Johor Bahru is a popular destination for Singaporeans and tourists to Singapore alike. It is easy to get to and can easily be covered in a day. The most popular activities are eating the local food which is 3 times cheaper than in Singapore, shopping which is also a lot cheaper in Johor Bahru and then finishing the day off with a good relaxing full body massage or foot reflexolgy.
Eating in Johor Bahru
Those who venture to JB by bus and explore the area on foot and by public transport, getting to far off places in the JB suburbs would usually not be on the itinerary. The good news however is that many popular eateries are located in the historic old city of Johor Bahru, right next to the Customs & Immigrations Complex (CIQ). From CIQ, make your way through JB Sentral Bus Terminal, on through City Square shopping mall to Jalan Wong Ah Fook. If you are early, the shopping mall might be closed so walk around the building along the road. When you reach Jalan Wong Ah Fook, turn left and keep walking down until you see the roof of a Arulmigu Rajamariamman Hindu temple on your right. Turn right into the road where the temple is, walking past shops until the traffic lights where you turn left onto Jalan Trus.
You find old bakeries, local coffee shops and modern cafes along here and streets to your right, such as Jalan Dhoby and Jalan Tan Hiok Nee heritage street. It’s easy to spot the popular eateries as there will always be a queue or people crowding around the entrance. If you eat at the local places, expect to spend only about 5 – 7 Ringgit per person. A popular breakfast item is 2 soft boiled eggs, kaya toast and local coffee or tea. This cost me RM 5.90, half the price of what it costs in Singapore. Look out for the 2 traditional bakeries using wood fired ovens; Salahuddin Bakery and Jiap Joo Bakery. There is also a herbal tea shop off Jalan Trus and noodle shops in the area.
Sightseeing near CIQ
Some of the places I visited were the Arulmigu Rajmariamma temple along Jalan Unku Puan, the Old Chinese Temple along Jalan Wong Ah Fook and the Johor Bahru Chinese Heritage Museum along the Sultan Iskandar expressway. There is also an entrance from the back along Jalan Tan Hiok Nee. If you get time, visit the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple which is a little further and it is best to take a taxi there.
Shopping in Johor Bahru
If you don’t want to venture further than old JB, you can explore the nearby malls such as City Square, Komtar JBCC which are next to each other. The largest shopping complex however is KSL City Mall. It’s about a 15 minute bus journey on the way up but could take much longer getting back. Make your way to JB Sentral bus terminal and take Bus S1. The cost is RM 1.50 and you pay the bus driver when you get on. He will depart when he has enough passengers so you may have to wait about 10 minutes more if the bus is empty. While you won’t find high end luxury items in the malls, you will save on everyday items, casual clothes, shoes and bags.
Massage and Spa
There are numerous massage parlours and foot reflexology spas in Johor Bahru. You will find them in every shopping mall and prices are half or one third the cost in Singapore. I did some research before I went and ended up trying out Walea Spa, located a short walk from KSL City Mall. They had a promotion on and it cost RM 69 for a 1 hour Swedish massage. This is considered expensive by local standards so if you look around, you will find even cheaper places. I chose the place as it was smaller and more private than the larger spas located in the malls.
Getting to Johor Bahru from Singapore
Find your way to Kranji MRT station and cross the bridge to the bus stop across the road. Take Bus 160 or 170 for JB CIQ. You may have to join a queue if there is one. Upon arriving at the Singapore checkpoint, get off the bus and go through customs, the go back down to the bus pick up point and get back in the queue. If you take the same bus, show your ticket and you won’t have to pay again. But if you get on a different bus, you will have to pay the fare. There are bus queues for 160, 170 and CW1, all of which go to JB Sentral. At JB Sentral, get off and go through customs again to enter JB. There are no forms to fill up, all your need is your passport and visa if you need one.
Johor Bahru Shopping Mall Bus
At JB Sentral there are a number of bus services that go to the shopping malls. The most common one is S1 which drops you off at various malls including KSL City Mall. It usually leaves from Berth 1 or 2 which when you enter the station, are the very last berths at the end. Getting to the malls is an easy 15 minutes trip but on the way back, depending on the time of day, there is usually a jam as cars queue up to cross the Causeway. It might take you another 15 – 20 minutes or longer so be sure you visit the toilets at the mall before getting on the bus !
7.30 am : Depart Kranji MRT for JB
8.30 am : Arrive in JB. Have breakfast and explore sites and eateries around Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.
12.00 pm: Have lunch in the area or in air conditioned comfort at City Square Mall.
1.30 pm : Take bus from JB Sentral to KSL Mall.
2.00 pm : Shop at KSL Mall and go for 1 hour massage or foot reflexology.
4.00 pm : Take bus back to JB Sentral.
4.30 pm : Arrive back at JB Sentral. Last minute shopping at City Square Mall and head back to Singapore.
You can stay longer and have dinner if you wish but it will be a long day.
Avoid going to Johor Bahru on public holidays as the customs queues and bus queues will be very long and it could take you 2 hours or more to get there.
Tips for Safety
1. Avoid talking to strangers
2. Avoid accepting offers for sightseeing or transport.
3. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or carrying expensive items on you.
4. Avoid carrying more cash than necessary and keep your mobile phone out of sight
5. Avoid dark alleys or deserted areas at night or make it a point to leave before sunset.
6. Be vigilant and if you feel uncomfortable in an area, leave immediately.