Johor Bahru tourist and travel guide

AEON Terbrau City mall is a good shopping choice

AEON Terbrau City mall is a good shopping choice

The southernmost Malaysian city of Johor Bahru has developed quite a bad reputation in recent years as a crime-ridden border-town over the water from affluent Singapore. There is certainly a little truth in this and tourists rarely stop here these days but travel straight to the more hospitable tourist resorts in the surrounds. But if you find yourself stuck in Johor Bahru for a short time, there’s enough to keep one’s interest and great opportunities for shopping.

Johor Bahru (or JB as it’s affectionately known) is linked to Singapore by a one kilometre causeway which is used by more than 50,000 commuters every day. Many people who work in Malaysia’s rich neighbour to the south save on living expenses by residing north of the border. There are great transport links from here to Melaka, KL or up the east coast for access to the resort islands of Pulau Tioman, Sibu, Kapas and Redang.

Below is a brief introduction to the city but for a comprehensive guide see our 1stopMalaysia site for our section on Johor Bharu.

Johor Bahru attractions

Istana Besar/Museum Di Raja: this Victorian colonial mansion is the former home of the Johor royal family and set amongst manicured gardens overlooking the Johor Straits towards Singapore. It is packed full of gifts from dignitaries such as stuffed crocodiles and tigers. (Open: 09:00-17:00 (Saturday-Thurday); Jalan Tun Doktor Ismail (one mile west of causeway), Johor Bahru, Malaysia, tel: +60 7223 0555).

Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque: overlooking the Straits of Johor, this state mosque dates from 1900 and has four towering minarets. It features a combination of Victorian and Moorish architecture and can accommodate 2,000 worshipers. Tourists can visit from 10:00-18:00 except Friday. (Jalan Abu Bakar / Jalan Masjid Abu Bakar, Johor Bahru, Malaysia, tel: +60 7224 2000).

Johor Bahru Chinese Heritage Museum: this four-storey gallery teaches visitors about the culture and history of Johor Bahru’s Chinese community. There are captioned photos, TV screens, mannequins dressed in traditional Oriental wedding clothes and numerous artefacts such as a replica of a sedan chair from the Roufo Chinese Taoist Temple. (Open: 09:00-17:00 (closed Monday); Admission: adults/RM3, children/RM1; 42 Jalan Ibrahim (200m southeast of main post office), Johor Bahru, Malaysia, tel: +60 7224 9633).

Sri Raja Mariamman Hindu Temple: this temple is the focalpoint of the local Indian community and celebrates its centenary in 2011. There are bright murals and statues and admission is free for visitors. (Open: 07:00-22:00, visiting hours for tourists are between 13:00-17:00 (daily); Admission: free; Jalan Ungku Puan, Johor Bahru, Malaysia, tel: +60 7223 5502).

Activities in Johor Bahru

Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim building

Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim building

Golf: there are a few decent golf courses in Johor Bahru where visitors can swing a club. Royal Johor Country Club (Open: 07:00-23:00; Fees: members/RM10, guests/RM12; 3211 Jalan Larkin, Johor Bahru, Malaysia, tel: +60 7 223 3322, +60 224 2098, fax: +60 7 2224 0729, email: enquiry@johorgolfandcountryclub.com, website: www.johorgolfandcountryclub.com) is probably the most expensive club while the award-winning Tanjung Puteri Resort (Jalan Tanjong Puteri 1, Johor Bahru, Malaysia, tel: +60 7 271 1888, +60 7 259 6100, fax: +60 7 271 1333, email: enquiry@tpgr.com, website: www.tpgr.com) has one of the largest courses in the area. Austin Hills Golf Resort (Price Range Weekdays/RM45-65, Price Range Weekends/RM80; Jalan Mutiara Emas 8 (by Aeon Jusco Mall), Johor Bahru, Malaysia, tel: +60 7 352 4300, fax: +60 7 353 8500, email: austinhillsgolf@austinhillsgolf.com) has an 18 and nine-hole offering plus hotel, tennis courts, sauna, bowling alley and swimming pool.

Shopping: Johor Bahru is teeming with cheap places to shoppers to cater for Singaporeans hopping across the border in search of bargains. JARO Handicrafts Centre (Open: 09:00-17:30 (closed Sunday); 2125 Jalan Sungei Chat, Johor Bahru, Malaysia, tel: +60 7 224 5632, fax: +60 7 223 1470, email: jarocraft@pd.jaring.my, website: www.jaro.org.my) sells soft toys, cane furniture, rattan baskets and souvenirs produced by the physically disabled. AEON Tebrau City (Open: 09:30-23:00 (daily); 1 Jalan Desa Tebrau, Johor Bahru, Malaysia, tel: +60 7 351 1110, email: career@aeonretail.com.my, website: www.jusco.com.my)  boasts numerous international fashion franchises, lots of restaurants and electronic stores. More on Johor Bahru attractions and activities.

Johor Bahru hotels and lodging guide

Hotel Seri Malaysia: Double/triple rooms US$41/$47 per night inclusive of buffet breakfast with air-con, cable TV and attached bathroom as standard plus free WiFi internet. Jalan Langkasuka (500m east of Larkin bus station)more details and booking

Hotel Sentral Johor Bahru (formerly Naza Talyya Hotel): three-star hotel in Johor Bahru with swimming pool and restaurant. Double rooms cost US$39 per night and include a hearty buffet breakfast. (17 Jalan Tenteram, Tanjung Puteri, JB Sentral... more details and booking

Crystal Crown Hotel: well-equipped Johor Bahru hotel with spacious rooms, health club, business centre, Japanese restaurant and rates from US$65 for a double with breakfast. Internet costs US$3 per hour. 117 Jalan Tebrau, Johor Bahru-City Center... more details and booking

More on Johor Bharu hotels.

Johor Bahru restaurants and dining

Restoran ZZ: Popular low-key eatery with Malay and Thai dishes with Johor-style laksa (RM4) a particular favourite. (Open: 07:00-23:00 (daily); 20B Jalan Sungai Chat, Johor Bahru, tel: +60 7 224 0417). $

Restoran Bamboo: popular Chinese restaurant renown for ‘emperor’s paper-wrapped chicken’ which is baked with exotic herbs (RM15) (Open: 10:00-22:00 (daily); 1 Jalan Sutera 1, Taman Sentosa, Johor Bahru, tel: +60 7 331 3180, fax: +60 7 331 7021, email: veron@bamboo.com.my).

Restoran Nilla: home of the ‘best banana-leaf food in town’ with delicious South Indian meals such as chicken masala tosai (RM3.50) or cuttlefish (RM4) amongst the house specialities. (Open: 24 hours (daily); 3 Jalan Ungku Puan, Johor Bahru, tel: +60 7 227 5722) More on Johor Bahru restaurants and bars.

Getting to Johor Bahru and away again

Larkin Bus Station is the central transport hub for Johor Bahru and is situated three kilometres from downtown. There are plenty of buses running over the causeway (one hour), so just try to choose one which drops off near your final destination in Singapore. If heading north, there are direct services to Alor Setar (two daily, 16 hours), Butterworth (two daily, 16 hours), Kuala Lumpur (every 30mins, seven hours), Melaka (five daily, three hours), Mersing (two daily, three hours).

Otherwise the brand new JB Sentral Railway Station is situated at Jalan Tun Abdul Razak and Jalan Jim Quee. There are only five services to Singapore which take one hour but only cost from RM3. There are also four daily services to KL which takes around six hours. Senai Airport (Senai International Airport, Johor Bahru, Johor Darul Ta'zim, tel: +60 7 599 4500, fax: +60 7 599 6624, website: www.senaiairport.com) lies 30kms north of town with flights to KL and the provinces of Malaysia. More on Johor Bahru transportation.

For a complete guide visit our 1stopMalaysia section on Johor Bharu.

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