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.
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.)
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.
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- 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.
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; www.ktmb.com.my), 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 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.
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.