An air-conditioned Malaysian ETS train
 

Modern ETS electric trains now link KL & Penang

 

Buy train tickets

 

See interactive map of train routes in SE Asia

  Train route map for Singapore, Malaysia & S E Asia - click to enlarge

Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang & Bangkok by train...

A metre-gauge railway with daily scheduled trains and remarkably cheap fares links Singapore, Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth (Penang), southern Thailand & Bangkok, an ideal option for independent travellers.  Taking the train is a safe, comfortable & adventurous way to go, 1,233 miles from as little as $80, 50 or 70.  Unlike flying it's a real experience, and relaxing on a train on the traditional colonial single-track railway past palm plantations and little country stations is far more civilised than a cramped bus on an ugly motorway.  Singapore to Bangkok takes as little as 48 hours, but I recommend stopping off in Kuala Lumpur or Penang on the way - and perhaps in southern Thailand to catch the ferry to Ko Samui or a bus to Phuket or Krabi.

This page explains how to take the train between Singapore, KL, Penang, Southern Thailand & Bangkok, northbound or southbound, with train times, fares & how to buy tickets.

Train times, fares & how to buy tickets 

  Start here...

  Train times Singapore - Kuala Lumpur - Penang - Bangkok

  Train times Bangkok - Penang - Kuala Lumpur - Singapore

  How much does it cost?

  How to buy tickets

  What are Malaysian trains like?

  Singapore station information

  Kuala Lumpur station information

  Penang & Butterworth information

  The Jungle Line:  Singapore or KL - Khota Bahru

  Singapore-Bangkok by luxury Eastern & Oriental Express

  Hotels in Singapore & Malaysia

  Raffles Hotel, Singapore - E&O Hotel, Penang

  Useful country information: visas, currency...

How to get to... 

  Malacca

  Langkawi

  Batu Caves

  Kuala Lumpur Airport (KLIA)

  Cameron Highlands

  Perhentian Islands

  Sarawak & Sabah, Borneo

  Singapore to Jakarta, Indonesia

  Singapore & KL to Ko Samui

  Singapore & KL to Phuket

Other information...

  Train travel in Thailand, Cambodia  Vietnam  Laos

  Singapore Open Top Bus tour - hop on, hop off

  Flights to Singapore or Malaysia

  Travel insurance

  London to Singapore overland by Trans-Siberian Railway

Sponsored links...

 

Useful country information

Train operator in Malaysia:

Keratapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), www.ktmb.com.my or www.ktmintercity.com.my (for train times, fares, online bookingMap of train routes in Southeast Asia.  Singapore metro:  www.smrt.com.sg.

Time zone:

GMT+8 all year.     

Dialling code:

 

Singapore +65.   Malaysia +60.

Currency:

1 = 5.2 Ringgit = 1.8 Singapore dollars. 

$1 = 3.4 Ringgit = 1.3 Sin$.  Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.tourism.gov.mywww.visitsingapore.com

Recommended guidebooks    Health & vaccination advice

Flights:

 

Scan multiple airlines to find the cheapest flights to Singapore & Malaysia

Hotels & hostels:

Recommended hotels in Singapore & Malaysia   Raffles Hotel, Singapore   Backpacker hostels in SE Asia

Visas:

UK citizens do not need a visa to visit Malaysia or Singapore.

Page last updated:

23 September 2016


Singapore - Kuala Lumpur - Penang - Bangkok

In this section...

  Start here!

  Train times, northbound

  Train times, southbound

  How much does it cost?  

  How to buy tickets

 

  What are the trains like?

  Map of train routes SE Asia  

  Security in southern Thailand

  Singapore station information

  Hotels in Singapore, KL, Penang

Start hereHow to ride the train between Singapore, KL, Penang & Bangkok...

  • Ideal for independent travellers...  The train ride from Singapore to KL, Penang, southern Thailand & Bangkok is an epic 1,920 km or 1,233 miles, incredibly cheap and quite comfortable & civilised.  You can travel in either direction, northbound or southbound, it's up to you.  The whole journey costs as little as $80 or 50.  Of course you don't have to do the whole trip - the train is great just for travel between Singapore & KL, or between KL & Penang.

  • The network is being modernised...  Trains in Malaysia & Thailand run on metre-gauge track, narrower than European standard gauge, much of it single track, curvaceous and built in the 19th or early 20th century.  However, large sections of line in Malaysia have now been modernised for modern ETS electric trains to run at up to 160 km/h (100 mph) making them probably the fastest metre-gauge trains in the world.  Within Malaysia, you'll often see sections of old colonial singe-track line and the new double-track electrified line side by side, or just a few yards from each other.

  • You buy a separate ticket for each train you take...  There's no such thing as a Singapore to Bangkok ticket, you simply buy a ticket for each specific train you want to take, either in advance or at the station as you go, between any two stations it serves.  Each ticket comes with a reserved seat or sleeping berth on a specific date & train.  So look at the timetables below and create a journey that suits you, stopping off at all the places you want to see.  Then book each specific train individually, as shown in the how to buy tickets section.

  • If you're starting in Singapore, you first need to transfer to Johor Bahru...  Until 2011, trains left from the wonderfully faded grandeur of Singapore's art deco railway station, built in 1932.  Sadly, the Singapore government took it over from the Malaysians and promptly closed it down, so trains to Kuala Lumpur and the north now leave from Johor Bahru Sentral Station just north of the causeway inside Malaysia.  However, a shuttle train operates from Woodlands Checkpoint just south of the causeway, or you can take a frequent local bus all the way from central Singapore to JB Sentral.  The options for transferring to or from downtown Singapore are all explained here,

  • Singapore to Bangkok by train in just 48 hours...  If you were in a hurry you could go from Singapore to Bangkok in around 48 hours, first transferring from downtown Singapore to Johor Bahru just across the causeway in Malaysia as explained here, then take train 40 from JB Sentral to Gemas, switching to fast ETS train from Gemas to Kuala Lumpur.  Stay overnight in KL, then take another fast modern ETS train from KL to Padang Besar on the Thai border and train 36 International Express overnight from Padang Besar to Bangkok in a cosy sleeper with a restaurant car for dinner and breakfast.  But of course, you can stop off in for a day or two in Kuala Lumpur and/or a day or two in the historic capital Penang, connected to Butterworth station by frequent ferry shuttle.  What you do is entirely up to you.

  • I have highlighted these recommended trains with shading in the timetables below.  But by all means take whichever ones you like!

Big changes happened in May 2016:  Just so you know!

  • You'll find much out of date information on the web, as things changed massively in May 2016.  Sleeper trains from Singapore or JB to Kuala Lumpur are now a thing of the past, for example.  Here's what's happened...

  • The Gemas-KL-Butterworth-Padang Besar railway has been totally modernised & electrified and in May 2016 KTM restricted this section to fast modern ETS electric trains only, with diesel-hauled InterCity trains running a connecting shuttle on the unmodernised section between JB Sentral & Gemas.

  • There are no more overnight sleeping-cars on the Malaysian north-south route, only daytime trains.  For example, the KL to Butterworth journey has been slashed to just 4 hours so no longer needs a sleeper!  However, you now need to change trains at Gemas when travelling from Singapore or Johor Bahru to KL or Butterworth (Penang), which also means booking tickets for two trains - but I'll explain all that...

  • Modernisation & electrification of the Gemas-JB section is expected to be completed by 2020.  Electric trains will then be able to run directly between all cities, JB to KL to Butterworth to the Thai border.

Timetable download:  Handy to print out & take with you...

Train times...

  • All the trains in the timetable below run every day unless shown otherwise.  Each column is a separate train, and you read downwards.  You can buy tickets for any train between any two stations.  You need a separate ticket for each train.

  • To help you see the wood for the trees, I have shaded the train combo I'd suggest for a Singapore - JB Sentral - Kuala Lumpur - Butterworth (Penang) - Bangkok journey.  But there's no reason why you shouldn't use other trains if you like.  The shading is just a suggestion!

 Singapore ► Kuala Lumpur ► Penang ► Bangkok   From 9 Sept 2016

 Train number, please read the notes below:

40

42

9202

9216

9204

9234

9500

948

170

44

9220

9246

9208

950

9214

2964

36

 Type of train or class, explanation below

2

2

ETS

ETS

ETS

ETS

ETS

DRC

S,2,3

2

ETS

ETS

ETS

DRC

ETS

Kom

S

 Days of running:

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

Fri-Sun

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

 Singapore

depart

How to transfer between Singapore & JB Sentral

 Johor Bahru Sentral

depart

08:45

10:10

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

23:40

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Kluang

arr/dep

11:06

12:09

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

01:22

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Gemas

arr/dep

13:38

14:35

15:00

-

16:00

-

-

-

-

03:40

04:30

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

arr/dep 

14:28

-

15:26

-

16:28

-

-

-

-

-

05:00

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral station

arrive

-

-

17:21

-

18:22

-

-

-

-

-

06:56

-

-

-

-

-

-

depart

-

-

17:21

17:50

18:22

20:00

-

-

-

-

06:56

07:50

09:30

-

11:00

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur historic 1910 station

arr/dep

-

-

17:27

17:55

18:27

20:04

-

-

-

-

07:01

07:54

09:35

-

11:06

-

-

 Ipoh - bus to Cameron Highlands

arr/dep

-

-

19:41

20:11

20:29

22:13

05:30

-

-

-

09:08

09:51

11:44

-

13:06

-

-

 Butterworth - for Penang by ferry

arrive

-

-

21:30

22:00

|

23:52

07:28

-

-

-

|

11:25

13:38

-

|

-

-

depart

-

-

-

-

|

-

07:28

-

-

-

|

-

13:38

-

|

14:25

-

 Alor Setar - for Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

-

-

-

22:43

-

08:30

-

-

-

11:22

-

14:35

-

15:18

15:33

-

 Arau - for Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

-

-

-

23:02

-

08:53

-

-

-

11:41

-

14:54

-

15:37

15:57

-

 Padang Besar, border. Malay time

arrive

-

-

-

-

23:40

-

09:10

-

-

-

12:10

-

15:15

-

15:55

16:16

-

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

09:55

-

-

-

-

-

15:40

-

-

18:40

 Hat Yai for Phuket Krabi. Thai time

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

09:50

-

-

-

-

-

15:35

-

-

18:30

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

14:45

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

18:45

 Surat Thani (for Ko Samui, Ko Tao)

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

20:14

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

23:54

 Chumphon  (for Ko Tao ferry)

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

23:23

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

02:34

 Hua Hin

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

04:28

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

06:29

 Nakhon Pathom - train to River Kwai

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

07:26

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

09:03

 Bangkok Hualamphong station

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

09:00

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

10:30

Shaded trains = Suggested trains for a Singapore-KL-Penang-Bangkok trip, with overnight stop in KL.  By all means stop off for a day or two in KL and/or Penang.

  The train from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur & Singapore calls at a wayside station

Take the train!  In contrast to a meaningless flight, or a bus journey along an ugly motorway built in the 1990s, the leisurely Singapore-Kuala Lumpur train ride takes you over the famous causeway, past lush green palm plantations and little wayside railway stations, along the old colonial Federated Malay States Railway...

Key to types of seat & sleeper:

ETS = Electric Train Service.  New generation air-conditioned train with one class of seats & buffet car.

2 = 2nd class seats (Superior).  Comfortable, air-conditioned.

DRC = Diesel Rail Car, 2nd class seats, air-conditioned, like the one shown here.

Kom = Modern electric air-conditioned KTM Komuter train.  2nd class seats only.  No reservations, cannot sell out, buy tickets at the station and hop on.  These Komuter trains in fact operate almost hourly between Butterworth, Alor Setar, Arau and Padang Besar.

All times are shown in local time, remember that Thailand is 1 hour behind Malaysian time!  Please check times before you travel at 12go.asia or www.ktmb.com.my as they change from time to time.  And make sure you read the notes by train number below.  You can find a detailed map of train routes in Malaysia on the Malaysian Railways InterCity website, www.ktmintercity.com.my.

To save space, these timetables do not show:

(a) All ETS trains between KL & Ipoh, but you can check times at 12go.asia or www.ktmb.com.my.

(b) All Thai domestic trains between Hat Yai, Surat Thani, Chumphon, Hua Hin & Bangkok, the full service is shown in the Bangkok to Southern Thailand section of the Thailand page.

(c) Hourly KTM Komuter trains operate between Butterworth & Padang Besar, see www.ktmb.com.my.

 Bangkok Penang Kuala Lumpur Singapore     From 9 Sept 2016

 Train number, see the notes below:

9231

9201

43

9203

41

9213

35

947

2957

9233

9237

949

9209

9215

9221

45

 Type of train or class, see explanation above:

ETS

ETS

2

ETS

2

ETS

S

DRC

Kom

ETS

ETS

DRC

ETS

ETS

ETS

2

 Days of running: 

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

 Bangkok Hualamphong station

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

14:45

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Nakon Pathom - for River Kwai train

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

16:11

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Hua Hin

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

18:45

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Chumphon - for ferry from Koh Tao

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

22:45

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Surat Thani - for Ko Samui & Koh Tao

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

01:26

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Hat Yai, bus from Phuket, Krabi

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

06:35

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

07:00

07:30

-

-

-

13:05

-

-

-

-

 Padang Besar = border stop, Malay time

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

08:55

09:25

-

-

-

15:00

-

-

-

-

depart

-

-

-

07:45

-

09:30

-

-

10:25

-

-

-

16:15

17:15

20:00

-

 Arau - for Kuala Perlis & Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

-

-

08:01

-

09:46

-

-

10:44

-

-

-

16:31

17:33

20:16

-

 Alor Setar - for K.Kedah & Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

-

-

08:19

-

10:04

-

-

11:08

-

-

-

16:48

17:55

20:34

-

 Butterworth - for Penang by ferry

arrive

-

-

-

|

-

|

-

-

12:16

-

-

-

17:58

19:08

|

-

depart

05:00

07:45

-

|

-

|

-

-

-

14:55

16:00

-

17:58

19:08

|

-

 Ipoh - for Cameron Highlands by bus

arr/dep

06:33

09:30

-

10:32

-

12:14

-

-

-

16:35

17:40

-

19:39

20:56

22:49

-

 Kuala Lumpur historic 1910 station

arr/dep

08:31

11:45

-

12:40

-

14:21

-

-

-

18:43

19:48

-

21:46

23:01

01:08

-

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral station

arrive

08:35

11:59

-

12:54

-

14:35

-

-

-

18:57

19:52

-

22:00

23:10

01:22

-

depart

-

11:59

-

12:54

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

01:22

-

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

arr/dep

-

13:46

-

14:46

14:55

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

03:13

-

 Gemas

arr/dep

-

14:15

14:50

15:25

15:40

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

03:40

04:10

 Kluang

arr/dep

-

-

17:01

-

17:57

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

06:22

 Johor Bahru Sentral

arrive

-

-

18:40

-

20:00

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

08:20

 Singapore

arrive

How to transfer between JB Sentral & Singapore

Notes by train number...

Bus & ferry connections...

How much does it cost?

How to use this fares table...  There is no such thing as a Singapore to Bangkok ticket.  Or even, these days, a Singapore to Kuala Lumpur ticket.  Each individual train has its own fare, so first look up which trains you want to take in the timetable above.  Then if you want to go from Singapore to KL for example, you'd take local transport from downtown Singapore to JB Sentral as explained here, then use the table below to look up the fares from JB Sentral to Gemas and from Gemas to KL Sentral.  To go from KL to Bangkok, you'd look up the ETS fare from KL Sentral to Padang Besar, then add the sleeper fare from Padang Besar to Bangkok.  Easy when you engage brain...

 One-way fare in Ringgits: 

2nd class

seat

KTM

Komuter

ETS

Gold

ETS

Platinum

2nd class

sleeper

 JB Sentral to Gemas

RM 21

(4, $5)

-

-

-

-

 Gemas to Kuala Lumpur

-

-

RM 31

(6, $8)

-

-

 Gemas to Butterworth (Penang)

-

-

RM 83

(15, $21)

-

-

 Gemas to Padang Besar

-

-

RM 99

(19, $25)

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth (Penang)

-

-

RM 59

(11, $15)

RM 79

(15, $20)

-

 Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar

-

-

RM 80

(15, $20)

RM 107

(20, $26)

-

 Butterworth (Penang) to Padang Besar

-

RM12

(3, $4)

RM 29

(6, $8)

-

-

 Padang Besar to Hat Yai (by DRC)

80 baht

(2, $3)

-

-

-

-

 Padang Besar to Surat Thani

-

-

-

-

RM 101

(19, $25)

 Padang Besar to Bangkok

-

-

-

-

RM 112

(21, $28)

The shaded squares indicate the fares you'd pay if you chose to take my suggested (shaded) trains in the timetable above.

Children aged 0 to 3 travel free, children aged 4 to 11 travel at half fare, children aged 12 and over pay full fare.

Sleeper fares shown above are per person for lower berths.  Upper berths are about 14% cheaper.

You can check these fares at 12go.asia or on KTM's own website www.ktmb.com.my using the e-ticket page.  Remember that Kuala Lumpur is listed under S as Sentral Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru is listed as JB Sentral.  KTM calls 2nd class Superior.  Classes and class codes used on ktmb.com.my are as follows:

AFC = 1st class seats (also known as Premier)

ASC = 2nd class seats (also known as Superior)

AEC = 3rd class seats (also known as Economy)

ADNS = 2nd class sleeper (also known as Superior Night)

How to buy tickets 

Do I need a reservation? 

  • Yes.  All long-distance trains in Malaysia & Thailand are reservation compulsory, and tickets always include a seat or sleeper reservation on a specific date & train.  You cannot hop on and off without a reservation.  Malaysian train reservations open 30 days before departure (it used to be 60), Thai trains open 60 days before departure.  One key exception, no reservation is necessary or possible for KTM Komuter trains.

Can I stop off on the way?  Can I hop on & off?

  • Yes of course, you can stop off wherever you like for as long as you like.  But no, you cannot buy an open ticket and hop on and off trains at random without a reservation.  There is no such thing as a Singapore to Bangkok ticket, you must buy a separate ticket for each individual train, and each ticket comes with a specific seat or berth number on a specific date on a specific train.  You can buy all your tickets in advance online or buy them at the station as you go along, it's up to you.  If there are seats still available (as there usually are), you can buy tickets right up until the train leaves.

 

Tickets for KTM (Malaysian Railways) tickets are print-at-home.

Tickets for State Railways of Thailand trains must be collected at one of 12go's collection points, or sent to any address worldwide for an extra fee.  Full details are on the Thailand page.

Option 1:  Buy tickets online at 12go.asia - recommended

  • Who are they?  12go.asia is a reliable agency selling train, bus, ferry & plane tickets in Southeast Asia. 

    12go.asia offers easy online booking for both Malaysian Railways (KTM) & State Railways of Thailand (SRT), including the Woodlands-JB Sentral shuttle trains.  They cannot book KTM Komuter trains as tickets for these are only sold at the station on the day.

    12go.asia is much easier to use than KTM's own site and they can book Thai trains too, so you can book a whole Singapore to Bangkok itinerary in one place.  They sell KTM tickets at a similar price to KTM themselves with the same print-at-home tickets and no added fee.  They sell SRT train tickets with a small fee, but SRT themselves don't offer online booking at all making 12go.asia the logical choice.

  • How are tickets delivered?

    For Malaysian KTM trains 12go.asia offers true online booking & you simply print your own ticket.

    For Thai SRT trains, 12go.asia shows availability online, when you select a ticket and pay they book the ticket for you manually.  The booking confirmation is not valid for travel, you must collect the actual tickets from one of 12go's official collection points, which include Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Surat Thani & several other stations, or you can usually have tickets couriered to you for around 42, see full details on the Thailand page.  Tickets for train 36 from Padang Besar to Bangkok can be collected from the staff on board the train for a 400 baht ($12) fee with at least 3 or 4 days notice required, as there is no collection point at Butterworth or Padang Besar.

  • When do bookings open?  Malaysian train bookings usually open 30 days before departure.  Thai trains usually open 60 days before departure.

  • Stations:  For JB Sentral type JB and select Johor Bahru.  For Kuala Lumpur type KL S and select KL Sentral.

  • You must usually book each train separately, you cannot book Singapore to Bangkok all in one go.  However, 12go.asia will cleverly book some popular journeys as one transaction, even if they involve two trains and two tickets.  For example it can usually book from JB Sentral to KL as one transaction, combining a ticket for the the JB-Gemas shuttle train with a ticket for the Gemas-KL ETS train.  And it can usually book from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok as one transaction, combining an ETS ticket from KL to Padang Besar with a ticket for the Thai sleeper train from Padang Besar to Bangkok.  This feature makes using 12go a lot easier than using KTM's own site.

  • You can also book KTM trains at www.easybook.com, a similar agency which also offers print-at-home tickets and no added fees or mark-up.  However, Easybook.com only sells tickets for Malaysian KTM trains, not for Thai SRT trains.

 

The view from the train...

  Scenery from the train between Kuala Lumpur & Butterworth (Penang)
 

Seen from the train:  A green and fertile landscape...

  Palm oil plantations seen from the train between Kuala Lumpur & Butterworth
 

... and many palm oil and rubber plantations.

  More scenery from the train between Kuala Lumpur & Butterworth (Penang)
 

... with strange rock outcrops in places.

  A lake seen from the train between Kuala Lumpur & Butterworth (Penang)
 

... a lake between Kuala Lumpur & Butterworth.

To book an entire northbound journey from Singapore to Bangkok...

  • Each specific train needs to be booked separately which should be easy enough to understand, but I'll spell it out here...

  • Step 1, use the Northbound timetable above to decide which trains you want to take, on which dates between which cities.  If your planned journey involves 3 trains, that's 3 bookings and 3 tickets.  For example, a journey from JB to KL now means booking JB to Gemas then again from Gemas to KL.

    If you're starting in Singapore, decide how you want to transfer from downtown Singapore to JB Sentral using the advice here.

  • Step 2, use 12go.asia to book each Malaysian KTM train you want.  If you choose to use the Woodlands-JB shuttle train, you can book that at 12go.asia too.  You can't book KTM Komuter trains, just buy that at the station on the day, it cannot sell out, it's mass transit.

  • Step 3, use 12go.asia again to book each State Railways of Thailand train you want, including Thai-run train 36 from Padang Besar to Bangkok or any trains wholly within Thailand.  Tickets for train 36 can be collected from the staff on board the train for a 400 baht ($12) fee, unless you happen to be visiting Bangkok or Chiang Mai beforehand where tickets can be collected for free.

  • 12go has some popular connections programmed into it, so you may be able to book journeys such as JB to KL, JB to Penang or KL to Bangkok as one transaction, even though they involve two trains and two tickets.  Try it and see, if it doesn't work, book each train as one ticket.

  • Trains marked Kom in the timetable above are KTM Komuter trains, no online booking possible, mo reservation necessary or possible, you just buy a ticket at the station and hop on.  They cannot sell out.

To book an entire southbound journey from Bangkok to Singapore...

  • You can't put in 'Bangkok' to 'Singapore' as each train needs to be booked separately.  Easy enough, but I'll spell it out here...

  • Step 1. use the Southbound timetable above to decide which trains you want to take, on which dates between which cities.  Remember that each specific train needs to be booked separately, if you are planning a journey involving 3 trains, that's 3 bookings to get 3 tickets.  A journey from KL to JB now means booking KL to Gemas, then making a second booking Gemas to JB.

    If your final destination is Singapore, decide how you want to transfer from JB Sentral to downtown Singapore using the advice here.

  • Step 2, use 12go.asia to book each State Railways of Thailand train you want, including Thai-run train 35 from Bangkok to Padang Besar or any trains wholly within Thailand.  Tickets can be collected in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Hat Yai, or if necessary sent overseas by courier for $42.

  • Step 3, use 12go.asia again to book each Malaysian KTM train you want.  However, the KTM Komuter train which connects off train 35 at Padang Besar for Butterworth is a local service, no reservation needed, buy ticket at the station, it cannot sell out.

  • 12go.asia has some popular connections programmed into it, so you can usually book journeys such as Bangkok to KL or KL to JB or Penang to JB as one transaction, even though they involve two trains and two tickets.  By all means try it and see.

  • Trains marked Kom in the timetable above are KTM Komuter trains, no online booking possible, mo reservation necessary or possible, you just buy a ticket at the station and hop on.  They cannot sell out.

Option 2:  Buy tickets at www.ktmb.com.mya bit fiddly...

  • You can book tickets for Malaysian KTM trains at KTM's own website, here's a direct link to their ticketing page:  https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/login.aspx

  • Booking opens 30 days before departure.  It used to be 60, but it was reduced to 30 in April 2014.

  • It's fiddly to use and each train must be booked separately, which now means two separate bookings even for a simple JB to KL journey, but it does work - better in Firefox or Chrome than IE, it seems.  Prices are the same as 12go, the only real advantage of using KTM's website is that you can choose a specific seat.

  • What trains can it book?  It can book any KTM train (other than Komuter trains, of course) but it can't book State Railways of Thailand (SRT) trains such as the Padang Besar-Bangkok trains 35/36 - to book Thai trains you'll need to use 12GoAsia as explained above.

  • How to book:  Go to www.ktmb.com.my and use the journey planner on their home page to find a train.  On the results page, click 'Proceed Purchase Ticket'.  Alternatively, a direct link to the booking system is https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/login.aspx).

  • How are tickets delivered?  You pay online by credit card and print out your own ticket.  Or you can collect the tickets from any KTM railway station, including Singapore (Woodlands).

  • Station names:  Singapore is now shown under W as Woodlands CIQ.  Kuala Lumpur is shown in the list of destinations under S as Sentral Kuala Lumpur.  Plain Kuala Lumpur means the old 1911 station a km or two north of KL Sentral.  Johor Bahru is shown in the list of destinations as JB Sentral.

  • What is 'coach label/slot'?  It means coach number.  The confusingly-named "Label/slot" field on the booking form simply allows you to pick your coach (for example, coach 'J1') then when you click 'view' it will show you the available seats or berths in that coach, allowing you to pick one (for example, 5A, 5B, etc).  Classes are as shown follows:

    AFC = Aircon First Class seats (Premier)

    ASC = Aircon Second Class seats (Superior)

    AEC = Aircon Economy Class (3rd class) seats (Economy)

    ADNS = 2nd class sleepers (Superior Night)

    ETS trains have just one class of seating.

  • If you have any problems with the online system, by tickets by phone or email as shown below...

  Ticket counter at Kuala Lumpur Sentral
 

...Buy train tickets in person.  This is the KTM InterCity ticket counter at KL Sentral Station...

  First class lounge at Kuala Lumpur Sentral
 

First class lounge at Kuala Lumpur Sentral.  First class passengers can use the lounge an hour before each train departs.  It's poorly signed:  Go through the main doors from the taxi rank, walk forward, do a 180 degree turn up the escalator to the Level 3 walkway, turn left at the top of the escalator and left again through the lift lobby to the door to the lounge...  Photo courtesy of Ian Foster

Option 3, buy tickets at the station as you go...

  • You can of course buy tickets at stations as you go, keeping your options open.

  • Trains can sell out in theory (other than KTM Komuter trains of course), but in practice there are usually places available on most KTM shuttle and ETS trains even on the day of travel, and on the SRT railcars between Padang Besar & Hat Yai too.  Such trains only sell out at very busy times or dates.  You may well find sleepers available on the International Express (train 36) even on the day in the northbound direction at least, but Thai sleeper berths can sell out so it's best to book sleepers as soon as you can.  Tickets are the same price whether you buy online in advance or at the station on the day, so that's not an issue.

  • In Malaysia, KTM ticket offices are equipped with the KTM computer reservation system can sell you tickets for any KTM train in Malaysia.  Booking opens 30 days ahead, and KTM ticket offices normally accept MasterCard & Visa as well as cash.

    There is a KTM ticket counter at Singapore Woodlands which can sell tickets for any KTM train and which accepts American Express & Diners Club credit cards, but not Visa or MasterCard.

    There is a KTM ticket office at the ferry terminal in Georgetown, although a report in 2016 report says this office would only take cash.

    There is a KTM ticket office at Padang Besar on the Thai border which accepts Malaysian Ringgits and should accept MasterCard & Visa.  It is not known whether it accepts Thai baht.

  • In Thailand, SRT ticket offices are equipped with the SRT computer reservation system and can can sell you tickets for any mainline train anywhere in Thailand. 

    SRT have their own ticket office at Padang Besar on the Malay/Thai border, this accepts both Malaysian Ringgits & Thai Baht.  It's not known if it accepts credit cards.

  • Malaysian ticket offices only sell KTM tickets, Thai ticket offices only sell SRT tickets!

    Don't throw your rattle out of your pram when you find Butterworth ticket office can't sell you a ticket to Bangkok, or Bangkok ticket office can't sell you a ticket to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore! 

    For Butterworth to Bangkok for example, you'd simply buy a KTM Komuter ticket from Butterworth to Padang Besar at the Butterworth KTM office, then buy a sleeper ticket from Padang Besar to Bangkok either at the SRT ticket office at Padang Besar after going through border control or (if you are able to give 3 or 4 days notice) online at 12go.asia, collecting it from the staff on board the sleeper train.

    For a journey from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur for example, you would buy the sleeper ticket from Bangkok to Padang Besar at the station in Bangkok, then either buy the Padang Besar to KL ticket at the KTM ticket counter when you reach Padang Besar or book it online at 12go.asia and print it out.  Easy when you know how! 

By phone or email: callcenter@ktmb.com.my, +60 3 2267 1200

  • As from January 2016 you cannot now buy KTM tickets by phone or email, only in person at a KTM station or online.  However, if you need information, you can email callcenter@ktmb.com.my or call + 60 3 2267 1200.

Security warnings for parts of southern Thailand...

  • If crossing into Thailand, you may be aware of the security warnings for the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and parts of Songkhla in southern Thailand.  The problem is at the eastern end of the Thai/Malay border, but the Singapore-KL-Penang-Bangkok mainline passes through the western end via Padang Besar.

  • Does the Singapore-KL-Bangkok railway pass through the affected areas at all?  It does not pass through any part of Pattani, Yala or Narathiwat provinces, it just clips the northwest corner of Songkhla province for 80km (a mere 50 miles) through Hat Yai.  Many Thais, Malays and western tourists pass through this section of line every day and I have no hesitation in using this route myself with my family.  It's a shame that government warnings don't allow for the fact that people have to pass through this short stretch on the main road and rail links from Malaysia to Bangkok.  The Thai terrorists aren't targeting western travellers, but in the affected provinces, bombs have gone off outside bars and police stations, and the rail line to Yala and Sungai Kolok has been affected on a number of occasions - note that Yala & Sungai Kolok are not on the Singapore-KL-Bangkok main line but on the separate line to the eastern end of the border, see the map here.

  • I must emphasise that travellers should always take advice and be aware of the latest situation, I certainly don't claim to provide current security advice, your decision is entirely your own.  But purely for myself, whilst I personally would avoid visiting Sungai Kolok or Yala (although many westerners do decide to go there), I don't worry unduly about passing swiftly through the 50 miles of the northern part of Songkhla Province on a direct train on the Singapore-Bangkok main line.  After all, even the luxurious tourist-orientated Eastern & Oriental Express goes this way!

What are the trains like?

  • Travel tip:  Air-conditioning is always turned up high on Malaysian & Thai trains, indeed this is often the case on air-con trains & buses in much of Asia.  The cool temperature on board catches out T-shirted westerners who have forgotten to bring a jumper or cardigan!

Shuttle trains JB Sentral to Gemas...

These have 2nd class seats, marketed as Superior class, hauled by a conventional locomotive.  It's a good idea to bring your own food & drink along.

Second class seats on a Malaysian train from Penang to Kuala lumpur & Singapore   The Rakyat Express from Penang to Kuala lumpur & Singapore at a wayside station

Second class (Superior, ASC) seats.  See virtual tour of 2nd class.

 

The former Rakyat Express (train number 1) from Butterworth (Penang) to Kuala Lumpur & Johor Bahru calls at a wayside station...

ETS trains 9200 & 9500 & upwards:  The new generation, at up to 100 mph...

Malaysian railways are being modernised, speeded up & electrified, and a new generation of trains is appearing called ETS: Electric Train Service running at up to 160 km/h (100 mph).  The first generation ETS Silver trains operate a fast regular service between Kuala Lumpur & Ipoh, with one class of seating called ETS Silver - technically 2nd class.  These KL-Ipoh ETS trains are not shown in the timetables above to save space, so see www.ktmb.com.my for times & prices.  From July 2015 new pointy-nosed express ETS Gold & Platinum trains started operating between KL, Ipoh, Butterworth and Padang Besar.  These have one class of seating, although its still technically 2nd class.  All ETS Gold & Platinum trains feature a bistro car and prayer room.  ETS trains are smooth and powerfully air-conditioned.

An air-conditioned ETS Gold train   ETS Gold seats

ETS Gold train 9208.

 

ETS Gold seats on train 9208. Courtesy Ainan Marzuki.

ETS Gold seating   ETS Gold train cafe counter

ETS Gold seats. Courtesy Mark Dohm.

 

ETS Gold seating & cafe counter. Courtesy Mark Dohm.

An air-conditioned ETS train at Kuala Lumpur Sentral   ETS Silver seating

ETS Silver train at Kuala Lumpur Sentral.

 

ETS Silver seats on a KL-Ipoh ETS train.

Train 35 & 36 International Express from Padang Besar to Bangkok...

The 2nd class air-conditioned sleepers on train 35/36 are provided by the State Railways of Thailand.  There are no 1st class sleeping-cars on this train, apart from the one that is attached between Hat Yai & Bangkok, which cannot be reserved from Malaysia.  However, there's no need to travel 1st class, as the 2nd class sleepers shown here are perfectly good, clean and comfortable.  The curtains at night on each berth, and the bays of two seats with partitions, give you all the privacy you really need.  Today's International Express is the descendant of the Southern Express which started in 1922, see history of the International Express.  This train used to run to/from Butterworth, but with modernisation & electrification in Malaysia it now starts at the border, with electric trains connecting to/from Butterworth and KL.

2nd class sleepers on the International Express train from Bangkok to Butterworth (Penang), arrived at Butterworth   2nd class air-conditioned sleepers, made up as upper & lower berths

This is the International Express from Bangkok to Padang Besar...

 

Upper & lower berths at night with individual curtains.

Thai 2nd class sleeper, most modern type   2nd class sleeper on a Thai train, in daytime mode.

Cars are open-plan, with bays of seats either side of the aisle.

 

By day, a pair of spacious armchairs for two people, very civilised...

A restaurant car is attached between Hat Yai and Bangkok, for dinner & breakfast.  The food is remarkably cheap and good, a set meal costs around 150-200 baht (3-4 or $5-$6).  You choose from a leaflet with both pictures and English captions.  See sample menu & more food photos.

Restaurant car on the train from Bangkok to Hat Yai   Food in the restaurant car on a Thai train

Air-conditioned restaurant car on train 35 from Bangkok to Hat Yai.

 

The seafood dinner, 200 baht (4 or $6).

First class lounge...

Passengers with 1st class tickets (seat or sleeper) can use the VIP First Class Lounge at Kuala Lumpur Sentral station.  The lounge isn't well signed.  Walk in through the main entrance from the taxi rank at level 2, do a 180 degree turn to your right up the escalator to level 3, turn left at the top and immediately left again through the lift lobby to the lounge entrance.  The lounge has seats, a TV and washrooms with free WiFi & complimentary soft drinks.  It's open an hour before the departure of each train, you should leave it and join your train 15 minutes before departure.

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Sheena Clowes reports from regular journeys between Singapore, KL, Penang and Bangkok:  I am an older lady who loves to travel alone and overland, so here are some recent pointers for added comfort for these journeys which I have made many times over the past few years, most recently today from Butterworth-Bangkok.  First of all, the Internasional Ekspress (Butterworth-Penang) is late both leaving and arriving around 20% of the time.  Be prepared for it, not stressed by it.  For instance, it left yesterday at 15.45 instead of 14.20, and arrived in Bangkok at just before 2pm today.  But even with my delaying for a cup of good coffee at the station in Bangkok, I was checking into my hotel at 2.45pm - I wouldn't be checking into a city-centre hotel 45 minutes after landing at Bangkok international airport, would I!?

Take some water and a light snack - biscuits, maybe - for the first few hours of the Internasional Ekspress when there is no restaurant car. If you forget, you can get food at the bus station just a short distance from the train station, or if you are coming from Georgetown, at the stalls at the jetty there.  The Internasional Ekspress carries local passengers without reservations between the first station after Butterworth to the last station before Thailand, so don't spread your belongings out too much, you will end up with them all on your lap soon enough!  There is also usually hot drinking water available at the end of the 2nd class sleeper for making tea, instant noodles, re-heating baby food etc.  In the centre of these coaches there is an electricity point where you can recharge your phone. Make friends with the people sitting there, to keep an eye on it,  and only take as long as you need (it doesn't need to be fully charged for a quick phone call) as other people need to charge their phones, too.

The lower berth on the Internasional Ekspress's 2nd class sleepers offers an unprecedented (in my experience) amount of space as it is a full metre wide. The size of the berth, and the way the curtains hang around them, and their length, means that even an arthritic old woman like me can change clothes in privacy and rearrange her overnight case. If you like to read in bed, take a book-light or head torch, and that if you need pitch darkness for sleeping, take  some sort of eyeshade. You only get one pillow per berth, so fold up some soft clothing if you like your head higher.  The cotton blanket that you are issued with is freshly-laundered and I find gives just the right degree of cosiness when wearing a T-shirt and cotton trousers.  Some people are too cold - the air-conditioning is fairly fierce - and need to put on more clothes to keep warm!  If you don't want an Asian breakfast or a rather strange Western breakfast, you can just buy a cup of coffee for 30 baht. It's instant but good and hot and strong, just the ticket with a couple of Malaysian "breakfast biscuits" and a carton of yoghurt you bought the previous day in Butterworth or Georgetown.  The food offered by the "Bogie Restaurant" (orders taken after crossing the border; dinner is served after Hat Yai and breakfast at whatever reasonable hour people are getting up) is generally very good if you like Thai food.  The restlessness of the southern provinces of Thailand is evidenced by the armed guards on the train overnight and a policeman patrols the sleeper coaches randomly through the night - in stocking feet!  However, I have never been aware of any problems in the border areas while I have been travelling.


The Jungle Line...

Singapore or Kuala Lumpur to Gua Musang & Khota Bahru...

Most people use the main line from Singapore to KL, Penang, and Bangkok, which heads up the west coast of Malaysia.  But there's alternative route up the east coast, through jungle scenery to Khota Bahru - even if some of the jungle has now become palm plantations.  It's possible to take this Jungle Line from KL or Singapore to Khota Bahru, then a bus or taxi to the frontier, walk across the border into Thailand to Sungai Kolok railway station, and take a train to Bangkok (but see the security warning).  It's worth making the effort to take a daytime train between Gemas & Khota Bahru (Wakaf Bahru), as the scenery is superb, and the direct trains from Singapore and KL travel at night.  In Gemas, there's a fair hotel just outside the station, and there will be plenty of hotels with rooms to spare in Khota Bahru, even late at night when the train arrives at Wakaf Bahru.

UPDATE:  In December 2014 the jungle line was completely blocked by floods.  In February 2016 a direct sleeper train was restored between JB Sentral and Gua Musang with bus connection to/from Wakaf Bharu & Tumpat while part of the line was still blocked.  In June 2016 the line has been completely restored, trains are running throughout, and no bus is necessary.

 Singapore & Kuala Lumpur ► Khota Bahru

Train number (see notes below):

50/52

26

56

58/60

Days of operation:

daily

daily

daily

daily

Train type:

shuttle

Intercity

shuttle

shuttle

Classes:

3

S,2,3

3

3

 Singapore

depart

How to transfer from Singapore

 Johor Bahru Sentral

depart

-

19:00

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral*

depart

-

*

-

-

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

depart

-

|

-

-

 Gemas

depart

-

23:56

-

-

 Kuala Lipis

arr/dep

03:25

05:25

-

13:45

 Gua Musang

arrive

05:35

07:50

-

15:55

 Dabong

arrive

07:39

09:29

14:30

17:44

 Krai

arrive

09:07

10:43

15:54

19:20

 Tanah Merah

arrive

09:45

11:17

16:32

20:35

 Pasir Mas (for bus to K. Bharu)

arrive

10:38

11:43

17:06

21:07

 Wakaf Bharu (taxi to K. Bharu)

arrive

10:55

11:59

17:23

21:24

 Tumpat

arrive

11:10

12:15

17:35

21:35

* = To or from Kuala Lumpur, find a suitable connection between KL & Gemas by ETS train in the mainline timetable above.

Key to classes:

S = 2nd class sleepers (Superior Night), upper & lower berths with curtains for privacy, air-conditioned.

2 = 2nd class seats (Superior).  Comfortable, air-conditioned.

3 = 3rd class seats (Economy).  Modern & fairly comfortable, but basic.

Train 26 & 27:  Ekspress Rakyat Timuran.  Runs every day.  2nd class sleepers, 2nd class seats.  Air-conditioned.  No 1st class sleepers.

Quick links:   Fares    How to buy tickets    Map of train routes in Southeast Asia   Hotels in Singapore, KL

Which station for Khota Bharu?  The closest station to Khota Bahru is Wakaf Bharu, about 5 km (3 miles) away.  A taxi from Wakaf Bharu to Khota Bharu costs around 12 Ringgits.  However, if you want to travel more cheaply by bus, there's a better and more frequent bus service from Pasir Mas, 19km from Khota Bharu.  Buses run from Pasir Mas to Khota Bahru every 15-20 minutes from 06:45 to 19:00 from a bus station just 100 metres from Pasir Mas railway station.  If you want to complete the whole train journey to Tumpat, no problem, buses also link Tumpat with Khota Bharu every 45 minutes 06:45-19:30.  Bus information for all these routes is at www.cityliner.com.my, select 'Kelantan' then 'Khota Bharu' as your location.   Area map.

Heading for the Perhentian islands?  See the Perhentian ferry information here.

Heading into Thailand?  Bus 29 runs every half hour from Khota Bahru bus station near the central market via Pasir Mas to the Thai/Malay border point at Rantau Panjang, fare 5 ringgits (1), distance 45 km, journey time about 1 hour.  A taxi will cost about 17 ringgits.  Walk across the border from Rantau Panjang (Malay side) to Sungai Kolok (Thai side) and keep walking straight on for 800m to Sungai Kolok Railway station for trains to Hat Yai, Surat Thani & Bangkok.  Train information from Sungai Kolok to Hat Yai, Surat Thani & Bangkok.  However, be aware of the security warnings for Sungai Kolok and parts of southern Thailand.  Area map.

 Khota Bahru ► Kuala Lumpur & Singapore 

Train type:

Intercity & Transit trains

Train number (see notes below):

51/53

55/57

57/59

27

Days of running:

daily

daily

daily

daily

Train type:

shuttle

shuttle

shuttle

Intercity

Classes:

3

3

3

S,2

 Tumpat

depart

04:20

10:00

14:00

19:30

 Wakaf Bharu

depart

04:37

10:17

14:18

19:48

 Pasir Mas

depart

04:55

10:34

14:35

20:04

 Tanah Merah

depart

05:17

11:23

15:11

20:30

 Krai

depart

06:04

12:00

16:07

21:04

 Dabong

depart

07:32

13:25

17:53

22:17

 Gua Musang

depart

09:35

-

19:50

23:55

 Kuala Lipis

arr/dep

11:45

-

21:55

02:12

 Gemas

arrive

-

-

-

07:31

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

arrive

-

-

-

|

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral*

arrive

-

-

-

*

 Johor Bahru Sentral

arrive

-

-

-

11:50

 Singapore

arrive

How to transfer to Singapore

How much does it cost? 

 One-way fare in Ringgits: 

2nd class

seat

1st class

seat

2nd class

sleeper

1st class

sleeper

 Johor Bahru to Wakaf Bharu or Tumpat

44

(7, $11)

-

56

(9, $14)

-

How to buy tickets...

See the how to buy tickets section.

First class lounges...

Passengers with 1st class tickets (seat or sleeper) can use the VIP First Class Lounge at Kuala Lumpur Sentral station.

Trains 26 & 27:  2nd class sleepers (Standard Night, ADNS)...

The Johor Bahru-Gua Musang-Tumpat overnight train has modern 2nd class sleepers, marketed as Standard Night.  They are a great way to travel, and are safe, comfortable, cheap and fun too.  They are open-plan, with upper and lower berths arranged along each side of a central aisle running down the middle of the coach.  Each bunk has curtains for privacy, and a nice touch in these Malaysian sleeping-cars is that the upper berth has its own window.  Upper berths are cheaper than lower berths, but they are narrower, so ask for a lower berth if possible, especially if you are over 6' 2".  All necessary bedding is provided, with blankets and fresh clean sheets.  The Butterworth (Penang)-Bangkok sleepers are similar, but provided by the Thai Railways, see below.

2nd class sleeper on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore night train

  2nd class air-conditioned sleepers on a Malaysian train.

Virtual tour - 2nd class sleepers Video - taking the sleeper train to KL

KTM (Malaysian Railways) 2nd class sleeper aisle   Exterior of a KTM 2nd class sleeper at Butterworth station

Traveller's reports from The Jungle Line...

Traveller Jeff Brown travelled from Singapore to Bangkok via the Jungle Line:  "I took a bus from Kota Bharu to Rantau Panjang [= the Malaysian side of the border] and then made my way across the border and to the train station by foot. I was somewhat more vigilant than usual given the security issues in the past, but luckily my trip out of that area was uneventful. Military presence was very high at SK station as well as on the train and didn't seem to let up until Hat Yai Junction.  The inbound train was three hours delayed arriving, but the crew turned it around fast and we departed only 30 minutes behind schedule at about 14:50.  SK station does not have a left luggage desk, probably owing to security concerns.  If you end up in Sungai Kolok early (which some will by virtue of forgetting about the -1 hour time difference), there are markets on the nearby streets, but I didn't find much in the way of restaurants or street food stalls. After 30 minutes looking futilely with a heavy pack, I punted and had lunch at the Genting Hotel, about 100m south of the station on the main N/S road. It's a 3-star hotel with a proper restaurant and good AC!  I travelled 2nd class and it was awesome, the best experience I've had compared to travelling by rail in India, Vietnam and Malaysia. Cabin was clean and totally functional. Attendants cleaned the train (including toilets) throughout the trip, which made a big difference since the trip was 20 hours total. Dinner was served at my seat (they have an English food menu also). This in addition to the usual hawkers that jump on at each station and make the rounds selling snacks.  2nd class was nearly empty at departure and filled up gradually. For the last hour or so of the journey, it was nearly empty again.  We arrived about 90 minutes late in Bangkok."

Traveller Henrik Meurs took the slow train from Gemas to Wakaf Bahru.  "The trip on the Jungle Railway to Kota Bahru is one of the most beautiful train trips possible.  The scenery can only be described as breathtaking.  There are quite a few stops during the first two or three hours.  After that, villages become rare and the train starts climbing the first flat mountains.  From then on we enjoyed endless views over primary rain forest, large trees interrupted by exuberant plants and monkeys at play. After 4 or 5 hours, when you just start to think that you might have seen all the wonders the Malaysian jungle has to offer, the train enters the mountains.  Words fail me to describe the beauty of the scenery of these two or three hours during which the engine pulls you through the mountains topped with rain-forest, over wooden bridges and through narrow gorges.  The fare was just 21 Ringgit, about $5..!  Unlike the modern Malaysian trains on the direct sleeper trains to/from Singapore and KL, slow train 91/92 is old and basic, but the ride more than makes up for this.  There is plenty of local transport available from Khota Bahru to the Thai frontier at Sungai Kolok.  Train times from Sungai Kolok to Bangkok are shown on the Thailand page under 'Bangkok to Southern Thailand'."


Useful bus & ferry connections...

  Town square, Malacca

Malacca (Melaka)...

  • The historic town of Malacca is well worth a day's visit as it has some of the oldest colonial buildings in SE Asia.  Pictured right, the distinctive red Stadthuys (town hall), church and clock tower on Malacca's main square.

  • Kuala Lumpur to Malacca:  Malacca is not on the rail network, but modern buses run by several companies run 2 or 3 times every hour from the Southern bus station in Kuala Lumpur, taking about 3 hours and costing 9 or 10 Ringgit one-way.  You can check bus times and buy tickets for multiple operators as bus ticketing website www.easybook.com.  The bus station in KL is known as BTS, Bandar Tasik Selatan, it has its own stop on the STAR line, KTM Komuter train line and KLIA rail link.

    Alternatively, take an ETS train from KL Sentral to Pulau Sebang/Tampin station (see the train timetable above), then take a bus or taxi from there, the distance is 38 km.  A taxi from Tampin to Malacca costs around 70-80 ringgit (15 or $23), and you'll usually find some taxis waiting at the station.

  • Singapore to Malacca:  There are regular buses from Singapore to Malacca taking about 5 hours. 

    Alternatively, travel the traditional way, by intercity train from JB Sentral to Tampin station (see the train timetable above, Tampin is listed as Pulau Sebang/Tampin on www.ktmb.com.my), then take a bus or taxi from there (38 km).  A taxi from Tampin to Malacca costs around 80 ringgit Ringgit (16 or $24).

  • As a historical note, there used to be a 32km branch line from Tampin to Malacca, built in 1903, but its rails were taken to build the Death Railway in Thailand and the line was never rebuilt after the war.  The 100-year-old station at Tampin was replaced by a modern one in 2013, as part of the double-tracking and modernisation project which is still ongoing.


Langkawi island...

  • From Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi:  Step 1, take a fast modern ETS train from Kuala Lumpur to either Alor Setar or Arau, see the train timetable above.  There is little to choose between the Alor Setar or Arau options.  Step 2, from Alor Setar it's a short bus ride or 15 Ringgit taxi ride to the ferry terminal at Kuala Kedah.  Step 3, the Langkawi Ferry (www.langkawi-ferry.com) sails from Kuala Kedah to Langkawi every 30 minutes between 07:00 & 19:00, no advance reservation necessary.  Sailing time is 1 hour 30 minutes, the fare is 23 Ringgit each way.  If you decide to go via Arau, it's a 20-minute 24 Ringgit taxi ride to the ferry terminal at Kuala Perlis, which is slightly closer to Langkawi than Kuala Kedah.  www.langkawi-ferry.com sails from Kuala Perlis to Langkawi about every 30 minutes between 07:00 & 19:00, sailing time 1 hour 15 minutes, fare Ringgit 18 each way, no advance reservation necessary.

  • From Singapore to Langkawi:  Transfer from Singapore to Johor Bahru and catch the mid-morning shuttle train from JB Sentral to Gemas, connecting there with a fast modern ETS train to either Alor Setar or Arau and follow the instructions above for travel by ferry to Langkawi.

  • From Bangkok or southern Thailand to Langkawi:  Take the International Express from Bangkok or Hat Yai to Arau, small station just across the border into Malaysia, see the train timetable above.  From Arau, it's a short taxi ride to the ferry jetty at Kuala Perlis.  www.langkawi-ferry.com sails from Kuala Perlis to Langkawi about every 30 minutes between 07:00 & 19:00, sailing time 1 hour 15 minutes, fare Ringgit 18 each way, no advance reservation necessary.

  • From Penang to Langkawi www.langkawi-ferry.com operates a daily fast ferry direct from Penang to Langkawi island, leaving at 08:15 and taking 2 hour 45 minutes.  The fare is about 60 Ringgit (13 or $17) one way, children 3-11 45 Ringgit, children under 3 free.  The return departure from Langkawi to Penang is at 17:15.  For times, fares and online booking, see www.langkawi-ferry.com.  This ferry is the best option if you want to go to/from Penang itself.


Perhentian Islands...

  • The Perhentian Islands are relatively undeveloped islands off Malaysia's north eastern coast, excellent for scuba diving.  The ideal way to reach the Perhentians is by overnight sleeper train from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, taxi transfer then ferry:

  • Transfer from downtown Singapore to Johor Bahru as explained here and ake the overnight sleeper train from JB Sentral to either Tanah Merah or Wakaf Bahru stations, see the Jungle Line section for train times.  The train fare is about 54 Ringgit (11 or $18) including a 2nd class sleeper.  The overnight train from JB = has 2nd class sleepers which are comfortable, air-conditioned and perfectly adequate.  Taking the sleeper train saves a hotel bill, is an experience in itself, and can even save time compared to flying.

  • Take a taxi from Tanah Merah or Wakaf Bahru to the main ferry port at Kuala Besut.  Local taxis will be waiting for the train at either station, the taxi fare is 50 Ringgit (10 or $15), the journey time about 50 minutes from Wakaf Bahru or 30 minutes from Tanah Merah.

  • Speedboats from Kuala Besut take about 30 minutes to reach the Perhentian islands, and depart 4-5 times daily 09:00-17:00 according to demand.  The fare is about 70 Ringgit (12/$19)return.  There are also slow boats which leave Kuala Besut at 08:30 and 14:30, taking 1.5 hours, fare about 45 Ringgit return.  There's another (private) jetty at Tok Bali, but ferries from here are less frequent.


Cameron Highlands...

  • There are no trains to the Cameron Highlands, only buses & taxis, but the nearest stations are either Tapah Road or Ipoh.  Ipoh is the better station to use, as Tapah Road station is 9km from Tapah town and the Rakyat Ekspress is non-stop at Tapah Road but all trains call at Ipoh.

  • Take a train from Singapore, JB Sentral, Kuala Lumpur or Penang (Butterworth) to Ipoh, see the timetable above.

  • Take a bus from Ipoh to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands.  There are four buses a day, at 08:00, 11:00, 15:00, 18:00.  The bus ride takes 3 hours & costs around RM 18 (4).  The buses go from the Aman Jaya bus station a local bus or taxi ride from the rail station - there are several bus stations in Ipoh so make sure you head for the right one.  You can usually get a ticket half an hour before the bus goes, but the sooner the better as they occasionally get full.  The bus is spacious and air-con.  The road winds up into the hills, with great views over the fields.

  • Alternatively, a private taxi from Ipoh to Tanah Rata should cost around RM140 (25) per taxi.

  • Feedback from travellers making this connection would be welcome.


Kuala Lumpur Airport - fast rail link to city centre...

  • The new KLIA Ekspres train service links Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) with Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station.  It runs every 15 minutes between 05:00 & 01:00 and takes 28 minutes non-stop.  One-way fare is about RM 55, return RM 100.  See www.kliaekspres.com for more information.


Batu Caves...

  • Malaysian Railways KTM Komuter suburban trains run regularly from KL Sentral to Batu Caves.


Phuket, Ko Samui, Ko Phangan, Ko Tao, Bridge on the River Kwai, Chiang Mai


Singapore station information

How to transfer between Singapore & JB Sentral...

Why can't you catch the train in Singapore?

  • You used to board the train in downtown Singapore.  Until June 2011, trains between Singapore & KL used a delightfully run-down art deco station in Keppel Road in Singapore city built in 1932, see the Singapore Station section below.  Trains travelled over some 13 miles of single-track railway from Singapore city across the island to reach the causeway to Malaysia.

  • When Singapore & Malaysia separated in 1965, the Malaysians retained ownership of the station, railway and all the land it stood on.  This was a longstanding thorn in the side of the Singapore government.  For many years the latter tried to get it back and finally succeeded in 2011, promptly closing the station and the 13 miles of railway south of Woodlands Checkpoint - in my opinion an act of gross institutional vandalism.

  • After the station closed from June 2011 until June 2015, trains to KL left from the Woodlands Checkpoint just south of the causeway to Malaysia, some 13 miles north of downtown Singapore.

  • Then from 1 July 2015 onwards, Malaysian Railways (KTM) decided to start all long-distance trains at Johor Bahru Sentral, the Malaysian city immediately north of the causeway from Singapore, and to operate shuttle trains across the causeway between Woodlands & JB Sentral.  The shuttle trains are aimed mainly at local traffic so they may or may not connect well with the long-distance trains to & from KL and the north.

So what are your options now?

  • You must now transfer between Singapore & Johor Bahru Sentral using one of several options - these work in either direction, of course!

  • Option 1, take a taxi or MRT (metro) & bus between downtown Singapore and Woodlands Train Checkpoint, then use the KTM (Malaysian Railways) shuttle train taking 5 minutes across the causeway to JB Sentral.  On the plus side, it's nice to say you really have travelled all the way to or from Singapore island by train.  On the other hand the shuttle trains aren't particularly frequent.  See the details here...

  • Option 2, take a bus or MRT+bus from downtown Singapore to Woodlands, get off and go through passport control, then take another frequent local bus to JB Sentral.  Indeed, bus 170 links downtown Singapore with JB Sentral direct, although you still have to get off and go through passport control at Woodlands Checkpoint.  This is cheap and easy enough.  See the details here...

  • Option 3, take a taxi from downtown Singapore direct to JB Sentral for around SGD 55 (27 or $39) for the whole taxi & all passengers.  This is the quickest & easiest option if you're not on a tight budget.  Only specially-licensed taxis can cross the border, so in Singapore you need go to the official Singapore Taxi Terminal on Queen Street.  See details here...

Option 1:  Using the KTM shuttle trains between Woodlands & JB Sentral...

  • With this option, you travel by train all the way from Singapore island by rail, trundling across the famous causeway into Malaysia.  The shuttle trains don't always connect well with the departures from JB to KL, but when they do, it can avoid traffic problems on the busy causeway road.  I'll assume you're leaving Singapore for KL, but the instructions below equally work in reverse for arriving from KL.

  • Step 1, take a taxi or MRT & bus from central Singapore to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint Map showing location of Singapore's Woodlands checkpoint station.

  • By MRT (metro) & bus:  Take the MRT (mass rapid transit metro) from any downtown Singapore MRT station to Woodlands MRT station.  MRT trains run every few minutes, fare S$2.20, distance around 26.4 km, journey time around 45 minutes.  Woodlands MRT station is 3.3 km (2 miles) from Woodlands Train Checkpoint.  Then take air-conditioned bus numbers 911 or 913 from Woodlands MRT station to Woodlands Train Checkpoint.  The bus is easy to find, just downstairs from the MRT train, go to bus bay 11.  The bus fare is S$1.10, distance 3.3 km, journey time 10 minutes, buses run every 3 to 10 minutes all day (every 3 to 15 minutes after 7pm).  The whole journey from central Singapore to Woodlands Train Checkpoint will take around 65 minutes and cost S$3.30 (2 or $3), but plan to arrive at least half an hour before your train leaves for passport formalities.  If you want to buy any supplies for the journey, buy them before arriving at Woodlands Train Checkpoint as there are few if any retail outlets there.  See www.smrt.com.sg for a journey planner and a MRT network map.

  • By taxi:  A taxi from Singapore's central business district to Woodlands costs around S$31 (15 or US$25) per taxi for the 24 km ride.  Allow at least 40 minutes for the taxi journey, plus allow half an hour for passport formalities at Woodlands before the train leaves.  If you want to buy any supplies for the journey, buy them before arriving at Woodlands Train Checkpoint as there are few if any retail outlets there.

  • Passport & customs formalities at Woodlands:  You should arrive at Woodlands at least 30 minutes before your train departure, for passport formalities.  Check-in opens promptly 30 minutes before departure of each train.  You go through Singapore departure formalities then Malaysian immigration formalities at Woodlands before boarding the train.  In the other direction, when arriving at Woodlands from Malaysia, Malaysian immigration formalities are carried out at the station at Johor Bahru, and Singapore passport and customs formalities are undertaken at Woodlands checkpoint after you get off the train.

  • Ticket office at Woodlands:  There is a KTM InterCity ticket counter at Woodlands station so you can buy tickets there.  Only cash is accepted, no credit cards, so ideally get some cash before leaving central Singapore, but if you need cash there are ATMs across the street along the market area about 5 minutes walk from the station.  The ticket counter will not sell tickets less than 20 minutes before the departure of each train.  There are no food stalls inside Woodlands station but there's a small supermarket across the road, or stock up before leaving central Singapore.

  • Step 2, shuttle train from Woodlands to JB SentralThis is the increased service from 17 January 2016...

    Shuttle trains will leave Woodlands for JB Sentral at 08:00, 10:00, 13:30, 16:30, 18:00, 18:45, 20:00, 20:45, 22:00, 23:15, journey 5 minutes.

    Shuttle trains will leave JB Sentral for Woodlands at 05:30, 06:00, 06:30, 07:00, 08:30, 09:00, 12:30, 15:30, 17:00, 19:00, 21:00, 22:15, journey 5 minutes.

    The fare is SG$5 bought in Singapore, RM 5 bought in Malaysia.  You can check times & buy tickets between Woodlands & JB Sentral online at either 12go.asia (easy) or www.ktmb.com.my (more fiddly, select e-ticket) - both sites give a print-at-home ticket.  The shuttles can sometimes sell out, so pre-book if you can.

The platform at Woodlands train checkpoint   A train at Woodlands train checkpoint

Woodlands:  The single platform at Singapore's Woodlands Train Checkpoint.

 

A KTM train to Malaysia in the platform at Woodlands Train Checkpoint.

Option 2:  Using MRT + bus between downtown Singapore & JB Sentral...

  • You may find it easier (or necessary for some departures when there's no shuttle train connection) to use local transport between central Singapore and Johor Bahru Sentral station, picking the train to KL from JB.  A shame not to go by train all the way from Singapore island, although you still cross the famous causeway next to the railway, albeit by road.  If you'd rather go by taxi, see option 3 below.

  • Step 1, travel by MRT (Singapore Metro) from any MRT station in central Singapore to Woodlands MRT station.  MRT trains run every few minutes, fare S$2.20, distance around 26 km, journey time around 45 minutes.

  • Step 2, travel by bus 950 from Woodlands MRT station to JB Sentral, passing through passport & customs into Malaysia at Woodlands Checkpoint on the way, see https://publictransportsg.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/service-950.  Buses run every 8-14 minutes, journey time around 40 minutes depending on traffic, distance 24.4 km.  The bus terminal at JB is right next to JB Sentral railway station.

  • Alternatively, bus 170X links Kranji MRT station (Singapore metro) with JB Sentral through the Woodlands checkpoint & over the causeway, see https://publictransportsg.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/service-170x.

  • Feedback always appreciated.

Option 3:  Downtown Singapore to JB Sentral by direct taxi for SGD 55 ($39 or 27)

  • If you're not on too tight a budget, this is the easiest and quickest way to connect with a train from JB Sentral to KL and beyond.

  • Step 1, take a regular Singapore taxi from your hotel to the Singapore Taxi Terminal on Queen Street, also known as the Singapore-Johore Express Terminal.  For example, Raffles Hotel to the Taxi Terminal is 1.5km, journey 6 minutes.  Indeed, you could walk it in 17 minutes!  Alternatively, the Taxi Terminal is 5 minutes walk from Bugis MRT (metro) station.

  • Step 2, take a specially-licensed taxi from the Singapore Taxi Terminal on Queen Street to JB Sentral Station for a fixed price of 55 Singapore dollars (27 or $39) for the whole vehicle & all passengers.  The distance is around 28km, journey time around 1 hour 5 minutes including relatively speedy border formalities, but the time is heavily dependent on traffic and how busy the border is - so allow plenty of time.  Only these specially-licensed taxis can cross into Malaysia, with the necessary special pass for a speedy crossing of the border (just a brief passport check) - hence the need to switch taxis at the Taxi Terminal.

Singapore's wonderful 1932 art deco railway station closed in June 2011... 

  • From 1932 until 30 June 2011, trains to Malaysia left from the magnificent faded grandeur of Singapore's colonial art-deco station in Keppel Road, sometimes known as Tanjong Pagar.  The station was designed by Singapore's oldest architectural firm Swan and Maclaren, with Italian sculptor Rudolfo Nolli responsible for the four figures on the station's facade representing Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Transport.  The letters 'F M S R' on the front of the building stand for "Federated Malay States Railway", the railway's original title when Singapore & Malaysia were both part of British Malaya.

  • A railway was first built on Singapore island in 1903, linking the port area with Woodlands in the north of the island, although for the first two decades passengers had to take a ferry from Woodlands across the Johor Strait and board another train to continue their journey up the Malay Peninsula.  However, a causeway linking Singapore with Malaysia was built in 1923 and the railway was extended across it, finally allowing trains to run direct between Singapore and mainland Malaya.  The trains used a temporary station until the present station opened in 1932.  When Singapore split from Malaysia in 1965, the station and mainline railway remained the property of the Malaysian government, even though they stood on Singaporean territory.  This became a longstanding political thorn in Singapore's side, and the Singaporeans tried for years to buy or sequestrate the land so the railway could be closed and built over.

  • Unfortunately, the Singaporean and Malaysian governments reached an agreement in 2010.  The historic station in Singapore closed on 30 June 2011, and taking a train from this wonderful building is now a thing of the past.  Trains now start/terminate at Woodlands, just south of the causeway to Malaysia, far less convenient for travellers and a totally backward step in transport terms.  Sadly, in Singapore it seems they know the value of office blocks and shopping centres but not of city centre railway connections!  From 1 July 2011 you have to take a taxi or the MRT (mass transit metro) plus a bus to Woodlands Train Checkpoint to pick up the trains to Malaysia there.  Malaysian and Singaporean border control are co-located at Woodlands, so at least this saves the long stops for border control en route, cutting journey time.  At least it's planned to preserve, rather than demolish, the old station building.  As it used to be:  There's a good look round Singapore's railway station in this video or see this panorama photo inside Singapore stationMap showing location of Singapore's old railway station

Singapore station - interior showing ticket office   Singapore's colonial railway station, built in 1932

As it used to be...  Inside Singapore's old station, with the reservation counters.  Note the murals!

 

Now closed...  The imposing facade of Singapore's old railway station in Keppel Road...

Singapore station.  These tracks stretch all the way to Bangkok!   Inside Singapore railway station looking north

The end of the line:  Singapore station's platforms, one for departures, one for arrivals.

 

The old station:  Singapore station main hall.  The 'chalet' is temporary, for the Malaysian Tourist Board...


Kuala Lumpur station information

Kuala Lumpur Sentral station...

Long-distance KTM InterCity trains between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang were switched to Kuala Lumpur's shiny modern KL Sentral station in 2001, and no longer start from the famous Moorish-style railway station built by the British in 1910.  However, the old station is still an operational station and suburban KTM Komuter trains still stop there, as do many fast new ETS trains.  You can easily take a frequent suburban train from KL Sentral to the old KL station, which is a landmark in its own right.  Map showing location of the new KL Sentral and original historic KL stations.

KL Sentral station, main entrance & taxi rank   KL Sentral station, main entrance hall on Level 2

Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station: Main entrance & taxi rank.

 

Level 2.  The main doors from the taxi rank are on the left.  The KTM InterCity ticket office & left luggage are along the passageway in the background.

KL Sentral station, level 1   KTM InterCity platforms at KL Sentral

This is Level 1 downstairs.  Access to the KTM Komuter train platforms is from this level.  KTM InterCity trains have their own platforms, accessed from level 2.

 

The Rakyat Express from Butterworth to Singapore has arrived at KL Sentral.  There are lifts, stairs & escalators up to Level 2.

KTM InterCity ticket office:  Located on level 2, along the passageway on your left as you walk in through the main station doors from the taxi rank (the dark passageway in the background in the photo above left).  Open for advance sales 07:00-21:30 every day.  Sales for immediate travel 07:00-23:00 daily.  An organised waiting system operates, ask for a numbered queuing ticket from the first counter on the left and wait for your number to be called.  Can sell tickets for any KTM train within Malaysia, but not for Thai trains.

Left luggage office:  You can leave your bags at the left luggage office, located directly opposite the KTM InterCity ticket counters on Level 2.  Open every day 08:00 to 22:30.  3 Ringgit (0.80 or $1) for a small bag, 5 Ringgit (1 or $2) for a large bag.

Access to mainline trains:  The stairs and escalators down to the KTM InterCity trains (platforms 1 & 2) start from Level 2, labelled 'Gate A' and 'Gate B' to left and right as you walk in through the main doors from the taxi rank.  In the photo above left, 'Gate A' is in the far background on the far right of the photo.  Actually, both gates go to the same pair of platforms. 

Access to Komuter and KLIA airport trains:  KTM Komuter trains leave from separate platforms accessed from the KTM Komuter area downstairs on Level 1.  Access to KLIA airport trains is also from Level 1.

First class lounge:  First class KTM InterCity passengers can use a VIP lounge with complimentary soft drinks and free WiFi.  It opens an hour before each train departure.  It's poorly signed:  Go through the main doors from the taxi rank, walk forward, do a 180 degree turn up the escalator to the Level 3 walkway you can see in the photo above left, turn left at the top of the escalator and left again through the lift lobby to the door to the lounge.

Food & drink:  There's a KFC on Level 2 and a MacDonald's and other food outlets just on Level 1.  There are many 7-11 style shops to stock up for your train journey.

Kuala Lumpur's original Moorish-style railway station...

Built in 1910 and designed by Arthur Benison Hubback, KL's famous Moorish-style station served as KL's main station until superseded by KL Sentral in 2001, which is located a little way to the south.  Commuter trains & many ETS trains still call at the old station, although the trains from KL to Singapore now all start from KL Sentral.  However, the old station is a famous landmark in its own right, and well worth a visit.  Note that on the KTM website, plain Kuala Lumpur means the old station, Kuala Lumpur Sentral means the new one.  Sadly, it's reported that the Heritage Station Hotel (which was part of the old 1910 station building and a good cheap choice) has now closed down.  More information about the station.

     
Kuala Lumpur station   KTM Komuter train inside Kuala Lumpur station

Kuala Lumpur's old station...  Above right, a KTM Komuter train calls.

ETS train from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh, seen at KL   Kuala Lumpur's historic station, seen from a passing metro train

Above left, most ETS trains call at the old station as well as KL Sentral.  Above right, you get a good view of the old station as you pass it on the metro.


Butterworth & Penang information

Penang is an island, and the main town on Penang Island is called Georgetown, once the capital of British Malaya.  The railway station for Penang is Butterworth, located on the mainland directly opposite Georgetown.  When you arrive by train at Butterworth station, you go up lots of steps (just be prepared for that!) and onto a walkway from the station to the ferry terminal to take the ferry to Georgetown (Penang).  Georgetown has some excellent British colonial buildings, interesting museums and temples, a large Chinatown and a Little India.  Well worth a visit!

Map showing station & ferry terminal locations in Penang & Butterworth

Butterworth station...

Butterworth station has a ticket office, open 07:00-22:30 every day (with breaks 09:00-10:00 & 16:00-17:30).  They accept MasterCard & Visa.  Butterworth station has a money changer, but no ATMs, nor is there any left luggage office.  There's not much in the way of food shops or stalls at Butterworth, so when catching a train it's best to stock up before you leave Georgetown.  If you get stuck, you might find a shop at the bus station next door.  New station: A new station has been built as part of KL-Penang-Padang Besar railway modernisation project and is now open, although there are still some improvements to be made to access arrangements, so be prepared for the hike up a long flight of steps from station to ferry terminal to sail across to Penang!

Butterworth's new ETS station

The new ETS railway station at Butterworth.  Photo courtesy of Mark Dohm.

The ferry from Butterworth to Penang...

Ferries shuttle back & forth between Butterworth & Penang (Georgetown) every 10 minutes or so between 05:00 & 24:00, crossing time around 15 minutes.  The fare is 1.20 Ringgit outward, paid by putting the coins into the turnstiles.  A staffed kiosk can change notes into coins for the ferry.  In the other direction the ferry is free for foot passengers.  An alternative to the ferry is to take a taxi the long way round via the lengthy Penang Bridge, about 60 Ringgit (11 or $17) from a central Penang hotel to Butterworth station.

Passenger deck on board the Butterworth to Georgetown ferry station   The ferry from Butterworth to Penang

On board the ferry, on the passenger deck above the vehicles, with great views of Georgetown approaching.

 

The Penang ferry:  This is one of the double-deck Butterworth to Penang ferries, linking the railway station with Georgetown.

KTM ticket office at Georgetown, Penang:  Open 08:30-16:00 daily.

You'll find a small KTM ticket office at the ferry terminal in Georgetown on Penang island, which saves having to take the ferry to Butterworth to book your train tickets.  The office is open daily except Sundays from 08:30 to 16:00 (may close 14:00-15:00 for lunch), and can sell train tickets for all KTM Malaysian trains, but not Thai trains.  Only cash accepted.

Hotels in Penang...

For hotels in Penang, use the hotel search engine below or see TripAdvisor's Penang hotels page.  The most famous & historic place to stay in Penang is of course the historic Eastern & Oriental Hotel, around 150 for a double room.


 


Borneo

Ferries to Sarawak & Sabah States on Borneo...

Since 1988 there have been no ferries between Singapore or mainland Malaysia and the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo.  The only option is a ferry from Malaysia or Singapore to Java in Indonesia (see the Indonesia page, ferry section), then a ferry from Java to the Indonesian part of Borneo, then overland the Malaysian part of Borneo.  Ferries run by www.pelni.co.id link Tanjong Priok (near Jakarta) with Pontianak, also Semarang (Java) with Ketapang, Kumai & Sampit, and Surabaya (Java) with Sampit, Kumai or Batulicin, with each route operating on a handful of dates each month, see www.pelni.co.id.

Trains in Sabah State (North Borneo)...

The scenic North Borneo Railway, now known as the Sabah State Railway, links Khota Kinabalu (or strictly speaking, a station called Tangjung Aru located 10 km o`utside it) to Papar, Beaufort and Tenom, a total journey of 134km.  For details see Lee Carter's excellent blog and information page, http://global-goose.com/travel-photos/north-borneo-railway-sabah.


The Eastern & Oriental Express

Singapore to Bangkok by luxury train:  See the Eastern & Oriental Express page

The ultra-luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express runs once, twice or sometimes 3 times each month between Singapore, Penang and Bangkok, usually including a city tour in Penang and a brief diversion to Kanchanaburi and the famous Bridge on the River Kwai.  It also runs some rail cruises to Chiang Mai and other destinations.  Operated by the same company that runs the superb Venice Simplon Orient Express, it uses sleeping-cars originally built in Japan for the New Zealand Railways Wellington-Auckland 'Silver Star' sleeper train (which ran 1972 to 1979). The Eastern & Oriental gets great reviews from travellers, and it's easily the most luxurious way to travel from Singapore to Bangkok, seeing both Malaysia and the famous Bridge on the River Kwai on the way.  In other words, it isn't cheap, but you certainly won't regret taking this train!  See the Eastern & Oriental Express page for times, departure dates, prices & online booking.

Southeast Asia's own 'Orient Express':  The destination board on the side of the Eastern & Oriental Express luxury train from Singapore to Bangkok   The Eastern & Oriental Express  luxury train at Hua Hin

London to Singapore overland

London - Moscow - Beijing - Hanoi - Saigon - Bangkok - Singapore (or vice versa)

If you have the time (we're talking a minimum of 3 weeks one-way), you can travel from London to Singapore overland, see the route map here.  The links below cover travel in either direction, from London or to London:

How to arrange this trip...

  • There aren't any travel agencies who can arrange the whole trip, so you will need to plan it out and arrange each stage of the journey yourself.  It's an exercise in project management!  Unless time is absolutely no object, you should book the key sections in advance through various travel agencies.

  • Book London-Moscow through a UK European train ticketing agency such as DB's UK office or europeanrail.com as shown on the London to Russia page;

  • Book Moscow-Beijing & Beijing-Hanoi through a local Russian agency such as Svezhy Veter or Real Russia as shown on the Trans-Siberian page & Vietnam page

  • Tickets for other parts of the trip, for example, Hanoi-Saigon-Phnom Penh-Bangkok can all be bought locally, as you go along.  You'll need to pre-arrange visas for Belarus, Russia, possibly Mongolia, China & Vietnam, and in many ways complying with the various visa requirements (and in some cases, requirements for confirmed onward tickets to be held) is actually the biggest hassle, not buying the tickets for the trains, so check this out carefully using the relevant embassy websites.

  • Where do you start?  First, read through the seat61 pages linked above.  Then sketch out your itinerary using a simple spreadsheet like this, deciding where and for how long you want to stop off.  Next, check out the visa situation for each country.  Finally, follow the advice on each seat61 page to buy tickets for each train journey that you want to pre-book.

Some inspiration...

You won't be the first to travel between Europe and Southeast Asia overland this way, far from it.  Check out this excellent blog from Tom Woods, "Woodlands to Woking",  woodlandstowoking.wordpress.com and Matthew Woodward's equally excellent blog from Newcastle to Singapore http://toadstraveladventures.blogspot.co.uk.



Hotels in Singapore, Malaysia & Southeast Asia

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

You might also want to check Tripadvisor:  Tripadvisor Singapore hotels   Tripadvisor Malaysia hotels.   Suggested hotels in Bangkok.

Raffles Hotel, Singapore...   Book it here

Well, it has to be Raffles, hasn't it?  A major Singapore landmark and a tourist attraction in its own right, all rooms are suites and will set you back upwards from 300 per night.  But it's one of the world's greatest hotels, and one of several famous Asian hotels founded by the Sarkies brothers.  The main building dates from 1899, although the two side wings date from 1889 and 1896.  Even if you can't afford to stay there, at least drop in for a refreshing Singapore sling in the famous Long Bar, a rather more affordable option, though still pricey!  At least the peanuts are free.  Remember to follow tradition by dropping the peanut shells straight onto the floor...  The hotel's own website is www.Raffles.com Book a room at Raffles online.

Raffles Hotel, Singapore   A Grand Suite in the main building at Raffles Hotel

Raffles Hotel:  The incomparable Raffles Hotel, Singapore, a little colonial island in a sea of modern high-rise blocks.

 

A suite at Raffles:  This is a Grand Suite in the main building, room 339 / 340 with sitting room, bedroom, bathroom and private veranda...

Raffles Hotel, main building lobby   The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel   A Singapore Sling at Raffles Long Bar

(Left) Raffles hotel lobby...  (Right)  The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel:  If you can't afford to stay there, at least have a 'Singapore Sling' in the famous Long Bar.  The bar was originally located in the ballroom, a single-storey extension built in 1915 on the front of the hotel where the driveway is now.  The Long Bar was first moved from one side of the ballroom to the other, then moved again in 1989 when the hotel was refurbished and the ballroom demolished.  It's now located at the rear of the hotel in a modern block constructed in 1989.

Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Georgetown, Penang...   Book it here

If you like Raffles, try another of the Sarkies brothers' hotels, the equally historic Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Georgetown, Penang, equally historic but a bit cheaper at around 150 for a double room.  It's grand, well-located with gardens to the rear backing the sea.

A suite at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Penang   The Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Georgetown, Penang

Backpacker hostels in Singapore & Malaysia...

  • www.hostelbookers.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelbookers offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in Paris and most other European cities at rock-bottom prices.


Guidebooks

I strongly recommend investing in a decent guidebook.  It may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.  For the independent traveller, I have no hesitation in recommending either the Lonely Planets or the Rough Guides.  Both provide an excellent level of practical information and historical and political background.  You will not regret buying one!

Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com...

Rough Guide to Southeast Asia - click to buy onlineLonely Planet South East Asia on a Shoestring - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei - click to buy online

 

 

 

 

 

Alternatively, you can download just the chapters you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website, from around 2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.


Singapore city tour

City Sightseeing Open Top Bus TourBuy a ticket for Singapore's hop-on, hop-off Open Top Bus Tour...

City Sightseeing's red-and-yellow open top tour buses are now a familiar site in 100 major cities on 6 continents.  They do a hop-on, hop-off tour bus ticket for Singapore and you can buy a ticket online before you go, redeemable on any day you like within 3 months of buying it, see www.city-sightseeing.com.


Flights

1)  Check prices at Singapore Airlines & Virgin Atlantic...

Overland travel by train & bus around Southeast Asia is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But a long-haul flight might be unavoidable to reach Asia in the first place.  For flights from the UK to Singapore, two airlines stand out:

  • Singapore Airlines, www.singaporeair.com, consistently voted one of the world's best (and I wouldn't disagree, as far as airlines go).

  • Virgin Atlantic Airlines, www.virginatlantic.com, who now fly direct from the UK to Singapore, another good choice for both price & service.

2)  Check flight prices at Opodo, www.opodo.com...

3)  Use Skyscanner to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines...

skyscanner generic 728x90

4)  Lounge passes...

Make the airport experience a little more bearable with a VIP lounge pass, it's not as expensive as you think, see www.loungepass.com


Travel insurance

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

 


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