ANXIETY – It’s typically the prevalent feeling when we think of crossing a country border especially when it is your first time. That was true in my case when I traveled from Singapore to Malaysia (and vice versa) by land a month ago. While I was excited, I also had a lot of negative thoughts in mind. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Will I make it? If not, how will I proceed?
Getting a clearance upon crossing a border is part of the immigration process. It involves a presiding immigration officer checking your name against various computer databases, inspecting your travel documents, and validating your reason for travel and length of stay. The typical mood is serious and unsympathetic. Officers look stern, speak with a heavy voice, and expect people to know the rules, even with less information or assistance. If you miss out any of the requirements to only cause delay, you will be pushed back at the bottom of the queue and will wait for your turn again or worse be denied entry, which can be gruesome for an inexperienced traveler.
Although it’s worth noting that around 95% of travelers successfully cross the Singapore-Malaysia border, it’s still a must as a first-time traveler to research and prepare.
Play it right the first time and successfully cross the border by taking into account these information at hand:
HOW TO CROSS THE BORDER?
In a perfect world, crossing the border is as easy as the following:
From Singapore to Malaysia
- get a transport to the Singapore border at Woodlands (ideally a bus if you are not carrying a heavy luggage but you can go by train, private car or taxi)
- at the border, get off the transport with your things
- go inside the immigration building, get ready with your exit card and line up to your designated area for passport checking (go to the lane where it says for foreigner).
- at your turn, present your passport to the officer and wait for the signal to scan your fingerprints
- take your passport after getting the exit stamp and head back to your transport
- go to Malaysia border at Johor Bahru
- at the border, get off the transport with your things and go inside the immigration building
- fill out the arrival card and queue for passport checking (go to the lane where it says for foreigner). If you are required of a tourist Visa, make sure to process it ahead of time. Visit the Malaysian Immigration website for details about Visa application.
- if it’s already your turn, present the passport to the officer and wait for the signal to scan your fingerprints
- get your passport once it is stamped with the Social Visit pass and exit the building
From Malaysia to Singapore
It’s basically the same process for Malaysia to Singapore, as listed above. You will exit Johor Bahru where the border for Malaysia is and enter Woodlands in Singapore. For tourists that are required of Visa, visit this website to know the latest requirements to enter Singapore: www.mfa.gov.sg.
WHAT CROSS-BORDER BUS TO TAKE ?
Because it is the closest to Bugis MRT, most travelers that are taking a bus to cross the border head out to Queen Bus Street terminal where there are 3 available bus companies to choose from:
- Causeway Link CW2
- SBS Transit
- Singapore-Johore Express
All three bus companies go to Larkin Terminal in Johor Bahru where you can transfer to another bus to your final destination in Malaysia. Of the three, the most popular among tourists is the Causeway Link for these practical reasons:
- bus trip is available as early as 6:00AM and goes almost every 10 minutes, last trip is around 11:45PM
- has high number of buses which can be useful at the immigration during transfer. Note: The bus that will take you to the border will leave the immigration area, and another bus of the same company will take you to the next destination. High frequency of buses means less waiting time. (Singapore-Johore express has the lowest number of buses so expect a longer waiting time at the checkpoint if you take this bus.)
- less delay, takes a direct trip to the border (SBS transit has several stops before going to the checkpoint at Woodlands)
- affordable and accepts EZ-link card, fare costs around S$4 (Singapore-Johore Express accepts cash only.)
- convenient seats
Bus transfer at the immigration checkpoint when crossing from Malaysia is different as that with Singapore since it will be the same bus that will wait for the passengers from border to border. That is why, it’s important to choose a bus company that has good reputation at waiting for passengers.
The best option is to go for a luxury coach as it doesn’t have a schedule to beat, unlike the cheaper buses. You can choose Aeroline for day-time travel or Grassland for both day-time and overnight trips. Check out the link for the fare and bus schedule.
TIPS WHEN CROSSING SINGAPORE-MALAYSIA BORDER
Pay attention to these 10 tips to free yourself from any hassle at the immigration checkpoint:
- Ready your passport and exit card at the checkpoint as you leave Singapore.
- Upon arrival, prepare your passport and completely fill out the arrival card before you queue for checking.
- Line up at the correct lane. There is a designated lane for locals and another for foreigners.
- Free your luggage of any “contraband” items like alcohol and smoking accessories.
- Do not use your camera while inside the immigration.
- At the Singapore border, avoid chewing gum as you wait.
- Remove your hat and sunglasses.
- Keep your bus ticket with you. You will be required to present the ticket as you get on the bus after getting clearance at the checkpoint.
- Do not rely on money exchange as there is none at the border. Bring cash (with the right currency) with you.
- Avoid crossing the border on a holiday, as there will be tons of travelers.
TIPS WHEN BEING INTERROGATED BY AN IMMIGRATION OFFICER
An interrogation normally takes place if there is a random search, or when an officer suspects that you are looking for work to travel instead of vacation or your name came up in the blacklist against their database upon checking, which can be horrifying to any traveler whether experienced or a first-timer.
Here are things to keep in mind to safely survive an interrogation:
- The purpose of an interrogation is to know more information about you or your immigration status. Do not overshare, but be ready to give out accurate, consistent information that will match your legal requirement. It will be helpful if you have the necessary documents like plane ticket, accommodation booking, etc.)
- Regardless how intimidating the officers are, compose yourself, and have a presence of mind. Begging or crying will not help.
- Know that being allowed to enter a country is a privilege. Their country, their rules, their laws. Be respectful and have a sense of humility.
- Although it’s best to assume that the officers are only doing their job, we cannot discount the possibility that others might do it for malicious reasons. Pay attention to what is happening. Don’t lose focus on your belongings. Stay humble but always be on guard.
Last tip: Dress for the occasion. If you will cross border, wear the appropriate clothes, feel confident and don’t look meager. I tell you, it will help.
BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER
- Singapore Budget Travel Guide
- Top Things To Do in Singapore
- Top 10 Free Attractions in Singapore
- Johor Bahru, Malaysia Budget Travel Guide
- Crossing the Cambodia Border: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- Chiang Mai Budget Travel Guide
- Bangkok Temple Hopping DIY Budget Travel Guide
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