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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

What you need to know about taking the ETS train ride to the north

The school holidays are coming and perhaps you are looking for a place to go for a couple of days. If you are planning to go to the North side of peninsular Malaysia, you can go there by train ie by ETS. Here's what you need to know before taking the ETS train to the north. This post is focussed on travelling to the North eg Ipoh, Padang Besar or Butterworth but naturally you can also travel to the South too, to Gemas, then hop on to another shuttle train from Gemas to JB Sentral and from there take a shuttle from JB Sentral to Woodlands, Singapore. Check here for list of KTM stations both North and South.

Buying Tickets

1. You can book your tickets online through the KITS (KTMB Integrated Ticketing System). You can also purchase your tickets over the counter or at kiosks at any KTMB station or via KTMB mobile app on Google Play or KTMB mobile app on Apple App store. If you purchase online or via mobile app, your ticket will be in digital format with a QR code which you can scan at the entrances when you arrive or leave a station.

Read the KITS Faq here

2. Make sure to book early as the trains can be quite full especially during peak season.

3.  Secondary students, college students or university students in Malaysia can apply for the KTM i-card to get rebates up to 40% from the adult ticket fare. The annual fee for the KTM i-card is RM33. You could save more than that for just one long distance trip, so it is worthwhile to apply.

Read the KTM i-card info here.

4. The trains travel up to 140km/h

Choosing Tickets

5. There are 6 coaches named coach A to coach F.  When embarking, you can easily wait at the front of your coach as you will find the floor clearly marked to identify the coaches waiting area. The stops at each station can be quite short, around half a minute to 2 to 3 minutes, so waiting at the right place will help you embark quickly.

Watch out for the markings on the floor to decide where you should wait for your coach on the platform.

6. There are several tickets you can choose from. Front facing (facing the same direction as the way the train is headed), back facing, window or aisle. There is also a table seat with front facing and back facing tickets facing the table. This is nice for a family travelling together. See the diagram below for the table setting.

When selecting seats, you will be shown seats that have been taken up including whether they have been taken up by a male or female passenger. Normal class coaches have 4 seats per row.

7. There are about 5 trains heading to the north daily with the last stop at Padang Besar.

8. You can purchase Silver, Gold, Platinum or Business Class tickets. 

9. Business class tickets are only available for long haul journeys. The price is higher but you get to enjoy a more spacious seating in a 2+1 configuration (3 seats per row. 2 seats on one side of the aisle and 1 seat on the other side). Business class tickets are on Coach A of a Platinum ride. The other normal coaches have 4 seats per row (2 seats on each side of the aisle ie 2+2 configuration). Leg space is wider and the chairs can recline up to 45 degrees on a business class ride. You can also charge  your devices using usb or 3-pin power outlets. Snacks and lunch is included in the fare.  Each seat has its own on screen with complimentary wi-fi for internet access.

The business class seats are on Coach A and have only 3 seats per row as shown.

You will receive snacks on a business ticket

Free onboard entertainment and lunch is served when travelling on business tickets

In addition to a power outlet, a USB port is provided in business class.

10. What is the difference between silver, gold and platinum? The number of stops and the time of the journey. Short distance routes have silver and gold only. The silver train has more stops and is usually at a not so popular time. 

Similarly, the gold and platinum seats in a longer route are differentiated by the number of stops. The gold train makes more stops and is usually at a not so popular time. 

The price difference between the silver and gold (for shorter route) or gold and platinum (for longer routes) are usually quite a lot although the actual time of the journey is not very much longer and at times even shorter despite making more stops! There is not much difference in facilities. eg. the silver or gold trains may not have usb chargers but they do have 3-pin power points for charging of devices. In the 5 daily trips there is usually only one trip for silver and one trip for gold so the take up rates is very high and fast. Book early if you wish to take these trains.

11. How long is the journey? The journey from KL Sentral to Padang Besar by ETS train is around 5 hours 30 minutes whereas the journey from KL Sentral to Ipoh is about 2 hours and 40 minutes.

12. According to this article, you can also get discounts by applying promo codes from now till Nov 30.

13. All trains have washroom and a food and beverage bistro.

14. KTM currently uses trains from South Korea (KTM Class 91) and China (KTM Class 93).

15. The temperature is kept at about 22 degrees. It can be a little bit cold but not freezing cold. 

Only silver and gold trains are used for shorter distances eg: KL Sentral to Ipoh

Gold and platinum seats are available for longer routes. Gold trains are cheaper because they make more stops. Book early to prevent disappointment. 

Miles and miles of padi fields make your ride peaceful and enjoyable further up North

The train is clean and cool with temperatures of about 22 degrees. It travels up to 140km/h.

Pros and Cons.
Travelling on a train is not so tiring as driving to your destination because you can relax and do your own thing during the journey. The downside is you will not have any transport once you arrive at your destination. It is ok if you have relatives waiting for you upon arrival. You can also call a grab or arrange for car rental for pickup and drop off at the railway station. Of course it will cost more to buy tickets and arrange for car rental compared to driving. However, it is nice to let someone else do the driving while you sit back, relax and enjoy the view.

Idea: You can even go on a day trip from KL Sentral to Ipoh by ETS.

Take the morning train from KL Sentral to Ipoh at 8.47 and arrive at 11.28. Have an early lunch, jalan-jalan, early dinner and leave at 6.35 arriving in KL at 9.13pm. A round trip like that will cost around RM80/pax. 

KTM ETS Route Map for North and South of Peninsular Malaysia

KTM ETS Route Map


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