Transportation - Get In
Malaysia's transportation systems function well, by regional standards. Planes, trains, buses, and taxis are linked in a system conceived and constructed by, if not an order-loving Teuton, at least a dedicated amateur. The planners' aims are an ultra-modern, chic, European-style system that are a far cry from the city's humble barrio beginnings. The reality is a sound B+ with still a long way to go before hitting the top. A bewildering jumble of initials and acronyms assault any first time journey planner in KL and it will take at least a day to decipher the scheme of things.
Kuala Lumpur is served by two airports: Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (Subang Airport). KLIA is used by almost all airlines that fly to Kuala Lumpur whilst Subang Airport is limited to airlines with turboprop aircraft.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Kuala Lumpur International Airport , is the primary airport serving Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding Klang Valley region, located some 50 km south of Kuala Lumpur in the Sepang district of Selangor. The airport opened in 1998 and superseded Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, which is now only used for charter and commercial turboprop flights. Over 50 airlines call at KLIA. The airport has two entirely separate terminals, with Malaysia Airlines and other mainline carriers at the "main" KLIA, and Air Asia and other low-cost carriers using KLIA2. Both are connected to each other (3 minutes) and the city (28-33 min) by the KLIA Ekspres train.
Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport
Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport , more commonly referred to as Subang Airport, was the country's main international airport until KLIA opened in 1998 and is currently designated for turboprop aircraft. The airport is much closer to the city centre and less crowded than KLIA, which can make it a convenient entry point for those flying from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand or other parts of Malaysia. The airport is 25 km from the city centre and the convenient way to get there is by taxi. An alternative is to take Rapid KL bus U81 (destination: Subang Suria/Mah Sing) from Terminal Jalan Sultan Mohammad next to Pasar Seni LRT station, which goes past the airport. The fare is RM3.00 one way and takes approximately 40min in clear traffic. It can take nearly 1h30 during peak rush hour. The airport is currently served by the following airlines:
- Berjaya Air is a domestic and regional airline, which focuses on resort and island destinations. Currently, the airline flies between Subang Airport and Langkawi, Pangkor Island, Penang, Redang Island,Tioman Island and internationally to Hua Hin, Thailand.
- Firefly is a Malaysia Airlines subsidiary that began operating from Subang in late 2007 and operates as a regional turboprop airline. Within Malaysia the airline flies between Subang and Alor Setar, Johor Bahru, Kerteh, Kota Bharu, Kuala Terengganu, Langkawi and Penang. Additionally, Firefly also operates international flights within the region between Subang and Indonesia - Batam, Medan, Pekanbaru; Thailand- Hat Yai, Koh Samui; and Singapore.
- Malindo Air is the latest airline to enter the Malaysian commercial aviation market and is a subsidiary of Indonesia's Lion Air. Currently the airline flies between Subang and Johor Bahru, Kota Bharu and Penang, with plans to expand further in the future.
The government owned Keretapi Tanah Melayu(Malayan Railway or KTM) operates intercity (antarabandar) diesel rail services throughout Peninsular Malaysia. Trains arriving in Kuala Lumpur call at KL Sentral, the modern transportation hub in Brickfields, just south of the city centre, and operate as far flung as Singapore, Hat Yai in Thailand and Kota Bharu in Peninsular Malaysia's north-east. Train services are reasonably priced and operate as both day and overnight trains with various class options available. Day trains comprise of reclining and non-reclining seating options only while overnight trains comprise of two-berth private compartments and open plan bunk-bed berths with curtains (similar to Thai trains) for privacy. Seating options are also available for overnight trains.
The Electric Train Service (ETS), a subsidiary of KTM, is a daytime express train service that currently operates between Padang Besar, Perlis and Kuala Lumpur. ETS trains call at Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, the old main station, in addition to KL Sentral. The old Kuala Lumpur Station is served by KTM Komuter trains and nearby the Pasar Seni LRT Station on the Kelana Jaya line. If you need to connect to any other rail lines it would be recommended continuing on to KL Sentral. Taxi services are available at both stations, but you will find more at KL Sentral and can purchase a taxi coupon when there so that drivers cannot overcharge.
Tickets for both KTM and ETS trains can be purchased at the KTM Intercity ticket office located on level two of KL Sentral or other stations which trains call at. You can also purchase your ticket online at the KTM e-booking site up to two months in advance, but remember to print out the e-ticket. Additionally, timetables and seat availability can be found on the main KTM website
Buses are a cheap, comfortable and popular transport option for Malaysians, with services reaching virtually all corners of Peninsular Malaysia and also to Thailand and Singapore. So it is no wonder that Kuala Lumpur has several bus stations (stesen bas or hentian) to handle long distance bus services. Despite the complexity of the network there is somepattern to the madness, with buses departing from particular stations depending on the region they travel to or from. To top that off, some buses may arrive at other locations including Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, Bangsar LRT Station, Corus Hotel and the Malaysian Tourist Centre (MTC).Always confirm with the bus company where your bus will depart so that you do not miss your bus. In some cases you may need to exchange your ticket for a boarding pass, so try to arrive at the bus terminal 10–15 minutes before the departure time, although bus companies suggest 30 minutes.
- Pudu Sentral (Formerly Hentian Puduraya), Jl Pudu (Linked to Plaza Rakyat LRT Station), . The most central bus station in Kuala Lumpur, serving north-bound buses. Formerly hot and cramped, Pudu got a major facelift and air-conditioning in 2011, and could now stand in for an airport. However, ticketing and information is still not centralized, so finding the next bus to your destination still requires a lot of walking around. Tickets to services departing from other stations are also available. Taxis are on the prowl around the station and can be pushy and may not use the meter. Always negotiate a price beforehand if you want a taxi or the alternative is to head to the nearby LRT station.
- Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), Jl Terminal Selatan (Linked to Bandar Tasik Selatan Station), . This gigantic and ultra-modern terminal serves south-bound destinations, including Malacca, Johor Bharu and Singapore. Despite its less than central location it is extremely well connected by public transport and taxis. Three train services, KTM Komuter, Sri Petaling LRT and KLIA Transit call at this bus station, making it easy to reach from Kuala Lumpur and KLIA.
- Hentian Putra, 45 Jl Putra (Near PWTC LRT & Putra Komuter Stations), . Mainly catering east-bounddestinations this terminal is located in the city north in Tuanku Abdul Rahman. It is well serviced by the LRT and Komuter lines and taxis are available, but can be hard to find a taxi early in the morning or late at night.
- Hentian Duta, Jl Duta, . A small bus station serving express north-bound services. There are no public transport services to this station however if you head to Hentian Putra you can take a taxi to this bus station.
- Pekeliling Bus Terminal, Jl Tun Razak (Near Titiwangsa LRT & Monorail Stations), . This terminal handles some bus services to the East Coast, including Taman Negara and Local bus services.
There are quite a few bus companies that arrive and depart from Kuala Lumpur. Below are a list of the major companies that operate. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Transnasional , +60 3 2070-3300 is Malaysia's biggest long-distance bus company. Economy class departures to Singapore's Lavender Street terminal at 08:45, 10:30, 13:30, 17:30, 22:30 & 23:59 - RM30 one-way and takes 5h.
- Konsortium Bas Ekspres Semenanjung ( +60 3 2070 1321) has several buses daily to/from the Golden Mile complex in Singapore.
- Alisan Golden Coach Express , Hentian Pudu Raya, +60 3 2032 2273 have three buses every day which leave Kuala Lumpur to Hatyai, departure at 09:00, 22:00, and 22:30, ticket around RM45, 7h journey.
Most important roads in Peninsular Malaysia lead to/from Kuala Lumpur. The city lies about midway along the North-South Expressway (Motorway) (NSE; route numbers E1 and E2) which runs from the Malaysia-Thailand border at Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah to Johor Bahru in the south, on the Malaysian side of the Causeway to Singapore. The main expressway exits for Kuala Lumpur on the NSE are Jalan Duta (from the north) and Sungai Besi (from the south). The Karak Highway (E8), which later turns into the East Coast Expressway, links Kuala Lumpur with the East Coast states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan. For those who do not want to pay toll, Kuala Lumpur is on Federal Route One (the "Trunk Road") which, like the NSE, runs through all West Coast states of Peninsular Malaysia from Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah to Johor Bahru. Those travelling along the West Coast Road (Federal Route Five) should leave the road at Klang and get to Kuala Lumpur via the Federal Highway.
Kuala Lumpur is not located by the sea, so it is not possible to get in directly by boat. The nearby Port Klang, about 40 km west of Kuala Lumpur, serves as the main port for this region. Ferries operate international services from Sumatra, Indonesia and a domestic service to Pulau Ketam. Cruise ships also call at Port Klang, usually on the way to other destinations in Asia, allowing for a day trip to Kuala Lumpur. For more information refer to the Port Klang article.
Transportation - Get Around
Kuala Lumpur's ambitious public transport system is sufficiently developed to be fairly efficient and convenient, but much room for improvement lies in its integration. The city, like many developing cities, suffers from paralysing traffic jams periodically throughout the day. In the rush hours, consider combining various methods of transport.
Urban rail comes in four distinct flavours, which are not always fully connected. All lines, with the exception of the Ampang/Sri Petaling LRT lines travel through Kuala Lumpur's main transport hub, KL Sentral. However to reach the Ampang/Sri Petaling lines from KL Sentral involves a simple trip on the Kelana Jaya LRT to Masjid Jamek station.
- The LRT is a light rail transit system and is the closest thing to a metro system in Kuala Lumpur, with three lines making up the system. The Ampang line and Sri Petaling line merge at Chan sow lin station and run on the same platform at all stations to Sentul Timur station. This line can be used for access to Chinatown and Pudu Sentral Bus Station at Plaza Rakyat station. The Kelana Jaya line travels through several key tourist areas including Pasar Seni station for Chinatown and the central market, KLCC station for the Petronas Towers and Suria KLCC shopping centre. Additionally you can alight at Masjid Jamek station and transfer to the Ampang/Sri Petaling lines without leaving the ticketed area.
- The KL Monorail is an entirely elevated line that loops through the Golden Triangle in a semi-circle. Use this line for access to Bukit Bintang, a major shopping area, or Bukit Nanas, for clubbing at Jalan P. Ramlee and the Petronas towers. Be aware that fares are a little more expensive than the LRT. Is often quite congested but plans are under way to its double capacity, with completion expected sometime in 2013.
- The KTM Komuter is a commuter train service and comprise of two lines that meet in the city centre and run out to the suburbs. The service is not as frequent as other rail in Kuala Lumpur and it is not odd for trains to be late either. Despite this the rolling stock is quite modern and fares are cheaper than the LRT and Monorail. The KTM Komuter is great for travel to Batu Caves and Midvalley Mega Mall.
- The Express Rail Link (ERL), completed in 2002, runs between KL Sentral and Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) with 2 types of train services, KLIA Ekspres and KLIA transit. The KLIA Ekspres service runs non-stop between KL sentral and KLIA, taking 28 minutes, whilst the KLIA Transit service stops at Salak Tinggi,Putrajaya/Cyberjaya and Bandar Tasik Selatan en route, taking 36 minutes.
In the past connectivity between the different lines was quite poor but upgrades to the system have helped to integrate a few key stations along the LRT and Monorail lines without purchasing separate tickets. To transfer between the Kelana Jaya line and Ampang/Sri Petaling lines, alight at Masjid Jamek. For transfers between the KL Monorail and Ampang/Sri Petaling lines then alight at either Huang Tuah or Titiwangsa stations. Beyond the above mentioned interchange stations the only way to transfer between lines is to purchase separate ticket for each leg and potentially walk for some of the journey.
The Touch 'n Go card (RM10 at major stations) can be used on all lines except the airport express. Photo ID is required to buy the card and it can only be bought on weekdays and part of Saturday. Concession prepaid cards are available but require proof of qualification.
A few quirks of the Kuala Lumpur Rail Network:
- The LRT lines have had various names in the past (Kelana Jaya line was the PUTRA line; Ampang line was the STAR line), don't be surprised to see signage different from the names listed here.
- KL Monorail's "KL Sentral" station is not that close to KL Sentral. The way between the two is signposted and generally has a steady stream of people you can follow. Briefly: from KL Sentral leave via the exit by Burger King, go down the stairs, turn left and follow road to the street corner. After crossing the road, turn right and continue until you reach KL Sentral Monorail station. However, starting from 29 March 2014, the train and monorail stations will be more smoothly integrated through the new NU Sentral shopping mall.
- Trains usually follow a timetable, with the period between trains decreased to two/three minutes at peak hours. However, if the "driverless" trains of the Kelana Jaya line breakdown, services may be disrupted for two hours or more, although such breakdowns are few and far between.
Normal red and white taxis (RM3 first 2 km, then around RM0.90/km) and bright blue executive taxis (RM6 flagfall + a slightly higher per kilometre rate) are good options if you can get them to use the meter. There are also various small surcharges for radio call (RM2), baggage (RM1 per piece), etc.
Drivers are less likely to use the meter when demand exceeds supply, such as during the rush hour or when it rains. Prices then become negotiable (before setting off) and inflated (2-10 times the meter price). This is illegal but realistically the only thing you can do is walk away and find a different driver (by law they are required to use the meter). A cab hailed off the street is more likely to use the meter than one that stalks tourist spots. If stuck with a driver that won't use the meter, negotiate hard: RM5 should cover most cross town trips of 15min or so, even with traffic. If you are staying in an expensive hotel, hide your affluence and give a nearby shopping mall as your destination instead.
After midnight, meter prices are increased by 50% (e.g. at 01:00, if the meter shows RM12, you pay RM12+6).
During rush hour it's generally best to combine public transport with taxis.
A few popular places (notably both airports, KL Sentral, Menara KL and Sunway Pyramid Megamall) enforce a prepaid coupon systems, which generally work out more expensive than using the meter, but cheaper than bargaining. Taxis from Pavilion Shopping Mall's taxi counter cost the meter with a RM2 surcharge.
Some taxi drivers will hang around near hotels offering tours similar to those offered by established companies. Some of these drivers are quite knowledgeable and you may end up with a specially tailored, private tour for less than the cost of an official tour. Know the going rates before driving a bargain!
If you get so off the beaten track that you need to call a cab, here are some telephone numbers:
- Comfort Cabs +60 3 6253-1313
- Sunlight Taxi Unicablink 1300 800 222 (www.sunlighttaxi.com)
- Public Cab +60 3 6259-2020
- Uptown Ace +60 3 9283-2333
- Keeganlam Executive Taxi services +60 17 663-2696
- Executive Taxi Tour Service +60 14 267-5934
Double-decker KL Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing tour buses serve 42 notable places. There is free Wi-Fi on board. An information commentary is given through headphones. Tickets (valid for 24 or 48hrs) give unlimited use during their validity. Children under 5 ride free. The buses are scheduled every half hour but waits may be as long as two hours due to traffic jams, so try to maximize use of the service outside rush hours.
The free bus service Go KL started 1 September 2012 in the Central Business District (CBD) with two circular bus routes. The Purple Line starts at Pasar Seni and travels to the shopping area of Bukit Bintang, where it links up with the Green Line looping around KLCC. From 1 May 2014, two more routes have been added. The Red Line connects the North of CBD with the South, linking KL Sentral to Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman through the Chow Kit area. At Medan Mara it meets the Blue Line, which goes on from there to join the per-existing lines at Bukit Bintang .
RapidKL operates a cheap and comprehensive public bus network in and around Kuala Lumpur, but low frequencies (2-3 per hour on most routes) and the near-total lack of signs makes this a poor option for the casual visitor. The buses themselves have clear destination information; so if you happen upon one heading in the right direction, jump on board - though be prepared for cramped waits in rush hour traffic. For those (few) attractions best visited by bus, specific bus information is given at each place of interest on this page. If you do venture on board a RapidKL bus, it's worth noting that these buses are broadly divided in three categories:
- Bandar (B) routes are city centre shuttles,
- Utama (U) buses travel to outlying suburbs
- Tempatan (T) buses are feeder services for train stations.
For all three RapidKL routes, you can either buy zone-based single tickets (RM1 for Zone 1, up to RM3 for Zone 4) on board, or use a Touch 'n Go card (sold on board). In addition, Ekspres (E) services use the highways and cost a flat RM3.80. Buses run from 6AM-11PM or so, with no night services.
Kuala Lumpur has good quality roads, but driving in the city can be a nightmare with massive traffic jams, a convoluted web of expressways and often-confusing road signage. If driving, be especially aware of sudden lane changes by cars and reckless motorcyclists who tend to weave in and out of traffic.
Do not park in the road in busy districts such as Bangsar or Bukit Bintang because other cars might block you by parking next to you in the 2nd or 3rd lane. Use covered car parks or park a bit off the beaten path, and then walk back.
Renting a car is an option for travelling in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia.
The old centre of Kuala Lumpur fairly compact and the old buildings in various state of repair are great for exploring on foot. Even plodding between the colonial area and the new glass and steel sector is enjoyable outside the hottest hours of 11:00-03:00. Major roads are well lit, making evening strolling undaunting and pleasant. Signs are clear and well placed and pavements are wide and uncluttered, but slippery in the rain. Shady tree-lined walkways provide shade on some of the larger roads. Pedestrian crossings are common and are generally respected by drivers. Jaywalking is technically illegal but overlooked (on-the-spot fine: RM20/30 for tourists/locals if unlucky).
This circular walking tour (2-3h) starts in Chinatown and loops through the modern Golden Triangle, missing the historic buildings of the old centre:
- Start in Chinatown (Petaling Street)
- Head towards the vertically striped wedge of the Maybank building. Head along Jalan Pudu, passing to the left of Pudu Sentral bus station. After 800 m, turn on to Jalan Bukit Bintang at the Royale Bintang Hotel.
- Jalan Bukit Bintang is a major shopping street: stop for coffee atBintang Walk, or check out the electronics mega-mall, Plaza Low Yat.
- When Bintang meets Jalan Sultan Ismail and the monorail, turn left, following the monorail.
- After 1 km of Sultan Ismail, turn right on to Jalan P. Ramlee. This lead to the Petronas Twin Towers. Be amazed!
- Head back down Jalan P. Ramlee
- Merge onto Jalan Raja Chulan near the KL Tower and head back to the Maybank building and Chinatown.
If you're fortunate enough to do this walk on a typical Sunday afternoon you will find a calm and attractive city.
Like many cities in SE Asia, KL presents a great challenge for travelers with mobility impairments. Sidewalks are often in disrepair, curbs are high, and curb cuts are often missing or inadequate. Wheelchair users will frequently find their path of travel obstructed by poorly designed or narrow sidewalks, parked cars, motorcycles, fences, stairs, trees, etc., and will rarely be able to travel more than 50 meters without having to backtrack or divert to the road. In many areas of the city, it is virtually impossible to travel without an assistant. Crossing the road or having to wheel on the road (in case the sidewalk is obstructed) can be very dangerous, as many drivers do not expect, nor yield to, wheelchair users. You will occasionally find accessibility features like ramps or elevators obstructed or unserviceable. A notable exception are the KLCC and Bukit Bintang areas, where shopping malls and pedestrian areas are built to modern accessibility standards. Public buildings, hotels and malls provide an adequate supply of handicap bathrooms. Much of the rail system is inaccessible, most notably the monorail (which is in the process of being fitted with stair lifts, but is currently off limits). Some buses are equipped with ramps, but they are assigned haphazardly and do not run on a fixed schedule. Many locals will not be used to seeing travelers in wheelchairs, but will generally be helpful.