Malaysia is one of the few Southeast Asian nations to boast a solid transportation network across the country.
It is now possible for travelers to explore every part of Malaysia as travel times have shortened, level of comfort and safety greatly improved and prices are valued fairly.
Here are the three main modes of public transportation in Kuala Lumpur that can assist you in getting most out of your time and money!
Buses are the prime mover of people in Malaysia. They cover big cities, small towns and even attractions out in the wild. The main bus hub in Kuala Lumpur is located at Bandar Tasik Selatan, called Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (Southern Integrated Terminal, TBS). It houses all long-haul bus operators plying the northern, southern and east coast routes.
TBS feels more like an airport than a typical bus terminal with its modern glass and metal design complete with retail and food outlets. It even has arrival and departure lounges! Getting there is a breeze as the hub is seamlessly connected to the intracity Sri Petaling Line of the LRT rail, Seremban Line of the KTM Komuter and the airport flyer KLIA Transit.
The TBS website also gives you the pleasure to book tickets and compare fares and times. This allows you to scout for the best options online rather than having to make your way to the terminal only to find out that tickets are sold out.
*Update* KL Sentral, the main rail transportation hub, also offers long-haul bus trips to major cities like Penang and Singapore.
Trains are one of my favorite form of travels and Malaysia has been investing a lot in upgrading their railway lines. Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) is the sole operator of passenger rail and they offer two types of services.
The rustic Intercity Service covers all three northern, southern & eastern sectors and offers a mixture of accomodations from first class cabins to economy class seats. The highlight of this service is the famous "Jungle Railway" as the train cuts across thick the tropical rainforest of the interior before terminating at the northeastern state of Kelantan.
The modern ETS Service is currently available along the northern sector, hitting major cities like Ipoh, Penang and Alor Setar. Since it only takes 5 hours to reach Padang Besar near the Thai border, this service does not have any sleeping berths. The travel time is at par, if not faster, than taking a bus but it can get sold out pretty fast during the festive season.
KTM's website has all the details on travel times and fares but online booking seems a bit sketchy. I recommend buying your tickets directly over their counters at KL Sentral, the main rail hub of Kuala Lumpur.
If you're feeling lucky, why not try scoring some cheap airline tickets? AirAsia is the leading low-cost carrier in Malaysia and around the region, offering competitive prices throughout the year and even lower fares during promotional periods. It's truly a no-frills airline so any add-ons are chargeable on top of your airfare.
Malindo Air comes close in second as an up-and-coming hybrid airline. Their promos can match AirAsia at times, with the added value of complimentary 20 kg baggage and in-flight snacks. Their routes are a bit more limited but they fly to all local destinations from both KL International Airport (KLIA) & Subang Airport.
The third choice is Firefly, a low-cost subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines. They only operate out of Subang Airport, which is half the distance to Kuala Lumpur from KLIA, and offer the same pricing schemes as Malindo Air. Their promo fares can sell out quite fast so you need to book your dates in advance to get them.
Websites: AirAsia, Malindo Air, Firefly
Which mode of transport is the best? If you feel like beach bumming on the islands of the east coast pronto, taking a flight would be more reasonable than an 8 hour bus ride. If you want to see how the countryside looks like in comfort, taking a train would be the best option.
At the end of the day, it depends on your budget, time and a little bit of luck.
This travel tip is shared by Dan on the Road