The rise of domestic travel

From the white sand beaches of The Perhentians to the untouched rainforest shrouded in morning mist in the Danum Valley, there’s so much of Malaysia that begs to be explored. It’s no wonder that domestic travel is on the rise.

Many locals travel within the country to experience their own national culture and to discover Malaysia’s manifold cuisines. In fact, 77% of Malaysia’s travelers identified food and dining as a preferred holiday experience. Some other reasons for domestic travel include visiting friends and relatives, shopping, business and education. Such travels generally peak during religious festivals such as Hari Raya and public holidays where people take the opportunity to visit friends and family living in other parts of Malaysia.


Some of the major forms of domestic travel within Malaysia

By Air

airplanes at the airport
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Domestic flight is one of the most popular modes of transport within Malaysia. The most common airlines that offer domestic flights within Malaysia are Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Firefly, MasWings (only certain routes within Borneo) and Berjaya Air (only to a few destinations). Flight tickets are usually very affordable and it doesn’t take very long to travel from one place to another. Besides, with every major city having an airport, it’s pretty convenient – probably why flights within the country is the favoured method of transport.

By Train

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There are two lines that run through Malaysia – the west-coast line and the east-coast line (Jungle Train).

The west-coast line is one that travels into Thailand via Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Butterworth, crossing the border at Padang Besar while the east-coast line runs from Johor Bahru to Kota Bharu.

This manner of travelling might be cheaper but not as convenient as others if you don’t intend to visit one of the major cities. You’ll most likely need to alight at a major train station and board a bus from there to your destination.

By Taxi

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Travelling by taxi is extremely comfortable and easy but it is at the expense of your wallet. Fares are typically two to three times the corresponding fare as an express bus. Of course, trips that don’t take more than an hour (usually within a city) cost a lot less. But if you’re travelling to another city, it is highly inadvisable to take a taxi unless you’re travelling in a group where in that case, you can split the cost.

By Rental Car/Your Own Vehicle

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Journeying to another city within Malaysia by car can make for an exciting road trip. Roads and highways in Malaysia are generally well-maintained. If you don’t own a vehicle and would like to rent one for your travels, car rental costs can be anywhere between RM60 and RM260 per day!

By Bus

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Probably the most popular mode of transport for domestic travel within Malaysia is by bus. Almost everywhere in Peninsula Malaysia, there are bus companies that operate on certain routes and you could practically get to anywhere from anywhere.

Prices vary depending on the level of comfort.

Why the bus is the most common mode of transport for domestic travel

  • Buses are usually an hour quicker than trains
  • They are much, much cheaper than domestic flights. A 7-hour journey from Melaka to Penang starts from RM49.30/person
  • With there being so many companies, departures are pretty frequent
  • Tickets are very easy to acquire and you could simply purchase bus tickets on the day of travel
  • Buses are usually comfortable with cushioned seats, air conditioning and curtains to block out sunlight.

How to survive a long bus ride

Now, if you’re cooped up on a bus with limited legroom and rest stops few and far between, how do you cope?

Pick the overnight bus

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Sleep through the journey. Before you know it, 8 hours has passed, morning has arrived and you’ve gotten through a long bus ride.

Keep your valuables close to you

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The best way to do this would be to use a cross body bag to store all of your valuables and keep it strapped to you at all times.

Bring entertainment

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Just in case you didn’t manage to secure a nighttime slot, you’ll need to keep yourself entertained for the duration of the ride. If you enjoy reading, bring along your Kindle or a book that you’re confident will whisk you away from the discomfiting lurch and jerk of the bus. Alternatively, you could stock up your phone (and take with you a portable charger) with games that do not require Wi-Fi. You could also pack your handheld gaming device. Or better yet, bring all of them! God forbid you run out of things to do.

Pack ear plugs/noise-cancellation earphones and eye mask.

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But if you do manage to get an overnight slot, these items will come in very handy. Especially so if your neighbor snores or if you’re stuck with people who are oblivious of their powerful vocal chords.

Dress comfortably

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You’ll be sitting in a cramped space for a long time so don’t wear anything too tight or that restricts movements. You will want to wear clothing that allows you to stretch and breathe comfortably.

Replace plain water with energy drinks

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Energy drinks will quench your thirst while keeping your bladder empty. You don’t know when the bus driver will be stopping by a rest stop! Bumpy bus rides are extremely unpleasant with a full bladder.

Prepare snacks and some food

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Again, you won’t know when the driver will be stopping so it’s best to prepare something to eat or snack on during the ride. Even if you do stop by somewhere, you can’t guarantee the quality of food so if you’re wary about that, pack your own.

Bring along a shawl/blanket/jacket and a neck pillow

dog wrapping itself in blanket
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Buses can get quite chilly somewhere in the middle of the journey. It doesn’t get cold at the beginning of the ride, it doesn’t get cold towards the end of the ride – it’s always the middle for some reason unbeknownst to me. Share this article if you agree.

Wear slippers

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So that your feet get to breathe. You don’t want them stuffed into a pair of shoes for 8 hours straight (or longer).

Pop a pill 30 minutes before the journey if you’re prone to travel sickness

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It’s best to take your meds before the journey has even begun. Trust me, preventing travel sickness is a whole lot better than actually remedying it once the wave of nausea hits.


Follow these tips and the dreaded long bus ride need not be so grueling. Even if you should decide to travel during the day, have a look out the window and behold the sights that will lay out before you. There’s something to be said about letting your thoughts wander as you watch the rolling hills of the Malaysian countryside pass by.

You can book bus tickets from BusOnlineTicket and score tickets for as low as just RM10!

*Featured Image Credit: Nubia Navarro | Pexels