The two main domestic operators are Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia.
The Malaysia Airlines subsidiary Firefly has flights from KL (SkyPark Subang Terminal) to Ipoh, Johor Bahru (JB), Kerteh, Kota Bharu, Kuala Terengganu, Langkawi and Penang. It also runs connections between Penang and Langkawi, Kuantan and Kota Bharu, Ipoh and JB, and JB and Kota Bharu.
Malindo Air also has a wide range of connections between many Malaysian cities and towns.
In Malaysian Borneo, Malaysia Airlines’ subsidiary MASwings offers local flights within and between Sarawak and Sabah; its main hub is Miri. These services, especially those handled by 19-seat Twin Otters, are very much reliant on the vagaries of the weather. In the wet season (October to March in Sarawak and on Sabah’s northeast coast; May to November on Sabah’s west coast), places like Bario in Sarawak can be isolated for days at a time, so don’t venture into this area if you have a tight schedule. These flights are completely booked during school holidays. At other times it’s easier to get a seat at a few days’ notice, but always book as far in advance as possible.
Discounts & Special Flights
All the airlines offer discounted tickets online, depending on how far in advance you book. A variety of other discounts (typically between 25% and 50%) are available for flights around Malaysia on Malaysia Airlines, including for families and groups of three or more.
Taxis are found in all large cities, and most have meters
As Malaysia has become a wealthier country, with more people owning their own cars, the long-distance taxi is becoming less of a feature of the transport landscape. However, in major towns and cities there will be a taxi stand for long-distance travel.
Taxis are available on a share basis for up to four people. As soon as a full complement of passengers turns up, off you go; alternatively, you can charter the whole taxi which is four times the single-fare rate. Early morning is generally the best time to find people to share a taxi, but enquire at the taxi stand the day before as to the best time to turn up.
Single fares are generally about twice the comparable bus fares. If you want to charter a taxi to an obscure destination, or by the hour, you’ll probably have to do some negotiating. On the peninsula you’re likely to pay around 50 sen per kilometer.
Besides taxi, other option is to used taxi app Grab which many people use it nowadays.
Malaysia’s national railway company is Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM). It runs a modern, comfortable and economical railway service, although there are basically only two lines.
One line runs up the west coast from Johor Bahru, through KL on into Thailand; there’s a short spur off this line for Butterworth – the jumping off point for the island of Penang. Line two branches off the first line at Gemas and runs through Kuala Lipis up to the northeastern corner of the country near Kota Bharu in Kelantan. Often referred to as the ‘jungle train’, this line is properly known as the ‘east line’.
On the west-coast line, a speedy electric train service now runs between Gemas and Padang Besar on the Thai border. Full electrification on this side of the peninsula is expected to be completed by 2020.
In Sabah the North Borneo Railway (www.suteraharbour.com/north-borneo-railway), a narrow-gauge line running through the Sungai Padas gorge from Tenom to Beaufort, offers tourist trips lasting four hours on Wednesday and Saturday.
Services & Classes
There are two main types of rail services: express (ETS) and local trains. Express trains are air-conditioned and have ‘premier’ (1st class), ‘superior’ (2nd class) and sometimes ‘economy’ (3rd class) seats and, depending on the service, sleeping cabins. Local trains are usually economy class only, but some have superior seats.
Express trains stop only at main stations, while local services, which operate mostly on the east-coast line, stop everywhere, including the middle of the jungle, to let passengers and their goods on and off. Consequently local services take more than twice as long as the express trains and run to erratic schedules, but if you’re in no hurry they provide a colourful experience and are good for short journeys.
Most cities in Malaysia have some combination of a monorail, light rail, or KTM Komuter trains. They’re fast, comfortable, and reasonably priced. The Kuala Lumpur Monorail has 11 elevated stations and stops at a number of tourist destinations. Kuala Lumpur also has an extensive and low-cost light rail system. From Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Rail Malaysia runs several trains daily. The famous Jungle Train between Wakaf Baharu and Kuala Lipis starts at 4 AM and leaves several times a day.
Bus travel in Malaysia is economical and generally comfortable. Seats can be paid for and reserved either directly with operators or via online sites such www.easybook.com.
Konsortium Transnasional Berhad (www.ktb.com.my) is Malaysia’s largest bus operator running services under the Transnasional, Nice, Plusliner and Cityliner brands. There are so many buses on major runs that you can often turn up and get a seat on the next bus.
In larger towns there may be a number of bus stations; local/regional buses often operate from one station and long-distance buses from another; in other cases, KL for example, bus stations are differentiated by the destinations they serve.
Bus travel off the beaten track is relatively straightforward. Small towns and kampung (villages) all over the country are serviced by public buses. Unfortunately, they are often poorly signed and sometimes the only way to find your bus is to ask a local. These buses are invariably dirt cheap and provide a great sample of rural life. In most towns there are no ticket offices, so buy your ticket from the conductor after you board.