Malaysia's two main domestic operators are Malaysia Airlines (www.malaysiaairlines.com) and AirAsia (www.airasia.com).
The Malaysia Airlines subsidiary Firefly (www.fireflyz.com.my) has flights from KL (SkyPark Subang Terminal) to Ipoh, Johor Bahru, Kerteh, Kota Bharu, Kuala Terengganu, Langkawi and Penang. It also runs connections between Penang and Langkawi, Kuantan and Kota Bharu, Ipoh and JB, and JB and Kota Bharu.
Malindo Air (www.malindoair.com) also has a wide range of connections between many Malaysian cities and towns.
In Malaysian Borneo, Malaysia Airlines’ subsidiary MASwings (www.maswings.com.my) offers local flights within and between Sarawak and Sabah; its main hub is Miri. These services, especially those handled by 19-seat Twin Otters, are very much reliant on the vagaries of the weather. In the wet season (October to March in Sarawak and on Sabah’s northeast coast; May to November on Sabah’s west coast), places like Bario in Sarawak can be isolated for days at a time, so don’t venture into this area if you have a tight schedule. These flights are completely booked during school holidays. At other times it’s easier to get a seat at a few days’ notice, but always book as far in advance as possible.
Bicycle touring around the region is an increasingly popular activity. The main road system is well engineered and has good surfaces, but the secondary road system is limited. Road conditions are good enough for touring bikes in most places, but mountain bikes are recommended for forays off the beaten track.
Top-quality bicycles and components can be bought in major cities, but generally 10-speed (or higher) bikes and fittings are hard to find. Bringing your own is the best bet. Bicycles can be transported on most international flights; check with the airline about extra charges and shipment specifications.
There are no services connecting Peninsular Malaysia with Malaysian Borneo. On a local level, there are boats and ferries between the peninsula and offshore islands, and along the rivers of Sabah and Sarawak. Note that some ferry operators are notoriously lax about observing safety rules, and local authorities are often nonexistent. If a boat looks overloaded or otherwise unsafe, do not board it – no one else will look out for your safety.
Visit the Southern Islands of Singapore from the Marina South Pier. There are regular bumboat (motorised sampan) services from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Pulau Ubin (S$3). To get there, take bus 2 from Tanah Merah MRT.
In Brunei water taxis can be hailed from just about anywhere on the BSB waterfront if your destination is near the river, such as Kampung Ayer. A speedboat ferry runs between Bangar and BSB.
- Malaysia Bus travel in Malaysia is economical and generally comfortable. Seats can be paid for and reserved either directly with operators or via online sites such www.easybook.com. Some bus drivers speed recklessly, resulting in frequent, often fatal, accidents.
- Singapore The island's extensive bus service is clean, efficient and regular. The two main operators are SBS Transit (www.sbstransit.com.sg) and SMRT (www.smrt.com.sg). For information and routes, check the websites. Alternatively download the 'SG Buses' smartphone app, which will give you real-time bus arrivals.
- Brunei The nation's limited public bus system, run by a variety of companies, is erratic and somewhat chaotic, but relatively comprehensive.
Car & Motorcycle
- Cars are right-hand drive, and you drive on the left side of the road.
- Hiring a car is a good way to explore the hinterlands of all three countries.
- A valid licence from your home country is required to rent a car.
- An International Driving Permit (a translation of your state or national driver’s licence and its vehicle categories) is usually not required by local car-hire companies, but it is recommended that you bring one.
- Most rental companies also require that drivers are at least 23 years old (and younger than 65) with at least one year of driving experience.
Driving in Malaysia is fantastic compared with most Asian countries. There has been a lot of investment in the country’s roads, which are generally of a high quality. New cars for hire are commonly available and fuel is inexpensive (RM2.20 per litre).
It’s not all good news though. Driving in the cities, particularly KL, can be a nightmare, due to traffic and confusing one-way systems. Malaysian drivers aren’t always the safest when it comes to obeying road rules – they mightn’t be as reckless as drivers elsewhere in Southeast Asia, but they still take risks.
Hardly any of the drivers keep to the official 110km/h speed limit on the main highways and tailgating is a common problem. The speed limit is 50km per hour on kampung (village) back roads.
Roads are immaculate and well signed. However, drivers tend to change lanes quickly and sometimes do so without signalling. Motorcycles have a bad habit of riding between cars, especially when traffic is slow.
The speed limit is restricted to 40 km/h in School Zones and Silver Zones, otherwise it's 50km/h. The expressway speed limit is 90 km/h.
The main roads are in good condition, but some back roads require a 4WD. The nicely paved Pan Borneo Hwy runs along Borneo's northern coast, going from Sematan in Sarawak's far west via Brunei (and its many border crossings) to Tawau in the southeast corner of Sabah. Road signage is usually good, though some junctions lack any indication of where to go. If you have a smartphone, it's worth downloading the Maps.me app for navigation purposes.
Speed limits are 50km/h to 65km/h in built-up areas and 80km/h to 100km/h on motorways.
Malaysia’s national railway company is KTM (www.ktmb.com.my). It runs a modern, comfortable and economical railway service, although there are basically only two lines.
One line runs up the west coast from Johor Bahru, through KL on into Thailand; there's a short spur off this line for Butterworth – the jumping off point for the island of Penang. Line two branches off the first line at Gemas and runs through Kuala Lipis up to the northeastern corner of the country near Kota Bharu in Kelantan. Often referred to as the 'jungle train', this line is properly known as the 'east line'.
On the west-coast line, a speedy electric train service now runs between Gemas and Padang Besar on the Thai border. Full electrification on this side of the peninsula is expected to be completed by 2020.
In Sabah the North Borneo Railway (www.suteraharbour.com/north-borneo-railway), a narrow-gauge line running through the Sungai Padas gorge from Tenom to Beaufort, offers tourist trips lasting four hours on Wednesday and Saturday.