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Cheap Guide to Johor Bahru – Where to Go & Best Things to Do in JB

johor bahru - things to do in jb

Clara Lim

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Judging by how many people read and shared an earlier article on how to get to JB by train, I’m guessing Johor Bahru still remains as popular a weekend destination as ever for bored (and broke) Singaporeans.

But after you’ve changed your SGD into a thick stack of MYR, there’s still the question of what to do in JB with all that cash. It’s not gonna spend itself, right?

So I’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Johor Bahru on a day trip, starting from the low-hanging fruit (everything near JB Sentral and City Square) to the farther-flung destinations that are worth visiting.

 

Cheap guide to Johor Bahru – where to go & best things to do in JB

Johor Bahru is actually a pretty big area, so it’s actually impossible to do all of JB in one trip. Instead, try to visit places that are near one another, or else you’ll just be on the road most of the time. I’ve grouped this article into 7 main shopping/eating clusters, in increasing level of “difficulty”.

Area in JB Distance What’s cheap there?
City Square Right at JB Sentral Shopping, movies
Jalan Dhoby Walkable from JB Sentral Cafes, traditional bakeries, night market
KSL City Mall 10 min drive from JB Sentral Shopping, nice restaurants, Bangkok Spa
Paradigm Mall 20 min drive from JB Sentral Shopping, movies, indoor ice skating & climbing
Tebrau City 30 min drive from JB Sentral IKEA Malaysia, shopping, furniture & lighting shops
Bukit Indah 20 min drive from Tuas Link Shopping mall, spas, hypermart, Legoland, Hello Kitty Town
Johor Premium Outlets 40 min drive from JB Sentral Branded factory outlet shopping

 

City Square JB & Komtar JBCC (right opposite JB Sentral)


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Whether you’re taking the bus, train or crossing the border on foot, JB Sentral is the immigration checkpoint and therefore your point of entry into Malaysian territory.

Once you exit, there’s an overhead linkway to 2 popular shopping malls: City Square Mall (older and more popular) and Komtar JBCC (newer and swankier, feels like Singapore).

Lots of JB day trippers don’t even step foot outside of these shopping malls, because it has what people come here to do anyway: Watch movies and eat.

Cheap things you can do here are:

  • Watch movies at the City Square JB cinema (ticket prices range from about RM12 to RM20)
  • Get a shoulder or foot massage at City Square
  • Shop at Sephora and Marks & Spencer at Komtar (expensive for Malaysian standards, but many items are cheaper after conversion)
  • Stock up on personal care items e.g. contact lenses, supplements, which are cheaper in Malaysia
  • Eat at familiar restaurants like Swensen’s (known as Seasons here), Nando’s, Tony Roma’s, Seoul Garden etc. at both shopping malls

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Jalan Dhoby: Hiap Joo & JB cafe hopping (walkable from City Square)


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If you’re willing to bravely walk where there’s no air-con, there’s quite a lot to see in the immediate vicinity.

First, cut through City Square JB to get to Wong Ah Fook Road, and turn left. You’ll walk down a string of old school shops including a famous fish head curry place. Cross the street to the mega pasar malam Bazar Karat (open from 7pm onwards) and continue walking until you hit Jalan Dhoby.

Jalan Dhoby is kind of like JB’s Haji Lane: It’s home to a bunch of hipster JB cafes and boutiques, all in old shophouses (of course). Be sure to explore the parallel Jalan Tan Hiok Nee as well.

The cafes here are quite pricey. Expect to pay around RM15 for a coffee (only a little less than in Singapore). Highlights:

Mixed among the hipster establishments, there are also some legit cheap local food places that make this area worth exploring:

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KSL City Mall & Bangkok Spa JB (10 min drive from City Square JB)


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If you’ve exhausted all that the JB Sentral and Jalan Dhoby areas have to offer, JB has no lack of mega shopping malls within spitting distance of the checkpoint.

The biggest one is KSL City Mall, which is a 10 minute drive from City Square JB. There are lots of taxis here, but I’d recommend using Grab if you have data, because it’ll be a lot cheaper and there’s less chance of the driver taking the long way to chop tourists.

KSL City Mall is a huge complex complete with its own hotel, multiple spas and salons, a cinema (naturally), a massive Daiso (everything RM5.90), a Tesco hypermart, many restaurants and what feelslike 500 shops all selling cheap barang barang.

You can spend the day in the shopping mall if you’re so inclined, but when I’m in the area I like to go to the nearby Bangkok Spa for a (clean) massage. The very painful but therapeutic 60-minute Thai massage I got cost just RM62. Prices are published on their site.

Oh, you might be surprised to know that JB has its share of “nice” restaurants – you know, the kind you’d go to on a date when you want to impress someone? And there’s quite a few near KSL City:

If the idea of going to a fancy Western restaurant in JB sounds weird to you, just look up their menus online and divide all the prices by 3. Tell me you’re not sold.

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Paradigm Mall – new shopping mall in JB (20 min drive from City Square JB)


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JB regulars would have been to City Square and KSL City billions of times, so it’s totally understandable that they’re now talking about the newer and cooler Paradigm Mall these days.

It’s about a 20-minute Grab ride or drive from JB Sentral. Apart from being one of the newest shopping malls in JB, it’s also seriously huge at over 2 million sq ft in size (for comparison, VivoCity is 1.5m sq ft). You definitely want to wear your HPB steps tracker for this one.

You can definitely spend the entire day inside Paradigm Mall, because in addition to the sheer size, there’s also an indoor ice skating rink and an indoor climbing gym, and they cost way less than in Singapore.

Paradigm Mall activity JB rates Singapore rates
Indoor skating (adults) RM30 ($10) per day $16 for 2 hours at The Rink
Indoor skating (kids) RM30 ($10) per day $16 for 2 hours at The Rink
Indoor climbing (age 18 & up) RM36 ($12) per day $22 per day at Climb Central
Indoor climbing (age 13 to 17) RM25 ($8.33) per day $18 per day at Climb Central
Indoor climbing (up to age 12) RM16 ($5.33) per day / free for kids under 8 $6 per day at Climb Central / free for kids under age 5

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Aeon Tebrau City, IKEA Malaysia & JB furniture shops (30 min drive from City Square JB)


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Just got your BTO keys and already lamenting the exorbitant prices of furniture in Singapore? If you’ve got your own car or can borrow/rent one, you might want to consider shopping in JB to capitalise on the exchange rate.

The obvious place to start is IKEA Tebrau (said to the biggest IKEA in Southeast Asia!) which is about a 25- to 30-minute drive from City Square.

Before you come, you must do your homework, as the items in IKEA Malaysia are not necessarily that much cheaper than IKEA Singapore. Also make sure all the items can fit into your transport, otherwise you’ll be in a pickle as there’s no way to deliver the items across the border.

There’s a big shopping mall, Aeon Tebrau City, right next to IKEA Johor in case you want to pass out at TGV cinema (which has bean bags!) for a few hours after your shopping. The Malaysian homeware store Kaison outlet here is also worth visiting for home decor and accessories.


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A few minutes’ drive from Aeon Tebrau City is the unofficial furniture district in JB: Taman Molek. Just Google “furniture shops JB” and you’ll see a bunch of them in a strip.

I haven’t been to this area myself, but from what I read in forums, there’s a bunch of furniture and lighting wholesalers here. It’s said that delivery to Singapore is common practice too.

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Aeon Bukit Indah, Legoland & Hello Kitty Town (20 min drive from Tuas Second Link)

A viable day trip option for Westies is Bukit Indah in the western part of JB. It’s closer to Tuas Checkpoint and the Second Link (a lot less crowded than Woodlands), plus the expressway links you straight from immigration to Aeon Bukit Indah in just 20 minutes.

Aeon Bukit Indah isn’t exactly stunning, but it’s good enough for a relaxing day out. There’s the TGV Bukit Indah cinema (also has bean bags), a Daiso and an A&W for you to relive your childhood at.


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One good thing about the Bukit Indah area is that it’s quite pedestrian-friendly by Malaysian standards. Just across from the mall is a strip of spas, restaurants and hotels, and if you turn left and walk down the road, you’ll see a big Tesco supermarket.

It’s also really near JB’s major theme parks: Legoland (RM120 for Legoland only / RM150 for Legoland + water park) and Hello Kitty Town (RM85 for Hello Kitty Town only / RM125 for Hello Kitty + Thomas Train Town). Both are located about midway between Bukit Indah and the Second Link checkpoint.

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Johor Premium Outlets – sales from 14 to 16 Dec (40 min drive from City Square JB)


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Those who got a big fat bonus this year end and don’t know what to do with it – lucky – can head up north to Johor Premium Outlets to snap up branded goods at insane prices.

The slightly under-the-radar factory outlet cluster in JB is about a 40-minute drive away from JB Sentral, which is a bit out of the way… but it should be worth the trip if you come during their big end-of-year sale from 14 to 16 Dec 2018, 10am to 12 midnight.

Here’s a teaser of the brands and their promotions:

Factory outlet brand Promotion for 14 to 16 Dec 2018
Bonia Additional 20% off selected items
Braun Buffel Additional 10% off with min. purchase 2 items
City Chain Up to 70% off. Additional 10% off with min. purchase 3 items
Fossil 20% off with min. purchase 2 items / 30% off with min. purchase 3 items
Gucci Up to 75% off
Guess 30% off with min. purchase 2 items / 2nd handbag at RM99
Jimmy Choo Additional 10% off with RM2,000 purchase / 20% with RM4,000
Levi’s 15% + 10% off with min. purchase 3 items / 30% + 10% off with 5 items
Puma Additional 30% off
Timberland Additional 15% off with RM800 purchase / 35% off with min. purchase 3 items
Tory Burch 50% off storewide / additional 10% off with RM1,500 purchase
Tumi 50% off storewide

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What are your favourite cheap things to do in JB? Share your tips with us in the comments!

 

Related articles

Train to JB Guide (2018) – How Much KTM Train Tickets Cost & How to Get There

Are IKEA Malaysia Prices Really Cheaper Than IKEA Singapore?

7 Things That are Way Cheaper in Johor Bahru

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Clara Lim

I used to be MoneyDumb. I hung out at H&M every day and thought that a $50 lunch set was a good deal. These days, I spend my time researching the crap out of life and trying to maximise utility on micro-decisions. I'm not sure if that's an improvement.