A slightly different overland border crossing out of Singapore

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ April 4th, 2011. Updated on October 5th, 2013. Published in: Travel blog » Malaysia » Singapore.
Tanjong Pagar railway station at night

Tanjong Pagar railway station, the last of a rare border crossing

The closing of an old unique railway station in Singapore

The last few weeks of Malaysia’s defiant train station in Singapore are coming to an end.

(*Edit: on Thursday, June 30 2011 at 10.31pm Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in Singapore officially closed. Find out more about this once great infinite visa run, and how to cross the border in this article. Also included, the new 2013 Malaysia Singapore/ Singapore Malaysia train schedule.)

Tanjung Pagar railway station in Singapore is actually, officially, Malaysian territory. The real border is thirty minutes away, the tracks the train runs on are Malaysian and the station is still officially a part of Malaysia.

The reason for this is a 999 year lease between Singapore and Malaysia. One that the politicians have finally agreed to terminate on July 1st 2011.

In exchange for surrendering the Tanjung Pagar station to Singapore, Malaysia will get three plots of land in Singapore. Something that’s worth a lot these days.

Inside Tanjong Pagar railway station

Once inside the station in Singapore, you are officially in Malaysia

The only overland border of its kind*

So here I am, just in time, and with a purpose. To take one of the only overland border crossings in the world where you get stamped into the next country, before getting stamped out of your current country. To make it more interesting, you don’t even get a Malaysian stamp in your passport.

Tanjung Pagar railway station has been the subject of much political wrangling for many, many years. With both sides shuffling rules around to out do the other without causing serious problems.

To cut this long story short. It’s over on July 1st 2011. The official railway station for entering and leaving Singapore will now be located at Woodlands. A bus is meant to bring passengers from the station to the nearest MRT station for access to Singapore city.

Meanwhile, for the remaining few weeks, if you want a unique lack of a passport stamp into Malaysia, hurry up and take the train out of Singapore to Malaysia.

Then watch as a few, very, “long-term” tourists in Malaysia do the same thing for the last time. One of the last, good “silent” visa runs, you could do for many years whereby the officials could say nothing because international law deemed it was not a legitimate border entry either.

*Note: some great readers have passed on some information regarding a few other “irregular” borders around the world, see comments for more. 

How to get a cheap train ticket from Singapore to Malaysia

I decided to take the night train, departing at 22.30 from Singapore. It’s prompt.

A word to the wise, if at all possible buy your tickets from Malaysia, not Singapore. It’s much cheaper to buy a train ticket from Singapore to Malaysia inside Malaysia, than it is in Singapore. (this will apply when the station moves as well)

The pricing is like this: (note that Singaporean fares are the same, but in Singaporean dollars, therefore, a lot more expensive)

  • Superior seat RM34 / S$34
  • Premier sear RM68  / S$68
  • Night sleeping berth upper/lower RM40/45 / S$40/45
  • Cabin upper/lower RM118/139 / S$118/139

Singapore to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia train schedule 2013

Departing Singapore (Woodlands) 08:30 Arriving Kuala Lumpur 15:50

Departing Singapore (Woodlands) 14:00 Arriving Kuala Lumpur 22:00

Departing Singapore (Woodlands) 23:30 Arriving Kuala Lumpur 07:30

Note the train can be anywhere between 30 mins to 2 hours late

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia to Singapore (Woodlands) train schedule 2013

Departing Kuala Lumpur at 08:30 Arriving Singapore (Woodlands) at 16:30

Departing Kuala Lumpur at 14:00 Arriving Singapore (Woodlands) at 22:00

Departing Kuala Lumpur at 22:30 Arriving Singapore (Woodlands) at 07:00

Note the train can be anywhere between 30 mins to 2 hours late

You can buy some e-tickets online via the official Malaysian KTM Intercity rail website

Here is a link to the offical KTM Intercity train timetable from July 2013 (pdf)

How to get from Woodlands railway station to Singapore city information 2013

  • Coming from Malaysia via train you will depart at Woodlands and go through immigration (all passports are now stamped).
  • Once through you now need to a bus that will take you to Woodlands MRT station which is linked to the rest of Singapore’s MRT network.
  • Buses 178, 903, 911, 912 & 913, 950 all go to Woodlands MRT station. The journey time is about 10-15 minutes.
  • Buses 178, 911, 912 & 913 have shorter times at a cost of S$0.69. The other buses can cost up to S$1.10
  • Bus number 170 goes straight to Queen Street terminal which is near Bugis and Little India however factor in traffic with the time of your arrival.
  • At the MRT station a ticket will cost you S$1.10 – S$2.30 depending on your station. Do consider a EZ-Link card at the MRT station if you plan on making multiple MRT rides.
  • Total journey time should be around 60-70 minutes which includes average immigration, bus and MRT times.
  • A taxi will cost approx S$30-35 from downtown Singapore to Woodlands train station.
  • Change some money either before arriving or departing Singapore as there’s no money changer at the station.

Immigration procedure from Singapore to Malaysia by train in 2011 (note: all passports since July 1st 2011 are now stamped)

Outside of the sleeper carriage on the Singapore to Malaysia overnight train

Departing Malaysia after not getting a stamp on your passport

At about 22.15 an official will gently whisper that immigration is open inside the station. You might miss it if not for the slow-moving crowd.

Locate the official in said crowd and ask for a departure card. This is now as important as your passport (more later). The official will then randomly shout “Ten minutes to boarding!”

At which time you will see a few tourists start to panic and cause all sorts of commotion as they fumble for passports and pens to fill out their forms.

Fill the form and proceed to one of three medium-sized queues. Wait your turn and approach a sentry point, hand over your passport to a smiling official.

Then watch as they roughly flick through your passport for no reason other than for the sake of it. Then, watch as they stamp your immigration card, and hand you a passport without stamping in any evidence whatsoever that you have entered into Malaysia.

Leave without questioning.

Or stand around and watch some overly prepared “smart” tourist get into a fuss over this and demand their right for a stamp while leafing through their guide book in a mild panic.

Welcome to Malaysia, you are now entering Singapore??

All aboard the train, you will wait until 22.30 for a thirty minute ride to Woodlands. This is the new, official, train-station for the Malaysia / Singapore border via train.

Depart train quickly to avoid the mass of people. Queue for a Singaporean exit stamp in your passport. Get a happy goodbye smile from the official and then turn to the waiting lounge. Sit and wait for 30 minutes for everyone else.

When the doors open, let the crowds run first. Seats, and beds on the trains are allocated so there’s no rush!

Congratulations you have now entered Malaysia again but got no stamp to prove it after leaving Singapore and Malaysia just 30 minutes ago. Next stop, Kuala Lumpur.

How to leave Malaysia when you have no entry stamp on your passport

Insider the Singapore to Malaysia sleeper carriage

Inside the Singapore to Malaysia sleeper carriage

I will admit to briefly mentioning to a young North American couple if they got a 90 day entry stamp or not? Only to watch them flick through their passports over and over again, before comparing each others and then start to panic.

Sorry, slow night, and I explained it to them after a few minutes with a nice German who was laughing too.

Always, always check your entry stamps immediately after getting stamped into a new country. Especially, when traveling overland

The key to all this is that white departure card. This is what you must keep to show the immigration officials when you depart Malaysia. Along with your train ticket as a secondary measure.

There have been problems at the border when people have lost their cards and not realised they had no stamp in their passport. So make sure you don’t lose it.

The future of overland train crossings from Singapore to Malaysia

All this will be irrelevant come July 1st 2011 when the official train border will be at woodlands. I believe the same schedule will exist. If not, I will update it here.

However, for me, I enjoyed this journey. It wasn’t about the travel part this time. It was about the last of an old overland border train. The last of the “secret” long-term visa runs. And, for the third time for me to be in a country with no passport stamp of proof. The first was Tibet, and then China. It’s these little things that make overland travel so much fun when done this way.

Meanwhile, I have no Malaysian stamp on my passport, and I hope not to lose my white immigration card. I’m traveling fast, with a lot to do, I only hope I can get out again!


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Coming Soon:

A different kind of dark past bumps into me

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Speak your mind, all opinions welcome - leave a comment below

38 Great responses to A slightly different overland border crossing out of Singapore

  1. Interesting story David.
    I do not think I will get there in time to experience what you did.
    I enjoyed the read.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Cheers,
    John D. Wilson

  2. Anna's World says:

    I never would have guessed such a border even existed! I wonder if there are anymore like this in the world?

    • Anna, I’ve not heard of another overland border like this. It’s noted as being not officially recognized internationally which makes it interesting. That said, countries don’t often advertise such crossings so who knows. So, until I hear different, I guess this is the only one!

  3. Frank Manning says:

    Interesting article. I’ve never heard of being stamped into a country before being stamped out before. Do you think this is the only place in the world this happens?

  4. amazing – and sad, that changes like this mean the end of the old ways. and i echo anna’s world – yes?

    • Hello Jessie, I think this is the only one it’s kind in the world. I don’t think other countries would advertise non-internationally recognized crossings. But, I have only ever heard of this one!

  5. Jason says:

    I wasn’t aware of this situation Dave, and had a bit of a laugh when you mentioned the Visa run.

    I can also picture you watching with a smirk on your face, as some tourist gets a little antsy cause he never got a stamp in his passport.

    A little sad to see this crazy situation is coming to an end, I kinda like these crazy scenarios you are confronted with now and then.

    You mentioned it was a 999 year lease. Just checking that wasn’t a typo?

  6. Mira Koz says:

    I was just thinking about taking this train to Malaysia. Everyone keeps telling me to take the bus, it’s easier and faster. But, this sounds perfect for me.

    An overnight sleeper into Malaysia and waking up the next morning is a lot better than a bus. Can’t thank you enough for this information!

  7. Loeffle says:

    I took this train in both directions in 2009.
    At day time to KL, and with the night train back to Singapore some weeks later.
    Really a nice and affordable trip.

    I liked passing the small villages where you passed huts just one to two meters nearby.

    Basel Badischer Bahnhof can be compared to Malaysian Singapore Station. It is a part of Germany located in Switzerland.

  8. c reisen says:

    I made this journey last month. Today I was looking thru every page of my passport for my entry stamp and thinking oh no. So glad I am not in trouble. On getting to woodlawn I had lost my Singapore card. Caused quite a hassle and by the time they straightened it out, everyone else had long gone. Had to hurry to the train, so naturally I did not check for an entry stamp then.

  9. ABQuintana says:

    good day. may we know what railway would you suggest for an overnight trip from KL to Singapore? what station would be most convenient if we would be coming from the Petronas Towers. Thank you?

  10. hayadith says:

    as malaysian, and living in Johor Bahru (nearest state of Malaysia to Singapore) ..the termination was so emotional.

    There’s a documentary on tv about it..even Sultan of Johor (sultan of my state) take the honor to drive the last train himself, because the station has a big meaning to him, his father, his royal ancestors etc.

    although I live in Johor Bahru (JB), I nver had a chance to take the JB-Spore train. huhu..*sad*

    lucky u. Usually, my trip to spore will be using car/ bus.

    during late june and early july..tickets were fully booked in advanced and I just miss my chance, just like that..huhu

  11. Conrad says:

    Hi there
    Actually this is not the only place that does this kind of thing or similar.
    Using the Channel Tunnel between UK and France you get the same effect – leaving UK you enter French territory while still in England, and then vice versa from the French side.

    You also get a similar effect departing Shannon in Ireland for the USA where you “enter” the US while still on Irish soil.

    And I recall a similar sort of arrangement prior to German re-unification. Travelling from West Germany to Berlin we exited West Germany (by road) and entered the “Russian Sector”, drove across East Germany (which was not officially recognised by the occupying powers) and then re-entered the British Sector in West Berlin. Really wierd.

    But nevertheless – sad to see the old Singapore station go. When will we get the romance back into travel?

    Conrad

    • Conrad,

      Excellent finds for moving from one country from another without leaving the first. I could imagine the Channel Tunnel and East West Germany without even reading up on it, but this was my first time reading about a USA entry port outside the USA.

      Thanks for sharing that information. It makes for some interesting reading, and one wonders if this sort of thing will bounce back in the future as part of “cost cutting incentives”

    • Hien@TP says:

      Those you mentioned are only immigration checks on special inter-governmental agreements for the ease of travellers and, more importantly, security. You’re not technically “in the country”.

      In the case of the Tanjong Pagar railway station and along the railway track, the entire strip of land actually belongs to the Malaysian government via the Malayan Railway (KTM). The 999-year lease to the then Federated Malay States Railway was done at the time when both countries were still one (British Malaya). Singapore was expelled from the federation (of Malaysia) in 1965, thus causing the unique situation.

      Up until the late 1990s, the Singapore immigration actually conducted immgration checks in the railway station and you’ll get proper stamps on your passport. However, they moved out of the station to Woodlands in the late 1990s to give pressure to the Malaysian government to return the valuable lands that almost cut the island into two halves.

  12. jatin khanna says:

    I would like to know that whether an Indian will get VISA for Singapore if he is willing to travel Malaysia from there and than on wards to Thailand.

    Can VISA be issued by showing confirm air ticket from India to Singapore and confirm air ticket from Malaysia to Thailand.

  13. darlene says:

    may I know is’t still available to KL-SG-KL by train?

    • Yes, you can. The KL to SG train will drop you at Woodlands now in SG, from there you can take the metro or bus to the city center.

      Buy your return ticket in Malaysia as it’s still cheaper than buying it in SG

  14. Klara Fernandez says:

    May I know if the train going to Malaysia from singapore still available? I’ll be going there this December 3, 2011. What are the details via train? Thank youu! :)

    • Hello, the direct train leaves KL Sentral at 14.00 and arrives at Woodlands Singapore at 20.25 the same day. Always best to confirm with Malaysia Rail first. :)

    • Sorry, internet cut me off earlier. Here’s the full timetable for you. I’ve also updated the article and included an official print timetable.

      Departing Kuala Lumpur at 09:00 Arriving Singapore (Woodlands) at 16:00

      Departing Kuala Lumpur at 14:06 Arriving Singapore (Woodlands) at 20:25

      Departing Kuala Lumpur at 23:00 Arriving Singapore (Woodlands) at 06:35

  15. John says:

    Can I buy a one way ticket from SG-KL in KL Sentral? Would it be charged with RM or SGD?

  16. Alvhild says:

    Has this procedure of not stamping the passport been changed now that the train station has moved? I need an entry stamp to Malayisa IN my passport…

  17. marj says:

    i just want to ask if i can get a stamp in my passport going to malaysia from singapore and how much it cost from train and bus. thank you in advance :)) Godbless

    • Passport stamp depends on Nationality. But generally yes you will get a passport stamp.

      Prices via train are: Superior seat RM34 / S$34
      Premier sear RM68 / S$68
      Night sleeping berth upper/lower RM40/45 / S$40/45
      Cabin upper/lower RM118/139 / S$118/139

      Bus tickets around S$20

  18. Hika says:

    hi there! this one is very interesting.
    i’m planning to visit SG and Malaysia next year in one week trip. And i’m planning to take train from SG to KL. and i’m gonna take night train from woodlands (the one at 23.30). is it better to take the sleeper coach than taking the normal seat?

  19. Roel says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience it will helps me as first timer and sole trip soon. Can you recomend me accomodation in malaysia which is cheaper for a back packer trip like MR30 below? How about tip travelling back to Singapore? Thanks again