It seems like such a hassle to go through customs, brave long queues and waits, and cross the border just to pinch a few pennies. But once you calculate the price differences between the goods in Singapore and Johor Bahru, you’d likely turn into a frequent traveller.
Of course, not everything is cheaper in Malaysia. Certain spa chains, for instance, might be pricier than those in Singapore. There’s also the issue of convenience. You could get more affordable furniture in Johor, but do you really want to drag all those unassembled planks through immigration?
Here’s a guide on what to shop for instead — and the best places for each category — that will make the journey worth your while.
You’ve seen people lugging trolleys of produce at the bus terminals to and from Johor Bahru. They do it religiously, making the journey in the morning every week to save two-thirds of their grocery budget. It’s the most obvious category to take advantage of, considering that groceries are a necessity and need to be replenished a few times a month. Granted that most wet markets in Singapore already offer rather dirt-cheap prices, and as long as you’re not cooking gourmet, grocery shopping should be relatively budget-friendly. Still, it doesn’t hurt to get a better deal if you’re on a budgeting spree.
In fact, if you’re shopping for fancier labels and higher quality goods, you should skip local marts for the Cold Storage and Tesco outlets in Johor Bahru. The same bottle of wine could be priced $5 cheaper in Johor, and you could get three beef rounds in Johor for the price of two in Singapore. One of the cheapest products to buy is baby formula. A 900g can of FRISO Gold Stage 4 typically goes for $39 in Singapore, but only $18.43 in Johor.
2. Dental services
In Singapore, a root canal could cost anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500; a mini implant could go for a staggering $40,000; and getting braces would likely set you back between $3,500 and $6,000. Couple that with your routine dental checks, which should technically be a bi-annual affair in case you develop gum disease later in life and regret blue-ticking your dentist, and your bank account would end up taking some major hits. The solution lies across the border.
You might have come across some hearsay about the quality of dental services on the other side of the causeway, but that’s not necessarily true. Dental Clinic C.H. Tee, for one, is a reputable (and a highly affordable) option that has seen a rising number of Singapore clients, charging about $200 per tooth for a root canal and $33 for scaling and polishing.
3. Fashion items
Have you been eyeing a specific pair of Nike runners? Are you getting ready to hand your credit card over to Uniqlo and H&M for the CNY season? Stop what you’re doing, and take a day trip to Johor. You’ll probably find everything that’s on your fashion wish list for a fraction of the price. The difference could be anywhere from a $10 to a $30 saving.
Not to mention, thrift shopping in Johor is another game-changer, where vintage threads can be bought from establishments such as Rossie Inc and Big Bundle for $1 or $2. Brands Outlet, Sport Planet Warehouse Outlet and, the jewel in the crown, Johor Premium Outlets, are all must-visits. During the sales period, you could snag luxury goods from Coach and Versace at as low as 70% off — and that’s on top of the currency difference.
4. Movie tickets
As much as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are the way forward when it comes to watching TV and films, it’s natural that we find ourselves craving the large-scale experience at the cinema, complete with surround-sound systems and 20-metre wide screens. But watching a flick the traditional way in Singapore isn’t the cheapest hobby around. You’d have to be a student or senior citizen who’s free on weekday afternoons to get the best deals. Still, most ticket prices hover around $5 to $10.
Why not satisfy your movie-viewing urges in Johor, where it costs less than half the price? Lotus Five Star charges about $4 per ticket, TGV Cinemas charges about $5, and MBO Cinemas, for a weekend ticket, charges $3.60. It’s clearly no competition.
5. Beauty products
Another shopping category that burns a significant hole in our pockets is undoubtedly skincare and cosmetic goods. They make regular appearances in a woman’s expense tracker, and the worst part is, you might be paying $100 for a tiny amount of usable product. Opting for cheaper options may also result in skin damage due to unsafe, sub-par ingredients. And drugstore lipsticks aren’t the most flattering. Instead of torturing your wallet at Singapore’s Sephora outlets, head over its sister branches in Johor, where the same products are sold much cheaper. The Too Faced Born This Way Foundation, for instance, costs $47.44 ($61 in Singapore) while the Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Hi-Lustre is priced at $39.81 ($52 in Singapore).
6. F&B dining
It’s common knowledge that Johor is the best place to visit for foodies. Savour top-notch dim sum at Tasixi Hong Kong Dim Sum, Restoran Hwa Yi, Restoran Changman Dim Sum, and Restoran Gim Cheng for $7 per person. Gorge on the cheapest buffets at the iconic PolkaDot Buffet Steamboat & Grill Maur for $6.50 per adult. Navigate your way to Todak Seafood Restaurant, which serves the freshest crabs for $2.63 per 100g. The list is, quite literally, endless. You’ll want to come in the airiest tops and the most elastic pair of sweatpants you have.
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By Marie Cheng
Marie is a self-diagnosed cheapskate, who once went dumpster diving and returned with a luggage of free loot. Nothing excites her more than stumbling upon vintage gems with wholesale price tags at the flea market.