The border city of Johor Bahru is a good place to stop for the night when travelling from Malaysia into Singapore. Whilst it doesn’t feature on many backpackers bucket-lists it’s a worth a day here before you cross the border. It gives you a good opportunity to see urban Malaysia away from the big tourist attractions. It’s a large city of around half a million people, nearing 2 million in the metropolitan area as a whole. As with much of Malaysia, the population is a mixture of ethnicities. The 3 main groups found here are Malay, Chinese and Indian.
Also known simply as JB, this city is served by buses from across Peninsular Malaysia. They are usually reliable and reasonably priced. Whilst there is nothing spectacular here, there is enough to keep you busy for an afternoon. So if like me you decide to break up your journey from Malaysia to Singapore, I hope this post helps you out.
What to see in Johor Bahru
Old Chinese Temple
The Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple is a symbol of unity for the 5 main Chinese ethnic/dialect groups in the city. These are the Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese and Hainanese. The temple is dedicated to 5 different deities, one for each grouping. It was built in the 1870’s. Many Chinese immigrants moved to Malaysia in the 1800’s and this temple is a great example of how they brought their religious beliefs and cultures with them. There is some great intricate artwork here and I think it’s the main thing to see in the city.
As with other Malaysian cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Johor Bahru has a Little India. You can find a cluster of Indian shops and stalls here. As well as 2 temples serving the local Indian community, these being a Sikh temple and a Hindu temple. The former is named Gurdwara Sahib, the latter Raja Maha Mariamman Temple. Many Indians moved to Malaysia during the period of British colonial rule and as with the Chinese have maintained their religious traditions and their culture.
When walking around Johor Bahru I spotted some great artwork, and was surprised as I hadn’t expected it. I should probably have known better as of course cities like Penang, Melaka and Ipoh have great stuff. Whilst what is here doesn’t compare to those 3, it’s still worth a look if you have some time to spare.
Where to eat in Johor Bahru
Opposite the Old Chinese Temple you can find the JB Vegetarian Stall. It’s in a small food hall where you can also buy soft drinks and other food. I’m recommend this place as it has a fantastic selection of vegetarian food for very cheap prices.
As with many other vegetarian places in Southeast Asia, they offer a variety of ‘mock meat’ as well as vegetable dishes. The photo below shows an example of this. The mock meat here is made from soy.
Just down the road you can find a shopping mall that has several fast-food restaurants and places to buy snacks. Its called Galleria@Kotaraya and is easy to spot. Otherwise there are many restaurants around the city serving Malay, Indian and Chinese food.
Where to stay in Johor Bahru
A good quite place for backpackers to stay in the Memory Guesthouse JB. It’s a bit out of the centre but isn’t too far by taxi. You can walk it as well but the sticky heat makes that a little unpleasant. Its a nice set up with each bed in the dorm rooms having a good privacy curtain and plug sockets. There are clothes washing facilities here too. The best thing is the people who run it are every helpful. They will explain to you how to get to Singapore smoothly. There is also a cool little garden area where they have some animals they keep. They have a small kitchen area next to this too. I found this a good place to relax before heading to the bustle of Singapore.
Getting to Singapore
From Johor Bahru you can travel to Singapore by bus. You can do this by travelling to the JB Sentral bus station. Then find your way through to the immigration checkpoint. Its signposted and isn’t far to walk. From here pass through Malaysian immigration and take the bus to Singapore across the Johor–Singapore Causeway. Then pass through immigration on the Singapore side at the Woodlands Checkpoint. Once you’ve cleared that then you can take the bus again. Many people get off at one of the MRT stops in Singapore to continue their journey. Bus some buses to do right into central Singapore, so check where your one goes.
Remember to check Singapore’s Visa requirements before you travel. And check up to date bus information too, so you know the correct bus numbers to catch. If you stay at Memory Guesthouse JB then they will give you all the up to date info so you can travel smoothly. Also take note that the Johor Baruh–Singapore border crossing is the busiest in the world. It’s advisable to avoid rush hour when travelling. I crossed over at around 11am and it all went fine.
Thanks for reading!
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