Singapore to Kuala Lumpur by Train
Different things inspire different people to go on different holidays. In our case, it was a backpack, a refund, and some hoarded money.
The refund was our flip-key deposit from our trip to Tokyo. The hoarded money was an envelope of leftover Malaysian Ringgit I discovered as I tucked our passports away. And the backpack was the over-featured monstrosity P insisted on getting to replace the broken-down airline freebie he’d been using for kindergarten.
I didn’t want to wait until the idea stopped making sense in my head, so a few weeks ago I had a quick flick through the relevant section of Seat 61, logged on to the KMTB website, and booked the first two sleeper births available on a Friday night out of Woodlands.
Then I hit AirBnB, found an apartment near Sentral Station in KL with a nicely flexible check-in policy (thanks, Victor!), pinned some KL-with-kids tips, and bada-bing, bada-boom, proceeded to the bit where the five-year-old asks over and over again if it’s time to leave yet for days and days and days, culminating in half-hourly calls at work telling me how he’s been sitting by the front door with his shoes on for aaaaages and when am I going to be home?
Here’s how we fared.
Who Went? Mum and one 5yo.
Review: Budget-friendly weekend hop to a place which presented little culture-shock to anyone living in Singapore. One-on-one time allowed us to make full use of opportunities for discussion, learning, and deep indoctrination, and to tailor the itinerary more narrowly for our interests.
Highlights: Petrosains, Petronas Twin Towers, Batu Caves including the Dark Cave educational tour, Central Market, roti and naan, riding the LRT and Kommuter trains and sleeping on the intercity.
Challenges: The overnight train trip between Singapore and KL is about eight hours’ long – not a full night’s sleep for a five-year-old, even if they do clock out almost immediately and sleep soundly all night (which is unlikely). This wasn’t too bad on the outward leg, where the distraction of the new and shiny kept him wide awake, but the re-entry to Singapore was less pleasant.
Based on our two overnight train journeys from Singapore to Malaysia so far (the other is detailed here), the trains appear to be delayed by at least an hour approximately fifty percent of the time. On these occasions, they will probably fail to communicate meaningfully with waiting passengers. I’m also not clear on how they decide whether you’ll complete Malaysian immigration at the checkpoint at Woodlands or haul yourself and your luggage off at Johor Bahru instead. Luckily we’d packed light, P amused himself admirably during the boring bits, and the one guy who did start getting antsy was quickly hauled off by police without any real drama.
Jennifer (And Three To Go) passed on a warning she’d received that the monkeys at the Batu Caves can be aggressive. We made sure to pack all food securely in the ridiculous backpack and weren’t hassled at all. The monkeys were definitely close by, but did not seem inclined to approach – I wouldn’t wave any food around, though.
Price Bracket: Budget! Our transport and accommodation came to SGD$150 for two. Food and sightseeing was covered by our stash of hoarded money.
Three More Photos:
- Normal work/school day
- Taxi to Woodlands Checkpoint in the evening, clear immigration and customs, board train at 23:30
- Overnight on train to KL
- Arrive KL 7:30am, breakfast at train station
- LRT to apartment, check in
- Tea and roti
- LRT to KLCC, view Petronas Twin Towers from ground and mall, lunch
- Petrosains, about which we’ve already spoken
- LRT back to apartment and roti shop for dinner, and bed
- Overnight in KL
- LRT to Sentral station and Kommuter train to Batu Caves
- Climb to Temple Caves, muse over meditative and community-building features of extremely steep, narrow steps, even though these were almost certainly a side-effect of the more practical issues involved with putting a path up a steep mountain on a budget
- Educational tour of Dark Cave in order to offset the eco-travesty of yesterday afternoon’s excursion to Petrosains
- Kommuter train to Sentral station for a late lunch, and LRT back to the apartment for packing, swimming, and playing in the kid’s playground
- LRT to Pasar Seni station, roti dinner and unexpected fireworks display plus dance performance, wander through the very touristy Central Market
- LRT to Sentral Station, bum around in waiting area trying to explain why “fifteen minutes” doesn’t actually mean fifteen minutes and “technical issues” could mean anything at all, making friends with people who had children and/or mangoes.
- Board train around 23:30
- Overnight on train to Singapore
- Arrive JB around 7am, disembark for immigration and customs
- Arrive Singapore around 8am
- Taxi home
Malaysian Overnight Trains With Kids Travel Tips:
Pack light, but BYO toilet paper, snacks, and delay-related entertainment options. It’s pretty common to find children on board. Sheets and pillows are provided, and kids under four can share with an adult at no charge. I advise booking at least a month in advance if you have younger children who’ll need a lower birth as these book out fastest.
If leaving from Woodlands Checkpoint, give yourself at least an extra half an hour on top of what you think you’ll need in case there’s a traffic jam near the causeway – especially at peek hour. Immigration and customs opens about half an hour before departure. Boarding at KL is straightforward.
KL With Kids Travel Tips:
The Dark Cave educational tour is excellent for kids of, say, five and above. It takes about 50 minutes, is (brace yourself) dark at points, and includes live bats, spiders, millipedes and possibly snakes. None dangerous. Kids will find the jokes about rare trapdoor spiders using mayonnaise hilarious. The ones who aren’t scared of bats, dark, or snakes, that is.
Don’t follow your child too closely through the LRT turnstiles with those single-journey tokens. You’ll end up with an invalid token every. single. time. Instead, go through adjacent turnstiles in parallel.
Eat the roti.
Have a great weekend and/or Happy Easter!