Tourists from Singapore has been the largest group of visitors to Malaysia each year. Millions commute daily between these two neighbours either by air, land or sea. Even with the ever increasing number of flights between Singapore and Malaysia, express bus operators are not giving up just yet and looks set to compete with the budget airlines. But with many bus express operators providing almost an hourly trip to towns across Peninsular Malaysia, which company is best that suits to your budget, time and convenience? Fret not. Jom Naik Bas! brings you a 3-part series on tips and guidance to choosing the best bus for your year end trip up north.
First and foremost is, of course, to choose your destination. Singapore is connected to many towns in Malaysia. Frequencies ranges from hourly* departures to popular destinations such as Kuala Lumpur and Melaka (Malacca), to once or twice daily departures to towns such as Penang, Seremban, Alor Setar and Genting Highlands. Some destinations, such as Mersing and Kuantan are served three times weekly whereas some are served 3-5 trips daily.
*hourly trips are usually available during the morning and evening
The second step is to choose which bus that will bring you to your destination. This is by far, the hardest part of all, especially if you are the type who wish to travel on other buses that you have not travelled on. Bear in mind that unless you are the ‘I-will-go-with-the-first-choice’ kind of person, choosing the ideal bus might take some time. Unlike in the olden days where buses are cramped, expect at least Super VIP-class with ‘2 plus 1′ seating configurations on these modern buses. Buses with the conventional ‘2 plus 2′ seating configurations are still running though, but to smaller towns like Mentakab in Pahang. Those who wish to indulge in simple luxury and comfort may choose the high-end coach services with facilities that can even match air services.
The majority of express bus operators from Singapore has at least one daily trip to Kuala Lumpur. Some of the bus companies that serves the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur segment are Aeroline, First Coach, Five Stars, Konsortium Bas Ekspres, NiCE, Sri Maju, Transtar, Transnasional and many others. Other smaller towns are usually served by less well-known operators which will usually call at Larkin Terminal in Johor Bahru before proceeding to the intended destination*. I recommend prospective passengers to browse the respective websites of the bus operators first, if available. These websites can be found on the right hand column of this page. Some of these operators allows online booking as well but remember though, some do charge a small administration fee on top of your ticket price. If all your questions are answered just by browsing the website, proceed to make your booking, either online or over the counter. But just to be safe, I highly recommend that you make that trip down to the ticketing office. Here’s why..
- Not all seats are available for booking. Some seats are blocked for one reason or another. These are usually popular seats that passengers would almost always choose for any available trip. Don’t be surprised if you find that the blocked seats, or usually shown as ‘Sold’ on some online ticketing system, are available for purchase.
- You get to save more! Online reservations will incur more charges, such as the administration fee. Buying over the counter will mean you don’t have to pay for all that. One can also expect the Fuel Surcharge** to be waived. But then again, if you choose to pay using your credit cards, you will still have to pay for the administration fee though.
- Peace of mind. You get your questions answered on the spot by the ticketing officer. With all your doubts cleared there and then, choosing which bus to travel on may be easier. Even better if the offices are located at Golden Mile Complex, where you can easily hop from one office to another to get the best deal.
*Some of these bus operators are being represented by agents in Singapore. Do check with the local office on which bus operator they are representing.
**Fuel Surcharge is applicable to express bus operators who are members of the Express Bus Agencies Association or EBAA.
By this juncture, you may have already listed down some operators which is to your liking. But be informed, buses depart from practically everywhere in Singapore! From Tampines to Sembawang to Ang Mo Kio and Jurong East, departure points are scattered islandwide, and not just restricted to Golden Mile Complex at Beach Road. I recommend that you make a list of departure points from where your bus will leave. For example, if you are travelling to Genting Highlands, you will notice that the departure points are exceptionally more than other destinations. Five Stars Tours have services that departs from Tampines and Boon Lay, WTS Travel may depart from Bedok or Toa Payoh, whereas Konsortium’s K-Class may also depart from Sembawang SunPlaza Mall. From this list, it might be easier for you to choose your preferred bus.
*Look out for a list of departure points in Singapore in Part Two.
When making your purchase, be sure to choose either a one-way ticket or a two-way ticket. Buying a two-way ticket may save the hassle of making unnecessary arrangements for your return trip, but on the other hand, doing a ‘mix-and-match’ may save you a few bucks. This can be done by buying a one-way ticket from both Singapore and Malaysia, either with the same or a different bus operator. You may save up to S$10 or more with this method, simply because ticket prices for buses from Malaysia tend to be a lot cheaper. However, be warned that not all bus operators have offices in Malaysia where you can purchase the tickets over the counter. You may not even get a ticket on some trips, especially during peak season. So it’s better for you to do a bit more research on the ‘mix-and-match’ method.
Finally, do remember to check your tickets/invoice/booking itinerary carefully before leaving the counter, or if you’re making an online purchase, do it before you make the payment. Immediately contact the local ticketing office for any amendments or corrections. Check with the respective bus operators how early that you have to check-in or if the bus will have any grace period for late-comers. Do verify with the ticketing officer of the other arrangements that has to be made prior to departure. And of course, always remember to keep your tickets safely!