Located nearby outside Kuala Lumpur and near the Malacca Strait separating Indonesia and Malaysia, Melaka has been an area of Malaysia that I’d wanted to visit for quite a while. The fact that it’s also a UNESCO Heritage Site and supposedly has one of the highest number of museums in the country draws me to it even more.
However, my first visit to Melaka ended up to be quite an adventure.
Most guidebooks I read recommended an overnight stay at the town to better experience it. Thing is, I was a bit short on time so my mom and I decided to make a day trip out of it – which turned out to provide so many valuable lessons and information, particularly in terms of getting in, out, and around this town.
Here’s a little guide based on my experience of getting in, out, and around this town which will hopefully help you out on your visit to Melaka.
Getting In to Melaka
There are several ways to get in and out of Melaka. From Kuala Lumpur, your best options are either by taxi, rental car, or a bus. I wouldn’t recommend the former two because I looked up the prices and oh my gosh, it was truly expensive. But hey, if you want the comfort of your own private vehicle, I won’t judge either.
There are several buses that can take you from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka and the other way around with varying fares. I did my research by checking travel forums and other blogs in advance to find an option that’s truly the safest because I’ve heard some bus companies in Malaysia are no different than those in Indonesia which tend to be unsafe and I’d like to avoid that, thank you very much.
From most travel forums, including TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet’s, the name “Transnasional” keeps popping up as a recommended bus company with the safest track record so eventually, I settled on that.
The next issue where I could catch this Transnasional Bus. Easybook.com was a lifesaver here with the ability to check on whether a bus is full on certain schedules. Most buses from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka usually depart from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan or TBS, but apparently, you can also catch a Transnasional from the transport hubs at KLIA and KLIA2 for a bit of an extra charge. Since the buses from TBS turned out to be full on my intended departure date, we went for KLIA2 instead.
Though the option to book a bus ticket online from Easybook was available, we decided to just show up earlier than the departure time since the bus looked quite empty on the Easybook site.
Arriving at 9.30 at KLIA2 got us on the 11 AM Transnasional to Melaka Sentral for RM24 – not a bad price given the reputation for safety and timeliness. Okay, scratch that. When I actually experienced the bus ride, those RM24 truly felt like money well spent.
The bus itself was really comfortable with air conditioner, super wide seats, and actual seatbelts. For every ticket you buy, you also get a seat number to guarantee your spot on the bus, though when we got on the bus, there were three people who had issues with their seat numbers from double booking and had to be left behind. Turned out they did online booking and somehow the booking didn’t come through to the company so watch out for that.
The bus itself has no toilets, but passengers could ask for the driver to stop for toilet breaks at gas stations. Just make sure the driver knows you left the bus so he won’t abandon you. Also, the bus won’t pick up random passengers along the way – your fellow passengers are the same ones you rode the bus with from the departing terminal.
My favorite feature of this bus, however, is the speed limiter. Every time the bus hits a certain speed and tries to get past it, you will hear this incessant beeping noise and thus, the driver cannot speed at all without the bus reacting to it. And that is awesome. Living in Indonesia and frequently visiting Malaysia, I’ve heard cases of bus drivers who speed and end up leading their passengers to injuries or early deaths in wrecks way too often in both countries. The fact that Transnasional puts that limiter is something I truly appreciate.
The journey took around 3 hours – including one 15-minute toilet break and so much traffic heading into Melaka Sentral.
Getting Around Melaka
Most of the attractions in Melaka are cloistered at the center, around the Jonker Street area so the furthest we had to go in town that day was from Melaka Sentral to the city center. I find that the best option is take a Grab. For RM7, we managed to get a ride downtown with a driver who’s truly the kindest I’ve ever met.
Come to think of that, everyone I’ve met in Melaka has been nothing but kind – even the Grab driver taking us back from the city center to Melaka Sentral was incredibly nice too. So really, taking a Grab is somewhat an experience with the locals here.
Also, be mindful in getting a Grab from Melaka Sentral as there is an entire lobby marked for taxis only and they don’t like it when Grabs pick up passengers from there. I made the mistake of trying to get a Grab here and eventually, the driver told me to just wait on the side of the road so he could pick us up there.
Once we got to the city center, we simply went around on foot. The sidewalks were pretty narrow but free from holes and potted plants so it was not bad to walk around in the area. Also, it’s pretty much a couple of minutes walk to get everywhere and the walls of the shophouses lining the streets were gorgeous, with some having murals on them reminiscent of the ones I found in Georgetown, Penang. Walking around can also lead you to discovering so many things you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, such as a shop selling my favorite Malaysian snack in a new flavor and a museum which guide invited to walk in!
When we got to 4 PM, time was ticking and we still hadn’t seen too much of Melaka since we were caught up spending time in a couple of places so we went on one of the many rickshaws waiting near Dutch Square.
These rickshaws were garishly bright, some coming with sparkling lights and booming music as well. Their rates are mostly around RM35-50 depending on your route and how long you wanted the trip to be. We got a 45-minute ride for RM50 which covered all the stops we wanted and past by some more. The rickshaw driver was also helpful in taking pics for us and explaining the history and little bits about life in Melaka during the ride and honestly, I found it worth the spend.
At 4.45 PM, we hopped off the rickshaw and called a Grab to take us back to Melaka Sentral from the city center for RM9. Traffic was quite bad around Dutch Square and Jonker Street as the famous Jonker Street Food Market was starting to be set up. Fortunately, we got an awesome driver who simply asked “Are you in a hurry?” and upon our yes, decided to pick an alternative route which got us to Melaka Sentral at 5.00 PM!
Getting Out of Melaka
Thanks to the lesson we learned at KLIA2 – how getting there at 9.30 still got us on a later bus than we intended, we decided to immediately purchase the tickets for the bus to Kuala Lumpur before we did anything else, just to make sure that we could get on the bus. I didn’t notice any Transnasional counters at the terminal at first so I booked the trip with Catch That Bus at pretty much the same rate. The last Transnasional from Melaka Sentral was scheduled to leave at 6 PM that day so naturally, we picked that to spend as much time as we could at Melaka.
Oh, Melaka Sentral itself is also not a bad terminal to wait at. There’s so much food in the terminal, the toilets are pretty okay, and there’s even a shelf of free books to read in the terminal. The booking counters were also neat and lined up with clear information displayed on bus routes and most importantly, no ticket touts and scalpers were found. Indonesian bus terminals, please take note!
The hour-long wait for our bus was pretty awesome. My mom bought some kue putu and water and we snacked on it while watching the sun starting to set near the bus terminal.
Again, our Transnasional bus turned out to be amazing in terms of quality and we got to KLIA2 at around 8 PM – faster than we expected without dangerous driving. I was honestly so impressed by this bus company this trip that I’d definitely book with them again next time I’m in Malaysia.
All in all, it wasn’t difficult to get in, around, and out of Melaka at all. The town is tourist-friendly and access isn’t hard. Transport facilities are quite okay as well. However, you do need to do a bit of research just to further ensure your safety, prepare the Grab app and be ready to haggle when needed. With proper prep, a day trip in Melaka is quite enough to get a bit of a feel of the city without confusion and too much hassle on unnecessary transport issues, though I would still recommend an overnight stay.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this 3-part Melaka post series!