Qistna Express • Truly the Bus Ride from Hell

Qistna Express is the estranged sister company of Starmart, which can possibly stay afloat in the long-run only due to the success of the said parent company. Even with all the negative comments online and bad press, I tried it for myself anyway – and learnt that online reviews are pretty accurate.

Qistna departs from Little India Arcade at 48 Serangoon Road, facing Tekka Market.

After showing my Easybook printout to the counter, the staff ticked off my name on his booking list and shuttered down the counter. Great start. There’s also no sitting area to wait for the bus, only a small hole-in-the-wall counter as you can see.

I searched online on Easybook and Redbus before my trip, and found that the timing on Easybook states 11.45pm while Redbus shows 11.59pm, both with different seat selections.

True enough, the bus arrived at 11.50pm, but surprisingly left on the dot at 11.59pm. At least there wasn’t any double-booking on my seat.

The first thing that hit me when I boarded the bus was the extremely strong cigarette smell. I thought the online reviews were exaggerating when the driver started smoking but I was so wrong. The smell was probably embedded into the seat or something.

The staff counting off the number of people in the bus.

The rear of the bus with some empty seats, which I thought was for people boarding from Larkin.

If the interior looks a little similar, it’s because it’s the seat cloth design is the exact same one as the Starmart bus I took a few months ago. I wonder if the branding of “Star Qistna” on the exterior of my bus was because it was transferred from Starmart.

The bus went via Woodlands Checkpoint instead of Tuas Second Link as advertised on their website, but I kind of expected it already since they always have a transit stop in Larkin, and it would be kind of ridiculous to enter Malaysia via the Second Link only to return to Larkin.

The bus stopped at a Petron near Larkin to fill up on petrol but that was it – it didn’t enter the bus terminal nor pick up more passengers. I fell deep asleep at the Petron…

… only to wake up groggily at Pagoh R&R when the bus stopped for a toilet break at around 3.30am. I didn’t alight for a break since it was in the middle of the night and I didn’t drink much water to begin with, and continued my sleep with the bus engine off…

… only to be awoken by a staff telling me to change buses because “bus breakdown”.

This can’t be serious. I thought the online reviews of Qistna buses breaking down were just one-off instances. I thought to myself if this was a ploy to consolidate passengers halfway through the journey for economies of scale, and I checked the time on my phone – 6.33am.

I found that I was the last one to be transferred to the new bus, which belonged to Starmart, the parent company. And I wondered if they had actually forgotten that I was sleeping in the bus only to find me in the Qistna bus when the headcount was off.

Here’s me in my new seat because the Qistna driver said “mana-mana duduk” or sit anywhere, pulling away from the broken down Qistna bus at Pagoh R&R. The good news is that since I can sit anywhere, I found a double seat to myself for the rest of the journey. There’s no new passengers which means this was an actual replacement bus. I couldn’t fall asleep from here on since I slept pretty well for the past 3 hours. The delay was probably because they pulled the replacement bus from Larkin.

Goodbye broken down Qistna bus.

Not long after, the sun shone brightly on the highway.

I couldn’t believe it, a bus ride was actually going to take as long as the train.

On the bright side, for my future Starmart trips, is that since I was sitting on the double seat, I finally found the button for the massage for the single seat, tucked away along the aisle-side of the seat, not visible when you actually sit down.

The massage function was working on this Starmart replacement bus, which I used throughout the journey. It was more of just vibrations in the seat and not an actual trigger point massage like the Ogawa seats on Nice Imperial.

The replacement bus arriving at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, which will not continue on to My Hotel @ Bukit Bintang which was my booked destination. But considering the travel time, I would have gladly truncated my journey at TBS to stretch my legs and use the toilet anyway.

Alighting from the replacement bus.

The replacement bus finally arrived at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan at 9.02am, making this journey’s total time of 9 hours and 3 minutes. And believe it or not, I still arrived before the arrival of the new night train combination from Woodlands CIQ, which the ETS will depart at 7.30am from Gemas and only arrive in Bandar Tasik Selatan at 9.27am and KL Sentral at 9.44am.

At least with the late arrival, there wasn’t a jam to the alighting berths and it’s a quick transfer to the LRT to continue my journey to the city.

Qistna is in such a sad state of affairs despite being owned by a reputable parent company. But it’s not the only such poor subsidiary in Malaysia, you might be surprised if you know about more affiliations, which difference can be compared almost between heaven and hell. I wonder why Starmart just doesnt shut Qistna down and concentrate fully on one business.

Will I take Qistna again or recommend it to others?

NEVER. Take it at your own risk.


  1. I totally agree with the wroter. I had terrible experience communicating with the qistna counter staff located in terminal larkin johor this early april 2017. I was just asking on the availability of the ticket whether from online or on site..and the lady in charge replied to me in a such a rude way .I asked twice to reconfirm since I was told no ticket available by asking whether in the online system is it fully booked She harshly asked me back “Apa yang awak maksudkan dengan cek dalam sistem tiket da habis? ” in english translation ” what do you mean by asking whether the ticket in system has been sold out”?. I am puzzled with her harsh tone and voice.Why couldn’t she reply as simple as ‘ I am sorry maam ,all of our ticket has been sold out’. Rather than getting pissed of and make other pissed off as well. So please consider and best of all..never ever consider taking their poor service from counter to the ride.

  2. We had a shocking experience with Qistna from TBS to Singapore.
    First stop in JB Larkin , all passengers were waited for a different driver to come then forced to change from Qistna Express bus to a mini van that fit for 15 passengers, Kumar the driver came late, he then droved all passengers to JB custom and arranged us all travelled with JB Singapore Express bus to Singapore!
    We changed 3 buses in total !!
    Time wasted with lots of confusion and frustrations, bad communication within drivers and the company, everyone was in shocked!
    From 10.30 am and we finally arrived in Singapore about 7 pm. What a joke!
    No more Qistna VIP Express and it was a shocking and painful experience for all local and international passengers…

  3. Shitty service. The bus arrived 45 minutes late and there is no organization or proper communication between the drivers, operators, customers. This creates a hell of a chaos makes the customer lose time and patience. The company does’t care about the customer’s experience and the feedback

    1. dude at least your bus came, we waited for HOURS and the bus didnt even come… we paid thru our noses to fly back to singapore

  4. Please next time do not include this bus in your list

    A very terrible bus company.

    The bus that is supposed to leave at 12:15pm was moved 12:30pm, then after waiting moved to 1:30pm after that still have not arrived and moved to 2:30pm and 3:30pm until.the bus finally came at 4pm!!!

    When we reached and cleared at Malaysian immigration at Tuas we have waited another 30mins before it left and the driver announced that he need to go back to Larkin to top up petrol.

    Seriously? What joke is this.

    Now is 7:15 and I am still on my way to

  5. It’s worst experience to take Qistna!!
    Car broke down half way @ highway and waited 3 hours under hot sun.
    Don’t take this company bus for chance, or else Suffer for no reason!!

  6. They were at least half hour late in picking us up. Not sure why, as there was no traffic at 6 am. But when we were passing immigration from Woodlands, I got kicked over to the manual check. I was nearly at the front of the line, I would have gotten to the bus in 5 min or less. My girlfriend had made it onto the bus and was pleading for the bus driver to wait just 5 minutes. But then he just left! So I had to wait an extra half hour to use a different bus to cross to JB. My girlfriend had to get our bags off the bus, and we had to buy a different ticket with a different company to get to KL.

    We had also purchased a return ticket. We were there early. I was checking the license plates up and down the pile of 5-10 busses at the spot. We waited a good hour, and then we found out we had somehow missed it. I have no idea how. There were no signs, no markings on the busses, no checks to see if they have everyone, no calls for Star Qistina. Nothing.

    The whole system is incredibly cut-throat. You pay for your ticket in advance, so they have your money. And then they don’t care if they have all of their passengers along the way. I understand they can’t wait forever for everyone at all of the various check points. But they do nothing on their end to help you get on the right bus. In short, trust all of the horrendous reviews for this company, it’s a criminal organization. Don’t waste your money, and moreso don’t go through the stress.

    Here’s what we plan to do next time we want to go to KL from SG. Cab over to the border, go through immigration on our own. Come out to JB, take a bus/taxi to Larkin bus station. Pre-book a bus at Larkin to KL, because at least there you have operators you can ask, and clear boards showing you if the bus is on time or delayed.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.