The national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has an extensive global route network and regularly ranks high in airline quality ratings. Low-cost carrier AirAsia and its sister airline AirAsia X now connect an ever-growing number of countries, including Australia, China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. Emirates Airlines also flies to Kuala Lumpur from most cities via Dubai, with flights to Perth, Australia, making a short stopover in KLIA.
- AirAsia, +60 3 8775-4000 (Hotline within Malaysia: 1 300 88 9933)
- Malaysia Airlines, +60 3 7846-3000 (Hotline within Malaysia: 1-300-88-3000)
- Emirates Airline +60 36 207 4999
Most international flights land at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) (IATA: KUL). KLIA’s predecessor, Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (IATA: SZB) at Subang near Kuala Lumpur, handles charter and turboprop aircraft for regional operators Firefly and Berjaya, +60 3 7846 8228 (ticketing only);, +60 3 2145 2828.
Other airports that have a significant number of flights to regional destinations are Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), Kuching (Sarawak), Penang, Langkawi and Johor Bahru. Many major Malaysian cities are served by AirAsia or Firefly to Singapore Changi. Berjaya Air also flies from Singapore to the popular dive sites of Tioman and Redang.
- To/from Thailand: Direct sleeper trains operated by the State Railway of Thailand connect Bangkok (Thailand) and Butterworth near Penang (Malaysia), while Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malaysian Railways) trains run between Hat Yai (Thailand) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Both trains cross the border at Padang Besar, where entry formalities for Thailand and Malaysia can be conveniently completed at the station. There is also a less-used eastern route from Hat Yai to the Thai border town of Sungai Kolok, but there are no through trains to the nearby Malaysian station of Wakaf Bahru (near Kota Bharu).
- To/from Singapore: There is a shuttle train service that runs seven times each way from Woodlands Train Station (in northern Singapore) to Johor Bahru in the morning and evening, costing MYR5 on the Malaysian side and SGD5 on the Singaporean side. Convenient overnight trains and somewhat misnamed daytime “express” trains then connect Johor Bahru with Kuala Lumpur and Tumpat, near Kota Bharu. They don’t always coincide with shuttle times, so be prepared for long waits or get an alternate bus schedule if you miss the shuttle. Early morning trains to Singapore and late evening trains to Malaysia are usually full on weekdays, but the traffic flow reverses on weekends. Booking online on the KTMB website can reserve a valuable seat without hassle. When travelling from Singapore to Malaysia, both Singaporean and Malaysian immigration checks are conducted at Woodlands station before boarding the train to Malaysia. In the opposite direction, Malaysian immigration checks are conducted before boarding at JB Sentral, while Singaporean immigration checks are conducted upon arrival at Woodlands.
Long-distance buses to Malaysia operate from Brunei, Indonesian Borneo, Singapore and Thailand. You can find more details on the respective city pages.
- Brunei – there are no direct buses to Brunei. However, there are buses from Miri and Limbang that go to the border where there are connections to Bandar Seri Begawan.
- Indonesia – Direct buses run between Pontianak in West Kalimantan and Kuching in Sarawak.
- Singapore – a variety of bus companies offer direct services from Singapore to various destinations in Peninsular Malaysia, including Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, east coast cities and even the Kuala Lumpur suburbs of Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya. Frequent buses run the short distance between Singapore and Johor Bahru, and you can save a few dollars by transferring to a cheap domestic bus at the Larkin terminal in JB instead of taking the more expensive direct bus. If you need an entry visa, you will need to enter Malaysia via link 2.
- Thailand – several companies offer flights from Kuala Lumpur and other cities in Malaysia to Hat Yai in southern Thailand, from where there are direct connections to Bangkok and many other Thai destinations.
Land crossings are possible from Southern Thailand and Singapore to Peninsular Malaysia, and from Brunei and Kalimantan (the Indonesian side of Borneo) to Sarawak. An International Drivers Permit (IDP) is required. More information can be found on the pages of the respective city or state.
- Brunei – the main crossings are at Sungai Tujoh on the road from Miri, Sarawak, to Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) and the Kuala Lurah-Tedungan checkpoint used for traffic between Bandar Seri Begawan and Limbang in Sarawak. You can also reach Temburong district in Brunei by road from Limbang via Pandaruan checkpoint (Puni on the Brunei side) and Lawas via Trusan (Labu on the Brunei side).
- Indonesia – the main border crossing is at the Tebedu-Entikong checkpoint on the main road between Kuching and Pontianak. Several other smaller border crossings used by locals are not necessarily open to foreigners.
- Singapore – the two crossings are the Causeway, which connects Johor Bahru with Woodlands in Singapore, and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link, which connects Tanjung Kupang in Johor with Tuas in Singapore. See the Johor Bahru Get in section and the Singapore Get in section for more details.
- Thailand – international checkpoints (with Thai cities in brackets) are Wang Kelian (Satun) and Padang Besar (Padang Besar) in Perlis, Bukit Kayu Hitam (Sadao) in Kedah, Pengkalan Hulu (Betong) in Perak and Rantau Panjang (Sungai Kolok) in Kelantan.
Especially when entering from Singapore, make sure that your passport has been stamped by the Malaysian Immigration Department before you leave the checkpoint. There have been reports of immigration officials “forgetting” to stamp travellers’ passports on arrival and such travellers being arrested, detained and fined thousands of ringgit when trying to leave Malaysia.
With the boat
Ferries connect various points on the Malaysian peninsula with Sumatra in Indonesia and southern Thailand, Sarawak with Brunei and Sabah with East Kalimantan in Indonesia and Mindanao in the Philippines. Luxury cruises also operate from Singapore and sometimes Phuket (Thailand) to Malaysia.
- Brunei – Ferries operate daily between Muara Ferry Terminal in Brunei and Labuan and Lawas Island in Sarawak. Fast boats, mostly in the morning, also run between Bandar Seri Begawan Jetty and Limbang, Sarawak.
- Indonesia – the main departure points from Indonesia are the Riau islands of Batam, Bintan and Karimun; Dumai, Medan and Pekanbaru on the mainland of Sumatra; and Nunukan in East Kalimantan. Ferries connect Batam with Batu Pahat and Johor Bahru; Bintanwith Johor Bahru; Karimun with Batu Pahat and Kukup in Johor; Dumai with Malacca, Muar in Johor, Port Dickson (in Negeri Sembilan) and Port Klang, the port for Kuala Lumpur; Pekanbaru with Malacca. Daily ferries also connect Nunukan with Tawau in Sabah. There are also smaller crossings such as between Bengkalis in Riau and Batu Pahat; Sumatra and Malacca and Muar in Johor; and Tanjung Balai Asahan in North Sumatra with Port Klang, the port for Kuala Lumpur.
- Philippines – Ferries operate between Zamboanga Peninsula and Sandakan, Sabah.
- Singapore – Daily passenger boats operate between Changi Point and Pengerang, between Tanah Merah and Sebana Cover Resort, and between Changi and Tanjung Belungkor, all in Johor.
- Thailand – four ferries daily (reduced to three during Ramadan) between Tammalang near Satun and Kuah on Langkawi, Malaysia. Vehicle ferries operate between Ban Taba near Tak Bai in Narathiwat province and Pengkalan Kubur in Kelantan, Malaysia, while passenger boats operate between Ban Buketa in Narathiwat province and Bukit Bunga in Kelantan.
It is possible to enter Malaysia on foot from Thailand at Wang Kelian and Padang Besar (both in Perlis), Bukit Kayu Hitam (Kedah), Pengkalan Hulu (Perak) and Rantau Panjang (Kelantan). Crossing from Singapore to Malaysia on foot via the Causeway or Second Link is now illegal.