Kuala Lumpur is served by two primary airports, KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) and Subang though you are far more likely to find yourself at the former than the latter.
KLIA (KUL) is Kuala Lumpur’s main hub for international and domestic flights on full-service airlines. KLIA2 (also KUL) is officially a part of KLIA, but it feels and operates like a separate airport—it serves international and domestic flights on budget airlines, principally Air Asia.
Subang, officially Skypark Terminal Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (SZB) handles some freight and a small number of domestic and short haul international flights.
Generally speaking if you’re flying AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, Jetstar or Scoot you’ll be using KLIA2. If you're flying Malindo or Firefly domestically you may end up at Subang, and for everyone else you’ll be at KLIA.
KLIA & KLIA2: http://www.klia.com.my
To and from KLIA and KLIA2: Train
By far the quickest way to get to the airport, is by the KLIA Ekspres, which takes just under half an hour to reach KLIA from KL Sentral (and three minutes later you’ll reach KLIA2).
Trains depart KL Sentral in central Kuala Lumpur between 05:00 and 00:40 daily, with a departure every 15 minutes at peak times and every 20 minutes at off-peak times, with the service taking 30 minutes to reach KLIA and 33 minutes to reach KLIA2. In the reverse direction, the first train leaves KLIA2 at 04:55 and the last one at 00:55.
The fare in either direction is 55 ringgit for an adult and 25 ringgit for a child (aged 2 to 12).
There is a second train service, the confusingly named and similarly marketed KLIA Transit, which is not a non-stop service. Instead it stops at Bandar Tasik Selatan (for Kuala Lumpur’s main bus station), Putrajaya and Salak Tinggi. This operates between slightly different hours. The first train leaves KL Sentral at 04:33 and the last one at 00:03, while the first train leaves KLIA2 at 05:48 and the last at 00:59. The service takes around 5 minutes more than the KLIA Ekspres and costs the same. You really only want to aim for this service if you’re headed to or from the bus station.
Tickets can be purchased online from the train operator direct, via Travelfish partner Easybook or in person at the station. With the frequency of services you do not generally need to book in advance.
While this is considerably more expensive that the using the bus, it is also a lot more comfortable than the bus! Bear in mind once you have two or three travellers, an airport taxi will be cheaper.
KLIA Ekspres (and KLIA Transit) T: (03) 2267 8000 http://www.kliaekspres.com
To and from KLIA and KLIA2: Bus
KLIA clearly wants tourists to take the most expensive option, the KLIA Ekspres, but buses offer a much cheaper alternative.
Aerobus operate between KLIA2 and KL Sentral with dozens of departures daily (essentially around every 20 minutes between 03:00 and 00:30) costing 9 ringgit for an adult 5 ringgit for a child if purchased online beforehand direct from Aerobus.
Star Shuttle run from both KLIA and KLIA2 to downtown with a service every 30 to 45 minutes throughout the day. The bus picks up and drops off street side on Jalan Tun Perak, behind Mydin Mall. This is very convenient for Chinatown and Little India, which are only a five and ten minute walk away respectively. The fare is 12 ringgit. Tickets can be purchased online through Travelfish partner Easybook or in person at the airport (or street side downtown).
Note in our opinion, it is not necessary to book the above buses in advance as they are very frequent and you can generally just show up and hop on one—we’ve never had to wait for a later bus.
If you need to transfer between KLIA and KLIA2 there is a free shuttle bus or you can use the train for 2 ringgit.
If you are not planning on heading into Kuala Lumpur, you can get a bus direct from KLIA/KLIA2 to other destinations in Malaysia including Melaka, Ipoh, Penang and so on. There are bus ticketing booths at each terminal, or you can book your ticket online through Travelfish partner Easybook.
Not all destinations are served from KLIA though, and for a wider range of destinations, get the KLIA Transit (see trains, above) to the main bus station at Bandar Tasik Selatan and get a bus from there (unless you are heading to Taman Negara, in which case you will need to head into town—see bus section below).
Sample destinations and fares include:
Ipoh 40 ringgit, 7-8 departures daily, taking 3.5 hours. Check timetable with Easybook
Johor Bahru 55 ringgit, 12 departures daily, taking 3-4 hours. Check timetable with Easybook
Melaka 24-35 ringgit, over 20 departures daily, taking 2 hours. Check timetable with Easybook
Penang 56-65 ringgit, 7-8 departures daily, taking 5.5 hours. Check timetable with Easybook
To and from KLIA and KLIA2: Taxi
Taxis might be a wild extravagance at many airports around the world, but from KLIA they are fairly decent value, so long as you use a budget taxi. A journey into central KL should cost 75 to 80 ringgit, though note a surcharge of 50% is in effect between 23:30 and 06:00. For roughly 100 ringgit you can get a premier cab into town, while the luxury and family (eight-seat van) services cost about 200 ringgit.
All taxis at KLIA are run by Airport Limo and can be booked online or over the phone. Make sure you use one of the official taxi coupon counters, and insist on the service you want, as some tourists have reportedly been talked into into taking a more expensive option. In the other direction, all taxis are allowed to drop off at the airport, with 80 ringgit the most commonly quoted fare, with a 50% surcharge between 23:30 and 06:00.
Car hailing services such as Grab and Uber can also be used to the airport. Grab quoted us 65 ringgit from Brickfields to KLIA2.
Airport Limo T: (1300) 88 8989 http://airportlimo.my
To and from Subang: Bus
There is an hourly shuttle bus service between Skypark Subang and KL Sentral with the first bus leaving in each direction at 09:00 then hourly through till 21:00. The service takes an hour and costs 10 ringgit. There is also a shuttle service between Subang and KLIA and KLIA2 which costs 10 ringgit and leaves every one or two hours between 05:00 and 23:00—Subang to KLIA2 takes around an hour.
To and from Subang: Taxi
A prepaid taxi coupon between Subang and KL Sentral costs 44 ringgit. If you want to save a little money you could get the LRT from KL Sentral to Kelana Jaya station and then get a cab from there, but we’d recommend just getting a cab from Sentral and being done with it.
Kuala Lumpur is the hub for the entirety of Peninsular Malaysia’s rail system and KL Sentral station (not Kuala Lumpur station) is the epicentre of most things trains-related in the peninsula. KL Sentral is the hub for the KLIAExpres and KLIATransit airport rail links (see above), five mass transit lines and a monorail line (see “Getting around” below), the KTM Komuter trains and, last but not least, the KTM Intercity trains.
Of all these, if you’re looking to get to (or leave) Kuala Lumpur, the last one, the KTM Intercity trains, are the ones you need to worry yourself about. Kuala Lumpur sits midway along the “North line” which runs from Gemas in the south to Padang Besar on the Thai border. A second line, the “East line” runs from Gemas, through Jerantut (for Taman Negara), then along what is called the “Jungle Railway” through to Pasir Mas and Wakaf Bharu (either station is useful for Kota Bharu) and finishing up to Tumpat. The “South Line” runs from Gemas south to JB Sentral and Woodlands (for Singapore).
This means if you are heading to or from Singapore in the south or Kota Bharu in the north east, you will need to change at Gemas to get to KL (and the reverse obviously). If you’re heading north to Ipoh, Butterworth (for Penang) or Padang Besar (for Thailand) it is plain sailing straight through to and from KL.
Tickets can be purchased online through the KTMB website, through Travelfish partner EasyBook and direct at the station. Booking in advance is prudent, especially in holiday periods when the trains can be booked solid.
Popular routes include:
Butterworth Departs KL Sentral at 09:00, 11:00, 15:35, 17:09, 18:12, 20:10 and 22:45 taking 4–4.5 hours and costing 59 ringgit. Check times with Easybook.
Ipoh Departs 12 times daily, taking 2-2.5 hours and costs 25 to 46 ringgit. Check times with Easybook.
Padang Besar Departs KL Sentral at 06:45, 09:39, 11:40, 18:12 and 23:22 taking 5.5–6.5 hours and costing 76–102 ringgit. Check times with Easybook.
If you want to get the train to Jerantut (for Taman Negara) or Kota Bharu (for the Perhentians) you need to get to Gemas first where you will need to change trains for the train to Kota Bharu. There is one train a day, costing 34 to 40 ringgit, which departs Gemas at 23:31 and arrives at Kota Bharu 13 hours later. To get to Gemas in time from Kuala Lumpur you need to get the 11:53, 13:07 or 18:22 trail from KL Sentral. The trip to Gemas takes around 2.5 hours and costs 31 ringgit. Note that if you are heading to Jerantut you arrive at 04:00 in the morning...
In KL Sentral, the ticket office is at the far end (west) of the terminal when walking in from the monorail station. Walk all the way through the main concourse and the ticket office is on your right. You can queue up and buy, or buy your ticket via a kiosk.
In recent years the bus system in Kuala Lumpur has been greatly simplified and, for the vast majority of destinations, you need only worry about one bus station, Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) in the southern reaches of Kuala Lumpur. The station is well integrated with both Kuala Lumpur’s mass transit light rail and the airport rail link (stop: Bandar Tasik Selatan). There is one important exception to this—if you are heading to Taman Negara you need to use Pekeliling Bus Station near Titiwangsa monorail station.
TBS has centralised ticketing, which means you just queue up at any ticket desk, tell the staffer where you want to go and you’ll be shown a list of all the buses going there along with pricing and departure information. You pick your bus, select a seat, and that’s it—you’re ready to go!
Malaysia has dozens of bus companies (of varying quality) and this centralised ticketing system makes life far far easier. Tickets can also be purchased online through the official TBS website, with Travelfish partner Easybook, through kiosks at the terminal or just in person. With so many providers, as long as you have some flexibility you can probably show up and just buy your ticket on the day, but over holiday periods it can be prudent to book in advance (either online, or by going to TBS beforehand).
Popular destinations include (all of these have multiple departures throughout the day):
Ipoh takes 3 hours and costs 20–30 ringgit Check schedule
Johor Bahru takes 4.5 hours and costs 35 ringgit Check schedule
Kota Bharu takes 9.5 hours and costs 45 ringgit Check schedule
Kuala Perlis (for Langkawi) takes around 7 hours and costs 47-50 ringgit Check schedule
Kuala Terengganu takes around 4.5 hours and costs 30–45 ringgit Check schedule
Kuantan (for Cherating) takes around 4 hours and costs 12–25 ringgit Check schedule
Melaka takes around 2 hours and costs 10–13 ringgit Check schedule
Penang takes around 5 hours and costs 35–45 ringgit Check schedule
Singapore takes 4–5 hours and costs 45–80 ringgit Check schedule
A note regarding buses to Singapore, there are also direct bus services to Singapore from downtown spots. Transtar picks up from in front of the Berjaya Times building near Imbi monorail station for example, while others pick up in front of the Five Elements Hotel in Chinatown and others still by KL Sentral. These can all also be booked with Easybook or through travel agents in KL.
For those heading to Taman Negara
There is one exception to all of this. If you wish to get a bus to Jerantut for Taman Negara National Park, you need to go to Pekeliling Bus Station (the closest station is Titiwangsa (on both monorail and Sri Petaling LRT line)) from where the station is just a few minutes away on foot (you can see it from the monorail platform). There are also services from here to Genting Highlands and Kuantan.
Kuala Lumpur has a quite comprehensive (and continuing to expand) mass transit system which, for the casual tourist, brings much of the city within reach. It is however quite confusingly designed and signposted—we’ve never, in our life, got so many wrong trains as in KL!
Currently (as of late 2017) the system is formed by nine lines. Two are KTM Komuter lines (the Seremban and Port Klang lines), three are LRT lines (the Ampang, Sri Petaling and Kelana Jaya lines), one is an MRT line (Sungai Buloh–Kajan line), two are the ERL airport links (KLIA Ekspres and KLIA Transit) and last but not least there is the monorail. These lines are managed by three different organisations (MyRapid, KLIAEkspres and KTM) and the ticketing, if you are buying tokens day by day, is not integrated between the different systems. The lines are poorly integrated, with station “interchanges” often a ten to fifteen minute walk apart—one wonders if there was much in the way of central planning involved. If you thought Bangkok’s mass transit system meshes together poorly, prepare yourself.
So, if you are in Kuala Lumpur for anything more than a few days, we strongly advise you buy a prepaid mass transit card, called the MyRpaid Touch ’n Go card. Once you have purchased it it lets you use any of the above networks (plus the bus system) without needing to worry about buying the correct token to the correct station. The card can be purchased at most station kiosks. The card effectively costs 5 ringgit, but you pay slightly lower fares than if you’re buying tokens individually and take our word for it, the card is worth it for the convenience.
From a tourist’s point of view, one of the main points of confusion is there are entirely separate stations with the same name. Bukit Bintang is the primary worry wart for tourists as there is a Bukit Bintang monorail station and a Bukit Bintang LRT station on the Kelana Jaya line—but they are not connected via an interchange. Likewise KL Sentral (monorail) and KL Sentral (the main rail hub for the city) share the same name but are not connected (there is a shopping mall between them) and they are a ten minute walk apart. Why “planners” used the same names for different stations on different lines is totally beyond us.
Arguably the most useful line is the LRT Kelana Jaya Line, with stops at Bangsar, KL Sentral, Pasar Seni, Masjid Jamek, Kampung Baru and KLCC. New on the block, the MRT Sungai Buloh Kajang line is useful for Muzium Negara, Pasar Seni and Bukit Bintang. The LRT Sri Petaling line is good for Titiwangsa, Masjid Jamek and Bandar Tasik Selatan (for the main bus station). The creaking monorail is handy for KL Sentral, Tun Sambanthan, Maharajalela, Imbi, Bukit Bintang, Chow Kit and Titiwangsa. In particular the monorail should be avoided at peak travel times when it can be completely jammed.
Of the Komuter lines, the KTM Seremban line, which runs from downtown to Batu Caves is the most likely one you will use.
KLIA Ekspres & KLIA Transit https://www.kliaekspres.com/
MyRapid runs public transport buses throughout downtown, but for the casual tourist a lack of a useful bus route map is a bit of a hindrance to get your head around how the system works. Thankfully there is a better service, the GoKL bus service, and it is free.
GoKL runs four bus loops, the green, purple, blue and red lines. All are free and you can hop on and off as you please. Service runs Mo–Th 06:00–23:00, Fr–Sa 06:00–01:00 and Su 07:00–23:00 with a service supposedly every five minutes, though we waited for longer at times. The purple and green lines are especially useful for tourists. Purple includes Pasar Seni, KL Tower, Pavilion and Bukit Bintang. Green includes Pavilion, Bukit Bintang and KLCC. Red includes KL Sentral, the national museum, the national mosque and Merdeka Square.
Stations are well signposted and the buses are in good condition. A downloadable map is available from the GoKL website
KL taxi drivers have a poor reputation, which was until recently richly deserved. But thanks to concerted government action, drivers are less likely to cheat tourists and will often use the meter without even being prompted! Rogue drivers still exist, but they are much less common now—our advice, should you decide to use a taxi is to wave one down—don’t use a parked taxi, (for example the ones at the end of Petaling Street) as they’ll often still refuse to use the meter. KL has two main types of cab: budget or economy, which are normally red, yellow or green; and premier/executive cabs, which are normally blue and are considerably more expensive.
Ride hailing services including Grab and Uber are widely used in Kuala Lumpur.
Kuala Lumpur ranks as one of the least pedestrian-friendly cities in the world. The older bits of town do have footpaths, but these are often blocked by parked cars, motorbikes, restaurant seating and hawker stalls. Any road crossing is a potentially dangerous affair—local drivers often appear to be not all that pedestrian aware. When crossing the street outside of a pedestrian crossing, raise your hand to indicate a car should stop and walk slowly and predictably—don’t randomly sprint across the road.