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Going to JB? Here’s How To Get the Best Bang for Your Buck

Feeling the itch to head across the Causeway? We feel you, especially now that both Singapore and Malaysia have opened up after two years of travel restrictions. But before you scoot off with your Ringgit, here are things you should note.

Before going to JB

First, what’s the best way to get some Ringgit? Here are some cards and money changers to look at:

Method
Rates and Surcharges
YouTrip (Card)
Real-time exchange rate that you see on Google search.
VISA/Mastercard Debit Card (Card)
Extra charges: 3.25% on the converted Singapore Dollar amount.
American Express Debit Card (Card)
Extra charges: 3.0%, plus the foreign exchange rate determined by Amex.
Changi Airport (Cash)
You can change currencies by paying through a banking app and collecting the money when you arrive at the airport.
Money Changers (Cash)

Transportation

There are many ways to get to Johor Bahru. The cheapest way is to take a bus, which costs around S$2 a ride. You can catch a bus either downtown or around Woodlands. Another option is to take the train from Woodlands. A return ticket costs S$16.

What’s cheaper in JB?

Cosmetics

Drugstore makeup and skincare

Products carried by pharmacies such as Guardian and Watsons are more affordable in Malaysia. For example, Biore’s Aqua Rich UV watery essence sunscreen costs RM35 (S$10.12) for an 85g bottle at a Watsons’ Malaysia store. The 70g version costs S$20.10 in Singapore.

Eyewear and contact lens

Many people like to order spectacles and contact lenses from Malaysia because they are cheaper there too. A pair of OWNDAYS’ glasses cost about RM398 (S$130.36), while the same pair cost S$178 in Singapore.

As for contact lenses, the retail price of 30 days’ worth of ACUVUE’s 1-Day Acuvue Moist lenses cost about RM188 (S$56.95) in Johor Bahru. If you were to order them online in Singapore, they would cost S$58 to S$80.

Outlet Stores

Need a wardrobe revamp? Johor Premium Outlets is located only an hour’s drive from Singapore, and it is open from Mondays to Sundays, from 10am to 10pm. For those who don’t drive, you can take a bus from JB Sentral, or take a taxi that will cost around RM55 (S$16.40).

From sportswear makers such as Adidas and Nike, to luxury brands like Gucci and Balenciaga, Johor Premium Outlets can be a one-stop shopping spot for all your clothing needs. There are 150 stores at the mall, and you can often get items at half their original price.

Pro tip! Look for items that are made in Malaysia or neighbouring countries for the best deal. There have been some complaints about limited sizes and off-season pieces, so you might have to do some real bargain hunting. But it is definitely worth it for those who know how to spot a good deal.

Read more: Smart Shopping Tips that Reduce Overspending

Services

Whether you’re out for a spa day, or you’re looking to get your hair and nails done, Johor Bahru has a ton of beauty parlours to choose from.

But remember, if the price of a package looks too good to be true, it probably is. Check the reviews beforehand.

Massage and Nails

Even if you go to a no-frills massage parlour in Singapore, an hour-long foot massage will cost you around S$35 to S$40. At the famous Bangkok Spa in Johor Bahru, you’ll only need to shell out RM62 (S$20).

A 120-minute massage at Bangkok Spa will cost RM118 (S$36.66). The same treatment will cost you around S$90 in Singapore.

It can cost S$20 to S$50 for a gel manicure in Singapore. In Johor Bahru, nail services are more affordable. For example, it costs RM68 (S$20.60) for a gel manicure — including a nail polish removal service, adding a nail hardener, and a mini massage — at Sasa Nails House.

Dental Services

Dental services are notoriously expensive in Singapore, even if you tapped on subsidies for locals.

Getting a dental crown costs around RM800 (S$253) in Johor Bahru, about three times less than what it would cost in Singapore.

Getting braces cost RM2,500 to RM3,000 (S$792 to S$950), compared to S$4,000 to S$5,000 in Singapore. But you would have to factor in the time it takes to travel for subsequent checkups.

Medication

Birth Control

In Singapore, one morning-after pill costs S$40 to S$50, and that’s not counting the consultation fee. In Johor Bahru, you can get the same pill at a pharmacy without seeing a doctor. A pill costs around RM16 (S$5).

Condoms are also cheaper. For example, a pack of three Durex Love Condoms costs RM7.20 (S$2.20), while it costs S$4.35 in Singapore.

Medications

Paracetamol tablets such as Panadol, which you can get over the counter, are often taken to treat fever and mild to moderate pain. According to Watsons Malaysia’s website, 30 regular tablets cost RM12.41 (S$3.70). In Singapore, 20 tablets cost S$7.50.

Crestor, a common type of cholesterol medication, costs S$3 to S$5 per prescription if you buy it from a doctor in Singapore. At a pharmacy in Malaysia, you can get it at S$1.20 to S$2.00 per prescription.

Groceries

It’s much cheaper to get staples such as oil and toilet paper in Johor Bahru. For example, a one litre bottle of Borges Pure Olive Oil costs RM30.99 (S$10.68). At a Giant supermarket in Singapore, the same bottle costs S$13.90.

Quaker Instant Oatmeal cost RM 9.49 (S$2.88) in Malaysia. At a NTUC or Giant supermarket in Singapore, it costs between S$4.65 and S$5.10, depending on whether there is a promotion. And you can get a one litre bottle of Dettol Antibacterial Body Wash for around RM20.25 (S$6.14) at a pharmacy in Johor Bahru. In Singapore, the same bottle costs S$10.50.

Baby products such as diapers and baby formula are also more affordable in Johor Bahru. For example, a tin of Pediasure baby formula costs RM92.60 (S$28.05) at a Guardian pharmacy in Malaysia, about half the price of what it costs in Singapore (S$46.30) Mamypoko Extra Dry XL diapers costs S$0.31 a piece in Johor Bahru, while it works out to S$0.46 a diaper in Watsons Singapore.

If you have access to a car, travelling across the Causeway for your groceries will likely save you a lot of money, especially if you have a family. Hikers Bay is a good resource to compare  grocery prices between Johor Bahru and Singapore.

Alcohol

Beers are slightly cheaper in Malaysia. A can would cost RM5.20 to RM9.20 (S$1.55 to S$2.74), but a bottle of mid-range wine in Malaysia costs about RM70 (S$22), similar to what you would pay in Singapore.

Getting spirits in Johor Bahru isn’t cheaper either. A bottle of Absolut Vodka costs RM188 (S$56.08). It would cost the same, or even less, in Singapore.

Petrol

Unfortunately, you cannot go to Johor Bahru just to fill up your empty tank. Singapore-registered vehicles must have at least three-quarters of their fuel tanks filled before they enter Johor Bahru, or the driver could be fined S$500. Also, foreign-registered vehicles cannot pump the cheaper RON95 petrol in Malaysia.

Still, getting petrol in Malaysia yields some savings. A full tank of RON98 petrol costs S$181.50 in Singapore. In Malaysia, pumping a full tank of ROM97 fuel costs S$65.80.

Activities in JB

Besides shopping, there are tons of activities to do in Johor Bahru.

Go-Kart racing

Go Karting is very pricey in Singapore. A 10-minute spin for adults can cost between S$35 to S$50. In Johor Bahru, prices go as low as RM37 to RM55 (S$11.20 to S$16.65) for the same amount of time.

Karaoke

We agree — belting your lungs out at Teoheng is affordable and worth it. But prices in Johor Bahru are unbeatable. A three-hour karaoke session on a weekday afternoon at Sing V KTV costs RM12 (S$3.80), including unlimited drinks.

Family activities

Head to a water park such as LEGOLAND Malaysia and Austin Heights Water & Adventure Park for some family fun! One adult ticket costs between RM80 and RM100 (S$24.20 to S$30.30), which is frankly similar to the S$32 you would pay to get into Adventure Cove in Singapore. But since you’re already in Malaysia, why not make the most out of the trip?

If getting splashed at isn’t your thing, you could visit Johor Zoo for RM2 (S$0.61) per adult, or bring your kids horseback riding at Amigos Horse Riding. It only costs RM110 (S$33.33) for a 45-minute to one hour trail at Amigos, less than half the price you would have to pay for the same experience in Singapore.

Laws, Limits, and Prices

It’s equally important to know what to avoid buying. Not everything in Malaysia is cheaper, or readily available. Many restrictions also apply.

Food Products

You cannot bring beef, mutton, pork, poultry, and oysters from Malaysia to Singapore. You can check the Singapore Food Agency’s website to see the full list of food restrictions.

You can bring a maximum of 5kg of seafood products — out of which a maximum of 2kg of frozen cooked crab meat and frozen cooked prawn meat — from Malaysia to Singapore. As for fresh fruit and vegetables, you can bring a hand-carry worth of fruit and vegetables in.

A maximum of 5kg or 5 litres of processed food can be brought from Malaysia to Singapore, but the total value of these products cannot exceed S$100 a person.

Alcohol

Anything above these amounts, and you have to make a declaration and pay duty fees:

  • 1 litre of spirit & 1 litre of wine; or
  • 1 litre of spirit & 1 litre of beer; or
  • 1 litre of wine & 1 litre of beer; or
  • 2 litres of wine; or
  • 2 litres of beer

Cigarettes

Cigarettes are expensive in Singapore, but bringing them in from Malaysia is even more expensive — the duty fee for a box of 12 sticks is S$10.25. There’s no point trying to bulk buy cigarettes when you are in Johor Bahru. Electronic cigarettes are banned in Singapore too, so you cannot buy one and bring it in from Malaysia.

Medication

You cannot bring into Singapore more than three months’ worth of medication.

Conclusion

Given the favourable exchange rate between the Singapore dollar and the Malaysian Ringgit, it’s unsurprising many Singaporeans go to Johor Bahru to stock up on groceries and other essential items. It’s easy to cross the Causeway at any time, but it still pays to do your research before heading over so you can maximise your time and dollars spent.

And remember, don’t forget to check the regulations that apply so you don’t fall afoul of the law while having a good time.

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