Note: This blog was written in 2009 when I took the trip. Please do your own research and take your own responsibility. I have not heard complaints or blames (as I am not running a tour information site, just a journal of my journeys), but if you have recently taken this path and experienced something very different, please feel free to leave a comment under the blog, so that others may benefit from your experience, too. But no spamming please… Safe trails, boys and girls!

KTM Ticket!
KTM Ticket!

Like I mentioned earlier, I bought my ticket at Singapore station on the day before my departure. But according to travel information like Seat61.com, you can also reserve your seat by sending email or even buy ticket from KTM website. Frankly, I did not expect very quick response from their train company, just guessing from how my perception of national entity in Malaysia is. So rather than emailing to book a seat and be left wondering whether I got a seat confirmed or not, I took buses to the train station so I can get tickets. What I did not know was that they charge more if you buy in Singapore. Okay, sure, I thought it might be slightly higher because they may want to be ready for a fractuation of exchange rate. But, what I found out today (13th of April) as I went back to the station to discuss about the difference of the train fare between what my fellow passenger paid and mine, I discovered the shocking truth.

Please read on, if you are considering or planning on travelling by train across Malaysia.

“If you buy in Singapore, you pay Singapore dollar (SGD).”

Okay… I obviously do not expect to pay in Malaysian Ringgits (RM).

BUT, what it actually meant was not just about which currency. They expect you to pay the same amount, but instead of RM, pay SGD.

So here’s how it works. For example, the KL to Butterworth on the day I travelled (31 March 2009), I paid SGD38.00. See the 3rd row in the picture below. That is from KTM website showing the fares for the same train, same day. It is RM38.00 if I bought from them!

KTM fares KL Sentral to Butterworth (31 March 2009)
KTM fares KL Sentral to Butterworth (31 March 2009)

Singapore dollar is 150% stronger than Malaysian Ringgits. Or in other words, SGD1.00 = RM2.5 so if I paid the same amount but with Singapore dollar, I paid 150% more in value. This is ridiculous.

Today, the first chance since my return from the trip, I went down to the train station. The guy at the ticket office could not deal with my enquiry and ask me to speak to the station master. The gentleman with only one good eye was relatively polite so I tried not to get emotional first. Well, at this point, I still thought it was some kind of mistake, perhaps a stupid error in the ticketing computer system or data entry mistake. But when I explained what happened, MD Ayso (Singapore station principle) told me that I would have paid less if I bought in Malaysia or by booking by email. I said it was the first time I travel by this train and I did question why the fare was so high when I bought the ticket, but the ticket officer could not answer the enquiry. He said it would have been helpful if he did suggest to you it would be cheaper to buy in Malaysia. As for charging the same figure in Singapore dollar, he does not seem to feel there is any issue. That is just the way it is. (Why can some people just say ‘that’s the way it is’ when clearly you can do something to better service your customers!) I said I was surprised that this is happening, in Malaysia, which is not a developing country (hint hint!) but this is a third-world kind of incident. He refused to give me his business card saying he doesn’t have one (what kind of station principle does not carry a single business card. fine.) when I said I want to make a suggestion to the company on behalf of foreign visitors who may be confused by this and I want to refer to our conversation.

Lesson learned:

  1. Do your homework well. Get the facts yourself. Watch the pricing in detail before paying.
  2. Do not trust the public workers in that country (mind my rather radical generalisation, but often seem to apply, according to friends there), just like you cannot trust dodgy IT/phone sellers in Singapore.

And suggestion for you future travellers:

  1. Buy ticket online, or
  2. Book your seat by sending email to them (I don’t know exactly how it works but it seems to be a well used method there).
  3. Book early

Yes, it is possible to buy your tickets for Malaysia Rails at Singapore station. They do not accept Visa (but they do only Master and AMEX, was it?) so bring cash if you are visa holder like me. But please be aware that you are only helping the corrupt nation stuck with all sorts of bribes… and this is *almost* the same… If you feel so generous that you want to give away some money, donate some to me and I’ll try to put it to use that actually help some people who deserve it. I’ll give you my paypal detail 🙂

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