This step by step guide is based on our personal experience catching the train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur via Johor Bahru. It was a bit of a mission but it wouldn't be an adventure without a little adversity.
If you are interested in taking the train from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore (ie in the opposite direction to the way we traveled) read through this and you will need to do things in the opposite order. Hopefully it is still helpful.
Bus to Woodlands, Singapore
First, we had to get out to Woodlands HQ. This is the last bit of Singapore before you cross into Malaysia. Unfortunately it no longer appears to be possible to actually catch a train to Kuala Lumpur from within Singapore.
We caught bus number 170 to Woodlands HQ from the bus stop at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. We had visited a friend before we were to leave Singapore. This was the closest and easiest option for us to get to Woodlands. We used our EZ-Link Card to pay for our ride.
If you are in central Singapore, there are a couple of buses that go straight to Woodlands without stopping. Escape Traveler wrote a brilliant article about this and other transport options.
We had a very comfortable ride all the way to Woodlands on the bus and enjoyed the views immensely. It was interesting to note that as we got closer to the border with Malaysia things kind of looked a bit messier. It also got much more spacious than in the center of town.
We worried about where to get off but once we arrived at the border it was really obvious. If you have any doubts then you are not at the border yet. It's a massive clearly signed building and absolutely everyone but the driver will get off the bus. We seemed as if we were going past it before the bus looped around and pulled up right at the building.
Woodlands Checkpoint – Singapore
Once we got to Woodlands we hopped off the bus and joined the masses of people who were heading through the Immigration Department of Singapore checkpoint. This all happened fairly quickly and easily. Boo! We were leaving Singapore. How I love that country!
We were stamped out and moved on through to the next part of our journey.
Going across the border
This is where it got a little interesting. When we walked out from the Immigration Department there was a lot of people waiting for the next bus to take them, and us, over the Straits of Johor to Johor Bahru in Malaysia.
We waited in line for a good thirty minutes before we were crammed on to a bus and heading over to Malaysia. Again, we used our EZ-Link Card to pay for this ride. There were actually 2 lines of people waiting for buses. If there is a big queue walk towards the front to check which you should be in before joining one of them.
At the time of writing it's not possible to walk across the causeway. Hopefully, Singapore and Malaysia will reopen the causeway footbridge soon as this will save a lot of time and hassle. Plus, you get to enjoy the sights during the fifteen minute walk.
Johor Bahru Checkpoint – Malaysia
Again, we followed everyone else and headed into a massive hall that held the Malaysian Immigration team and a truly enormous crowd. It took us around two and a half hours of standing in a queue to clear immigration. While we waited a man, who seemed to mean well, regaled us with tales of how dangerous Malaysia is.
Although we weren't aware of it it was a long weekend and half of Singapore had decided to take a trip to Malaysia. That explained the huge crowd. This was not a fun time for us but we have chalked it up to experience. If you are flexible with your dates check for holidays and avoid them.
Note to self (and to you): Apparently, the Malaysian Immigration line in Johor Bahru takes up to thirty minutes to get through on a normal day. Even if it isn't a holiday crossing late in the afternoon before a long weekend isn't wise. Go early to make life easy.
Once you get through immigration there is a Tourism Office for you to visit if you need to. They have a lot of information on the hotels in the area and how to get to one of the many theme parks this city is famous for.
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
The town of Johor Bahru sits directly opposite Singapore. It isn't the prettiest city we have been to although we only saw a small part of it.
What this city does have going for it is cheap shopping, at least compared to Singapore. Apparently people living in Singapore will head over to Johor Bahru just for the day for shopping. Seeing the difference in prices I can see why. Prices in Johor appeared to be roughly 50% of what they are in Singapore.
We stayed the night in a not so glamorous homage to the Tune Hotel. It wasn't in the best part of the city. We chose it because it was only 5 minutes walk from Sentral Johor Bahru train station. It was fine for the night. The sheets were clean and the wifi worked. What more do we need?
Sentral Johor Bahru Train to Sentral Kuala Lumpur by train
The next morning, we headed to the Johor Bahru train station and visited the ticket counter to pick up paper copies of our tickets we had previously booked and paid for online via ktmb.com.my. The cost of “Premier Class” tickets was RM 64 each (AUD $22 each). The journey from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur would take us 5 and a bit hours.
The train journey was very comfortable. We even had a power point to plug our electronic equipment into. How awesome! We spent the ride watching television shows, doing maths and writing an assignment on Europe. It was a great ride. Andrew and I have both come to enjoy this type of long-distance travel as we have time to catch up on some of our laptop based chores.
There are snacks and drinks available on board. It's nothing spectacular but enough to see you through until you arrive.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
We had arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Safe and sound.
What would we do differently next time?
The only thing we might do differently is book the train tickets and get on the train to Kuala Lumpur while it's still in Woodlands in Singapore.
The train tickets cost a lot more if you get on the train in Singapore rather than just over the border but I suspect the journey would be more pleasant. We have heard rumours that there is a separate immigration area for those on the train but cannot verify this ourselves.
If catching the train in Singapore allows you to skip some of the queueing consider spending the extra money. If you have experienced crossing the border on the train rather than on a bus please comment below and let us know what your experience was like.
And that is it. Our journey from Singapore to the city of Kuala Lumpur.
More info on how to got between the two places, the costs and other options, please visit the awesome Seat61 site. Another awesome blog post from idreamofdurian (a woman of the same name as me who loves durian just as much as I do!)
Hotels we have stayed in Kuala Lumpur:
Sky Express Hotel Bukit Bintang
Step Inn Guesthouse
Hotels we have had the best breakfast buffet in Kuala Lumpur:
Swiss-Garden Hotel Kuala Lumpur