Buses, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Singapore

Qistna Express: Truly the Bus Ride from Hell

Qistna Express is the estranged sister company of Starmart, which can possibly stay afloat in the long-run only due to the success of the said parent company. Even with all the negative comments online and bad press, I tried it for myself anyway – and learnt that online reviews are pretty accurate.

Qistna departs from Little India Arcade at 48 Serangoon Road, facing Tekka Market.

After showing my Easybook printout to the counter, the staff ticked off my name on his booking list and shuttered down the counter. Great start. There’s also no sitting area to wait for the bus, only a small hole-in-the-wall counter as you can see.

I searched online on Easybook and Redbus before my trip, and found that the timing on Easybook states 11.45pm while Redbus shows 11.59pm, both with different seat selections.

True enough, the bus arrived at 11.50pm, but surprisingly left on the dot at 11.59pm. At least there wasn’t any double-booking on my seat.

The first thing that hit me when I boarded the bus was the extremely strong cigarette smell. I thought the online reviews were exaggerating when the driver started smoking but I was so wrong. The smell was probably embedded into the seat or something.

The staff counting off the number of people in the bus.

The rear of the bus with some empty seats, which I thought was for people boarding from Larkin.

If the interior looks a little similar, it’s because it’s the seat cloth design is the exact same one as the Starmart bus I took a few months ago. I wonder if the branding of “Star Qistna” on the exterior of my bus was because it was transferred from Starmart.

The bus went via Woodlands Checkpoint instead of Tuas Second Link as advertised on their website, but I kind of expected it already since they always have a transit stop in Larkin, and it would be kind of ridiculous to enter Malaysia via the Second Link only to return to Larkin.

The bus stopped at a Petron near Larkin to fill up on petrol but that was it – it didn’t enter the bus terminal nor pick up more passengers. I fell deep asleep at the Petron…

… only to wake up groggily at Pagoh R&R when the bus stopped for a toilet break at around 3.30am. I didn’t alight for a break since it was in the middle of the night and I didn’t drink much water to begin with, and continued my sleep with the bus engine off…

… only to be awoken by a staff telling me to change buses because “bus breakdown”.

This can’t be serious. I thought the online reviews of Qistna buses breaking down were just one-off instances. I thought to myself if this was a ploy to consolidate passengers halfway through the journey for economies of scale, and I checked the time on my phone – 6.33am.

I found that I was the last one to be transferred to the new bus, which belonged to Starmart, the parent company. And I wondered if they had actually forgotten that I was sleeping in the bus only to find me in the Qistna bus when the headcount was off.

Here’s me in my new seat because the Qistna driver said “mana-mana duduk” or sit anywhere, pulling away from the broken down Qistna bus at Pagoh R&R. The good news is that since I can sit anywhere, I found a double seat to myself for the rest of the journey. There’s no new passengers which means this was an actual replacement bus. I couldn’t fall asleep from here on since I slept pretty well for the past 3 hours. The delay was probably because they pulled the replacement bus from Larkin.

Goodbye broken down Qistna bus.

Not long after, the sun shone brightly on the highway.

I couldn’t believe it, a bus ride was actually going to take as long as the train.

On the bright side, for my future Starmart trips, is that since I was sitting on the double seat, I finally found the button for the massage for the single seat, tucked away along the aisle-side of the seat, not visible when you actually sit down.

The massage function was working on this Starmart replacement bus, which I used throughout the journey. It was more of just vibrations in the seat and not an actual trigger point massage like the Ogawa seats on Nice Imperial.

The replacement bus arriving at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, which will not continue on to My Hotel @ Bukit Bintang which was my booked destination. But considering the travel time, I would have gladly truncated my journey at TBS to stretch my legs and use the toilet anyway.

Alighting from the replacement bus.

The replacement bus finally arrived at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan at 9.02am, making this journey’s total time of 9 hours and 3 minutes. And believe it or not, I still arrived before the arrival of the new night train combination from Woodlands CIQ, which the ETS will depart at 7.30am from Gemas and only arrive in Bandar Tasik Selatan at 9.27am and KL Sentral at 9.44am.

At least with the late arrival, there wasn’t a jam to the alighting berths and it’s a quick transfer to the LRT to continue my journey to the city.

Qistna is in such a sad state of affairs despite being owned by a reputable parent company. But it’s not the only such poor subsidiary in Malaysia, you might be surprised if you know about more affiliations, which difference can be compared almost between heaven and hell. I wonder why Starmart just doesnt shut Qistna down and concentrate fully on one business.

Will I take Qistna again or recommend it to others?

NEVER. Take it at your own risk.


7 thoughts on “Qistna Express: Truly the Bus Ride from Hell”

  1. Hey there. I had a pretty similar encounter with Qistna too.

    I was at genting last month and I book my return trip via Booking.com which was quite a reliable website.

    My trip was supposed to depart at 10. 30am. I did not have the vehicle number nor any contact person for this. And no one call me to inform me of anything. Lucky for me, my girlfriend Google for Qistna and we found a contact number for the Singapore branch.

    So the person gave me a Malaysia number which was the bus driver. He gave me the vehicle number too. I called the driver and he told me he will arrive at 10.30am which was supposed to be the departure time. Pretty accurate, he was there at 10.30am sharp. But, he depart immediately after me and my girlfriend boarded the bus. Very strange, just the 2 of us on the bus from genting highlands. He did not even wait for any other passengers or something. So I assumed the ride from genting only consists of the both of us and he might be fetching others at some other station. So I fell asleep after a while only to be woken up at around 12pm at some petrol station in KL. The driver told me that his boss say it’s not possible to send us to Singapore as there’s only 2 person on board. It was understandable too as it is very uneconomic to send just the 2 of us. So he told us that a replacement bus will bring us to JB and then another one will bring us to Boonlay. Yeah my arrival was at boonlay.

    The driver was kind though, waited with us for the next bus. The next driver was pretty kind too, told me free seating. I was kind of happy since the interior of the bus seems better. But all the other guys were staring at my girlfriend who was the only girl.

    So the journey to JB began. We stop at Yong Peng stop around afternoon. So I had a toilet break and expected to go to JB. But I was kind of curious because I enter Malaysia through Tuas custom and it was not the same stop as we did. So I Google and found myself on the route to woodlands checkpoint. But hell it’s good enough as long as I return to singapore. But next, the driver told me that the bus is going to workshop, some technical faults. So he spoke to all the passengers and we took a replacement bus beside which was double storey. Pretty good too, big chairs hahaha.

    Next, after an hour or two, we ended up in larkin. I called the contact person and he told me to go to Qistna Bus Counter and they will assist me from there. So we found the bus counter and know what? It’s closed, nobody was at the booth. Fuck, what am I supposed to do? I called the fellow and he told me to wait. I waited for 40mins until a person show up and he ask me where I wanted to go. Since we’re super close to woodlands, I told him woodlands checkpoint.

    THE BEST PART IS COMING, STAY WITH ME. He bought us to the bus terminal and walk around searching for a bus. We thought they might have a bus going to boonlay so I was kind of anticipating, home sweet home yeah? But… He bought us to a bus, I forgot what’s the bus number but IT WAS A FUCKING SBS TRANSIT BUS. OUR DAMN LOCAL BUS. But yeah he paid for our bus ride to woodlands, which was like around 2 ringgit if I’m not wrong. SBS BUS LEH I COULD HAVE USE MY OWN EZLINK RIGHT???

    But my girlfriend was pretty worn out and finally she found hope, at least we won’t get lost again since it was our local bus company. Pretty trustworthy yeah? So the bus took us to woodlands checkpoint. We went through the checkpoint and paid for Causeway Link, the yellow bus remember?? It took us to Singapore checkpoint there and hola, we finally arrived in Singapore. How fucking happy am I you know? So we ended up taking the same yellow bus to kranji and we took a cab straight back to jurong.

    So how many bus we took? Let me count, genting to KL to Yong Peng to Larkin to Woodlands to Singapore checkpoint to kranji. 6 buses in total. I arrived in Kranji at 7.15pm. Approximately 9 freaking hours and it didn’t bring us to boonlay. I reached home at 7.40pm. Which brings us to a total of 9 hours and 10mins journey.

    Screw this bus company, lousy service. Will never ever take this again. How I wish I saw your post before I book the bus. Just sharing my thoughts and feelings after taking this bus company.


  2. Do AVOID using Star Qistna coaches.
    My friend and I took the bus coach from TBS, Kuala Lumpur to Spore on 19th Nov 2017 at 2.30pm & we finally get to leave Beach Road Spore only at 12 midnight.
    Firstly the bus departed without us at the Malaysian custom .
    We were not late. We took about 15-20mins after immigration clearance & a quick visit to the
    ladies & the bus lest us behind with our luggage still in the bus. Obviously the driver did not
    do a head count and had not the patience.
    Next upon informing the agent in Singapore of our plight, we were told that our luggage will be left at the Singapore immigration. That was not correct. We manage to get a ride from another bus to Singapore immigration. We were told that our luggages were checked & has been given back to the driver to bring back to their office in Singapore. We manage to pay for a bus ride to Beach Road where the office is located.
    Upon reaching the office at 11pm, the staff there was rude & instead of helping, questioned us why the rest could get onto the bus accept the 2 of us. We wanted to get back our lugggages & head for home after a tired day. However our baggages were not there. She told us to wait another 40 mins for the guy in-charge to bring our luggages to the Beach Road office. We were really furious ! We were put on the phone with the guy in charge & he said he had to unload his other passengers & can only bring our luggages when he is done. He arrived at 11.55pm with our luggages. And all he said was “sorry” and left. What a night mare !


  3. The Qistna bus services is damn bad. The bus delayed without acknowleged.. called to the counter and request passenger to wait at the same spot then cut off the line..Wasting ppl time. booked 6.30 bus end up waited for more than one hour. Perhaps is because the early bus is not full..
    It will be good to be inform at the counter when checked in that the bus depart time is changed..


  4. The coach departed from Genting highlands for Singapore (12 Aug 2018) at approx 10:55am when all the passengers were onboard (there were 11 pax onboard, 4 pax group, 5 pax group and 2 singles, myself included). My seat was a single seat.

    The coach went into the small streets in KL, somewhere near SMK La Salle Sentul where it waited fro 5 minutes before making a weird U-turn and headed back to some roads it passed. Then deeper into the jam packed roads of KL where it stopped in front of Berjaya Times Square. The coach reached Berjaya Times Square at 1:30pm and waited for almost 25 minutes. The driver then mumbled in Tamil that there were supposed to be 10 more passengers that did not turned up (There were 4 Indian passengers who assisted us with the translation as the coach driver did not speak English).

    The coach then headed into North-south Highway “E2”. He stopped at a small rest stop (approx 315KM mark) around 2:10pm and declared “lunch” and stepped out of the coach. I noticed another Qistna Express coach entered the rest stop and parked beside our coach for a while then left. The rest stop only had one stall selling rice, another stall selling some fried noodles and a few drinks stalls, not a decent place for most people unless you want to have the risk of having a bad case of diahorrea.

    When I boarded the coach at 2:20pm, I thought I entered the wrong coach as it was half filled with strangers. Someone was in my seat and my backpack which was left on the seat was now on the floor. A foreigner couple had couple seats but decided to use one of the seats for their bags and took my seat. They apologised and put their bags into the over head compartment. I checked my backpack and all my stuff was there (including some 2,200 Malaysian Ringgit in a clear plastic ziplock bag).

    There was a huge commotion when the rest of the passengers and coach driver returned. Some of the new passengers were in the seats of the original occupants. So there was some shuffling around….worse of all, the coach was now overbooked…..one passenger (originated from Genting) did not have a seat. After some shouting over the phone and at the coach driver, the passenger ended up seating on the stairs of the coach. Now the coach had a mix of Indian passengers, Chinese passengers and 3 foriengers (they sounded like french tourists).

    The coach travelled very slowly….I could have sworn that a few cyclists over took the coach at one part of the highway.

    At apporxmately 5:15pm, the coach exited the highway at the Pagoh toll and the driver stopped at the road side beside a small carpark claimed “toilet break”. We got off the coach and headed for the toilets. When I came out of the toilet another Qistna Express coach had parked behind ours and its passengers were getting off that coach and boarding ours !!!

    We then demanded to know what was going on as our coach was already overbooked and there was no way to take in 20 more passengers. The 2 coach drivers told us to switch coaches. I had a hard time getting my stuff of the coach as a stranger was already in my seat and my backpack was on the floor again….I had to unplug my phone charger from the floor a pack some of my other stuff like drinks while passengers were either doing the same packing or either getting off and on the same coach at the same time.

    We managed to settle into the other coach at 5:30pm and the coach made another weird U-turn to return to the North-South Highway.
    The coach did not stop at the usual “Yong Peng rest stop” but to our horror, the driver drove past legoland and made a stop at Tampoi to drop off a passenger and another at Larkin to drop off 3 passengers before heading back to Tuas checkpoint. Along the way at 6:55pm, he made an unschuduled sudden stop along lebuhraya sultan iskandar near Jalan Rawa to pack dinner for himself.

    We managed to clear Malaysia customs but was stuck in the 2nd link bridge from 7:35pm to approx 8:30pm. Most of us cleared the Singapore customs and waited for the coach which arrived at approx 8:45pm. On board the coach, while waiting for others to clear customs, some of us began to repack our stuff and power up our mobile phones (or change to Singapore Telco). One of the ladies who left her mobile in her backpack could not find her mobile. I then looked into my backpack and also discovered that my ziplock bag containing Myr 2,200 only had Myr 600). These were likely stolen by the passengers at Pagoh when the other passengers boarded our coach. We discussed about reporting to the polce but what good would it do ?

    At 9:10pm, 2 more strangers boarded our coach. The young couple sat beside me and told me they were from TBS (130pm coach) stranded there by another Qistna Express coach and was heading to Jurong Point. The coach suddenly took off amidst to our protest that the 3 foreign tourist were not onboard the coach. The driver replied that he waited for over 1 hour and he was not waiting any longer (he only waited for 30 minutes where he took the time to have his dinner)…..Do note that most of the passengers did not have anything to eat since 10am other than breakfast served in Starbucks at First World Hotel.

    Then at 9:15pm, some of the passengers noticed that the route the driver took was wrong as he past the turn to Jurong Point. The driver just stopped the coach at the Bus stop 21019 (Aft Yuan Ching Road) and said next stop is Serangoon Road. Most of us got off the coach and headed for the food court and Macdonalds at Yuan Cing Road while some others took a cab to Jurong Point.


  5. Looks like nothing has change for the better. Without reading any comment I took Star Qistna in good faith. However my faith was shattered even before I boarded the coach on the 17th August 2018 from Singapore to KL.

    In good sense I was not too happy (though gave the company a thumb up) when I received sms to state that the coach will be delayed from 7.45 pm to 8 pm.

    I arrived in Golden Mile with plenty of time but no coach till 8.20 Pm when a big group
    Of us were herded along an uneven walkway towards a main highway to await the coach. WTH…it’s so unsafe. Hey. We are in Singapore and this is it???
    The guy who guided us was ‘most apologetic ‘. He most probably been doing this for ages and it is already like second nature to him to blame anything and everything except for the awful management of the company.
    We stand on the pavement wth traffic whisking past us fr a good 20 minutes before the coach serenely came by.

    By the time we move on it was Already a bit past 9 pm.

    Thank goodness I was able to test my achy calves for the next hour TIL we reached the custom.

    The nightmare just got started:

    1. Long time to clear immigration on both sides
    2. The the coach after clearing iborh Immigration on both sides make a drive towards Larkin. The coach stopped along the high way ??? To meddle with the perfectly fine engine.
    3. Then towards a petrol kiosk to put in petrol
    4. Then Long wait again and then some passengers got in
    5. Then stop in Malacca for 2 passengers to get off

    By the time I reach KL. Sungai Besi Petronas it was around 5.30 am the 18th August

    Never again Star Qistna. You are so ridiculous and a bad image both for us the locals and our foreign visitors who are unfortunate enough to ride your coaches👎👎👎


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