An air-conditioned Malaysian ETS train
 

Modern ETS electric trains now link KL & Penang

 

Buy train tickets

 

See interactive map of train routes in SE Asia

  Train route map for Singapore, Malaysia & S E Asia - click to enlarge
   
  Buy tickets for train, bus, ferry in Malaysia & Thailand

Train travel in Singapore & Malaysia

A metre-gauge railway with daily scheduled trains and inexpensive fares links Singapore, Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth (Penang), southern Thailand & Bangkok, ideal for independent travellers.  It's safe & comfortable, 1,200 miles for only $80, 55 or 70.  Unlike flying it's a real experience and relaxing on a train is far more civilised than a cramped bus on an ugly motorway.  Singapore to Bangkok takes 48 hours, but I suggest stopping in Kuala Lumpur or Penang on the way - and perhaps in southern Thailand to catch the ferry to Ko Samui or  bus to Phuket or Krabi.  This page explains how to take the train between Singapore, KL, Penang, Southern Thailand & Bangkok, northbound or southbound, with timetables, fares & how to buy tickets.  Click here for a map of train routes in Southeast Asia.

small bullet point  Taking the train, the key points - start here...

small bullet point  Train times Singapore - KL - Penang - Bangkok

small bullet point  Train times Bangkok - Penang - KL - Singapore

small bullet point  How much does it cost?

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  What are Malaysian trains like?

small bullet point  Singapore station information

small bullet point  Kuala Lumpur station information

small bullet point  Penang & Butterworth information

small bullet point  Crossing the border at Padang Besar

small bullet point  Security in Southern Thailand

small bullet point  The Jungle Line:  Singapore or KL - Kota Bharu

small bullet point  Train service on Borneo (Sabah State)

small bullet point  Singapore-Bangkok by Eastern & Oriental Express

small bullet point  Hotels in Singapore & Malaysia

small bullet point  Raffles Hotel, Singapore - E&O Hotel, Penang

small bullet point  Useful country information: visas, currency...

small bullet point  London to Singapore by Trans-Siberian Railway

How to get to... 

small bullet point  Malacca

small bullet point  Langkawi

small bullet point  Batu Caves

small bullet point  Kuala Lumpur Airport (KLIA)

small bullet point  Cameron Highlands

small bullet point  Perhentian Islands

small bullet point  Sarawak & Sabah, Borneo

small bullet point  Singapore to Jakarta, Indonesia

small bullet point  Singapore & KL to Ko Samui

small bullet point  Singapore & KL to Phuket

Other information

small bullet point  Train travel in Thailand, Cambodia  Vietnam  Laos

small bullet point  Flights to Singapore & Malaysia

small bullet point  Travel insurance, mobile data, VPN & other tips


Useful country information

Train operator:  

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

Time zone:

GMT+8 all year.     

Dialling code:

 

Singapore +65.   Malaysia +60.

Currency:

1 = 5.2 Ringgit = 1.6 Singapore dollars. 

1 = 4.6 Ringgit = 1.4 Singapore dollars

$1 = 4.2 Ringgit = 1.3 Sin$.  Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.tourism.gov.mywww.visitsingapore.com

Recommended guidebooks    Health & vaccination advice

Flights:

 

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

Hotels & hostels:

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

Visas:

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

Page last updated:

12 April 2023


How to travel by train between Singapore, Malaysia & Bangkok

small bullet point  Train times, northbound

small bullet point  Train times, southbound

small bullet point  How much does it cost?  

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  What are the trains like?

 

small bullet point  Map of train routes SE Asia  

small bullet point  Security in southern Thailand

small bullet point  Singapore station information

small bullet point  Hotels in Singapore, KL, Penang

Taking the train, they key points

Timetable northbound 2023

 Singapore ► Kuala Lumpur ► Penang ► Bangkok

 Train number:

42

9322

9276

9180

9052

2942

948

170

9278

44

46

26

 Type of train, see notes below

EkS

ETS

ETS

ETS

ETS

Kom

DRC

S,2,3

ETS

EkS

EkS

EkS

 Days of running:

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

 Singapore

depart

How to transfer between Singapore & JB Sentral

 Johor Bahru Sentral

depart

08:30

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

14:40

18:05

20:25

 Kluang

arr/dep

10:44

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

16:36

20:16

22:39

 Gemas

arr/dep

13:14

15:20

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

19:06

22:47

01:18

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

arr/dep 

-

15:53

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral station

arrive

-

17:55

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

depart

-

17:55

18:31

20:10

21:40

-

-

-

22:50

-

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur historic 1910 station

arr/dep

-

18:04

18:35

20:14

21:44

-

-

-

22:54

-

-

-

 Ipoh - bus to Cameron Highlands

arr/dep

-

20:34

21:05

22:39

00:18

-

-

-

01:19

-

-

-

 Butterworth - for Penang by ferry

arrive

-

22:22

|

00:22

-

-

-

-

|

-

-

-

depart

-

-

|

-

-

06:25

-

-

|

-

-

-

 Alor Setar - for Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

-

23:25

-

-

07:33

-

-

03:39

-

-

-

 Arau - for Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

-

23:46

-

-

07:57

-

-

04:00

-

-

-

 Padang Besar, border Malay time

arrive

-

-

00:04

-

-

08:16

-

-

04:18

-

-

-

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

09:55

-

-

-

-

-

 Hat Yai for Phuket Krabi Thai time

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

09:50

-

-

-

-

-

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

14:31

-

-

-

-

 Surat Thani (for Ko Samui, Ko Tao)

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

19:31

-

-

-

-

 Chumphon  (for Ko Tao ferry)

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

22:09

-

-

-

-

 Hua Hin

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

03:39

-

-

-

-

 Nakhon Pathom - train to River Kwai

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

07:07

-

-

-

-

 Bangkok Krung Thep Aphiwat

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

08:25

-

-

-

-

 Singapore ► Kuala Lumpur ► Penang ► Bangkok   continued...

 Train number:

9272

2954

9172

9274

950

9420

2958

46

9174

9176

9178

 Type of train, see notes below

ETS

Kom

ETS

ETS

DRC

ETS

Kom

INT

ETS

ETS

ETS

 Days of running:

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

 Singapore

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Johor Bahru Sentral

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Kluang

arr/dep

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Gemas

arr/dep

-

-

-

-

-

08:05

-

-

-

-

-

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

arr/dep 

-

-

-

-

-

08:36

-

-

-

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral station

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

10:40

-

-

-

-

-

depart

07:08

-

08:03

09:50

-

10:40

-

-

11:08

13:37

15:55

 Kuala Lumpur historic 1910 station

arr/dep

07:12

-

08:07

09:54

-

10:49

-

-

11:12

13:41

15:59

 Ipoh - bus to Cameron Highlands

arr/dep

09:42

-

10:32

12:24

-

13:22

-

-

13:37

16:06

18:24

 Butterworth - for Penang by ferry

arrive

|

-

12:15

|

-

|

-

-

15:23

17:49

20:07

depart

|

12:35

-

|

-

|

14:35

-

-

-

-

 Alor Setar - for Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

12:02

13:43

-

14:44

-

15:51

15:43

-

-

-

-

 Arau - for Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

12:23

14:07

-

15:05

-

16:14

16:07

-

-

-

-

 Padang Besar, border Malay time

arrive

12:41

14:26

-

15:23

-

16:33

16:26

-

-

-

-

depart

-

-

-

-

16:40

-

-

18:00

-

-

-

 Hat Yai for Phuket Krabi Thai time

arrive

-

-

-

-

16:35

-

-

17:55

-

-

-

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

18:15

-

-

-

 Surat Thani (for Ko Samui, Ko Tao)

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

23:04

-

-

-

 Chumphon  (for Ko Tao ferry)

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

01:32

-

-

-

 Hua Hin

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

06:59

-

-

-

 Nakhon Pathom - train to River Kwai

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

10:48

-

-

-

 Bangkok Krung Thep Aphiwat

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

12:05

-

-

-

Timetable southbound 2023

 Bangkok Penang Kuala Lumpur Singapore

 Train number, see the notes below:

9171

9173

9321

45

9273

947

9275

2951

45

9175

2955

9277

 Type of train, see explanation below:

ETS

ETS

ETS

EkS

ETS

DRC

ETS

Kom

INT

ETS

Kom

ETS

 Days of running: 

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

 Bangkok Krung Thep Aphiwat

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

15:35

-

-

-

 Nakon Pathom - for River Kwai train

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

16:46

-

-

-

 Hua Hin

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

20:06

-

-

-

 Chumphon - for ferry from Koh Tao

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

00:21

-

-

-

 Surat Thani - for Ko Samui & Koh Tao

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

03:35

-

-

-

 Hat Yai, bus from Phuket, Krabi Thai time

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

08:41

-

-

-

depart

-

-

-

-

-

07:30

-

-

08:55

-

-

-

 Padang Besar = border stop, Malay time

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

09:25

-

-

10:50

-

-

-

depart

-

-

-

-

07:30

-

09:35

10:35

-

-

12:35

13:40

 Arau - for Kuala Perlis & Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

-

-

-

07:47

-

09:52

10:54

-

-

12:54

13:57

 Alor Setar - for K.Kedah & Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

-

-

-

08:08

-

10:13

11:18

-

-

13:18

14:18

 Butterworth - for Penang by ferry

arrive

-

-

-

-

|

-

|

12:26

-

-

14:26

|

depart

05:15

06:20

07:50

-

|

-

|

-

-

12:45

-

|

 Ipoh - for Cameron Highlands by bus

arr/dep

06:55

08:00

09:34

-

10:30

-

12:35

-

-

14:25

-

16:40

 Kuala Lumpur historic 1910 station

arr/dep

09:23

10:28

12:08

-

12:58

-

15:03

-

-

16:54

-

19:08

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral station

arrive

09:29

10:34

12:14

-

13:04

-

15:09

-

-

17:00

-

19:14

depart

-

-

12:14

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

arr/dep

-

-

14:18

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Gemas

arr/dep

-

-

14:52

15:20

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Kluang

arr/dep

-

-

-

17:54

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Johor Bahru Sentral

arrive

-

-

-

19:45

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Singapore

arrive

How to transfer between JB Sentral & Singapore

 Bangkok Penang Kuala Lumpur Singapore     continued...

 Train number:

9177

9425

41

27

43

949

2963

9279

9179

 Type of train, see notes below:

ETS

ETS

EkS

EkS

EkS

DRC

Kom

ETS

ETS

 Days of running: 

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

 Bangkok Krung Thep Aphiwat

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Nakon Pathom - for River Kwai train

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Hua Hin

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Chumphon - for ferry from Koh Tao

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Surat Thani - for Ko Samui & Koh Tao

depart

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Hat Yai, bus from Phuket, Krabi Thai time

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

depart

-

-

-

-

-

14:00

-

-

-

 Padang Besar = border stop, Malay time

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

15:55

-

-

-

depart

-

15:50

-

-

-

-

16:35

16:45

-

 Arau - for Kuala Perlis & Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

16:07

-

-

-

-

16:54

17:02

-

 Alor Setar - for K.Kedah & Langkawi ferry

arr/dep

-

16:29

-

-

-

-

17:18

17:23

-

 Butterworth - for Penang by ferry

arrive

-

|

-

-

-

-

18:26

|

-

depart

16:05

|

-

-

-

-

-

|

18:45

 Ipoh - for Cameron Highlands by bus

arr/dep

17:45

18:55

-

-

-

-

-

19:43

20:25

 Kuala Lumpur historic 1910 station

arr/dep

20:14

21:29

-

-

-

-

-

22:17

22:54

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral station

arrive

20:20

21:35

-

-

-

-

-

22:23

23:00

depart

-

21:35

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

arr/dep

-

23:38

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Gemas

arr/dep

-

00:10

02:00

07:44

09:30

-

-

-

-

 Kluang

arr/dep

-

-

04:34

10:15

12:22

-

-

-

-

 Johor Bahru Sentral

arrive

-

-

06:25

12:30

14:15

-

-

-

-

 Singapore

arrive

How to transfer between JB Sentral & Singapore

Notes for timetable

All the trains in these timetables run every day all year round.  Each column is a separate train, and you read downwards.  You can buy tickets for any train between any two stations.  You need a separate ticket for each train.  Please let that sink in!

Shaded = suggested trains for a Singapore-Bangkok journey with stopovers in KL & Penang.  Just to help you see the wood for the trees!

Key to train types...

ETS = Electric Train Service.  Modern 160 km/h air-conditioned electric express train with one class of seats & buffet car.

EkS = Ekspres Selatan (southern Express).  Comfortable, air-conditioned 2nd class seats, branded Superior class.  No catering, bring your own food.

INT = International Express Bangkok-Padang Besar, consists of two air-conditioned 2nd class sleeping-cars provided by State Railways of Thailand.

DRC = Diesel Rail Car operated by the State Railways of Thailand.  2nd class seats, air-conditioned.  Tickets are sold at the station starting 2h before departure, not sold online.  SRT sometimes use a locomotive and older non-air-con carriages instead.

Kom = KTM Komuter train, modern, electric & air-conditioned.  2nd class seats only.  No reservations, can't sell out, buy tickets at the station, hop on.

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

To save space, these timetables do not show:

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

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

(c)  KTM Komuter trains link Butterworth & Padang Besar almost every hour, I've only shown the ones that provide a key connection into or out of a Thai train.

Crossing the border at Padang Besar

Padang Besar is where Malay trains connect with Thai trains, see information on border formalities, facilities, ticket offices & time zones.

Bus & ferry connections

In Singapore, shuttle trains operate between Woodlands Train Checkpoint in the north of Singapore Island & JB Sentral, or you can take local buses between downtown Singapore, Woodlands Checkpoint and JB Sentral.  See the Singapore station section for advice on how to transfer between central Singapore & JB Sentral.

Butterworth is the station for Georgetown on Penang Island.  Ferries shuttle between Butterworth & Penang (Georgetown Swettenham Pier) every 30-60 minutes, taking 10 minutes, see the Butterworth & Penang section below.

Langkawi Island ferry connections are explained in the Langkawi section

Bus & ferry connections in Thailand:  Surat Thani-Ko Samui, Ko Samui-Bangkok, Hat Yai-Phuket, Phuket-Bangkok, Hat Yai-Krabi, Krabi-Bangkok.

Train connections in Thailand: Kanchanaburi & Bridge on the River Kwai, Bangkok-Chiang Mai, Bangkok-Cambodia-Vietnam, Bangkok-Laos.

Timetable downloads to print out & take

Download timetables in .pdf format from www.ktmb.com.my/TrainTime.htm.

Back to top

How much does it cost?

There is no such thing as a Singapore to Bangkok ticket, you buy a separate ticket for each train you take.  So you must add up the fare for each train you plan to take.  For example, if you intend to travel between Singapore & Bangkok using my suggested trains shown as shaded in the timetables above, then add up each of the fares shown in the shaded squares in the table below.  Then add the cost of the transfer between downtown Singapore & JB Sentral which is explained here.

 One-way fare (in either direction): 

2nd class

seat

KTM

Komuter

ETS

Gold

ETS

Platinum

2nd class

sleeper

 JB Sentral to Gemas

RM 21

-

-

-

-

 Gemas to Kuala Lumpur

-

-

RM 31

-

-

 Gemas to Butterworth (Penang)

-

-

RM 83

-

-

 Gemas to Padang Besar

-

-

RM 99

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth (Penang)

-

-

RM 63

RM 83

-

 Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar

-

-

RM 79

RM 108

-

 Butterworth (Penang) to Padang Besar

-

RM12

-

-

-

 Padang Besar to Hat Yai (by DRC)

80 baht

-

-

-

-

 Padang Besar to Surat Thani

-

-

-

-

RM 95

722 baht

 Padang Besar to Bangkok

-

-

-

-

RM 126

958 baht

Add up the fares in the shaded squares if you're taking my suggested Singapore-Bangkok trains shown as shaded in the timetable above.

1 = 5.2 RM or 43 baht.  1 = 4.6 RM or 40 baht.  $1 = RM 4.2 or 35 Thai baht.

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

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

You can check these fares at 12go.asia or on KTM's own website www.ktmb.com.my.  Classes and class codes used on ktmb.com.my are as follows:

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

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

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

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

Back to top

 

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.

How to buy tickets

Do I need a reservation? 

Yes.  All long-distance trains in Malaysia & Thailand are reservation compulsory, and tickets always include a seat or sleeper reservation on a specific date & train.  You cannot hop on and off without a reservation.  Malaysian train reservations open 30 days before departure, Thai trains open 90 days before departure, although it can be 30 days or less for shorter journeys.  There's one exception, no reservation is necessary or possible for KTM Komuter trains.

Can I stop off?  Can I hop on & off?

You can stop off wherever you like for as long as you like, it's up to you.  But there is no such thing as a Singapore to Bangkok ticket, you must buy a separate ticket for each train.  And no, you cannot randomly hop on & off trains without a reservation.  Each ticket comes with a specific numbered seat or berth reserved for you on a specific date on a specific train (except KTM Komuter trains).  You can buy all your tickets in advance online or buy them at the station as you go along, it's up to you.  If there are seats still available (as there usually are), you can buy tickets right up until the train leaves.

To book Singapore to Bangkok, northbound

Each individual train needs to be booked separately, easy enough to understand, but I'll spell it out...

First use the Northbound timetable above to decide which specific trains you want to take, on which dates between which cities.  Each individual train needs to be booked separately.

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

Step 1, use www.baolau.com or 12go.asia to book each Malaysian ETS or Ekspres Selatan train you want.

For example, to travel from JB to KL you'd first book the Ekspres Selatan from JB to Gemas.  Then you'd make a second booking for the onward ETS train from Gemas to KL.  If you then wanted to travel from KL to Penang the following day, you'd book a ETS train from KL to Butterworth for that date.  And so on.

Step 2, if you plan to use a KTM Komuter train from Butterworth to Padang Besar, these cannot be pre-booked or indeed booked online, just buy a ticket at the station on the day, tickets cannot sell out, seats aren't reserved, places aren't limited.  You can buy from the self-service machines at Butterworth which accept overseas credit & debit cards.

Step 3, now use www.baolau.com to book the International Express (train 46) from Padang Besar to Bangkok.  12go.asia can book trains within Thailand, but currently can't book train 46 from Padang Besar to Bangkok - but www.baolau.com can, with print-your-own tickets.

To book Bangkok to Singapore, southbound

You can't just type Bangkok to Singapore into a booking system let it do the work for you.  You need to book each individual train separately.  Easy enough, but I'll spell it out...

First use the Southbound timetable above to decide which trains you want to take, on which dates between which cities.  Each individual train needs to be booked separately.

Step 1, use 12go.asia or www.baolau.com to book each State Railways of Thailand train you want, for example the International Express (train 45) from Bangkok to Padang Besar.  Tickets can be collected in Bangkok or in some case simply printed out.

Step 2, if your chosen journey involves a KTM Komuter train from Padang Besar to Butterworth, this does not need to be pre-booked, indeed it cannot be booked online anyway.  Just buy at the station at Padang Besar when you're there, see the ticket office information here.

Step 3, now use 12go.asia or www.baolau.com to book any Malaysian ETS or Ekspres Selatan trains you want to take.  Each individual train needs to be booked separately.  For example, Butterworth to KL, KL to Gemas and Gemas to JB Sentral are 3 separate trains so that's 3 separate bookings.

Step 4, if your final destination is Singapore, decide how you want to transfer from JB Sentral to downtown Singapore using the advice here.  The JB Sentral to Woodlands (Singapore) shuttle trains can be booked at www.baolau.com.

 

Recommended:

 

Buy tickets at 12go

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

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

Option 1, buy tickets at 12go.asia

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

12go.asia offers easy online booking for both Malaysian Railways (KTM) & State Railways of Thailand (SRT), including the Woodlands-JB Sentral shuttle trains.

It cannot book KTM Komuter trains or the Padang Besar-Hat Yai local trains as tickets for these are only sold at the station on the day, no reservation necessary.

12go.asia is much easier to use than KTM's own site and they can book Thai trains too, so you can book a whole Singapore to Bangkok itinerary in one place.  They sell KTM tickets at a similar price to KTM themselves with the same print-at-home tickets.  They sell SRT train tickets with a small fee, but they fulfil manually using the SRT staff system so can access all of SRT's available seats & berths, not just the small proportion which SRT allocates it website and which can sell out.

How are tickets delivered?

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

For State Railways of Thailand trains, 12go.asia shows availability online, when you select a ticket and pay they book the ticket for you manually.  The booking confirmation is not valid for travel, you must collect the actual tickets from one of 12go's collection points, which include Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Surat Thani & several other stations, see details on the Thailand page.  There is no collection point at Butterworth or Padang Besar.

When do bookings open?  Malaysian train bookings usually open 30 days before departure.  Thai trains usually open 90 days before departure, less for shorter hops.

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

You must book each train separately, you cannot book Singapore to Bangkok all in one go.  To book a whole Singapore to Bangkok or Bangkok to Singapore journey, follow the advice below.

Option 2, buy tickets at www.baolau.com

Who are they?  www.baolau.com is another reliable agency selling train, bus, ferry & plane tickets in Southeast Asia.  Like 12go they can book both Malaysian Railways (KTM) trains & State Railways of Thailand (SRT) trains.  They cannot book KTM Komuter trains as tickets for these are only sold at the station on the day, no reservation necessary.

How are tickets delivered?  For Malaysian KTM trains & Thai SRT trains you simply print your own ticket.  This means you can book train 46 from Padang Besar to Bangkok with them and print your own ticket.

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

You must book each train separately, you cannot book Singapore to Bangkok all in one go.  To book a whole Singapore to Bangkok or Bangkok to Singapore journey, follow the advice below.

Option 3, buy tickets at www.ktmb.com.my

You can book tickets for Malaysian trains at KTM's own website, www.ktmb.com.my.

Booking opens 30 days before departure.  It's a little fiddly to use and each train must be booked separately, which now means two separate bookings even for a simple JB to KL journey, but it does work.  Prices are the same as 12go or Baolau, the only real advantage of using KTM's website is that you can choose a specific seat and there's no booking fee.

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

How to book:  Go to www.ktmb.com.my and use the journey planner on their home page to find a train.  On the results page, click 'Proceed Purchase Ticket'.

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

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

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

AFC = Aircon First Class seats (Premier)

ASC = Aircon Second Class seats (Superior)

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

ADNS = 2nd class sleepers (Superior Night)

ETS trains have just one class of seating.

  Ticket counter at Kuala Lumpur Sentral
 

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

  First class lounge at Kuala Lumpur Sentral
 

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

Option 4, buy tickets at the station

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

Trains can sell out in theory (other than KTM Komuter trains of course), but in practice there are usually places available on most KTM shuttle and ETS trains even on the day of travel, and on the SRT railcars between Padang Besar & Hat Yai too.  Such trains only sell out at very busy times or dates.  You may well find sleepers available on the International Express (train 46) even on the day in the northbound direction at least, but Thai sleeper berths can sell out so it's best to book sleepers as soon as you can.  Tickets are the same price whether you buy online in advance or at the station on the day, so that's not an issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Butterworth to Bangkok for example, you'd simply buy a KTM Komuter ticket from Butterworth to Padang Besar at the Butterworth KTM office, then buy a sleeper ticket from Padang Besar to Bangkok either at the SRT ticket office at Padang Besar after going through border control or online at www.baolau.com.

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

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.  Most of the problems are at the eastern end of the Thai/Malay border, but the Singapore-KL-Penang-Hat Yai-Bangkok mainline passes through the western end via Padang Besar.

Does the Singapore - Kuala Lumpur - Butterworth - Padang Besar - Hat Yai - Bangkok railway pass through the affected areas at all? 

It does not pass through any part of Pattani, Yala or Narathiwat provinces, but it just clips the northwest corner of Songkhla province for 80km (50 miles) through Hat Yai.  In 2018, the British Foreign Office changed its travel advice to recognise that the Padang Besar-Hat Yai railway is not included in its advice to avoid all unnecessary travel to Songkhla province.  In other words, the railway (and road) became OK.  See www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/thailand.

Many Thais, Malays and western tourists use this railway every day and I'd have no hesitation in using this route myself with my family.  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 - but note that Yala & Sungai Kolok are not on the Singapore-KL-Bangkok main line, they are on the separate line to the eastern end of the border and that is where the main problem is, see the map here.

I personally would avoid visiting Sungai Kolok or Yala, although many westerners do still decide to go there.  However I wouldn't worry too much about passing swiftly through the 50 miles of the northern part of Songkhla Province on a direct train on the Singapore-Bangkok main line.  After all, even the luxurious tourist-orientated Eastern & Oriental Express goes this way!

What are the trains like?

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

Ekspres Selatan trains

Ekspres Selatan (Southern Express) trains run between JB Sentral & Gemas while the Johor Baru to Gemas line is being modernised and electrified.  These trains use the carriages that originally formed the Singapore-KL-Butterworth express trains until 2016, hauled by a diesel locomotive.  They have clean & comfortable air-conditioned 2nd class seats, branded Superior class.  There's no catering, so bring your own food & drink.  Completion of modernisation & electrification between JB Sentral & Gemas was delayed by the pandemic, but we could see direct ETS electric trains from JB Sentral to KL and beyond from 2024.

Second class seats on a Malaysian train from JB Sentral to Gemas   Second class seats on a Malaysian train from JB Sentral to Gemas

Ekspress Selatan.  Courtesy of @travelexx

 

Second class (Superior, ASC) seats.  Larger photo.

ETS trains

Malaysian railways are being modernised, speeded up & electrified, and a new generation of trains has been introduced called ETS, Electric Train Service.  Running at up to 160 km/h (100 mph), the first generation ETS Silver trains were introduced in 2010 between Kuala Lumpur & Ipoh, with one class of seating called standard class.  In 2015, bullet-nosed ETS Gold & Platinum trains were introduced between Gemas, KL, Butterworth & Padang Besar, also mostly standard class only, with a bistro car & prayer room.  ETS trains are smooth and powerfully air-conditioned, have a jumper or fleece to hand.  In late 2019, Business class was introduced on some ETS trains with luxurious seats arranged 2+1 across the car width and complimentary refreshments, starting with the 08:30 KL Sentral to Padang Besar & 15:40 Padang Besar to KL.

An air-conditioned ETS train

ETS train to Kuala Lumpur at Gemas. Courtesy of @travelexx

ETS Gold train cafe counter   ETS seating

ETS seats & cafe counter.  Larger photo. Courtesy Mark Dohm.

 

ETS seating. Courtesy @travelexx.

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

KL-Ipoh ETS train at Kuala Lumpur Sentral (class 91).

 

ETS seats on a KL-Ipoh ETS train (class 91).

KTM Komuter trains

KTM Komuter trains operate around KL and between Butterworth & Padang Besar on the Thai border.  No reservation is necessary or even possible and tickets cannot sell out as these are just local trains.  Buy a ticket and hop on!  They are air-conditioned but obviously there's no catering so bring your own food and drink.  Photos below show a Butterworth-Padang Besar Komuter train at Padang Besar, courtesy of David Smith.

Inside a KTM Komuter train   KTM Komuter trains from Padang Besar to Butterworth

Train 45 & 46 Padang Besar - Bangkok

This is the International Express, or Ekspres Antarabangsa in Malay.  It consists of two modern air-conditioned 2nd class sleeping-cars between Padang Besar & Bangkok provided by the State Railways of Thailand.  These cosy 2nd class sleepers are good, clean and comfortable.  Each berth has curtains at night for privacy, and all necessary bedding is provided.  There are toilets (both western and squat type) at each end of each car.

Between Hat Yai & Bangkok these cars are attached to train 37/38 which has a restaurant car, additional 2nd class sleepers and a 1st class sleeper.  You can walk through the train to the restaurant car and use it for dinner and breakfast, or take your own food & drink.

Today's International Express is the descendant of the Southern Express inaugurated in 1922, see the history of the International Express.  Until 2016, it ran direct to/from Butterworth, but with modernisation & electrification in Malaysia it now starts/terminates at the border at Padang Besar, with connections to/from Butterworth & KL by Malaysia's new electric trains.

Tip:  Some westerners will be tempted by the 1st class sleeping-car attached between Hat Yai & Bangkok.  Don't be!  Stick with the direct 2nd class sleepers, they're absolutely fine and perfectly civilised with curtains for privacy.  It is more trouble than it's worth to book a 1st class sleeper between Hat Yai & Bangkok, then have to buy a separate ticket between Hat Yai & Padang Besar as these tickets are only sold at the station on the day of travel, and only if space is available.

2nd class air-conditioned sleepers, made up as upper & lower berths   2nd class sleepers on the International Express trainr

Upper & lower berths at night with individual curtains.

 

This is the International Express between Bangkok & Padang Besar...

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...

A restaurant car is attached between Hat Yai and Bangkok, for dinner & breakfast.  The food is remarkably cheap, a set meal costs around 150-200 baht (3-4 or $5-$6).  You choose from a leaflet with both pictures & 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 45/37 Bangkok to Hat Yai.

 

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

First class lounge

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

Traveller's reports

Traveller Sheena Clowes reports from regular journeys between Singapore, KL, Penang and Bangkok:  I am an older lady who loves to travel alone and overland, so here are some recent pointers for added comfort for these journeys which I have made many times over the past few years, most recently today from Butterworth-Bangkok.  First of all, the Internasional Ekspress 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.  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.

Back to top


The Jungle Line

Singapore or KL to Kota Bharu

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 Kota Bharu - even if some of the jungle has now become palm plantations.  It's possible to take this Jungle Line from KL or Singapore to Kota Bharu, 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).  The scenery on this route superb, even seen from the Singapore-Tumpat night train which travels by daylight through much or the morning.

 Singapore & Kuala Lumpur ► Kota Bharu

Train number (see notes below):

50/52

26

56

58

34

60

36

Days of operation:

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

Train type:

shuttle

Intercity

shuttle

shuttle

shuttle

shuttle

shuttle

Classes:

3

S, 2

3

3

3

3

3

 Singapore

depart

How to transfer from Singapore to JB

 Johor Bahru Sentral

depart

-

20:25

-

-

-

-

-

 Kluang

depart

-

22:39

-

-

-

-

-

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral*

depart

-

*

-

-

-

-

-

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

depart

-

|

-

-

-

-

-

 Gemas

depart

-

01:18

-

-

09:25

-

15:35

 Kuala Lipis

arr/dep

03:20

06:11

-

-

14:25

16:35

20:17

 Gua Musang

arrive

05:05

07:48

-

14:50

-

18:18

-

 Dabong

arrive

07:30

09:38

14:55

16:46

-

20:19

-

 Krai

arrive

08:58

11:16

16:23

18:08

-

22:20

-

 Tanah Merah

arrive

09:36

11:53

17:17

18:45

-

22:56

-

 Pasir Mas

arrive

10:10

12:24

17:50

19:15

-

23:27

-

 Wakaf Bharu (for Kota Bharu)

arrive

10:25

12:39

18:05

19:29

-

23:41

-

 Tumpat

arrive

10:42

12:54

18:22

19:46

-

23:57

-

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

Key to classes:

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

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

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

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

How to buy tickets    Map of train routes in Southeast Asia   Hotels in Singapore, KL

Which station for Kota Bharu?  The closest station to Kota Bharu is Wakaf Bharu, about 5 km (3 miles) away.  A taxi from Wakaf Bharu to Kota Bharu costs around 12 Ringgits.  If you want to complete the whole train journey to Tumpat, no problem, buses also link Tumpat with Kota Bharu every 45 minutes 06:45-19:30.   Area map.

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

Heading into Thailand via Sungai Kolok?  Bus 29 runs every half hour from Kota Bharu 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 1200 metres 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.

 Kota Bharu ► Kuala Lumpur & Singapore 

Train number (see notes below):

35

51

53

37

55

57/59

27

Days of running:

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

Train type:

shuttle

shuttle

shuttle

shuttle

shuttle

shuttle

Intercity

Classes:

3

3

3

3

3

3

S, 2

 Tumpat

depart

-

04:10

07:05

-

10:00

16:05

20:30

 Wakaf Bharu

depart

-

04:25

07:20

-

10:31

16:21

20:47

 Pasir Mas

depart

-

04:40

07:34

-

10:45

16:36

21:02

 Tanah Merah

depart

-

05:12

08:04

-

11:17

17:10

21:33

 Krai

depart

-

05:49

09:10

-

12:06

18:19

22:10

 Dabong

depart

-

07:17

10:33

-

13:35

20:30

23:32

 Gua Musang

depart

-

09:55

12:29

-

-

22:40

01:25

 Kuala Lipis

arr/dep

10:20

11:42

-

16:10

-

00;22

03:09

 Gemas

arrive

15:02

-

-

21:10

-

-

07:44

 Pulau Sebang/Tampin for Malacca

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

|

 Kuala Lumpur Sentral*

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

*

 Kluang

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

10:15

 Kempas Baru

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

12:10

 Johor Bahru Sentral

arrive

-

-

-

-

-

-

12:30

 Singapore

arrive

How to transfer JB to Singapore

How much does it cost? 

 One-way fare in Ringgits: 

2nd class

seat

1st class

seat

2nd class

sleeper

1st class

sleeper

 Johor Bahru to Wakaf Bharu or Tumpat

RM 44

-

RM 56

-

1 = 5.2 RM.  1 = 4.6 RM.  $1 = RM 4.2.

How to buy tickets

See the how to buy tickets section.

Trains 26 & 27, 2nd class sleepers

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

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

 

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

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

Traveller's reports from the Jungle Line

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

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

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  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 just under 3 hours, fare 10 to 14 Ringgit one-way.

You can check bus times and buy tickets for multiple operators at ticketing website www.baolau.com.

The bus station in KL is known as BTS, Bandar Tasik Selatan, it has its own stop on the STAR line, KTM Komuter train line and KLIA rail link.

Alternatively, take an ETS train from KL Sentral to Pulau Sebang/Tampin station (see the train timetable above), then take a bus or taxi from there, the distance is 38 km.  A taxi from Tampin to Malacca costs around 85 ringgit, 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, check times & buy tickets at www.baolau.com

Alternatively, travel the traditional way, by intercity train from JB Sentral to Tampin station (see the train timetable above, Tampin is listed as Pulau Sebang/Tampin on www.ktmb.com.my), then take a bus or taxi from there (38 km).  A taxi from Tampin to Malacca costs around 85 ringgit Ringgit.

As a historical note, there used to be a 32 km 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 ongoing double-tracking and modernisation project.

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Langkawi island

From Penang to Langkawi:  Ferry still suspended in 2023 due to Covid-19.

www.langkawi-ferry.com operates two daily fast ferries direct from Penang to Langkawi island, leaving at 08:30 & 14:00, taking 2h45.  The fare is about 60 Ringgit each 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 either 12go.asia or www.langkawi-ferry.com.  This ferry is the best option if you want to go to/from Penang itself.

While this ferry remains suspended, travel by ferry from Georgetown to Butterworth and take a train to Arau or Alor Setar for a ferry to Langkawi.

From Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi...

Step 1, take a fast modern ETS train from Kuala Lumpur to either Alor Setar or Arau, see the train timetable above.  There is little to choose between the Alor Setar or Arau options.

Step 2, from Alor Setar it's a short bus ride or 15 Ringgit taxi ride to the ferry terminal at Kuala Kedah.

Step 3, the Langkawi Ferry (www.langkawi-ferry.com) sails from Kuala Kedah to Langkawi every 30 minutes between 07:00 & 19:00, no advance reservation necessary.  The crossing takes 1h30, 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 1h15, fare Ringgit 18 each way, no advance reservation necessary.

From Singapore to Langkawi...

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

From Bangkok or southern Thailand to Langkawi...

Take the International Express from Bangkok or Hat Yai to Padang Bear and an an onward train to Arau, a small station in Malaysia not far from the Thai border, 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 1h15, fare 18 Ringgit each way, no advance reservation necessary.

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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:

Step 1, transfer from downtown Singapore to Johor Bahru as explained here.

Step 2, take the overnight sleeper train from JB Sentral to either Tanah Merah or Wakaf Bahru stations, see the Jungle Line section for train times

The train fare is about 56 Ringgit including a 2nd class sleeper.  The overnight train from JB = has 2nd class sleepers which are comfortable, air-conditioned and perfectly adequate.  Taking the sleeper train saves a hotel bill, is an experience in itself, and can even save time compared to flying.

Step 3, 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 60 Ringgit or so, journey time about 50 minutes from Wakaf Bahru or 30 minutes from Tanah Merah.

Step 4, 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 (13, $17) 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.

You also pay a 30 Ringgit Marine Conservation charge to enter the marine park that surrounds the islands.

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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 9 km from Tapah town, Ipoh station is more central. 

Step 1, transfer from Singapore to Johor Bharu Sentral and take a train from JB Sentral to Gemas and onwards to Ipoh, see the timetable above.  Or take a train from Kuala Lumpur or Penang (Butterworth) to Ipoh, see the timetable above.

Step 2, in Ipoh, take a taxi or local city bus from the station to the Aman Jaya bus station - a taxi will cost around 35 Ringgit.  There are several bus stations in Ipoh so make sure you're taken to the right one, all buses to the Cameron Highlands now leave from the Aman Jaya bus station.

Step 3, take a bus from Ipoh Aman Jaya bus station to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands.  There several buses a day, typically at 08:00, 11:00, 15:00, 18:00.  The bus ride takes around 2h20 & costs around 28 Ringgit.  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-conditioned.  The road winds up into the hills, with great views over the fields.  You can buy tickets for some of the buses online at www.baolau.com.

Alternatively, a private taxi from Ipoh to Tanah Rata costs around RM 250 per taxi.

Feedback or photos from travellers making this connection would be welcome.

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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.  The one-way fare is about RM 55.  See www.kliaekspres.com for more information.

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Batu Caves

Malaysian Railways KTM Komuter suburban trains run regularly from KL Sentral to Batu Caves.  You can find the timetable on the Timetables page of www.ktmb.com.my.  No booking is necessary, just turn up, buy a ticket and go.

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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...

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How to transfer between Singapore & JB Sentral

What happened to Singapore station?

What are your options now?

Option 1, using the KTM shuttle train

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

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

 

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

Option 2, using MRT & bus

Option 3, by private transfer

Singapore's original railway station

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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Kuala Lumpur Sentral station

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

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

Kuala Lumpur Sentral: 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.

 

A train (the former Rakyat Express) has arrived at KL Sentral.  There are lifts, stairs & escalators up to Level 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kuala Lumpur's original station

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

Kuala Lumpur station
     
Kuala Lumpur station   KTM Komuter train inside Kuala Lumpur station

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

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

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

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Butterworth & Penang

Penang is an island, and the city 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 walk from the station over a walkway 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

A new station has been built at Butterworth as part of KL-Penang-Padang Besar railway modernisation project.  There is still some construction going on, but access between the station and the ferry to Penang is now by walkway and lift, no need for any stairs.  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.  There's a money changer, but no ATMs, nor is there any left luggage office.  There's not much in the way of food shops at Butterworth, just a small snacks & drinks kiosk opposite the ticket office, 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.

Butterworth's station

Butterworth's new station.  Courtesy of Marco Rotondi.

Butterworth's new ETS station

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

The ferry from Butterworth to Penang

It's a clearly-signed 5-minute walk from Butterworth station to the ferry terminal, and fast air-conditioned passenger ferries shuttle back & forth between Butterworth & Penang (Georgetown) every 30-60 minutes between 06:30 & 20:30 on weekdays, every hour weekends & holidays, crossing time around 10 minutes, see www.penangport.com.my/Services/Ferry-Services.  The fare is 1.20 Ringgit.

In Georgetown, these passenger-only fast ferries use Swettenham Pier (Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal, SPCT).

The old non-air-con ferries that used to carry passengers and vehicles now only carry bicycles and vehicles, foot passengers use the new air-con fast ferry service.  There is no longer any KTM train ticket office in Georgetown.

Alternatively,  you can take a taxi between Butterworth & Penang (Georgetown):  You can 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, driving time at least 25 minutes but this depends on the traffic so could take a lot longer.  Don't cut things fine when catching a train.

Penang/Georgetown to Butterworth ferry

The Butterworth-Georgetown fast passenger ferry, at Butterworth.  Courtesy of Non-stop Eurotrip.

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.

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Padang Besar Thai/Malay border

  Padang Besar station
 

Padang Besar station.  Photo courtesy of Alika Kam

There are two stations at Padang Besar, but the main Padang Besar station is the only one that matters:  This main station is on the Malaysian side of the border, it's where Malaysian trains meet Thai trains and passengers interchange.  The other Padang Besar station is a minor halt on the Thai side of the border referred to as either Padang Besar II or Padang Besar (Thai).  When going southbound from Bangkok or Hat Yai, don't get off at the wrong one! 

Border controls at Padang Besar

At Padang Besar main station there are Malaysian and Thai border controls located on the ground floor inside the station building just a few metres apart, you go through one and then the other depending whether you're travelling north or south.  Normally you'll breeze through both sets of border controls in minutes.  Further feedback always appreciated.

Thai border staff may want to see evidence of 10,000 baht in cash (who carries $300 in cash on them these days??) though in my experience they may only ask if you look down-at-heel.

Fun with time zones

Padang Besar is in Malaysia, local time is Malaysian time, 1 hour ahead of Thai time.  All Malaysian KTM timetables & websites correctly show Padang Besar departures & arrivals in Malaysian time.  However, State Railways of Thailand timetables & websites (including the 12go.asia & Baolau websites when showing Thai cross-border trains) incorrectly show Padang Besar arrivals & departures in Thai time.  So when the Thai railways say their sleeper train to Bangkok leaves Padang Besar at 17:00, they mean 18:00 local/Malaysian time.  When they say the sleeper train from Bangkok arrives in Padang Besar at 09:50, they mean 10:50 local/Malaysian time.  Got it?

Ticket offices & station facilities

The Malaysian KTM ticket office upstairs accepts Thai baht or Malaysian ringgits, but not credit cards.  It closes for lunch 11:00-12:00.

The Thai SRT ticket office at track level accepts both Thai baht and Malaysian ringgit, but not credit cards, open 09:00-12:00 & 14:00-17:00 Malaysian time.

There is no ATM or (official) bureau de change at the station, if you need cash there is an ATM 20 minutes walk away, or take a taxi.  Several travellers report people unofficially happy to change money for you.

The station cafe is upstairs, it and sells decent food and drink.  It's on the Malaysian side of the border controls, so when travelling north don't go through the border to early as there are no facilities on the Thailand-bound platform once you're through.

Further feedback on facilities, opening hours & border experiences would much appreciated.

Train to Bangkok at Padang Besar

The Padang Besar to Bangkok sleeper carriages await departure at Padang Besar.  Courtesy of @travelexx.

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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 outside it) to Papar, Beaufort and Tenom, a total journey of 134 km.  For details see Lee Carter's excellent blog and information page, global-goose.com/travel-photos/north-borneo-railway-sabah.

Beaufort to Tenom:  One train daily at 07:50, journey 2 hours, fare around 2.75 ringgit.  Return train leaves Tenom at 13:00.

Beaufort to Tangjung Aru (Kota Kinabalu):  Two trains daily at 05:00 & 11:00, journey 3 hours, fare 4.30 ringgit.  Return times not known.

The photos below show the Beaufort to Tenom train, courtesy of Michael Pick, who describes the journey as a highlight of a visit to Borneo.  Beaufort to Tenom can easily be done as a day trip.

Train on Borneo   Scenery from the Beaufort-Tenom train

The Beaufort-Tenom train...

 

The overgrown track...

Tunnel on the Beaufort-Tenom line   Scenery from the Beaufort-Tenom train

Tunnel...

 

Scenery...

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The Eastern & Oriental Express

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

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

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London to Singapore by Trans-Siberian Railway

If you have the time (we're talking a minimum of 3 weeks one-way), you can travel from London to Singapore overland using the Trans-Siberian Railway between Moscow & Beijing, see the route map here.  The links below cover travel in either direction, eastbound from London to Singapore or westbound from Singapore to London.

How to arrange this trip

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 www.matthew-woodward.com/edinburgh-to-singapore.

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Hotels in Singapore & Malaysia

The classic choice in Singapore: Raffles Hotel

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

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.

The classic choice in Penang:  Eastern & Oriental Hotel

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

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

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

Backpacker hostels in Singapore & Malaysia

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

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Guidebooks

I recommend investing in a decent guidebook, even in the age of free info on the internet.  It's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip, and 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 recommend 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 onlineAmazon logo

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Flights to Singapore

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

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

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3)  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

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Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance...

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

UK flagwww.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flagwww.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

  US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for the country you're visiting and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility listMaya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, 500 per month at time of writing.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than digging a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you 5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I get a small commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Always carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or from Buy from Amazon.com.

 


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