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While almost everything is cheaper in Johor Bahru, these five things really make a trip across the Johor causeway worthwhile.
Sure, most things are cheaper in Johor Bahru but… look at the line at the causeway. However they try to speed it up, you still end up feeling like you could have raised a small child by the time you're through. And after the shopping, you need to make your way back again.
It's not always worth the trouble of the trip to Malaysia. But Singaporeans can save a lot of money when you cross the causeway for these things:
1. Over-the-Counter Medicines
Some drugs that require prescriptions here can be bought over-the-counter (OTC) in parts of Malaysia. Some are cheaper in Malaysia by a 30 to 50 per cent. An old example is the Ventolin inhaler used by asthmatics, which is about S$17 in Singapore, but just over S$10 (after currency conversion) in Malaysia.
Other examples are lancets used in diabetics testing kits (around S$35 a box in Singapore, but only around S$20 a box in Malaysia). The Vicks inhaler, an old favourite for blocked noses, can be had for under S$2 in Malaysia (around S$2.50 in Singapore).
In general, if you need a particular kind of medicine or home medical equipment, always check the price in Malaysia first. You might be able to shave 50 per cent off your healthcare costs.
2. Car Servicing
If you want to fit a body kit on your car, change its headlights, or get the seats re-upholstered, Malaysian mechanics are the ones to visit. They often charge 20 to 30 per cent less than their Singaporean counterparts, and the discount may grow if you are a regular.
The most famous location for this is Permas Jaya in Johor, a "cluster area" for auto services. There is no formal index of services and prices for this area though, so you should shop around.
Simply cleaning your car is cheaper too. There are manual car wash services that cost as little as S$8 - S$12 in parts of Johor.
It's important to note that Malaysian workshops offer car modification services that are not allowed in Singapore. Do not modify your car without prior approval from your insurer and the Land Transport Authority (LTA). Doing otherwise could be illegal and can void your car insurance.
3. Food and Groceries
Malaysia is definitely cheaper than Singapore for dining, and has been for decades now. A meal in a proper cafe can cost as little as S$15 per head, as opposed to the S$25-35 per head in Singapore.
The same goes for groceries. A can of Coke in a supermarket is still under a Singapore dollar. Through providers like Food World, five kilos of minced beef can be had for under S$60 (it would be near S$90 in Singapore). The prices are even lower if you go to traditional markets.
Optimise your savings by using an overseas credit card that has the best foreign exchange rate. Visa, MasterCard and American Express all have different charges for foreign currency transactions. In order to save more, make sure you're buying with the right card.
You can watch a movie in Malaysia for the equivalent of S$4 to S$7, depending on where you visit. Since Singaporean cinemas insist on charging S$11 for movie tickets (more on weekends), it's becoming common for cinema goers to "binge watch" on a given weekend.
This is when you wait until there are three or four movies you want to watch, then cross the causeway and watch all of them at once. You can grab a great, well-priced dinner on your way back home.
5. Dental Care
You're going to want to take care of your teeth, because dental care in Singapore can cost you hundreds of dollars per visit. But if you happen to live up north, it'll be worth crossing the causeway and finding a dentist over at Johor Bahru.
You'll have to shop around to find the right dentist. In general, however, the quality of service and care is comparable to Singapore's. A dental crown costs around RM800 (S$266) compared to S$600 in Singapore, while braces cost RM2,500 - RM3,000 (S$831 - S$998) compared to S$4,000 - S$5,000 in Singapore. Savings this great makes bearing the Causeway traffic completely worth it.