Regardless of race, language or religion, Singaporeans love to do our festive shopping across the border in Johor Bahru.
Whether you’re buying Chinese New Year goodies, Hari Raya baju, Deepavali snacks or Christmas gifts — JB shopping malls do not discriminate — it will confirm be cheaper than in Singapore.
The question is, which of JB’s shopping malls should you hit up first? After all, some shopping malls in JB are more like giant air-conditioned food courts and aren’t exactly great for a shop-a-thon.
Plus, there have been so many new shopping malls in JB in the past couple of years, it’s hard to keep track of what each mall has.
To help you out, here’s a list of the best shopping malls in JB for actual shopping (not eating or massage).
City Square is basic but ultra-convenient: Literally the very first shopping mall you see right after you clear immigration at JB customs, and it’s still the best-known and most popular of the JB shopping malls..
It’s not really great for shopping; most Singaporeans come here to eat and watch movies. That said, you can sometimes snag cheap and legit festive goodies if there’s a fair going on at the atrium.
Like City Square JB, KSL City Mall is another JB shopping mall that should at least sound familiar to most Singaporeans. It’s about a 10 minute Grab ride or drive away from customs.
KSL Mall is massive compared to both City Square and Komtar JBCC, and it has a very eclectic mix of tenants including lots of Miniso-type barang barang shops.
If you’re looking for random stocking-fillers, this is the kind of place you’d go to pick up RM3 (S$1) phone cases and the like.
You might also want to try the huge Tesco hypermart at KSL Mall for Christmas goodies too.
Oh and while you’re in the area, you could also swing by Holiday Plaza JB, which is a much shabbier shopping mall.
There’s not much going on shopping-wise, but I have heard that you can get really cheap haircuts, manicures and massages.
One of the newer (est. 2017) and more successful shopping malls in JB, Paradigm Mall is now heavily frequented by Singaporean day-trippers.
But you’d never know it. Paradigm Mall is so huge that it never feels crowded.
The main draws here are the activities (indoor rock climbing and ice skating, both way cheaper than in Singapore) but the shopping is decent, too.
Personally I like Paradigm Mall for home & furnishing stuff. There’s a big Harvey Norman for appliances, HomePro (Malaysia’s Home Depot) for DIY things, Akemiuchi for bedding, and Kaison and Romantika for stuffed toys and home decor.
But because it’s so huge, there’s also a little bit of everything here, from H&M to Toys R Us to Pet Lovers Centre. See the Paradigm Mall directory here.
The Mall Mid Valley Southkey is probably the best new shopping mall in JB that opened in 2019. Like Paradigm Mall, Mid Valley Southkey is HUGE, and it’ll take you the entire day to finish walking through it.
Singaporeans of a certain age are also very very excited about its flagship tenant, Japanese department store Sogo.
The rest of the shops here are on the higher end of the SES scale, and wouldn’t look out of place in Ion Orchard. Think Muji, Coach, Kate Spade and JD Sports.
Two more novelties at Mid Valley Southkey to get excited about: DIN by Din Tai Fung (the no-pork version of DTF, finally within Singaporeans’ reach!) and classic Japanese combini Family Mart (also missing from SG).
IKEA Malaysia’s massive Tebrau outlet is about to triple in size with a brand new shopping mall attachment called Toppen JB. It officially opens on 13 Nov 2019.
I don’t know how good it will be for shopping, but anchor tenants like gourmet supermarket Ben’s Independent Grocer and e-sports venue The Pantheon seem promising.
If all else fails you can pop over to Aeon Tebrau City nearby for some proper shopping. This Aeon Mall is pretty high-end for JB and has a bit of that MBS / Jewel vibe.
Another major Aeon shopping mall in JB — seems like Aeon is the CapitaLand Mall of Johor? — that would be of interest to westies is Aeon Bukit Indah, which is only 20 minutes’ drive away from Tuas Link.
This allows you to sidestep the horrible traffic around Woodlands checkpoint, on both sides (Singapore and JB). Plus, Bukit Indah is just a lot less… messy.
Shopping-wise, Aeon Bukit Indah is pretty basic, similar to City Square JB. It certainly doesn’t have the superstar appeal of Aeon Tebrau City or The Mall, Mid Valley Southkey.
But if you’re not fussed you can get basic items at the hypermart here (or the Tesco just down the street).
Okay, this is quite far away from the JB city centre and requires quite a bit of travelling (at least 40 minutes by car).
But if you love designer clothes, Johor Premium Outlets is a must-visit factory outlet. It’s the closest thing we have to one of those American-style factory outlet villages.
It feels like a perpetual Club 21 sale here. In fact, there’s a Club 21 Outlet store here, alongside a ton of “masstige” brands like Coach, Jimmy Choo and Kate Spade. Lots of athleisure brands too, like Lululemon, Under Armour and Adidas.
Enough name-dropping — you can see the full Johor Premium Outlets store directory.
There’s lots of amenities and F&B options here so you actually can spend the entire day here quite comfortably.
One of the newest shopping malls in JB is R & F Mall, which is located right within the R & F Princess Cove apartments (right at the edge of Johor, facing Singapore).
R & F Mall is supposedly a 10-minute sheltered walk from JB Customs, but the path is a little tricky to find and you might need to ask around.
The fact that it’s new and within walking distance is the main reason to visit R & F Mall.
According to Google reviews, the mall still has a lot of vacant units, and there don’t seem to be any standouts among the current tenants.
Located quite close to KSL Mall, Plaza Pelangi is a quiet, nondescript (but comfortable) shopping mall with shops selling mainly electronics.
I gather Plaza Pelangi is something like the Sim Lim Square or pre-renovation Funan Mall of JB.
If you’re looking for a cheap Oppo or Vivo phone or a second hand laptop, this could be a good place to visit.
Sutera Mall is one of those old-school shopping malls that only JB lao jiaos would know about.
It’s been around forever and somehow it’s still standing, even despite the arrival of big, shiny malls like KSL Mall, Aeon Tebrau City and Paradigm Mall.
It’s pretty much a Malaysian heartland mall, complete with a library and an Aeon Big supermarket.
Not much to buy here, but probably worth visiting at least once for fun / memories.
Like Sutera Mall, Angsana Mall is another older and less glamorous shopping mall in JB. But according to reviews, Angsana Mall is a great place to shop for Hari Raya preparations.
There are lots of stores selling baju kurung, Muslimah fashion and other festive stuff.
Yes, it’s yet another Aeon Mall. The Bandar Dato’Onn Aeon is one of the newer ones and is located quite some distance from JB customs (at least 30 minutes drive).
If you don’t mind the drive, it seems like a nice place to hang out as a family.
It’s not yet overcrowded with Singaporeans so prices are still on the cheap side, especially for the cinema and kids’s amusement facilities.
This story was first published in MoneySmart.