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Sitting 200 km north of Kuala Lumpur in the western part of Peninsular Malaysia, Ipoh is one of the largest cities of Malaysia and the capital city of the state of Perak. Further 130 km north Penang island lies – a popular destination for domestic and international tourism, making Ipoh a strategic stop between Kuala Lumpur and the island. Ipoh is known as the City of Millionaires, the nickname reminding of the vast fortunes which were made there in the 19th century when tin-mining industry was booming in the region. Though there are beautiful temples and some handsome historical buildings in the city, Ipoh is more well-known for a thriving food scene. It also serves as a convenient base for exploring a couple of interesting caves around the city complete with cave temples and murals and as a starting point for further travel to Penang island, to the north, or Pangkor island, to the east.
How to get from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh
Ipoh sits in the western part of Peninsular Malaysia north of Kuala Lumpur and on the route to Penang. The distance between Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh is about 200 km, and the journey between the two cities, either by bus or by train, will take between two and three hours only. Pricewise there is no much difference which means of transport to choose.
From Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh by train
ETS trains are the fastest way to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh. Trains depart regularly throughout the day from Kuala Lumpur Sentral and arrive to Ipoh railway station which is often considered the second most beautiful railway station in Malaysia after the iconic KL Sentral itself.
Opened in 1917, Ipoh Railway Station is dubbed Taj Mahal by the locals for its stunning beauty. The building features Moorish details which blend harmoniously with baroque architecture.
ETS offers three types of cars: ETS Silver, ETS Gold and ETS Platinum, all of which differ in price (MYR25/35/46) and the level of comfort. For such a short journey, ETS Gold would be a perfect choice. The first train departs Kuala Lumpur at 6.50 am and the last one at 11.40pm. During the day there are trains every hour and a half with shorter intervals during the evening rush hour, between 5pm and 9pm, when Ipoh people working in Kuala Lumpur head back home.
In Kuala Lumpur, KL Sentral, the largest railway station in Malaysia, is located in Brickfield, also known as Little India. To get to KL Sentral, use LRT, KL Monorail, KLIA Ekspres and KTM Komuter which all pass through the station.
From Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh by bus
Buses from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh leave from different bus terminals in Kuala Lumpur. It may be handier to catch one if you stay anywhere close to the bus terminal. Otherwise it is often easier to get to KL Sentral and take a train instead.
Billion Stars Express operate several buses from TBS, the largest transport terminal in Kuala Lumpur, located in the southern part of the capital. To reach it, use KLIA transit, LRT and KTM Komuter. Buses from TBS spend more to reach Ipoh than trains or buses from other terminals do as they have to cover a longer distance, starting from the south of Kuala Lumpur. Expect your journey by bus from TBS last up to four hours. Tickets cost MYR25. You can catch a Billion Stars bus at One Utama, to the northwest of the capital, at the same price. Travel time will be one hour less in this case. All Billion Stars buses terminate at Aman Jaya bus terminal, 16 km north of Ipoh railway station, which is not always convenient if you are planning to stay in the centre of the city.
Other useful bus terminals where you can catch a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh include Pudu Raya and Berjaya Times Square. The former sits rather centrally between KLCC and Bukit Bintang, the latter is east of KLCC.
Similarly, in Ipoh buses from Kuala Lumpur arrive to different bus terminals with the overwhelming majority using the already mentioned Aman Jaya in the north. There is also a bus terminal in Jalan Bercham, 13 km northeast of the centre, and a rather central Jalan Bendahara bus terminal, 2 km south of railway station and the Old Town. It pays to check in advance where your bus from Kuala Lumpur is actually heading.
From KLIA and KLIA2 to Ipoh
There is a direct service between KLIA/KLIA2 and Ipoh at a reasonable price (MYR42). Star Shuttle Express operates eight buses a day between Kuala Lumpur airports and Aman Jaya bus terminal in Ipoh. Buses cover 250 km in about 3½ hours and normally use ELITE Expressway which allows them to bypass the city congestion on their way from the airport.
Getting around in Ipoh
While strolling around the Old Town is a pleasure, you will need to take a bus or a taxi to visit more distant sights. There is a local bus station in the Old Town in Jalan Tun Abdul Razak. Do not hesitate to ask directions at the information desk at the bus station as destination signs on local buses are scarce and it is not always easy to figure out your way.
Strangely enough for Malaysia, taxi drivers in Ipoh do not use metres. Always negotiate cost of your taxi ride before the trip.
Where to stay in Ipoh
Two main areas to be checked for budget accommodation are clustered around Jalan Ali Pitchay and Jalan Sultan Iskander. Expect to pay from MYR50 to MYR100 for a very modest room. Always have a look at the room before checking in even in more expensive hotels as the stars they show at reception very often have nothing in common with the quality of rooms and service they provide.
Activities in Ipoh
The state of Perak lists periods of Dutch and British colonialism in its history, and Ipoh features quite a number of historical buildings bearing colonial influence. You can set off for a self-guided Ipoh Heritage Walk following the map of the namesake official tour or just join the one.
While in Ipoh, one should not miss the opportunity to taste local specialty dishes, including chicken and bean sprouts. The two most famous city institutions for this dish are Lou Wong Restaurant and Onn Kee Restaurant. Another Ipoh specialty is white coffee, which is actually coffee beans roasted with some sort of palm oil margarine – it also makes for a great souvenir to bring back home from Ipoh.
A number of cave temples and caves around Ipoh are a good destination both for sightseeing and caving. For the former head to Sam Poh Tong cave (local bus #94 from the Old Town bus station brings you there; 7 km southeast of Ipoh), and then proceed for the latter to Gua Tempurung, which is the largest limestone cave in Peninsular Malaysia (30 km southeast of Ipoh).
From Ipoh to Pangkor island
Though Pangkor island is about five times smaller than its more famous neighbour, Penang island, it remains one of the most beautiful islands off the shoes of Peninsular Malaysia. No large-scale parties, but a lot of family oriented fun, sandy beaches, emerald waters and an easy reach from Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh or Penang: it is easy to understand why Pangkor island enjoys such a popularity.
The closest railway station to the jetty from where ferries to Pangkor leave is in the town of Batu Gajah, from where it is a 40-minute taxi ride to the jetty. You can still consider taking a train if starting from Kuala Lumpur, but from Ipoh bus to Lumut is the only reasonable choice. There are buses to Lumut from Aman Jaya bus terminal (one hour). From Lumut you will need to take a slow ferry to Pangkor Town on the island. The sea journey usually takes about 45 minutes. Ferries depart regularly from 7am till 8pm and cost MYR10 for the round-trip.
Your onward travel from Ipoh
Continuing your travel northwards from Ipoh, a two-hour train journey will bring you to Butterworth in Penang with Penang island or towns of Thai Deep South as your further possible destination. For detailed instructions for getting from Butterworth to Georgetown, check our Kuala Lumpur to Penang page or go to Butterworth to Bangkok page if you are planning to get to Thailand afterwards.