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Malaysia Transportation - Getting around
Largely thanks to budget carrier Air Asia, 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. Fly Asian Xpress (FAX), formerly MAS Rural Air Service, operates turboprop services in Sarawak and Sabah.
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.
As is the case throughout South-East Asia, trains can rarely match road transport in terms of speed (notable exceptions being Kuala Lumpur's LRT and monorail systems, and the high speed ERL services between KLIA and Sentral Station).
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.
There are several train types and fare classes. 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 Train" is a daily eastern line service which stops at every station (every 15-20 min or so) between Tumpat (close to the Thai border) and Gemas, including stops at Gua Musang, Kuala Lipis and Jerantut. 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 Taman Negara National Park (Jerantut) or the Perhentian Islands (closest station to Kota Bharu is Wakaf Bahru). 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.
Major Station Telephone Numbers:
* Kuala Lumpur CALLCENTER +60 3 2267-1200
* Singapore (Enquiries) +65 6222-5165, +65 6221-3390
* Alor Star +60 4 731-4045
* Arau +60 4 986-1225
* Bukit Mertajam +60 4 539-2660
* Butterworth +60 4 323-7962, +60 4 331-2796
* Gemas +60 7 948-2863
* Gua Musang +60 9 912-1226
* Ipoh +60 5 254-0481
* Johor Bahru +60 7 223-4727, +60 7 223-3040
* Kampar +60 5 465-1489
* Klang +60 3 3371-9917
* Kluang +60 7 771-0954
* Kuala Kangsar +60 5 776-1094
* Kuala Lipis +60 9 312-1341
* Mentakab +60 9 277-1002
* Padang Besar +60 4 949-0231
* Pasir Mas +60 9 790-9025
* Penang +60 4 261-0290
* Segamat +60 7 931-1021
* Seremban +60 6 761-1708
* Subang Jaya +60 3 5634-1677
* Taiping +60 5 807-5584
* Tampin +60 6 441-1034
* Tapah Road +60 5 418-1345
* Tumpat +60 9 725-7232
* Wakaf Bahru (Kota Bharu) +60 9 719-6986
Malaysia has an excellent highway network, culminating in the North-South Expressway from Singapore all the way to the Thai border. Petrol is cheap at a little over RM1.92/litre, but tolls are payable on expressways.
Traffic (mostly) drives on the left.
Beware of reckless motorcyclists, especially at night. At traffic lights, they will accumulate in front of you - let them get away first to avoid accidents.
In general, cars and motorcycles might not always indicate line changes and often change from the far right to the far left at the very last minute. Always be aware of what the cars in front are doing!
Care is needed when driving in larger cities, such as Kuala Lumpur. 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.
To avoid the hassle of driving, taxis are a good way of getting around. They are available in major towns and cities but are most abundant in Kuala Lumpur and its suburbs. Taxis in Kuala Lumpur and its suburbs are metered but when demand exceeds supply or during rush hour, they may ask for a fixed price before commencing travel.
A few tips for unmetered journeys: (1) If you live in an expensive hotel, quoting a nearby destination such as a restaurant or shopping mall might save you some money. (2) Once the haggling is done, hop into the taxi, sit back and don't question the driver - the fastest route between two points in Kuala Lumpur is almost never a straight line!
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!
Warning: Bus drivers (especially on more "rural" routes) sometimes drive carelessly, speed like maniacs, overtake on blind corners, etc. The vast mojority of journeys are problem-free but some horrific accidents attributed to reckless driving have, however, led to a crackdown and a nationwide hotline and SMS number for reporting these drivers/vehicles have been set up. These numbers are conveniently pasted on the back of every single large vehicle in the country.