Johor Bahru is located at the southern end of peninsula Malaysia and is the entry (or exit) point to Singapore. It is often ignored by travellers who just stick to Singapore or rush past on their way to Kuala Lumpur. However, Johor Bahru is definitely a worthwhile destination in its own right. There are some great places to visit in Johor Bahru, especially if you are travelling with kids.
Many people just day trip over from Singapore to visit Legoland Malaysia. However, I recommend coming for at least a few days and experiencing the other attractions in this slice of Malaysia. It’s also a good way to save some money with prices being much better value than they are over the causeway.
This article is a combination of our experiences visiting this area in 2013 and 2016.
Before staying in Johor Bahru for the first time in 2013, I had been through a few times on my way to and from Singapore, but I never had any reason to stop here. That was until I realised just how many fun Johor Bahru attractions there are.
The thing that first drew me here was Thomas Town (then called Little Big Club). I knew my two year old toddler would love it and I was right. We found some other reasons to enjoy our time in Johor Bahru though, and we had such a good time that we knew we had to make another visit on our most recent Asian adventure.
Below, you will find our guide to what to do in Johor Bahru including the top Johor Bahru things to do, information for visiting Johor Bahru with kids, finding the best hotel in Johor Bahru, eating in Johor Bahru and information about travel from Singapore to Johor Bahru and on to Kuala Lumpur.
The first Johor Bahru attraction you are likely to see is the area around central JB. I was surprised to find that it is quite pleasant. There is the massive immigration/customs buildings and train station as well as some big shopping centres, but the streets behind this are low rise and quite charming.
We found everything we needed around here including (thankfully) laundry services.
I had read about Danga Bay theme park online and it sounded like one of the fun places to go in Johor Bahru to spend an evening. It was quite a disappointment.
We got there about 5pm. According to their website, they open at 3pm. Barely anyone was around and it looked closed. We were all disappointed especially poor S. We went to leave when we noticed there was a lady in the ticket booth. We walked around a bit and suddenly some people turned on the lights on some of the rides. We talked to the ticket lady. We have no idea what was actually going on, but we were able to buy tickets for two of the rides only – the merry go round and the teacups.
We were so glad to be able to go on something, as S looked a bit heart broken, and we had made the effort to get out there. We went on them a couple of times each.
The majority of rides (there are quite a few) and the dining facilities out there looked well maintained and clean , so maybe it just doesn’t fully open on weeknights or something? This was a Tuesday. Who knows! There was no sign of the petting zoo that was meant to be there as well. It’s a shame as it looked fun and it’s in a nice location on the waterfront.
We walked to the neighbouring restaurants, but they were super pricey, so we decided to head back into Johor Bahru. Catching a taxi back was fun. We finally got one, but someone stole it on us (lovely thing to do to a family). Thankfully, it wasn’t much longer before we got one.
Danga Bay was about a 10 minute, RM12 taxi ride from our downtown. The rides we went on were RM4 each.
This attraction in Johor Bahru was the main reason we visited in 2013 and a big part of the reason we returned after Z was old enough to enjoy it too. It was our favourite Johor tourist attraction with young kids – I have visited it with both a 2 year old S and a nearly 4 year old Z and 5.5 year old S.
After I had read about the Little Big Club (now Thomas Town) many years ago, I knew I had to take S there. She is such a big Angelina Ballerina fan, and I knew she would be in heaven.
Thankfully, we weren’t disappointed.
Thomas Town is located in Puteri Harbour, and it is about a 20 minute cab drive from central Johor Bahru. S was very excited on the way. On arrival, we found the place pretty much empty. They asked S’s age a few times, since she is just under the age limit to pay and doesn’t look 2, but then let her in for free.
In the same building, there is also Sanrio Hello Kitty Town – more about this below.
We made our way upstairs and there was Angelina and Bob the Builder waiting for us! S was very very happy. She likes Bob the Builder as well, but he didn’t even get a look in with Angelina there. She was shy though and just wanted to stand next to Angelina but wouldn’t talk to her or anything.
The place is split over two levels and isn’t very big. There are themed areas for Angelina Ballerina, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, Pinggu and Barney the Dinosaur.
The next session to dance with Angelina wasn’t for another 45 minutes, so we headed straight upstairs to the Thomas area as this is the best part of Thomas Town. It has six rides. S could go on all but one at 2 (she just missed out on height requirement for dodgem cars) and an awesome indoor playground. We went on the 5 rides she could go on in record time, as no one else was there at all! The staff were lovely and friendly and S had a great time.
We then explored the playground area which was just awesome! It was a bit old for S though, and an average sized two year old would have struggled in there. I had to go in with her as it was maze like. We had fun going up and down corridors, tunnels and slides, trying to find the entry to a train hanging in the air in the middle of it. It was fun! And it was perfect when we returned a few years later with 3 and 5 year olds.
The Angelina area of Thomas Town consists of a big dance stage with mirrors on one wall and big TV screens at the front showing Angelina. There are tutus, mouse ears and wands to put on and hold. Very cute!
S kitted up and learned some ballet moves. She loved it, although she was shy and hung back a bit. There was only her and one other girl. After the dance class, she danced by herself with Angelina for ages. We spent a lot of time in this area on a couple of different occasions. I must admit, I got a bit into it myself and had to hold myself back from dancing round on the stage belting out the Angelina theme song. It is probably best I leave that to our living area at home though.
The other areas of the Little Big Club were not as exciting. Bob the Builder and Barney areas were basically good play equipment, although there was a cool part of Bob the Builder where you built pretend brick walls out of blocks. The Pinggu area was arcade games which were fun on our second visit when our kids were 3 and 5.
There is a shop you can go through before and after. I was actually looking forward to getting S an Angelina treat or maybe something for her birthday at the end of next month. However, I think they lost a money making opportunity here as there wasn’t much. They didn’t have anything for S’s age group in Angelina. Disappointing! You can visit the shop without paying entry to the theme park.
Overall, the place was a big hit. S loved it, and it was perfect for her age at 2 and we had a great return visit when the kids were 3 and 5.
I do think Thomas Town is a bit overpriced, but in saying that, I haven’t been anywhere else that is so perfect for the 2-4 year old age group which is why we were so excited to return. S was borderline too old at 5.5, but she still had a lot of fun at that age as well.
You can read our full, updated review on Thomas Town and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town here.
Thomas Town entry is RM85 for adults and children, but under 3s are free. If you want to go to Hello Kitty Town as well, it is RM125. I paid RM 40 for a taxi for the 20 minutes to get there in 2013. He wouldn’t use the meter, if I had waited for one that would, it would have only been about RM30. On the way back there are heaps of taxis, but they are only fancier, more expensive ones and it cost me RM59 on the meter.
You can save money by purchasing tickets here beforehand.
In 2016, we stayed at the Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour which is literally steps away from this attraction which made it all much easier.
Sanrio Hello Kitty Town is found in the same building as Thomas Town and if you buy a joint ticket, you can move freely between the two.
At this place to visit in Johor Bahru, there is a whole floor of Hello Kitty activities, memorabilia and shows. We explored Hello Kitty’s house, went on a tea cup ride, made badges and decorated Hello Kitty cookies. We also played in a cool indoor playground and completed the Hello Kitty in Oz World challenges. The best part, however, is definitely the live shows.
For Hello Kitty fans, this is definitely a must visit Johor Bahru tourist attraction. What we liked most about this place is that it encouraged us to do stuff together as a family. While Thomas Town is lots of fun, it was more about watching the kids have fun, whereas here we worked together.
Read our full review here.
Sanrio Hello Kitty Town entry is RM85 for adults and children, with under 3s free. If you want to go to Thomas Town as well, it is RM125. More information about getting here in Thomas Town section above. You can save money by purchasing tickets here beforehand.
Our prime reason for returning to this part of the world was to visit the biggest tourist attraction in Johor Bahru – Legoland Malaysia!
We missed this on our first visit as our kids were only 1 and 2, but we were very excited to return with our more grown up nearly 4 and 5.5 year olds and they were very excited as well. We weren’t disappointed.
Even if you don’t love Lego, you will love this park. It’s actually two parks – one a more traditional Legoland with many rides, Lego themed activities, shows and the awesome Miniland – where you can see Lego reconstructions of many famous sites in Asia. The other is a water park which is also fun and worth a visit. We spent two days to see both which is what I would recommend.
The main park is just fantastic fun. There are clever Lego creatures, buildings and people everywhere and some fun rides. We visited in January which was great – there was barely anyone there and we could ride everything as much as we wanted. I think S must have gone on the roller coasters about 20 times! We also enjoyed the shows and the kids particularly enjoyed being able to play with Lego – like making racing cars and racing them!
The water park is also fun – there are many water slides and some awesome water playgrounds. We also had fun constructing Lego here – we built boats and raced them and then tried to build a gigantic Lego raft (and failed miserably but it was fun trying!). There’s also a wave pool and lazy river ride. It’s a great way to cool down as Johor Bahru is hot.
We had an absolutely fantastic time here and have no hesitations in recommending Legoland Malaysia to others. I do want to warn that it is not full of thrilling rides – there’s some roller coasters but they were all fine (and loved) by our 5 year old. It is definitely a very family friendly theme park – for example, our kids were approached by staff and given supervised Lego activities to do while we waited for lunch. It’s just great!
Legoland Malaysia is about a 20 minute drive from central Johor Bahru. We stayed at Puteri Harbour (more information below) which was much more convenient. Taxi prices are going to be similar from central JB as to Thomas Town. You can see all the latest ticket price information here.
Although many people stay in Singapore and day trip over to Johor Bahru, it is completely possible to do things the other way around. This is also a good way to save money.
You can read more about Singapore in my complete guide to visiting Singapore with kids.
As you can see from all of the above, there are plenty of things to do in Johor Bahru for kids and this is an excellent destination for families. Our kids not only enjoyed Johor Bahru at the time, but they looked forward to visiting when we returned when they were 3 and 5. My 5 year old even had some memories of dancing with Angelina Ballerina on our previous visit at 2!
On each of our different trips, we had two different accommodation experiences – one staying in central Johor Bahru, the other time staying in Puteri Harbour. If you are looking for the best place to stay in Johor Bahru, then both destinations are worth considering.
For our latest visit, we were there to check out the biggest tourist attractions in Johor Bahru – Legoland Malaysia, Thomas Town and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town so we decided against staying in Johor Bahru itself and instead headed to Puteri Harbour as this is a much more central location for these attractions.
We stayed at the Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour.
I can’t recommend this hotel enough – the service and facilities are fantastic with beautiful infinity pools. It’s right on the harbour with beautiful views and the rooms are great.
If you want to visit the same attractions as us, then its location is perfect – we were literally steps away from Thomas Town and Legoland was just over 5 minutes away by free shuttle. There are many restaurants and shops all around and in the hotel itself.
On our first visit, we wanted to explore Johor Bahru itself and we stayed in a central spot near the causeway to Singapore. We stayed in an “executive suite” at the Grand Bluewave.
Our room was great. A very big one bedroom apartment which included a buffet breakfast for only $74 a night. There is also a swimming pool and other facilities.
The downside? Despite the fact it looks incredibly centrally located, it’s not really. The roads all take roundabout routes to get there and there’s no pedestrian friendly way to walk anywhere, so we were stuck taking cabs everywhere. They were cheap, but the $5 return we were paying adds up when it’s a few times a day, and we would wait up to 30 minutes for a cab to come get us sometimes :-/ Very annoying. Otherwise, we had a good stay here.
Other great accommodation options in Johor Bahru that are very centrally located, have great rooms, great facilities and are a great price are:
We mostly ate in City Square, a big shopping centre in central JB with lots of great eating options. We had some great food, especially some yummy Japanese. More information here.
If you stay in Puteri Harbour, there are plenty of places to eat. We ate a Belgian restaurant and there are even themed Hello Kitty and super heroes cafes.
If you are looking for a cheap place to get your laundry cleaned in Johor Bahru try “Dobi Chang” on Meldrum Walk in front of the street food vendors. It currently (July 2016) costs RM5/kilogram and takes 24 hours.
A big thank you to reader, Harry, for supplying this information.
It is easy peasy to get from Singapore to Johor Bahru.
There are three main options:
Long distance trains no longer run from Singapore but there is a shuttle service across the causeway between Johor Bahru and Singapore.
Generally the most convenient ways to travel are taxi or bus.
Bus from Singapore to Johor Bahru
On our first family visit (and the times I visited alone), we decided to take the bus. It’s cheap and we like a (easily winnable) challenge!
We caught the Causeway Link which cost SG$2.40 (free for under 3s) and left from Queen St bus mall which was only a block from our hotel. There was another option, but they wouldn’t allow us to put our suitcases under the bus, so we’d have to pay for seats for them, and more annoyingly, get them in and out of the bus. The buses leave regularly, and we were soon on our way.
It took about 30 minutes to get to the Singapore checkpoint. This was ultra fast with no lines at the time we went through which was about 11:30am. We were soon back on a bus and going to the Malaysian side. This was also very quick and straight forward, although involved a lot more walking, but thankfully there were elevators. You have to take all your luggage with you.
We found the taxi rank and paid for an overpriced coupon taxi to our hotel (which we could see from JB Sentral but were unable to walk there).
It only took about an hour from the time our bus left in Singapore to the time we arrived at our hotel in JB.
Taxi from Singapore to Johor Bahru
On our most recent visit, I was pregnant and since we were going to Puteri Harbour rather than central JB, we decided it was worth the extra cost of a taxi. It cost SGD$70 to get a taxi from Queen St bus mall (just a block from where we stayed) to the Hotel Jen.
This is ultra easy. We could stay in the taxi at both checkpoints. If you can spare the extra money, this is what we recommend.
Causeway Link bus CW-2 cost SG$2.40 from Singapore to JB Larkin in 2013, but we didn’t get back in one at JB Sentral. You get out on the Singapore and Malaysian sides with all your belongings and then board whatever bus comes long (from that company) once you are through immigration and customs.
The taxi was SGD$70 in Jan 2016 right to the door of our hotel.
Prices for everything are cheaper when making the reverse journey from Johor Bahru to Singapore.
We took a bus from Johor Bahru Larkin (the name of the bus terminal) to KL in 2013. Larkin is a big terminal, but it’s not very organised. There are touts everywhere. I remembered this from previous trips, so J went the day before we left with Z to sort out the tickets, as it can be a bit overwhelming to be swarmed with touts and choices with our luggage and kids.
You could just turn up and get on one though. This would at least save the wait that we had, and if you had young kids and didn’t want them on your lap, you could make a judgement call on whether it was necessary to buy them a seat or not.
There are lots of buses between Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur leaving all the time. We caught a nice big comfortable one. It left half an hour late and stopped an hour into the journey for half an hour. We bought a seat for S, but we needn’t have as it was nowhere near full. It took 4.5 hours all up, including the time we were waiting for it to leave. It was painless, and we easily caught a coupon taxi from the bus station to our hotel.
You can also read our list of things to do in KL with kids.
Meridian Holidays bus JB-KL RM30 for adults, RM25 for a kid (or you can have them on your lap) It took about 4.75 hours including the half hour we waited for it to leave and stopping time. Coupon taxi to our hotel in the center cost RM27
There are local buses which are cheap and easy to use (J and Z caught a couple). On our first visit, we were stuck using taxis a fair bit because of our hotel’s location and this was also easy and cheap, although it could take awhile for taxis to come to our hotel. Taxis just about always used the meter without prompting.
Johor Bahru is not the most exciting place in the world, but it’s pleasant, easy and there are some great Johor Bahru tourist attractions. There are also some good big shopping centers in downtown Johor Bahru and it is a nice area to walk around.
There are quite a few things to do in Johor Bahru. However, the highlights are definitely Legoland Malaysia and Thomas Town.
These things can be done as day trips from Singapore, although you can save yourself a fair bit of cash on accommodation (let alone food, transport, etc) by staying in Johor Bahru. It doesn’t have the polish of Singapore, but it is a nice place especially at Puteri Harbour. It does seem like there is a lot of development going on, so there may be even more reasons to come to Johor Bahru in the very near future.
You can also read about our Singapore Stopover, before we arrived in Johor Bahru and our onward destinations of Kuala Lumpur and Port Dickson. These are great destinations to combine with a trip to Johor Bahru.
What are your favourite interesting places in Johor Bahru?
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