Singaporeans are always down for cheap and good food, even if that means taking a day to visit our next door neighbour—Johor Bahru. From cafe hopping to thrifting, and even reuniting with family on the other side of the border, there’s an endless list of things you can do there.
The KTM train is an excellent way to travel to JB because it cuts out all the stress of waiting in traffic jams and queueing up at an overcrowded custom border. It’s also super fast and affordable.
Dubbed the KTM Shuttle Tebrau, the train completes the journey from Woodlands in Singapore to JB in Malaysia in a mere 5 minutes.
The price you pay depends on which side of the Causeway you buy your tickets. Tickets are priced as follows:
- JB to Woodlands: RM5 (S$1.50)
- Woodlands to JB: S$5
The KTM Shuttle Tebrau is free for children aged 3 and below.
Ever since the KTM reopened in June 2022, it’s been the most convenient way to get across the Causeway short of driving your own car there at 2am. Here’s a complete dummies guide to taking the train from Singapore to JB.
Buying Train tickets to JB from Singapore
The one train that services the Singapore to JB route is called Shuttle Tebrau, and it’s operated by Malaysia’s national train operator, KTM.
Below is the daily Shuttle Tebrau train schedule from JB to Singapore:
|Shuttle Service||Departure Time||Arrival Time|
Below is the daily Shuttle Tebrau train schedule from Singapore to JB:
|Shuttle Service||Departure Time||Arrival Time|
As you can see, there are plenty of trains every day, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pre-book your train tickets. You’ll need to book in advance if you want to catch the train to JB on weekends and Friday nights as same-day tickets are almost always sold out.
There are 2 ways you can buy train tickets to JB: Either online via the KTM website, or over the counter at the train station. This table shows you how much train tickets cost:
|Ticket sales channel||Singapore to JB||JB to Singapore|
|KTM website||RM16||RM5 (one-way) / RM16 (bought as return ticket)|
|KTM counter (Woodlands)||S$5||S$5|
|KTM counter (JB Sentral)||RM16||RM5|
We definitely recommend buying return tickets on the KTM website as early as you can. Tickets sell out ridiculously fast!
|Pro tip: As you might have noticed from the above table, if you buy a JB-Singapore return ticket (rather than a Singapore-JB return ticket), it costs less than 3 times the price. If you go to JB regularly, you can use this to your advantage by always booking trips originating in JB instead of the other way round.|
Step 1: Booking KTM train tickets to JB online
Visit the KTMB Integrated Ticketing System (KITS) to book your tickets for Shuttle Tebrau.
After keying in your origin, destination, departure and return dates and no. of people you’re buying tickets for, you’ll be brought to the schedule page to select the exact train timings.
Tickets for 1 June 2023 are already pretty much fully booked from the time of writing (8 May 2023). However, you can easily toggle the dates above to find the next available seats.
Ah, things are looking a little more promising a couple of days later, from 6 June 2023 onwards.
To book your tickets, you will need to fill in your details. The most important ones are your passport details, because train to JB tickets are now tied to your passport. You can easily create an account by signing in via your email or Facebook/Google accounts.
KITS accepts a range of payment options, including Visa and Mastercard.
If you failed to buy tickets online for whatever reason, you can try your luck by queueing at the KTM counter at Woodlands Train Checkpoint.
You’ll need to show the counter staff your passport and make payment in cash. Ticket sales cut off 20 minutes before train departure.
For peak JB visiting days like weekends, public holidays and school holidays, over-the-counter tickets are usually sold out. If this happens, all is not lost—you can still walk over to the regular (non-train) checkpoint and catch a bus to JB instead.
Step 2: Getting to Woodlands Train Checkpoint
Assuming you got your KTM train tickets sorted online, the next step is to find your way to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint.
The Woodlands Train Checkpoint is actually in the same area as the regular Woodlands Checkpoint. However, it is located closer to the bus stop/drop-off point so you won’t have to jostle too much with the usual crowd.
My usual route is to take the MRT to Marsiling station, leave via Exit C, cross the road, and take bus 856 from there. It’s only 3 stops from Woodlands Train Checkpoint.
Here are the other buses that serve the Woodlands Train Checkpoint bus stop. There are many options from Woodlands interchange as well.
You know you’re in the right place when you look towards the left and see the gleaming KTM train to JB, just sitting there look all pretty while waiting for you to get on board.
|Pro tip: Make sure you come early, at least 40 minutes in advance. The boarding gates at Woodlands Checkpoint open 40 minutes before and close 20 minutes before departure. But don’t just show up 20 minutes before, as you need to give yourself enough time to go through customs and immigration.|
Step 3: Getting your physical/e-ticket scanned
When you get to Woodlands Train Checkpoint, head upstairs to level 2, where you’ll see a queue of train passengers waiting on the left of the walkway. Join them and wait for the boarding gates to open.
Aim to arrive at least 40 minutes before your train departs, because you need time to clear immigration on both sides before you get on the train. The boarding gate closes 10 minutes before train departure. So if your train is scheduled for 10am, you should arrive sometime by 9:20am.
From Singapore to JB, you will need a hard copy or digital copy of your KTM train ticket. It is okay to just show them a copy of the ticket on your phone. This will be scanned by KTM staff as you check into the gates.
In the event of any screw-up, you may be required to go to the KTM ticket office to validate your online booking.
The ticket office is on the ground floor of the Woodlands Train Checkpoint. You can’t miss it; there’s nothing else there except a lift. Be warned, there’s always a queue.
We’re not sure what the latest SOP is, but you will probably be asked to show some proof of your booking so they can print out a physical ticket for you. Make sure you download a copy of your ticket onto your phone just in case you have issues with the internet!
Step 4: Take the 5-minute train from Singapore to JB
As mentioned, you’ll pass through both Singapore and Malaysia immigration before you board the train.
First you’ll clear Singapore customs, which is a simple matter of scanning your passport and thumbprint through automated gates, just like at the airport.
Then you’ll walk a few metres to the Malaysian customs. The customs staff will check and stamp your passport manually. After you’re clear, put your bag(s) through the scanning machine, pick it up, then board the train.
There will be a large “free seating” sign so go ahead and sit anywhere you want. Don’t be afraid to enter the next car—there’s no First Class or anything.
KTM trains are often oversubscribed so you might find yourself having to stand. This is perfectly safe and it’s just a few minutes anyway. Enjoy the view of the Straits of Johor and feel smug about making good life decisions as your train goes past the poor folks stuck in the Causeway jam.
5 minutes later, you’ll arrive in JB Sentral. From here, you can chiong to Rotiboy, run amok in City Square, queue for banana cake at Hiap Joo Bakery, Grab to IKEA Tebrau, or whatever it is you plan to do with those ringgits.
All in, taking the train to JB should get you from Woodlands Train Checkpoint to JB Sentral in about 30 minutes. In contrast, taking a bus, taxi or car from Singapore to JB is highly unpredictable because of traffic. They say time is money, right?
Taking the return train from JB to Singapore
If you also booked the return trip from JB to Singapore, be there early. A good rule of thumb is to arrive 30 minutes before the train departs. The boarding gate opens 30 minutes before train departure, and closes 10 minutes before train departure. To be safe, arrive at least 30 minutes before your train is scheduled to depart.
From JB to Singapore, you can check in with nothing but your passport. All you need to do is scan your passport on the self-service gantry (similar to MRT faregates). There’s no need to show a boarding pass.
Bear in mind that you can only check in with your passport when taking the train from JB to Singapore, but not from Singapore to JB. (Not yet, anyway!)
What is the best time to travel to JB?
If you want to avoid the jams, you’re already making a smart choice by picking the KTM train over driving or taking a bus.
But if you want as few humans in the customs queue as possible, the best days to travel are Monday to Thursday. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are packed as hell.
The time you travel matters, too. You won’t want to take the MRT at 9am or 6pm, and the same goes for the KTM. To avoid the morning rush hour, it is best to start early—before 7am or even earlier if possible. You’ll also want to avoid the evening rush hour by returning to Singapore as late as possible—at least 8pm or later.
Unfortunately, the KTM doesn’t give you the option of hopping over to JB for a late-night massage and lok-lok during the most tranquil hours of 12 midnight to 4am—for that privilege, you’ll need to drive.