Within Malaysia, infrastructure is of good quality with regard to domestic travel -- depending on your budget and the amount of time you have, you'll have a variety of choices that include air carriers, regular train service, a wide web of intercity buses, and well-maintained roads.
Malaysia Airlines (tel. 1300/883-000; www.malaysiaairlines.com) links from its hub in Kuala Lumpur the cities of Johor Bahru, Kota Bharu, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan, Kuching, Langkawi, Penang, and other smaller cities not covered in this volume. Individual airport information is provided in sections for each city. One-way domestic fares can average RM100 to RM400.
AirAsia (tel. 03/8775-4000; www.airasia.com) competes with Malaysia Airlines with incredibly affordable rates. It links all the country's major cities with fares that, on average, run from RM40 and up -- seriously.
Berjaya Air (tel. 03/2141-0088; www.berjaya-air.com) operates a small fleet of aircraft that services KL to Pangkor, Tioman, Redang, and Langkawi islands, with flights from Koh Samui in Thailand and Singapore as well.
Firefly (tel. 03/7845-4543; www.fireflyz.com) has a small fleet that services some peninsular and East Malaysian destinations.
The Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTM) provides train service throughout peninsular Malaysia. Trains run from north to south between the Thai border and Singapore, with stops including Butterworth (Penang), Kuala Lumpur, and Johor Bahru. There is a second line that branches off at Gemas, midway between Johor Bahru and KL, and heads northeast to Tempas near Kota Bharu. Fares range from RM64 for first class between Johor Bahru and KL, to RM30 for first-class passage between KL and Butterworth.
Malaysia's intercity coach system is extensive and inexpensive, but I don't really recommend it. With the exception of executive coach services between KL, Penang, Singapore, and Melaka, which are excellent, standard coaches get dirtier and dirtier each year, maintenance issues are a question mark, and road safety is a roll of the dice. Still, if you must, for each city covered, I've listed bus terminal locations, but scheduling information must be obtained from the bus company itself.
You can take special hired cars, called outstation taxis, between every city and state on the peninsula. Rates depend on the distance you plan to travel. They are fixed and stated at the beginning of the trip but many times can be bargained down. Cars are not of the best quality (usually older sedans), and this is probably the most expensive way to travel between cities, with most trips running between RM250 and RM500. In Kuala Lumpur, the outstation taxi stand has been temporarily relocated from its former base at the Puduraya Bus Terminal, so I recommend contacting them through MTC at tel. 03/9235-4800.
Also, within each of the smaller cities, feel free to negotiate with unmetered taxis for hourly, half-day, or daily rates. It's an excellent way to get around for sightseeing and shopping without transportation hassles. Hourly rates are usually up to RM60 per hour.
The cities along the west coast of the peninsula are linked by the North-South Highway. There are rest areas with toilets, food outlets, and emergency telephones at intervals along the way. There is also a toll that varies depending on the distance you're traveling.
Driving along the east coast of Malaysia is actually much more pleasant than driving along the west coast. The highway is narrower and older, but it takes you through oil palm and rubber plantations, and the essence of kampung Malaysia permeates throughout. As you near villages, you'll often have to slow down and swerve past cows and goats, which are really quite oblivious to oncoming traffic. You have to get very close to honk at them before they move.
The speed limit on highways is 110kmph (68 mph). On the minor highways, the limit ranges from 70 to 90kmph (43-56 mph). Do not speed, as there are traffic police strategically situated around certain bends.
Distances between major towns are: from KL to Johor Bahru, 368km (228 miles); from KL to Melaka, 144km (89 miles); from KL to Kuantan, 259km (161 miles); from KL to Butterworth, 369km (229 miles); from Johor Bahru to Melaka, 224km (139 miles); from Johor Bahru to Kuantan, 325km (202 miles); from Johor Bahru to Mersing, 134km (83 miles); from Johor Bahru to Butterworth, 737km (657 miles).
To rent a car in Malaysia, you must produce a driver's license from your home country that shows you have been driving at least 2 years. There are desks for major car-rental services at the international airports in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, and additional outlets throughout the country.