I love train travel and you should too: Day 4 of #indie30

YQ Travelling About Me liau yun qing

Prompt #4: What is your favorite method of overland travel and why?

I didn’t mind bus travelling a lot but after being violently car sick in Peru, I’ve decided that my favorite overland travel is by train.

With train travel you get to:

  • skip traffic jam
  • go at a slow pace with not as much sudden turns (so you won’t get motion sickness)
  • see cute babies
  • have more leg room than a plane or bus
  • eat train bentou (Japan and Taiwan have these)
  • sleep on beds (To be fair, China has long distance buses with beds too. I slept in a bunk next to the toilet before.)

It’s unfortunate that KTM (Malayan Railway Limited) has removed their private 2-bed bunk on their overnight train. I really wanted to try one.

 

This post is part of 30 Days of Indie Travel Art Project.

Choosing transportation for Weekend Travel [Weekend Traveller series: Part 3]

where to go

Welcome to part 3 of the Weekend Traveller series, a fortnightly segment where I share tips and strategies for travelling during the weekend so you can travel more without using your work leave.

Last week, we talked about deciding which places to go for the weekend. Today, we will learn the pros and cons of different transportations for your weekend trip.

Planes are great for long distance travels
Planes are great for long distance travels

Plane

For long distances, planes are your best bet but the ticket prices can be quite expensive if you do not do a lot of planning. I usually buy my air tickets for budget airlines about 6 months in advance when there is a sale. I try not to buy full price tickets because it’s not worth the money.

Pros of planes for weekend travel:

  • Fast
  • Comfortable (compared to 6 hours of bus or train)
  • Not affected by traffic jam

Cons of planes for weekend travel:

  • Expensive ticket price [Solution: Buy tickets only during promo periods, do not buy luggage for budget flights.]
  • Terrible arrival/departure timings [Solution: Check other airlines or skip the destination]

Trains for weekend travel are usually bigger than this.

Train

If you have good train connections to the places you want to visit, taking the train might be a good option. I love taking night trains because I save on the cost of a night’s accommodation.

Pros of trains for weekend travel:

  • Relatively cheap prices (at least in Malaysia)
  • Not affected by traffic jams on the road
  • Trains with bunks==better sleep

Cons of trains for weekend travel:

  • Limited tickets for weekend travel [Solution: Buy your tickets in advance]
  • Shaky train, snoring passengers==not enough sleep [Solution: Sleeping pills? Deal with it.]

Night buses are not the most comfortable but they are cheap.

Night bus

I put night bus instead of I figure that you will need night buses for long distance travels.

Pros of buses for weekend travel:

Cheap

Cons of night buses for weekend travel:

Bad sleep [Solution: Even I cannot solve this. I just suck it up]

Affected by traffic jams [I was once 5 hours late because of a massive jam. Lesson learned: Take the train ]

Beware of pedestrians when driving

Driving

My mom and I had a mini road trip to the most northern part of Borneo island [LINK: Kudat Marina]. I would choose trains and buses over driving for a weekend trip because it’s more tiring. But if the place you are going to doesn’t have good

Pros of driving for weekend travel:

  • You have a car to drive around

Cons of driving for weekend travel:

  • Driving is quite tiring, especially for long hours

The deep blue sea awaits.

Boat

If you’re planning an island getaway for the weekend, taking a boat is probably your only choice so I won’t go into the pros and cons.

I haven’t been on any island trips for the weekend but the planning process should be the same: pick a nearby place and a good package so you don’t spend too much money.

Check out the rest of the series here:

Part 1: Pros & cons of weekend travel
Part 2: Where to go for Weekend Travel?
Part 3: Choosing transportation for weekend travel
Part 4: Travel planning for weekend trips
Part 5: Make your own travel guide for a weekend trip
Part 6: How to pack for a weekend trip
Part 7: How to use Foursquare to plan a day’s travel
Part 8: Why a weekend trip is the best time to start solo travelling
Part 9: I’m going to Melaka for a weekend trip

FAQ Tips on taking train from Singapore to Malaysia

The person didn't give me permission to take the photo so I gave him sunglasses.

The original post Tips on taking train from Singapore to Malaysia brings the most search traffic to my post. It’s been more than a year since the post went up and thanks for your support.

Besides encouraging comments, I’ve also gotten A LOT of questions about this particular train route. Some questions were stuff I didn’t think about when I was writing the post while others were questions about stuff I’ve already mentioned in the post (this drives me nuts).

Instead of answering the repeated Qs, I’ve gathered the questions here.

1. Where can I book train tickets from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur?
2. My online booking didn’t go through. HELP!
3. I picked Kuala Lumpur as my destination, why isn’t there a night train?
4. Is it safe to travel on the Malaysian train?
5. How do I get to [location in Singapore]?
6. Where do I board the train at Johor?
7. Is there food at JB train station? (No one asked me this, actually.)
8. On the online booking, If I am coming to Singapore, which KTM train stop should I stop?
9. How do I get to JB’s train station from the rest of Singapore?
10. How much is the price of bed/seat/chamber/narnia’s closet?
11. How do I get to Bangkok on train?
12. Hey! Your post is about Singapore to Malaysia. But I’m in Malaysia, how do I get to Singapore by train?
13. Do they still give blankets for the common carriage?
14. I need to get to [location in Malaysia], can you help?

FAQ begins here! I hate the formatting too!

1. Where can I book train tickets from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur?
If you are booking online, the link is https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/Login.aspx Sign up for an account and you can check past reservations.
You can also visit the train stations to buy the tickets but I don’t recommend doing that for night trains.

2. My online booking didn’t go through. HELP!
Check your bookings in your account. I’m not sure what the phone number for KTMB is.

3. I picked Kuala Lumpur as my destination, why isn’t there a night train?
Pick Sentral Kuala Lumpur, not Kuala Lumpur (which is one stop after KL Sentral).

4. Is it safe to travel on the Malaysian train?
Have you watched too many wild wild west movies? I don’t think there are any robbers ambushing the trains. It’s safe.

5. How do I get to [location in Singapore]?
Check out http://gothere.sg/ or https://maps.google.com.sg/.

6. Where do I board the train at Johor?
Johor train station. Map here (click to enlarge):

7. Is there food at JB train station? (No one asked me this, actually.)
There is a 24-hour KFC. A Starbucks is open until 10pm (I think).

8. On the online booking, If I am coming to Singapore, which KTM train stop should I stop?
Pick Woodlands. This isn’t the Woodlands MRT, it’s a KTM train station near Woodlands MRT.

9. How do I get to JB’s train station from the rest of Singapore?
If you are at Bugis, you can head to the Queen Street terminal where there are buses to JB. There are also Causeway Link buses to JB from Kranji and Newton.

* Woodlands train station is at the checkpoint. It is different from Woodlands MRT.

10. How much is the price of bed/seat/chamber/narnia’s closet?
It’s best to check directly on the site. https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/Login.aspx

11.How do I get to Bangkok on train?
I’ve never taken the train from Singapore to Bangkok (but it’s on my wish list!) So check out the wonderful Seat61: http://www.seat61.com/Malaysia.htm#Singapore_-_Kuala_Lumpur_-_Penang_-_Bangkok

12. Hey! Your post is about Singapore to Malaysia. But I’m in Malaysia, how do I get to Singapore by train?

Just reverse engineer my tips for Singapore to KL. Pick Sentral Kuala Lumpur as your starting point and Woodlands as your destination.

13. Do they still give blankets for the common carriage?

They didn’t have the thin sheet the last time I was on the morning sleeper to Singapore.

14. I need to get to [location in Malaysia], can you help?

Unfortunately, I come from Sabah so I am clueless about travelling in Peninsula Malaysia (unless I did research on it for a trip). Please check out the rest of the internet.

Money saving tips for Tokyo: Transportation

Tokyo is the most expensive city to live in but there are still many ways to make the trip less expensive.

As I was writing this money saving guide for Tokyo, I realized that there is just too many sub-categories so I split the tips into three different posts.

This post is about saving on transportation. There is another on food and drinks as well as accommodation and sightseeing.

Transportation in Tokyo is crazy. A short trip would cost 180 yen (US$2.3) on the train which is very expensive compared to Singapore.

From Narita Airport: Get the Suica & N’EX package

Suica & N'EX package
Suica & N’EX package

I picked up the Suica & N’EX package for 3,500 yen when I reached Narita airport. It includes transport into the city (and slightly beyond) as well as a 2,000 yen Suica.

The package also good value because the N’EX limited express train to Tokyo is 2,940 yen (gasp!).

There’s also a package with return fare.

From Haneda Airport: Get Monorail and Yamanote Line Discount Ticket

Monorail and Yamanote Line Discount Ticket
Monorail and Yamanote Line Discount Ticket

Only available on weekends

If you arrive at Haneda Airport during the weekend, remember to pick up this discounted ticket.

For just 500 yen, you can take the monorail and leave at any stations on the Yamanote Line. If you are exiting at other JR stations, just pay the extra at the counter.

Free one-way day trip with Suica & N’EX package


If you have a day trip planned to either Yokohama or Kamakura, I recommend doing it on the day you arrive if you reach before noon.

I was planning to visit Yokohama but when I found out that the package covers Kamakura, I changed my plans immediately.

A trip from Tokyo Station to Kamakura would cost 890 yen. So in theory, I’ve saved a little by heading straight there instead of taking the day trip on another day.

Transfer rebate with Suica

Buying tickets for Tokyo trains
If you are using Suica to pay for your transport, it automatically gives you rebates when you transfer from trains of the same company.

Stick to the same company on trains

Tokyo Metro
Tokyo Metro

Planning your transport within Tokyo is really tricky. There are just too many lines and too many different train companies.

Many times, I had to transfer from one train line to another to reach my destination. I accidentally took different train lines for a ride and it cost me more than it would if I had transferred from the trains of the same company.

So, I suggest taking trains from the same company when you travel. This might mean an extra 5 minutes, but it’ll cost 200 yen less.

Check the rest of money saving tips for Tokyo:

Why visitors should get the Singapore Tourist Pass

EZ-Link Card

Day passes can save money. I’ve saved plenty in San Francisco.

For transportation, travellers to Singapore can choose between a day pass, the EZ-Link (stored value card used by locals for transport and other small payments) or paying by cash.

Singapore’s day pass is called the Singapore Tourist Pass (which I will shorten to STPass).

Singapore Tourist Pass
Singapore Tourist Pass

When I first read about STPass, my gut feel told me the pass is not worth the money and that a regular EZLink is an even better value for a traveler.

Here is the cost of the pass:
1 Day Pass S$10
2 Day Pass S$16
3 Day Pass S$20

The official site also lists a comparison between the STPass and EZ-Link.

However, I’m not quite sure what this line means: “Hence passes issued in Singapore come with a rental deposit of S$10 which is fully refundable if the card is returned within 5 days from the date of issuance.”

Update: You’ll need to give an extra S$10 when you buy the card. You’ll forfeit the money if you decide to keep the card. (Too expensive!)

The math

To see if my gut feel is right, I’ll do the math of travelling on an EZ-Link card for 3 days.

EZ-Link Card
EZ-Link Card

I’m using Wikipedia’s 3 Days in Singapore as an itinerary and use gothere.sg as my guide for transport cost.

For accomodation, let’s pretend that we’re staying at Raffles Hotel which I cannot afford (but bear with me).

Day 1:
Raffles Hotel to Singapore Zoo $1.89
Singapore Zoo to Orchard MRT station $1.72
Orchard Road to Clarke Quay MRT $0.83
Clarke Quay back to Raffles Hotel $0.88
Total spent: $5.32 + (non-refundable $5)=$10.32

Day 2:
Raffles Hotel to Chinatown $0.88
Chinatown to Little India $0.88
Farrer Park to Raffles Hotel $0.83
Total spent: $2.59
Day 1 + Day 2 expenses= $7.91
+ (non-refundable $5) =$12.91

Day 3
Raffles Hotel to HarbourFront $1.26
Monorail from HarbourFront into Sentosa $3.00 [Micheal said the pass does not cover this charge.]
Sentosa back to HarbourFront (Free)
HarbourFront to Raffles Hotel $0.83
Total spent: $5.09 + $3 Monorail
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 expenses= $16
+ (non-refundable $5) =$21

There’s a small flaw with my calculations though: Most of my transport cost involves taking the bus. I like taking buses but some travelers might shun buses because there are too many routes.

Verdict

[Update (12/6/2012):] If we add the $3 for Sentosa Monorail, it gets a little more expensive.
Turns out, the STPass is quite a good value for travellers. This is due to the unrefundable $5 in the EZ-Link card. But you have to make sure that you will take enough public transport to cover your STPass.

I have to admit that the STPass does look a lot prettier than a regular EZ-Link. So if you are travelling to Singapore, maybe you can give it a try.

UPDATE: As Gurpal mentioned below, the card is only available at selected MRTs and at specific timings. Boo.

Have you bought the Singapore Tourist Pass before? How was your experience?

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The Silken Serenade to Kuala Lumpur

Trains are the new planes.
@t_phuck

(Caution: Content is not optimized for blog posts.)

I had the chance to take the overnight Malaysia train on Feb. 10 from Johor to Kuala Lumpur to meet my friend who was visiting from Ho Chi Minh.

As it was my first Malaysian night train, I was excited even when buying the tickets. The train that I will be taking was called Senandung Sutera. Singapore’s Prime Minister’s Office translated it as Silken Serenade which I took to mean the train would emit a low hum while on the tracks.

I’m not a train romantic but since it was my first overnight train in Malaysia, my imagination run wild.

In your dreams

I imagined that I would leave for my train with a small hand carry and a gorgeous vintage travel dress (much like Nellie Bly’s round-the-world outfit).

On the train, I would sleep like a baby as the train gently rocks me. In the morning, I would wake up fresh from the night’s sleep. I would then alight the train with light steps and in my hand, I carry the small lady-like hand luggage.

In my gorgeous vintage travel dress, I would step out on the platform while the wind blows and tousles my hair. Something like what these ladies are doing.

Of course, things never quite work out the way I want it to. For one, I have two luggages–a backpack and a gaudy Lesportsac sling bag. Then, I have unflattering glasses and messy hair. My only consolation is that I do have a nice sundress. Good enough, I suppose.

Continue reading “The Silken Serenade to Kuala Lumpur”

Read: The Great Railway Bazaar


I was introduced to Paul Theroux’s by a travel writer on Twitter. The tweet wasn’t directed at me and I’m not even too sure who it was.

The tweet made Paul Theroux sound like The Best Travel Writer in the World™. I then decided to check out The Great Railway Bazaar from the library.

Synopsis: Writer takes train after train after train from London all the way to Japan (with some flights in between), passing by Europe, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia and back through Russia.
Continue reading “Read: The Great Railway Bazaar”

Tips on taking train from Singapore to Malaysia

malaysia train ticket

UPDATE [JANUARY 2015] KTM STAFF TOLD ME THAT THE NIGHT TRAINS ARE STILL RUNNING. HOWEVER, THEY REFUSED TO BELIEVE ME WHEN I TOLD THEM I CANNOT BUY THE TICKETS ON LINE. KTM CUSTOMER SERVICE IS HORRIBLE. TSK TSK.

THE SELECTION APPEARS ON THE WEBSITE BUT SEATS CANNOT BE CHOSEN. LET’S ASSUME IT’S CANCELLED, UNLESS SOMEONE CALLS KTM TO CONFIRM.

Update [March 23, 2013] Check out the FAQ too

I went on the overnight train to Kuala Lumpur last weekend and it was really fun–the train ride and the trip. For those who have been wondering how to take the old rail train to Malaysia, here are some money saving tips that you can use to save on the train trip from Singapore to Malaysia. My guide will focus on buying tickets online.

1. Leave from JB Sentral instead of Woodlands, Singapore

Actually, you can stop reading from here because this is the best tip I have. As noted in my previous post announcing my trip, you will save half the amount if you leave from Malaysia instead of Singapore.

Based on the 2nd class sleeper ticket, I

Since the Singapore and Malaysia train stations are just a causeway away, it really makes more sense to travel to JB Sentral on public bus and board there. Plus, the KFC at JB Sentral is 24-hours, eat all the fried chicken you want!

If you really want to leave from Singapore (so you can skip the torturous bus ride across the causeway), I’d suggest you buy a cheap seat (about S$17) from Woodlands CIQ-JB Sentral. When the train reaches JB Sentral, you can hop off and go to your carriage. (The ticket checking for the JB passage starts when the train moves.)

2. But come back to Woodlands not JB

Am I confusing you? Yes, you leave from JB but come back to Woodlands. Why? The ticket from Malaysia to Singapore is in RM so it’ll still be cheap. You’ll also skip the horrible traffic jam on the causeway, especially if it’s commuting hours.

3. Choosing where to buy tickets

Back to ticket buying, I’ll assume that you are based in Singapore. Buy the ticket online instead of heading to JB Sentral’s ticketing counter. Plus, you’ll be charged in Singapore dollars if you buy directly at Woodlands.

My guide here will focus on buying online. KTMB’s Web site is a bit old school–it even has frames. But it gets it job done.

First check the timetable to figure out which train to catch. I picked the 23.55 train from JB because it arrives at 06.30 in KL. Saves me travelling time during the day. Then sign up for an account to book your tickets.

4. Selecting the tickets online

This part is slightly confusing because of KTMB’s naming convention:

  • JB Sentral=Johor Bahru train station
  • Sentral Kuala Lumpur=KL Sentral
  • Woodlands CIQ=Woodlands station

Pick the timing that you want to leave. Then you choose the type of sleeper/seat you want. I’d recommend the sleepers for overnighting to KL. There are 5 types of seats/sleeper.

  • ADMFB: Air-conditioned Day Night First-class Berth
  • ADNFD: Air-conditioned Day Night First-class Deluxe
  • ADNS: Air-conditioned Day Night Sleeper
  • AFC: Air-conditioned First Class
  • ASC: Air-conditioned Second Class

I’ve only been on ADNS’s upper bunk. It was quite a pleasant ride/sleep, minus the shaking and snoring man.

I was on the upper bunk

The page says you will need to key in passengers’ names and identificaiton number. They never checked mine against the ticket so if you are in a hurry, I think you can just put fake names/ID number.

5. Payment and proof

Pay using a regular credit/debit card to buy the tickets.

They will not send you a proof of confirmation, so remember to save the page. I usually save my Web pages in PDF form so it prints out nicer. I use PDF Creator which shows up as a virtual printer in my Print tool. (Don’t click the toolbar when installing).

Ticket!

Printing out the ticket is necessary. DO NOT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT.

6. Things to bring on train

Waiting for the trip to arrive is the hardest step. Here’s something you need to know about the trip: There is no food and drink station onboard so bring your own munchies and liquids.

Attention! During my trip in October, I found out that KTMB stopped providing blankets. Please bring something warm for the ride, it gets really cold.

Safety pins to pin your sleeping curtain will be very helpful. I found myself peering into curtains on my way back from the loo. Not much privacy for whoever was in it.

The only bus that seems to be on duty around 23.00 is the SBS and SMRT buses. So there is not much choice in the bus leaving Singapore to JB. Oh, the train might break down, like it did on my trip. Just sit/sleep through it with a smile.

BONUS! JB Sentral map

Many have been asking me about how to get to JB’s train station. I’ve used Google Map to show you that it’s really really easy to reach JB Sentral (where the station is). Map of JB Sentral, train station

Update [March 23, 2013] Check out the FAQ

Update [December 24, 2013] Comments are now closed.

How we used Kyoto as a base to explore Kansai

During my 10-day trip to Japan last October, my mom and I spent 6 days in the Kansai region and visited Kyoto, Fushimi-Inari shrine, Uji, Nara and Osaka.

Since we wanted to see many sites in Kyoto as well as the Jidai Matsuri, we used Kyoto as a base and took day trips to the other Kansai cities. But if you are more of a city person, you’d probably like staying in Osaka better than Kyoto.

Our itinerary was like this:

Day 1: Arrive in Kyoto
Day 2: Kyoto – Fushimi Inari – Uji – Nara – Kyoto [Kansai Thru Pass]
Day 3: Kyoto
Day 4: Kyoto – Osaka – Kyoto [Kansai Thru Pass]
Day 5: Kyoto – Nara -Kyoto [JR]
Day 6: Kyoto (Jidai matsuri)

My mom and I are temple, old building lovers so three days in Kyoto was fine. (Although we did spend a large part of our last day napping in the public bus.)

Continue reading “How we used Kyoto as a base to explore Kansai”

Upcoming trip: KL light bulb trip

I’ve bought a return trip ticket to KL for the Feb 11 weekend. This will be my first time taking the overnight train in Malaysia.

I named the trip the “KL light bulb trip” because I’m joining N and her boyfriend (whom I’ve not met) who are both coming in from overseas. “Light bulb” in colloquial Chinese means a third person among a couple. (Coincidentally, my first overnight train trip in China was with N.)

Continue reading “Upcoming trip: KL light bulb trip”