So taking the train from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur means that you are actually taking 2 trains.
You can say that there are 3 parts to it:
- Bangkok to Padang Besar train
- Thailand – Malaysia border crossing
- Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur train
Flight or train from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur?!
You might be able to find a Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur flight for $60. (Not including baggage fees).
Flight time is around 2-2.5 hours.
Budget airlines that offer direct flights from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur:
A train from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur might cost you around US$70-80. (Cost of the 2 train tickets.)
Total time on train will likely be at least 24 hours. (Not including transfer time.)
This is basically a 2 day journey:
- Day 1 – Depart Bangkok around 3pm
- Overnight on train
- Day 2 – Arrive Kuala Lumpur around 8pm (around 5pm if you’re lucky)
So based on this schedule, the total travel time by train from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur is around 29 hours.
Check current train ticket prices (from partner website):
Near Koh Tao (Chumphon) to Padang Besar
So then why take the train from Bangkok to Malaysia if it costs more AND takes more time than a flight?!
Because why fly when you can go overland?! 😉
Yes that’s all I’ve got. 😉
Okay, so you know that the train costs more and it will take longer.
But you’re committed to taking the train(s) anyway.
Well, the good news is that it is a relatively simple process!
How to get from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur by train
aka Thailand to Malaysia train!
First, the quick list.
Then, a bit more of what you might be able to expect if you take this southeast Asia train journey!
1. Arrive at Bangkok train station (Hua Lamphong railway station)
2. Take overnight train from Bangkok to Padang Besar
3. Go through Thailand immigration and Malaysia immigration at the Padang Besar train station “border crossing” in Malaysia
4. Take train from Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur
5. Arrive in Kuala Lumpur!
A bit more of what the Thailand to Malaysia train journey is like!
This is how it was for me in April 2019. Things change, and your experience may vary!
Booking train tickets online
I booked my train tickets online:
Do you need to book in advance?
It IS a good idea to book your train tickets as soon as you figure out your dates.
I was traveling at the end of April (practically May) so I wasn’t traveling during peak tourist season.
Even so, I wasn’t able to get my preferred date… or my second preferred date even.
The first date I looked at, the Thailand train ticket was sold out.
So then I shifted the departure date of the Thailand train ticket (which was available). Then I checked the Malaysia train ticket for the following day, but that was sold out.
So the later you wait to book, the more flexible you might need to be for your travel dates!
I was booking around a week before the Bangkok train departure date.
Picking up the train ticket at 12Go Asia office in Bangkok
Since I booked through a travel agency (12Go Asia), this meant I still needed to pick up the actual ticket.
Basically, the ticket you buy online is a “voucher.”
The 12Go Asia office in Bangkok is right across the Hua Lamphong train station, which is the same train station you’ll be taking your train from.
This makes it very convenient, and you could pick up your train ticket on the day of travel.
You can use Google Maps to guide you, and then take the MRT subway to the Hua Lamphong station. From there, you’ll take exit 1…
Keep walking straight once you get to the top of the stairs, and then take a few steps to see the 12Go Asia office located on the left side.
You’ll walk into the building, pick up your ticket, and you can board the train!
Also ask for your Malaysia train ticket voucher (to Kuala Lumpur) to be printed off at this time too.
See more on how to get to the 12go Asia Bangkok office (and how to take the MRT subway in Bangkok) to pick up your train ticket.
Arrive at Bangkok train station (Hua Lamphong railway station)
So the Hua Lamphong railway station is basically connected to the MRT subway line.
Similar to getting to the 12Go Asia office, you can take the MRT to get to the railway station.
At the subway station, you’ll take exit 2 to get to the railway station.
Even if you are going from the 12Go Asia office, it’s best to head back underground to the subway walkway to get to the other side of the street, as otherwise it might be challenging to cross the road.
So once you arrive at the train station, you can head over to the ticket counter area.
You’re not doing anything at the ticket counter itself, but above that is a list of departures.
You can look there to confirm the platform you should head to.
And then, make your way to the train!
Even if you’re early, the train might already be there since it departs from Bangkok.
In which case, you’ll probably be able to get on the train.
Otherwise, there’s a waiting area.
Train departure from Bangkok train station
Scheduled departure time: 3:10pm
You may have read about how train delays in Thailand are common.
My train was delayed by around 30 minutes.
I was at the train station the day before, and the same train had an on-time departure.
Enjoy the 18 hour train ride!
Yes really. 😉
I was sleeping or laying down for most of the train ride so it really didn’t feel that long.
Shortly before 6pm, a train worker came around asking if he should set the bed up.
Say yes, and you can go to bed early. 😉
I’d say I got a pretty good night’s sleep.
The eye mask and ear plugs probably helped.
It seems like online everyone recommends getting the bottom bunk.
I ended up with a top bunk and I thought it was completely fine. (Although I did request the bottom bunk I did not get one, probably another result of not booking early.)
Arrive at Padang Besar train station in Malaysia!
Scheduled arrival time: 8:53am
So there is a Padang Besar station in Thailand, and there is a Padang Besar station in Malaysia.
You want to stay on the train until the end of the line, so you are going to Padang Besar in Malaysia.
There’s a chance you will not actually arrive at the scheduled time! So keep that in mind as you book your Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur ticket. (More on this later.)
But once you arrive at the Padang Besar train station in Malaysia…
Go through Thailand immigration… and then Malaysia immigration
Once you get off the train, you can follow the directions of the officials, follow the crowd, or follow the signs to get to Thailand immigration.
After you get your Thailand exit stamp, you’ll then take a short walk to Malaysia immigration to get your Malaysia entry stamp.
Both exiting Thailand and entering Malaysia were pretty simple.
So immigration for Thailand and Malaysia are both at the Malaysia train station.
See more about this Thailand to Malaysia “border crossing” at Padang Besar station. (In quotes because since you’re in Malaysia for both immigration posts, there’s nothing dramatic to feel like you’re crossing a border!)
Visa for Malaysia
As an American, I did not have to arrange anything prior to entering Malaysia (like an e-visa), and there was no entry fee. (Again, this was in spring 2019, and visa and entry requirements can change at any time!)
Also note the time difference when you’re looking at the train timings once you’re in Malaysia! My phone usually adjusts to the time zone I’m in automatically, but it seems it was still picking up the Thailand network since the train station was near Thailand.
Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur train timings
If you bought your ticket online through 12Go Asia, you’ll need to show the pdf at the ticket window to exchange for a real ticket.
Once again, just follow the signs to the ticket counter.
Now, about the timings…
If the Bangkok train is on time, that means you’ll likely be able to make the earlier 11:15am train to Kuala Lumpur.
But if it’s delayed, then the 2:20pm is more likely.
So I think it’s best to book the 2:20pm train.
And if you get to the Padang Besar train station early/on-time, you can see if there are earlier tickets available to be able to switch the timing. (I don’t actually know if this is possible, but it’s worth a try!)
If you book and miss the 11:15am train and tickets to Kuala Lumpur are sold out for the rest of the day…
Well, I guess you might as well get on the train to Butterworth!
Back-up plan in case you do decide to go for the 11:15am train to Kuala Lumpur and you miss it.
Train departure to Kuala Lumpur from Padang Besar train station
Scheduled departure time: 2:20pm
This was an on-time departure.
Enjoy the 6 hour train ride
The Malaysia train felt longer to me than the Thailand train did.
It was (mostly) comfortable though.
The mostly part is because it was cold! I was layered up.
And then finally…
Arrive in Kuala Lumpur!
Scheduled arrival time: Around 8:00pm
There are 2 train stations in Kuala Lumpur:
- Kuala Lumpur
- KL Sentral
Which one you’ll want to get off at will depend on where your hotel stay is!
Places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
Put in future dates below (partner website) to have a look at hotel prices around Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) and beyond!
You will find the famous Petronas twin towers near KLCC Park.
You may also consider staying near KL Sentral, which you can find on the map just south of KLCC if you zoom in a bit.
The Padang Besar train will go to “Kuala Lumpur” station and “KL Sentral” station.
HAPPY BANGKOK TO KUALA LUMPUR TRAIN RIDE!
Where to next after Southeast Asia?!How about the Maldives?!
If you're backpacking Asia, you can make a side trip to local islands of the Maldives by flying to Gan Island in the Maldives. (You'll probably have a layover at Colombo Airport.)
Then fly from Gan Island to South India!
Fly into Chennai or fly into Mumbai.
Chennai will probably be cheaper, but I feel Mumbai is a better starting point for a first trip to India.
I think this route for backpacking India can be perfect for your first trip!
And, it can end with backpacking Kerala. ;)
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