train in Malaysia

Arriving at Butterworth by train

Arriving at Butterworth by train you’ll end your journey at Penang Sentral. Penang Sentral is a hub from which you can catch the train, bus or ferry.

If you have been heading north on the train you can continue going north. If going south, you can continue south. Butterworth is on a branch line off the main line. It is also possible if you do not want to visit Penang to go directly to or from the Thai border from or to Kuala Lumpur.

From Penang Sentral there is a train service north to Padang Besar on the Thai border. You can cross the border to Thailand at the station. From there you can transfer to trains travelling north through Thailand. Or you can cross the border at the road crossing and catch buses to other parts of Thailand.

As for the train service south: it stops at cities such as Taiping and Ipoh on the way to Kuala Lumpur, and on towards Singapore.

Alternatively, arriving at Butterworth by bus, you can catch other buses to various parts of Malaysia from Penang Sentral. Finally, there is a ferry service four times an hour, across to Penang Island, a 15 minute journey.

If you are in no hurry, there are plenty of food outlets in Penang Sentral. And coffee shops etc.

So here are some photos and video of what it’s like to arrive in Penang Sentral. And thus moving on the catch the ferry to George Town.

Arriving at Butterworth by bus

Arriving at Butterworth by bus you’ll end your journey at Penang Sentral. Penang Sentral is a hub from which you can catch the train, bus or ferry.

From Penang Sentral there is a train service north to Padang Besar on the Thai border. You can cross the border to Thailand at the station. From there you can transfer to trains travelling north through Thailand. Or you can cross the border at the road crossing and catch buses to other parts of Thailand.

Alternatively, arriving at Butterworth by bus, you can catch other buses to various parts of Malaysia from Penang Sentral. Finally, there is a ferry service four times an hour, across to Penang Island, a 15 minute journey.

arriving at Butterworth by bus

The train from Malaysia to Chiang Mai

Bangkok Station

Bangkok Station

The train from Malaysia to Chiang Mai

The train from Malaysia to Chiang Mai is interesting and fun if you like trains. And a useful and safer way to travel if you want to make stops along the way.  And you’ll see some of the countryside, and have the experience. But if you don’t want that,  fly – if you’re flexible you can find cheap flights.

So you could make one or more stops or travel all the way to Bangkok in one go, and then take another train on to Chiang Mai. The latter is what I will describe here as in the past I have visited the below-mentioned.

Previously you could catch the train from Singapore to Bangkok on the one train. More recently it was Butterworth, Penang to Bangkok, but Malaysia has electrified the lines, while Thailand hasn’t.  So now one must change trains at the border of Thailand.

So the the train from KL and Penang to Chiang Mai is actually three trains. Train one to the border, train two to Bangkok and train three to Chiang Mai. For more photos and videos related to this trip, please see Part 2.

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by plane, train, bus and car – March 2017

You have a few choices travelling between Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

Read the latest version:


The main carriers from Penang to Kuala Lumpur are Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia.  Kuala Lumpur has two main terminals at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).  KLIA, which is where the full service airlines fly to and from, and KLIA2, which the low cost airlines use.  (There is another airport, Subang, which Firefly and Berjaya Air operate from, which is likely to be useful only if you wish to go to that area.)  Prices vary, but can be very cheap – as cheap as bus or train fares.

Air Asia web site

Malaysian Airlines web site

Air Asia

A flight takes only about 45 minutes, and in that time on Malaysian Airlines they serve a drink in a plastic container and a packet of peanuts, and then come around to collect the rubbish.  Those two activities take up the cabin crews’ time while at crusing height.

the cabin in economy

peanuts and juice

the seat back – screen not activated for use on this short flight

On Air Asia you would not normally be served anything, but of course the flight time is similar.


KTM – train company web site – note that for purposes of the web site your point of origin is Butterworth, and destination is Sentral Kuala Lumpur.

For more information and links please see

Penang now has the ETS – Electric Train Service – meaning that the journey to KL from Penang-Butterworth can take as little as just over four hours. This  provides more comfort and safety than buses, in a similar travel time, and for a similar price as the better bus companies.

For my blog about a recent train ride from Penang to KL see here


Penang to KL by bus

KL to Penang by bus

Aeroline bus company

Transnasional bus company

Nice bus company

Konsortium bus company

There are many more bus companies.


Driving from Penang to Kuala Lumpur

Heading south – typical landscape

And which is best?  Of course, this is hard to say.  Let’s compare them in terms of travelling time, cost, scenery and enjoyment.


If your destination is KL, then let’s look at the time it will take.  You should be at the airport perhaps 1.5 hours before departure. Flight time is about 45 minutes, and then once you have landed it will take at least 45 minutes to collect your luggage if you have any, and to get into central KL, and more likely one hour or more. Thus total time from Penang airport to KL hotel is at least 3.5 hours.  That is faster than any other mode.  It can also be quite cheap if you catch one of the Air Asia specials. Catching a taxi to and from Penang airport, or parking charges there can add considerably to the cost, however.  There is no airport bus in Penang, just a local bus, which is not very frequent or reliable.  Using the Grabcar app from Gurney Plaza to the airport is about RM26. Uber may be similar. Apart from shortly after take off, the scenery you will see from the plane is not very interesting. It is more stressful flying, but if you are also flying out of KL, it can often be the easiest mode of transport.

If you are flying out of KLIA then flying is probably the best option.  The airline you choose usually depends on which terminal in KL you fly out from. In Penang, there is only one terminal, so there is no issue with convenience for any airline.  But in Kuala Lumpur there is KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) and KLIA2.  Air Asia flies to KLIA2, so if you are flying from KL on Air Asia, it makes sense to fly from Penang also on Air Asia. And if you are flying from KLIA, then you will probably want to choose a full service airline to fly on from Penang, as it will fly into KLIA.  Of course, you can transfer between KLIA and KLIA2, but it takes some time, and is less fun if you have luggage.


The train takes a similar time to the bus. It takes about four hours, or up to four and a half, depending on the schedule.  Occasionally incidents on the E1 motorway block or slow traffic,   which obviously won’t affect the train, but will the bus. You will also have the travelling time to the station at Butterworth, so add on at least an hour for the trip to the ferry terminal, and ferry to Butterworth.  It is very relaxing, though, and the scenery is better than travelling by air or road.


Travelling time by bus can be from four and a half hours to more, depending on traffic. But you will probably leave home an hour before the bus departs, so this must be added to the total travelling time. Bus fares vary quite a bit depending on which company you choose to travel with. But the more expensive bus companies tend to be safer, and more comfortable. Aeroline, the most expensive company,   quotes on its web site a price of RM60 one way in March 2017. Of course, by bus or car the scenery will be the same, as either way you will be travelling on the E1 north-south motorway. Mostly, the scenery is not very exciting. However, around Ipoh, which is about half way, the scenery improves for a while. The bus can also be quite relaxing, depending on the skills of the driver – the cheaper the bus company, the worse the drivers, generally. Many people find the bus the most enjoyable way to travel this route. I would avoid any very late night / overnight bus journeys if at all possible, as bus drivers and other vehicle drivers have been known to fall asleep at the wheel.


When I drive, with three very short stops on the way, it takes about 4.5 hours in light traffic. By car you will presumably be driving directly from home to your destination, so it takes only about an hour more than flying. The road charges are about RM45, and I suppose you will use about RM70 for petrol, although this will vary quite a bit according to your car and driving style. Of course, there are other costs, but for me, as I don’t drive much anyway, it is really only these costs that count. RM115. Double the bus fare for one person, but if two or more people,competitive. Naturally you will be able to carry much more luggage, be able to visit other places en-route if you wish, and have use of the car in KL. You will have to pay for parking, however, which at many hotels is RM10 per day.

Is it fun to drive? Not particularly. It’s frustrating as the speed limit is pathetically low, and for the section of the road which is three lanes each way, the left lane is mostly empty, while most drivers drive in the middle lane, making overtaking in the left lane necessary when the right lane is also blocked by a slower vehicle. This is hardly ideal.

My conclusion:

The disadvantage of the train is that Butterworth station is a bit far from George Town, and you need to catch the ferry.  But the bus station has the same disadvantage, being next to the train station.  The other terminals for the bus are from Sungai Nibong or Queensbay Mall – also a bit far.  Then, you find the same disadvantages for the bus and train in KL, where the terminals are not central.  But the airport in Penang is further away, and the airport in KL is even further out, so really, unless you are flying out of KLIA, I find the train offers the best combination of safety, comfort and convenience to central Kuala Lumpur.

For historical interest you can see a much older blog on this topic

Catching the train from Penang to Kuala Lumpur – March 2017

The train is a very viable transport choice between Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Look here for prices and timetables, and to book online:

Or see the official KTM web site, which is more difficult to use: KTM – train company web site – note that for purposes of the web site your point of origin is Butterworth, and destination is Sentral Kuala Lumpur.

Basically there are several trains a day in both directions, and the ticket prices as of this writing are RM59 or RM79, depending on which train you take.  The train is one class.

This blog describes the journey from George Town to Butterworth, where the train station is located, and then on to KL by train.

after alighting from a taxi or bus you walk along a passage towards the sea and the KTM office, where you can buy a train ticket if you wish.

note the opening hours of the KTM office

the KTM office

at the office the path turns right angles to the left, then later 90 degrees to the right and up a ramp to the ferry waiting area

some ferries load cars this way

looking back from the ferry towards George Town

looking back from the ferry towards George Town on the other side

about to disembark the ferry

Once you disembark from the ferry you walk straight ahead and then veer right, heading for both the bus station and train station.

you walk along an elevated walkway and cross the railway line

You cross a pedestrian bridge over the railway, turn left…

elevated walkway

at the time of writing construction continues, but you go straight here for the bus terminal, or right for the train station

… and then to the right for the train station, or straight still for the bus station.

the ground floor of the station – nothing but a small waiting area

you can catch a lift or walk up the stairs to the first floor where you can see the bus station from the window

It’s very easy to find. There is a lift that takes you up to the ticket offices and waiting area.

corridor towards the first floor ticketing and waiting area

the ticketing and waiting area

The station is bigger now, but it is very hot inside. You aren’t allowed access to the platforms until the train has arrived and passengers have disembarked. In my case we were allowed onto the train about 10 minutes before the train was due to depart. The carriages and seats are clearly marked, so finding one’s seat is easy.

the board

a poster

a poster

the platform, which you reach by walking down the steps or catching a lift

the train

the train

inside the carriage

inside the carriage

the network diagram

The train departed on time, and arrived in KL on time.

the view a few minutes after departure

the snack bar

There is a small café taking part of one of the carriages, with just few tables. You can buy coffee, teas, soft drinks, and a few light meals. The coffee was ok. The noodles I ordered were not very good.

food available

availability notice

what I bought

every passenger receives this snack package

contents of the snack package


The scenery is pleasant enough, but quite similar to the same trip by road.


The train makes a few stops along the way for short times, and is a smooth ride

Taiping station

Taiping station





Ipoh station

Ipoh station

Ipoh station

toilet is clean

There are clean toilets in a couple of the carriages.  LCD displays show progress, the next station and the speed of the train, which reaches about 140kph.

the electronic board in the train showing progress and speed

old KL station, a few minutes before the train arrives in KL Sentral. This is a view of the station I took from a bus

And as I mentioned above, the train arrived on time.

Of the three choices of public transport to KL, which is better?

If you want to see the scenery, then surface transport. But really, once is enough.

The airfare can be a similar price to the train or bus, especially if you factor in the cost from KL Sentral station or the bus station to the airport, if you are flying out of KLIA. So I tend to think flying is better if you’re going to the airport.

From Penang to central KL all three modes take around the same time.

If you’re going to central KL, neither the train station or bus station is really in the centre, but you can quite cheaply and reasonably quickly get there.  Whereas from the airport it’s a bit expensive by train to central KL, or slow by bus.  So going to central KL I’d suggest the surface transport.

The train fare can be higher than many bus fares, but similar to the better bus companies. With a bus you might get WiFi, with the train you don’t, but there are working power points on the train for every two seats. The train is smoother and safer, and more comfortable, so that would be my choice, unless you want to save a few Ringgit by using a cheap and possibly not so safe bus company.
So, to summarise, my idea is to fly between Penang and KL  if you’re then flying out of KLIA, or vice versa; otherwise catch the train.

2016 Malaysian train article

In general I find it difficult to find out much about what is happening with trains in Malaysia. On Wednesday December 30th I saw an article in the free daily paper, The Sun, of which this is a small part:


Office Lens 20151230-162546

The article later stated the government is considering a train line from KL to Kuantan on the east coast.