Updated: Oct 19, 2020
I wrote the article "Best Times to Cross Singapore-Johor Causeway (Woodlands)" and have gotten over 61,400 views within a full 1-year period on both my old and new blogs! Thanks all for reading!
That post was a very detailed write-up after several trips in and out of Johor Bahru to get all the facts. For readers who travel to Malaysia frequently or for the first time, that article will be useful for planning trips without getting caught up in both vehicular and human jams at the border-crossing. For day-trippers, I wrote — towards the end of the post — that the best time to go over to Johor Bahru for some shopping was on weekdays and Sundays. I will elaborate more in this post.
Consider weekdays if possible
For those who can afford to go shopping on weekdays, the best time to go over to Johor Bahru will of course be on weekdays as lesser people will cross the border to JB in the morning. However, to avoid peak hour congestion at the checkpoints, it will be better to come back before 3:30pm. This is because Malaysian workers on second shift will be commuting to work in Singapore factories starting at around 4pm and the buses transporting them will cause congestion inside the boarding bays of JB customs. Read "Best Times to Cross Singapore-Johor Causeway (Woodlands)" to know more.
Sunday morning is the best!
For those who cannot go over on weekdays, the best is to avoid Saturdays and go on Sundays instead. On normal Sundays (without public holidays), people crossing the border to Johor Bahru in the morning will mostly be one-day trippers. Travellers and worker-commuters will usually cross over to Malaysia on Friday nights or Saturdays to maximize the weekend. At the end of Sunday, day-trippers, travellers and Malaysian workers staying in Singapore will all return to Singapore. And that is the main reason why both checkpoints get crowded after around 3pm.
I went over to Johor Bahru once a month for groceries and household goods, usually on Sundays. I would reach Woodlands Checkpoint at around 9am and cleared both customs before 10am — takes about 40 minutes usually including crossing the Causeway by bus. I will go for breakfast at one of the local eating places before doing the grocery run. After getting what I needed from the supermarkets, I would go for lunch either outside KSL City or Taman Sri Tebrau (commonly known as Pelangi, Sentosa or Dai Mah). At around 2pm or earlier, I would then head back to Johor Bahru customs and reach Singapore before the Sunday-returning commuters and travellers hit the border-crossing after 3pm.
But do not come back late!
On one Sunday, I went over again with a couple of friends, and decided to come back in the late afternoon after dinner. We reached JB CIQ at around 5pm and was caught up in long queues at Johor Bahru customs for more than an hour. Following that, the queues for all Singapore-bound public buses snaked all the way up to the level above the boarding bays. It took another 45 minutes before boarding a bus. There was no traffic jam on the Causeway and we crossed the straits in less than 10 minutes. Back at Singapore customs, it was another one hour before we cleared it — at 7:30pm! If there had been a traffic jam on the Causeway, it would have taken us much longer time to come back.
Well, I will make sure to come back by 2pm next time...
The best time to go
So, for weekend shoppers, the best time will be on Sunday early mornings and back at JB customs before 2pm. Do shopping at nearby places such as City Square, KSL City Mall or in the Sentosa/Pelangi area to avoid long travelling time. Even a quick trip to IKEA Tebrau for a bargain hunt can be done within that few hours.
What if there is a long weekend
If the following Monday is a public holiday, go on the Sunday and stay as late as you want since most border-crossers will return on Monday. It will be the best day to go over.
If Friday is a public holiday, the following Saturday may be a good day to do a day trip. However, note that factory workers may need to work half-day on the Saturday and Malaysian workers, who are returning to their homes in Malaysia after work, will be at the border-crossing starting at around 12pm. So, it will be best to go in the early morning of Saturday, not around noon time. Sunday will still be a good day for shopping but come back before 1pm — you will not like long-weekend congestion at both checkpoints.
How about holidays on weekdays?
Other than Sundays, non-long-weekend holidays can be better shopping days for day-trippers too. The next public holiday will be on Tuesday 6th Nov 2018 (Deepavali) for both Singapore and Malaysia. Can you guess why?
Malaysian residents will mostly head home to Malaysia and return to Singapore on the weekend before the Tuesday holiday. They will not go back again on Tuesday morning and need to be back after just a few hours.
Travellers and Malaysian residents in Singapore, who take annual leaves on Monday, will be returning mostly on Tuesday afternoon, not going in.
It is not the year-end school holiday yet.
That leaves mostly day trippers, who will go in and return, on that Tuesday public holiday. However, expect more day-trippers than usual. So, cross over in the early morning and it should be okay to come back later in the evening — barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Update on 6 Nov 2018:
Yes, I went in on Deepavali as proposed. I reached Singapore Customs at 8:15am and cleared both customs in 20 minutes. At 9am, I was having breakfast at one of the coffee shops behind Dai Mah market. Then, I went to Mr DIY for some Christmas decorations and Giant supermarket in Leisure Mall, Pelangi, to make my grocery run. Bought enough dried supplies for 2 months.
At 12:30pm, I was back at the same coffee shop for lunch. Reached JB Customs at 1:30pm and had my passport stamped within 5 minutes. At 2pm, I was already on SBS service 170X to Kranji MRT Station. A check at 5:30pm on the traffic conditions on the Causeway showed that it was still pretty clear of traffic but the crossing time had increased from 30 minutes at 4pm to an hour at 5:30pm — not so bad, but I still prefer to come back earlier.
I will not be going in during the year-end school holiday peak period. So, my next day-trip will be on 1 January 2019. Why? Learn from history by reading this post: