The Ultimate Layover
Breakfast in Singapore, Lunch in Malaysia

Posted by Hasin from burdie.co

May 17, 2019

I love layovers.

Not the kind of layovers where you’re rushing from one gate to another one in hopes of making your next flight. No, I’m talking about looong layovers, the kind that makes you consider whether a flight is even worth your time.

While it might sound strange, layover travel is actually a great travel hack to see new places in a short amount of time. In fact, sometimes you might even save money on your overall trip by crafting a clever layover plan. We usually think of layover travel from the perspective of a single destination—it’s just where you stop in between your departure city and final destination. However, I’ve found it’s much more fun to think of layovers as a series of destinations.

Let me show you how I do it.

The Mission: Dhaka to Melbourne

Earlier this year, I was traveling from Dhaka, Bangladesh to Melbourne, Australia. If you have ever completed this journey you know what a lengthy trip this is. In fact, with a distance of 8,903 km between the two cities, it takes around 16 to 20 hours to reach Melbourne from Dhaka. Given the lengthy distance, this was the perfect opportunity for me to indulge in a layover adventure.

I found a flight all the way to Dhaka to Melbourne with a 17 hour layover in Singapore. Having been to Singapore before on several occasions, I knew that all I wanted to do was eat. I’m a simple man.

Singapore is known for being a paradise for food lovers. The multicultural foundation of Singapore means that travelers can have Murtabak for breakfast, Nasi Lemak for lunch, and Chicken Rice for dinner. Are you hungry yet?

This was my exact plan since I was scheduled to land in Singapore around 3am. My flight arrived on time and I even had time to catch a short nap in Changi Airport, which just happens to be one of my favorite airports in Asia. The airport has extensive rest areas with reclined chairs and it even has dedicated sleep areas. In other words, it’s the perfect place to start and end a layover adventure.

The Plan: Eat My Way to Australia

Initially, I planned my day in Singapore around visiting different hawker centers throughout the day for three meals and make it back to the airport by midnight for my 3AM flight to Melbourne in the morning.

To that end I had Indian food for breakfast and Chinese for dinner. 

But for lunch I wanted something very specific. Malaysian Nasi Lemak.

So I did what any adventurous traveler would do…I went to Malaysia!

Turns out Singapore’s public transport provides an easy and quick way to travel to Johor Bahru, Malaysia. I took public transport from Chinatown in Singapore to Johor Bahru for just 4 USD, in just about an hour and half, including traffic at the border.

How You Can Do It

There are multiple ways to get to Johor Bahru from Singapore. In fact, there are actually two different border crossings that connect the two countries. I chose to go through the Woodland Checkpoint which connects Singapore to the Johor Bahru’s Sentral station.

Here are the steps I took to get from Singapore to Johor Bahru:

1. Take the metro to the Kranji MTR station, which is served the red north south line.

2. Once you arrive, follow the sign to find the SBS bus 170X with the blue plate. This is the express bus with fewer stops. Make sure to have exact change on hand if you are paying with cash. The cost is 1.50 SDG.

3. Take the bus to the Singapore immigration point. Get your exit stamp and hop on the next 170x bus, which takes you to the Malaysian Immigration point.

4. Complete your Malaysian immigration and walk through the JB Sentral station to your onward attractions in JB.

5. Repeat these same steps to get back to Singapore. You will find the 170X bus in JB Sentral. It might be a little hard to find, but following the signs should get you where you need to be.

Parting Thoughts

I spent roughly 2.5 hours traveling back and forth between two countries, which was certainly worth it in terms of cost and from an adventure perspective. I spent about two hours walking around JB, mostly stayed around JB Sentral and ate Nasi Lemak for lunch, which I was really happy about. I also didn’t notice any other travelers along the journey. It truly was a unique and non-touristy way to insert myself into the daily routine of many Singaporeans and Malaysians. I almost felt like I was a local for the day as I commuted along with people going to work or to the mall.

The whole Singapore to Johor Bahru trip was well worth the time—especially since it didn’t cost me much money. In fact, I only spent around 50 USD throughout the day in two countries. This included eating lavishly, while traveling only on public transport. At the end of the day, I was a tired when I got back to Changi Airport. But, more than that, I was happy and content.

Still not sold on layover travel? Read more about my favorite travel hack on Gone Travelling.

Hasin is the co-founder of Burdie.co, a seasoned traveler, and a professional people-watcher. Follow his adventures @iaminbrooklyn.

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