A guide to walking from Malaysia to Thailand

To Padang Besar & Hatyai
To Padang Besar & Hatyai
When I was planning my trip to Padang Besar, Perlis, I wanted to walk from Malaysia to Thailand so I could tell people, “Yup, I’ve walked to Thailand from Malaysia before.”

So I flipped through the traveller’s bible, aka Lonely Planet, and was shocked.

In the tiny two-inch column for Padang Besar, the guidebook said: “Very few people, if any, walk the more than 2km of no-man’s land between the Thai and Malaysian sides of the border.”

NO INSTRUCTION, IT’S THE DAY OF DESTRUCTION.

After freaking out, I decided to become one of the “very few people” to walk to Thailand and back. And write a post about it. (Although another reason I’m walking is that I am too stingy to pay for the RM40 cab fare.)

A guide to walking from Malaysia to Thailand

Step 1 Get to Padang Besar’s immigration checkpoint

Malaysian side of immigration checkpoint border
Malaysian side of immigration checkpoint border
The entrance of immigration checkpoint is right in front of the big roundabout. Walk up to the toll booth-like area, keeping to your left since cars and motorbikes are on the right.

Step 2 Get your documents verified (and stamped)
Pass through the immigration checkpoint using the electronic gates if you have a Malaysian passport.

If you have a foreign passport, you’ll need to get it stamped at one of the officer’s booth.

Step 3 Walk a lot
It’s quite a long walk to the end of the border from the document checking area. Even though you will see a path (which is persumably for pedestrians) near the walls, do not take that route as it brings you to a dead end.

Weird murals
Weird murals
Admire the murals while you walk. I am not sure who the murals were put up for, perhaps it is for drivers who are stuck in a traffic jam.

Wave as drivers drive pass and motorcyclists give you a second look. Sticking out a thumb to hitchhike here does not work. I tried.

You will eventually reach the end of Malaysia’s border where a few officials hang around.

Step 4 Explain why you are walking to anyone who asks
The immigration officers will be curious why you are walking when there are motorcycle shuttles. The excuse “Because we want to” does not seem to satisfy their curiosity.

The officer practically interrogated us after looking at our passports. When we said we just wanted to walk to Thailand, he told that there were motorcycles shuttling people across. I asked where the motorbikes are, he pointed to the other end. I told him that I will not walk all the way back just for a motorcycle.

After being released, we walked to the Thai part of the border.

Step 5 Reach Thai border
There are no lines on the road to tell where passengers can walk, so be careful of traffic.

Follow the cars and where a bunch of people are filling up forms. Fill up the form and pay RM1 to the immigration officer.

Step 6 Enter Thailand
With the new stamp in your passport, head out of the immigration checkpoint. Do not be alarmed that it looks exactly like Malaysia but with Thai signs.

A guide to walking back to Malaysia from Thailand

Step 1 Get to Padang Beser checkpoint
The line back to Malaysia is not the same as the one you came in from. It’s at the other gate.

Step 2 Get passport stamped
Get your Checking Out stamp and hand over another RM1 to the person behind the booth.

Step 3 Walk back to Malaysia
The Malaysian folks will be less curious about you by now. Walk on. Same as usual, walk on the left side of the road to avoid traffic.

There is a sad duty free store along the no-man’s land.

The Zone duty free shopping
The Zone duty free shopping

Step 4 Get your documents verified to enter Malaysia

For pedestrian
For pedestrian
Show off your passport to the official at the toll booth. You must get an entry stamp or face being stripped naked during interrogation when you want to leave Malaysia. This is serious business.

Step 5 Get your luggage scanned
There’s probably no one in luggage check so just ignore this step.

Step 6 Back in Malaysia
At the end of the Malaysian customs, another officer will be interested in why you are walking. Answer his questions even though you know all the answers are in the passport which he is holding. Smile pleasantly.

Have you walked through the Malaysian-Thai border before?

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More about Liau Yun Qing

Yun Qing is a writer, improviser and curious person. She loves finding little adventures in life. In 2013, she went on a 130-day round-the-world trip. She wrote a book to help those who also want to go on a career break.

8 Comments

    1. Great post, no I haven’t, but I have walked the Vietnam – Laos border crossing before, and never actually thought about the fact that I had walked from Vietnam to Laos – thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    1. I have done the ‘walk’ a few times , but crossing the Malaysian-Thailand border at Bukit Kayu Hitam…

    1. Update 7th June 2016 to Thailand, 9th June 2016 to Malaysia.
      Pretty much as described above except for a few points.
      1) Our average age is 64 and we had one full cabin bag each and easily walked between the two border posts in 10 minutes without being questioned.
      2) As European seniors travelling on NZ passports we realised that Thai immigration don’t ask westerners for a “contribution” of RM 1. The man in front of us was asked for 1 RM and had to borrow 10 RM off a friend and was given 9 RM change.
      3) The local bus is still 44 baht to Hat Yai, but according to the local police station it runs every two hours. We arrived at about 0915 Thai time and waited an hour before a bus came. Didn’t see any vans that were obviously minivans. Would suggest it might be better to turn left coming into Thailand and try and find the minivan terminus, supposedly no more than 1.5km into town. Alternative might be a long and uncertain wait for a local bus. If you spot the local bus whilst walking into town its probable that you can wave it down. Easy to spot, its decrepit and was once red all over. Looks similar to the buses in Bangkok.
      4) On the return trip from Hat Yai walked from Red Planet Hotel to the bus station in 25 minutes at 0615 and paid 50 baht each for a minivan to the border. It left at 0700 and was school starting time along much of the route, so took just over an hour.
      5) We travelled from Butterworth to Padang Besar by train each way. Two choices either the express at 29 RM each way or the kommuter at 11.40 RM each way. The kommuter is only 15 minutes slower and you should easily get a seat. We travelled back on the 1000 which isn’t on the website nor the printed timetable, but on a sheet of paper on the ticket office window. The kommuter service is more frequent than shown especially Fridays, weekends and on public holidays. If you aren’t taking the train on to Hat Yai, why pay more than 11.40 RM?
      6) Malaysian senior citizens get a 50% reduction on rail fares. We just didn’t look Malaysian!

      Thanks for a really good posting which helped us no end.

    1. Perhaps I should just add that there is a covered walkway from the train station, over the tracks and down to the Malaysian Immigration Post. Its not signposted , but when you come up from the platform you need to turn in the opposite direction to the exit and car park signs. Just follow the majority of the passengers and if you can’t see the container trucks on the road across to your right, you’re not going in the correct direction! This means that you never see the roundabout because you are well inside the customs area when you come down the steps off the covered walkway near the Malaysian Immigration Post. If you want a motorbike ride you will be accosted at the bottom of the steps. The walkway shows quite clearly on Google Earth if you zoom in.

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