Which is the Better Way to Travel to Malaysia – Land or Air?

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 15 August, 2022

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

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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.

Air travel to Malaysia

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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

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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?

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An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.