A Comprehensive Guide to Crossing Borders Between Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore
After my mind-boggling 10-day Vipassana meditation in Kanchanaburi Thailand, I decided to go back to Bangkok and spend a relaxing day before crossing the border to Malaysia.
Here are the specific details of crossing the borders from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.
Hualamphong Train Station to Padang Besar
From Hualamphong Train Station in Bangkok, at noon time of my departure, I bought a train ticket bound for Padang Besar. Padang Besar is the border between Malaysia and Thailand. It’s where immigration clearance is done before anyone can travel onwards to Kuala Lumpur.
Ticket costs: THB 870 (Hualamphong Station Thailand to Padang Besar)
Travel time: 18 hours and more
We left the Hualamphong Train Station at 15:10 and reached Padang Besar at 09:00 the next day.
The immigration process was pretty simple and quick. I’m impressed that it’s hassle-free. It’s no more than presenting my passport and stamping it.
TIP: There were money changers who got in the train just before reaching Padang Besar. They offered money exchange to Ringgit for those who needed it.
They also accept other currencies like US dollars, but never Philippines Peso. So I had most of my Baht changed to Ringgit as I didn’t want to go to the money changers when I reached Malaysia.
While on the train, I met an Indian family who lives in Malaysia. They gave advice on what a good exchange rate would be. According to them, 1000 Baht should be at least 120 Ringgit in equivalent to be fair enough. The money changer offered 120 MYR for 1000 THB, so it was okay enough.
Have Malaysian Ringgit for convenience. I don’t know if I just missed anything, but I didn’t see any money changer in Padang Besar where I got off the train. And if your itinerary involves onward travel all the way to Kuala Lumpur, you’ll need MYR to purchase train tickets in Padang Besar.
Padang Besar to Butterworth (Penang Sentral)
Upon clearing the immigration in Padang Besar, I bought a ticket bound for Butterworth where Penang Sentral is.
Penang Sentral is a transportation hub where everyone can buy bus, train, and ferry tickets.
Ticket cost: 11.40 MYR (Padang Besar to Butterworth via KMT train)
Travel hours: Almost 2 hours
From the train station where I got off in Butterworth, I used an elevator to get to the ground floor, walked to the next building where Penang Sentral is. I again used the public elevator to get to the second-floor office where the ticketing is. There were arrow signs for directions.
If you find yourself lost, you can always ask anyone. Most people in Malaysia understand and speak English well, so barrier through communication is less probable.
Upon reaching Butterworth, you can choose to spend a night to rest or travel onwards. You can choose to stay in Butterworth or go to Penang Island. I chose the later and bought a ticket from Butterworth to Penang Island.
Penang Island is pretty popular as a tourist destination within Malaysia. I wanted to see it for myself.
To get to the island, I purchased a ferry ticket worth 1.20 MYR.
You only need to pay for a one-way ticket to the island which costs 1.20 MYR. In going back to Butterworth, you don’t need a ticket.
I stayed in George Town. It’s worth staying here for a day or two to see some heritage site.
George Town is known for its British colonial architectures and popular street arts. Food is exemplary in George Town with options from Indian, Chinese, Malay cuisines. Even the street foods are scrumptious and divine.
It’s just a bit unfortunate that the day I arrived in George Town, it was raining. I ended up staying for two days instead of one, but it was worth it.
To really get the best out of your stay in George Town, hop from restaurant to restaurant. I bet all the restaurants there cook really good food.
Butterworth (Penang Sentral) to KL Sentral *Kuala Lumpur Sentral*
After two nights, I was back in Butterworth. I bought another ticket for KL Sentral.
KL Sentral is just like Penang Sentral but busier. It’s a transportation hub, most probably the main in Malaysia.
Ticket cost: 31 MYR
Travel hours: Almost 4 hours
The almost 4 hours of travel were spent to watch the lusciousness of the landlocked of Malaysia. I feasted my eyes with the beautiful green trees and awestriking landscapes and horizons of the countryside. It was a moment filled with beauty.
KL Sentral to Gemas to JB Sentral *Johor Bahru Sentral*
I spent two days visiting places in KL Sentral. Afterward, I bought 2 tickets from KL Sentral to Gemas, then Gemas to JB Sentral.
There was no direct train that serviced from KL Sentral to JB Sentral. This involved transferring to another train. Well, the tickets should be for three destinations inclusion. Gemas and JB Sentral, and the third one is Woodlands. However, the train tickets were sold out so I had to take a bus from JB Sentral to Woodlands.
People book this destination one month prior to their travel. I heard employees used the train so tickets were always sold out within the month. With the train, it only takes 5 minutes to get to Woodlands, however, the bus takes longer.
After I reached Gemas, I had to transfer to another train that then took me to JB Sentral.
Ticket cost: 52 MYR for two tickets
Travel hours: More than 9 hours.
When I and the rest of the passengers got off in Gemas, it was midnight. We waited for 4 to 5 hours to get to the next scheduled train from Gemas to JB Sentral. So it was like an overnight journey with hours in between for break and waiting.
JB Sentral to Woodlands
JB Sentral was where I cleared the immigration from Malaysia’s side. For Singapore, I needed to transfer to Woodlands for immigration.
Following my arrival in JB Sentral, I cleared the immigration in Malaysia and bought a bus ticket to Woodlands.
Ticket cost: I couldn’t remember the exact amount but I think it’s 2.5 MYR.
Travel time: Less than 30 minutes
I got on the bus and in less than 5 minutes, I and the rest of the passengers alighted to clear immigration in Woodlands. The bus went to the station and stayed there until the passengers finished the immigration.
After the immigration process, I got on the same bus in the station to get to Woodlands MRT station. I just showed my paid bus ticket so I could get in.
In Woodlands, I was interviewed by the Singapore Immigration Officer. Compared with Thailand and Malaysia’s immigration process, the Singapore officers are not that lenient when it comes to, maybe, Filipino tourists?
I was interviewed two times, one by the immigration officer. The second was after my things were scanned by the X-ray machine, a security officer approached me even if I had my passport stamped already. He asked if I was a solo traveler which I answered with all honesty. He asked other questions like my purpose of coming to Singapore. He asked if I had an alcoholic beverage or cigarettes with me. I told him I didn’t coz I’m not a smoker. I was stuck for a few minutes at the end of the X-ray machine for questioning.
He then had me opened my bag (backpack) and exposed my things. I was a bit embarrassed because the first things that showed when I opened my bag were my bras and undies. Lol!
I didn’t bother to pack well because I hadn’t the luxury of time. I just jammed everything right in unarranged so long as it served the purpose of fitting into my bag.
Well, I didn’t dare cover them with my hands. I didn’t’ dare to look at his reaction. I was let go after a few minutes.
Overall, immigration was a bit challenging because I needed to transfer to another location to clear immigration.
The bus stopped in Woodlands MRT station, I bought an MRT train ticket to reach my hostel which was in Jalan Besar and stayed there for a night and two days before finally going home sweet home in Cebu.
Well, if you’re not bound by an hourglass you can do land travel. Apart from it’s cheap, you’ll learn how the transit system works. But for convenience as well, especially with the immigration process, might as well consider traveling by air so you won’t have to transfer to another location for clearing.
It was my first experience on a sleeper train so I felt great about it. Other than that, the people I met in the train station were really kind and helpful. I had long conversations with many of them which I wouldn’t have done had I traveled by plane.
P.S. Months ago, I was looking for a Vipassana meditation review from any Filipino who had tried it. But I didn’t find anything on the internet. It’s either no Filipino has ever done it yet, or someone has done it but didn’t bother to make a review, so I made one for it. This meditation is completely free. I would highly recommend it to everyone. I applied in dhamma.org two months before the scheduled retreat. They have one center here in the Philippines which is in Quezon. The time I applied, they only offered one day retreat so I ended up applying in Kanchanaburi which worked well with my schedule. You can read my 10-Day Vipassana meditation here.
Cheers to more travels! 🙂