real malaysia travel secrets


Travel by bus to Malaysia from Singapore or Bangkok

luxurious interior of malaysian express bus
Interior of a luxury bus

Although not as romantic and as leisurely as trains, travel by bus to Malaysia is preferred for its comfort and speed. However, as with any other mode of transport, not all buses are created equal, some are better than others -- usually in reliability, comfort, and customer service.

Just like the 'Travel to Malaysia by trains' page, we will only discuss bus travel to Malaysia from either Singapore or Bangkok.

We shall also assume that your first stop is either the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, or Penang in the north. From both these cities you can easily make your way to any other part of the country.

By bus from Singapore to Malaysia

Travel by bus to Malaysia from Singapore is a stress-free affair, especially if you settle for the more reliable bus companies. Below are 3 bus operators that I highly recommend:

1. Aeroline

aeroline bus

Love their tagline. And they really do treat you like you were flying on a plane. My mom refuses to take any other bus except this one because of the first class treatment she enjoys every time she 'flies' with them.

They're also the only bus operator to provide fresh coaches for every run, unlike others which simply reverses direction with new passengers. Their website, in my opinion, is the easiest-to-navigate compared to all the other bus companies.

Aeroline fares:
Singapore - Kuala Lumpur SGD$47
Kuala Lumpur - Singapore RM80
Kuala Lumpur - Penang RM55

Note: Simple, user-friendly site. Easy to navigate.

Aeroline pick-up/drop-off points

- To zoom in, click on the plus sign (+), or double-click on the map
- To zoom out, click on the minus (-) sign, or right-double-click on the map
- To see more, click and hold to move the map around


NICE bus interior of NICE bus
A NICE bus and its luxurious interior, complete with personal TVs.

NICE stands for Nationwide Interstate Coach Executive, and their buses are, well ... nice. There are 3 different classes to choose from: NICE, NICE ++, NICE 2. For a more economical option, travellers can opt for the basic PLUSLINER. Though not as luxurious and classy, PLUSLINERs still operate on the same level of efficiency as NICE.

NICE fares:
Singapore - Kuala Lumpur SGD55
Kuala Lumpur - Singapore RM80

NICE and Plusliner embarkation/disembarkation points

- To zoom in, click on the plus sign (+), or double-click on the map
- To zoom out, click on the minus (-) sign, or right-double-click on the map
- To see more, click and hold to move the map around

Note: A basic website with an unnecessarily clunky interface for the 'schedules' pages. At this point of writing, some telephone numbers have not even been updated

3. Odyssey. 'Miles ahead of expectations'

Or so their tagline claims. Being a new bus company, they seem to be doing all the right things. Luxurious, comfortable and they even provide a personal TV with headphones for a quiet journey. The crew is friendly, the food good and the driver generally keeps to a safe speed. Punctuality is another one of their traits. Not much to complain about if you should to travel by bus to Malaysia with them.

Odyssey pick-up/drop-off points

- To zoom in, click on the plus sign (+), or double-click on the map
- To zoom out, click on the minus (-) sign, or right-double-click on the map
- To see more, click and hold to move the map around

SG - KL: SGD50 (peak period SGD60)
KL - SG: RM80 (peak period RM95)

Note: The website is very pretty but not practical; bloated with unnecessary flash and video, a hard-to-navigate site.

Other bus options for Singapore-to-Malaysia travel.

Besides Aeroline and NICE, there are many other bus companies that ply the Singapore-to-Malaysia route. They are, however, generally not of the same level of customer service, efficiency and comfort. That's not to say they should be avoided at all, just be prepared for some possible inconvenience. Here are a few that are quite acceptable.

4. First Coach

Generally a well-regarded bus operator with convenient pick-up and drop-off points for both Singapore and Malaysia. However, the biggest beef with many customers is that customer service leaves a lot to be desired. Calls to their office are constantly unanswered. One the features that passengers like is their Video-on-demand with individual screens. Another is the speed limitor, meaning the bus driver cannot drive as fast as he likes and must adhere to the speed limit. So far, this seems to be the only bus using this feature. Very commendable.

SG - KL: SGD33
KL - SG: RM70

Note: Basic website. Provides just enough information

First Coach pick-up/drop-off points

- To zoom in, click on the plus sign (+), or double-click on the map
- To zoom out, click on the minus (-) sign, or right-double-click on the map
- To see more, click and hold to move the map around


5. Airebus. 'Fly first class'

crew of airebus

Big seats on a double-decker bus always give the impression of luxury, and to a certain extent, Airebus does live up to expectations. However, like First Coach, Airebus suffers from less-than-acceptable customer service and its frequent inability to keep to schedules. It does however; offer excellent pick-up and drop-off points in Orchard Rd, Singapore; and Mid-Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur.

Note: user-friendly website, but actual service doesn't quite live up to the 'glossy' features highlighted

What about other bus companies?

There are numerous other bus companies to choose from if you should decide to travel to Malaysia by bus from Singapore but I have decided not to mention them, as the ones above provide more than an adequate choice of buses to get you here without undue stress.

However, if there's one thing to avoid when travelling by bus from Singapore to Malaysia, it's this:

Try to AVOID buses that drop you off at Puduraya bus terminal in Kuala Lumpur. It's also a hub for local interstate buses so you can imagine what a hot, dusty, busy, chaotic and full-of-exhaust-fumes place it is. Ending up here just doesn't make for a nice ending to a stress-free bus ride.

As a traveller fresh off the bus at Puduraya, the minute you whip out your Lonely Planet or map to get your bearings, your friendly neighbourhood tout is likely to be standing next to you offering his services.

If you do end up here, the best thing to do is ask a local for help. Malaysians are considered some of the friendliest people in the world, especially to foreign travellers. So don't be shy, ask and you shall receive.

There is one consolation to ending up at Puduraya though. It's a mere 3 minutes' walk to Kuala Lumpur's colourful Chinatown.

By bus from Bangkok to Malaysia

If you were to ask most savvy travellers, they would advise you to fly or travel by train instead of taking the bus direct to Malaysia. That's because a direct bus route can be a pretty long one, and sitting in one position for long periods of time can really numb your bum.

Depending on which travel agent/bus company you decide to go with, you may even end up doing a bus/van deal. And most Thai vans offer even less leg-room than a bus, so there you go...

Anyhow, getting to Malaysia by bus from Bangkok is generally a 2-stage affair: Bangkok to Hat Yai near the Malaysian border, and then a change of bus (or van) to Malaysia.

Of course, it makes sense to chill out a day or two to enjoy southern Thai hospitality while you're in transit in Hat Yai which is a small town with big fun on the menu :-)

Where to book bus tickets in Bangkok?

Almost every travel agent will be able to book bus tickets for you, but one thing to remember is this: DO NOT to buy from individuals (read touts) who could simply be reselling tickets to you at higher prices.

Scout around and go with more reputable agents, or if possible go direct to the bus company.

Khaosan Road is a magnet for travellers in Bangkok, (especially 20-somethings with unwashed dreadlocks wearing the same-old, same-old T-shirt :-) so it's another good place to start. You may even be staying there yourself.

Busy Khaosan Road (pic courtesy Mr. Bloom)
khaosan rd, bangkok


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