Malaysian in Singapore spends over 15 hours to get VTL bus tickets for homecoming
Come Monday (Nov 29), technician Tanapal Murugayah will finally be reunited with his wife and two sons - aged five and eight - in Johor Baru.
On Thursday (Nov 25), when bookings for bus tickets for the land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between Malaysia and Singapore started at 8am, the Malaysian spent more than 15 hours trying to secure tickets for a four-day homecoming. He has not seen his family since March last year.
Close to midnight, Mr Tanapal, 36, finally had his booking wish fulfilled, and his family will be waiting at Larkin Sentral Bus Terminal on Monday afternoon.
Like him, many Malaysians and Singaporeans are anxious to take their first ride home in almost two years since Covid-19 border restrictions separated families.
A beautician who wanted to be known as Careyn said she rushed to buy the bus tickets, despite already purchasing an air VTL ticket earlier. The air VTL between Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport also starts on Monday.
"After the air VTL was announced, I immediately bought an air ticket within an hour of them going on sale. But, as someone from Batu Pahat, Johor, it would definitely be more convenient to travel by land."
Batu Pahat is much closer to Johor Baru than the airport in Kuala Lumpur.
The 22-year-old, who has not returned home since August last year, will now find another date to use the air ticket.
Assistant operations manager Chok Chen Kiong, who has not seen his wife and two children - who are studying in university - for about two years, plans to travel in January after failing to enter the booking websites.
While the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) had been launched to facilitate travel in August last year, the busy nature of his job meant that it had not been practical to take long leave to fulfil PCA requirements, which include a seven-day quarantine.
"I don't think it's worth it; with the hotel quarantine, it will actually cost about $3,000 per return trip," said Mr Chok.
While grateful for the easing of border restrictions, Malaysians and Singaporeans hope that the requirements will be less onerous.
A 26-year-old enforcement officer who wanted to be known as Stephanie said she booked tickets for herself and her one-month-old baby to visit her family.
But the Malaysian discovered on Friday that her Singaporean son cannot travel because he is not a permanent resident or long-term pass holder in Malaysia.
The land VTL, which was announced on Nov 24, allows up to 1,440 Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders in Malaysia to cross the Causeway into Singapore each day.
Similarly, up to 1,440 Malaysia citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders in Singapore will be able to go back home, as part of an initial phase of the land VTL.
For a start, there will be 64 daily bus services between Malaysia and Singapore, 32 in each direction.