How to be a pro traveller in JB

Okay, we get that travelling en masse to JB ranks highly amongst locals on the list of things to do during the long weekends in Singapore. The magical SGD-RM rate is so strong that it forms picnic-inspiring queues at the customs, even if you’re heading over for just a short respite.

The last thing you want to do after queueing up for hours at customs is run into fellow countrymen doing the same things as you are. We know that certain places are popular for a reason and hitting up tried-and-tested haunts can be a good idea, especially when you’re a JB newbie. But if you find yourself overhearing “wah this one so cheap!” every time you step into a cafe in JB, then these tips will show you how to be a pro traveller in JB.


Instead of: Saving a few bucks at international outlets/brands

Thrifting in JB - Overrated things to do in jb

There’s no shame in making a beeline for internationally recognised outlets once you’ve crossed the border. Sure, your wallet will thank you as you cart out Uniqlo’s entire range of colours for their comfy AIRism tees, but where’s the fun in that?

Try: Going thrift shopping for the best deals

For genuine steals as well as an exciting shopping experience, plan a trip to the thrift stores in JB. Stores like Big Bundle have graphic tees and cargo pants going for RM10 (~S$2.84) and RM15 (~S$4.24) respectively.

If you don’t want to spend time scouring racks of clothing to uncover something you fancy, check out curated thrift stores like Kedai Dhoby Shanghai for quirky pieces from RM10 (~S$2.84) and Label33Store, which has shelves full of Y2K designs and jackets.

Big Bundle
Address: Pasir Gudang Highway, Taman Bukit Alif, 81200, Johor Bahru
Opening hours: 9am-11pm, Daily
Contact: +60 18-222 2790

Kedai Dhoby Shanghai
Address: 53, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor
Opening hours: Wed-Sun 11am-7pm | Mon 11am-6pm (Closed on Tuesdays)
Contact: Kedai Dhoby Shanghai Instagram

Address: Bangunan Kerjasama, Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor
Opening hours: Tue-Wed & Sun 10am-8pm | Thu-Sat 10am-11pm | Mon 1am-8pm
Contact: +60 11-6261 9393 | Label33Store website

Hipster cafes

Instead of: Queuing up with 100 other Singaporeans at Replacement Lodge

Keijiometo Cafe - Overrated things to do in jbAt least Kejiometo cafe is considerate enough to run shows on their antique TV set so you’re not too bored while waiting in line.
Image credit: Eatbook

You’ll find joints like The Replacement – Lodge & Kitchen, Keijiometo and Nimmies Pastry Cafe on     every JB cafe guide out there, and they’re most likely teeming with fellow compatriots. While their food and decor might be well worth the hype, these cafes are notorious for their long queues and waiting times.

Try: Scoring seats immediately at lesser-known cafes

If you don’t want the vibes to be dampened by a 30-minute wait, then perhaps give the lesser-known, new cafes in JB a shot.

OutLine Cafe Bleeding Matcha
Image credit: @outline_cafe_ via Instagram

Cafes like OutLine Cafe have yet to be blessed by droves of Singaporeans, but that does not mean their offerings are sub-par because of minimal queue times. In particular, their Tiramisu cake (RM18.90, ~S$5.37) and Bleeding Matcha (RM16.90, ~S$4.80) have been praised by cafe critics online, so do give those a try when you drop by.

We recommend setting aside enough time to travel up to areas like Mount Austin and beyond to distance yourselves from the crowd. After that, take some cues from unabashed Google reviewers; they’d recommend going for cafes that don’t beguile with fancy decor, as these establishments let their food do the talking instead.

OutLine Cafe
Address: 22, Jalan Austin Height 7/8, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru
Opening hours: 11.30am-10pm, Daily (Closed on Wednesdays)
Contact: OutLine Cafe Facebook

Activities at shopping malls

Instead of: Going to KSL again & again

Exterior Of KSL Mall - Overrated things to do in jb

Admittedly, the prices for goods at malls like KSL City Mall and JB City Square are unbeatable after taking the exchange rate into account. However, take the slashed prices out of the equation and what you’re left with is shopping vibes similar to the malls we’ve got right here in the Little Red Dot.

Try: Paradigm Mall & Toppen Shopping Centre for cooler activities like ice skating

Blue Ice Skating Rink

For those who want to deviate a little from their usual shopping spree, you can drop by malls like Paradigm Mall and Toppen Shopping Centre. Here, you’ll be able to fill out your trips with a slew of activities which don’t revolve around getting the most mileage out of your SGD.

Paradigm Mall houses JB’s first and only ice skating rink, Blue Ice Skating Rink and Toppen’s skatepark housed on its rooftop makes visits all the more worthwhile. As a bonus, the crowd sitch here is not too bad, although you still might rub shoulders with the occasional Singaporean who’s also had enough of cookie-cutter malls.

Blue Ice Skating Rink
Admission: From RM40 (~S$11.36) per 2 hour session
Address: 3F-30, Paradigm Mall, Skudai Highway, Taman Bukit Mewah, 81200 Johor Bahru
Opening hours: 10am-10pm, Daily
Contact: +60 11-6230 0366 | Blue Ice Skating Rink website

Popular streets 

Instead of: Going back to the same streets like Jalan Wong Ah Fook

Jalan Wong Ah Fook Sign - Overrated things to do in jb
Image credit: Liu Ruxia via Flickr

Okay, we get it. You can’t say you’ve made the trip to JB if you gave Jalan Wong Ah Fook a miss. Regarded as one of the busiest streets in the country, it plays host to a couple of businesses that Singaporeans just cannot get enough of. These include the famous Kam Long Curry Fish Head and the nearby Hiap Joo Bakery,

But, you’ll soon find that the street is just packed with Singaporeans, perhaps clamouring to dabao a slice of tasty banana bread to bring back home. Besides, it’s hard to find parking here, so you’d best take your business elsewhere if you’ve been here one too many times.

Try: Travelling to other towns like Skudai or Kulai

Putuo VillageImage credit: Putuo Village

Should you want a break from the unending crowds, you can head over to neighbouring towns like Skudai and Kulai. These towns are located just a 20-30 minute Grab ride from the usual JB hotspots, so you won’t even be deviating too far off the beaten path.

The journey westwards towards Kulai rewards you with a slew of unassuming cafes, including the cosy Three And A Half cafe which serves up hearty breakfast sandwiches paired with warm cups of coffee. For a truly zen-like destination, make a stop at Putuo Village. It’s a Buddhist village on the outskirts of Kulai with a tranquil bamboo forest peppered with IG-worthy photo spots.

Putuo Village
Address: 1488, Jalan Kampung, Jalan Kota Tinggi, Kluang, Felda Taib Andak, 81000 Kulai, Johor
Opening hours: 9am-6pm, Daily
Contact: +60 07-213 3398 | Putuo Village website

Three And A Half cafe
Address: 38, Lorong Ismail, Taman Kulai, 81000 Kulai, Johor
Opening hours: 8am-4pm, Daily
Contact: +60 12-972 4428 | Three And A Half cafe Facebook

Theme parks

Instead of: Visiting the battle-scarred theme parks near the border

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By now, most of us are already familiar with Singapore’s lone theme park, so we head right over to our neighbours in JB in search of greener pastures and alternative thrills. However, we’re often met with rusty and poorly maintained rides that have seen better days.

We’re not pointing any fingers, but the theme parks near the Causeway are known for a whole different breed of hair-raising thrills. Survivors have noted instances of spontaneous combustion on bumper cars, malfunctioning rides that stall in the middle, and swamp-coloured pools for water parks.

Try: Heading further inland for better-maintained ones

Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark

Instead of risking it all for theme parks whose only USP is being easily accessible, we’ve found that newer ones further inland are less likely to have breached any safety regulations. For example, Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark, which opened in 2019, is a great option for a day in the sun which won’t have you worrying about filing any health insurance claims.

82200 Bandar Penawar, Johor, Malaysia
Opening Hours: Sunday 10:00 a.m - 06:00 p.m  Show More Timings 

Hair salons

Instead of: Going for the cheapest salons

We all know someone who swears by getting their hair done in JB. After all, they’ve got full-on hair treatments, perms, and cuts for cheap. However, just how low can prices go, before you’re skimping on quality?

Google Review Of Bad Salon
What one customer had to say after learning the hard way.
Image adapted from: Noew Goet Siok via Google Maps

They say “cheap” and “good” are words that don’t gel together, and we’ve heard our fair share of horror stories regarding dirt-cheap hair salons over the border. These include lopsided cuts, burnt hair after anti-frizz treatments, and fried, maggie mee perms.

Try: Paying a little extra for better quality service

Studio M And LUXE Studio Hair SalonImage adapted from: @studiomksl via Instagram, LUXE Hair Group via Facebook

If you’re not planning to report to the office with a botched haircut, then shell out the extra moolah to ensure you’re not rolling the dice with a haphazard pair of snippers. Seek out reputable hair salons in JB like Studio M and LUXE Studio that provide quality service, albeit for a heftier price tag.

The prices here range from RM200 (~S$56.54) to RM349 (~S$98.67) for services such as digital perms. You won’t even be paying nearly as much as you would’ve paid back in Singapore, so you can’t really complain here.

Studio M
Address: G-08 & G-09, KSL City Mall, Jalan Seladang, Taman Abad, 80250 Johor Bahru
Opening hours: 10am-9.30pm, Daily
Contact: +60 07-289 4998 | Studio M KSL website

LUXE Studio
Address: Lot SK7, Level 2, Komtar JBCC, Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Bandar Johor Bahru 80000, Johor Bahru
Opening hours: 10am-8pm, Daily
Contact: +60 07-220 0888 | LUXE Studio website

Food options

Instead of: Playing it safe with loklok… again

Loklok - Overrated things to do in jbImage credit: Eatbook

With JB being the food haven that it is, it’s no wonder Singaporeans flock in herds to gorge themselves with the best the country has to offer. However, some of us are guilty of defaulting to the same eats when we’re in JB. If you’ve got loklok or Hai Di Lao queued up for the nth time, we’ve got a problem.

Sure, you’re saving money, but it just doesn’t do the JB food scene any justice when you’re ordering the same ol’ dim sum at Din Tai Fung.

Try: Scrolling through XHS for legit spots reviewed by locals

Loklok and dim sum can wait; for a change, you’ll want to scour social media for hidden gems reviewed by locals. TikTok, Instagram, and Lemon8 are great places to start, but we recommend giving Xiaohongshu a browse, as it’s popular amongst JB locals. It’s a social media platform that’s pretty similar to Instagram, but mainly used by Chinese-speaking users.

Browsing XiaoHongShuThat trip to Soon Soon Heng Bak Kut Teh opposite KSL can wait.
Image credit: Khoo Yong Hao

Just search up “JB必吃美食”, which translates to must-eat food in JB, and you’ll be greeted with a treasure trove of spots to drop by on your next visit.

Bonus: Going across the border just to pump petrol

Instead of: Risking having to go to court

Man Jumping On Car
Some folks take it a step further, by jumping on their cars to ensure that their tank is bursting to the brim.
Image adapted from: All Singapore Stuff via Facebook

We get it, owning a car in Singapore is indeed costly – some of us have been able to keep the damages to our bank balance to a minimum by COE bidding and buying second-hand cars.

In addition, fuel prices are soaring ever so high, so the money-savvy have found comfort within the petrol kiosks over at JB. While it is illegal for Singapore-registered vehicles to cross over to JB with a tank that’s less than 3 quarts full, some fancy their chances of evading the customs officers.

The sky-high price of petrol in Singapore is a massive pain point, but is it really worth risking the S$500 fine and the possibility of being prosecuted in court? As such, see below:

Don’t try, period

How to explore JB like a pro

Don’t get us wrong, JB’s a fantastic destination if you don’t quite have the time to plan a cross-continental trip. And there’s nothing wrong with making a stop at these spots if you’re visiting for the first time; they’re popular for a reason.

However, this writer wonders if that time spent waiting in line at overpopulated cafes is truly the best use of our hours across the border. If you’ve ticked off all the things to do in JB near the Causeway, it’s time to consider these tips so you can explore JB like a pro.

For more JB reads:

Cover image adapted from: @smalllfoodie via Instagram, Khoo Yong Hao


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