Even after doing the maths – comparing cost and time required to travel, it seems like taking budget airlines to Kuala Lumpur (KL) is a better option than taking a luxury bus. But there are actually other factors to consider before jumping into the conclusion.
Beware Hidden Fees
Budget airlines are the biggest ‘culprits’ of this. Even if you don’t have any check-in luggage and you don’t intend to drink or eat on the plane, there are still other ‘hidden fees’ to note: airport taxes, ‘convenience’ fees or ‘booking’ fees imposed by budget airlines can add up towards your trip, making it as costly as taking, for example, an express coach.
On the other hand, some express buses advertise without including Goods and Services Tax (GST – currently 7% in Singapore) in the bus fare, so do clarify with the bus operator as it can all add up.
How much time can you spare?
Taking a bus to KL has become faster and easier with the North-South highway connections, but the overall time taken to coach is still much longer. For one, the coach has to maneuver the peak period traffic to get to the Checkpoints. Coach passengers need to alight twice from the coach per way (so it’s four times for a return trip) at both the Singapore and JB side for immigration clearance.
If you opt to take a bus from Johor Bahru (JB), you can ‘manage’ your time by dropping by the Larkin Terminal a few days before the actual trip to pre-book tickets. If you don’t, be prepared for multiple stops (read: longer traveling times).
How much inconvenience can you bear?
The level of comfort on a luxury coach surpasses that of an express bus or budget airline. However, if you choose to travel by coach, you will still need to alight twice at the immigration checkpoints, and carry all your belongings through the security checks. There is a lot more walking involved when traveling by coach than by air. And it can get very crowded during peak times and the coaches have this knack of reaching the checkpoints at peak time.
If you choose to travel by ‘normal’ bus to KL, you go with the flow: don’t get to choose bus quality; you don’t get to choose seats, there are no snacks, and you also don’t get to choose which routes they ply.
Transfers to your final destination
Once, we were dropped off at Golden Mile Complex in Singapore by the coach. We waited an hour in line for a taxi and it was not even 9pm on a weekday!
The same goes for getting to your pick-up and drop-off location. This can add costs (read: time and money) to your trip.
On our recent KL trip, we were fortunate our hotel we chose was within walking distance to the coach’s pick-up location – all thanks to the good advice by the travel agent. Even then, it took us a good 15 minutes to walk there.
Sometimes, the ‘best’ deals for budget flights are also ‘unearthly’ times like 5am in the morning. Assuming there are no public buses and trains operating at that time, your only option would be to take a taxi – and pay additional for late-night charges.
Luggage Size Restrictions
Budget airlines are typically the strictest about luggage. If you like to shop, or intend to shop and buy quite a bit, then the carry-on baggage policy imposed by budget airlines is not going to suit you.
Most coaches are pretty relaxed about luggage space – but bear in mind that you will have to lug through customs what you carry – and there is a fair bit of walking to do within the checkpoint area.
After considering all these factors, whether your final decision is to take budget airlines to KL or a bus to KL, you have pretty much made a wise choice.