Confession: I'm a train otaku. Ever since I found out that you can take a train to JB from Singapore, I've been making up excuses to go to Johor. Need to buy bread? Go JB. Need to visit dentist? Go JB. Want a massage? Go JB.
Plus, the current SGD to MYR exchange rate doesn't hurt my cause…
But even if trains don't make you go all <333, the train is still an excellent way to travel to JB because they cut out all the stress and waiting of traffic jams and queueing up at customs.
A return trip costs only about $10, but the real savings here is time. The train ride is just 5 minutes long, which means even after buffering in customs clearance and all, you can zip across the border in half an hour.
This is the complete idiot's guide to taking the train from Singapore to JB.
WHAT'S THE TRAIN SCHEDULE & TICKET PRICE FROM SINGAPORE TO JB?
The one train that services the Singapore to JB route is called Shuttle Tebrau, and it's operated by Malaysia's national train operator, KTM. Below is the daily Shuttle Tebrau train schedule:
As you can see, there are plenty of trains every day, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't pre-book your train tickets. From experience, you'll need to book in advance if you want to catch the train to JB on weekends and Friday nights.
There are 2 ways you can buy train tickets to JB: Either online via the KTM website, or over the counter at the train station. This table shows you how much train tickets cost:
|Ticket sales channel||Singapore to JB||JB to Singapore|
|KTM website||RM16||RM5 (one-way) / RM16 (bought as return ticket)|
|KTM counter (Woodlands)||S$5||S$5|
|KTM counter (JB Sentral)||RM16||RM5|
I definitely recommend buying return tickets on the KTM website as early as you can. Tickets sell out ridiculously fast! To save money, you can buy your to and from tickets separately, so you pay RM5 + RM16 = RM21 (S$1.60 + S$5.20 = S$6.80) instead of RM32.
STEP 1: BUY KTM TRAIN TICKETS TO JB ONLINE
KTM's website used to be quite rubbish, but that looks set to change, because KTM launched a new KTM Shuttle Tebrau booking website as of Oct 2019:
It's now possible to view all available departures and arrivals on one page. Our collective prayers have been answered!!!
To book your tickets, you need to fill in your details. The most important ones are your passport details, because train to JB tickets are now tied to your passport. There is no need to create an account, you can sign in by email/FB/Google.
For payment, KTM accepts Visa & Mastercard. As of 10 Oct, you can now buy train tickets to JB with your credit/debit card:
If you failed to buy tickets online for whatever reason, you can try your luck by queueing at the KTM counter at Woodlands Train Checkpoint.
You'll need to show the counter staff your passport and make payment in cash. Ticket sales cut off 15 minutes before train departure.
For peak JB visiting days like weekends, public holidays and school holidays, over-the-counter tickets are usually sold out. If this happens, all is not lost - you can still walk over to the regular (non-train) checkpoint and catch a bus to JB instead.
STEP 2: GET TO WOODLANDS TRAIN CHECKPOINT
Assuming you got your KTM train tickets sorted online, the next step is to find your way to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint.
It's actually in the same area as the regular Woodlands Checkpoint, but with the bonus of being very close to the bus stop/drop-off point so you don't have to rub your flesh against throngs of human beings.
My usual route is to take the MRT to Marsiling station, cross the road, and take bus 856 from there. It's only 3 stops from Woodlands Train Checkpoint.
Here are the other buses that serve the Woodlands Train Checkpoint bus stop. There are many options from Woodlands interchange as well.
You know you're in the right place when you look towards the left and see the gleaming KTM train to JB, just sitting there look all pretty while waiting for you to get on board:
STEP 3: SCAN YOUR PASSPORT TO CHECK IN
Along with the new ticketing system, KTM has also implemented a new system for checking in from Oct 2019.
Supposedly, you no longer need to validate your online booking at the ticket office on level 1 of Woodlands Train Checkpoint.
Instead, head upstairs to level 2, where you'll see a queue of train passengers waiting on the left of the walkway. Join them and wait for the boarding gates to open.
Come at least 30 minutes before your train departs, because you need time to clear immigration on both sides before you get on the train. The boarding gate closes 10 minutes before train departure.
So if your train is scheduled for 10am, you should arrive sometime between 9.30am and 9.50am.
According to the new KTM system, you can check in with nothing but your passport. There's no need to show a boarding pass. I haven't tried this personally, but it seems like all you need to do is scan your passport on one of the self-service machines.
(IF NEEDED) VALIDATE YOUR TRAIN TICKETS AT THE KTM COUNTER
In the event of any screw-up, you may be required to go to the KTM ticket office to validate your online booking.
The ticket office is on the ground floor of Woodlands Train Checkpoint. You can't miss it; there's nothing else there except a lift. Also, there's always a queue:
I'm not sure what the new SOP is, but you will probably be asked to show some proof of your booking so they can print out a physical ticket for you.
STEP 4: TAKE THE 5-MINUTE TRAIN FROM SINGAPORE TO JB
Like I mentioned, you'll pass through both Singapore and Malaysia immigration before you board the train.
First you'll clear Singapore customs, which is a simple matter of scanning your passport and thumbprint through automated gates, just like at the airport.
Then you'll walk a few metres to the Malaysia side. The customs staff will check and stamp your passport manually. After you're clear, put your bag(s) through the scanning machine, pick it up, then board the train.
There will be a large "free seating" sign so go ahead and sit anywhere you want. Don't be afraid to enter the next car - there's no First Class or anything.
KTM trains are often oversubscribed so you might find yourself having to stand. This is perfectly safe and it's just a few minutes anyway. Enjoy the view of the Straits of Johor and feel smug about making good life decisions as your train goes past the poor losers stuck in the Causeway jam.
5 minutes later, you'll arrive in JB Sentral. From here, you can chiong Rotiboy, run amok in City Square, queue for banana cake at Hiap Joo Bakery, Grab to IKEA Tebrau, or whatever it is you plan to do with those ringgits.
All in, taking the train to JB should get you from Woodlands Train Checkpoint to JB Sentral in about 30 minutes. In contrast, taking a bus, taxi or car from Singapore to JB is highly unpredictable because of traffic. They say time is money, right?
This article was first published in MoneySmart.