KL offers some great public transportation options for getting around the city, to and from the airport, and to other destinations. And best of all, they’re extremely affordable.
Like most big cities, especially in southeast Asia, KL traffic can be horrific. Especially on a Friday afternoon. The monorail (MRT) and light rail (LRT) systems get you out of the vehicle traffic saving you a ton of time. This is even more helpful if you’re going a long distance, like to or from the low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) or the main terminal of the airport (KLIA). Since the express train/bus combo costs about $4 USD versus $25-60 for a taxi from the LCCT, it’s pretty easy to see which option might be best. To KLIA, it’s about $10 USD. Children 4-12 are about half fare.
Unless you’re changing trains, on the average you’ll probably spend 1.60 MYR (about 50 cents USD) to travel to most locations within the city center area and nearby. However, if you’re on the Komuter train system, you can expect to sometimes pay even less. For example, a Komuter train from KL’s transportation hub KL Sentral to popular Batu Caves, about 8 km away from the city’s center) will only cost you 1 MYR one way.
The transit system has a fairly helpful website and free phone app which can assist you in planning your journey and figuring out the cost. Unfortunately, it doesn’t list departure/arrival times or estimated travel times. I’ve used the phone app (available for iPhone and Android) quite a bit not only for travel planning but to find the nearest station to my current location. It could be a bit more intuitive, but it’s still quite helpful.
It is also not a complicated rail system at all. Very simple to navigate.
If you’ll be in KL for a longer visit, I’d recommend getting the Touch ‘n Go pass. This will enable you to skip the long lines in front of the token machines and at the ticket windows. The transit system offers a similar pass, but it isn’t as robust as this one since their pass only works on the MRT and LRT systems while the Touch ‘n Go works on MRT, LRT, Komuter trains, buses, the KLIA Express (train to the airport), and so on. You can also use the card to make payment at tons of shopping, dining, and entertainment venues.
While you can reload your pass at many stations and other locations, you can only buy the actual pass from a select few places. The card costs 10 MYR (about $3 USD) to purchase. In KL, you’ll need to visit the Touch ‘n Go Hub which is located in the KL Sentral terminal next to the CIMB bank on the ground level. There are a few other places, but really this is the best and easiest option.
When going to the hub, you’ll see a machine by the door. Press the proper button, and it will give you a printed receipt with a number on it. Have a seat and wait until your number is called. The voice that announces the number and window is quite loud, and the announcement is in English.
The MRT cars are usually packed full of people since there are only 2 cars to each train. I generally try to avoid the MRT whenever an LRT train is an option.
Signage at the stations are quite good, so it’s pretty easy to the train system.
If you don’t have a pass, you’ll need to get a token through one of the machines or at the ticket window. When you go to the turnstile, place your token flat on top of the scanner (you’ll see a white circle and blue rectangle). It will beep, and the turnstile will open. Keep the token handy because you’ll need this at your final destination. When leaving the station, you drop the token in the slot on the turnstile to exit.
With a pass, you just place the pass against the scanner upon entry and exit. Each time the display will show you your remaining balance. Be advised that once your available balance goes below 2 MYR, it will not accept your card for travel. You’ll need to reload to keep using it. Since not every station can do reloads, or the system may be down, it’s a good idea to keep it loaded until you’re getting close to the time to leave the city. They do not issue any refunds of money left on the cards. The card needs to be used at least once a year to stay active.
If heading to the airport, head to KL Sentral first and take the KLIA Ekspres for KLIA (which an express service). If you’re going to the LCCT, you’ll get off at the 2nd to last stop and catch the free shuttle to the LCCT airport. If you’ve just arrived and are heading to KL, the train is easy to find in the KLIA airport. Arriving at the LCCT makes it a bit more of a challenge, and not a lot of people know what you’re talking about.
From LCCT, you’ll have to catch a bus to the train station. Leave the terminal and head to the 3rd lane. You’ll see buses lining up. Go to the purple KLIA sign. You pay for your ticket there (unless you have a Touch ‘n Go card already). They’ll give you a receipt with a QVAR code on it that you scan at the train station terminals (hold onto this receipt or you’ll have to pay again).
We actually have not used buses within KL since the train system works so well. However, the journey planner works for the bus system as well. Fares are extremely reasonable from 1 MYR (about 30 cents) for travel within one zone to 3 MYR for 4 or more zones.
They are air conditioned, but tend to be wall-to-wall people. Just like with any other large city, you’ll need to pay extra close attention to your belongings and pockets while riding the bus.
Taxis are pretty affordable in KL. Generally, you can go 2 km for 15 MYR. Every single taxi will have a sign on it proclaiming it is a metered taxi and “no haggling” is permitted. Good luck with that. I’ve yet to see a taxi driver actually use the meter. They usually give you a reasonable fare, but occasionally you’ll get a stinker who tries to take advantage of the fact you aren’t a local.
Many of the shopping malls and transportation areas, like KL Sentral and the airports, and some attractions, have taxi desks. It’s cheaper, and less of a headache, to use these. Tell them where you’re going, and the clerk will quote you the appropriate fare. Once you pay the clerk, they’ll give you a ticket which you give to the driver, and that’s that. No other payment required. No hassle.
If using a taxi, make sure to add in extra time for traffic, especially around rush hours and Friday afternoons. Traffic can get really crazy and slow moving in KL.
The public transportation system offers a really great, inexpensive, and easy way to get around KL. One of the things I enjoy about a bigger city.