After numerous false starts, the land borders between Singapore and Malaysia have finally been reopened. Shuttered since 2020, the anticipation and uncertainty of this development has propagated many mistruths online. But what actually happened?
For some context, the borders were initially closed back in early 2020, as Singapore grappled with a surge in coronavirus cases. Back then, many Malaysians working in Singapore had to make a tough decision - stay in Singapore for gainful employment, not knowing when they’d be able to return, or cross back over the causeway to be with friends and family, and potentially lose their jobs here. Businesses on the border towns that relied heavily on tourism dollars also suffered a big hit, leading to even iconic names being forced out of business.
These government policies have a very real impact on the lives of the people that rely on cross-border trades and transactions, separating people from their loved ones, missing crucial life events and anniversaries.
As businesses shutter, you’d realistically expect the safety of a general region to be compromised. Afterall, people still need to find a way to feed their families, right? And those bemoaning the high fuel prices here would be desperate to hop over the border for a quick fill-up, whilst perhaps also taking advantage of the lower costs of living for their entertainment and dining needs.
As such, long queues on opening day and the weekend days that follow, are to be expected, right?
"These government policies have a very real impact on the lives of the people that rely on cross-border trades and transactions, separating people from their loved ones, missing crucial life events and anniversaries."
But hold your horses - there’s no ‘easy prey’ here. The Malaysian government stepped up law enforcement in tourist hotspots on the day and the weekend of the border reopening, with 1,600 police officers on patrol. We actually hopped over the border on reopening day, and whilst there was a queue, it wasn’t as bad as you may have imagined. In the days that followed, there were certain time periods where checkpoint queues were actually lower than in the pre-pandemic days.
Again, contrary to popular belief, Johor wasn’t any more dangerous than what some Singaporean netizens have been led to believe - we had a fairly uneventful journey to and from Johor.
The Motorist Guide To Entering Malaysia
Whilst both countries are returning to a sense of normalcy with the coronavirus endemicity, there’s still no escaping from the fact that we are still very much in the midst of a global pandemic. As such, aside from the usual VEP and Touch 'n Go woes (we’ll get to that in a bit) that Singaporean motorists face, there’s also Malaysia’s equivalent to our TraceTogether app that you’ll have to worry about.
(Photo Credit: Ahmad Zamzahuri for malaymail.com)
Dubbed the “MySejahtera”, you’ll need to fill up the digital pre-departure form via the ‘Traveller’ icon on the app itself. Verify your digital COVID-19 vaccine certificate here - we recommend you do so before crossing the border. Whilst your mileage may vary, our vaccine verification took only 30 minutes.
As with TraceTogether in Singapore, you’ll need to use MySejahtera app to access malls and shops. Your status on the app may reflect that you aren’t vaccinated - you’ll need to show them your pre-approved vaccination certificate to gain access to amenities. Ensure you have a 4G connection at this point.
VEP, Touch ‘N Go (TNG), And Driving In Malaysia
A valid VEP with the corresponding RFID tag must be affixed to cars entering Malaysia from 8th April. Also from then on, you’ll need to have a Touch ‘N Go card with a valid balance. On our day one expedition across the causeway, no charges were imposed for entering Malaysia, so technically we didn’t need to have a card with value in it until we cleared customs. The RM20 Road Charge will be applied from 8th April onwards.
(Photo Credit: Alan Soon)
Also from our observations, there are TNG staff members on hand that can help you reload your card once you clear the customs.The mobile team will only be available for month of April 2022. As you’d also expect, if you happen to not have a TNG card, you’ll have to find a source to acquire one. You can also activate PayDirect™, which will allow you to digitally add value to your TNG card.
We went to a mixture of petrol stations and convenience stores, only to find out that they were completely sold out - though we did eventually find one at Watsons.
(Photo Credit: Compare Hero)
Ensure also that your Singapore-registered vehicle satisfies the ¾ rule imposed by our customs, and when over in Malaysia, remember to only fill up using RON97, as the heavily-subsidised RON95 is for use by Malaysian-registered vehicles only.
A Quick Getaway
The border towns in Malaysia offers respite from the consistent hustle and bustle of a metropolitan city like the one we call our home. Favourable exchange rates may make it really attractive to hop on over for a quick break, but your escape from your heavily-urbanised reality may be spoiled somewhat if you have to endure hours queuing at the checkpoint, or if your car isn't up to the task of a long road trip.
In any case, before you set off, it isn't a bad idea to monitor the checkpoint situation with the Motorist app! We have a live feed of the checkpoints, and even a feature which tells you an estimated time you'll need to clear the customs! Making an informed decision is key to a short holiday!
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Read More: 10 Tips And Tricks When Driving To Malaysia
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