Malaysia road trip: A guide to checkpoint queues, safety and more

PHOTO: Motorist

In the hustle and bustle of city living, unbeknownst to us, the Singapore-Malaysian borders have already been open for more than a month. But just what, if anything, has changed since the initial announcement?

There were a few concerns amongst netizens when border restrictions were initially lifted. Will there be long queues at the land checkpoints? How about safety across the causeway? And, less pressingly, are my favourite eateries still in operation?

PHOTO: Motorist

Whilst we can't answer all your queries (for obvious reasons!), our staff members have made the trek across the border numerous times since the Covid-19 rules have been relaxed — we therefore have a rough understanding of what is actually happening on the ground!

The wait for your passports

Before we even touch on the act of crossing an international border, you'd need to have a valid passport. The ICA estimates passport processing times of up to six weeks, which can further be delayed should you not have a proper passport photo.

You can expedite the processing of your application if you can provide valid travel documents — though you'll still find yourself having to queue for hours on end at the ICA building for your chance at approaching their officers for that luxury. 

Checkpoint queues? What checkpoint queues?

We crossed the border at least twice — once via Woodlands, and another via Second Link. The former was in the wee hours of the morning, and the latter around 10am. As expected, there was no one at the checkpoint when we hopped over at 4am in the morning, and no fuel check was performed as well.

PHOTO: Motorist

When we attempted to cross (this writer will clarify the happenings in a later article — some fancy electric Audis were involved) at 10am, there was indeed a small queue, but nothing significant enough that you'll have to wait for hours on end. It is the same story when we re-entered Singapore.

Safety in Malaysia

We did most of the driving across the border in a smattering of brand new European cars (the first trip in a Volkswagen Tiguan, and the second in cars from the entire Audi e-tron lineup), so we should have been obvious targets. But that was not the case.

PHOTO: Motorist

In fact, even with the cars loaded up with kit, and us actually leaving the boot open, with tens of thousands of dollars of expensive camera gear left exposed and unattended, nothing was stolen. No one actually even bothered about whatever it is that we were doing, and that was the case regardless of which state we were in.

The cop situation

You'd be glad to know that there are regular police patrols on the various highways — their presence probably acts as a deterrent for any would-be criminals. And no, at no point were we ever pulled over by any member of law enforcement.

PHOTO: Motorist

The internet would have you believe that after two years of shuttered borders, that Malaysian cops would be keen on stopping and slapping Singaporean-registered cars with hefty and unwarranted fines. But that's not the case — both trips were smooth, and we had no run-ins with the authorities whatsoever.

About your favourite eateries across the causeway

In all fairness, we didn't actually have the time to stop by any famous eateries on either of our trips up. But anecdotally, many storied brands that rely on tourist dollars have shuttered as a result of the pandemic.

We'll have a JB eateries guide up on our site in due course (this article will be updated to reflect that), so do stay tuned for that!

The Malaysian allure

PHOTO: Motorist

A favourable exchange rate and a slower pace of life offers respite from the constantly busy metropolis that is Singapore. What our trips across the causeway have shown is that the internet is awash with falsehoods and general bias — it is this that festers a sense of unwarranted fear.

If you'd like to pop over the border for a quick weekend getaway — then by all means!

This article was first published in Motorist.