Malaysia Country Guide

Getting Around

 
 

By Train

Long-distance trains in Malaysia can rarely match road transport in terms of speed, but state operator Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) provides relatively inexpensive and generally reliable services around Peninsular Malaysia. KTM's main western line connects Butterworth (near Penang), Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru, while the eastern line runs from Gemas through Gua Musang and the Taman Negara National Park to Kota Bharu, near the Thai border and the Perhentian Islands.
 
 
 
 
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KTM train station

KTM train station

The pride of KTM's fleet is the ETS (Electric Train Service) from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh, running modern air-conditioned trains 10x/daily at 140 km/h with a travel time of just over 2 hours. The rest of the network, though, is mostly single-track, with slow diesel locos and all too frequent breakdowns and delays. Tickets can be booked and even printed online at KTM's site besides purchasing from the stations.

Facilities
First and second class are air-con, third class has fans instead. For sleeper trains, KTM's epitome of luxury is Premier Night Deluxe (ADNFD - between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur only) featuring individual cabins containing two berths and a private shower/toilet unit. More economical are the Superior Night (ADNS) sleeper cars, which have upper and lower berths along each side, each bunk having a solid partition at each end and a side curtain for privacy. The carriages shake and rattle quite a bit but are comfortable and clean.

Second class sleeping berth on a KTM train
Second class sleeping berth on a KTM train

The Jungle Railway
The Jungle Railway is the eastern line between Tumpat (close to the Thai border) and Gemas, including stops at Gua Musang, Kuala Lipis, Jerantut (for Taman Negara National Park) and Wakaf Bahru (for Kota Bharu and the Perhentian Islands). The original "Jungle Train" is the slow daytime service which stops at every station (every 15-20 min or so). It's 3rd class only, meaning no air-con and no reservations, and some stops may be lengthy as it's a single line and all other trains have priority - hence the "Jungle Train" waits in side loops along the way so that oncoming or overtaking trains can pass. Some find it to be a fascinating and stunningly scenic ride; others feel there's not much to see when you're in the jungle. Eastern line night trains (for which reservations are possible and recommended) have 2nd class sleeping berths and seats and some have 1st class sleepers.

 
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