From The Straits Times    |

Photo: The Brew Orchestra / Facebook

Crossing the border from Singapore into Johor Bahru is like stepping into a time machine, and going back to an era when people could actually afford to have a few beers after work without worrying about having wasted all the money they’d spent the whole day earning.

You’ve probably already tried to sneak in pirated DVDs from JB. But that’s not the only thing our neighbours up north have got to offer. Here are seven things you can do or buy in JB for cheap.

Singaporeans aren’t the only ones who enjoy hopping from hipster cafe to hipster cafe. JB has been hit by the hipster cafe invasion, too, with the main difference being that prices, while still inflated by Malaysian standards, are significantly lower than in Singapore. Notable cafes with amazing decor include The Brew OrchestraFaculty of Caffeine and The Replacement – Lodge and Kitchen. You can get a decent main course for about MYR 18 (SGD 6) to MYR 25 (SGD 8).

Photo: GIPHY

Haircuts and hair treatment

If you’re not a QB HairHouse kinda guy/girl, you may be a bit wary of heading to Malaysia for your haircuts. But the beauty of getting your mullet reshaped in JB is that you can well afford to visit a higher end salon.

And even if you don’t want to get your hair styled in JB because you haven’t found a stylist you can trust, you can still do hair treatments there at a fraction of the price. Compare the prices at chains like Reds and Jantzen with their Singapore counterparts and you’ll find they’re easily 30 percent to 50 percent lower.


Massage and spa treatments

One reason Singaporeans are so much more stressed out than their Malaysian counterparts could be because a massage is so damn expensive here that we never get to relax! In Malaysia, on the other hand, you can get a very good 60 minute massage for less than SGD 20.

There’s a huge variety of spas to choose from, and almost every shopping mall will have a place you can get a good rub down.

Medications and TCM treatments

Many medications cost a bomb in Singapore. Hop over the Causeway and hit up a clinic or pharmacy there instead—if you don’t want to take a cab, you can just walk across to City Square Mall. You can buy many drugs over the counter in Malaysia, one example being the contraceptive pill, whereas you would need to waste time and money procuring a doctor’s prescription in Singapore.

Photo: GIPHY


Like nothing better than to belt out the latest Jay Chou tunes in a roomful of people who have no choice but to sit and listen since they’ve paid for the privilege? Do it in JB instead, where it’s cheaper. That way, you won’t feel bitter about wasting too much money if your tone-deaf friend hogs the mike all day.

Neway Karaoke Box, a karaoke chain with an outlet at City Square Mall just across the Causeway, charges about MYR 33 (SGD 11) for their dinner buffet package, which includes a whole culinary spread.

Glasses, contact lenses and contact lens solution

Singapore is the most myopic country in the world, and if you meet someone who’s not wearing glasses he’s almost definitely wearing contacts or has gone for LASIK. That’s why it’s such a relief to hear that disposable contact lenses, contact lens solution and spectacles are all cheaper in Malaysia. At least being broke doesn’t have to mean going blind now.

Photo: GIPHY

Wedding photography and bridal services

So your parents have insisted you throw a lavish wedding banquet and you’re already worried that it’s going to be 10 years before you’ll be able to afford to buy your marital home. If you’re set on booking a bridal package in Singapore that includes photography, makeup and outfits, you can save quite a bit by patronising a bridal studio in JB instead.

Some JB-based bridal studios even hold roadshows in Singapore, but you can save even more by compiling a list of studios and then calling to inquire about their charges before you head to Malaysia.

Related: Pay any amount you wish at this buffet lunch worth $76

The original version of this story was published in Money Smart on Feb 10, 2017.