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 from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur
A major transportation hub of Southern Thailand, Hat Yai is a convenient starting point for trips further south to Malaysia. Though in May, 2016, and then in September, 2016, huge changes were introduced into Malaysian rail system, resulting in termination of operation of the direct train between Thailand and Malaysia, Hat Yai still offers direct bus links to Malaysia and travelling by rail to Kuala Lumpur from Hat Yai via Padang Besar is also possible.
From Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur by train
There is no more direct rail service between Hat Yai and Kuala Lumpur. Yet you can make a combo train-to-train journey. Twice a day there is a shuttle train from Hat Yai in Thailand to Padang Besar in Malaysia. The ride lasts 55 minutes; trains depart at 7.30am and 1.05pm Thai time. No advance booking is required for these tickets; buy them directly at the station (THB80).
Note that there is one hour difference between Thailand and Malaysia, meaning you will arrive to Padang Besar at 9.25am and 2pm Malaysian time respectively.
Five ETS trains a day go from Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur. The journey takes about five hours, and tickets cost from MYR80 to MYR107 depending on the class of the car. All of them are seats. There are trains at 7.45am, 9.30am, 4.15pm, 5.15pm and 8pm, the three latter arriving to Kuala Lumpur late at night.
Though you have to change trains, such trip is considerably shorter that the old direct rail service from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur, which used to take over 12 hours to reach the capital of Malaysia.
Hat Yai train station is conveniently located in the centre of the city at the intersection of Th. Rotfai and Thumnoonvithi Rd. If you do not feel like walking to – or are too far from – the train station, use a tuk-tuk to get there: tuk-tuks are readily available throughout the city and normally ask reasonable prices. Do negotiate the cost of your trip before you get on, though.
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 Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur by bus
If rail travel is not your thing, consider taking a bus from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur instead. There are no sleeping buses serving this route, but standard VIPs and VIP24s are comfortable enough to let you survive an eight-hour journey. The main bus station for southbound long-distance buses and vans in Hat Yai lies two km southeast of the centre, but some operators use their own departure points, located more centrally. Hatyai Inter Top Express buses for Kuala Lumpur leave from Nipatuthit 3rd Road next to the Hat Yai branch of red-coloured CIMB Bank, off Manasruedee Road, while Alisan Coach has their own terminal in Shee Yuthit Road, not far from the railway station.
Hatyai Inter Top Express offers four buses a day from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur, at 9am, 10am, noon and 7pm. The slowest and plushest VIP24 leaves at 10am and takes eight hours to reach its destination. Tickets cost THB560 or MYR65. All the other buses are VIPs (THB480 or MYR55; 7½ hours). Alisan Express operates six buses a day for MYR60. All of them are VIP buses.
In Kuala Lumpur, Hatyai Inter Top Express and Alisan Coach buses bring passengers to Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, the main transportation terminal in the southern part of Kuala Lumpur. There are information kiosks and counters to help you find your way around Kuala Lumpur, free Wi-Fi at Level 4, ATMs, convenience stores and a large food court at the terminal. The most convenient way to reach the city centre from the bus terminal is to get to Level 3 and walk over the link bridge to the main lobby of TBS-BTS (Bandar Tasik Selatan), from where KLIA transit, LRT and KTM Komuter bring passengers to the city.
Note that evening buses (7pm and 7.30pm) reach Kuala Lumpur rather inconveniently at small hours (2.30am); and all other earlier buses arrive to Kuala Lumpur in the late afternoon or in the evening. It is a good idea to book your accommodation in Kuala Lumpur prior to your arrival, as it is not a great experience to browse concrete and steel-clad streets in the dark trying to spot a budget place to stay.
Flights from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur
Flying from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur is an easy one-hour alternative to taking a train or a bus. AirAsia connects the two cities twice a day with flights departing at 12.35pm and 4.35pm. Normally you should be able to get a ticket for under THB1500 one-way.
In Kuala Lumpur, you arrive to KLIA2 terminal. The best way to get to/from KLIA2 to the city centre is by KLIA Ekspress and KLIA Transit services. The former brings your to the destination in just 33 minutes and the latter takes 39 minutes. KLIA Ekpress 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.
Things to do in Kuala Lumpur
With an endless list of museums, churches, mosques and temples, historical buildings, shopping opportunities and natural attractions in and around the 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.