As it happens: Singapore-Malaysia land border reopening
SINGAPORE: For the first time in two years, people in Singapore and Malaysia are crossing the two land checkpoints using private transport.
The trips, starting at midnight on Friday (Apr 1), mark a huge step towards normalising travel between the two countries as COVID-imposed restrictions are progressively lifted.
Early this morning, I got into Singapore within half an hour after boarding the shuttle bus from Johor Bahru. The return trip was even shorter, taking about 15 minutes. This has got to be a record for me.
There were no queues at all on either side of the immigration checkpoints. I might have been lucky to be the last person to board the Causeway Link bus departing at 4.55pm from Woodlands.
The Causeway itself was clear and there were hardly any vehicles. I saw several people walking across to Malaysia as the sun shone brightly.
The smell of the famous Rotiboy coffee bun drew me towards JB Central mall. The person who served me the bun said that today’s business was considered good.
With the reopening of the borders, may the shop and other businesses in the area start to flourish again.
I've tried searching four petrol stations for the Touch ‘n Go card, but the cashiers all tell me the same thing: The cards have flown off the shelves since last night, when customers bought more than one card each. They are now sold out.
Motorists might have better luck getting it from a Watsons outlet, together with a membership for RM20.
After ticking off our to-do list in Johor Bahru, it was time to return to Singapore. The trip back across the Causeway was just as smooth as our initial trip this morning.
At Singapore Customs, they did a quick check of our car, but this took no more than a few minutes. To save time, make sure to also fill up your SG arrival cards beforehand.
Overall, the trip to Johor was much easier than I imagined. I was initially put off by concerns about long queues and the difficulties we faced registering for the MySejahtera app. Ultimately, these worries were unfounded.
Although the app still has not reflected my vaccination status, I did not encounter any issues with not being granted entry anywhere. The immigration clearance queues were also much shorter than any I experienced pre-pandemic.
Made a quick stop at Watsons to stock up on some toiletries. We found antigen rapid tests (ARTs) on sale for RM5.90.
If you plan on getting some, take note that there’s a cap of 20 COVID-19 self-test kits that you can bring back to Singapore.
We also saw boxes of 50 face masks going for about RM15.
We are stopping by Banafee Village, a popular supper spot for people to grab food and chill to live music while they get their car washed nearby.
Business seems to be running as per usual. A staff member here told me that before the borders opened, the peak hour crowd would last between 10pm and 12am. Last night, it was full-house until 4.30am.
Mr Jamil Ali (in white) has been working as a car wash attendant in Malaysia for six years.
The 22 year-old Pakistani told me that on a regular night, he and his co-workers wash between 50 and 70 cars.
Last night, with the borders open, the car wash saw around 100 cars - of which around 30 are Singapore-registered ones.
"It's a good feeling. Because the borders are fully open, I can wash more cars and take home more money," says Mr Jamil who earns an average of RM5 for each car he washes.
"Normally I earn RM50 to RM70 per shift, but last night I brought back at least RM100," he adds.
For motorists from Singapore, no trip to Johor is complete without a visit to the petrol station.
Got my fill at a Petron station along the Tebrau highway and paid RM4 per litre for 97-grade fuel.
But some significant news for Singapore drivers hoping to pick up a Touch 'n Go card in JB. The cards, which motorists need to pay tolls, are out of stock at the station, and the attendant has been told this is the situation at most other stations too.
My hunt continues.
Pre-pandemic, the journey from Johor Bahru to Singapore on weekday mornings could be stressful, as thousands of Malaysians headed to work before returning home in the evening.
But as CNA correspondents Rashvinjeet S Bedi and Amir Yusof found out, the trip on the first morning wasn't so bad.
Google Maps pointed us to another money changer at Komtar, a shopping centre next to City Square Mall. But when we got there, a mall worker told us that the money changer had closed down during the pandemic.
We finally found one tucked in a building behind City Square Mall, buying SGD for 3.075.
As the morning progressed, a steady stream of travellers began to leave and enter Woodlands Checkpoint, with numbers picking up from earlier in the morning.
Among them was Mr Jaghan Segaran who crossed the border from Malaysia to Singapore for his first day back at work at a tandoor restaurant after two years.
“I was scared (that it might take a while to cross) … I didn’t know how it would be after two years away,” he said.
C. (2022f, April 1). As it happens: Singapore-Malaysia land border reopening. CNA. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/it-happens-live-blog-singapore-malaysia-land-border-reopening-2598141