Arriving by air in KL, and plan to travel to Thailand and Laos. Rather than fly to Bangkok, we are considering the rail option, possibly spending a few days in Penang before continuing north. Would love to hear from anyone who has travelled by rail from Malaysia to Bangkok, or even to Hua Hin (for example), as to their experience. As we know KL well, and will stay there en route back to Australia, we are thinking of taking the train the same day we arrive. We arrive in KL around 12:30pm. Believe the sleeper to Butterworth leaves KL at 23:00hrs, and arrives in Butterworth at 06:30hrs, but not sure if that's still the case.
From what I've read, it seems that one has to change trains at Butterworth, and that the next train north to Thailand leaves at around 14:20hrs. Is this still the case?
Is the border crossing for "foreigners" (Australians, in our case) straightforward? (Assuming adequate time allowance is made for processing passengers at the border.)
Any suggestions and/or advice would be most welcome.
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The Padang Besar border crossing is easy. The train stops, you shuffle off, you get your passport stamped, you get back on. But be aware that you will only get a 15-day visa-exempt entry unless you arrange a proper Thai tourist visa in advance (in Australia, KL, Penang). This gets you a 60-day entry extendable 30 more.
Thanks for your response, Captain Bob. Glad to hear your description of crossing the border by train. Will definitely arrange a proper Thai tourist visa in advance.
Have you travelled from Malaysia to Bangkok by rail? If so, would you recommend it?
I've done the Butterworth to Bangkok several times and it's fine,better than the bus I think. The food that is sold on the trains is expensive (relatively), as is the beer, so we take our own food & booze!
If you haven't travelled on the trains before it works something like this (at least in 2nd class): Two seats face each other with a table between them the length of the coach. Around 9 pm the guard converts the seats into an upper & lower berth, so you have to go to bed around 9pm! You really want to book an upper & lower berth (rather than 2 lower) that way you will sit together, where as if you choose 2 lower berths then you may have to sit in 2 seperate seating areas if the train is full. Anyway, it's very easy and a great way to travel!!
I have done the other direction Bangkok to Singapore a few years ago. Only the cheap seats were available on short notice from Bangkok to Hat Yai . I stayed in Butterworth overnight pretty close to the train station. (I had been to Penang and Hatyai previously.) Hat Yai might be another place to stay overnight. I used the Kings Hotel not far from the train station in Hat Yai.
The ride is long and often pretty noisy. But I prefer a train to a bus because I can get up and stretch out a bum leg. On the Malaysian portion no free snacks - no blanket either. I didn't find the chicken and rice dishes too expensive in the food car. On the Thai portion, in the cheap seats, snacks and beverages were free. Thin blankets were handed out. I had First Class seating from Butterworth to Singapore. These seats were something like business class seats on a plane.
Bring a thin jacket or at least a shirt with long sleeves because at times with the A/C on it can be a little chilly. Bring books to read. A few snacks may come in handy. I always keep my bags locked on planes, trains and buses.
A good part of my travel was at night. Not much to see at night. During the daylight you could see the backsides of dumps, factories and junkyards. Occasionally you see something nice out the window but not often enough. Another potential stopover place in Thailand might be Surat Thani.
If you want a sleeper car book early, especially near holidays.
Thanks for your responses. Some great tips. Much appreciated.
Looks like we'll have to re-think our plans now, since I found out that if we travel overland into Thailand, we'll only be issued a 15 day visa. If we fly into Bangkok from KL, we'll be given 30 days and won't require a visa. Cannot believe this law, but what can you do? You'd think the Thai government would want to encourage tourists to stay for more than 15 days.
Heard that the visa exemption period for Aussies was still 30 days, but had no idea that you had to fly in to Thailand to be granted that privilege. Seeing that the 15 day rule has been in for three years, I guess the Thai government won't revert to 30 days within the near future.
Does anyone have up-to-date information on the visa situation?
Thanks again for your response and suggestions.
You can read this very long thread about visa exemption etc. on the
In short, I can't see the 15-day thing being reversed anytime soon, although there will be a new Thai Immigration Commissioner appointed on October 1, 2011
One can always hope (although this policy is handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) but meanwhile as I wrote above if you want a longer stay get a Thai visa in advance (or you can fly in for 30 days).