Peninsular Malaysia is a compact piece of land with several satellite islands near its coast. It makes this land easy to travel and explore, so you can build your itinerary without problems. You can open the map and identify the destinations that you want to visit, and the things to do there. However, you have to connect these destinations, as well as the spots within them. Read below how to do it, how to arrange your Peninsular Malaysia transportation.
In general, most of Peninsular Malaysia is easy to travel. It is covered by a well-arranged road network and developed public transport. You can reach every state without a problem. However, there are still some areas, deep in the rainforests and mountains that are difficult to reach- these places are more adventurous.
Also, there are some islands, located not far from the mainland. Most of them are reachable by regular ferry service or even by plane. But some smaller islands are more complicated to travel.
The transportation in the cities is also well-arranged, but a bit different than in most of the other countries. However, it can be a bit more complicated within some other destinations like islands or national parks.
So, you have to consider all these transportation features when you plan your Peninsular Malaysia itinerary. But don’t worry, it is not difficult or complicated, even for the wildest areas of the country. Just plan everything accordingly. Let’s get into more details.
Types of transportation in Peninsular Malaysia
Most of the modern ways of transportation are well-presented in Peninsular Malaysia. Of them, the most used ones between the cities are the intercity buses, domestic flights, and rental cars. Inside the cities, there are not too many kinds of vehicles, but it is still convenient.
What you can’t find in the country are speed trains (or at least, “fast speed trains”, reaching more than 300 km/h). Also, you can’t find many of the old traditional vehicles that are very popular in most of the countries in Southeast Asia like tricycles, jeepneys (traditional for the Philippines), motorcycle taxis, or rickshaws (with exception of the tourist rickshaws used for attraction in the old cities of Melaka and Penang). Let’s see how can you travel to and around various places in Peninsular Malaysia.
Transportation in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is the largest city in Malaysia. It is a federal territory. But its transportation network is spread much further beyond the borders of this territory. It includes also the other federal territory of Putrajaya, as well as a significant part of Selangor State- an area, called „Greater Kuala Lumpur”. There are two main reasons for this. First, most of the Malaysian government is located in Putrajaya. And second, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport is located in Selangor, some 50 km far from the city itself.
Transport from KLIA to the city center
If you don’t enter Peninsular Malaysia on land from Singapore or Thailand, Kuala Lumpur International Airport is your entry point to the country. Once you arrive there, you have several options to reach the center of Kuala Lumpur. Let’s see two of them, that are established specifically to help passengers to get to the city.
Express and Transit railways
Express Railway the fastest way to reach Kuala Lumpur from the airport. But at the same time- the most expensive. One way ticket for adults is 55 RM, for children- 25 RM. It starts at KLIA 2 (Terminal 2 of the airport). Transit Railway is another service on the same route, for the same price. The difference between Express and Transit is only the travel time duration. Express is a direct train between KLIA and KL Sentral in Kuala Lumpur, while Transit stops in several other stations in the middle, including Putrajaya, so it takes a longer time. See more about these trains here.
Shuttle bus (Sky Bus, Aerobus, Airport Coach)
This is the cheapest way to reach Kuala Lumpur from the airport- 3 bus services with almost similar routes. For only 9 to 12 RM you can reach KL Sentral. It is comfortable but much slower than the trains- it takes approximately 1 hour and a half.
Other ways to travel between the airport and Kuala Lumpur are by taxi, by Grab, and by rental car- all of which I would not recommend. Taxi and Grab are expensive, and rental car is worth only travel around the country, but not for the big city. There are also public buses, which however go only to some nearer towns and districts.
Transport in the center of Kuala Lumpur
When we talk about the transport in Kuala Lumpur, let’s start from a specific spot on the map, called KL Sentral. This is the main transportation hub in the city, and most of the public transport starts from there. Let’s get into details.
LRT (Light Rail Transit)
It is a convenient way of transportation in Kuala Lumpur, the same as the metro system in most of the big cities in the world. LRT consists of three lines, crossing the center- Ampang, Sri Petaling, and Kelana Jaya lines. Part of their route is underground, another part is above the ground. It is fast and regular, and the price is 1 RM per stop. A great way to use if your hotel is near an LRT station.
There is one more LRT line, called Shah Alam (or Bandar Utama-Klang) line, but it runs far from KL Sentral and the center of Kuala Lumpur.
It is similar to LRT, just it uses a single rail, instead of a normal railroad. Unlike the LRT, it has only one line, and the price is a little bit expensive- 1,20 RM per stop. Again, it is very convenient and fast, since it runs across the center of Kuala Lumpur.
MRT (Mass Rapid Transit)
It is one line, crossing Kuala Lumpur, called Sungai Buloh-Kajang line. This line is a bit slower than LRT, but still very convenient, and again cheap.
КТМ Кomuter Train
This is another train network. But unlike the LRT and Monorail, it is much slower, and goes much farther, reaching the seacoast at Port Klang, and the capital of Negeri Sembilan state Seremban. It is slower not only because there are many stations on its route, but it is also literally slower in speed. We used it only once and waited 45 mins in KL Sentral. Yes, it is cheap, but obviously, only for people who are not in a hurry. Anyway, it can be still useful if you want to reach places located near its stations.
Public Bus (Rapid KL Bus)
There are many bus routes, divided into several groups of routes. Routes B (Bandar) travels around the city center. Routes U (Utama) travels around the suburbs. And routes T (Tempatan) are designed for connection between the train stations. There are also routes E (Ekspres), which use the highways.
Rapid KL buses can be convenient for those who are looking for as cheapest as possible ways to travel around Kuala Lumpur. The prices vary from 1 to 3,80 MR, depending on the type of the route. But have in mind that they are slow, and much less frequent- be prepared to wait on the bus stops for a long time.
Free bus (Go KL)
There are 4 free bus circling routes (every route with its color), all designed in the center of Kuala Lumpur. These routes are shorter than the Rapid KL routes. They can be convenient, because are relatively frequent, and can help you move faster and comfortably (they are air-conditioned) around the center. Just be ready for a traffic jam, which is normal for this area.
There are two kinds of taxis in Kuala Lumpur- red or white (normal) taxis, starting from 3 RM/km, and bright blue taxis- more luxury, starting from 6 RM/km. They can be fast and convenient (if you are not trapped in a traffic jam) but are expensive. We never used them, because there is a much better option- Grab.
I would strongly recommend you download the Grab application on your phone if you still haven’t done it. It is much cheaper than taxis and much safer and transparent. Drivers can’t use excuses to charge you more (except for parking or highway toll fees). The price can be different throughout the day, but once fixed before the driver comes, it can’t be changed, no matter whether there is a traffic jam or not.
With all these options, exploring Kuala Lumpur is easy and convenient. We used a shuttle bus from KLIA to the center, KMT Komuter train, LRT, Go KL bus, but mostly Grab. And except for the slow train, everything else was very convenient. However, a significant part of our walk around the center was on foot, because the points of interest are enough near to each other.
Finally, if you are looking for a convenient (and lazy) way to explore Kuala Lumpur, there is an expensive option, called Hop-On Hop-Off. It is a double-deck sightseeing bus service with a route, designed to cover all the important places of interest. For more information, check here.
So, you finish your trip within Kuala Lumpur, and the time comes to go out of it, around the whole land of Peninsular Malaysia, following your itinerary. Let’s see your transportation options.
Transportation around the country
Traveling around Peninsular Malaysia is easy. There are several kinds of transportation, which you can use in your itinerary. Let’s get into more details.
By domestic flights
As everywhere in the world, this is the fastest and the most expensive option. Peninsular Malaysia is small, so you can fly by plane between some more distant cities, like Kuala Lumpur to Penang, Penang to Johor, or Melaka to Kota Bharu. There are charter flights to Tioman, Redang and Pangkor islands too. You can expect prices between 200 and 500 RM.
The domestic flights are managed by air companies like Firefly, Malindo Air, Berjaya Air, as well as the international AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines. So, if Kuala Lumpur is your starting point, you have to go to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) or Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah International Airport (Subang Skypark Airport).
There are two railways in Peninsular Malaysia- the Western, connecting Singapore with Penang, then proceeding to Thailand, and Eastern, connecting Gemas with Tumpat at the Thai border. The Western line is faster, more modern, air-conditioned, and more expensive. And the Eastern line is slower and more „adventurous”, called also „Jungle Train”. You can make reservations for the Western line, but not for the Eastern, except for the night train between Johor Bahru and Tumpat.
So, if you want to get a train from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh (for example), you will use the ETC service on the Western line. You have to go to KL Sentral or the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. The ticket is 40 MR and the whole trip will be around 2 hours only.
This way of transportation is the most popular option. Buses travel to almost everywhere. There are buses every 10 -15 mins between destinations like Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Melaka, so you don’t need any reservations. But for other routes like Melaka to Mersing, there are only 2-3 buses daily, and reservation is recommended. Buses are relatively cheap. For example, a bus ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Penang is between 22 and 50 MR, depending on the bus company and the type of bus.
So, if you want to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Penang or Melaka, you have to go to the largest bus terminal in Kuala Lumpur- Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS). You can reach it by KMT Komuter train, KL Transit, LRT, Rapid KL bus or just by Grab or taxi. If you have bought your ticket online, just show the booking number and they will give you the ticket. Then, you have around 2 hours of travel to Melaka and 5 hours to Penang.
By tourist buses, vans or travel companies
It is a more expensive option, but if you travel to and from Taman Negara for example, you don’t have too many other choices. We had to travel from Kuala Tahan (in Taman Negara) to the Cameron Highlands. There was a cheap public bus for 7 MR from Kuala Tahan to Jerantut, but this service was stopped on 31st Jan 2020. So, the only option for us was to travel by van or tourist bus. And it was expensive. The local travel offices in Kuala Tahan offered tickets from 75 to 150 MR. The cheapest one that we found was by van for 75 MR.
By rental car or motorbike
Car rental is the most independent and convenient option. The traffic in Malaysia is on the left (like in the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, and some other countries), so you may have some difficulties in the beginning until you get used to driving on the right side of the roads. This service is relatively cheap. If you want to rent a small car, you can find it for 80 to 100 MR per day, the larger cars are more expensive. Concerning the fuel, currently (4-10 April’2020) the price is 1,30 RM for RON 95, 1,60 RM for RON 97 and 1,58 RM for Diesel (however, the reason is the pandemic situation, probably after that, the price will rise again to more than 2 RM as before, we will see). There are tolls on the highways which you have to consider too. For example, the toll price for the whole highway from Singapore to the Thai border is 108 RM.
Rental motorbikes are also very convenient, especially for the eastern parts of Peninsular Malaysia, and some rural or mountainous areas. You can freely penetrate deep into places where no buses, even no cars go. The rental price varies between 25 and 50 MR per day, depending on the place and company you rent the motorbike from.
Reaching the islands
To reach the islands near the Peninsular Malaysian coast, you need to use a ferry. There are one or two piers (usually one main pier, and another one or two additional piers), from where you can take a ferry to Langkawi, Perhentian, Redang or Tioman islands. Langkawi is the best connected to the mainland and Penang, with more regular ferry service. But there are only two or three ferries to Tioman Island. So, if you go to Tioman or another island with only one, two or three ferries, I would recommend you to book it online in advance.
We traveled to Tioman Island from Mersing. And we booked our ferry ticket online, in a packet with a bus ticket from Melaka to Mersing. It was 35 RM in one direction. There are also some smaller islands like Rawa, Besar, Sibu, Tinggi which are also accessible by speed boat. But to some of these islands, you have to arrange your speed boat in advance by the local island resort.
Transportation in big cities
The big cities in Peninsular Malaysia are all the capitals of the states. Some of them like Penang and Melaka are popular tourist destinations. But they are still much smaller than Kuala Lumpur, so their transportation options are less than in the capital. In general, exclude the railways of all kinds. What will remain is a public bus, taxi and Grab.
Again, Grab is the best for transport. Like in Kuala Lumpur, it is cheap, transparent and very convenient. In Melaka, this is the best option to travel between the center and Ayer Keroh (the other cluster of tourist spots). We paid 16 RM for that (for 9 km ride). In Penang, from the southern Sungai Nibong bus terminal to the center of Georgetown, we paid 18 RM (for 10 km ride). Yes, there are taxis too, but we never used them in these cities. They are the same as in Kuala Lumpur- more expensive, often refuse to use taxi meter, and charge the foreigners more than the locals.
There are public buses too. Obviously, they are the cheapest options again, but they are very rare. We didn’t see even one in Melaka and Kuantan. But in Penang, they can be a good option if you want to travel along the northern coast, between Georgetown and Batu Ferringhi resort. You pay only 2 RM, regardless of the distance you travel. And they are regular.
Attractive ways of transportation in Penang and Melaka
If you are wondering how to explore the old centers of Penang and Melaka, our answer is- on foot. These centers are small in size, full of tourists, and all the attractions inside are very close to each other. So, walking is the best choice, and it is a pleasure. In Penang, if you go to Victoria Clock, you will see many drivers waiting for tourists and offering a tour around Penang. You can use their service (after bargaining), but if you are going to walk only around Georgetown, it is not worth.
As a tourist attraction, you can hire a trishaw in Penang or Melaka. For around 30 MR per hour, you can have a funny experience on the old streets of these cities. Another popular attraction can be enjoyed in Melaka- a river cruise on the curving river, for 25 RM. Now, there is a short monorail circle line in Melaka too, which can be useful for those whose hotel is near it station. It guides them not far from the Old Historic Center, near Kampung Morten village, then they can proceed on foot.
Transportation in other destinations
All other destinations in Peninsular Malaysia are small cities, villages, national parks, resorts, islands, or just natural spots (waterfalls, hills, etc.). Some of these places are large enough, so you might need some kind of transport. Let’s see some examples.
Transportation in tourist areas like Cameron Highlands
Cameron Highlands is a large tourist area, crossed by the main road and several smaller roads. There are two main towns- Tanah Rata and Brinchang, several smaller towns and villages, and several resorts. And there are some particular tourist spots like the BOH Tea Fields and the Mossy Forest. All these places are located not too close to each other, and in general, you may need many hours to walk on foot around them, so you need some transport.
But there is no Grab in this area. There are only two local ways of transport- public buses and taxis. The public buses are the cheapest option, but they are very rare. In fact, we haven’t seen any buses during our 2-days stay in the Cameron Highlands. But we know from the internet and the locals that they still exist. They run hourly, and the price is very low, for example only 2 RM between Tanah Rata and Brinchang (4 km).
However, the best options are taxis and rental motorcycles. Taxis are not expensive, however, they don’t use the taximeter. Usually, they charge 10 RM for the distance between Tanah Rata and Brinchang, and 25 RM from Brinchang to the BOH Tea Fields, but at least 60 RM from Brinchang to the Mossy Forest.
And if you hire a motorcycle or scooter (there are some motorbike rental companies in Tanah Rata, or you can ask your hotel for help), normally they charge 20 RM for 2 hours, 35 RM for 5 hours and 50 RM for 10 hours.
Transportation in national parks like Taman Negara
In Peninsular Malaysia, these kinds of places consist of equatorial rainforests, and in general, they are adventurous places. So, don’t expect too much transportation there. Once you reach Taman Negara, Endau Rompin, or Royal Belum State Park, you can’t find anything else but only boats on the rivers (if there are rivers large enough to allow boats) or lakes- tourist boats for a cruise, or local „public transport” just to cross the river. Everything else consists of hiking trails, walkable only by your own two feet.
Transportation on islands
Most of the islands in Peninsular Malaysia (with exception of Penang Island) are tourist areas, so the transportation developed there is mainly for tourists. But the islands are small, hilly and covered by equatorial rainforest. Usually, there are only one or two main roads, several side alleys, and that’s all. So, the on-land ways of transportation are not so developed.
I will give Tioman Island again as an example- there is one main road on the western coast, and one road crossing the island to the eastern coast. And the only vehicles traveled on these roads are 4WD or small taxis (for at least 30 RM per person), rental motorbikes for 25 RM per hour, and 1-2 buses serving the luxury resorts. Other ways of transportation are by water taxis (for 30 RM between the nearest piers to 150 RM), or just cruise speed boats, by joining a tour. On the rest of the island, there is nothing more than jungle trails.
The situation is quite similar on the other larger islands (with exception of Langkawi- there is even a cable car). For the smaller islands, there is no on-land transport, because there are no roads, only paths. And some of the nearby satellite islets are reachable only by boats.
As you can see, transportation is very well-arranged in Peninsular Malaysia, so you can easily plan your itinerary. In general, there are several most important things you have to consider.
- Choose your desired destinations.
- Identify the places of interest and activities within every destination.
- Identify the main transportation points that you will use- the airport, the bus terminal, the railway station or the pier. If you are in Kuala Lumpur and want to use LRT, MRT, Monorail or other public transport with a fixed route, identify its stations. You can do all this by just look at Google Maps or Rome2Rio.
- Choose your accommodation and consider its location according to the places to visit and the transportation points. Then you can build your itinerary within your destinations. Want to use fixed public transport? Consider its regularity. Want to use a Grab or taxi?
- Consider a possible traffic jam. Want to walk? You can measure the distance on the map. And of course, consider all of this with your budget.
- When you want to establish travel connections between the destinations throughout the country, choose your way of transportation, depending on its availability (is there an airport, a railway station, are there buses?). Again, Rome2Rio, Wikitravel and Google Maps can help a lot.
- Research the regularity of public transport, and if there are only 4, 3 or fewer trips during the day, it is recommendable to book your ticket online in advance from here or here.
- If you rent a car or a motorbike, calculate the distances. Again- Google Maps or Rome2Rio are the best tools.
- Finally, be ready to be flexible, in case of sudden changes.
We personally follow these tips above when we plan our itineraries, and it always works well. We know it can work for you too if you try to save money and time. So, you can have a nice and unforgettable journey in Peninsular Malaysia.
Watch a little more about the transportation in Malaysia!