In Bangkok or Singapore and want to see the other place cheaply? You can make it both ways for less than the price of an air ticket, as long as you have a few days to spare.
- In Bangkok, go to any travel agent that has a sign showing “train tickets” or to the train station. The main Bangkok station that has trains going south is called Hualamphong station.
- Buy tickets to Butterworth, Malaysia. Once you cross into Malaysia you will exit the train and go through immigration and customs. Be sure to check “in transit” through Malaysia. The train from Bangkok leaves at 2:45pm and takes about 23 hours. It costs about 1,100 Baht for a second class sleeper. This is a wide seat facing another seat that later converts to an upper and lower berth.
- Set the days in advance and get the tickets as early as possible. Tickets can be purchased the day of travel, but often only the upper berths are left. They are left because they are not comfortable usually.
- The train leaves Butterworth at 9:30pm and arrives in KL around 6:30am the next day. The ticket office in KL is easy to find since everything is in Malay and English. The KL station looks like a nice airport.
- Arriving in KL you have 3 options. An 8:30am train, 2:30pm, and 10:30pm. If the train is not late (which is unlikely), the 8:30 would be most timely. If you have a long layover, at least 4 hours, you can catch the Light Rail train from inside the KL Sentral station to KLCC station which is the Petronas towers. The tallest buildings in the world.
- The KL to Singapore trip takes about 7-8 hours. The day trips are on regular trains with two seats. There will be a movie (an old TV and crappy VCR at both ends of the cars) and they will be in English. You will pass through customs around Johor Bahru.
- Again it is advisable to buy your return ticket to KL IN KL. It will save large amounts of money due to the exchange rate of the RM to the Sing Dollar.
- Several private bus companies will offer cheaper trips that don’t stop in Butterworth, KL, or Hat Yai. They go all the way through. Use the trains because buses often break down and customs/immigration takes much longer. Plus, the buses claim to have bathrooms, which they do, but no one can use them. Once a passenger used the bathroom for “sitting” purposes and had to clean it out himself after the trip.
- Plan for at least 2 full days, possibly 2.5 depending on which trains you get.
- Notice on the Sinagpore and Malaysia immigration sheets it clearly says death to drug smugglers. For more information about smuggling drugs in Thailand, Malaysia, or Singapore be sure to read ” The Damage Done”.
- If the train is overnight but starts during the day, a train attendant will change the seats to beds after dinner. All sheets and pillows are provided. There is a curtain to keep the lights out and offer privacy. The lights stay on all night.
- Buy your ticket from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur IN KL or somewhere else in Malaysia. From Singapore the ticket will cost 34 Sing Dollars, but from Malaysia it will cost 34 RM, which is considerably cheaper with the exchange rate.
- If you are going to the Petronas towers get there as early as possible as there are “limited tickets” which run out as early as 2, even though they close at 5. If you can’t get into the towers you can take a taxi to the base of the KL Tower which is visible from the Petronas. There is also an area in front of the towers to take a decent picture.
- Singapore has a great MRT subway system which takes you pretty much anywhere you want to go. There is a $1 deposit on each trip so be sure to get a refund when you finish each trip. The maximum size Sing $ note that the automatic machines will accept is $5.
- The KL Tower costs 20RM to get to the top and it includes an audio explanation of what you can see.
- Keep your tickets on you and handy at all times since they do random ticket checks.
- Watch other people when exiting for customs/immigration. Sometimes you need to take your bags other times you don’t.
- If you don’t speak any Thai or there aren’t English speaking Thais around you, you might want to tell the conductor or train attendant your destination. They will usually come and remind you when it’s near. If you want to exit at Surat Thani which links to several Thai islands, you might want to have someone write a note and tape it outside your berth that says “I get off at Surat Thani, please notify me”. The train arrives there at 2am.
- Fill out all your customs/immigration forms as soon as you get them to expedite your passage through the lines.
- The train goes through Hat Yai in Thailand, which is currently a foreign office no go zone both to AND THROUGH for British citizens, and possibly other nationalities. This is due to the ongoing unrest in this part of Thailand. If you are in a ‘no go’ zone your travel insurance is invalid. So think carefully about whether you should be there at all.
- You can also stop at Hat Yai in Thailand on the way down and then get a train all the way to KL. However, be careful when you exit the train (and sometimes before) touts will approach and ask where you are going. When you tell them they will promptly pull you to a private bus company across the street where they get a commission. Find someone wearing an official Thai Railways uniform to ask quesions about the train.
- If you take a taxi to the KL Tower, take it to the STREET ENTRANCE of the tower, not all the way up to the base entrance. The taxi driver will say he has to take a 10RM ticket to get get and you have to pay, but it’s a scam. Taxis don’t have to pay it. There is a free shuttle from the street to the base.