Between budget flights, driving a car, coach rides and trains, which is the best way to travel to Malaysia?
Now that leisure travel is back on the table, many of us are no doubt planning holidays in our neighbour up north.
With a combination of delicious food, a variety of destinations and a heavily favourable exchange rate, it’s easy to see why Malaysia remains a popular destination among travel-starved Singaporeans.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that getting there and back is relatively easy and convenient, given the close geographical proximity and availability of multiple travel options.
Both air and land modes of travel are equally accessible, but each has different characteristics that may tilt the balance, depending on your circumstances and preferences.
So, which is the best way to travel to Malaysia – air or land?
Travelling to Malaysia – air travel vs land travel
|Air Travel||- Travel by plane
- Lesser possible destinations (can only land at designated airports)
- Higher cost
- Shorter travel time
- Bypass Causeway jams
|Land Travel||- Travel by train, coach or car
- More possible destinations
- Lower cost
- Longer travel time
- May be caught in Causeway jams
In general, we think travel options should be weighed between a balance of duration and cost.
After all, nobody wants to spend the majority of their holiday getting there and back – or worse, stuck in traffic jams for hours on end.
On the other hand, spending a large portion of your holiday budget on transport to your destination and back home isn’t ideal either.
So with that premise in mind, let’s take a closer look at each travel option, using Kuala Lumpur as our destination where applicable.
SingSaver's Best Price Travel Campaign: All successful applicants of participating Travel Insurance products will receive 1x draw chance to enter our weekly lucky draw where 1 lucky winner will stand to have their flight ticket reimbursed (up to a maximum of $2,000). Valid till 31 July 2023. T&Cs apply.
|Travel Insurance||Premium for Individual Cover||Covid-19 Coverage||Promotion|
|Allianz Travel Insurance
||from S$34.10 (for 1 week in Asean)||Yes||
Use promo code AzSSV to get a 45% discount (Exclusive to SingSaver) and up to $60 via PayNow.
Valid till 30 May 2023. T&Cs apply
|MSIG Travel Easy
||from S$34.10 (for 1 week in Asean)||Yes||
Score an Airalo eSIM with 1GB data and receive it within 4 working days when you apply now! Valid till 12 June 2023. T&Cs apply.
Enjoy 40% off your Single Trip premium and 20% off your Annual Trip premium. Plus, receive up to S$38 via PayNow when you apply.
Valid till 31 July 2023. T&Cs apply.
|Etiqa (TIQ) Travel Insurance
|from S$39 (for 1 week in Asean)||Yes||
Single Trip: Use promo code TIQSINGSAVER to enjoy 40% off when you apply.
Annual Trip: Use the promo code TIQSINGSAVER to enjoy a 60% discount and S$20 cashback on your COVID-19 add-on.
Valid till 18 June 2023. T&Cs apply.
|Starr TraveLead Travel Insurance
||from S$11.05 (for 1 week in Asean)||Yes||
Use the promo code SSVTL35 to enjoy up to S$48 via PayNow, a 35% discount, plus an exclusive Agoda promo code.
Valid till 30 June 2023. T&Cs apply.
|FWD Travel Insurance
|from S$22.50 (for 1 week in Asean)||Yes||
Use the promo code TRAVEL25 to get 25% off on Single Trip and Annual Trip plans.
Valid till 31 May 2023. T&Cs apply.
AIG Travel Guard® Direct
|from S$30 (for 1 week in Asean)||Yes||
Score an Airalo eSIM with 1GB data and receive it within 4 working days when you apply now! Valid till 16 June 2023. T&Cs apply.
Single Trip: Use promo code SSFLASHSALE to get 10% off and up to $50 Dairy Farm eVoucher (fulfillment by AIG).
Valid till 30 June 2023. T&Cs apply.
Air travel to Malaysia
|Cost (return ticket to KL)||From S$75 to S$109|
|Duration (flight time)||Around 1 hour|
At the time of writing, a return flight ticket between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur costs around S$75 to S$100+. By most standards, that is really affordable.
Additionally, the time taken to fly to KL is a breezy 1 hour. Add to that the customary 3 hours for boarding and customs clearance, and you can be at your holiday destination in around 4 hours – less if you’re lucky. The same duration can also be expected when coming back to Singapore.
So flying to Malaysia is fast and affordable. But are there any disadvantages?
Well yes. For one, because you’ll need to land at an airport, you’ll have limited destinations to choose from – such as KL, Ipoh, Penang and Kuantan on the Malaysian Peninsula. If you’re aiming to go to another city, you’ll need to arrange for a second form of transport from the airport.
For another – and this is really nitpicky, btw – air travel is arguably more stressful, and comes with more restrictions. You’ll need to make certain packing restrictions around liquids and sharps objects are adhered to, and have to contend with sharing an enclosed space with strangers.
Land travel to Malaysia
|Cost||Coach: S$30 to S$35 each way
Own car: S$50 each way for petrol
Train: S$40 each way
|Duration (Travel time)||6 to 8 hours, depending on method|
Travelling to Malaysia by land offers up slightly more variety, but not always for the better.
To get to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore, you can choose between a coach, driving a car, or taking a train.
While train rides hold their own allure, unfortunately the SG-KL route is decidedly less attractive. This is because there is no direct train from Singapore to Malaysia’s capital.
Instead, you’ll need to take a train from Woodlands to Johor Bahru, switch to a train going to Gemas Negeri Sembilan, and then from there, hop onto a shuttle train to finally arrive at KL Sentral.
That’s three times you’ll need to change trains, which may be too inconvenient and complicated than its worth.
In contrast, travelling by coach and car make for more convenient, less stressful choices – you’ll be able to travel directly from Singapore to KL and back.
Coach travel is the most fuss-free option as you can simply sit back and enjoy the ride. Driving, too, can be equally enjoyable; you can set the pace of the journey, and make impromptu stops along the way.
So what about the cost?
Well, getting to KL by coach, car or train can be cheaper than taking a plane, but the difference is very slight, a mere $20 or so in the best case.
And not to forget, you’ll need to contend with the notorious Causeway jams that can last several hours, especially during peak travel periods and long weekends. This means you’ll be squeezed for time on your holiday, which is a prospect nobody finds enjoyable.
But are there any advantages to travelling to Malaysia by land? Ok yes, there is one, but it’s really very situational.
Travelling by coach, car or train will allow you greater flexibility in terms of destinations. You can conceivably drive all the way up to the borders to Thailand and back if you want, and make a stop at any city or town along the way.
But, the benefits of being able to do this is dubious and impractical for all but dedicated travellers with the time, interest and means to backpack all over Malaysia.
Conclusion: Choose air travel whenever possible
So, going back to our premise of balancing cost vs duration, we can conclude that the superior way to travel to Malaysia is via aeroplane – hands down.
The cost of a return flight ticket can be on par with land travel options. Flying also saves you the most transit time, which means more time for you to enjoy your holiday. And finally, air travel may not be quite as freewheeling as land travel, but it is arguably the safest and most convenient option.
Therefore, choosing to fly to Malaysia is almost always going to give you the best experience. The only exception is if you are travelling to a city or town that doesn’t have an airport nearby, but seriously, who would go to such a place for a holiday?
Read these next:
5 Best Ways To Shop for Travel Insurance
Will My Travel Insurance Cover COVID-19?
How Different Will Travel Be Post COVID-19?
What Does ‘Complimentary Travel Insurance’ by Credit Cards Cover And Is It Enough?
What Happens if You Catch COVID-19 Overseas on a Holiday?
Best Travel Insurance In Singapore (2022)