Hi guys, thanks for coming here. Before you read this guide, please note that I am just a private citizen and I am not affiliated or working for any of the attractions or services or tourism boards for any of the places I listed below. This guide is simply a “how-to” that recounts how we plan our holidays; it will not be able to cover all aspects of travel planning.
I appreciate all the comments and feedback; however I’d like you to know that I may not be able to answer certain questions – especially those that are better directed to the theme park operators or the public transport service providers themselves, or even the tourism board. For these, I urge you to click on the links I have provided inside the guide(s) and look for the information you need in there; and if you can’t find them to contact the appropriate customer support personnel to get assistance. I try as much as possible to answer any questions that readers post in here as I know how stressful planning for a holiday can be. However, lots of these questions are repetitive and are already answered in the guide or in the comments section. So, please take the time to read the guide and comments sections first as chances are your enquiries would have been covered in there somewhere.
RWS is the home of Universal Studios Singapore (USS), and the park finally had the pleasure of welcoming me and Mama Azlina and family and my youngest sister Mimi. Our motley group had 2 kids (ages 5 and 12 respectively), a set of parents (Mama Azlina and Hubby) and 2 hot young thing (me and Mimi, of course). This is my quick guide for those who want to make that short trip to Resorts World Sentosa but don’t want to sell an arm and a leg to do so.
We had to pull the children out of school for 3 days (Wed-Fri) in order to make this trip as USS tickets were completely sold out during the school holiday period. So the first thing that you need to do before you plan anything else is to buy the entrance tickets to USS. The easiest and cheapest way to buy tickets is to buy it online directly from the RWS website, as other sites may charge you additional fees. There are several options for you to choose from. These are the current prices (snapshot taken from the RWS site, please go there for more details):
Side note about Universal Express: This pass allows you to go in front of the line for all the attractions so you don’t have to suffer the 45mins wait for certain rides. This is an additional pass to your entrance tickets and must be purchased PER PERSON. The prices change depending on date and season. We did not take this pass so yes we had to suffer. If you go in a big group, this pass is a must. In our case, I was the only one who had interest in the roller coasters so our wait at the various queues was relatively short, 20 mins at the most.
There is various stay + play packages available if you intend to make a meal out of it. Check the RWS site from time to time to see the promotions it offers.
First you have to decide:
- Do you want to go directly to Singapore and stay there; or
- Do you want to go to Johor Bahru and commute to Singapore?
The difference between the two is minimal in terms of travel expenses but huge in terms of accommodation cost. Convenience-wise, as a frequent visitor to Singapore I feel there isn’t much difference as you still need to hop into a taxi or take the MRT to RWS unless you stay within the resort itself; if you stay in JB you need to take a shuttle bus ride to RWS. Thanks to immigration checkpoints at Tg Kupang and Woodlands this journey may take about 1 hour to complete. But the ride was pleasant and comfortable so I don’t have any complaints.
The Odyssey shuttle bus to RWS is located at Tune Hotel and costs RM25 return, it is on the ground floor beside 7-11.
Details for bus: http://www.odysseynow.com.my/
If you want to fly to JB, check out Firefly or AirAsia (from RM300++/pax for return airfare, depending on how early you book) for flight schedule to Senai Airport (or Changi Airport, if you want to go to Singapore directly).
For our second trip to USS, we took Jetstar Airways, it departs from KLIA Main Terminal and lands at Terminal 1, Changi Airport. We bought the tickets for 2 adults + 1 child 2 days before departure date and it cost us RM670 total for the round trip. AirAsia was RM400++ more expensive and Tiger Airways, though cheap, did not suit our schedule.
Intercity Coach (Bus)
You can also take the intercity coach @RM62 return (or RM160++ if you opt to go directly to Singapore) from EasiBook.com. The taxi fare from JB to Danga Bay is between RM4-10 depending on traffic condition. The JB buses stop at Larkin Bus and Taxi Terminal, which is the main intercity transportation hub; while the buses to Singapore has different stops depending on which bus service you take.
The flight schedule didn’t suit us, and with the many luggages that we had between the 6 of us, we chose to drive to Johor Bahru (JB) i.e. Danga Bay to be exact, and took the daily shuttle to USS. The drive was quite short and pleasant, it took a total of 3 hours including 1 rest stop for brunch. Danga Bay is literally across the straits to Singapore. To drive there, use the PLUS North-South Expressways (toll fare RM44.30 one way from Shah Alam to Skudai) heading towards Johor Bahru, then take the exit to Skudai Highway (Federal Route 1) via the Danga Bay interchange which becomes the Jalan Skudai Route J1, near Istana Bukit Serene. It is less than 7mins away from Johor Bahru’s city centre.
STAY IN SINGAPORE
If you want to stay in SG, please go to Booking.com to check out hotel rates. Hotels are expensive, a decent one will cost you around RM600++ a night (excl. taxes). Of course there are lower end ones but I strongly do not recommend these if you are travelling with your family as these are better suited for backpackers or (super) budget travelers.
We stayed in Hotel M (which is part of the Millenium Group) located at the financial district i.e. Jalan Anson, go to its website for weekend deals and so on. We took the Weekend Escapade package which was 20% off the rack rates (very good deal!) at RM1067 nett for 3D2N (works out to about RM400/night). The taxi fare to USS was less than SGD6. If you want to take the MRT, you should stop at HarbourFront station and then take a free shuttle to RWS from there. The MRT station Tanjong Pagar is only about 5mins walk away from hotel.
STAY IN JB
There are many to choose from if you opt to stay in JB City Centre. Within the small business park near the Danga Bay Marina, I could only see 2 budget hotels i.e. Kozi Hotel (which we stayed in @RM138/night for the Family Room) and Tune Hotel, both are located about a block from each other. The shuttle bus to RWS is located at Tune Hotel and costs RM25 return.
I have stayed in Tune Hotel Bali before. Frankly, there was nothing wrong with it. It was small but clean and comfortable and it has all the amenities that you’d want from a budget hotel. The only grouse was there was no TV, but who goes on a holiday to watch TV? In case you have never stayed in Tune Hotel before, the hotel rate changes depending on when you book (the earlier the cheaper) and the things that you add-on.
A basic room costs about RM50/night (it comes with ceiling fan and basic bedroom set); then you choose everything else (airconditioning, towel, toilettries kit, cable TV, internet access, hair dryer, insurance and shuttle bus fare). No complimentary anything. If you are travelling on a really tight budget, this is a great option. Just bring your own towels and soap bar, and elect fo 12hrs airconditioning to be used at night when you go to sleep.
For internet access, there’s a lot of free wifi offered in the cafes and restaurants around the business park. The park also has a few karaoke joints, bars and high-speed internet cafés. Danga Bay itself has some tourist attractions like the petting zoo, amusement park that you can explore (check the link I gave above) but we didn’t get to do much apart from going to the Plaza Angsana Mall and the Marina for early dinner. Food and entertainment are definitely not a problem in Danga Bay.
Kozi Hotel room is the same size as Tune Hotel’s, but it is a full-service budget hotel, which means the rate includes all the amenities (cable TV, internet access etc) and complimentary hot drinks and bottled water. We took 2 rooms with adjoining door for a total of RM552 for 2 nights. Mama Azlina lost her keycard (RM10) and requested for more pillows (RM10 for each pillow); the RM50 deposit was refundable at the end of stay. And yes housekeeping came to straighten up the room while we were away.
I have to manage your expectations a little bit. Budget hotel rooms are small and usually don’t come with built-in closets so don’t be a bitch about it if you stay in one. If you want bigger rooms, stay in regular hotels at the City Centre where there are plenty to choose from. Hotels like Thistle, Pan Pacific and Grand Bluewave starts at RM250++/night.
Questions from readers answered, in a quick lightning round:
- What happens if it rains? The ticket is valid for 6 months from the date of purchase. So, pick another day. If you are already in the park and it rains halfway through, there is no refund. Stick it out and dance in the rain like you are 5yo again.
- Do I have to pay for the rides in USS? Nope. Once you are in, all rides are yours for the riding. I think the rock-climbing section will require additional fees, and for you to don appropriate protective gear. But elsewhere, the fees are already included in your entrance ticket.
- Can I bring my bag when I go on the rides? No no no no no for roller coaster rides, the rest is fine. There are racks guarded by park attendants and you can put your bags and other stuff here right before you take a seat in the roller coaster. I’ve never had any bad experience like having my bags stolen or rummaged through – everything was there like my purse, electronics, make-up etc. It’s monitored by CCTV too, so if you suspect there’s been theft or that someone has gone through your stuff, the perpetrators can be easily identified and caught. Basically what I am saying is chill out – just leave your stuff on the racks and have a good time.
- Is there free wifi throughout the park? Yes, but don’t expect to find any power socket to juice up your laptop when the battery is dead.
- Is there a surau for prayers for Muslim patrons? Yes there is one, near the main entrance, inside the Guest Services building. Ask for the key from the concierge if the room is locked.
- Is there Halal restaurants? Yes lots, read the rest of this guide for info.
- Is it disabled-friendly? Yes. Also, if you need further assistance, just check-in at the Guest Services building near the main entrance of USS and they’d be happy to help you.
- Can I bring my own food? No, but you can bring your own bottled mineral water. Chewing gum is a no no, ok, USS is STILL on Singapore soil even if it feels like California.
- Are the roller coaster rides scary? All roller coaster rides are scary – some are scarier than others. There are rules and height requirements to ride these, so please check the rider’s guide first so that you can plan your day. There are other stuff to do there apart from taking rides, so if you are scared of heights or speed don’t be concerned, there are other things that will keep you occupied.
- New York
- Sci-Fi City
- Ancient Egypt
- The Lost World
- Far Far Away
- NEW! Transformers (when we went there, this section was yet to be opened)
The sections are laid out in circular fashion. The entertainment is basically divided into 4 categories:
- Outdoor rides (roller coasters of various kinds, flying rides, water rides etc)
- Indoor shows (“live” performances, stage shows, 4-D movies, special effects stage)
- Walking attractions (various mascots walking around and scheduled performances on the street – ask for a flyer when you get there for the schedules)
- Photo ops (everywhere you can think of)
Make sure you have these in your bag:
- Camera with fresh batteries
- A lightweight raincoat or umbrella (in case it rains)
- Bottled water
- Wet wipes – with so many people around, you never know what you will accidentally touch, or people can spill things on you etc this.
- Hand sanitizer
- Candy or sweets (your blood pressure and stress level can rise really fast so have some candy handy)
- Flip flops
- Hand fan. If you forget to get one, it is sold throughout the park for SGD2 I think. Great for quick blast of cool wind to the face.
If you are going only for a day, I suggest you spend the first half for 1 & 4, and the second half for 2 & 3. The reason is because the wait for rides can take a very long time (between 5-45mins). If you go through the park in a haphazard way you will get tired pretty fast (Singapore sun is just as cruel as the Malaysia sun, ok). So, finish all your rides in the morning when you still have lots of juice, and the shows in the afternoon when the airconditioning and dark theatres will be a much welcomed respite. Certain rides will require you to be of certain height and dimensions (horizontal-wise!) and of good physical condition.
Read this rider’s guide first. It’s also a good document for you to print so that you can plan which rides you want to tackle first. There are a lot of Halal food joints within USS. They allow you to bring your own bottled water but nothing that you can keep in a tupperware so basically your bihun goreng and karipap are out. A cheap way to replenish yourself is by buying the USS drinking bottle (SGD12++) and then refilling it with soda or ice lemon tea for SGD2 each time at the many drinking stall peppering the park. Get your visitors info here.
We did the following:
- Lights, Camera, Action!® Hosted by Steven Spielberg: a special-effects stage show depicting the scene from a Level 5 typhoon disaster in New York
- Revenge of the Mummy®: an indoor roller-coaster ride in near pitch-dark track. Don’t forget to smile at the camera. The dark adds to the excitement coz you don’t know when is the next dip. I like. The walk to the ride’s entrance is a long one and staged like a cave so it gets darker and darker as you get deeper and deeper.
- Treasure Hunters®: The waiting line for this ride was 45mins! The ride itself is a slow 2-min jeep ride on a circular track to see mechanical animal like crocs, snakes – totally not worth it. I strongly recommend you skipping this altogether
- Dino-Soarin’®: This is a flying ride where you “train” baby pterodactyl to fly by pushing the white button at the steering wheel. Nice one if you have kids with you. Kinda lame if you get on it on your own.
- Magic Potion Spin®: it’s a little like the crazy cup ride in Disneyland, the difference is you don’t have to steer. Not scary at all but a nice time to have with all in the family. We screamed like banshees and flailed our arms around to add some drama on the otherwise unadventurous ride.
- Shrek 4-D Adventure®: This is an indoor 4-D stage show, 4-D meaning they also include physical sensory experiences like water spraying onto your face when Donkey sneezes at the screen (and I went “yuck!”). A lot of fun.
- Enchanted Airways®: a very short outdoor roller coaster, if you are scared of roller coasters in general, this is about as scary as it gets for you.
- Pantages Hollywood Theater®: Monster Rock™: a 21-min song and dance featuring various monsters from the Munsters. It’s a passable musical, if you can call it that, but the audience we were with was quite stiff (pun intended). Each monster sings a song and there was some local/recent references like Nobody But You by Wondergirls and It’s My Life by Bon Jovi so it wasn’t completely alien. I think the crowd was taking itself too seriously but I had a good time singing and dancing along. I would like to say that I am a very good and supportive audience, any performers would be lucky to have me in their show!
- Donkey LIVE®: this is an indoor stage-show which is a combination of motion sensor animation and live singing. Basically Donkey of the Shrek fame is promoting his new single I Smell Nice (sung to the tune of I Feel Good) and in between he chats with the audience and cracks jokes (he wasn’t so funny when we were there but we were the last audience for the day so Donkey may have ran out of steam).
We missed the following rides and a few street shows and mascot walkabout:
- Battlestar Galactica®
- Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure
- Canopy Flyer™
- King Julien’s Beach Party-Go-Round®
- Madagascar: A Crate Adventure®
We had briyani and roasted chicken at Casa Del Wild in the Madagascar section, then hot dogs and fries at Mel’s Drive In, and coffee and cakes at the Celebrity Café and Bakery. All these outlets are Halal. The list of F&B directory can be found here. Here’s a simple breakdown of our expenses when we were inside USS (4 adults, 1 teen + 1 child):
- Food expenses= SGD150 (including drinks and ice cream that we had as we were walking around)
- Flip flops and hand fans = SGD40 (after our sneakers and ballet flats failed us – I actually walked barefoot for a bit)
- Souvenirs = SGD150 (candies, pens, fridge magnets, notebooks..the usual stuff).
All in all the 3D/2N trip cost about RM3,000 for a family of 6, around RM500/pax which makes it a very affordable holiday I must say. I also must add that the night prior to the USS trip we drove to SG for a night out, which was an adventure of its own but one that does not belong in this guide. So, I’ll save that story for some other time.
Will I go again? Absolutely! Much thanks to Mama Azlina for planning the trip & treat :-)
- Hollywood Dreams Parade at Universal Studios Singapore (shimworld.wordpress.com)
- TRANSFORMERS The Ride opening at Universal Studios Singapore on 3 December 2011 (thezigzagger.com)
- best of Singapore Tourism, travel, and Vacation Also (thetact.wordpress.com)
- A date at Universal Studios Singapore (starringjcc.wordpress.com)
- Universal Studios Singapore (casiachew.wordpress.com)