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Driving to Malaysia for Chinese New Year?

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Chinese New Year is almost here and best of all, it falls on a weekend.

If you are driving up to Malaysia during the festive season, it is time to consider stocking up on comfort food and drinks. Chances are, you will be stuck in a heavy traffic jam that could last more than four hours along the causeway. However, thanks to the biometric fingerprint-scanning system installed at all causeway checkpoints, traffic may just flow smoothly.

One reason for optimism is that the new fingerprint-scanning system will reduce manual labour greatly as there is no longer a need for immigration officers to go through each individual’s passport in great detail and conduct headcount checks.

Fast and easy clearance at immigration checkpoints is something Singaporeans look out for, especially during the festive holidays. With the new fingerprint-scanning system in place, “drivers can expect to clear customs within three to 10 minutes especially at the Tuas Two causeway,” says Transtar Travel staff Mollie Chittick.

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Older people, however, “will need to press harder so they can have their thumbprints registered.” says Chittick.

“In the worst case, the customs officer will ask them to proceed to the manual counters to have their passports stamped.”

In June 2011, Malaysia spent close to USD $42 million on implementing the biometric fingerprint-scanning systems at its causeway checkpoints.

Secondly, an increasing number of people — Singaporeans and Malaysians — are making a conscious effort to plan their travels ahead of Chinese New Year. Many know that traffic conditions along the causeway has been bad for the last decade, so it makes sense to take leave from work or school two to three days prior to the festive season just to travel up to Malaysia.

Beat Chinese New Year traffic

The best time to travel to Malaysia is, of course, during the afternoon before Chinese New Year eve between 4 and 5:30 p.m.

However, Malaysian hairdresser Ireene See says that the best time to travel is the evening before the eve of the festive season. That is provided you are comfortable driving in the dark as the North-South highway has no lights at night.

In her eight years of working in Singapore, See says she has been arranging for her own transport back to her hometown in Batu Pahat for Chinese New Year. “I always book a Malaysian taxi with colleagues and friends three months’ before the holidays. It is expensive – – a single trip costs RM $300 but it’s worth it. The taxi will pick us up at the customs checkpoint.”

While it is good to know that people take their travels seriously, those who are unable to take leave from work or school are left with no other choice than to arrange for private transport on Chinese New Year eve.

Says See: “You can always arrange for a prebet sapu (illegal taxicab). It costs more than a Malaysian taxi.”

Over the last few years, budget airlines like Jetstar Asia, Tiger Airways, Air Asia and Scoot have become the preferred mode of transport for Singaporeans and Malaysians living in Singapore. Air travel also means less jams along the causeway.

On hindsight, with the recent closure of prominent travel agency Five Star tours, moderate traffic jams along the North-South highway are expected. Drivers, no should be prepared!

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