If you’re a regular traveler, public transportation in the places you’re visiting is one of the things you try to unpack first. And when in Malaysia, there’s quite a number of things to unpack, simply because you have several options for your quick ride to the city or a trip to that beach resort an hour or two away from your hotel. You have cars, taxis, buses and trains to choose from, which can all be confusing if you’re not familiar with the country’s public transportation system.
But fret not! This guide will take you for a quick ride (pun intended!) through some of the country’s most common public transportation systems. Keep on reading if you’re planning for a visit or making a quick trip anytime soon!
- Public Transportation in Malaysia: Overview
- Getting around by air
- Getting around by train
- Getting around by bus
- Getting around by ferry
- Renting a Car in Malaysia
- Getting around by a long-distance taxi
- Getting around by local public transportation
- Malaysia Travel Tips
- Video: Is Public Transportation in Malaysia Good?
- Frequently Asked Questions:
- Final Thoughts
Public Transportation in Malaysia: Overview
Malaysia has several international airports and plenty of modern public transportation options. In Kuala Lumpur, there are buses, trains, and highways that can handle the city’s traffic.
When it comes to planning a trip to Malaysia, it’s important to keep in mind that the country is divided into two land masses: Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia. The latter shares a large island with Indonesia and Brunei, while the former is bordered by Thailand.
Compared to East Malaysia, Peninsular Malaysia has more public transportation options. The former, on the other hand, is wilder — a great place for some nature exploration—but lacks suitable transportation options.
Getting around by air
By far the majority of flights to Malaysia arrive in Kuala Lumpur (Peninsular Malaysia), followed by Kota Kinabalu (East Malaysia) and Penang (on the island of Penang off the coast of Peninsular Malaysia) (on Penang Island off of Peninsular Malaysia). KL is well-served by flights from Singapore and Bangkok.
Two airports serve the Kuala Lumpur area. Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), the city’s main international airport, is 46 miles from the city. It is served by a number of international airlines, as well as Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysia-Indonesia joint venture Malindo Air. KLIA2 is a nearby modern complex designed specifically for low-cost carriers such as AirAsia, which flies to a variety of foreign and domestic locations.
Firefly, a Malaysia Airlines affiliate, serves Skypark Subang Airport (Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport), which is located roughly 20 kilometers from the city. It flies domestically as well as to Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia.
You can take a cab from KLIA (we recommend using the coupon system explained in the Local Transportation section below), the KLIA Ekspres light rail (a 28-minute trip), or the Airport Coach (a one-hour trip) (an approximately one-hour trip).
You can take a taxi from Subang Airport or a direct RapidKL bus to KL Sentral.
More than 30 other commercial domestic airports service Malaysia Air, AirAsia, Firefly, Malindo Air, and MASwings around the country (East Malaysia only).
As an illustration of the distance between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu takes approximately 2.5 hours while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching takes approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. Flights to East Malaysia also depart from Johor Bahru and Penang.
With that being said, flight connections to and from Malaysia are frequent and inexpensive. You can also take a train or bus to Kuala Lumpur, which are both far more comfortable and convenient than an overnight train ride. Ultimately, your choice of transportation will depend on what your budget is and what time you arrive.
Getting around by train
Peninsular Malaysia is linked by 1,149 miles of rail, with a main line running from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and north to Thailand. They divert off the main line in Kota Bharu to reach the country’s northeastern corner. Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTMB) operates this modern national train service, with the Sentral Train Station in Kuala Lumpur serving as its main hub.
There are two types of train service:
— Air-conditioned express trains with two to three seating classes (premier, superior, and sometimes economy), as well as three overnight service classes with berths.
— Local trains, which are usually only available in economy class, though some may have first-class accommodation. Some trains may take twice as long as express trains to reach their destinations due to frequent stops.
It is possible to view schedules and purchase tickets on the KTMB website. Please confirm times because they are regularly subject to change.
The North Borneo Railway in East Malaysia operates a tiny, narrow-gauge line for four-hour round-trip excursions from Kota Kinabalu to Papar in Sabah, including lunch and a sightseeing stop in Kinarut.
If money is not an issue, the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express runs between Bangkok and Singapore, stopping at several points and offering tours.
Getting around by bus
There are several intercity bus services offered in Malaysia. Transnasional, Cityliner, and Plusliner bus brands are all part of Konsortium Transnasional Berhad. These buses are frequently slower and may or may not have air conditioning.
Among the most luxurious bus options are Aeroline, First Coach, Nice Executive Coach, and Super Nice. These lines are typically air-conditioned and may even offer lunch service. The slight price increase is totally worth it.
Buses run frequently along the north/south route between Singapore and Thailand, however service to many other sites is less frequent. It’s always a good idea to get bus tickets a day ahead of time, especially during holiday and festival seasons. Before purchasing a ticket, look at a company’s accident history, as some have quite worrisome records. Googling “Malaysia bus companies accident records” will bring up news articles and the latest accident information in English. But if you don’t want to spoil your trip, traveling shorter distances at a time either by taxi or by train can also be well your best bet for a stress-free journey.
However, when traveling long distances by bus, it’s also important to plan ahead. Make sure you have all the information you need before setting out, like schedules and prices. You can find this information on websites like Bus Online Ticket, which provides information on over hundreds of bus routes throughout Malaysia. The site lets members book tickets online and gives them access to a travel planner that helps them plan their itineraries.
Getting around by ferry
In Malaysia, there is a wide range of water transport options. There are multiple ports, including those in Port Klang, Penang, Sabah, Kuantan and Sarawak. There are also ferries and rover crafts that can be used for inter-country travel.
Some of the international and domestic routes that are served by ferries from Peninsular Malaysia include connecting with Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore. In East Malaysia, ferries offer service to the Philippines and Brunei.
Renting a Car in Malaysia
Some of the major companies that operate in Malaysia’s biggest cities include Hertz and Avis. If you’re planning on traveling across the country or looking for a place to drop off and pick up your car, consider choosing a provider with multiple locations. On the peninsula, rentals are typically cheaper than those in Borneo. There are also plenty of bikes and scooters for rent in various locations.
Although you can usually get away with just a regular driver’s license, you might be asked for an international driving permit in some cases.
In Malaysia, drivers are required to wear seatbelts. The country’s road system is generally good, with some excellent toll roads, such as the North-South Highway, which runs from Johor Bahru all the way to Thailand. The local routes can be more busy, with Malay drivers often disregarding road rules and speed limits.
East Malaysia’s roads are more rugged, though good ones can be found in areas such as Sabah and Sarawak.
Getting around by a long-distance taxi
In Malaysia, long-distance taxis can be found near bus stations. These are typically more expensive than a bus, and you must wait until the taxis are full before taking off. If you’re in a hurry, you can also buy the entire car. It’s important to arrive early in order to increase your chances of getting picked up.
Getting around by local public transportation
Bicycle rickshaws, also known as trickshaws, are available in various cities such as George Town and Malacca. In the latter, drivers compete with each other by displaying over-the-top designs. In addition to the usual fare, passengers can also negotiate with the drivers to get the best possible price.
Taxis are also available in Kuala Lumpur. There are two types of taxis in the city: regular and executive cabs, which are painted blue. It is obligatory for the drivers to use the meter. In addition to these, areas where coupons can be purchased are also included in the coupon system.
Charges include the cost of transporting luggage in the trunk, as well as the additional passengers beyond two. During the late hours, a 50 percent surcharge is also added. To avoid getting charged an inflated rate, passengers should always ask the driver to negotiate.
Although most towns have their own bus system, it can be hard to keep track of the routes and schedules. You can get help from your lodging provider for more specific information.
In addition to buses, there are also various public transportation systems that operate in the city. One of these is the Light Rail Transit system, which operates trains all around the city. A monorail connects Kuala Lumpur Sentral with the Golden Triangle area in the central part of the city. The new Mass Rapid Transit system, which is expected to connect various areas, is currently under construction.
Malaysia Travel Tips
Malaysia is a diverse country that has a population that is composed of various ethnic groups. Its rich cuisine and colonial past can be found in its various historical buildings, such as the City Hall and the unfinished Kellie’s Castle. Despite its urban setting, Malaysia also has a beautiful natural landscape.
Malaysia is a relatively easy place to visit for first-timers. However, before you leave, it’s important to learn a few things about the country.
1. What To Bring And What To Wear
Malaysia is a tropical country that enjoys a warm climate. Although it’s humid most of the year, you won’t need to wear woolens since the highlands are relatively cooler. Here are some Malaysia travel tips that will help you look your best: We recommend wearing lightweight clothes such as cottons or loose-fit items. Black is also not recommended as it can absorb heat.
Although Malaysia is a modern country, it still has conservative traditions. In certain areas, exposing too much skin is not allowed. If you plan on going to a place of worship, then you must cover your hair and wear a conventional outfit.
2. Getting around
Getting around Malaysia’s cities is easy, as they are well-connected. There are plenty of ways to get around, such as public transportation and taxis. The main station in Kuala Lumpur is the Sentral.
Public transportation, such as buses, are commonly available in major cities. While taxis are the ideal option when traveling short distances, you’ll need to pay a fare before you can use them. If you’re planning on traveling a long distance, you might opt for an intercity bus.
Street food is a popular type of food in Malaysia, and it’s very cheap. Although it can be found all around the country, the best places to try it are in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Some of the most popular dishes include apom balik, a stuffed pancake, and Rojak, which is a vegetable and fruit salad.
4. Popular Places To Visit In Malaysia
When considering a trip to Malaysia, the first place that comes to mind is Kuala Lumpur. There are, however, other sites that are equally enthralling. Check out our suggestions for Malaysian short excursions and extended vacations.
Rawa Island is a beautiful coral island in Johor that is perfect for a relaxed vacation. It got its name from the abundance of rawa doves, which are white doves. Snorkeling is a popular activity here, and you can spend days studying the sea creatures.
The state of Penang has many tourist attractions, including the picturesque old town center of its capital, George Town. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is densely packed with historic structures, including colonial and ecclesiastical architecture. As you leave the city, you’ll pass by beautiful beaches and bustling fishing villages. Penang Hill and Penang National Park provide good trekking opportunities, and nature lovers will enjoy the scenery and wildlife observation.
Langkawi‘s archipelago is made up of about 100 islands. The main island attracts visitors with its green slopes and stunning coastline. Diving is a popular pastime and the best way to learn about the aquatic attractions.
You can rent a pocket WiFi device to communicate with family and friends, as well as to upload and share photographs! To get about Langkawi, you can either walk, take a cab, or rent a motorcycle.
Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, is a thriving metropolis. The modern metropolis is the nation’s top retail and nightlife destination. It also houses the twin Petronas Towers, which were formerly the tallest structures on the planet. Tourist attractions such as the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery illustrate the capital’s history through dioramas and guided tours. Furthermore, Kuala Lumpur is home to the Batu Caves, a limestone cavern with shrines.
Johor Bahru, the state capital, is a lively city with several old temples, mosques, and amusement parks. It also houses Legoland, the country’s first international theme park. Adults will enjoy themselves just as much as youngsters!
For first-time guests, Legoland Malaysia travel advice includes pre-booking a taxi back to the hotel. It will help you avoid paying a high charge for a taxi ride home from the park, where cabs are waiting. Food is expensive, like it is at other amusement parks, so plan ahead!
5. Best Activities to do
Visit some of the country’s most popular attractions such as George Town, Legoland, and the beaches.
One of our top Malaysia Kuala Lumpur travel tips is to explore the area known as Jalan Alor. It’s full of food and street vendors. In the evening, go to the area to enjoy the local food. If you’ve got time, try island-hopping in the archipelago of Langkawi. There, you can explore the island’s various activities, such as diving and snorkeling. Another must-visit is Malacca, where you can admire the red lacquer architecture.
6. Local language
Before you go to Malaysia, learn a couple of phrases in the local language to help you get around the city. It’s possible that the people who you meet may not be able to speak English, so learning these words can help you navigate through the various areas of the country.
7. Local Festivals and Events
To ensure that you have the best possible experience when visiting Malaysia, keep track of the various festivals and events happening in the country. This will allow you to have a unique and memorable trip.
Video: Is Public Transportation in Malaysia Good?
Here’s a video about a vlogger’s personal experience in getting around the city. She’s tried the train and the bus ride in getting around the city. Find out how convenient Malaysia’s public transportation options are, and what your best option is!
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What is a kereta sapu?
In Sarawak and Sabah, the term kereta sapu refers to private cars and four-wheel-drive vehicles that operate on rough roads. These are commonly referred to as taxis or buses. These are usually operated from bus stations.
2. What does Gila mean in Malaysia?
Upon getting on the road, you’ll quickly realize that there are a few Malaysian motorists who are just plain reckless. They often swerve from one lane to the other, go through blind corners, and engage in dangerous overtaking. The press often reports of fatal accidents, and there are even signs that urge drivers to drive safely, but these messages still aren’t getting through.
3. How many kilometers is the bus network in Malaysia?
The national bus network of Malaysia is easy to use, with express coaches that run between major cities and towns. Its local services are slower and usually only within a 100-kilometer radius.
4. What is the speed limit in Malaysia?
The speed limit on most types of roads is 110kph in urban areas, 90kph on narrow state and trunk roads, and 50 kph in built-up regions. For long-distance travel, the fastest route is through an expressway rather than a trunk road.
Regardless of the road you’re on, obey the speed limit. Fines and speed traps are common in Malaysia, and if you’re pulled over for a traffic violation, the police will often ask for a bribe in order to reduce the fine. Never accept an invitation to give in to a police officer’s demands.
5. How to get around Malaysia?
In Malaysia, public transportation is inexpensive and reliable. Most of your travel will be done by either a bus or a minivan, though you can also take a long-distance taxi or a budget flight.
6. What is the KTM train?
The intercity train service of Malaysia’s Peninsula is handled by Malay Land Trains, also known as Keretapi Tanah Melayu.
The network is composed of a circular shape, with the southern portion anchored in Singapore and the northern intersection in Malaysia’s Gemas.
The northwest branch of the train service goes into Thailand through Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth, and Ipoh. It then crosses the border into Padang Besar. The northeast branch cuts through the interior and ends up at Tumpat.
7. Where does MAS fly from?
Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is a national carrier that operates flights from Kuala Lumpur to various state capitals in Malaysia, such as Putrajaya, Sabah, and Sarawak. Its subsidiary, MASwings, also offers services within East Malaysia using Twin Otter aircraft.
Getting around in Malaysia is easy, but you need to plan your journey beforehand. You can use buses and trains to travel between cities and towns, or take a plane if you want to cover longer distances.
There are plenty of sights to see and activities to enjoy, so you’ll never be bored while you travel around via public transportation. If you want to get from place to place quickly, then taking the train or bus is the easiest option.
As always, we hope you’ve enjoyed this guide and that you’re now ready to explore Malaysia’s many sights. If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to leave them in the comments section below!
READ NEXT: Do’s and Don’ts for OFWs in Malaysia