Getting Around Malaysia
The main hubs for domestic flights are Kuala Lumpur, and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, East Malaysia. Malaysia Airlines (www.malaysiaairlines.com) serves airports across the peninsula and Borneo, and MASwings (www.maswings.com.my) also offers domestic flights to Borneo. Low-cost options include Air Asia (www.airasia.com), Malaysia Airlines subsidiary Firefly (www.fireflyz.com.my) and Malindo Air (www.malindoair.com).
Unless you travel through Indonesia, the only way to get from peninsular Malaysia to East Malaysia is by air – the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu takes 2 hours 30 minutes. Advance bookings are recommended, particularly during school and religious holidays.
Visit Malaysia Pass: allows you to buy one or more Malaysia Airlines flights. Only available outside Malaysia from oneworld member airlines (www.oneworld.com).
Included in the air fare.
The road network is extensive and major roads are well maintained. However, standards deteriorate once you leave the big cities, and road rules are followed erratically in rural areas, particularly in Malaysian Borneo. For this reason, it's best not to drive at night. Note that unsurfaced roads in the highlands are often impassable during the rainy season.
The north-south expressway spans 890km (553 miles) from Bukit Kayu Hitam (on the Kedah-Thailand border) to Johor Bahru is the main highway.
Side of the roadLeft
Most roads in the peninsular states are paved and signs leading to the various destinations are well placed and clear.
This is available through international and domestic agencies.
Malaysian taxis are metered, but drivers often ask for a fixed fare, particularly during the morning and afternoon rush hour, so you may need to bargain. If things are particularly busy, drivers may refuse to travel to certain destinations at all, in which case you may have to rely on local buses and commuter trains. You can flag taxis down in the street, but a queuing system operates at many train stations and shopping centres.
In Kuala Lumpur, shared taxis run from Puduraya Bus Station to cities around the country. In rural areas, taxis supplement the bus service, picking up passengers on route; you may need to pay extra to charter the whole taxi. Taxi drivers are usually not tipped.
There are dozens of private bus companies running services across Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo. Aeroline (tel: +60 3 6258 8800; www.aeroline.com.my) runs deluxe express buses from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. Transnasional (tel: +60 3 4045 8878; www.transnasional.com.my) is another reliable operator.
Speed limits are 110kph (68mph) on expressways, 80-90kph (50-56mph) on main roads and 60kph (37mph) in urban areas unless otherwise posted. Seatbelts must be worn at all times. The use of handheld mobile phones is prohibited when driving. Penalties for drinking and driving are severe.
The Automobile Association of Malaysia (tel: 1 300 226 226, in Malaysia only or +60 3 5511 1932; www.aam.org.my) provides a 24-hour emergency breakdown service.
An International Driving Permit is recommended. For UK citizens, a national driving licence is valid for three months.
Rapid KL (tel +60 3 7885 2585; www.myrapid.com.my) runs Kuala Lumpur's buses, light rail and monorail. Trains serving the northern, southern and western suburbs are run by KTM (tel: +60 3 2267 1200; www.ktmb.com.my), part of the national train company KTMB. KLIA Ekspres and KLIA Transit trains (tel: +60 3 2267 8000; www.kliaekspres.com) serve destinations en route to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It's also possible to get around by Bas Mini (fixed-route minibuses), taxis and pedi-cabs (trishaws).
Larger cities, including Melaka, Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, have their own public transport systems, mainly using buses, taxis and trishaws. Many smaller towns have local ferry services along and across rivers and inlets and between islands.
Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) (tel: +60 3 2267 1200; www.ktmb.com.my) operates train services in peninsular Malaysia. The main line runs north from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and on to Butterworth and Pedang Basar on the Thai border. A second line separates at Gemas and runs northeast to Tumpat in Kelantan.
East Malaysia has one railway line, the North Borneo Railway, which connects Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) to the town of Papar. The only services on this line are the luxury steam trains run by the Sutera Harbour Resort (tel: +60 6088 318 88; www.suteraharbour.com) in Kota Kinabalu. There are no rail services in Sarawak.
KTM Rail Pass: available to foreign tourists (except Singaporeans) and valid for five, 10 or 15 days. Passes permit unlimited travel on Intercity train services on the KTM network and into Singapore. Supplements apply for sleeping berths and on night trains. You can buy passes through travel agencies and at major railway stations, including the stations in Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth, Johor Bahru and Singapore.
Coastal ferries sail frequently between Penang and Butterworth (www.penangport.com.my) and there is a scheduled passenger service linking Port Klang with Kuantan, Sarawak and Sabah. Ferries also run between Kuala Perlis, Kuala Kedah, Penang, Satun and Langkawi; one of the companies serving the route between Kuala Perlis and Langkawi is Langkawi-Ro-Ro-ferries (www.langkawiroro.com). Regular boat services connect Lumut to Pangkor Island and Tunjung Gemak or Mersing to Tioman Island.
In Sabah, long boats connect Labuan to Menumbak. Small rivercraft often provide the most practical means of getting about in East Malaysia, even in the towns, and they are the only way to reach the more isolated settlements (unless one has access to a helicopter). In rural Sarawak the major means of transport are air-conditioned express boats. Boats may easily be chartered and river buses and taxis are plentiful.
Browse our Video Guides