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Getting Around in Malaysia

By Air

Flying is the only practical option for traveling between peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Borneo), as well as reaching some of the more remote outposts of Borneo. Malaysia Airlines serves numerous commercial airports in Peninsular and East Malaysia. Rapidly expanding budget airline Air Asia also operates a number of domestic and international routes within Asia and Australia.

Firefly has a handy network radiating out of Penang previously, has also began operating from the Subang (Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah) airport.

Berjaya Air also flies small Dash-7 turboprops from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to its own airports on the resort islands of Pangkor, Redang and Tioman. Prices are steep, but this is by far the fastest and more comfortable way of reaching any of these.

In Sabah and Sarawak, MASWings, operates turboprop services linking interior communities, including those in the Kelabit Highlands, with coastal cities. MASWings took over the rural air services network from FlyAsian Express on October 1, 2007, which in turn took the service over from Malaysia Airlines 14 months before that.

By Water

Coastal ferries sail frequently between Penang and Butterworth. Ferries also run between Kuala Perlis, Kuala Kedah, Penang, Satun and Langkawi. Regular boat services connect Lumut to Pangkor Island and Tunjung Gemak or Mersing to Tioman Island.

In Sabah, long boats connect Labuan to Menumbak. Small river crafts often provide the most practical means of getting about in East Malaysia, even in the towns, and they are the only way to reach the more isolated settlements (unless one has access to a helicopter).

In rural Sarawak the major means of transport are air-conditioned express boats. Boats may easily be chartered and river buses and taxis are plentiful.

By Rail

Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTM Berhad) operates train services in Peninsular Malaysia. The main line heads north from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand and south to Singapore. Another line separates from the west coast line at the town of Gemas and takes a northeastern route to Kota Bharu. There is also a passenger service to two of Malaysia's seaports - Penang and Padang Besar on the west coast.

East Malaysia has one railway line, the preserved steam-operated North Borneo Railway. It runs on a scenic line along the coast from Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) to the town of Papar. There are no rail services in Sarawak.

By Road

As in the United Kingdom, traffic in Malaysia drives on the left. Most roads in the peninsula states are paved and signs leading to the various destinations are well placed and clear. The north-south expressway spans 890 km (553 miles) from Bukit Kayu Hitam (on the Kedah-Thailand border) to Johor Bahru is the main highway.

Speed limits are 110 kph (68 mph) on expressways, 90 kph (55 mph) on main roads and 60 kph (38 mph) in urban areas unless otherwise posted. Seat belts must be worn at all times. The use of hand-held mobile phones is prohibited when driving. Penalties for drinking and driving are severe.

Emergency breakdown service: The Automobile Association of Malaysia ( provides a 24-hour emergency breakdown service.


The cheapest way to travel in Malaysia is by bus. All towns of any size have a bus terminal offering connections to other parts of the country. There are many companies of varying degrees of dependability, but two of the largest and more reliable in Peninsular Malaysia are Transnasional and NICE/Plusliner.


Taxis are available in all cities and larger towns, although in smaller places you may have to call one. You will generally need to negotiate the fare in advance, although prepaid coupon taxis are usually available at airports. RM5 should suffice for a short cross-town trip, while RM100 is enough to hire a taxi for a full day.

Car Rental

This is available through international and domestic agencies.

Documentation: An International Driving Permit is required. For UK citizens, a national driving licence is sufficient, but it has to be endorsed by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles in Malaysia.





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