Are the new Malaysia tourist taxes going to stop Singaporeans from crossing the border?

MONEYSMART
Thursday, Dec 21, 2017
Photo: The Straits Times

People like to say Singapore and Malaysia have a love-hate relationship, but from the point of view of Singaporeans, it's all love.

We go to Malaysia for hawker food that's more flavourful than our own, to enjoy the great outdoors and to shop for stuff that costs less than it does in our own country.

But the Malaysian government evidently doesn't feel the same. In fact, in the past year alone, they've implemented a bunch of taxes and fees aimed at making it more expensive for Singaporeans to enter the country.

Here's a look at the various taxes and fees that travellers to Malaysia must now pay.

ANTI-TERROR SCREENING FEE

Most recently, it was announced that passengers flying out of Malaysia will now have to pay a fee of 35 MYR (11.55 SGD) to bear the cost of their airports' new anti-terror screening system.

This is not very logical, as their screening system costs many times more than those used in first-world countries like Australia, and the cost of such security systems is usually paid by governments rather than passengers.

Vehicle Entry Permit

Car-owning Singaporeans love driving across the Causeway for late-night massages and weekend shopping trips.

For some reason, the Malaysian government is not too pleased about that, which is why they have decided to charge a 25 MYR (8.25 SGD) vehicle entry permit on vehicles entering Malaysia from Singapore. Motorists will have to register their cars and buy a five-year permit online.

However, at present there's been no news about the implementation of this scheme, so we can only assume they're working on it.

ROAD CHARGE

A year ago, the Malaysian government decided to slap a 20 MYR (6.60 SGD) per-entry charge on all foreign vehicles entering the country.

This fee must be paid each time the vehicle crosses the Causeway or Second Link and can be paid for using Touch n' Go cards. Bikers can heave a sigh of relief, as foreign-registered motorcycles do not need to pay this charge.

The Singaporean government immediately turned around and started charging Malaysian vehicles a Reciprocal Road Charge which will apparently be lifted if the Malaysian government lifts their road charge.

TOURISM TAX

The road charge isn't the only tax the Malaysian government decided to slap on foreigners last year.

Beginning in 2017, foreigners staying at hotels, hostels, Airbnb apartments and any other form of paid lodging started being charged a tourism tax of 10 MYR (3.30 SGD) a night. Malaysians are exempt from this charge.

WILL THE NEW MALAYSIA TOURIST TAXES IMPACT TRAVEL THERE?

With four different types of fees being levied in the space of less than two years, the Malaysian government seems determined to make a bit of cash from the Singaporeans and other foreigners entering their country.

In the long-term, this might hurt Malaysia's competitiveness as a holiday and business destination.

Sure, paying a few ringgit here and there doesn't really hurt that much if you nip across the Causeway once a year over the Chinese New Year. But for regular visitors, or those trying to choose between a trip to Malaysia and another Southeast Asian destination, the fees do add up.

For instance, a 2-week long road-trip to Malaysia would cost a Singaporean up to 185 MYR (61.29 SGD) in fees and taxes.

Given the amount of competition in Southeast Asia from travel destinations like Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Bali and Siem Reap, the decisions of the Malaysian government could well discourage regional travellers from visiting. Whether this is worth the extra tax revenue is a question only they can answer.

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