There are 4 ways to get to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore (Plane, Bus, Train, and Driving). Each with its own pros and cons. The best way to get to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore is by plane.
I used to work and live in Singapore for about 4 years and travel to Kuala Lumpur at least once a month. So I have experimented with all the ways to get to Kuala Lumpur (except for the train, I will explain why).
I will be sharing with you which is the least stressful (I’m in my 30’s and this is always my #1 choice for pretty much anything) and which option is flat out cheapest if that is your priority (backpacker).
Distance from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
The distance between the 2 City Centers is only about 400km (or 250 miles for you Americans).
Best and Worst Time to Travel from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
There are approximately 400,000 Malaysians (mostly from Johor) who work in Singapore and commute on a daily basis: Source. I used to do it on the weekends and it was the most horrific thing I’ve endured.
I really felt like an immigrant trying to cross the border. It was immensely sad what people put themselves through for money. I can’t imagine the traffic during rush hour. So the last thing you want to do is to get caught in this herd of mess.
The best time to travel is when normal people are at work, i.e on weekdays, especially during office hours. The worst time to travel in general is exactly the same time where everyone else wants to travel as well. So avoid traveling during these periods:
- Rush hour traffic (around 6 AM – 10 AM and 5 PM – 9 PM)
- Holiday seasons (forget about Chinese New Years and Xmas)
- Any weekends especially long weekends with multiple holidays back to back (the latter especially)
- Western Summer holidays (June – August)
Flying from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are one of the busiest airline routes in the world (Forbes). Flights between these cities are at every hour interval!
This is the smartest method that I personally recommend for all of my Airbnb guests. The flight takes about 50 minutes. You won’t even finish your magazine or book, it’s that short.
But because you have to be at the airport at least 1 hour before takeoff and KUL airport being an hour’s drive away from the city once you arrive, some might argue that the whole process of flying costs the same amount of time as taking the bus which we will dive into shortly.
Pros of Flying
- As long as you arrive on time at the airport, it is the least stressful and shortest queue at the immigration compared to taking the bus.
- If you are smart and buy tickets that operate during office hours, the prices are usually only slightly more expensive than taking the bus.
- Lounging in both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur’s airport is still miles better than you hanging out at a bus terminal.
- As long as you have boarded the plane, traffic will not be applicable to you.
- The newer planes have entertainment units or at the very least a USB charging ports for your phone.
Cons of Flying
- It could get pretty pricy if you are not flexible with your timing.
- The cheap flight method is only applicable to budget airlines without any check-in luggage (AisAsia, Scoot, Tiger, JetStar etc.). So they charge separately for chek-in luggage. So this might not be ideal if you’re traveling with heavy, or plenty of luggage.
- By default, your seats will be assigned randomly. The airlines will charge you extra if you really care to sit next to your own friend or girlfriend.
- Kuala Lumpur airport is far from the city, so you have to factor in the cost and time with this additional logistics. From the airport to the city, allocate another 1 hour and around RM70 by GrabCar or RM12 by bus. Read my other post: Travel options from KUL airport to the KL city.
Who is Flying Perfect For?
- Minimalist or people who travel with only 1 backpack that can qualify to be a carry-on (generally around 30L).
- People like me who hate long queues at immigration.
- People who don’t mind paying a bit more to be least stressed out during traveling.
Taking the Bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
You checked online for plane tickets, and the prices are too damn high, no way you’ll be paying for this. The next best thing to get to Kuala Lumpur is by bus.
If you ask the ticket lady how long is the bus ride to KL, she will confidently say 4 hours. Don’t be fooled as they just want to make a sale. In reality, you will have to go through a lot of queues, immigration, traffic jams and also mandatory driver breaks, you will be looking at a minimum total of 6 hours travel time.
2 ways you can take the bus to Kuala Lumpur:
- Express buses straight from Singapore (best option but a bit expensive, around SGD 22 or MYR 66 equivalent).
- Take the public bus from Singapore to Larkin bus station (in Johor Baru) and then take the express bus from Larkin (cheapest at RM35 + SGD 2 but most stressful).
The best option is to get an express bus from Singapore.
The hardest part of this whole process is going through immigration. Unlike airport immigration, the immigration gate that the bus will go through will be the same queue with workers commuting back home to Malaysia. Most of the commuters have accepted this grind as their fate.
There are 2 gateways into and out of Malaysia and Singapore. The main one will be Woodlands checkpoint (north tip of Singapore). This will be the heaviest traffic as it connects Singapore to Johor Baru directly (where most commuters want to go). Most public buses from Singapore to Johor Baru will be using this route. Check live traffic here.
I highly recommend you avoid the Woodlands route at all cost unless you want to experience being an immigrant, then, by all means, knock yourself out.
The second entry is called Tuas checkpoint. This gateway is on the East side of Singapore and will generally have less traffic compared to Woodlands. It does not connect to Johor Baru, but another town called Geland Patah on the Malaysian side. Express buses from Singapore will be using this gateway.
Taking the Express Bus from Singapore (Golden Mile Complex)
The best to minimize your stress levels going through the immigration mess is to use the Express Buses that depart from Singapore. The majority of them will be departing from the Golden Mile Complex (a Thai mall in Singapore).
Benefits of taking the Express Bus from Singapore:
- Skip Woodlands traffic and head East to the less congested Tuas checkpoint.
- Dedicated spacious seats on the express bus and the driver will wait for everyone to board before departing.
- You don’t have to queue to get on and off multiple public buses
Being Cheap and Taking the Bus from Johor Baru to Kuala Lumpur
If you want to be a cheap backpacker and take the Express Bus from Johor Baru (Larkin) instead of straight from Singapore. You will be stressed out enduring 6 queues because you’ll be getting on and off multiple public buses. I recommend to not put yourself through this, but if you insist:
Woodlands Checkpoint Immigration Hell:
- From whichever part of Singapore your hotel is, you have to take the red line MRT and get off at Kranji MRT station.
- From Kranji MRT station, you will have to find and queue for the SBS 170 bus (queue #1).
- The 170 bus will drop you off at the Singapore side of immigration (Woodlands checkpoint). You will see some people literally jumping off the bus and running towards the immigration checkpoint just so they can beat the crowd (yes it’s a thing, read all about Kiasu attitude). The first time I went through this, I didn’t know what was going on, everyone seems to be running away from something, I thought Godzilla was behind the bus. Not going to lie, I panicked and naively started running as well. After a few commutes, I reassured myself that I am not a sheep and be the very few to walk in a dignified manner to the immigration counter.
- Once you have muscled your way through the crowd, the next step is to find the line to queue to get your passport stamped in Woodlands (queue #2).
- Passport stamped, you will see people rushing to queue back to their buses. Don’t panic and above all, remember, you are not a sheep. calmly walk downstairs to the bus terminal and find the queue for the same bus number, SBS 170 (queue #3).
- Get on that bus to cross the border via the bridge. The next stop will be the Malaysian side of immigration.
- Get off the bus and muscle your way again to find the line for you to queue to get your passport stamped now for the Malaysian side (queue #4). This stop is conveniently attached to a mall.
- To continue to Larkin bus terminal, you will have to continue down again the bus line to find the line for the same bus, SBS 170. The final stop for this bus is Larkin bus Terminal. (queue #5).
- Once you have reached Larkin bus terminal, purchase express bus tickets to Kuala Lumpur.
Taking the express bus from Larkin, you will only be saving about RM 26. Is this amount of money worth your sanity? Of course not! Don’t be cheap and get your bus ticket departing from Singapore from www.easybook.com.
Where do Buses stop for a Break?
It seems like all the bus companies have made a pact to stop at this large bus station at Yong Peng, location. The stop is usually between 45 to 30 mins. They know that you are a stranded traveler and got you by the balls. Food is atrocious and everything is expensive almost on par with an airport.
I recommend you to eat before departing and have enough water supply on your own. Good thing that they don’t charge for using the toilet.
Buses are operated by Malaysians and their time management will reflect as such. The last thing you want is to be on an unprofessionally run bus company which is rampant in Malaysia.
Recommended Bus Companies
These are the companies that I usually take and are reliable (for the most part):
- Star Qistina
- The One Travel & Tours
- City Express
I had used Star Mart Express and a lot of the time, I have been disappointed with the service. This one time I purchased an online ticket with them but it departs from Little India in Singapore instead of the Golden Mile Complex.
So this bus also took the Woodlands Route instead of Tuas. Not only was it more congested, but they also made a stop at Larkin to collect more passengers because they want to maximize their profits.
So there I was waiting for them to sell tickets to fill up the. At some point, they gave up and was 2 hours late than scheduled. When I asked the guy when we will be departing, they just snapped like a psychopath.
Eventually, they asked everyone to get on another bus to fully occupy it and then depart to Kuala Lumpur. I find the whole process really unprofessional and really rude customer service.
Pros of Taking the Bus to Kuala Lumpur
- The cheapest travel option to Kuala Lumpur.
- The buses are relatively comfortable with large individual reclining chairs.
- They don’t charge for a heavy or traveling with a lot of luggage.
- Most buses will be dropping you off either at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) or Berjaya Times Square. Both are closer to the city center compared to the airport.
Cons of Taking the Express Bus
- Immigration grind with the daily commuters.
- The AC is centralized and often insanely cold. You might need a jacket.
- Always take the bus departing from Golden Mile Complex, any other departures will make you go through Woodlands.
- Although generally safe, by the end of the day, this is a bus, which is a form of public transportation, after all, you will be exposed for 6 hours to all sorts of people.
- If you are a woman traveling alone, the last thing you want is to be seated next to a pervert. You can solve this problem by reserving the single-seat. The seat arrangements are 2 + 1 for each row:
Taking the Train to Kuala Lumpur
I think this is the worst travel method for Kuala Lumpur. There are no direct trains from Singapore. It is from Johor Baru to KL Sentral. That being said, you will have to take the public bus from Singapore to cross the border to Johor Baru and you will be dealing with all the immigration hell explained in the bus section.
I would love to take the trip and pics but I don’t want to put myself through this horrific experience. So in short, forget about it and just fly or take the express bus to Kuala Lumpur
Driving from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
Why are you even reading this blog post if you plan to drive to KL? Just key in your destination in Google Maps and follow what it says!
Wrapping it Up
- If you are traveling light and don’t want to be tired during travels, taking a flight makes the most sense.
- If you have a lot of luggage and flight luggage surcharges start to not makes sense with you, I recommend buses straight from Singapore to be the second-best option.
- If you have too much time and feeling a little hipster, old school or going against the grain, then the train is ideal for you. Personally though, forget about it.
Resources – Links
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