SMB Express is a new player in the heavily used Kuala Lumpur – Johor Bahru express bus route. I did this journey without prior bookings as I wasn’t sure what time I would be leaving KL, and I just needed to make it in time for my Shuttle Tebrau back to Singapore later, so I just headed to Terminal Bersepatu Selatan (TBS) once I was done with KL to get my ticket on the spot this time.
Crossing the bridge from the LRT Sri Petaling Line Bandar Tasik Selatan Station.
A KLIA Transit train departing from Bandar Tasik Selatan Station.
Heading up the escalator to the TBS lobby.
The last stretch of the bridge into TBS lobby.
The main lobby of TBS.
As there was a queue to buy tickets, I headed to the ticket machines to see if there’s any crowd there too.
Nope, not as popular here. In fact, I see an empty kiosk in the middle.
Purchasing my SMB Express ticket from the ticket kiosk.
My ticket for the SMB Express bus ride from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan Kuala Lumpur to Larkin Sentral Johor Bahru. This costs only RM25 – potentially the cheapest ticket ever from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru.
Heading down to Gate 16 for departure.
Scanning my ticket at the ticket gate to enter the departure area.
Taking the escalator down to the gates.
Gate 16 is just up ahead.
A Causeway Link bus was there departing to Larkin Sentral too.
The 3pm Causeway Link departure was still boarding at 3.06pm.
At 3.19pm, 4 minutes after the scheduled departure timing, the screen was changed to “delayed”. Great.
Slightly after 3.30pm, the TBS staff manning Gate 16 escorted me over to Gate 7 where “my bus” was departing. I guess this is a combined bus with the 3.30pm departure then.
My SMB Express bus waiting at Gate 7 for me.
The empty interior of the SMB Express bus. Looks like it’s just me on board my private stretch limousine.
Departing from TBS slightly after 3.30pm, and more than 15 minutes late from my scheduled ticketed departure at 3.15pm.
My original seat was chosen at Seat 6A, but now that I have 30 seats to myself, I decided to stretch out wherever I felt like it.
The reasonable amount of legroom on this 30-seater Super VIP bus.
Sorry Easybook, I booked my ticket on the spot at TBS this time.
There are two types of seat numbers on board the bus, in running order and in rows with letter suffixes, so whatever the seat assignment on the booking system is sold in, there would be no problems with the seat assignment.
The view of the bus from my seat.
Turning away from the railway tracks.
Heading through Sungai Besi toll.
Heading down the North-South Expressway smoothly and uneventfully. The bus driver drove at a constant 79km/h which was safely annoying with other buses overtaking me.
Rather surprisingly, SMB Express operates with two drivers on board, with the other driver taking a break on the KL – Yong Peng stretch in the passenger area.
After about 2 and a half hours of driving from KL, the bus pulled into Yong Peng Lucky Garden for a 10-minute rest stop.
Alighting from the SMB Express bus at Yong Peng Lucky Garden.
The SMB Express bus has a surprisingly spotless exterior with a stylish swoosh livery. The red, grey and white does remind me a bit of SM
RT B uses though, though it’s probably purely coincidental since the parent company is called Syarikat MB Sooria Sathian Resources (M) Sdn Bhd.
Heading into the food court to find the toilet.
The toilets are no longer up front, probably forcing you to walk through the entire food court first.
The toilets are at the end of the food court before the local goods mart.
Heading back out to the bus bay to wait for my bus. The break turned out to be 20 minutes instead.
Heading back into the bus with a passenger I might have missed in TBS.
Departing from Yong Peng Lucky Garden with the second driver now taking over the bus, and the initial driver taking a break.
Heading back into the North-South Expressway.
Continuing down south.
Exiting at Skudai Toll Plaza.
Heading down Jalan Bertingkat Skudai to Larkin Sentral.
Approaching Larkin Sentral.
Turning into the bus lane into Larkin Sentral.
The bus driver checking in the bus to Larkin Sentral.
Turning into the arrival berth.
Arrived at Larkin Sentral at 8.00pm, making this a journey time of around 4 hours and 30 minutes, taking into account my actual departure time rather than scheduled departure time. Factoring in my scheduled departure instead, the journey took 4 hours and 45 minutes.
Heading out of the arrival berth area.
Passing through the turnstiles into Larkin Sentral Bus Terminal.
Overall, a surprisingly pleasant journey with SMB Express despite the lowest fare ever on the KL – JB route. Being a new company, I wasn’t sure if I could rely on it much, but with an on-time (second bus) departure, comfortable seats, a safe (but a bit too slow for my liking) driving, and with two drivers on board to ensure none gets tired of driving, SMB Express seems like a safe choice to be on the roads with.
Their schedule as posted at TBS, however, looks too good to be true at frequent departures at 3.15pm and 3.30pm, with me predicting that they’ll have a “combined bus” to fill up the seats, and true enough, they did. But thankfully, even with such a light load, they did not cancel my bus trip, and I had the feeling of a private stretch limo to bring me from KL to JB.
SMB Express certainly now has my vote as one of the trusted buses to be on simply because they drive safely and with two drivers per trip – something that some buses even to Singapore lack. They, however, should fix their ambitious schedule to an actual schedule instead. If given a chance by the public to try out their service rather than having them run empty buses, I believe they’ll do even better in future.