Sure, planes and cars are more efficient ways of travelling. But sometimes it’s just nice to slow it down and let someone take the wheel while you enjoy the scenery en route. A sure way to do so? Take a sleeper train route in Malaysia. As the locomotive saunters you to your destination, you’re free to contemplate life, fully engaged in conversations or gaze outside the window for hours on end. It’s a refreshing way to decompress, one that’s sorely needed in a society that craves immediate gratification. If all this sounds like the ideal escape for you, book a ticket to embark on these scenic train rides.
Note: Ticket prices and routes are accurate at the time of writing. Arrival times are estimations and subject to change depending on external factors like weather and immigration procedures (for Thailand-bound routes).
Take It Slow With These Sleeper Train Routes In Malaysia
Grab a book, queue in your favourite podcast, engage in thoughtful discourse or think about nothing, these train routes will free up pockets of time you didn’t know you had. Tickets can be purchased at all KTM counters or online.
1. KL -> Ipoh
Kicking off the list is the route shuttling between KL and Ipoh. The Perak state capital, a popular destination among Klang Valley’s city dwellers known for its laidback attitude and delicious food, is reachable through the Electric Train Service (ETS). Although it doesn’t qualify as a sleeper train route in Malaysia (though the rhythm of the train will likely lull you to a nap), it’s a good start for those who aren’t keen on spending the night onboard a locomotive just yet.
There are several services a day and the journey duration depends on ticket classification—the more expensive the ticket, the fewer the stops—but you should reach Ipoh in under three hours regardless of which ticket you get.
Clocking it at speeds up to 140km/h, the trains are modern and equipped with an in-house bistro for snacks, washroom facilities to freshen up, and LED TVs if you seek on-screen entertainment.
Time to destination: Up to 2 hours and 40 minutes
Total ticket cost: About RM26
Good to know: The route is as busy as it gets during the holidays.
2. KL -> Hat Yai
Thinking of visiting Thailand but the flights are too pricey at the moment? Embark on a budget-friendly yet picturesque commute that takes you northbound from KL Sentral to Hat Yai. But you’ll first have to reach Padang Besar, the border town in Perlis via the ETS train. Once there, hop on the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) train to Hat Yai. The entire journey takes between 10-12 hours to complete depending on how busy immigration is.
As you pass through the Malaysian countryside, you’ll be treated to wallpaper-worthy sights of sloping hills, vast greenery with pockets of rustic kampung houses and paddy fields in between. Definitely a refreshing switch-up of scenery from the city’s concrete jungle, which literally pales in comparison to glorious flora and fauna.
To make your journey as comfortable as possible, this sleeper train route in Malaysia comes with your preferred berth allocation (top or bottom) and a dining car for warm refreshments.
Time to destination: Up to 12 hours
Total ticket cost: About RM70
Good to know: Book your tickets ahead of time, especially during peak season.
3. KL -> Bangkok
Instead of heading to Hat Yai, you can also reach Bangkok via the SRT at Padang Besar. It’s a much longer journey that takes close to 18 hours, as opposed to the Hat Yai route at just shy of one hour.
Come nightfall, the seats are converted into berths with curtains for added privacy. And if you’re already salivating at the thought of Thai food, you’ll be glad to know that there’s an in-house canteen serving anything from tomyum to basil chicken rice.
Time to destination: Up to 27 hours
Total ticket cost: About RM250
Good to know: Ensure you have enough Thai baht at hand for purchasing food onboard.
4. KL -> Kelantan
This particular route went viral on Twitter for its unfiltered panoramic views of Malaysia’s most photogenic terrains. Think limestone hills, tunnels, and one of the oldest rail bridges in Malaysia, The Guillemard Bridge. To experience this scoop of the countryside, you’ll first have to take an ETS train from KL Sentral to Gemas because this particular train doesn’t depart from KL.
Next is the 16-hour-long ride from Gemas to Tumpat. Like the Hat Yai route, there’s a 24/7 dining car and you get your own berth to retreat to. Though it’s important to note that only the lower berths have windows.
Time to destination: Up to 20 hours
Total ticket cost: About RM60
Good to know: Bring your own pillow and blankets to make your berth as comfortable as possible, especially if you’re someone who struggles to sleep in a bed that’s not yours.
5. Johor Bahru -> Penang
Skip the planes and cars as you take the road less travelled for an epic south-north bound sleeper train in Malaysia. The journey requires a little bit of planning because there are no direct rail links between JB and Penang.
First get yourself to Gemas. From there you’ll have to board an ETS towards Butterworth, a journey that takes about seven hours. Then jump on the next ferry that takes you to Penang. Try to do it at sunset because the golden hour view of Penang is gorgeous.
Prefer to spend the night in Butterworth? Always hiding behind the coattails of its more famous island sibling, Butterworth is underrated as a tourist destination. Check out the Art Walk to admire the works of local artists or go on a food trail tasting everything from scrumptious dim sum to authentic Western fare.
Time to destination: Close to 12 hours provided no time is spent in Butterworth
Total ticket cost: About RM87
Good to know: There’s only one trip per day shuttling from Gemas to Butterworth at 3.10pm.
Go On A Trip Like No Other With These Sleeper Train Routes In Malaysia
While driving and flying are the preferred ways of travelling, there’s just something romantic and nostalgic about riding a train. And best of all, you’ll get to see the country at a relaxing pace. What’s the rush? You’re already rushing everywhere; to work, to eat, to your next appointment, to the washroom
Finding more ways to tame the wanderlust in you? Get some sun at these islands in Sabah or withdraw into nature at these beautiful homes on the hills of Janda Baik.