Causeway Link VTL Bus from Johor Bahru Larkin Sentral to Singapore Queen Street Bus Terminal (Bugis) Experience

Causeway Link VTL Bus from Johor Bahru Larkin Sentral to Singapore Queen Street Bus Terminal (Bugis)

Causeway Link VTL Bus is a VTL-Land bus service which plies between Johor Bahru Larkin Sentral and Singapore Queen Street Bus Terminal (Bugis) for VTL-Land Travellers only.

I managed to snag a Causeway Link VTL Bus ticket on the first day of quota increase on 20 December 2021 along with the new rule of Singapore citizens being allowed to enter Malaysia with the land VTL. I’ve never been so excited to visit JB, even though this short overnight trip will have no train rides involved.

Tickets for the Causeway Link VTL Bus were surprisingly easy to get with not much queue on the first day of quota increase for some strange reason. It was so easy that I couldn’t believe my ticket was in my email after payment, expecting some form of error throwing me back into the queue.

I bought my Causeway Link VTL Bus ticket while Grabbing to Batu Caves to catch the KTM Komuter Klang Valley Sector 2033dn* from Batu Caves on the second last day of my Revenge Travel Semenanjung trip. I was absolutely elated as it totally diminished the imminent prospect of leaving Peninsular Malaysia again till further notice, now that I have a ticket to go to JB again.

*Sorry, long long way to go for me to write the KTM Komuter Klang Valley Sector 2033dn post.

1-Night JB VTL Trip from Singapore Itinerary

Johor Bahru Larkin Sentral

I arrived at Larkin Sentral at 12pm, in good time for my 1.30pm Causeway Link VTL Bus departure.

Ah, I think I know where to head to.

Causeway Link VTL Bus Check-In

Both Causeway Link VTL Bus and Transtar Travel VTL Bus passengers must first head to Larkin Sentral Centralised Ticketing System (CTS) Counters 1 to 4 to print out a boarding pass and make payment for usage of Larkin Sentral facilities.

Larkin Sentral Centralised Ticketing System (CTS) Boarding Pass

A total of RM2 is charged by Larkin Sentral – RM1 for the boarding pass printing and RM1 for the usage of Larkin Sentral. The RM2 goes to Larkin Sentral and does not go to any bus operator, so don’t go and destroy Causeway Link and Transtar on Facebook for this charge.

My CTS boarding pass for my my 1.30pm Causeway Link VTL Bus from Johor Bahru Larkin Sentral to Singapore Queen Street Bus Terminal (Bugis).

A coloured sticker will also be issued to be pasted on your shirt. Do not lose this sticker – it means you are travelling on VTL.

Next, head towards the Express Bus Departure Hall Gates 5-14, but don’t enter yet.

First VTL-Land Document Checks by Causeway Link

Proceed to the Causeway Link VTL Bus counter beside the Express Bus Departure Hall Gates 5-14 for document checking.

Head to the end of the queue lines across the CTS ticket kiosks to enter the document check area.

Causeway Link VTL Bus uses a service number of VTL1. It is not known if Transtar Travel VTL Bus‘ service number is VTL2 but not published.

This Causeway Link VTL Bus counter will check for:

After checking my Causeway Link VTL Bus boarding pass, a stamp was affixed.

Raffles Medical Pre-Departure Antigen Test Certificate
Larkin Sentral VTL On Arrival Testing Certificate

I showed both my Raffles Medical Pre-Departure Antigen Test Certificate from Singapore which was still valid, and my Larkin Sentral VTL On Arrival Testing Certificate which was still valid. Both were accepted without any issues. Guess I didn’t need to get the extra CLEA certificate after all for this 1-night trip, but it’s still RM15 well spent for a confirm-pass certificate if needed.

After checking through my file of the rest of the documents, a stamp was affixed on my Causeway Link VTL Bus ticket print-out.

Entering Express Bus Departure Hall

Once done, enter the Express Bus Departure Hall for Gates 5-14.

Do note a conflicting timing here. Instructions are to enter the Express Bus Departure Hall latest 30 minutes before departure. However, the CTS gates only allow for entry from 30 minutes before departure.

The Express Bus Departure Hall is the same entrance used for domestic express buses as well.

I wanted to enter the Express Bus Departure Hall early to make sure I don’t miss my Causeway Link VTL Bus (thus ending up with a quarantine in Singapore and S$160 poorer with a PCR test at Woodlands), but CTS wouldn’t let me in.

I wanted a RM1 Frozen Coca-Cola™ from McDonald’s, but lo and behold, McDonald’s is shut.

Seems like McDonald’s Larkin Sentral has been shut since RMCO. A true sign of the state of affairs when even McDonald’s is low on business.

I ensured that I was at the CTS gate 30 minutes before departure time to ensure a smooth boarding process to Singapore as there was no next-bus chances with VTL.

VTL Departure Hall

Causeway Link VTL Bus and Transtar Travel VTL Bus passengers continue on to the VTL Departure Hall on the left.

Here, another queue was formed. I wonder why.

Turns out there’s another counter ahead.

Second VTL-Land Document Checks by Causeway Link

This Causeway Link VTL Bus counter will check for:

The counter then informs to keep the boarding pass but ready the printed copy of Causeway Link VTL Bus ticket from now till Woodlands Checkpoint. Remember that the boarding pass is for Larkin Sentral’s CTS use, simply for the QR code. The printed copy of Causeway Link VTL Bus ticket is for actual VTL process use.

Boarding

Individual bus drivers will call out for departure times. Once heard, proceed to the open departure gate.

Hello PC6666J again, but I’m not boarding Transtar Travel VTL Bus this time.

The Causeway Link VTL Buses are parked just ahead.

Prepare your printed copy of Causeway Link VTL Bus ticket (NOT boarding pass).

The printed copy of Causeway Link VTL Bus ticket is checked and your name and seat number will be ticked off on the passenger list.

Scan the MySejahtera QR code on the Causeway Link VTL Bus to check-in.

Luggage can be left in the wheelchair / standing area by the middle door.

All passengers must follow their ticketed seat number. For me, I chose my favourite seat right at the back on the Yutong ZK6126HG for that bit of extra space by the side for my backpack.

The view of the Yutong ZK6126HG Causeway Link VTL Bus from my back row seat.

Pre-Departure Briefing

Interestingly, while some departure times use 2 buses, splitting the 45 passengers into 2 groups, and whole the front portion of the bus reserved for luggage storage, seats on my 1.30pm Causeway Link VTL Bus were fully utilised.

This means lesser space for luggage storage, and 4 unlucky passengers sitting in reverse on this journey.

A pre-departure brief was carried out by Causeway Link VTL Bus staff reminding passengers on 3 prohibited items to throw away if any is held in our possession – cigarettes, vape, and chewing gum.

Even if it’s just 1 stick, passengers are told to throw it away right there and then before the bus departs to prevent hiccups at Woodlands Checkpoint – if 1 passenger gets sent to the office, the whole batch of VTL passengers on the bus must wait.

My 1.30pm Causeway Link VTL Bus reversed out of the berth at 1.40pm – 10 minutes late. But it’s 10 minutes more spent bus-watching in Larkin Sentral, so I guess that’s fine.

See you hopefully soon again, Malaysia. Let this not be another 2 years till I return.

Exiting from a rather empty Larkin Sentral. Even express bus business is down.

As compared with my onward Transtar Travel VTL Bus trip which has coach-like seats, the Causeway Link Yutong ZK6126HG is after all a city bus. Legroom is cramped, but it is what you would expect on a public bus.

Perhaps my seat situation with the tight legroom, backpack half on my lap, important file with all my VTL-necessary documents on the side, and camera in hand can be described by Mark Lee’s news report.

Passing by a very dead Danga City Mall.

Making the fateful turn left at Danga City Mall towards Bangunan Sultan Iskandar (BSI).

For those that insist that the VTL train is coming soon, here’s your concrete proof that it won’t.

Turning into Bangunan Sultan Iskandar (BSI).

Bangunan Sultan Iskandar (BSI)

Arrival at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar (BSI) was quite normal, just like CW2 in the good old days.

Passengers must bring down all belongings for immigration and customs clearance.

VTL-Land Document Checks by Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia

For whatever reason, there was another round of VTL document checks for Singapore by Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia at the immigration counter itself before being stamped out of Malaysia.

Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia will check for:

I’m not sure why Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia is checking for documents that the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore requires. Maybe it’s to filter out VTL and non-VTL passengers, but the immigration counters itself are separate already.

Once stamped out, pass your bags through customs. Thereafter, follow the VTL path.

VTL buses use Platform B.

Heading down the escalator to Platform B. Feels like catching the CW1, CW2, or CW5.

Third VTL-Land Document Checks by Causeway Link

The fun does not stop yet. A third round of document checks are conducted by Causeway Link again here at JB Sentral before re-boarding the bus to go to Singapore.

This Causeway Link VTL Bus counter and/or staff will check for:

  • Printed copy of Causeway Link VTL Bus ticket
  • Printed copy of vaccination certificate
  • Printed copy of pre-departure negative COVID-19 PCR or ART test result

Once done with the document checks, re-board the bus.

The PAJ Shuttle Bus Service for Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) travellers uses Platform A for non-VTL passengers under Category (II).

Goodbye and thank you Malaysia for your food once again.

Zooming on the empty flyover towards the Johor-Singapore Causeway.

Passing by the railway tracks which does not have trains on it, with the line between JB Sentral and Kempas Baru gone at the moment.

Crossing into Singapore.

Woodlands Checkpoint

The procedures at Woodlands Checkpoint were surprisingly straightforward, but maybe it’s because I’m a returning Singapore Citizen under VTL.

VTL-Land Document Checks by Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA)

When first accessing the Arrival Hall, there will be a line with ICA officers checking documents before redirecting you to respective counters.

As a Singapore Citizen, I was only checked for my pre-departure negative COVID-19 ART test result before being immediately directed to the eIACS gate for automated clearance. Perhaps all my data is inside already.

BUT, I think Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will check everyone else for:

  • Passport (obviously)
  • Singapore NRIC or Re-Entry Permit (for Singapore Permanent Residents only)
  • Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP) (for Singapore Long-Term Pass holders only)
  • Vaccination certificate
  • Pre-departure negative COVID-19 PCR or ART test result
  • SG Arrival Card (SGAC)

Immigration was quick and easy as usual with eIACS, now that I know how to position my face for the new face scanner thingy, and there were no queues at customs because there was no crowd. Also, I didn’t do any shopping, bring in any food, and I had a plastic belt on, so I was through customs in less than 30 seconds.

And for a final blast of fun, once downstairs at the coach bay, Causeway Link will check for:

After re-boarding the bus, I could finally keep my important file in my bag.

All paperwork to enter Singapore via VTL is now completed on my end, although the arrival procedures are still not finished yet thanks to Omicron. An on-arrival ART test awaits at Queen Street Bus Terminal.

The Causeway Link VTL Bus takes the same route as CW2 to Queen Street Bus Terminal.

Haven’t seen this view of Singapore from on board Causeway Link for a long time.

Exiting from the PIE at Whitley Road.

Turning on to Dunearn Road at Stevens MRT Station.

Flying over Newton Circus.

Passing by Little India.

Overtaking the domestic express BKE-PIE bus which is SMRT Express Bus Service 960e.

Turning in to Queen Street Bus Terminal.

Singapore Queen Street Bus Terminal (Bugis)

The Causeway Link VTL Bus stopped at the Queen Street Bus Terminal, away from the arrival berth.

Staff on hand guide arriving VTL passengers straight to the Queen Street Bus Terminal COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test (ART) Quick Test Centre (QTC).

On-Arrival COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test (ART)

All arriving VTL-Land passengers must undergo an on-arrival COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test (ART) at Queen Street Bus Terminal.

First, check-in with TraceTogether-only SafeEntry.

Note that there is no SafeEntry Gateway (SEGW) check-in Box or staff with mobile devices with the SafeEntry (Business) App, so you MUST have Singapore data to scan the TraceTogether QR code. If you do not have data, make friends with your seat neighbour for him or her to hotspot you.

Next, a staff will provide a form with a QR code and stickers. Scan the QR code to register for the on-arrival COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test (ART) on your phone. You MUST have Singapore data to scan the on-arrival COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test (ART) QR code. Write your email and contact number on the reverse side of the form.

Once done, ready the MOH SMS and show it to the counter to make payment of S$15 for the on-arrival COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test (ART). Mastercard, NETS, PayNow, and Visa are accepted.

With the receipt, proceed to the self-swab station. This was more straightforward than a QTC. All I had to do was swab myself and hand the swab to the attending nurse. No mixing and dropping needed by me.

Following which, it was the waiting game at the waiting area. This took about 20 minutes. Look out for the last 3 digits or letters on your form. Your phone will also buzz at this point of time with another SMS. Once called, scan the QR code at the counter, and you are free to go.

There are no further immediate VTL arrival restrictions like having to Grab back home or having ICA video call you to see if you’re at home. You can leave Queen Street Bus Terminal by any means.

Free to leave

I was certified negative at 3.46pm, making this a journey of 3 hours and 46 minutes since my early arrival at Larkin Sentral, or 2 hours and 16 minutes from scheduled departure time (excluding delays) till freedom in Singapore time.

The next batch of VTL passengers prepare to return to JB.

Jalan Besar MRT Station

From Queen Street Bus Terminal, I walked behind to Jalan Besar MRT Station to make my way home via the Downtown Line.

Yes, this is perfectly allowed with VTL-Land, with my negative test result already issued from the Queen Street Bus Terminal COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test (ART) Quick Test Centre (QTC).

Conclusion

A stark contrast to my onward Transtar Travel VTL Bus trip, no reunions were made with anyone at Queen Street Bus Terminal. WhatsApp video calls were still on-going, but it’s mainly about goodbyes, how tickets were impossible to get for the next trip back, or when work will start again.

Which is a very accurate representation on the key users of the VTL-Land and who it’s really targetted towards.

The VTL-Land is unfortunately not a magic spell to restore cross-border economic revival. Singaporean tourists (except me maybe) are not rushing to visit JB, even with a VTL. While weekend trips are possible again, the prospect of up to 11 COVID-19 tests for a 1 night trip to JB makes users think twice, thrice, perhaps 11 times before booking that popular bus ticket.

Here’s my COVID-19 ART testing regime for my 1 night JB VTL trip:

  1. SG Day -1: Pre-Departure Test for Malaysia
  2. JB Day 1: On-Arrival Test for Malaysia at Larkin Sentral
  3. JB Day 1: Pre-Departure Test for Singapore on CLEA (because Larkin said their certificate wont be valid for pre-departure, but I’ve proven it otherwise)
  4. JB Day 2: Self Test for Malaysia on MySejahtera
  5. JB Day 2 / SG Day 1: On-Arrival Test for Singapore at Queen Street Bus Terminal
  6. SG Day 2: Unsupervised self-administered ART
  7. SG Day 3: Supervised self-administered ART at QTC/CTC
  8. SG Day 4: Unsupervised self-administered ART
  9. SG Day 5: Unsupervised self-administered ART
  10. SG Day 6: Unsupervised self-administered ART
  11. SG Day 7: Supervised self-administered ART at QTC/CTC

Yeah, that’s quite different than simply walking out of Queen Street Bus Terminal from CW2.

Nevertheless, even though I’m the odd one out on both bus journeys as a Singaporean, I’m thankful for the opportunity to visit Malaysia again. I’ve had the privilege to do it both by air and by land, and it’s now obvious to me which is the far better option now.

If I can afford the time and secure bus tickets again, the VTL is still a positive prospect after an almost 2-year travel hiatus, but perhaps for a longer trip instead to even out the work done for the antigen tests. Absence does make the heart fonder, and the food taste better.

I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again.

1-Night JB VTL Trip from Singapore Itinerary

6 comments

  1. Thanks for the super comprehensive write up. Singaporean here as well, and definitely looking forward to weekend trips via the VTL bus service and hope for the quota to go up so more Malaysians can get to reunite!

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