It is hard not to fall in love with the capital of Malaysia: one of the youngest capitals of Southeast Asia wins hearts with its bold youthful and cosmopolitan character. The rich colonial heritage coexists in harmony with state-of-the art skyscrapers, lush parks are a welcome oasis of tranquillity to escape to after the world-class shopping marathons, and ethnic dishes of Chinese, Indian, Muslim and Western cuisine make your mouth water. The Petronas Towers, the highest twin towers in the world, rise proudly in the heart of the capital, commanding views over the modern bustling city.
How to get to Kuala Lumpur from Bangkok
There is no direct alternative to a flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. To get from the Thai capital to the Malaysian one overland you have to be ready for a daylong journey with at least one stopover at Padang Besar. You can choose any bus/train combination depending entirely on your travel preferences.
The overland distance from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur is 1470 km, and if you drive without pit stops, you will reach your destination in 18 hours. Though technically it is possible to cover the distance between the two cities in one and the same day, the journey is going to be quite tiresome, and if you have at least a bit mote time at your disposal, it can prove a better idea to split it into two parts: from Bangkok to Padang Besar and from Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur.
Tip There is not much to do in Padang Besar proper, so it may prove a better idea to get off your train or bus in Hat Yai. Spend a day in Hat Yai to have a quick glimpse of this large southern city and then continue your trip to Malaysia.
From Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur by train
If you wish to make Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur journey by rail, note that from May, 2016, there is not direct service between Hat Yai in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. First take train #35.1 [from Bangkok to Padang Besar in Songkhla operated by Thai Railways and be ready for a long, 17-hour railroad adventure. Second class AC sleeping cars are normally ok: you have enough privacy and comfort at a very reasonable price (THB1200). There is always a dining car in the train and vendors patrolling the cars do not lack: you are most definitely not going to die of hunger during the trip and will be able to enjoy the scenery. The train leaves Hua Lamphong at 2.44pm and reaches Padang Besar the next day by 8am.
In Padang Besar you have to go through immigration formalities and walk to Padang Besar train station in Perlis, in Malaysia. From there you have a choice of ETS trains heading to Kuala Lumpur (from five to 7 hours, MYR80 for ETS Gold).
Note that you will hardly catch the 9.30am train #9213, which would be the best option and most probably will have to while away some seven hours before the next departure at 4.15pm (train #9209).
Another option is to hop onto an hourly KTM Komuter trains from Padang Besar to Butterworth, from where there is a larger choice of departures for Kuala Lumpur throughout the day (MYR60). Trains take a bit more than four hours to cover the 350 km stretch from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur. The earliest train you are likely to catch is #9233 at 2.55pm; if you miss it, there is a bunch of evening trains, too. Note though, that with any of these trains you will arrive to Kuala Lumpur late in the evening, so arrange your accommodation in advance.
Probably a more convenient way to get from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur by train is to opt for any of numerous trains from Bangkok to Hat Yai first, All of these slower trains have first and second class sleeping cars on offer priced between THB825 for a second class fan sleeper and THB1850 for a first class AC single occupancy sleeper. For more detailed information about this journey, check our Bangkok–Hat Yai page.
The shortest possible travel time from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur in case of train+train combo is 32 hours.
Tip: Before setting off for Malaysia, revise visa requirements for your passport. The majority of the nations get 30 or 90 days free visa now, but to be on the safe side, double-check.
Immigration offices of Thailand and Malaysia are located in the border town of Padang Besar, around 60 km from Hat Yai, on the Malaysian side. You have to take all your luggage and go through Thai immigration first to get your passport stamped out and then through Malaysian immigration. Immediately after Malaysian immigration booths there is security check. All the border formalities finished, you can proceed to Padang Besar train station in Pelis..
Tip: Do not change your Thai Baht to Malaysian Ringgit on board the train: the exchange rate is absolutely hefty. You will get a better deal once you arrive to Kuala Lumpur.
In Kuala Lumpur, trains arrive to Kuala Lumpur Sentral, which is also a real architectural delight. Just the mere fact it is going to be your first port of call in Malaysia adds a special flavour to your travel, believe us. A large-scale intermodal transport hub, Kuala Lumpur Sentral is the point of origin of many intercity routes all over Malaysia and Singapore, as well as KLIA Ekspress and KLIA Transit high-speed airport trains. KL Monorail Sentral Station is easily reachable via overhead bridge from KL Sentral.
From Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur by train+bus
Arguably the most comfy way to get from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur is by train+bus combo. An epic 17-hour rail travel from Bangkok to Hat Yai is not as bad if taking a berth in a sleeping car (THB825-THB1850). Trains from Bangkok arrive early in the morning – perfect timing for catching a morning bus to Kuala Lumpur (THB480-THB560), which brings you to your destination much faster than a train (8 hours compared to 12½ hours). If you really do not want to make a stopover in Hat Yai and are in a hurry to get to Kuala Lumpur from Bangkok as quick as possible, this is most probably the best combo to opt for, taking into consideration price, length of the journey and level of comfort.
The shortest possible travel time from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur in case of train+bus combo is 27 hours.
From Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur by bus
There are a lot of buses plying the route between Bangkok and Hat Yai. You have a wide choice of Express, VIP and VIP24 coaches to suit every taste and pocket (THB750-THB1150; about 13 hours). Take any of the buses operated by Sri Siam Tour, Siam Lane Tour or Piya from Bangkok to Hat Yai and connect to Hatyai Inter Top Express buses from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur (9am, 10am, noon and 7pm; THB480-THB560).
In Bangkok southbound buses use the Southern Bus Terminal, Sai Tai Mai; in Hat Yai buses from Bangkok arrive to Hat Yai bus station opposite Tesco Lotus, three km southeast of Hat Yai railway station and about 1.5km from Hatyai Inter Top Express bus station from where buses to Kuala Lumpur depart. It is located in Nipatuthit 3rd Road next to the Hat Yai branch of red-coloured CIMB Bank, off Manasruedee Road. To catch your next Hatyai Inter Top Express bus, walk or take a tuk-tuk (not more than THB100) to the company’s bus station.
The shortest possible travel time from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur in case of bus+bus combo is 23 hours.
From Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur by bus+train
There is not much sense in taking a bus from Bangkok to Hat Yai first and then change for a train to get to Kuala Lumpur as after the direct train from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur terminated its operation, you have to get from Hat Yai to Padang Besar, clear all your immigration formalities and than board a train to Kuala Lumpur in Padang Besar.
The shortest possible travel time from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur in case of bus+train combo is 27 hours.
Flights from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur
Taking into consideration current offers of budget airlines serving the route between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, even the most ardent adherents of overland travel may at some point change their mind and give preference to a quick two hour flight over a 20+ hour overland adventure.
An associate of the Indonesia-based Lion Air company, Thai Lion Air makes three daily flights from Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA); while the leading regional low-cost airline AirAsia has up to a dozen daily flights. It takes 2¼ hours to get from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur by plane and costs from THB2,000 one-way with AirAsia; even less during promotion periods. With Lion Air the air fare fluctuates between THB2800 and THB5800, but normally if you are flexible with your dates you can always get a deal just under USD100 per person (THB3600), which is only from THB500 to THB1000 more compared to what you would pay for any combination of a train and a bus on the same leg.
In Bangkok both Lion Air and AirAsia are based in Don Mueang International Airport to the north of the capital. To get there, use airport shuttle buses (routes A1 and A2). A1 starts from Morchit bus terminal and A2 originates at the Victory Monument, calling en route to Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai and Morchit BTS stations (THB30). The latter is also served by A1 route. Travel time depends on traffic and is from 60 to 80 minutes. There are commuter trains between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, too. Trains take about 50 minutes to get from the railway station to the airport and are always a secure bet. Operating time is from 4.20am till 10.25pm.
After landing in Kuala Lumpur, the best way to get to/from KLIA to the city centre is by KLIA Ekspress and KLIA Transit services. The former brings your to the destination in just 28 minutes. Trains operate between 5am and 12.30am, tickets costs MYR55 one-way. There is also a cheaper shuttle bus (MYR10), going from/to KL Sentral. Bear in mind, though, that travel time of it may vary greatly depending on traffic which tends to be quite intense in Kuala Lumpur. In any case, expect to spend about one hour from KLIA to KL Sentral and vice versa.
With an endless list of museums, churches, mosques and temples, historical buildings, shopping opportunities and natural attractions in and around Malaysian capital, the time spent in Kuala Lumpur is never enough. You can make your visit as diverse and busy as you wish but by all means try to find some time for a very special experience which visiting of any of the following places can enrich you with:
Petronas Twin Towers are easily a whole-day destination. From getting up to the Skybridge on the 41st-42nd level and to meditating to the intricate dance of the fountains at the foot of the towers after dark, you will hardly find a moment for boredom.
Menara Kuala Lumpur may seem just a humble relative of its more famous counterparts elsewhere but it definitely offers the best view of the city with Petronas Twin Towers right in front of you. The revolving restaurant is a great place for an elegant lunch or diner, too.
Kuala Lumpur boasts many green areas and zoos, but Kuala Lumpur Bird Park located in the scenic Lake Gardens is an absolute stunner, especially if travelling with your little ones in tow. The natural aviary with freely flying birds transports you right in the heart of a rain forest.
Batu Caves with the iconic image of Lord Murugan look cheerful and colourful from outside with all those Hundu deities meeting visitors at the entrance gates just at the foot of the stairs, but the system of million-years caverns at the top does impress even more.
Central Market is every shopping lover’s start destination which combines food venues, shops, entertainment programs all under the same roof of an amazing art deco masterpiece. Central Market gives you a real taste of KL shopping which goes far beyond the exquisite boutiques of Suria KLCC next to Petronas towers.
Your onward travel from Kuala Lumpur
Venturing further south from Kuala Lumpur, popular destinations which can be reached overland from Malaysian capital, include Melaka, Muar, Batu Pahat and Singapore.