Best way to get to Kuala Lumpur
PSA: we’ve bookmarked public holiday dates in 2024 and there are 5 long weekends to look forward to. They’re too short for long-haul vacations but they’re the perfect length for a trip to KL.
Alright, destination settled, now all that’s left is to decide how to get there. Good thing we’re breaking down the best way to get to KL from Singapore using a rubric that compares price, convenience, and travelling time. Here’s how different modes of transport rank up:
By plane: Fastest time even with check-in & immigration
Even in bad weather plus a hold up at baggage claims or customs, there still isn’t a faster way into KL.
Image credit: @progen13 via Instagram
Believe it or not, flying is the fastest way to get to KL – yup, even when you account for the time it takes to check in and go through customs.
Most passengers arrive 2 hours before departure for check in procedures, then it’s another hour to fly to KL, and around 30-40 minutes to clear customs and baggage claim. As any KL native can attest, traffic to the city centre can be quite the challenge itself. Even so, it’ll still only take about an hour to reach most things to do in KL.
If you’ve been keeping track, that’s a total of about 4.5 hours – give or take 30 minutes for really heavy traffic – to get from Singapore to KL. You can cut even more time if you have a successful E-Gate application for Malaysia customs.
Mind you, it takes even less time if you fly on Firefly from Seletar Airport. Check in is only required an hour in advance, and you’ll land in Subang Airport, which is 30 minutes from the city centre. That’s just a total of about 3 hours from SG to KL.
Pack your swimsuit – the Plaza Premium Lounge Singapore comes with a pool.
Image credit: Changi Airport Group
Plus, flying is quite convenient, as there’s no need for you to navigate much once you reach the airport. The time waiting in transit won’t be wasted either, if you book yourself a pre-departure snooze at one of the lounges at Changi Airport.
You also have a choice of more than 80 flights that depart from Changi Airport to KLIA daily, and another 6 more if you choose to depart via Seletar Airport.
The downside to flying is that it can be costly, with tickets averaging S$120 for a round-trip flight on a budget airline, not including check-in baggage nor transport to and from the airports.
Total score: 3.3/5
By bus: Most comfortable with optional perks
You’ll be dropped off in the heart of the city, maybe even right at the doorstep of your hotel.
Image credit: @weechee91 via Instagram
If you just want to get from point A to B without much hassle, then your best bet would be to hop onto a bus to get to KL. All you need is to book your ticket and board the bus. There’s no need to worry about driving in chaotic traffic or figuring out where to go since everything is planned out by the coach company.
Depending on traffic conditions along the way and at customs, buses usually make the 349.4km trip within 5-6 hours. Of course, this time includes pit stops for toilet and stretch-your-legs breaks.
You can even choose your pick-up point for Grab bus.
It’s surely the cheapest way to get to KL and you can even get tickets for a 1-way ride as low as S$12/pax. There’s no need to book way in advance either; you can schedule a ride via the Singapore to Malaysia Grab buses.
Image credit: Transtar Travel via Facebook
We do recommend splurging a little and opting for luxury coach services if you want a bus from Singapore to KL. From S$30/pax, you can get a bus with perks like expansive legroom, entertainment systems with free Wi-Fi, and even seats with massage functions.
There are a couple of cons to taking a bus, however. For one, pick-up times usually take place pre-dawn. And for two, passengers have often missed their buses after JB customs because many of them look the same. Just be sure to check what berth you’re supposed to return to and you should have a smooth-sailing trip to KL.
Total score: 4/5
By car: More flexibility for group trips
Try to have at least another driver to take turns with, otherwise a passenger princess-turned-DJ works fine.
Driving to KL can be a great activity for the group chat if you have all the necessities. The most obvi being a vehicle, plus a valid licence.
That isn’t to say those without cars can’t drive up to KL. You can always go with car rentals in Singapore, although being allowed to drive up to Malaysia comes with a premium of 30% of your rental fee when you do.
It’s more worth it if you start your road trip after passing JB customs, as car rentals in JB are more affordable from RM140/day (~S$40.06). Don’t forget you’ll have to factor in the cost of petrol too. Considering an average price of S$2.68/litre of fuel and 6.4 litres per 100km of travel, you’re looking at S$60 and up to drive to KL.
Time-wise, it’s a 4-hour journey from Woodlands to the city centre of KL, if you don’t plan on making any stops at all, and if traffic is all clear. But with 1-2 bathroom breaks, you’re looking at an average drive time of about 5-6 hours. First-timers making their maiden voyage to KL via car might want to check our Singapore to KL driving guide before the trip.
P.S. Since you already have a car, why not check out things to do around KL while you’re at it.
Pro tip: Apps like Waze and PLUS help you scout out traffic conditions ahead, so you can avoid congestion.
Convenience: 3/5, but 1/5 if you’re the driver
Total score: 3/5
By train: Scenic route if you have the time
Don’t worry, there’s more than 1 toilet aboard the ETS.
The platform at JB Sentral Station.
This one’s a little tricky, but if you’ve never taken a train into Malaysia before, it’s worth a try if you’re not in a rush to get there. There’s no direct railway from Singapore so this will require some planning.
Your first train ride will be on the KTM Shuttle, which will get you from Singapore to JB. You can secure your tickets directly online or via the KTMB app at just RM17.70/pax (~S$5.08) per trip. Just note that tickets sell out fast, especially around the holidays.
Once you reach JB Sentral, you’ll need to transfer to trains heading to Gemas, then once more from Gemas to KL. The combined cost of these 2 bookings is RM50 (~S$14.28). As for travelling time, the 3 train trips take a total of 6.5 hours, not including waiting and transiting times.
The mamak car onboard the ETS train.
Image adapted from: The Biannual Travellers via YouTube
Unfortunately, there are only 2 KL-bound trains from Gemas daily, so you should expect a more accurate estimate of 8 hours from Singapore to KL. Even with the long travelling time, the train rides are comfortable. As an extra perk, the train goes past plantations and the occasional kampong, offering a glimpse of Malaysia you wouldn’t often get to see.
Passengers are also allowed to bring their own food, or patronise the onboard mamak stall for drinks and instant noodles.
Pro tip: Book seats facing the same direction of travel to avoid motion-sickness.
Total score: 2.6/5
The best way to get to KL from Singapore
With a score of 4/5, travelling by bus is arguably the best way to get to KL. It’s one of the more affordable and convenient options with decent travelling time. But don’t just look at our scores – choosing a mode of transport to KL really depends on the who, what, when, why, and how of it all.
But with our breakdown, now you know your best options, so you can spend less time planning on getting there and more time figuring out more important things on the itinerary like kid-friendly hotels in KL and even getting around KL.
For more travel guides:
Cover image adapted from: @weechee91 via Instagram & KTM
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