A great way to spend time with your friends or family, a train ride has all the adventure, sceneries, and excitement you need to make for a fun-filled trip. You’ll be happy to know that there are a few train rides in Malaysia and towards other countries that you can take (other than the obvious ones such as Ipoh and Penang). It will also give you a chance to take in sceneries and views that you would normally not be able to enjoy while on a car or bus ride. You’ll be surprised at what Malaysia has to offer!
As you might know, going anywhere by train takes a longer time but that is the fun part of the ride! Take the time to slow down, enjoy the nature that you can see out of your window or spend quality time with your loved ones by playing games or just talking to each other.
Here are 6 places you can visit via train – although the train rides themselves are pretty much the point of the whole journey!
1. Dabong, Kelantan
It seems that Dabong is the hot place to visit nowadays, the phenomenon even being dubbed as Train to Dabong. Dabong is a small town located within the Kuala Krai district in Kelantan. It has so many visitors on the weekends that the trains have doubled in capacity to accommodate more people. The rise in popularity is probably due to more people traveling domestically since the pandemic. Even so, Dabong has many natural attractions that makes a train ride there even more worthwhile.
How to get there: If you are departing from Kuala Lumpur, you will need to take the KTM to Gemas. It’s a 2.5-hour journey. From there, you board another train to Dabong which takes about 8 hours. For the train ride to Dabong, you can choose between seats or bunk beds for the overnight journey.
Places of interest: Gua Ikan, Lata Kertas, Lata Kenerong, Gunung Stong
2. Padang Besar, Perlis / Hat Yai, Thailand
If you are looking to do some shopping (and by some, I mean a lot), Padang Besar is the place to be. Relax and take in the tranquility of the Malaysian countryside when you are on the train ride to Padang Besar. Also known as Pekan Siam, it is a small town in Perlis that borders the Songkhla province of Thailand. Because of its location, it is famous for being a shopping haven filled with affordable food, snacks, cosmetics, clothes, etc. You can also choose to cross the border and head to Hat Yai which you can again reach by train.
How to get there: Take the ETS to Padang Besar – the journey takes nearly 6 hours from KL Sentral. If you are heading into Thailand, remember to buy travel insurance and apply for a travel pass at least 3 days in advance.
Places of interest: Complex Arked Niaga, Gapura Square, Jalan Besar, Padang Waremart
3. Kuala Lipis, Pahang
A small town with only a population of 20,000, Kuala Lipis is located deep in the Lipis district of Pahang. It used to be a gold mining town and it was the capital city of Pahang up till 1955. If you are a fan of nature and all things adventurous, you should definitely visit Kuala Lipis. One of their main attractions is the Kenong Rimba Park which is located at the fringe of Taman Negara. The park is home to limestone caves, waterfalls and fascinating flora and fauna. One of the more well-known caves is the Gua Batu Tinggi with an interior that is apparently a sight to behold.
How to get there: Take the KTM to Gemas and change train to head to Kuala Lipis. The journey is about 5 hours long. Do make sure to time your arrival to Gemas so that it wouldn’t overlap with the train to Kuala Lipis.
Places of interest: Kenong Rimba Park, Gua Batu Tinggi, Muzium Warisan Lipis, Pahang Club House
4. Papar, Sabah
Despite the fact that Borneo is the world’s third largest island, the railway is not a popular mode of transportation. In fact, there is only one rail line in the whole of Borneo and that is in Sabah. It used to be called the North Borneo Railway, but it is now known as the Sabah State Railway. It runs for 134km from Kota Kinabalu (Tanjung Aru) to Tenom. Using diesel locomotives, this train ride takes you through the rainforest of Borneo making it a truly unique experience. Along the journey, there are a few places such as the town of Papar that you can visit.
Papar is known as the “Rice Bowl of Sabah” – but other than paddy fields, you can find quite a few things to do there. For the brave of heart, you can try white water rafting (Grade II and III) on the Papar River.
How to get there: When you are in Kota Kinabalu, head to the Tanjung Aru railway station where you can board the train to Papar. Take note that there are only two timings available – one in the morning and one in the evening.
Places of interest: Tagal Kg Kinolosodon, Papar River Rafting, Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, Tamu Papar
5. Tenom, Sabah
Other than Papar, you can also visit Tenom (a.k.a coffee town) using the Sabah State Railway. However, to get there, you will have to change to another train at Beaufort. The train is much older and just like in Western movies, the train doors are open so that you can sit on the edge (make sure you have good balance!). Despite the condition of the train, you will not be disappointed by the views that greet you. On one side, you will see the Padas River and on the other, lush rainforest hills. The train also acts as a school transportation for the children there, so don’t be surprised when they would jump off when the train slows down as it passes the villages.
How to get there: Alight at Beaufort and take the train that heads to Tenom. Again, take note of the timings and the days that they operate. You can find the train schedule here.
Places of interest: White water rafting at Pangi, Sabah Agriculture Park, Melalap Paddy Fields, Yit Foh Coffee Factory, Murut Cultural Village
If you don’t mind taking the long way to go to Singapore, you can always hop on the train and make the train ride itself an adventure. Although the high-speed rail project was cancelled, you can still take the train to make your way to Singapore. Be warned – it is a long journey, and you will have to change trains several times. But if you are a rail travel enthusiast, this is great news for you. 😅
How to get there: From KL, take the ETS to Gemas (2.5 hours), then hop on to a shuttle train that will take you to JB Sentral (4.5 hours) and finally, another shuttle train that will take you from JB Sentral to Woodlands. Just make sure to plan your trips so that you avoid conflicting train schedules. Check out this page on KTMB’s website for more info.
Places of interest: Gardens by the Bay, Sentosa, Universal Studios Singapore, ArtScience Museum
For more travel ideas in Malaysia, check these out: