in JB Sentral's train terminal, not in JB CIQ.

Tip 4:

If you are going to Johor Bahru for a day trip and plan to get your return ticket at JB Sentral at RM5, forget it! You will most probably be greeted with a "sold out" sign at the ticketing counter. Weekdays and outside of peak commuting hours are the only time there may still be available tickets but chances are usually very slim. So, book your return ticket well in advance — up to several months in advance if you intend to travel during peak periods, especially the December school holidays.

Enjoy your trip!

From Johor Bahru to Singapore

On the return trip, be back at JB Sentral about 30 minutes before the train departure time. There will always be a long queue waiting to enter the immigration area of the train terminal. Similarly, you will need to clear Malaysia customs, wait for all passengers to be in the holding area before boarding the shuttle train.

Another 5 minutes and the train will be back at Woodlands Train Checkpoint. Here, 320 passengers will have to go through Singapore customs all at once — it will take some time again...

In fact, the journey by Shuttle Tebrau is similar to using border-crossing bus services:

By Train:

Take bus/cab to Woodlands Train Checkpoint → Clear Singapore Immigration → 5-minute train ride → Clear Malaysia Immigration

By Bus:

Take bus to Woodlands Checkpoint → Clear Singapore Immigration → 5-minute bus ride → Clear Malaysia Immigration

The travelling time by bus or by train is just 5 minutes, the main difference is the number of people in the immigration and waiting area simultaneously during peak or non-peak periods. The number of immigration counters in operation will also play a part in determining queuing and waiting time — it is not a straightforward formula.

Another difference is that a bus ferries about 50 passengers whereas a train is like a gigantic bus that ferries 320 passengers. I prefer touch-and-go bus services over a fixed schedule train — the latter uses the same amount of time from queuing at one train terminal to exiting the destination train terminal regardless of whether it is during peak or off-peak hours — not to mention there may be train delays too.


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