Traveling through coach is the cheapest way to get to Malaysia. Save even more on your coach ticket with these practical tips.
Come Easter, there will be the usual rush of people buying coach tickets to Malaysia. If you aren’t going to drive or fly, this is about as cheap as it gets.
Still, there are ways to further shave costs. Here are 8 things you can do to save money on coach tickets without compromising quality.
1. Don’t Put Your Faith in Brands
Some of the more famous coach bus companies have better marketing. Without pointing fingers, these are the names that appear most often on online booking sites, or have big ad placements. Their fees can be 10 – 20% higher than other operators.
Experience tells us that there is little real difference between a “premium” coach company and the less famous counterparts. Don’t be quick to assume that a more well-known brand means a more comfortable or reliable ride.
Compare prices and check web reviews for lesser known companies as well.
2. Check the Refund Policy
Sometimes the coach gets unreasonably delayed during peak periods, or just doesn’t show up. In these cases, you want to make sure there is a clear refund policy in writing.
You may end up having to use another coach service in these situations. Without the refund, you will be paying twice.
3. Never Buy Tickets from Wandering Agents
Buy tickets from a booth, an office, or online. Unless you are truly desperate, try not to buy tickets from the agents wandering near the coach busses.
A common scam involves dressing up like a valid agent and offering to sell cheap tickets to unwitting travellers. If your coach bus is a no-show, or you were late and missed it, one of these scammers might approach you with a “cheap” alternative.
The tickets they give you may be useless bits of paper they printed themselves, or you may be asked to wait in an area for a non-existent bus.
4. Double-Check the Luggage Policies
Some coach services have tighter restrictions on luggage or about what you can bring aboard. Most are quite liberal with these policies, but don’t take anything for granted. You don’t want to have to dump anything at the point of departure because the coach operator won’t let it on board.
Certain types of foods or liquids, or luggage of certain sizes, may not be allowed. Never make assumptions, and check before booking.
Related Article: 8 Insider Secrets to Booking Cheaper Trips Online
5. For Connecting Buses, Account for Travel Times
If you will need a connecting bus, be sure to observe the travel times. More than one visitor to Malaysia has ended up with an unexpected hotel stay or having to book an alternative connecting bus.
It’s an old guideline that the distance in kilometres, divided by 100, will give you the number of travel hours. Always add 90 minutes on top of this to account for inevitable delays.
6. Use a Credit Card that Gives Points or Rebates
Don’t assume that all credit cards will give you cashback or reward points for booking a coach service. Some issuers don’t consider this a form of travel or retail spending.
Check with your issuing bank if coach tickets qualify for rewards points or rebates. You can also just use a cash rebate credit card that gives you some cashback on all spend, like the American Express True Cashback card or the ANZ Optimum World MasterCard.
7. Ensure Sufficient Disabled Access
Many coach companies will boast that disabled access for the elderly or people in wheelchairs is “no problem”. The reality can be quite different.
Some coach buses technically have disabled access, but it is so squeezed and uncomfortable as to mandate taking any service altogether. Although rare these days, older coach services may be uncomfortable for the elderly – without air conditioning, the heat and crowding can be unbearable to seniors.
Be wary of these conditions when booking a ticket. They often cause groups to have to book an alternative coach on the day itself, which means money lost.
8. Always Keep the Coach Bus in View
Never assume that customs will hold the coach bus for a long time (although they often do), or that the bus will adhere to strict timing at rest stops. It is not unheard of for coach buses to pull out while leaving a few stragglers behind.
If that happens, having to pay for another coach bus will be the least of your problems. Getting your luggage back will be a bureaucratic nightmare. And if you left your wallet, phone, or passport in a carry-on bag on the bus…good luck. Even we don’t have an easy solution to that. In fact, we recommend you keep these on your person at all times.
Whenever you get off the coach bus, always keep it in view. Be ready to dash for it, if you sense that it’s about to leave without you.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.