Peninsular Express: Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur and Hat Yai by Train

The Ekspres Peninsular is no longer in operation.

The Peninsular Express is a rejuvenated service by KTM Intercity with an extension southwards to JB Sentral, a combination of the previous Senandung Langkawi and Ekspres Sinaran Selatan. The northbound train takes 17 hours and 20 minutes to travel along the Malay Peninsular. For the southbound journey, please click here.

Tickets for the full route, especially to Hat Yai, sell out very easily. If you are unable to get a ticket to Hat Yai, get a ticket to Padang Besar first, and then a separate ticket from Padang Besar to Hat Yai.


The train departs from JB Sentral at 5pm sharp daily. The Peninsular Express makes stops along most stations between JB Sentral and Seremban, and at major stations between Seremban and Hat Yai.

For this long journey, a buffet coach is attached on board. However, freshly cooked a la carte meals are only available between KL Sentral and Padang Besar. Packed food is available once the train departs from Kluang station, around 2 hours from JB Sentral.

A sample of the packed Nasi Goreng (RM5.50) or fried rice with hot Milo (RM2.50).

From the a la carte menu, I ordered the Telur Bistik (RM7), or Steak and Eggs. This dish encompasses chopped beef in sweet and sour sauce with cucumbers, carrots, fried shallots and spring onions, served over an omelette. This is best eaten with white rice (RM2).

Nasi Goreng Belacan (RM6.50), or shrimp paste fried rice, is also available, freshly cooked. They probably ran out of plates for this order. The additional telur dadar (omelette) goes for RM3.

A sample of the scenery in the northern states.

The branch off to Bukit Mertajam and Butterworth. The Peninsular Express takes the new Bukit Mertajam bypass, skipping the leg to Butterworth. You may interchange to the KTM Komuter Northern Sector Shuttle Train at Parit Buntar or Sungai Petani to access it.


At Gurun station, the Peninsular Express makes a longer stop than usual for the Komuter train to Padang Besar to overtake it. If you are in a hurry, you may alight at Sungai Petani and buy a KTM Komuter ticket there to catch this train to speed up your journey to Padang Besar. Do not transfer at Gurun as you will not have time to buy a ticket from the counter at Gurun.

The view from the bottom berth of the second class sleeper.

Departing from Alor Setar.

Once the train arrives at Padang Besar, those continuing their journey to Hat Yai will wait at the platform for further instructions by immigration staff to enter the building. If you do not have a ticket, follow those exiting the station to go upstairs to the ticket counter to purchase your onward ticket for RM11.

After purchasing your ticket, proceed to the stairs beside the counter (Gate A) for immigration clearance. There are signs around the station so it’s easy to navigate the building.

The checkpoint was still being used by the incoming International Express to Butterworth, so I was asked to go out back to the platform where the Peninsular Express passengers were still waiting.

Thai immigration cards were issued on the platform for passengers to fill up first. These are issued free of charge. If anyone asks you to pay for it, do not. Just hold on till you reach the Thai immigration counters where you can pick one up for free. It is also printed on the cards that they are issued free of charge. However, this advise is only for Padang Besar Railway Station, and may not apply to all Thai border crossings.

There is a duty free shop in between the Thai and Malaysian immigration counters. While these are for arriving passengers only, you could purchase items if you are departing Malaysia too if the shop owner allows. This is before heading for Malaysian immigration clearance.

Once cleared, proceed onwards to the Thai counters on the other side of the hall, not more than 50 steps away. Plenty of signs and customs staff to lead you on literally straight ahead. A very simple and hassle-free integrated immigration facility.

Once done with Thai immigration, you will find yourself back at the waiting area before the duty free shop. You are also allowed to go upstairs (back into Malaysia despite having entered Thailand already) to buy food and change money, or go for a smoke break. Just be back before the train departs, which is visible and audible from upstairs.

You may also buy tickets from the SRT office on the platform for any Thai trains, and even the leg of the Peninsular Express from Padang Besar to Hat Yai for 80 baht, which I only found out after spending RM11 on the KTM ticket. If you are on a shoestring budget, this will save you approximately RM1.30. A Thai ticket will be issued for the Peninsular Express.

The rake of the Peninsular Express reurns to the platform after some shunting in the depot. Only 2 passenger coaches, L7 (ASC) and L8 (ADNS), enter Hat Yai. The leg from Padang Besar to Hat Yai will be served by Thai locomotives.

Coupling the locomotive with the Peninsular Express rake.

Today’s Peninsular Express is combined with a landbridge service (cargo) to Hat Yai, resulting in a delay of around 1 and a half hours.

Proceeding on to Thailand.

The official border of Malaysia and Thailand, demarcated by an inconspicuous concrete plinth, but more obviously by the huge sign and concrete fence.

Arriving at the new Padang Besar (Thai) Railway Station.

The Padang Besar (Thai) Railway Station features the national flags of ASEAN members. This line and station, along with the new Hat Yai – Padang Besar Shuttle Train, is to support the future Asean Economic Community and to provide easy access for Thailand-Malaysia rail connection, including the border town of Padang Besar (Thailand).

The train also makes a brief stop at Khlong Ngae station, in between Padang Besar and Hat Yai.

The Peninsular Express arrives at Hat Yai, after almost 20 hours, inclusive of delays. As the station is in the middle of the city centre, shopping centers and city hotels are easily walkable.

Book your tickets at any KTM Intercity ticket counter, online, or the KTMB-MobTicket app on Google Play.

Click here for the timetable of trains plying between Singapore and Bangkok and transfer combinations.

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3 thoughts on “Peninsular Express: Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur and Hat Yai by Train

  1. Dreamer says:

    It states that u cannot get a ticket on the spot for the same day ride. So I guess it’s impossible to stay at Johor n work in Singapore. Or am I wrong?

    Like

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