Malaysia: accommodation and transport


Flights to Malaysia, airports, key destinations, transport, accommodation, tours and more.

Getting there and around


Getting from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, or Langkawi airport to your hotel, and the best sites for booking trains, buses and accommodation - download the Malaysia travel guide.

Flights

Flight time from Australia: 5+ hours

  • Airlines that fly directly between Australia and Malaysia include Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Qantas and Emirates.
  • Direct flights are available to Kuala Lumpur from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and the Gold Coast.
  • Malaysia Airlines operates a direct flight from Perth to Sabah in East Malaysia (Borneo).
  • Domestic flights connect Kuala Lumpur with Sabah, Langkawi and other destinations.
  • Flights from Singapore also serve many Malaysian airports beyond just Kuala Lumpur.
  • Malaysia can also be reached by land from Singapore (a short journey by bus) or from Thailand (but check smartraveller.gov.au for the latest advice on conflict in the border regions).

At the airport

If you're entering Malaysia on your Australian passport, you won't need a visa. However, you'll need at least six months' validity on your passport and proof of a return or onward ticket.

Most international flights arrive at Kuala Lumpur Airport. This is a major Asian hub, so queues can sometimes be long at immigration.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL)

  • 55km south of the city centre.
  • The KLIA Ekspres train takes 28 minute to reach the city centre. See the timetable.
  • Taxis leave from outside both terminals. You'll need to pre-pay and collect a coupon at one of the Airport Limo counters in the Arrival Hall. There are different classes of taxi available, so make sure you ask for a budget taxi if you want the cheapest price.
  • An express coach runs every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, and takes an hour to reach the city centre.
  • Other buses run to the local area and to major hotels.
  • Car hire is available from Hertz, Avis and a number of local companies. You'll find the counters in the arrival hall.
  • Airport website: klia.com.my

Scam alert: Ignore anyone who approaches you at the airport offering a lift. The best way to avoid being overcharged is to catch an official taxi.

Airport tax (or 'passenger service charge') should be included in the price of your air ticket, so there's no need to worry about setting cash aside.

Key destinations and how to get there

Peninsular Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia's capital) Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL)
Malacca / Melaka World Heritage coastal town 150km south of Kuala Lumpur. Accessible by car, taxi, bus or train.
Cameron Highlands Picturesque tea plantations, strawberry farms and volcanic landscapes 150km north of Kuala Lumpur. Accessible by car, taxi or bus.
Taman Negara National Park One of the world's oldest rainforests, 235km north-east of Kuala Lumpur. Car, taxi or bus to Kuala Tembeling, then boat along the river (or hike) into the national park.
Islands
Penang Penang International Airport (PEN). Accessible by plane, or by bridge/ferry to the mid-west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
Langkawi Langkawi International Airport (LGK). Popular tourist island west of Peninsular Malaysia near the Thai border. Accessible by plane. Ferries to the island depart from the mainland ports of Kuala Kedah, Kuala Perlis and Penang, or from Satun in Thailand.
The Perhentian Islands Two small islands off the north-eastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Ferries to the islands run from Kuala Besut (closest airport: Sultan Ismail Petra Airport in Kota Bharu).
Tioman Island Lies off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia with stunning beaches and lush rainforests. Ferries depart from the mainland ports of Mersing and Tanjung Gemok.
East Malaysia (Borneo)
Sarawak (western state) Kuching International Airport (KCH)
Sabah (eastern state) Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) closest airport to south-east Asia's highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu.

Getting around

Trains

Peninsular Malaysia has a long-distance train service that runs the length of the mainland from the border with Singapore up to the border with Thailand, where trains continue to Bangkok. (Tip: Smart Traveller advises against travelling through certain areas of Thailand bordering with Malaysia.)

  • The West Coast Line (also known as the North-South Line) takes in Kuala Lumpur and much of the west coast, linking with the islands of Penang and Langkawi.
  • The East Coast Line (also known as the Jungle Railway) passes through scenic rainforest, farms and villages to Kota Bharu, near the Thai border and the ferry to the Perhentian Islands.
  • Both lines converge in Johor Bahru in the south, which connects with Singapore.

Tickets can be bought at train stations or up to 30 days in advance at ktmb.com.my. You'll need to create an account on the website, but there's no charge and the instructions are in English. See train36.com for a step-by-step guide and some other handy booking tips.

  • Some trains run express and others run at a more leisurely pace. Sleeper beds are available on some services.
  • There are minimum distances that can be booked online. Short-distance tickets can only be bought at train stations.
  • Fares for trains departing from Singapore will be charged in Singapore dollars and are likely to be much more expensive.
  • Discounts for people aged over 60 aren't available online. You'll need to buy tickets at a station and show ID.

Tip: The Eastern and Oriental Express is a luxury private train service running between Singapore and Bangkok via Kuala Lumpur, the Cameron Highlands and Penang.

In East Malaysia there is only one short train line in Sabah and no trains in Sarawak.

Buses

If you can't get to your destination by train, chances are you can get there by bus. There are more than 100 bus and coach companies linking the majority of Malaysia's towns and cities. Transnasional is the state-run service with the most extensive coverage of the country and a choice of seat classes. Competitors such as Konsoritum, Plusliner, Sri Maju, LionStar and Alisan Golden Coach offer extra luxuries such as blankets, pillows, refreshments, Wi-Fi and personal entertainment. The Transtar first class service between Singapore and Malaysia even has leather recliners with built-in massagers!

You can buy tickets at bus stations or from hotels or travel agents. The process for booking online varies depending on which service you want to travel with. If tickets aren't available through the bus company's website, try easybook.com or busonlineticket.com.

Tip: If you need to go somewhere that isn't accessible by bus, long-distance taxi fares aren't unusual in Malaysia. In most towns you'll find taxi stands where locals (and some budget travellers) wait until there are enough people to split a long-distance fare.

Domestic flights

Domestic flights are the main way of travelling between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, and a faster way to connect with destinations a long way from Kuala Lumpur, for example Langkawi. For destinations accessible by air, see this list of airports in Malaysia.

The main domestic carriers, Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and Firefly, compete for low fares on common routes. Smaller airlines run to resort islands and remote areas at a higher cost.

Transport tip: rome2rio.com is a great resource for working out how to get from A to B, anywhere in the world, by almost any means of transport.

The best way to get around towns and cities varies from place to place. Kuala Lumpur has an excellent public transport system, which is cheaper (and often less hassle) than catching a taxi. In smaller towns taxis may be the best option, and in some historical towns, such as Malacca, you can get around the narrow streets in a bicycle rickshaw. In remote parts of East Malaysia and on some remote islands, such as Tioman, options may be limited to walking or catching a boat.

Taxis

By law, all taxis should have a working meter. Unfortunately, many drivers refuse to use them and will insist on negotiating a flat fare.

Scam alert: If your taxi is metered, watch out for unscrupulous drivers who may take the scenic route or even have a hidden button that adds a few extra ringgit to the fare.

Tip: Always try to flag down a passing taxi rather than taking one that's waiting by the side of the road. Taxis that wait at tourist spots will usually charge more.

Read this blog for some handy first-hand tips on catching taxis (and avoiding scams) in Kuala Lumpur.

Car hire

Car hire is available at most airports, cities and towns from Avis, Hertz and a range of local companies.

Tips:

  • You'll need an International Driving Permit as well as your Australian license.
  • Check that your travel insurance covers you for driving, and make sure the car is properly insured, either through your own insurance or through the rental company.
  • You may get a cheaper rate from a local car hire company, but international companies are likely to be easier to deal with if you get into a dispute.
  • Malaysia has many toll roads, so make sure an electronic tag is included in your rental.
  • If you're traveling from Singapore to Malaysia, wait until you're in Malaysia to rent a car - you'll get a better deal.

Driving in Malaysia

Peninsular Malaysia is covered by a network of good quality roads. The roads in East Malaysia aren't as well maintained, and many areas are inaccessible by car. Congestions can be quite bad at times, and Malaysian drivers aren't known for sticking to the speed limit or obeying the road rules.

  • Vehicles drive on the left.
  • Front seat belts must be worn at all times.
  • The blood alcohol limit is .08%. The penalty for drink-driving is severe, and is likely to include jail time.
  • You'll need an International Driving Permit if you're in the country for less than 90 days. Any longer than 90 days and you'll need to apply for a local licence.
  • Police have been known to fine foreigners for driving on an international permit, despite the fact that they aren't breaking the law.

Accommodation and tours

Accommodation options range from five-star hotels to cheap beach shacks. Prices will certainly be cheaper than in Australia, or in neighbouring Singapore, but you won't always find the kind of shoestring prices available in some other south-east Asian countries.

Bookings can be made on the usual sites, such as wotif.com, lastminute.com, booking.com, hotels.com, expedia.com or hostels.com, or you may find a more competitive rate through the hotel's own website (if it has one) or through local sites such as marimari.com or asiarooms.com. Check customer reviews on Tripadvisor before you book.

Airbnb can be a good place to find a cheap apartment or B&B, or try the Malaysian website go2homestay.com for more homestay options, particularly in villages and rural areas.

Tours can be organised once you're in Malaysia, or in advance through a travel agent or travel booking site such as intrepidtravel.com or malaysiaholidays.com.au. Search Tripadvisor or Viator for recommendations from other travellers. For short tours and day trips, consider waiting until you're on the ground - you're likely to have greater choice and find better deals.

If you're travelling in a group, consider hiring a car, a taxi or a private driver as it may not cost you much more than joining a bus tour.

Warning: Vehicles and equipment such as mini-buses, boats and scuba diving gear may not be up to international safety standards. Beware of over-crowded boats in particular.

Package tours are a low-stress option for travellers who don't want to organise their flights, accommodation and on-the-ground transport separately. For deals, check airline and travel booking sites as well as travel agents.

Got a travel tip about Malaysia? Or spotted something in our guide that needs updating? Add a comment below.


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