The day after I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, I decided to visit the Cameron Highlands. As I was staying in KL Sentral, I thought taking the bus would be a relatively simple process where I could just walk from where I was staying to the bus stop and then get direct bus from KL to Cameron Highlands. Well, it turns out that taking the bus in Malaysia is not such a simple process.
I tried Googling to figure out how it was done, but I couldn’t find any clear information, and even asking the locals just got me more confused. So I am here to give you clear, updated instructions, so you can get to Cameron Highlands with as minimal hassle as possible.
My experience trying to figure out how to take the bus:
I went to KL Sentral station, which is basically a transport hub with a lot of trains and buses going in and out from all directions. This is where I had assumed I would be able to take the bus. I went to ask a lady at the information desk how I could get to Cameron Highlands. She said, ‘you need to get the express train to get to KL CC. Take the bus from there.’
Following her advice, I went and bought a ticket for the KLIA ekspres line (the airport line). I went through the security gates and down to the underground station to wait for the train. For some reason, I started second-guessing while waiting for the train and went back up the stairs to get a second opinion. I asked a security guard if this was the best way to go to get to Cameron Highlands. He said ‘what are you talking about? You can get the bus from here, just outside.’ He was vaguely pointing but I didn’t really get where he wanted me to go. I said, ‘but I already bought my ticket for this train.’ He said it didn’t matter, that it would be cheaper than going there to get the bus anyway.
I was already through the security gate so I couldn’t just walk off. The security guy pointed me to a help desk and told me to ask them to let me get out. I did so.
The person at that desk asked me why I wanted to leave when I had already bought my train ticket. I explained (now for the third time today) that I wanted the best way to get to Cameron Highlands. She said the best way was getting the train I had already bought the ticket for. Confused, I told her what the guy had just advised me to do. She just repeated that I should get this train. So I didn’t have much choice but to go back down the stairs and keep waiting for the train.
As it turned out, I was in the right place and I eventually made it to Cameron Highlands, but the experience left me wondering about the tried and tested method of ‘asking a local’.
How to get the bus from KL to Cameron Highlands (step-by-step):
(NB: This is assuming you are starting from KL Sentral, which is where all the buses and trains from the airport would leave you. If you’re somewhere else, start by taking the MRT to KL Sentral and then start from step one.)
1. KL Sentral to TBS
You can take either line 1 (KTM Seremban line) or line 6 (KLIA ekspres line) to get to Bandar Tasik Selatan, where the bus station, Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), is located. Line 6 is faster, but my understanding is that line 1 is a lot cheaper (you can check that in the ticket machines).
2. Buy a ticket at TBS
There are manned ticket booths where you just have to go and tell the person where you are going. They might ask for some information, like your passport number, phone number and other personal details. They will give you your ticket and tell you what your seat number is and what time it will depart.
Tip: If you’re super organised, you can also buy a ticket in advance online.
Cost: 35 RMB
3. Wait at TBS
The buses depart at somewhat random times (you can check the bus timetable here). You should be there at least 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time. If you are too late they might put you on the next bus. So you could be waiting there up to two hours. Luckily, there are shops and places to eat at TBS, so it is not too painful.
4. Catch the bus
Now is when you will realise that your allocated seat number means absolutely nothing, and everyone will just sit wherever they like.
My tips for the journey on the bus from KL to Cameron Highlands:
- Try to take a window seat because the views are amazing as you get into the highlands.
- Make sure you bring a jacket, even if it’s warm outside because the Malay really love their air con – also, it’s probably going to be cold in Cameron Highlands, anyway.
- If you’re prone to motion sickness, make sure you take something before, because the roads are very long and windy
Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Getting the bus back from Cameron Highlands to KL:
This was a bit confusing again, although luckily the town of Tanah Rata is small enough that you can’t become as lost. The bus does not depart from the same place that it drops you off, there is a different terminal about 10 minutes away from the drop off point. Make sure you ask at your accommodation or ask a professional local (like a police officer) to make sure you go to the right place.
Hopefully I’ve been able to make a somewhat confusing process more or less straightforward. Now go an enjoy the Highlands! And don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know how the experience of taking the bus from KL to Cameron Highlands was for you.
Planning a trip around Malaysia? Check out my full Malaysia guide.