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

Click for an interactive Southeast Asia train route map

This page explains how to travel by train between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang & Bangkok, the cheap, historic, relaxed way to go...

Daily air-conditioned departures with amazingly cheap prices, comfortable sleeping berths, and great scenery.  Taking the train is the safe, comfortable & adventurous way to travel overland between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang & Bangkok.  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 modern motorway.  Before 30 June 2011, you'd have left from the faded colonial grandeur of Singapore's 1932 art deco railway station, now you leave from Woodlands Train Checkpoint in the north of Singapore Island, rumbling slowly over the famous 1923-built causeway across the Johor Strait into Malaysia and through the palm plantations and jungle towards Kuala Lumpur.  Singapore to Kuala Lumpur takes 6 hours by leisurely daytime train or 8 hours on a time-effective overnight sleeper, from just 7 or $10 one-way.  Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth (the station for the ferry to Penang) is of a similar length & cost;  Butterworth to Bangkok on the daily 'International Express' costs around 23 or $34 and takes less than 24 hours with a comfy sleeper & a restaurant for dinner & breakfast, see the pictures here.  The whole 1,233 mile Singapore to Bangkok journey can be done in just 48 hours including an afternoon in KL and a morning in Penang, but by all means stop off for longer in Kuala Lumpur or Penang.  Or why not catch a ferry to Ko Samui or the bus to Phuket or Krabi?  This page explains all you need to know, including train times, fares, what the trains are like & how to buy tickets.

The Rakyat Express, train number 1 from Butterworth (Penang) to Kuala Lumour & Singapore, at a wayside station

Forget cramped planes or buses.  Take the train, put your feet up, enjoy the ride.  These are 1st class seats on a Kuala Lumpur to Singapore train, 68 Ringgit (12 or $21) one way.  A bit worn, but comfortable & far more of an experience than flying.  Photo below courtesy Willy Kaemena.

1st class seats on a Singapore - Kuala Lumpur express train...

I recommend hotelscombined.com for a hotel price comparison:

Train schedules... 

  Singapore - Kuala Lumpur - Penang - Bangkok

  Singapore or KL - Khota Bahru (The Jungle Line)

Fares & how to buy tickets...

  How much does it cost?

  How to buy tickets by phone, by email, or online

  What are Malaysian trains like?

  Singapore Woodlands station information

  Kuala Lumpur station information

  Penang & Butterworth information

  Singapore to Bangkok by 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 via the 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 = 4.8 Ringgit = 2.0 Singapore dollars. 

$1 = 3.3 Ringgit = 1.4 Sin$.  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:

8 August 2014


Singapore - Kuala Lumpur - Penang - Bangkok

Train schedules for the main line between Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand...

Where you go is up to you...  Here are the train schedules for the main line linking Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang & Bangkok.   Feel free to take any train on any date between any two stations, it's up to you.  All these trains run every day.  Trains in Malaysia & Thailand run on metre-gauge track, narrower than European standard gauge.  How much does it cost?   How to buy tickets.

Singapore to Bangkok by train:  The whole train journey from Singapore to Bangkok is 1,920 km or 1,233 miles and involves two or three trains, depending on where you want to stop off.  Look at the timetable below and create a journey that suits you.  For a fast journey with just an afternoon at leisure in KL and a morning to explore Penang, you'd take train 2 from Singapore to KL in the morning, train 20 overnight from KL to Butterworth (Penang) then train 36 from Butterworth overnight to Bangkok.  However, I'd recommend stopping at Kuala Lumpur and Penang for a bit longer as they are both fascinating cities.  So take any train you like from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, either one of the daytime trains (train 2 or 12) or the overnight sleeper train (train 24).  Stop over for a day or two, then take any train you like from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth (the station for the ferry shuttle to Penang), there's a choice of a daytime train (train 2) or an overnight sleeper (train 20).  Finally, take a comfy sleeper on train 36, the International Express leaving Butterworth at lunchtime and arriving in Bangkok next morning.  It's entirely up to you whether you travel from Singapore to Bangkok all in one go in 48 hours or stop off and see places on the way, as each train is booked & ticketed separately.  All 3 trains can be booked at any railway station in Malaysia or Singapore or by email with Malaysian Railways.

It's not difficult to read this timetable!  Each column is a separate train, and you read downwards.  You can buy tickets for any train, between any two stations.  So for example, in the second column you see that train number 2, with 1st & 2nd class seats, running daily, leaves Singapore Woodlands at 08:45, stops at Johor Bahru, Gemas, Tampin, calls at Kuala Lumpur at 14:56, calls at Ipoh and finally arrives at Butterworth (for Penang) at 21:20.  You could change trains at KL onto train 20 to Hat Yai.  Or you could stay on board till Butterworth, stay overnight and catch train 36 to Bangkok next day.  It's up to you...

 Singapore ► Kuala Lumpur ► Penang ► Bangkok  (from 15 Aug 2014)

 Train number (please read the notes below):

2

20

170

12

62

36

24

 Types of seat & sleeper on board (see the explanation below): 

1,2

F,S,2,3*

2,3

1,2

3

S

L,S

 Days of running:

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

 Singapore Woodlands - Where is it? Check-in info

depart

08:30

-

-

16:00

18:30

-

23:30

 Johor Bahru

depart

08:50

-

-

16:20

18:50

-

23:55

 Kluang

arr/dep

11:02

-

-

18:09

21:13

-

02:04

 Gemas

arr/dep

13:04

-

-

20:19

23:20

-

04:12

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for bus/taxi to/from Malacca

arr/dep  

13:44

-

-

20:55

-

-

04:52

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral station

arrive

16:05

-

-

22:45

-

-

06:50

depart

16:05

22:00

-

-

-

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur historic 1910 station

arr/dep

16:10

22:06

-

-

-

-

-

 Ipoh - for bus to Cameron Highlands

arr/dep

19:14

01:57

-

-

-

-

-

 Butterworth - for Penang by frequent ferry

arrive

22:20

06:00

-

-

-

-

-

depart

-

06:00

-

-

-

14:00

-

 Alor Setar - for Kuala Kedah & Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

07:56

-

-

-

15:53

-

 Arau - for Kuala Perlis & Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

08:34

-

-

-

16:30

-

 Padang Besar = Malaysian border (Malaysian time)

arrive

-

10:30

-

-

-

18:40

-

 Hat Yai - for bus to Phuket or Krabi (Thai time)

arrive

-

10:30

-

-

-

18:30

-

depart

-

-

14:45

-

-

18:45

-

 Surat Thani  (for ferry to Ko Samui & Koh Tao)

arrive

-

-

20:14

-

-

23:54

-

 Chumphon  (for ferry to Koh Tao)

arrive

-

-

23:23

-

-

02:34

-

 Hua Hin

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

06:29

-

 Nakhon Pathom - for train to River Kwai

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

09:03

-

 Bangkok Hualamphong station

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

10:30

-

* = On trains 20 & 21, only one 2nd class sleeper & one 2nd class seats car run to & from Hat Yai.  The rest of the train including 1st class sleepers only runs between Kuala Lumpur & Padang Besar.  If you're going to or from Hat Yai, stick with the comfy 2nd class sleepers, don't bother with 1st class.

  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 classes:

L = Deluxe sleeper (Premier Night Deluxe), 1 or 2-bed compartments with private shower & toilet, air-conditioned.  Update: As at March 2014, this 1st class sleeping-car is temporarily out of service for overhaul, but it's not known for how long.  Check the online booking system and if it doesn't appear, simply use 2nd class sleepers instead, they are fine.

F = 1st class sleepers (Premier Night Standard), 2-bed compartments with washbasin, air-conditioned.

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

1 = 1st class seats (Premier).  Reasonably luxurious if faded, reclining, air-conditioned.

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

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

In Singapore, trains leave from Woodlands Train Checkpoint in the north of Singapore Island.  Sadly, Singapore's historic station in central Singapore, sometimes called Tanjong Pagar or Keppel Road, closed permanently on 30 June 2011.  Woodlands station & check-in information Map showing location of Woodlands.

Butterworth is the station for Georgetown on Penang Island.  Ferries shuttle between Butterworth & Georgetown/Penang every 10 minutes, taking 15 minutes, see the Penang ferry information.

Langkawi Island ferry connections are explained here.  For connections to Ko Samui, Phuket, Krabi, Kanchanaburi & River Kwai Bridge, Chiang Mai, see the Thailand page.

There are other trains KL-Ipoh & Hat Yai-Bangkok which are not shown here:  This timetable shows all the major trains linking Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth & Hat Yai, but there are (1) regular fast modern ETS trains linking KL & Ipoh not shown here (see www.ktmb.com.my), and (2) lots more domestic trains within Thailand between Hat Yai , Surat Thani, Chumphon, Hua Hin & Bangkok shown in the Bangkok to southern Thailand section on the Thailand page.  It also doesn't show the luxury Singapore-Bangkok Eastern & Oriental Express.  All times are shown in local time, remember that Thailand is 1 hour behind Malaysian time!  Please check times before you travel at 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.

Quick links... 

How much does it cost?    How to buy tickets?     What are the trains like?     Security in southern Thailand

Map of train routes in Southeast Asia   Luxury E&O tour train Singapore-Bangkok   Hotels in Singapore, KL, Penang

 Bangkok Penang Kuala Lumpur Singapore  (from 15 Aug 2014)

 Train number (see the notes below):

35

41

21

13

1

61

25

 Types of seat & sleeper on board (see the explanation above):

S

2

S,2,3*

1,2

1,2

3

L,S

 Days of running: 

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

08:15

-

-

-

-

-

 Hat Yai - for bus connection from Phuket or Krabi

arrive

06:35

12:50

-

-

-

-

-

depart

06:57

-

16:00

-

-

-

-

 Padang Besar = Malaysian border

depart

10:00

-

18:45

-

-

-

-

 Arau - for Kuala Perlis & Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

10:32

-

19:17

-

-

-

-

 Alor Setar - for Kuala Kedah & Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

11:09

-

19:55

-

-

-

-

 Butterworth - for Penang by frequent ferry

arrive

13:00

-

22:20

-

-

-

-

depart

-

-

22:20

-

08:00

-

-

 Ipoh - for bus to or from Cameron Highlands

arr/dep  

-

-

01:58

-

11:07

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur historic 1910 station

arr/dep  

-

-

01:58

-

14:15

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral station

arrive

-

-

05:40

-

14:35

-

-

depart

-

-

-

08:00

14:35

-

23:00

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for bus/taxi to/from Malacca

arr/dep

-

-

-

09:49

16:30

-

00:58

 Gemas

arr/dep

-

-

-

10:26

17:10

00:45

01:46

 Kluang

arr/dep

-

-

-

12:28

19:09

03:08

04:08

 Johor Bahru

arrive

-

-

-

14:35

21:35

05:55

06:50

 Singapore Woodlands - Where is this?

arrive

-

-

-

14:40

21:40

06:00

06:55

Notes by train number...

 

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.

  First class car refurbished with leather seats on train 1 from Penang to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore train
 

A first class coach on train 1 from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth (Penang.  This car has been refurbished with with reclining leather seats.

  Train 1, the Rakyat Express at Butterworth (Penang)
 

Train 1, the Rakyat Express, about to leave Butterworth for Kuala Lumpur and Singapore...

Train 1 & 2:  Ekspress Rakyat.  Runs every day.  1st & 2nd class seats with refreshment trolley, all fully air-conditioned.

Train 12 & 13:  Ekspress Sinaran Selatan.  Runs every day.  1st & 2nd class seats, air-conditioned, refreshments.

Train 20 & 21:  Express Senandung Langkawi.  Runs every day.  Most of this train including the 1st class sleeper only run between Kuala Lumpur & Padang Besar on the Thai frontier.  Just one Malaysian 2nd class sleeping-car & one 2nd class seats car run to/from Hat Yai in Thailand.

Train 24 & 25:  Ekspress Senendung Sutera.  Runs every day.  1 & 2 berth deluxe sleepers with private shower & toilet, 2nd class sleepers, 2nd & 3rd class seats, all air-conditioned.  See the sleeper photos below or watch the video.

Train 35 & 36: International Express (Ekspress Antarabangsa).  Runs every day.  Consists of two modern air-conditioned 2nd class sleepers between Butterworth & Bangkok provided by the State Railways of Thailand.  Between Hat Yai & Bangkok, these are attached to a restaurant car, a 1st class sleeper & more 2nd class sleepers.  However, I recommend sticking with the excellent Thai 2nd class sleepers and not worrying about 1st class, it's really not necessary.  History of this train.  Note that Malaysian & Thai railways often disagree about the exact timings of this train in each other's country, I trust the Thais within Thailand and KTM for times within Malaysia!

Train 41:  Hat Yai-Surat Thani fast air-conditioned railcar with 2nd class reclining seats.  Actually goes to/from Bangkok, but is not recommended for Bangkok passengers as it has no sleepers.

Train 61 & 62:  Shuttle train, 3rd class only.

Train 170:  Rapid train, 2nd & 3rd class non-air-con seats.

How much does it cost?  How to buy tickets?

See the fares section & the how to buy tickets section.

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.

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.  These are mainly at the eastern end of the Thai/Malay border, whereas 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, but it does just clip the northwest corner of Songkhla province for a relatively short 80km (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.  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!


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.  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.

Engineering work on the Jungle Line:  The Gemas to Gua Musang part of the Jungle Line is set to be closed in the middle of the day for repairs from August 2014 for possibly up to 2 years.  This means there will be no daytime shuttle trains south of Gua Musang during the day as there would normally be.  The timetable below will apply from 15 August 2014 onwards.

 Singapore & Kuala Lumpur ► Khota Bahru

Train number (see notes below):

70

28

26

72

Days of operation:

daily

daily

daily

daily

Train type:

shuttle

Intercity

Intercity

shuttle

Classes:

3

F,S,2,3

S,2,3

3

 Singapore (Woodlands)

depart

-

-

20:00

-

 Johor Bahru

depart

-

-

20:20

-

 Kuala Lumpur 

depart

-

20:30

|

-

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

depart

-

22:27

|

-

 Gemas

depart

-

23:40

01:00

-

 Kuala Lipis

arr/dep

-

05:29

06:48

-

 Gua Musang

arr/dep

06:00

07:30

09:09

13:30

 Tanah Merah

arrive

09:37

10:29

12:33

17:08

 Pasir Mas (for bus to K. Bharu)

arrive

10:11

10:55

12:58

17:43

 Wakaf Bharu (taxi to K. Bharu)

arrive

10:30

11:11

13:14

18:02

 Tumpat

arrive

10:50

11:30

13:35

18:25

Key to classes:

L = Deluxe sleeper (Premier Night Deluxe), 1 or 2-bed compartments with private shower & toilet, air-conditioned.

F = 1st class sleepers (Premier Night Standard), 2-bed compartments with washbasin, air-conditioned.

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

1 = 1st class seats (Premier).  Reasonably luxurious if faded, reclining, air-conditioned.

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

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

Train 14 & 15:  Ekspress Sinaran Timur.  Runs every day until 30 June 2013.  2nd seats, air-conditioned.  No 1st class.

Train 26 & 27:  Ekspress Senandung Timuran.  Runs every day.  2nd class sleepers, 2nd & 3rd class seats.  Air-conditioned.  No 1st class sleepers.

Train 28 & 29:  Ekspress Senandung Wau.  Runs every day.  1st & 2nd class sleepers, 2nd & 3rd class seats.  Air conditioned.

Trains 81-93:  Run every day.  3rd class slow train, much older train with basic seats, not air-con.  Please check the timetable for these trains locally, as it changes from time to time.

Trains 91-92:  Runs every day.  Transit train, 2nd class seats only.

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 detailed 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):

71

73

29

27

Days of running:

daily

daily

daily

daily

Train type:

shuttle

shuttle

Intercity

Intercity

Classes:

3

3

F,S,2,3

S,2,3

 Tumpat

depart

04:00

14:30

18:30

20:00

 Wakaf Bharu

depart

04:18

14:51

18:52

20:21

 Pasir Mas

depart

04:36

15:10

19:11

20:39

 Tanah Merah

depart

05:07

15:44

19:48

21:05

 Gua Musang

arr/dep

09:05

19:20

22:44

23:59

 Kuala Lipis

arr/dep

-

-

00:53

02:04

 Gemas

arrive

-

-

07:05

07:53

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

arrive

-

-

07:45

|

 Kuala Lumpur

arrive

-

-

09:45

|

 Johor Bahru

arrive

-

-

-

12:10

 Singapore (Woodlands)

arrive

-

-

-

12:15

How much does it cost?  How to buy tickets...

See the fares section & 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.

Traveller's reports from The Jungle Line...

Traveller Jeff Brown travelled from Singapore to Bangkok via the Jungle Line in 2012:  "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'."


Fares

Malaysian rail fares are very cheap.  You can check fares on the KTM website, www.ktmb.com.my.  Note that Kuala Lumpur is listed under S as Sentral Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru is listed as JB Sentral, and Singapore is now shown as Woodlands.  KTM now calls 1st class Premier and 2nd class Superior.

 One-way fare in Ringgits or Singapore $: 

3rd class

seat

2nd class

seat

1st class

seat

2nd class

sleeper

1st class

sleeper

Deluxe sleeper

with shower & WC

 Singapore to Bangkok

There is no such thing as a Singapore to Bangkok ticket.  The cost of a Singapore to Bangkok train journey is the sum of the fares for each train you take, Singapore to KL, KL to Butterworth, Butterworth to Bangkok.

 Singapore to Kuala Lumpur * 

-

S$ 34

 (17, $26)

S$ 68

(34, $50)

S$ 46

 (22, $33)

-

S$ 139

(66, $99)

 Singapore to Butterworth (Penang) * 

-

S$ 60

 (30, $47)

S$ 127

(63, $97)

-

-

-

 Singapore to Johor Bahru *

-

S$ 11

(5, $8)

S$ 20

(10, $16)

-

-

-

 Singapore to Wakaf Bharu or Tumpat *

S$ 30

(15, $22)

S$ 41

(21, $32)

-

S$ 54

(27, $41)

-

-

 Johor Bharu to Kuala Lumpur

-

RM 33

(7, $10)

RM 64

(13, $20)

RM 45

(9, $14)

-

RM 135

(28, $43)

 Johor Bharu to Butterworth (Penang)

-

RM 58

(12, $18)

RM 122

(26, $40)

-

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur to Singapore

-

RM 34

 (7, $10)

RM 68

(14, $21)

RM 43

 (9, $13)

RM 86

(18, $25)

RM 131

(27, $40)

 Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth (Penang):

RM 17

(4, $5)

RM 34

(7, $10)

RM 67

(14, $20)

RM 43

(9, $13)

RM 85

(18, $26)

-

 Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai

-

RM 44

(9, $13)

-

RM 57

(12, $17)

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur to Tumpat or W. Bharu

RM 29

(6, $9)

RM 39

(8, $12)

-

RM 52

(11, $16)

RM 106

(22, $32)

-

 Butterworth (Penang) to Singapore 

-

RM 60

 (12, $18)

RM 127

(26, $38)

-

-

-

 Butterworth (Penang) to Kuala Lumpur:

RM 17

(4, $5)

RM 34

(7, $10)

RM 67

(14, $20)

RM 43

(9, $13)

RM 85

(18, $26)

-

 Butterworth (Penang) to Bangkok

-

-

-

RM 112

(23, $34)

-

-

 Butterworth (Penang) to Surat Thani

-

-

-

RM 101

(21, $30)

-

-

 Wakaf Bharu or Tumpat to Singapore

S$ 30

(6, $10)

S$ 41

(9, $12)

-

S$ 54

(11, $16)

-

-

 Wakaf Bharu or Tumpat to Kuala Lumpur

RM 29

(6, $9)

RM 39

(8, $12)

-

RM 52

(11, $16)

RM 106

(22, $32)

-

* If your ticket is bought or collected in Singapore, read the paragraph below.  For historical reasons, tickets starting in Singapore are charged in S$, for example RM34 (7) becomes S$34 (17), so it's cheaper to buy an online ticket starting from JB Sentral, charged in Ringgits, then buy a separate ticket from Woodlands to JB Sentral ticket at Woodlands station just before departure.

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

Over 60?  There's a 50% discount on Malaysian inter-city train fares for anyone aged over 60, including foreigners, though you cannot get this online, only in person showing your passport.

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

When checking fares or booking online at www.ktmb.com.my, classes and class codes 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)

ADNFB = 1st class sleeper (also known as Premier Night Standard)

ADNF = deluxe 'Selesa' sleeper with private shower & toilet (also known as Premier Night Deluxe)

Important:  Tickets bought in Singapore are double the price ...

A strange (you might say unfair) quirk of the system is that for historical (and probably now financial) reasons, tickets bought in Singapore must be paid for in Singapore dollars, but at the Ringgit amount.  In other words, if the fare is 34 Ringgits, you'll be charged 34 Singapore dollars if you buy it in Singapore, even though 34 Ringgit is 7 ($10) and S$34 is 17 ($24)!  Crazy, eh?!  And it's even more crazy now that the Singapore element is just a short 5 minute ride across the causeway from Woodlands to Johor Bahru.  This also applies to tickets for any journey starting in Singapore Woodlands booked online using the e-ticketing facility on www.ktmb.com.my and to tickets booked through the Malaysian Railways call centre and collected in Singapore.  In fact, if you book online it's even more confusing, as the online system converts the Singapore dollar amount back into Ringgits again, having taken the 34 Ringgit fare, read it as 34 Singapore dollars, converted the S$34 back into 82 Ringgits and so (at current exchange rates) it charges you 82 Ringgits for a 34 Ringgit fare.  For most westerners this is not an insurmountable problem as the fares are so cheap anyway. 7 becoming 17 won't have a huge impact on a 1,000 holiday.  But here are some tips to avoid paying more than you have to:

  • Tip 1, the easiest way around this is to buy a ticket starting in Johor Bahru rather than Woodlands, then buy a separate Woodlands to Johor Bahru ticket.  For example, instead of buying a ticket from Woodlands (Singapore) to Kuala Lumpur, buy a ticket from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur at Malaysian prices using the e-ticketing facility on www.ktmb.com.my and self-print your ticket with a confirmed reservation on the train, then simply buy an S$11 (5 or $8) one-way seat ticket from Woodlands to Johor Bahru for the same train either as a second transaction using the same e-ticketing facility on www.ktmb.com.my (sometimes the online system will let you buy a Woodlands-JB ticket, most of the time it won't, but give it a try) or you can simply in person at the KTM ticket counter at Woodlands at least half an hour before the train goes.  Feedback is always be appreciated!

  • Tip 2, you should book a return journey from Singapore to KL as two separate one-way trips so at least the return leg will be charged in Ringgits.  If you booked it as a return, both legs of a return ticket starting in Singapore will be charged in Singapore dollars.  But a one-way ticket starting in Malaysia is charged in Ringgits.

  • Tip 3, if you book your trains by email or phone with Malaysian Railways, make sure you collect only the Singapore-KL ticket in Singapore (biting the bullet and paying in Singapore dollars), but wait till you get to KL to collect your KL-Penang & Penang-Bangkok tickets so you can pay for them in Ringgits.  If you collect all the tickets in Singapore, you'll have to pay for all of them in Singapore dollars.

  • Tip 4:  For a one-way journey from Singapore to KL in (say) a deluxe sleeper, you can use the online e-ticketing facility on www.ktmb.com.my to book a return journey from KL to Singapore & back, consisting of a dummy outward trip from KL to Singapore in the cheapest 2nd class seat (which you won't use), then a 'return' leg from Singapore to KL in the deluxe sleeper (which you will use).  This way, it's a return journey starting in Malaysia so you will be charged in Malaysia Ringgits, which in this case will save money compared with paying twice the price for a one-way deluxe sleeper starting in Singapore, even allowing for the cost of the unused seat ticket from KL to Singapore.  It's not rocket science really!

  • Some people avoid paying in Singapore dollars, by taking local transport across the causeway to Johor Bahru (the first station in Malaysia) so they can take the train from there.  Personally, I'd rather start my journey in Woodlands and travel across the causeway by train, so the journey officially starts in Singapore!


How to buy tickets 

  The KTM website www.ktmb.com.my
 

Buy train tickets online or by email...  You can book trains between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur & Butterworth (Penang) online at www.ktmb.com.my, up to 30 days in advance.  The Butterworth-Bangkok train needs to be booked by email, phone or in person.  Read the advice here first!

  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

Do I need a reservation? 

Yes.  All long-distance trains in Malaysia and Thailand are 'reservation compulsory', and tickets always include a seat or sleeper reservation on a specific train.  You cannot 'hop on and off' without a reservation.  Malaysian train reservations currently open 30 days before departure (though it used to be 60), Thai trains open 60 days before departure.

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

Yes, you can stop off wherever you like for as long as you like.  But you cannot buy an open ticket and hop on and off trains without a reservation.  In fact, there is no such thing as a Singapore to Bangkok ticket, you must buy a separate ticket for each individual train journey you make, and the ticket come with a specific seat or berth number on a specific date on a specific train.  You can buy all your tickets in advance or keep your options open and 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.

What's the best way to buy tickets?

  • Northbound journeys from Singapore to Bangkok:  You can pre-book a northbound trip from Singapore to Bangkok by emailing or phoning the KTM call centre as explained here, requesting reservations on each of the three trains you need to book, see the timetable above.  Remember that KTM (Malaysian railways) can book trains within Malaysia and departing from Malaysia into Thailand, but they cannot book trains wholly within Thailand, or train 35 from Thailand back into Malaysia.  Alternatively, you can book train numbers 1 to 29 online using www.ktmb.com.my, although train 36 Butterworth to Bangkok cannot be booked online, so you'll still need to email or call KTM for that ticket.

  • Southbound journeys from Bangkok to Singapore:  You can pre-book a southbound trip from Bangkok to Singapore by first booking the International Express (train 35) from Bangkok to Butterworth via Thai booking agency www.thailandtrainticket.com.  Then book your Butterworth to KL & KL to Singapore trains either at the station when you get to Butterworth or online in advance using www.ktmb.com.my or by phone or email to the KTM call centre.

Buying tickets at the station...

You can buy tickets at Woodlands train checkpoint in Singapore or at any railway station in Malaysia, up to 30 days in advance.  KTM has a computerised reservation system, so the KTM ticket offices at Singapore Woodlands, Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth or any other Malaysian station (including the KTM ticket office at the Georgetown ferry terminal in Penang) can sell tickets and make reservations for any train journey within Malaysia, or starting in Malaysia heading into Thailand, including Butterworth to Bangkok.

Singapore's Woodlands station ticket counter accepts American Express & Diners Club credit cards, but not Visa or MasterCard.  The ticket offices at Kuala Lumpur Sentral, Butterworth & Georgetown (Penang) accept MasterCard & Visa.

Stations in Malaysia & Singapore cannot book seats or berths on trains wholly inside Thailand, nor can they book return journeys from Thailand back to Malaysia on train 35 (although they can book train 21), because they cannot access the Thai Railways reservation system.  Just book the return journey from Bangkok to Malaysia when you get to Bangkok, or by email with the State Railways of Thailand or by email with a recommended Thai travel agency such as www.thailandtrainticket.com, as explained on the Thailand page.

You can buy all the tickets you need for a Singapore to Bangkok journey at Singapore's Woodlands station.  However, tickets bought in Singapore will cost twice as much as one picked up and paid for in Malaysia, so it's better to buy just your Singapore-Kuala Lumpur ticket at Woodlands, then buy the Kuala Lumpur-Butterworth and Butterworth-Bangkok tickets when you get to Kuala Lumpur.  You can still book the KL to Butterworth and Butterworth to Bangkok trains in advance, using internet or email as shown below.

Buy tickets online: www.ktmb.com.my... Direct link to sales: https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/login.aspx

You can book Malaysian train tickets online.  It seems to work better in Firefox or Chrome than IE.

  • What trains can you book online?  The www.ktmb.com.my e-ticketing system will book any express train running wholly within Singapore & Malaysia, in other words trains 1 to 29.

  • Can it book trains to or from Thailand?  It will book the KTM-run international train 20 or 21 between Kuala Lumpur and Hat Yai in Thailand in either direction, northbound or southbound.  But it cannot book the Thai-run International Express from Butterworth to Bangkok (train 36), which you should book either by email or in person at any KTM station, see the next section.

  • When do bookings open?  30 days before departure.  It used to be 60, but it was reduced to 30 in April 2014.

  • How to book online:  Go to www.ktmb.com.my, the Malaysian railways (KTM) website, 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).  Now book your train(s).

  • 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).

  • Singapore is now shown under W as Woodlands CIQ.

  • Kuala Lumpur is shown in the list of destinations under S as Sentral Kuala Lumpur!

  • Johor Bahru is shown in the list of destinations as JB Sentral.

  • Prices for tickets starting in Singapore:  If you are booking tickets starting in Singapore, read the Tickets bought in Singapore section, as the Singapore dollar fare will apply, converted back into Ringgits.  In other words, a 40 Ringgit fare for a journey starting in Singapore will be charged as 40 Singapore dollars then converted back into Ringgits, in this example about 91 Ringgits.  Crazy, but true.  It's cheaper to buy tickets starting at JB Sentral, then simply buy a local Woodlands to JB Sentral ticket at the station at Woodlands, just before departure.

  • 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). 

  • Which are the best seats or berths to choose?   See the choosing the best seats or berths section for some useful tips!

  • 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)

    ADNFB = 1st class 2-berth sleepers (Premier Night Standard)

    ADNFD = deluxe 2-berth sleepers with shower & toilet (Premier Night Deluxe)

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

Buy tickets by phone or email: callcenter@ktmb.com.my, +60 3 2267 1200 from overseas, 1-300-88-5862 local.

To book Malaysian trains by phone or email with the KTM (Malaysian railways) call centre, simply email your booking request to callcenter@ktmb.com.my or call them on + 60 3 2267 1200 (calling from outside Malaysia) or 03 2267 1200 (calling from within Malaysia).  You can also book the Thai-run Butterworth to Bangkok train this way.

Your email must specify the train number you want to book between which stations on which date and in which class.  It must include the names, sex & passport numbers of each traveller. 

Malaysian Railways will usually reply within about 4 days with a reference number which you can quote when you pick up and pay for your tickets in Malaysia or Singapore.  Remember that tickets picked up and paid for in Singapore will cost twice as much a those picked up in Malaysia, so it is best to pick up only your Singapore-Kuala Lumpur ticket at Singapore Woodlands station, then wait until you get to Kuala Lumpur to pick up the remaining tickets so you can pay in Ringgits.  They'll give you a deadline by which to collect & pay for your tickets, usually the day before.

You can book a complete northbound Singapore to Bangkok journey by email or phone in this way.  But please remember that you're not asking for "a Singapore to Bangkok ticket" as there's no such thing, you're asking for 3 separate tickets on 3 separate trains, each reserved for whatever date you want:  Singapore-KL, KL-Butterworth & Butterworth-Bangkok.  Note that KTM's call centre (and for that matter, their ticket offices) can book the northbound Butterworth to Bangkok International Express train, but they cannot book the southbound train starting in Bangkok, or for that matter any Thai trains wholly within Thailand.  A southbound journey from Bangkok to Malaysia must either be booked at Bangkok station when you get there, or booked by email with the State Railways of Thailand or several recommended Thai travel agencies such as www.thailandtrainticket.com, as shown on the Thailand page.

Book with UK-based agency International Rail, 0844 248 248 3 (+44 844 2482483)...

If you live in the UK, Ireland or elsewhere in Europe, you can buy KTM train tickets or arrange a whole northbound trip from Singapore to Bangkok by phone from International Rail, call 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  From outside the UK +44 844 248 248 3.  This is an option worth considering if other methods prove a problem or you'd rather pay a bit extra to have the whole trip sorted for you with no hassle.  Sample prices booked this way:  KL to Singapore or KL to Butterworth 15 in 2nd class, 25 in 1st class.  Singapore to KL 28 in 2nd class, 55 in 1st class.

Choosing the best seats or berths...

On the trains between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth (Penang), it can help to know how the seats are arranged, as you can choose a specific seat when booking online, and can request seating options when booking at stations or by email or phone:

  • On daytime trains, seats are numbered by row (1 to 15 in 2nd class, 1 to 12 in 1st class) and lettered by seat across the width of the car, A-aisle-B-C in 1st class, A-B-aisle-C-D in 2nd class.  So seat 7C is in row 7, and it would be a window seat if it's first class, an aisle seat if in 2nd class.

  • In 1st class, seat 'A' is a solo seat (both window and aisle), seats 'B' and 'C' are two seats abreast on the other side of the aisle, 'B' aisle, 'C' window.   First class seats can be rotated, so normally almost all face the direction of travel.

  • In 2nd class, seats cannot rotate.  Rows 1 to 8 normally face forwards when travelling from Singapore northwards (and rows 9 to 15 backwards), and rows 9 to 15 face forwards when travelling southwards (rows 1 to 8 backwards).

  • Rows 1 and 15 in 2nd class have relatively poor window views, being at the end of the car facing a large TV screen.  Similarly, rows 1 and 12 in 1st class are at the extreme ends of the car and have a poor view from the window.  Pick a seat in the middle of the car.

  • When booking 2nd class sleepers, lower berths are wider than upper ones, which is why they're a fraction more expensive.  Pick berths in the centre of the car, away from the end doors as these will be quieter, away from the wheels, with no draughts from the door.


What are Malaysian 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!

Daytime express trains...

Daytime express trains between Singapore & Kuala Lumpur are modern and air-conditioned.  They have 1st & 2nd class seats, marketed as Premier & Superior.  The trains have a refreshment trolley and buffet car with a very limited selection of drinks and snacks, but it's a good idea to bring your own food and drink along.

First class seats on a Malaysian KTM train from Penang to Kuala Lumpur to Singapore   Trolley refreshments on a Malaysian train from Penang to Kuala lumpur & Singapore

First class (Premier, AFC) seats are quite luxurious, although well worn.  They recline & can be rotated to face each other or the direction of travel.

 

A refreshment trolley serves complimentary cake and water in first class.  Instant coffee costs a few ringgits.

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 are also very comfortable, although they cannot be rotated...

 

The Rakyat Express from Butterworth (Penang) to Kuala Lumpur & Singapore calls at a wayside station.

Virtual tour - 1st class

 

Virtual tour - 2nd class

Overnight trains:  2nd class sleepers (Standard Night, ADNS)...

All Malaysian overnight trains have modern 2nd class sleepers, marketed as Standard Night.  They are a great way to travel, and are safe, comfortable, cheap and fun too.  In some ways, they are more fun than the closed compartments of the first class sleepers!  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.  These sleepers are available on all overnight trains in Malaysia, including Singapore-Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur-Butterworth (for Penang)-Hat Yai (in Thailand), Singapore-Tumpat (Khota Bharu) and Kuala Lumpur-Tumpat (Khota Bharu).  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

Overnight trains:  1st class sleepers (Premier Night Standard, ADNFB)...

If you would prefer an enclosed private room, go for a first class sleeper.  These older first class sleeping-cars are very comfortable, and they operate on the Kuala Lumpur-Butterworth (Penang) and Kuala Lumpur-Tumpat (Khota Bharu) overnight trains, but not on the Singapore-KL sleeper train.  These 1st class sleeping-cars, marketed as 'Premier Night', have private lockable air-conditioned 2-berth compartments with washbasin, opening off a side corridor.  All necessary bedding, towels and toiletries are provided.  Passengers travelling alone can either pay for both berths OR book one berth in a 2-bed compartment and share with another civilised sleeper passenger of the same sex.  There are toilets at the end of the corridor.

The sleeper train from Penang to Kuala Lumpur about to leave Butterworth station.   1st class 2-berth compartment, Malaysian sleeper train from Butterworth (Penang) to Kuala Lumpur.

Overnight trains:  Premier Night Deluxe sleepers (ADNFD)...

The Singapore-Kuala Lumpur overnight train has a deluxe sleeping-car, with 1 or 2-bed private rooms with en suite toilet & shower.  See www.ktmb.com.my for a 360 virtual tour.  Two armchairs face each other over a table.  At night, the seat converts to a lower berth and an upper bed folds out from the wall.  A simple packed meal, served in your compartment, is included in the fare.  All necessary bedding, towels and toiletries are provided.  There's even a TV in the room, which may or may not work!  The private toilet/shower room comes complete with electric hairdryer.  It's fully carpeted, but this being Southeast Asia, expect the carpet to be grubby, just don't expect western standards!  More photos of the deluxe sleeper Virtual tour of deluxe sleeper

Deluxe sleeper, Singapore to Kuala Lumpur   De luxe 1- or 2-berth sleeper, KL - Singapore overnight train   De luxe sleeper - en suite shower / WC - KL Singapore overnight train  

Virtual tour -

deluxe sleeper

Deluxe sleeper, armchair in evening position.

 

Deluxe sleeper in night mode, with seats made up into lower berth.

 

Deluxe sleeper:  View into the private shower & toilet.

 

The International Express (train 35/36) from Butterworth 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.

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 at Butterworth (Penang).

 

By night, upper & lower berths, each with curtains for privacy...

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).


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.  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 intercity 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 relaxed traditional way, by intercity train from Singapore 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 the overnight Langkawi Express sleeper 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:  Take the morning train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, spend the afternoon in KL, then take the overnight sleeper train from KL to Alor Setar or Arau and follow the instructions above for travel from Kuala Lumpur 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:

  • Take the overnight sleeper train from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore 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 KL has both 2nd class sleepers and 1st class 2-berth sleepers, the overnight train from Singapore just has 2nd class sleepers, but even 2nd class sleepers 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 an express train from Singapore, 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 RM16.80 (4).  The bus station is a 10 minute walk from the rail station, but as there are several bus stations in Ipoh, 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 RM80 (13) 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 35, return RM 65.  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

See the Thailand page for connection information within Thailand to Phuket, Ko Samui, etc...


Singapore station information

The trains to Malaysia now all start from Woodlands Train Checkpoint...

Since 1 July 2011, the trains to Malaysia now leave from the Woodlands Train Checkpoint in the north of Singapore island just south of the causeway across the Johor Straits to Malaysia.  Woodlands is about 13 miles north of Singapore city.  Sadly, trains no longer leave from the wonderful 1932-built art deco station in central Singapore in Keppel Road, often referred to as Tanjong Pagar.  Map showing location of Singapore's Woodlands checkpoint station.

Passport & customs formalities leaving from or arriving 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 on board the train at Johor Bahru, but Singapore passport and customs formalities are undertaken at Woodlands checkpoint after you get off the train.

Woodlands station facilities & KTM ticket counter... 

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.

How to get from central Singapore to Woodlands Train Checkpoint...

By MRT (metro) & bus:  Step 1, 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.  Step 2, 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.

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

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

 

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

Singapore's wonderful 1932 art deco railway station finally closed on 30 June 2011... 

For almost 80 years, from 1932 until 30 June 2011, trains to Malaysia left from the faded colonial grandeur of Singapore's magnificent art-deco station in Keppel Road, sometimes known as Tanjong Pagar railway station.  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 were built on Singaporean territory.  The existence of significant tracts of Malaysian land deep within Singapore island 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 station Map showing location of Singapore's old railway station

Singapore station - interior showing ticket office

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

  Singapore's colonial railway station, built in 1932

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

Singapore station.  These tracks stretch all the way to Bangkok!

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

  Inside Singapore railway station looking north

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


Kuala Lumpur station information

Kuala Lumpur Sentral station...

As of 2001, long-distance KTM InterCity trains between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang now use KL's shiny modern Sentral station and no longer stop at the famous Moorish-style railway station built by the British in 1910.  However, the old station is still an operational station as suburban KTM Komuter trains still stop there.  By all means take a frequent suburban train from KL Sentral to reach the old 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 train within Malaysia and for the trains from Malaysia to Hat Yai & Bangkok.

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.  It's still used by commuter trains (below right) though intercity trains no longer call there.  However, it's a landmark in its own right, and well worth a visit.  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, in addition to the Singapore-KL-Ipoh-Penang intercity trains, regular modern ETS trains link KL with Ipoh.  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 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.  Temporary station:  As from summer 2011, there's a temporary station at Butterworth, just a minute or two further walk from the ferry, whilst a new station is built as part of KL-Penang-Padang Besar railway modernisation project.  The new station is likely to open in mid-2013.

Butterworth station   The International Express from Bangkok, arrived at Butterworth

Butterworth station:  Walking off the end of the platforms at Butterworth, onto the concourse towards the ferry...

 

Here, the two direct Bangkok to Butterworth sleeping-cars of the International Express have arrived at Butterworth...

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 all train tickets for Malaysia and from Butterworth to Bangkok.

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.

Eastern & Oriental Express, seen at Butterworth (Penang)   The elegant dining-car on the Eastern & Oriental Express from Singapore to Bangkok

The Eastern & Oriental Express, seen at Butterworth.

 

The Eastern & Oriental Express' elegant dining car...  Courtesy of Petra O'Neill


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

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, but still steep 6 each.  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 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

Get 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 (up to a limit) and belongings.  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 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

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

  If you're resident in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign 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!

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including the USA, Australia, South Africa and EU.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy 20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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