Although they occupy what deceptively looks to be the same island and are only separated by 221 miles (355 kilometers), Singapore, an island city-state, and Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, are in two separate countries. Traveling between the two by land can be tough, especially if you don't have a car, but it's very doable and extremely affordable to travel by bus.
Taking a bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia is an easy, inexpensive alternative to flying. Although AirAsia flights can occasionally be found on sale, prices are surprisingly high for the 55-minute flight between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, especially after adding luggage charges. Taking a bus eliminates the hassles of navigating two airports, security, and baggage counters for such a short journey. Locals who cross back and forth frequently for business often prefer to go by bus. You could take your own car, but you'll need to be upfront with the rental company that you plan to cross the border with it.
How to Get from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
- Bus: 5 hours, 15 minutes, $15+ USD
- Car: 3 hours, 30 minutes, 221 miles (355 kilometers)
- Flight: 1 hour, 45 minutes, $38+ USD
Crossing the Singapore-Malaysia Border
If you're flying from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, crossing the border is easily done as you depart Singapore Changi Airport and arrive in Kuala Lumpur International Airport. You'll simply pass through immigration and get your passport stamped, just like any other country. However, if you're crossing the border on the ground, the process is a little different depending on if you're traveling by bus or by car, but both are straightforward and usually expedient enough, barring rush-hour delays.
If you arrive at the border by bus, you will exit the bus and leave your checked luggage, but take your personal items with you. After being stamped out of Singapore, the bus will continue across the bridge for another 10 to 15 minutes, then you will exit at the Malaysian border to be stamped into Malaysia. For obvious reasons, this takes a little longer. Bring your luggage with you this time, as it must be screened before you enter Malaysia. If you or someone else is delayed, the bus will wait.
Before you rent a car in Singapore, double-check with the rental company that you'll be allowed to cross the border with it. To cross the border in a car, you must pass through the Tuas checkpoint where you'll park next to a booth to have your passport stamped out of Singapore and then continue on to the Malaysian checkpoint, where you'll go through the same process.
To prepare for a quick and easy crossing, make sure you have your exit card ready and mark the page in your passport that has your last stamp so that the border agent doesn't have to search for it. You should also have your entry card for Malaysia completely filled out before getting into the immigration queue. If coming from Malaysia into Singapore, be aware that Singapore has very strict customs laws and restrictions for bringing in alcohol and cigarettes. You must declare whatever you are carrying or risk a big fine.
Although changing countries by bus sounds potentially daunting, these buses aren't exactly rattletraps and the highway is well-maintained. Going overland to Kuala Lumpur is actually less hassle than dealing with airports and the stress of making such a short flight.
Singapore doesn't have a unified long-haul bus terminal, so companies aren't really consolidated under one roof. Instead, they depart from all over the city. Although there are exceptions, many bus companies operate from the lot in front of a large shopping compound known as the Golden Mile Complex, located south of Little India near Arab Street. A string of bus agencies occupies the front of the complex; buy your ticket at one of the counters inside. Aeroline, one of the more luxurious bus options, departs from HarbourFront Centre, a large mall by the Sentosa Gateway.
Prices and levels of luxury vary widely between bus companies. Tickets can be had for as cheap as $15 or even less, however, these buses don't always take the most efficient route and add an hour or more to the journey. The more comfortable buses can cost $36 or more and come equipped with leather seats; some have personal LCD entertainment systems in the seatbacks so that you can even watch a movie. The more luxurious bus companies provide a snack, meal, or drink served by an attendant.
Many airlines offer non-stop service between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur including: Jetstar, Scoot, AirAsia, Malindo Air, Ethiopian, Malaysia Airlines, Silkair, Singapore Airlines, and Air Mauritius. For the cheapest flights, first check with carriers like Scoot, Jetstar, and Air Asia since they tend to have the best deals.
If you choose to take a road trip form Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, the way there is pretty easy, but it will take you about 3 hours and 30 minutes to arrive and you should expect tolls and be prepared for the border crossing with your passport and proper documents. Before you get gas in Singapore, try to wait until you've crossed the border into Malaysia where fuel is much cheaper.
From Singapore, you should first navigate to the Tuas checkpoint to cross the border. After you've crossed the border at Tuas, continue onto AH2, which you will stay on for 294 kilometers, or about 181 miles. When you are getting close, you can follow the signs for Kuala Lumpur.
What to See in Kuala Lumpur
When visiting the Malaysian capital, tourists will probably want to spend most of their time in the city center where skyscrapers like the Petronas Twin Towers dominate the skyline. It's worth it to take a trip up the towers and walk on the connecting bridge at least once. Outside the city center, you can explore the other neighborhoods that contribute to Malaysia's diverse cultural landscape, such as Kampung Baru, a traditional Malay area, Chinatown, and Little India.
There are tons of great hotels to stay in and lots of shopping malls to explore, but it might be worth your time to visit some natural attractions inside and outside the city like the Batu Caves, the Bukit Nanas Forest, or the Perdana Botanical Gardens.