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Monorail in Kuala Lumpur.  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.de/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Malaysia

Malaysia Getting around

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By plane

Largely thanks to budget carrier AirAsia Malaysia is crisscrossed by a web of affordable flights with advertised "promotional" prices starting at RM9 for flights booked well in advance. Flying is the only practical option for traveling between peninsular Malaysia and Borneo, as well as reaching some of the more remote outposts of Borneo.

State carrier Malaysia Airlines also has competitive fares which now offers equal or even lower priced tickets if booked in advance through the internet, with sustaining class of hospitality. And their offshoot Firefly has a handy network radiating out of Penang previously, has also began operating from the Subang (Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah) airport.

Berjaya Air also flies small Dash-7 turboprops from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to its own airports on the resort islands of Pangkor, Redang and Tioman. Prices are steep (from RM214 plus fees one way), but this is by far the fastest and more comfortable way of reaching any of these.

In Sabah and Sarawak, MASWings operates turboprop services linking interior communities, including those in the Kelabit Highlands, with coastal cities. MASWings took over the rural air services network from FlyAsian Express on October 1, 2007, which in turn took the service over from Malaysia Airlines 14 months before that.

By train

Long-distance trains in Malaysia can rarely match road transport in terms of speed, but state operator KTMB provides relatively inexpensive and generally reliable services around Peninsular Malaysia (but not Sabah/Sarawak in Borneo). The main western line connects Butterworth (near Penang), Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru, while the eastern line runs through Gua Musang and the Taman Negara National Park to Kota Bharu, near the Thai border and the Perhentian Islands.

Commuter Train in Kuala Lumpur.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.de/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

The pride of KTMB's fleet is the ETS (Electric Train Service) from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh, running modern air-conditioned trains 10x/daily at 140 km/h with a travel time of just over 2 hours. The rest of the network, though, is mostly single-track, with slow diesel locos and all too frequent breakdowns and delays. First and second class are air-con, third class has fans instead. For sleeper trains, KTMB's epitome of luxury is Premier Night Deluxe (ADNFD - between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur only) featuring individual cabins containing two berths and a private shower/toilet unit. More economical are the Superior Night (ADNS) sleeper cars, which have upper and lower berths along each side, each bunk having a solid partition at each end and a side curtain for privacy. The carriages shake and rattle quite a bit but are comfortable and clean.

The Jungle Railway is the apt description for the eastern line between Tumpat (close to the Thai border) and Gemas, including stops at Gua Musang, Kuala Lipis, Jerantut (for Taman Negara National Park) and Wakaf Bahru (for Kota Bharu and the Perhentian Islands). The original "Jungle Train" is the slow daytime service which stops at every station (every 15-20 min or so). It's 3rd class only, meaning no air-con and no reservations, and some stops may be lengthy as it's a single line and all other trains have priority - hence the "Jungle Train" waits in side loops along the way so that oncoming or overtaking trains can pass. Tourists may use this service to travel to Some find it to be a fascinating and stunningly scenic ride; others feel there's not much to see when you're in the jungle. Eastern line night trains (for which reservations are possible and recommended) also have 2nd class berths and seats, and some have 1st class sleepers too.

Tickets can be booked and even printed online at KTMB's site. Enquiries and reservations can be made by phone at KTMB's call centers +60 3 2267-1200 (Malaysia) or 65 6222-5165 (Singapore).

By car

AirAsia is Malaysia's biggest low cost carrier.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.de/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Malaysia has an excellent highway network, culminating in the North-South Expressway along the West Coast from Singapore all the way to the Thai border. Petrol is slightly cheaper than market prices at RM1.85/litre (Ron 95) (in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak). Tolls are payable on expressways, but these are reasonably priced: driving the length of the country (734 km) from the Thai border to Singapore costs RM 108 (~US$25). While you can drive from Singapore to Thailand within a day on the West Coast, the highway system is considerably less developed on the East Coast, with no expressways, and even less so in Sabah and Sarawak, so be sure to factor in additional travel time if travelling in those areas.

While driving habits in Malaysia are head and shoulders above most of the rest of Southeast Asia, they are still not necessarily great, especially if you are coming from a Western country. Traffic drives on the left, a legacy left by the British. Beware of reckless motorcyclists (Mat Rempits), especially at night, and especially if you are a pedestrian: they typically disregard a red light for left turns, putting you at risk even though you cross the road with a green walk sign. As a motorist, at traffic lights, they will accumulate in front of you - let them drive away first to avoid accidents.

In general, cars and motorcycles rarely indicate lane changes and often change from the far right to the far left at the very last minute, so always pay attention to what the cars ahead are doing or what they possibly could do!
Care is needed when driving in larger cities, such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Problems include apparently suicidal motorcyclists, massive traffic jams throughout the day, and bewildering roads especially in the older parts of the city where planning is virtually nonexistent. Out of town however, cars and motorcycles are the best and sometimes the only way to explore the country. Some of the more rural areas have motorcycles and scooters to rent for as little as RM25/day, a great way to explore the local area or larger islands like Langkawi. Most rental agencies will require a valid car drivers licence to be presented upon rental (or at least be told that it is at your hotel) - this is because the police make random checks, and the rental agency does not wish to be held responsible for renting out a vehicle to an unlicensed driver. Fuel levels are often compared before and after rental, as well as for damage, so make sure everything is documented, and request a refund of any excess fuel if possible.

By taxi

Catching a Taxi on Tioman  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.de/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Taxis are available in all cities and larger towns, although in smaller places you may have to call one (ask any shopkeeper). You will generally need to negotiate the fare in advance, even in notionally metered Kuala Lumpur, although prepaid coupon taxis are usually available at airports. RM5 should suffice for a short cross-town trip, while RM100 is enough to hire a taxi for a full day. In Kuala Lumpur, the budget taxis are usually coloured Red and White or Yellow. These taxis are usually small saloons such as Proton Wira and run on NGV (Natural Gas). The luxury taxis are blue in colour and are larger saloons or MPVs (Multi Purpose Vehicles). These cost typically 25 - 30 % more than the budget taxis. But beware of unlicensed taxis (taxi sapu) at the airport. They can literally take you for a ride!

Popular shopping malls like Pavilion have dedicated Taxi stands with Taxi's from reputable companies. Another tip is to book your Taxi in advance. Taxi companies like "Sunlight Radio Taxi" http://www.sunlighttaxi.com/ & "Public Cab" http://www.publiccab.com are a good choices.

By bus

The cheapest way to travel in Malaysia is by bus. All towns of any size have a bus terminal offering connections to other parts of the country. There are many companies of varying degrees of dependability, but two of the largest and more reliable are Transnasional and NICE/Plusliner . 24-seater "luxury" buses are recommended for long-distance travel.

If travelling on holidays or even over the weekend, it is advisable to reserve your seats in advance. Note that air conditioning on some buses can be extremely cold so don't forget to bring a good sweater, pants and socks, especially for overnight journeys on luxury buses!

Transport Companies in Malaysia

Bus Company Panorama Sight-seeing Bus
This hop on/hop off tourist bus service stops at 22 sites around Melaka:  1)Melaka Sentral 2)Hang Tuah Walk 3)Jonker Walk 4)Masjid Kampung Hulu 5)Stadhuys 6)Muzium Samudera 7)Dataran Pahlawan 8)Hotel Equatorial 9)Bukit Senjuang 10)Kampung Portugis 11)Jalan ... more
Low Budget, 2 RM for single-decker, 5 RM for double decker bus, in Melaka (Malacca)
Train KLIA Express
KLIA Express is a train service set up especially to connect Kuala Lumpur International Airport to KL Sentral, with no other stops in between. KL Sentral is the inter-city transport hub, and you can reach anywhere within K... more
RM35, in Kuala Lumpur
Train KLIA Transit
Just like KLIA Express, KLIA Transit is a train service that connects commuters from KL Sentral to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, except that it makes three quick stops along key towns: Bandar Tasik Selatan, Putrajaya... more
RM12.40 to RM35, in Kuala Lumpur
Train KTM Komuter
KTM Komuter is a train service that connects KL city to greater Kuala Lumpur and from there to neighbouring towns, such as Rawang, Klang and Seremban. The trains are old but really quite charming, although we cannot say th... more
RM1-RM9.50, in Kuala Lumpur
Train Putra LRT
Putra LRT (Light Rail Transit), also known as Putraline, services three rail routes in Kuala Lumpur that connect at key stations. The first train departs from all stations at 6am. Trains are punctual and frequency, dependi... more
70 cents onwards, in Kuala Lumpur

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