Riverside colonial mansions rub shoulders with gleaming state-of-the-art skyscrapers; modern shopping malls in Orchard Road compete in popularity with bustling markets in Chinatown and Little India; majestic Marina Bay Sands towers rise high in the horizon and gigantic Super Trees leave you speechless. Streets dressed in glass and concrete coexist peacefully with green parks and the imposing Sentosa Merlion observes silently its lands. The former British colony has become Asia’s most expensive city after Hong Kong and Beijing; the only Asian country with the top AAA rating from all the credit rating agencies, Singapore is one of the four Asian Tigers. It is fun to reflect on how time flies and changes the faces of world cities sitting comfortably in Long Bar at Raffles Hotel sipping the famous Singapore Sling and, following century-old tradition, throwing nut shells right on the floor.
Very clean and somewhat tough with its strict rules, Singapore has its undeniable appeal, and it is not rare to hear from those who have just come back from their first visit to the city-state that Singapore feels to them as the perfect place for living.
How to get from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore
The route between the two cities is well travelled. Buses and trains whisk passengers from Malaysia to Singapore and vice versa any time of the day and night. While travelling by train is an experience in itself, some buses provide you with all the possible modern comforts and the travel time is considerably less.
From Kuala Lumpur to Singapore by bus
A bus journey to Singapore from Kuala Lumpur takes anywhere from 4½ hours to six hours and even more as it is highly dependent on the time spent at the border crossings. That said, border formalities are usually completed quite fast – unless you are unlucky enough to hit public holidays or find yourself in the same bus with someone who has issues with their Singapore visa (normally it is not the case) or undeclared goods (see our note below – in fact, it does happen often).
There is a wide choice of departures to Singapore throughout the day from different bus stations in Kuala Lumpur, including the enormous TBS, Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, the main transportation terminal in the southern part of Kuala Lumpur, and Berjaya Times Square, to the east of KLCC.
Buses of various companies leaving from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore bring their passengers to different locations throughout the city-state. Transtar Travel and Billion Start Express both head to Golden Mile Tower in Beach Road, northeast from the city centre, Golden Coach Express stops even further northeast, and Star Coach Express is found near Concorde Shopping Centre, west from the city centre.
The majority of buses plying the route between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are very comfortable VIP buses with three seats per row instead of usual four. Even the cheaper intercity buses (e.g. some departures of Billion Stars Express) are of rather a high standard. Tickets cost between SGD22 and SGD28 (MYR66-MYR84). Star Coach Express and Billion Stars Express have night buses (11.45pm and 1am), arriving to Singapore early in the morning what leaves you with plenty of daytime ahead of you.
The most luxurious way to travel between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is offered by Transtar Travel coaches. They are more expensive (SGD36/MYR111) compared to other options on the market, but accommodate just 16 passengers with single seats on the both sides of the aisle. The seats are really enormous and comfortable, nearly fully reclining and with a separate footrest. There is personal entertainment station and electrical sockets for each seat. During the trip hot drinks, snacks and lunch or dinner consisting of a rice with chicken or meat and some vegs as a side dish are served. Note that there are no toilets on board but with two stops en route it is not a big issue. Though the journey is not that long, if you can afford spending a bit more, it pays to opt for Transtar Travel buses.
Transtar Travel has several buses a day heading to Singapore. The first one leaves at 7am and brings you to the Golden Mile Tower by the time you can easily check-in at your hotel which is quite convenient. The last one departs at 6pm and arrives after 10.30pm. If you choose to travel with any of the buses leaving after 3pm, ensure that you have your accommodation booked, as cruising the big city at night in a search of the place to lay your head down is not quite a brilliant idea.
Exiting Malaysia is quick; you get off the bus and have your passport stamped. On the Singaporean side you are supposed to go through immigration (be ready to spend a while queuing to the officer) and present your luggage for scanning. After that you will board the same bus again and continue the journey to your destination.
Note: While crossing the land border between Malaysia and Singapore you are prohibited to bring any alcohol with you without declaring it. Duties are hefty (about USD70 per bottle!) and failing to declare results in even huger fining (up to USD700 even for a can of beer). Be prudent and never ever try to bring alcohol over Malaysia–Singapore border as potentially it is going to cost you a fortune.
Tip: You are not allowed to bring cigarettes to Singapore, either, and there is a mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking carriers. To be on the safe side, never take anyone’s luggage through customs, especially if offered a compensation for your help. Never.
From Kuala Lumpur to Singapore by train
From May, 2016, there is no more direct train service between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. You can no longer take the convenient #25 train which used to leave Kuala Lumpur in the evening arriving to Singapore the next morning around 6am. Your train journey will involve three separate trains: a high-speed ETS train from Kuala Lumpur Sentral to Gemas (2½ hours); a shuttle train from Gemas to Johor Bahru Sentral (fabout four hours); and from Johor Bahru Sentral to Woodland checkpoint in Singapore (20 minutes). Expect to spend about eight hours in total. Buses will deliver you from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore faster – in about five hours – but can cost more, while the train journey should not set you back more than MYR60. It may prove a good idea to make a stopover in Johor Bahru. Accommodation and food there costs considerably less than in Singapore and you have a quick look at the second-largest city in Malaysia or venture further afield to explore an amazing Endau Rompin National Park protecting one of the oldest rain forests in the world. For more information on Johor Bahru check Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru page.
Note: It is a bit upsetting that the old colonial railway station in Singapore is not used any more. Trains from Kuala Lumpur arrive to Johor Bahru Sentral. To get there, take a local bus from the Singapore Sentral.
To feel the real taste of the city, let modernity and history go hand in hand during your stay in Singapore. Shop till you drop in Orchard Road, dance till you are dead in Clarke Quay, gamble, lounge, splurge, and do not stop until you have tasted the best of Perenakan, Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes all around the city. Here are some ideas not to miss.
- The brand image of Singapore is Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino. Three 55-floor towers contain 2560 hotel rooms, a museum, two theaters and ice-skating rinks, seven restaurants and the cult infinity pool plus breathtaking city views.
- A ride over Singapore Flyer is an unforgettable experience. The gigantic 2008-built Ferris wheel is 165 m high, which is 30 m higher than the famous London Eye.
- Get your portion of adrenaline in Sentosa's adventure parks and attractions, watch the dancing fountains show and step on the southernmost point of the continental Asia. Take a cable-car ride and observe the enormous port stuck with loads of sea containers.
- The Singapore Zoo and Night Safari have long secured their presence in every visitor's must-see list. Even without the little ones in tow, do not hesitate to give the both a glance.
- Do they say that Singapore is not Asia? Oh, yes, it is! Savour the regional flavour in Little India or Singapore Chinatown.
And remember that no visit to Singapore is complete without paying respect to the city's founder, Sir Raffles. Greet him with a classic Singapore Sling at the signature Raffles Hotel. Prosit, dear Sir Raffles, and accept our most sincere gratitude for your outstanding creation.