Malaysia - Transportation

Malaysia has well-developed air and sea connections. It is also accessible by road and rail through Thailand and Singapore on the Peninsular. More than 25 major airlines service the international airports throughout the nation. Port Klang and Penang in the Straits of Malacca link the country to the rest of the world by sea.

Internal travel is relatively easy, comfortable and cheap. The major towns and cities are served by air-conditioned trains and buses and also by regular scheduled flights. Travelling by road in Peninsular Malaysia is popular as it has a well-developed network of roads.

In Sabah and Sarawak, travelling by four-wheel drive is recommended on unpaved roads, and many remote areas can only be reached by air or river boats. Travelling by rail is also highly recommended as you get a panoramic view of the countryside. To get value for money when travelling by rail, plan your journey in advance.

By Road

Driving in Peninsular Malaysia on the expressway is very pleasant. It's a wonderful experience as you can stop anywhere in your own time. The scenery is lush and green and you can always stop overnight at any of the towns as there are always a number of hotels available throughout the journey.

Despite it's high accident rate driving in Malaysia is not as bad a some fear. Many of the casualties are young motorcylists who often ride with a reckless disregard for their own safety. They can make driving a little difficult in the built up areas as they often speed through the car lanes. Driving outside the cities can be great fun and a excellent way to view the country. 

Almost 80 percent of Malaysian roads are paved. An overland journey from Thailand to Singapore can be made easily through Peninsular Malaysia by driving through the North-South Expressway on the west coast and through the East-West Highway to the east coast. Buses, taxis and coaches, both interstate and local, also ply between various destinations. 

The speed limit on the Expressway is usually 110km/hr, but in some areas it is only 90 km/hr. Expressway users pay a toll based on the distance travelled and the type of vehicle. They collect a transit ticket from the entry toll plaza and pay the toll at the exit toll plaza. 

Located along the Expressway are several Rest and Service Areas with food stalls, toilets, public telephones, petrol stations and parking areas. There are also laybys with toilets, public phones and parking areas. If your vehicle breaks down or if you're involved in an accident, you can contact the 24-hour-service PLUSRONDA for assistance by using the Emergency Telephones placed every two kilometres on either side of the Expressway. Furthermore, the Traffic Monitoring Centre handles inquiries from Expressway users and can be contacted at 03-2920000. 

To drive on Malaysian roads, you require a Malaysian Competent Driving Licence, Probationary Driving Licence or an International Driving Licence. To use a foreign licence, get it endorsed by the Road Transport Department. Please note that all vehicles move on the left-hand side of the road and that the use of safety belts by front passengers is mandatory. 


Town                   Airport name                ICAO             IATA       Usage     Customs           Runway           IFR    Rwy length

Alor Setar           Sultan Abdul Halim      WMKA            AOR      Civ.                                      Paved          Yes         6400 ft

Bario                     Bario                           WBGZ           BBN       Civ.                                       Unpaved       No           2500 ft

Bintulu                  Bintulu                         WBGB            BTU       Civ.             O/R                  Paved           Yes         4500 ft

Butterworth           Butterworth                   WMKB           BWH      Mil.            Yes                  Paved           No           8000 ft

Gong                    Kedak  Gong Kedak    WMGK                           Civ.           Yes                  Paved           Yes         6600 ft

Ipoh                       Sultan Azlan Shah      WMKI            IPH        Civ.                                      Paved           Yes         5900 ft

Johor Bahru          Sultan Ismail               WMKJ          JHB        Civ.             Yes                  Paved           Yes         11000 ft

Keningua               MalaysiaKeningua     WBKG                          Civ.           No                   Unpaved       No           2800 ft

Kerteh                    Kerteh                         WMKE           KTE       Mil.                                Paved   Yes         4500 ft

Kluang                   Kluang                        WMAP                             Civ.                               Unpaved           No           4100 ft

Kota Bharu            Sultan Ismail Petra    WMKC          KBR           Civ.         No                   Paved            Yes         6400 ft

Kota Kinabalu        Kota Kinabalu          WBKK            BKI         Civ.            Yes                 Paved             Yes         9800 ft

Kuala Lumpur        Kuala                         WMKK           KUL           Civ.         Yes                 Paved             Yes         13500 ft

Kuala Lumpur        Simpang                   WMKF                             Civ.                                  Paved            No           6100 ft

Kuala Lumpur         Sultan Abdul            WMSA              SZB        Civ.         Yes                  Paved            Yes         12400 ft

Kuala Terengganu Sultan Mahmud                     WMKN              TGG        Civ.                                   Paved          Yes         6600 ft

Kuantan                    Kuantan                     WMKD            KUA        Mil.          Yes                   Paved          Yes         9200 ft

Kuching                    Kuching Intl               WBGG             KCH       Civ.         Yes                   Paved          Yes         8000 ft

Labuan I                   Labuan I                    WBKL              LBU        Mil.                                    Paved          Yes         7500 ft

Lahad Datu              Lahad Datu              WBKD              LDU        Civ.                                   Paved          Yes         4500 ft

Langkawi I.           Langkawi Intl        WMKL                   LGK         Civ.         Yes           Paved               Yes             12500 ft

Lawas Lawas       WBGW                  LWY                        Civ.                                         Paved                   No             2200 ft

Limbang                Limbang                WBGJ                     Civ.                                          Paved                 No             1900 ft

Malacca                 Malacca                 WMKM   MKZ        Civ.         Yes                          Paved                 Yes           4500 ft

Marudi                  Marudi                    WBGM    MUR       Civ.                                          Paved                 No             2900 ft

Miri                       Miri                           WBGR     MYY        Civ.         No                            Paved                 Yes           6900 ft

Mukah                  Mukah                     WBGK     MKM       Civ.                                          Paved                 No             3500 ft

Mulu                     Mulu                        WBFC                     Civ.         No                            Paved                 No             3900 ft

Penang I                Penang Intl           WMKP    PEN        Civ.         Yes                          Paved                 Yes           11000 ft

Sandakan             Sandakan             WBKS    SDK        Civ.         Yes                          Paved                 Yes           6900 ft

Taiping                Taiping                  WMBI      TPG        Civ.                                          Paved                 No             4300 ft

Tawau                   Tawau                    WBKW    TWU       Civ.                                          Paved                Yes            5600 ft                                                                                                                     

Explanations on technical data 


International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a 4-letter airport location indicator. The field above is left blank if no ICAO location indicator is available for the selected airport. 


International Air Transport Association (IATA), a 3-letter identifier for the relevant airport. The field above is left blank if no IATA code is available for the selected airport. 


Airports are classified in three categories: civil airports open for public use, military airports and private airports not open to the public. Airports that are joint use, both civil and military, are shown as civil airports.

Civ.         Civil airport, open for public use (including joint use).

Mil.          Military airport, not open for public use.

Priv.        Private airport, not open for public use.


Yes         Customs service available during airport operating hours.

No           Customs service not available.

O/R         Airport has customs service, prior notification is required.

Pto.         Airport has part-time customs service available, not necessarily identical to the airport hours.

ADCUS An airport within the USA for which the FAA 'ADCUS' method of prior notification may be used.

ADCUS O/R          An airport within the USA for which the FAA 'ADCUS' method of prior notification may be used but where restrictions apply.


Identification of the surface of the longest runway available:

Paved    Paved (hard surface) runway

Unpaved               Unpaved (soft surface) runway (Only lighter aircraft)

Water     Water (for float planes)


This field indicates if the airport has any officially published instrument approach procedure.

Yes         Instrument approach procedure is published.

No           Instrument approach procedure is not published. (Airport not suitable for traffic during bad weather or darkness.)

Runway Length

Shows the length in feet of the longest runway available at the selected airport, rounded down to the next full hundred feet. If the airport has both hard (paved) and soft (unpaved) runways, the length of the longest hard surface runway is shown. If the longest runway is both, hard and soft surface, the length of the hard surface portion is shown.

Shipping Ports 

  • Miri Port Authority wins ‘5S Special Award’ 

MIRI: The Miri Port Authority was awarded the 2009 5S Special Award at the 12th National 5S Convention organised by the Malaysia Productivity Corporation on Nov 8.The award ceremony held in Grand Dorseu Hotel, Subang Jaya in Selangor attracted about 300 representatives from 113 organisations comprising 53 companies and 60 government . 

  • TanjungManisPort To Become Sarawak Central Region Gateway 

The TanjungManisIntegratedPort is to become the primary import and export gateway for Sarawak central region when it begins full operations by next year. The port, a subsidiary of Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC) and appointed by Rajang Port Authority as its port operator. 

  • PenangPort sets course towards higher productivity 

Terminal operator Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) plans to boost productivity this year, newly appointed chairman Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said yesterday. Although shipping companies and ports were hit hard by the global economic downturn, PenangPort’s volume rose 3 per cent in 2009. In a statement issued yesterday, Dr Hilmi. 

  • Port Of Tanjung Langsat To Emerge Leading Chemical Logistics Hub 

The Port of Tanjung Langsat (PTL), in Pasir Gudang, will emerge as the leading chemical logistics hub in South East Asia, given the edge it has over its competitors. Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said the port’s advantages were obvious although it has to compeleted. 

  • Sister ports 

PENANG and Bangladesh Chittagong ports are currently in discussions to become sister ports in an effort to enhance co-operation between the two harbours. Penang Port Commission (PPC) chairman Tan Cheng Liang said both parties had discussed the proposal and the commission hoped that a memorandum of understanding could be inked soon. 

  •  A port to call home Liner launches cruises from Penang 

AFTER much anticipation, the Star Cruise Pisces has arrived in Penang. The 177m cruise liner docked at the Penang International Cruise Terminal at Swettenham Pier, that is set to serve as the vessel’s home port, on Wednesday. Penang Port Commission (PPC) chairman Tan Cheng Liang said the cruise ship had organised a three-day “familiarisation”. 

  • PenangPort’s success anchored on strong strategies 

IN SPITE of the difficult yet challenging economic recession that it encountered recently, Penang Port Sdn Bhd has managed to keep afloat and still perform at its best. It did experience difficulties in the beginning. However, every cloud has a silver lining and for PenangPort, abundant opportunities emerged, just waiting. 

  • NCB sees higher volume at Northport 

It will reactivate berth expansion plan on economic recovery PETALING JAYA: NCB Holdings Bhd projects a volume increase of 10% to 15% and will reactivate its expansion plan at Northport (M) Bhd this year in line with the current economic recovery trends. Northport, a port operating subsidiary of NCB, posted a 5%. 

Local Transport 

  • Bus & Tram 

Peninsular Malaysia has an excellent bus system. Public buses do local runs and a variety of privately operated buses generally handle the longer trips. In larger towns there may be several bus stations. Local and 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. 

Buses are an economical form of transport, reasonably comfortable and on major runs you can often just turn up and get on the next bus. On many routes there are air-conditioned buses, which usually cost just a few ringgit more than regular buses. 

Ekspres, in the Malaysian context, often means indeterminate stops. To make up this time many long-distance bus drivers tend to think of the lebuhraya (highway) as their personal Formula One track. 

The main highway routes in both Sabah and Sarawak are well served by buses. The main road in Sarawak winds from Kuching to the Brunei border and, although sealed, can be rough in parts. Roads in Sabah are better, but have unmarked hazards. 

The main destinations in Sabah are linked by a reasonable system of roads. You can travel between Sabah and Sarawak by road via Brunei, but there are several immigration stops and no public transport on some sections – we recommend travelling by boat between Kota Kinabalu and Bandar Seri Begawan via Pulau Labuan for this section. 

  • Car & motorcycle 

Driving in Peninsular Malaysia is a breeze compared to most other Asian countries; the roads are generally high quality, there are plenty of new cars available and driving standards aren’t too hair-raising. Road rules are basically the same as in Britain and Australia. Cars are right-hand drive and you drive on the left side of the road. However, you should be constantly aware of the hazards posed by stray animals and numerous motorcyclists. 

Unlimited-distance car-rental rates cost from around RM145/920 per day/week, including insurance and collision-damage waiver. 

Be aware that insurance companies will most likely wash their hands of you if you injure yourself driving a motorcycle without a license. 

  • Train 

Peninsular Malaysia has a modern, comfortable and economical railway service that has basically two lines. One runs from Singapore to KL, then to Butterworth and on into Thailand. The other line, known as the Jungle Railway, cuts through the interior of Malaysia linking Gemas, Taman Negara with Kota Bharu, a transit town for Pulau 


In Sabah on Borneo there’s a narrow-gauge railway line that runs from Kota Kinabalu south to Beaufort and then through Sungai Pegas gorge to Tenom.

Peninsular Malaysia has three main types of rail services: express, limited express and local trains. Express trains are air-conditioned and generally 1st and 2nd class only, and on night trains there’s a choice of berths or seats. Limited express trains may have 2nd and 3rd class only but some have 1st, 2nd and 3rd class with overnight sleepers. Local trains are usually 3rd class only, but some have 2nd class.

The privatised national railway company, Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM; 03-2267 1200, 2773 1430;, offers a tourist Rail Pass for five days (adult US$35), 10 days (adult US$55) and 15 days (adult US$70). This pass entitles the holder to unlimited travel on any class of train, although it does not include sleeping-berth charges. Rail Passes are available only to foreigners and can be purchased at KL, JB, Butterworth, Pelabuhan (Port) Klang, Padang Besar and Wakaf Baharu train stations. You have to do an awful lot of train travel to make it worthwhile. 

  • Hitching 

Hitching is never entirely safe in any country and we don’t recommend it. True, Malaysia has long had a reputation for being an excellent place to hitchhike but, with the ease of bus travel, most travellers don’t bother. On the west coast, hitching is quite easy but it’s not possible on the main lebuhraya. On the east coast, traffic is lighter and there may be long waits between rides. 

  • Boat 

Boats and ferries sail between the peninsula and offshore islands. If a boat looks overloaded or otherwise unsafe, do not board it. There are no ferry services between Malaysian Borneo and the peninsula. Travel on the larger rivers, such as the Rejang and Baram in Borneo, is accomplished in fast passenger launches known by the generic term ekspres, which carry around 100 people. Travel on smaller, squeezier Bornean waterways is mainly by costly motorised longboat. It’s best to organise a group to share costs.