I like big bus and I cannot lie: Tips for Singapore-Malaysia coach rides

Passengers from Malaysia boarding their VTL bus to Singapore at Woodlands Checkpoint on Nov 29, 2021.
PHOTO: The Straits Times file

Before the pandemic, I would regularly head to KL via bus one or two weekends a month to catch up with family and friends. Why? Way cheaper than flying lah, duh 😂

Now that borders have finally reopened (for real, this time; no more VTLs, finally), I decided to take a bus up to KL for the first time in over two years.

If you’re thinking about doing the same over the next long weekend, here's some info on things that have changed over the past two years, and others that have stayed the same, based on my recent bas experience.

Good things must share! You're welcome 😌

🎫 Buying tickets

PHOTO: BusOnlineTicket

What’s changed: So much easier to buy tickets online.

What’s the same: You can still visit physical ticket counters - but why?

Pro tip: Buy your tickets on the BusOnlineTicket website. New members earn cashback, and you also earn reward points for every booking made. The points can be redeemed for a discount on your next holiday. Just have the ticket printed or ready to show to the driver on your phone.

Pro tip 2: If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. I’d spend a little more for a less noisy, more comfortable ride. I’ve purchased cheap bus rides in the past, and you may be forced to switch buses midway through the trip or worse, get a visit from a roach.

 Things to do/bring

PHOTO: MySejahtera

What’s changed: Download the MySejahtera app, enter your vaccination deets, then fill up the pre-departure form in the app under “Traveller”.

What’s the same: Packing your essentials e.g. toiletries and undies. Best part about taking a bus is no weight restrictions on luggage!

Pro tip: Make sure the MySejahtera app shows your complete vaccination doses. Do bring along hard copies of your vaccination documents, just in case. While you don’t need to check in using the app, some (although very few) places require you to show your MySejahtera app status, so make sure that it is easily accessible on your phone’s home screen.

🛃 Immigration

I like... big... bus and I cannot lie! 
PHOTO: Wonderwall.sg

What's changed: The shiny new immigration machines at the SG customs – it’s just like Changi airport if you’re going by Tuas.

What's the same: The familiar (read: same ol') immigration counters at the JB customs.

Pro tip: Remember that you have to bring your bags down for scanning when you’re at the JB customs (and when you’re heading back home, at the SG customs). So, if your bags are close to the bus baggage door, you will have an easier time unloading your stuff. Props to bus drivers who help to unload passengers’ baggages!

Pro tip 2: Stay in your queue at the customs and don’t jump to another – you will reach the counter faster than you think.

📶 Getting mobile data

What’s changed: Plenty of new roaming plans for travel-hungry wanderlusters.

What’s the same: Many plans still quite ex.

Pro tip: Make sure you have roaming ready so you’re still connected to WhatsApp and social media the minute you cross the Causeway. Just sign up for a one-day plan, then get a local SIM card (or an eSIM for iPhone users) at your destination.

Switch off auto-play videos for Facebook and Instagram so you don’t overuse data. Also, your Grab app should automatically switch to the Malaysian version, so you can call a ride to get you to your place of accommodation.

Other tips

I really missed this view of the Causeway. 
PHOTO: Wonderwall.sg

🔋 Portable charger(s): Don’t forget to bring a powerbank – some buses may have a USB charger, but most don’t. Better to be on the safe side so your devices are always powered up.

🎮 Movies/games: Prepare some entertainment too, such as saving movies to watch on Netflix or fully charging your Nintendo Switch. It’s going to be a long bus ride.

😴 Comfort: Which brings me to the last but most important tip – take a small travel pillow with you. It will save you from a possible neck ache as a result of sleeping on the bus.

Bon voyage! 🚌

This article was first published in Wonderwall.sg.