From J.B.'s Larkin Bus Terminal, you can get bus tickets to almost everywhere in Peninsula Malaysia.
BUS NO. 170
The cheapest way to J.B. would be to take Bus No. 170 from either Queen Street Bus Station or the bus-stop along Rochor Canal Road (just after Sim Lim Square). Both bus-stops are just a short walk from The InnCrowd. The bus fare is S$1.60. The service runs from 5.20 a.m. to 12.10 a.m. everyday.
The bus will stop at the Singapore checkpoint. The bus will not wait for you whilst you clear immigration, so take all your belongings with you. Keep your bus ticket and hop on the next Bus No. 170 which comes along. You don't have to pay again.
The bus will stop again at the Malaysian checkpoint, which is at the other end of the Causeway linking Singapore and Malaysia. You will have to get off to clear immigration. Once more, the bus will not stop for you to clear immigration, so keep your bus ticket if you intend to catch the next bus.
After clearing immigration, you have the option of either walking straight into J.B. or to hop on the next Bus No. 170. The bus will take you to the bus-stop outside Komtar Shopping Centre (along Jalan Tun Abdul Razak) first, before stopping at Larkin Bus Terminal (at Jalan Datin Halimah in the outskirts of J.B.).
SINGAPORE-JOHOR EXPRESS COACH
Another method would be to take the Singapore-Johor Express Coach from Queen Street Bus Station to Larkin Bus Terminal in J.B. The ticket costs S$2.40.The Singapore-Johor Express Coach runs from 6.30 a.m. to 11.00 p.m. at 15-minute intervals.
The Singapore-Johor Express Coach travels more quickly than Bus No. 170, which makes many stops along the way to J.B. However, there is no luggage space on the coach, so you'll be asked to buy a second ticket (S$2.40) for your pack!
Just like Bus No. 170, the express coach will not wait for you at the checkpoints. You'll have to take all your belongings with you, keep your coach ticket and hop on the next one which comes along. You don't have to pay again.
You can either travel to Larkin Station in J.B. before getting an onward bus ticket to Melaka, or you can take an express coach straight from Lavender Street Bus Station in Singapore to Melaka. If you choose the latter, Transnational Express Sdn Bhd has coaches departing from Lavender Street Bus Station at 8.30 a.m. and 10 a.m. A ticket costs S$12.
Tioman off the east coast of Malaysia on the South China Sea. Split into several villages (kampungs), even the most touristy of these, Salang, is still totally relaxing. Tioman has clear blue seas, white sands, amazing snorkeling and cheap scuba diving.
FERRY OR SPEEDBOAT FROM MERSING TO TIOMAN
When you're heading for Tioman, you'll have to get to Mersing first. There are several ways of doing this.
First, you can take an express coach from Lavender Street Bus Station in Singapore to Mersing. Transnasional Express Sdn Bhd has coaches departing from Lavender Street Bus Station at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. for S$16.50.
Alternatively, you can make your way to Larkin Station in J.B. then take another bus or taxi to Mersing. If there are three or four of you, then a taxi to Mersing is a very viable option, especially if you have to wait for the bus. Bargain with the taxi firms (there are several). RM80 for four people to Mersing is a good price.
The taxi ride to Mersing takes just under 2 hours and the car was nicely air-conditioned. Our driver offered to drop us at an agency that he recommended, from where we bought our ferry tickets to the island. There was a free bus service provided by the agency from there to the port. Alternatively, you should be able to get the taxi to drop you at the port and buy your ticket there. There are a range of companies selling ferry tickets to Tioman. We used a company called Bluewater. If you get the speedboat, this costs RM35 and takes about 1 hour to Tioman, and stops at the different ports on the island - it takes the boat an additional 30 minutes to get round to Salang. Cheaper boats to Tioman are available - RM25 for the ferry but this leaves at around noon and the journey to the island takes about 2 hours.
When you buy your ticket to Tioman, you may be offered a return ticket. Would advise against this though. Firstly, you don't save any money buying a return. Secondly, when we turned up for the 9.30 a.m. speedboat back to Mersing (having been assured that with our return tickets that we'd bought at Mersing, we could just turn up), the 9.30 a.m. refused to take us because we weren't on their list. We went back to one of the receptions on the island and while apparently we should have been allowed to travel, they phoned through to the mainland to book us onto the next boat (which wasn't until 1200). If you book your return ticket on the island the day before travel, you should be ok.
Just a note, if you get the speedboat, don't sit at the open back because you'll get drenched. We got the speedboat to Tioman at 3 p.m. and the ride was extremely choppy. If you suffer from sea sickness or are hungover, beware.
Once you get off the ferry/speedboat, the first you do is find somewhere to stay. We went in the second week of September, and most places were booked up. [Amit and Robin's recommendations on where to stay have been removed because of complaints of a severe case of cockroaches from Deirdre, Martin, Eimear and Patricia, who fled back to The InnCrowd after only 1 day in Tioman! D.M.E.P. now hold the record for the shortest stay in Tioman…]
On Salang there are about 4 restaurants, and the two of these that we tried served very decent food. You can get seafood barbequed daily, and one of them does a great BBQ'd half chicken. While we didn't drink the tap water, drinks with ice in them and made with water seemed fine and didn't cause us any problems....yet!!! The most popular bar, Four-S Cafe, has a good atmosphere and is a good place to meet up with other visitors on the island, and you also get a few locals drinking here. Tiger is RM6, Heineken and Carlsberg are RM5, all 330ml cans. The bar owner loves his music, and does requests. When Four-S Cafe closes at 1 a.m., another bar opens up on the far end of the beach (look for the flashing light), and this bar stays open until everyone goes to bed or when the sun begins to rise.
For the SCUBA fanatics, if you already have an open water diving certificate, a 45-minute shore dive with full rental of the SCUBA gear (i.e. BCD, SPG air tank, fins, mask, etc.) will cost RM70. There's also a day trip dive with costs RM160, this includes a quick review course, 2 open water deep dives (most likely you'll experience the wreck dive, 22 metres below sea level) and lunch. The boat leaves at 9.30 a.m. from the centre and you should be back by 2.30 p.m. You need to book the trip in advance.
For those of you who want to get the PADI Licence while you're there, the entire course takes 3 days and costs RM750. There are about 5 PADI dive centres in Salang, offering different SCUBA trips and also snorkelling. You can also just hire snorkel gear for RM12 per day and just head out from the beach yourself. There are amazing coral reefs and fishes to be seen just metres from the shore. Remember to ask the dive centre which fish you need to stay away from and which ones to look out for. From our experience, we found that the most popular part of the beach was to the right of the pier as you were coming on the island / left of the pier as you were looking out towards the sea.
There are internet cafes on the island but the connection speed is very slow. While on the island, if you find yourself short of cash, there are no bank machines but you can get cash back on your credit card at the accommodation reception at a charge of 10%. You can change money at the resort receptions in Salang, but probably won't get as good a rate as at Larkin Station. As a guide, paying RM15 per night for four nights, drinking a good amount, eating very well, and snorkelling twice, we spent between RM600 and RM650 - this included all return traveling costs from The InnCrowd to Tioman.
For pictures of our trip, check out http://www.fatpaulie.com.
CATAMARAN OR FLIGHT FROM SINGAPORE TO TIOMAN
If you're restricted by time, you can get a catamaran from Singapore to Tioman for about S$100 (takes about 4 hours) or you can fly to the island for around S$220 (takes just over one hour).
Recommended website: http://www.tioman.50megs.com/gethere.htm.
If the monsoon season is affecting the east coast of Malaysia, and you're looking for a beach to lie on, go to the islands on the west coast. Pulau Pangkor is worth a visit. The beach is white, sandy and clean. The water is as clear as the islands in Thailand, for instance, Ko Lanta. The island is tranquil, and not the place for party-goers. There're also not many Western tourists there. It gets busier over the weekends when Malaysians flock down. It's therefore more expensive during the weekends than the weekdays.
There're corals just 200 m from the beach. Snorkelling is therefore possible. You can also hire kayaks, jetskis and motorbikes to go round the island.
We stayed at the Hornbill Resort. An air-conditioned double room with hot water and cable tv costs RM80 to 90 for weekdays. Continental breakfast was included. For food, we recommend TG's Restaurant. We found the food there really cheap and good.
To get to Pangkor, we started from Kuala Lumpur. You will have to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh by bus or train. We took a VIP bus for RM13 each. It was a 3-hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh. From Ipoh, you'll have to make your way to Lumut by bus. The bus fare was RM4.50 and it took almost 2 hours. Once you're at Lumut, take the ferry to Pangkor. The 30-min cruise costs RM10 (return). The ferry stops at 2 places. Get off only at the second stop! Otherwise, you'll be really sorry!
The hub of Pangkor is known as Teluk Nipah. You can take a taxi from the ferry terminal on Pangkor to Teluk Nipah.
You can either travel to Larkin Station in J.B. before getting an onward bus ticket to K.L. (costs between RM20 to RM25 - roughly S$10 to S$12.50) or you can take an express coach straight from Lavender Street Bus Station in Singapore to K.L. Transnational Express Sdn Bhd has coaches departing from Lavender Street Bus Station in Singapore at 8.30 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 noon, 1.30 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. The direct coach is very good value, and saves you the hassle of having to travel to Larkin Station in J.B. to get an onward bus ticket for about the same price.
A slower, costlier, but more comfortable way to travel to Malaysia would be by rail. The railway station in Singapore, along Keppel Road, is the southern-most terminus of the Malaysian railway system, Keretapi Tanah Melayu ("KTM"). It has trains leaving for different parts of Peninsula Malaysia everyday.
To K.L., there are 2 daytime trains and 1 overnight sleeper train daily. The first train to K.L. (Ekspres Rakyat No. 2) departs at 8.00 a.m. and arrives in K.L. at 2.40 p.m. The second train (Ekspress Sinaran Selatan No. 6) departs at 3.05 p.m. and arrives in K.L. at 9.57 p.m. The third train (Senandung Malam No. 12) departs at 10.00 p.m. and arrives in K.L. at 6.20 a.m. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, there's an additional service (Ekspres Tebrau No. 32) departing at 10.30 a.m. and arriving in K.L. at 5.40 p.m.
By far, the most helpful site for rail travel from Singapore to Malaysia and Thailand is www.seat61.com. Also visit KTM's website (www.ktmb.com.my) for the most up to date schedules and fares. Getting the tickets in Malaysia is cheaper than in Singapore, because in Singapore, it's charged in Singapore Dollars, which is approximately twice the value of the Malaysian Ringgit. You can travel to J.B. to do that. You can also book your tickets online at KTM's website, and collect them at the railway station as well.
You'll have to be at the station about 30 minutes to an hour before the departure time to clear the Malaysian customs, which takes place at the station before boarding. Clearance of the Singapore immigration takes place at Woodlands, just before the Causeway. At Woodlands, you will need to leave the train with your baggage in order pass through the checkpoint, before re-boarding the train.
If you're in a great hurry to get to K.L., your obvious choice would be by air. Both Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines offer frequent shuttle flights to and from Singapore and K.L. Tickets are on a first come first serve basis. Alternatively, you could book a seat and pay the regular price.
For both Malaysian Airlines and Singapore Airlines, the one-way shuttle service from Singapore to K.L. costs S$115, whilst a booked ticket would cost S$152.
A cheaper way to fly would be to take Air Asia from Johor's Senai Airport instead. The one-way fare from J.B. and K.L. is about RM70 (roughly about S$35). Air Asia flies to many other destinations in Malaysia, like Kota Bharu (gateway to the Pulau Perhentian) and Kota Kinabalu (Borneo). Check www.airasia.com for details.
Another way to fly would be to take Malaysian Airlines from Johor's Senai Airport. The one-way fare from J.B. and K.L. is RM141. To get to the Senai airport, Malaysian Airlines has a bus service which runs from Copthorne Orchid Hotel along Dunearn Road (not far by public bus from our Hostel) to the airport. The bus fare to Senai Airport is S$12 and the bus ride is approximately 2 hours. You have to call Malaysian Airlines at 6336 6777 to book a seat on the bus. For the flight and corresponding bus schedules, check Malaysian Airlines' Singapore website at www.malaysiaairlines.com.sg.
A Singapore website with airfares for various destinations from Singapore would be www.airfares.com.sg.
Work your way to Bangkok from K.L. There're more options and it's cheaper from there than from here. Check www.seat61.com for railway timetables and fares.
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