Malacca (Melaka) state is dubbed ‘Malaysian Historical State’ and rightly so. A melting pot of cultures and religions, Malacca offers a unique experience of travelling back in time to the Sultanate of Malacca period, through colonial era and to modern times. The capital city of Malacca boasts rich historical heritage with stately colonial buildings lining the streets of the historical centre, temples and churches of different confessions welcoming believers, and the ruins of the once powerful A’Famosa Fort guarding the memories of its turbulent past.
Malacca is an extremely popular weekend destination for local city dwellers from Kuala Lumpur. Foreign tourists constitute only one fourth of all the visitors, and the lion share of them are taken by the Chinese, Singaporean and Indonesian guests. It means that regardless its booming tourist industry Malacca remains a kind of Terra Incognita for a Western traveller and it is definitely good news for anybody striving for all things unusual. And though Malacca’s self-proclaimed ‘quintessential Malaysian city’ title may sound a bit too presumptuous, it fact it is not.
From Singapore to Malacca
Malacca lies within an easy 3–4½ hours bus travel from Singapore. The route is served by a variety of companies including Transtar Travel and Golden Coach Express, both offering VIP coaches and generally getting very positive reviews from travellers. That said, Delima Express which also has VIPs and Superior Coach which uses standard express coaches are worth considering, too: they may feel a bit more Spartan, but cost less, and are completely ok for a three-hour trip.
Tip: It is an absolute must to book your trip in advance if you plan to travel on Friday evening, Saturday morning or during holiday periods as Malacca is an extremely popular destination among the Singaporeans who enjoy coming to Malaysia for weekends.
From Singapore to Malacca by bus
In Singapore, buses for Malacca (Melaka) leave from different locations throughout the city. The most popular ones include:
.1. Golden Mile Tower in Beach Road, northeast from the city centre, where many transport companies have set their offices. The nearest MRT station is Nicoll Highway (exit A), from where it is just a four-minute walk to the Golden Mile Tower. Bus 100 brings you even closer – it stops within just a couple of minutes walk from the GMT. If you wish to travel to Malacca from Golden Mile Tower, Transtar Travel bus at 8.30am is your obvious choice.
Note that this service does not operate on Friday.
In Malacca it calls to Melaka Sentral first (MYR87) and then proceeds to Hotel Equatorial Melaka (MYR101) located in Jalan Parameswara, some five km south from Melaka Sentral and close to all the historical attractions and accommodation options of the historical centre of Malacca.
Note: The largest public transportation terminal of Malacca City, Melaka Sentral is located at the corner of Jalan Melaka Sentral and Lebuh AMJ, to the south of the historical centre. It has ATMs, convenience stores and a food court with reasonable prices. All the major routes from Malacca to other cities in Malaysia are operated from Melaka Sentral, Malacca to Kuala Lumpur route included. The trip to the city centre from Melaka Sentral by taxi should cost no more than MYR20 and it is quite common for taxi drivers to refuse to switch on the meter; alternatively hop onto a local bus #17 heading to the historical centre or any other local bus in the direction of Mahkota Parade leaving from the domestic (not intercity!) terminal.
Tip: There is a large indoor market and shopping complex right by the Melaka Sentral Terminal. Have a look at this Bazaar Melaka Sentral while you are at the bus station to save a trip there from the city later.
.2. Buses of both Golden Coach Express and Delima Express leave from City Plaza and Concorde Shopping Centre in Singapore. City Plaza is located across the bridge from Golden Mile Tower and on the way to Changi Airport. There are a lot of morning departures from 8.10am to 10.30 and some afternoon and evening options at 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 6.30pm. Ticket fares vary greatly from MYR58 to MYR81 depending on the company and the time of the departure with the cheapest tickets sold by Delima (all departures).
Note that some of the departures from City Plaza terminate at Alor Gajah Toll in Malacca state, some 25 km northeast from Malacca City. Look for departures going straight to Melaka Sentral instead. The same note refers to departures from Concorde Shopping Centre.
.3. Concorde Shopping Centre sits in 317 Outram Road, west from the city centre and about 3 km from Orchard Road. The service from Concorde Shopping Centre in Singapore to Melaka Sentral is provided by Golden Coach Express (MYR58).
.4. Superior Coach morning buses (from 7.45am to 8.30am) depart from Lavender MRT station in Kallang Road, a couple of blocks north from the Golden Mile Tower. In Malacca they call to Melaka Sentral, Hotel Equatorial Melaka and Hattan Hotel Melaka in Jalan Merdeka, some 200m down from Hotel Equatorial Melaka. Though Superior Coach does not offer the cheapest tickets (MYR75), it can help save time as their coaches bring you directly to the historical centre.
Crossing the border to Malaysia
Normally it is easier to cross the border in the direction of Malaysia than vice versa. There is much less hassle with border formalities in Singapore when you are leaving the country. Malaysian immigration office is organized better than their Singaporean counterparts, so expect to spend minimum of time on the border crossing.
Note: At the moment, many nationalities are granted 90 or 30 days visa-free permit to stay in Malaysia; but it always pays to check in advance.
From Singapore to Malacca by train
Technically it is possible to get from Singapore to Malacca by train. Train brings you to Pulau Sebang/Tampin station from where you will have to take a taxi or a local bus to cover the remaining 40 km to Malacca City.
Taking into consideration the size of the city and its hot climate, walking is not always a comfortable way to explore Malacca, but it gives you a chance to savour Malacca’s colonial charm to its fullest.
Though traffic can be hard, do not underappreciate bicycles as a means of transport for getting acquainted with the city. They are rented out by many guesthouses and hotels at about MYR10, though some shops require a lump deposit or keep your ID until you bring your bicycle back. Malacca drivers are rather sensible and there are special tracks for bicycles, too.
A ride on a local bus costs just MYR1, but it is not an easy task to figure out which one you need. With some practice – and luck – you may find a budget and convenient way around with their help. The most useful bus route is #17 (for rides between Melaka Sentral and the historical centre).
Note that there is a very convenient Melaka Panorama Bus which has two lines: the red one and the blue one. The lines cover the most popular tourist attractions. Tickets cost MYR2 and are sold separately for the red and the blue routes. The blue line goes as far as Melaka Sentral and thus is useful for getting to/from the bus terminal, too.
Being a prime tourist destination, Malacca has something to offer to every visitor. Here are some ideas to start your exploration with.
For museum lovers Malacca is a real treasure box: the city hosts over 20 different museums which cover a variety of topics, from history to food. Do not try to visit as many of them as you can, as the quality of Malacca museums differs greatly, but some of these institutions are worth considering. Feel the flavour of Malacca cultural mix at the Baba and Nyonya Peranakan Museum ; catch a glimpse of times gone at the History and Ethnography Museum at Dutch Square; climb on board a very credible replica of the Portuguese Flor de la Mar ship which sank in the Straight of Malacca in the beginning of 16th century at the Maritime Museum; or find yourself in a world of old and contemporary post stamps in a tiny but intriguing Stamp Museum.
To understand the real character of the city, set off for a stroll around the historical centre. Shops and temples rub shoulders with beautifully decorated houses in winding alleys of Jonker, Temple and Heeren Streets. Take a walk along the river from Jalan Munshi Abdullah or have a look at the city from the water. There are daytime cruises departing from the jetty right by the Maritime Museum. Be aware, though, that foreigners are often overcharged on these cruises.
History buffs will appreciate a visit to a very special destination in Malacca – Bukit China, which is the oldest Chinese cemetery outside of Mainland China with certain graves dating back to the 18th century.
If you are travelling with your kids, do not miss the famous Melaka Zoo which is arguably the best (or one of the best) zoos in Malaysia.
Devoted shoppers may want to buy fine teas at Yeetea House combining their shopping experience with an interesting tea ceremony or indulge in authentic market shopping at Jonker Walk Night Market or Pasar Malam which operates daily in different locations of the city.