10 Ugly Truth on Malaysia Express Buses from Singapore You Can’t Avoid
① Late Bus Arrival Due to Various Pickups
② Changing Bus
③ Smoking inside the Bus
④ Incessant Talking on their Mobile
⑤ Incredible Long Traffic Jam at the Customs
⑥ Road Traffic Accident along North-South Expressway
⑦ Strong Aircon
⑧ Loud Noise from Movies and Music
⑨ Dangerous Driving
⑩ Urgent Need to Go Toilet
So you want to book an express bus to Malaysia from Singapore or the other way round? The cheapest mode of transport from Singapore to Malaysia is to take an express bus. However, there is a price to pay with a little bit of suffering when you book a Malaysia-licensed coach online or from travel agencies. That is what I am going to disclose now to reduce your expectation on this budget way of travel.
I have already experienced all the unpleasant circumstances listed below after travelling to different parts of the cities for the past two decades with Malaysia express buses. My last trip was with Star Qistna Express Singapore and StarMart Express taken from Berjaya Times Square during my recent weekend trip to Kuala Lumpur. The incidents do not happen with just these two bus companies who happen to be the parent and subsidiary companies.
Problematic incidents can arise with any travel bus company that you book. Particularly the ones that offer a cheaper bus ticket price, it hints at a higher chance of more troublesome encounters. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid them. My advice is to stay cool if it happens and accepts it. That is what most Singaporeans and Malaysians do unless you choose to book an economical flight to eliminate these incidents instead of taking a Malaysia express bus.
Going to KL by flight?
You may want to know the options and the cost of transportation from KL Airport to the City Centre.
Malaysia Express buses have been known to arrive late at their pickup points. Sometimes as late as an hour or more. Nothing can be done even if you complain to the counter staff as they are not the ones driving the vehicles. All they could reply is that the drivers are on their way, or they are caught in a traffic jam.
When one buys cheap bus tickets to Malaysia from Singapore, two things are likely to happen. Firstly, there will be a few pickups or drop off points in Singapore or Malaysia, which will delay the estimated time of arrival due to the driver’s detour. Exercise some patience when taking travel coach buses.
Secondly, the drivers will ask the passengers to change the bus somewhere in Malaysia. One business survival strategy for travel bus companies with low-cost bus fares is to combine their resources to operate more efficiently. Thus, the changing of express buses can also take place more than once. When passengers are asked to change buses, they no longer can retain the old seat numbers which they choose upon booking.
There may already be other passengers sitting inside when the ‘new’ tour bus arrived. You might not be able to find double seats to sit together with your friends or family members anymore. Even when a new coach comes empty, it becomes ‘free seating’ with no seat number restriction like the previous one. People can now sit anywhere they want. Some passengers choose their favourite seats when they first make a bus booking. Suddenly, the desirable place is taken by others on a transferred bus.
Sometimes, passengers quarrel over the seating arrangement themselves or with the driver because it is not what they expect or being informed in the first place about the ‘free allocation’ of seats. Oh yes, it happened to me once when someone was not happy that I had taken their seat numbers on a transferred bus. I had no choice. Other passengers had robbed away my seats as well.
Smoking inside the bus could be the number one turn-off for many people, especially non-smokers. Most of the Malaysian bus drivers smoke inside the travel coach to Malaysia! Yucks! They usually do not have the guts to smoke when they are still driving in Singapore due to the strict law.
The moment they cross the Malaysian Customs, BOOM! The drivers whip out a cigarette immediately. You can smell a whizz of the disgusting cigarette smoke entrapped in the bus even if you are sitting behind. I didn’t mention Singapore drivers because the express buses to Malaysia from Singapore are Malaysia-licensed.
Most Malaysian bus drivers are chatterboxes. I had three drivers for my return trip on Singapore to Kuala Lumpur bus recently. All of them talked non-stop on their mobile for hours, at least 50% of the journey! Some will use the hands-free device when chit-chatting, whereas some will hold on to their phone with only one hand.
I had taken a video of one driver who had a hand holding on to his phone while the other hand was covering his mouth to talk in a way that his receivers can hear him more clearly. He used only his elbow to support the steering wheel all the while and chatted for a few hours in this manner. Gosh! That’s dangerous driving!! (*Google Maps video can only be played on a desktop at the time being.)
Anyone who takes express buses to Malaysia from Singapore will typically experience a long traffic jam daily during peak hours, and especially on Sunday evenings from 5 – 8 pm. The Singaporean travellers and Malaysians working in Singapore will choose to return on Sunday so they can go to work the next day.
The traffic jams worsen horribly on Public Holidays. One can be stuck in a traffic jam for hours for that few kilometres of road nearing the Malaysia Customs and stretching throughout the way to Singapore Customs. The queue of both the Singapore – Malaysia border has a notoriously long waiting time too.
The North-South Expressway (NSE) is the longest expressway in Malaysia with a total length of 772 km. It starts from Kedah at the Malaysia-Thailand frontier to Johor Bahru nearing the Malaysia-Singapore border. All the express buses to Malaysia from Singapore will take this road. Road traffic accidents are common but not that frequent along this expressway if you want to meet a major one.
A minor vehicle breakdown on the road shoulder is bad enough to cause a long traffic jam to occur in the middle of nowhere. I had witnessed years ago that an accident happening on the opposite side of the road perpetually froze all the vehicles. The horrendous standstill was as long as an hour from estimating the time of my coach driving from one end to the other end. It was indeed unimaginable the time taken for the opposite drivers to reach their destination!
Singapore and Malaysia have a similar hot climate. Thus, the aircon is mostly blasted to its maximum with powerful, cold air blowing uncomfortably on the head, sometimes causing a headache. Seasoned travellers taking a bus trip from Singapore to Malaysia will identify this fear.
Even when the aircon ventilator tap has been shut off completely, one can still feel the chill and hear the noise from the top. Sadly, many bus drivers are rather insensitive to reducing the aircon on rainy days. Therefore, bring along a jacket, shawl or even a cap to keep yourself warm and comfortable for that few hours of journey.
Some express buses provide English movies on a TV for entertainment. However, the kind of movie played may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The location of the TV is at the front of the vehicle. Naturally, the volume is blasted so that those sitting at the back of the bus can hear.
Many people would fall asleep on the bus when they travel back from Malaysia to Singapore after their holiday. The noise from the TV would then be irritating instead of entertaining. When there is no TV or movie played, some drivers will blast the music on their radio loudly. How inconsiderate! The driver of my last KL trip was playing loud songs when what I desperately needed was just peace and silence after being tired after a holiday.
One practical way of making good use of your precious time in Asia is to select a late evening coach departing from Singapore to Malaysia. You can then sleep inside the coach. By the time you arrive in Kuala Lumpur, Genting or other cities in Malaysia, it is already 4 to 6 am in the wee morning. But do not worry. All the Malaysia express bus seats are generally spacious and ultra-comfortable with reclining seats and generous legroom.
The issue here is that you would not be watching the road when you are sleeping or merely closing your eyes for a rest. Drivers are sometimes caught dozing off while driving at night. Genting Highlands Casino in Pahang is a hill resort with curvy roads. Some drivers ramp at high speed on these spiral routes. As the altitude increases, the visibility reduces due to the foggy road condition. Sleepiness and dangerous driving are your concerns at night due to numerous reported accidents at Genting.
Point 1 to 9 above is beyond our control. Deal with the unexpected as it comes. Many of us including myself are most concerned about having an embarrassing stomachache and the need to answer the call of nature at the wrong time. The worst thing is we are praying in our hearts that the drivers would stop for a toilet break soon.
We feel embarrassed to approach the driver out of the blue requesting a pause with many pairs of eyes watching us. We are just ‘so Asian’, perpetually feeling self-conscious about our behaviour. You need to know that there is no toilet inside the buses going to Malaysia from Singapore. If you want the driver to stop for a toilet break, tell him. Avoid eating and drinking too much on the bus journey.
There is no perfect or best bus company around in my opinion. It will be hard to control the drivers if there is a shortage in the market. It is likely that you might meet some of the incidents above. The more you know, the better you manage your expectation. Tell us, which ugly truth above irks you the most?
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