Slow Start for Tourism between Malaysia and Singapore

Malaysia, Singapore, borders, travel bubble

Once upon the time, traffic jam along the causeway between Johor and Singapore

Since Monday, Malaysia and Singapore are again accepting travellers under a travel bubble between both country. Both countries are the first to process with the relaxation of travel rules.

Since Monday, the two countries are accepting applications for crossings under two new programs — one called the Periodic Commuting Arrangement, and another known as the Reciprocal Green Lane. However, travellers will only be allowed to cross the border from next Monday, August 17. The Periodic Commuting Arrangement is designated for workers employed in one of both countries. The Reciprocal Green Lane is reserved for business travellers planning essential trips lasting up to 14 days. It is open for residents in both countries regardless of their nationality. In a couple of weeks, company-sponsored travel will also be allowed.

In normal times, some 300,000 residents of southern Malaysia commute to work in the city-state each day. The one-hour air route between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur used to be served by over 20 daily flights and it was one of the busiest international route in the world with some 4.5 million passengers a year. Trains and regular busses are also linking both countries. All these connections disappeared over night with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the announcement, budget carrier AirAsia announced to launch daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and one flight per week between Singapore and Penang, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Ipoh. Singapore Airlines and its regional affiliate Silk Air are also reopening the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route, offering a daily flight (SIA with three frequencies and Silk Air with four frequencies.

The travel bubble between Singapore and Malaysia is the second such agreement for the Island State. Last June, Singapore and China have agreed to create a fast lane to facilitate essential business and official travel between six Chinese provinces and municipalities (Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Tianjin and Zhejiang) and Singapore. Launched on 8 June, the fast lane is open to residents of Singapore and China. This arrangement will be gradually expanded to other Chinese provinces and municipalities.