Is there another Asian capital where the latest progress and traditional lifestyle blend in such a harmony as in Bangkok? Bold skyscrapers pierce the skies, golden temples adorn the city; chic shopping malls host top world brands while the vibrant street markets tempt with delicious flavours of the yummiest and spiciest local dishes. State-of-the-art skytrain cuts through the city, flying high above the street bustle, clumsy ferries ply the muddy waters of the Chao Phraya River and it seems that real magic helps speeding cheerful pink, yellow and green taxis find their way through the labyrinths of incredible Bangkok spaghetti junctions.
As centuries ago, the stately prangs of Wat Arun catch the first rays of sun dawning over the capital and the dazzling chedis of Wat Phra Kaew shine bright. Austere giant Yaks guard the capital while the Bangkokians and the guests of the Land of Smile alike dine and wine in the vertigo rooftop restaurants, work, party and picnic. Steel and concrete have not yet taken control over leafy parks and squares, and quaint khlongs embraced by wide modern thoroughfares are reminiscent of the times when the Bangkok of today was only a newborn.
From Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok overland
Similarly to Bangkok-to-Kuala-Lumpur travel, it is possible to get from the Malaysian capital to the Thai one overland. The journey is going to be a long one – prepare to spend at least 24 hours on the move. To make it less tiresome and more enjoyable we recommend splitting it into several parts with possible stopovers at the interchange stations.
From Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok via Hat Yai
From May, 2016, there is no more direct rail link from Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai. If you want to connect via Hat Yai, you have to take a bus. Opposite to trains, there are direct buses from Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai. Alisan Coach, among others, operate from TBS in Kuala Lumpur. Buses arrive to the company’s own terminal in Hat Yai in Shee Yuthit Road, not far from the railway station. From there you can easily walk to the railway station to catch a train to Bangkok. There are morning (8am and 9 am) and night (10pm, 10.30pm, 11pm) buses from Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai, all taking eight hours to arrive and all for MYR80. If taking a morning bus, you should be in Hat Yai in time for night trains #36 or #38; if you arrive with one of the night buses, you may opt for a morning bus from Hat Yai to Bangkok or take you time and spend a day in the city.
From Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok via Padang Besar
If you want to travel by train from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, then you have to connect via Padang Besar. There are four daily trains from Kuala Lumpur Sentral to Padang Besar in Perlis on the Malaysian side, all taking about six hours to get to the border (from MYR80).
In Padang Besar you have two options:
Option 1. Cross the border, get your passport stamped out of Malaysia and in to Thailand and hop onto train #36 of Thai Railways going from Padang Besar in Songkhla, Thailand, to Bangkok. The most convenient trains from Kuala Lumpur for this option are #9208 at 9.30am and #9220 at 6.50am (if you fear that a two-hour layover can be not enough to cross the border).
Option 2. From Padang Besar in Perlis take a shuttle train to Hat Yai in Thailand. There are only two of them during the day – 9.55am and 3.40pm Malaysian time). The only train from Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar to consider in this instance is #9220 as if taking any of the remaining three trains, you will have to spend the night in Padang Besar and to continue your journey the next day, which makes no sense.
In Hat Yai, you can choose one of the afternoon or evening trains to Bangkok (#42 at 4.20 or any of those leaving later).
Note that all the border formalities are performed in the town of Padang Besar on the Malaysian side of the border.
Tip Hat Yai makes for a logical stop over if you feel tired. Take your time, spend a day (or a night) in the city, savour the local flavour of Southern Thailand with a palpable Muslim twist and continue your northbound journey revived and reloaded.
Trains take from 16 hours to 18 hours to deliver passengers from Hat Yai to Bangkok, a bit longer than buses (14 hours), but offer all kinds of sleeping cars, from the cheapest but still quite acceptable second class fan sleepers (THB825) to the plushest first class AC single or double occupancy sleepers (THB1850). Trains leave Hat Yai in the afternoon and early evening reaching their terminus the next morning before noon. They bring you right to the centre of Bangkok to Hua Lamphong train station which enjoys great transport connections with all the other parts of the capital.
With buses you have a wider choice of departures – buses from Hat Yai to Bangkok leave throughout the day, from early morning till 8pm. There are Express, VIP and VIP24 buses to suit all tastes and pockets. Prices vary from THB700 to THB1100. In Hat Yai, buses to Bangkok leave from the main bus station located about 2km southeast from the centre and the train station and easily reachable by tuk-tuk. In Bangkok, buses from the South arrive to the Southern Bus Terminal, Sai Tai Mai, located on the Western banks of Chao Phraya river, quite far from the central part of the capital.
From Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok via Butterwort
On your way from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok you can pass via Butterworth, too, but it just adds an extra stop in your itinerary as there is no more direct train from Butterworth to Bangkok.
There is a whole bunch of trains from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth in Pulau Pinang with the first one leaving the capital at 9.15am and the last one – at 8pm. It is an easy 4-hour rail journey to Butterworth with seats only on offer (THB300-500/MYR35-60).
Buses cover the distance between Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth in more or less the same time as trains do and offer even wider selection of departures by different operators, including Seasons Express and City Express from 7am till 11.59pm. Buses depart from the major TBS hub, centrally located Pudu Raya and One Utama, in the northwest of the capital.
Tip: To get to Penang from Butterworth, take a ferry. Ferry leaves every 10 minutes from 5.30am till 11.30pm. There is a good choice of accommodation on the island, as well as things to do and to see. If you need to make a stopover on your way from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok and have to decide between Penang in Malaysia and Hat Yai in Thailand, consider the former. Though there are no problems with guesthouses in Hat Yai either, a big transportation hub of Southern Thailand can hardly compete with Georgetown with its fascinating colonial architecture, colourful multiconfessional temples and mouth-watering international cuisine.
To continue your journey from Butterworth to Bangkok, take a train from Butterworth to Padang Besar in Perlis and then follow the itinerary as in our ‘From Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok via Padang Besar’ section. Both #9500 and #9208 connect to shuttle trains from Padang Besar to Hat Yai. If you do not want to go to Hat Yai and catch train #36 from Padang Besar to Bangkok, then #9208 is a more convenient choice as you have less time to wait for your next departure.
Tip There are direct buses from Butterworth in Malaysia to Hat Yai in Thailand. Buses cost THB300/MYR35 and take 3½ hours to get to Thailand. Note that Billion Stars Express buses bring you to the company’s own bus station in Hat Yai, which is approximately half way between the main city bus station and Hat Yai train station.
Flights from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok
Though rail travel possesses an endless charm, a 20+ hour journey may prove too much to enjoy the measured rumble of train wheels and pastoral landscapes whistling by. One of the most popular air routes in South-East Asia, the Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok leg is served by a number of low-cost carriers, which work wonders reducing your travel time between the Malaysian and Thai capitals to sheer two hours.
Both Lion Air and AirAsia have daily flights from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok. Travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok is 2 hours 20 minutes.
Air fare fluctuates between THB1500 and THB5800, but normally if you are flexible with your dates you can always get a deal just under USD70 per person (THB2000), which is approximately the same or even less than what you would pay for any combination of a train and a bus on the same leg.
In Kuala Lumpur, the best way to get to KLIA from 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.
In Bangkok, low-cost airlines are based in Don Mueang International Airport to the north of the capital. It is connected with the city by airport shuttle buses (routes A1 and A2). A1 terminates at Morchit bus terminal calling en route to Morchit BTS. A2 heads to Morchit BTS first and then proceeds to Saphan Kwai BTS, Ari BTS, Sanam Pao BTS and finally reaches the Victory Monument (THB30). Travel time depends on traffic and is from 60 to 80 minutes. There are commuter trains between Don Mueang airport and Hua Lamphong train station, 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 3.10am till 10.15pm.
First time in Bangkok?
Time spent in Bangkok is never enough as the city offers virtually endless opportunities for exploring, sightseeing, dining and wining. While everyone will surely find an activity and a destination within Bangkok to their tasting, no visit to the Thai capital is complete without:
- Checking-in at the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew where the most revered image of Buddha in the whole country is hosted.
- A heavenly massage session at Wat Pho, the national headquarters of preservation of Thai medicine.
- A drink in one of the glamorous rooftop bars with an outstanding city view in a company of beautiful crowd.
- A river boat ride along Chao Phraya elbow to elbow with other commuters and unexpected water splashes into your face.
- Browsing the narrow twisted aisles of the crazy Chatuchak weekend market selling a wealth of souvenirs, cheap closes, local designer creations and exotic animals.
- A relaxed afternoon at Jim Thompson House, a leafy little oasis of peace and tranquillity by the side of a khlong.
- A strenuous ascend to the main prang of Wat Arun or to the top of the Golden Mountain.
- A ride on a skytrain for a bird’s eye view of the city.
Have a pleasant stay in Bangkok. Relax and enjoy – we know, you will!