Much more tame and sanitized than its Thai counterpart, Malaysia’s Padang Besar still attracts many Malaysians who come to shop for items imported from Thailand which are available in abundance at lower prices.
See Malaysia | Get In for details of Malaysian immigration requirements. The Malaysian immigration/customs checkpoint is situated near the town centre and is several hundred metres from the actual border and the Thai immigration complex.
KTMB (Malaysian Railways) operates Komuter trains between Padang Besar and Butterworth, and ETS trains further south to Kuala Lumpur to Gemas. Komuter trains are non-reserved, air conditioned train sets but no toilet on board. Travel time is one hour and 51 minutes and costs RM11.40 (approx 90THB) to cover the 158km distance to Butterworth. ETS Gold/Platinum trains are with all-reserved seats and travel up to 160km/hr. Refer to KTMB Berhad[dead link] for ETS train booking, and Train36 website for Komuter train schedule.
SRT (State Railway of Thailand) operates twice daily shuttle trains between Hat Yai and Padang Besar using diesel A/C trains. The journey takes about 1 hour and costs 80THB. The outbound trains leave Hat Yai twice daily at 07:30 and 13:05, and the inbound trains leave Padang Besar at 08:55 and 14:40 (Thai time). The ticket for these trains are sold one hour before departure and cannot be reserved advance, but don’t worry they never sell out the ticket. For up-to date schedule refer to The State Railway of Thailand.
There is also one direct train to/from Bangkok. Special Express train number 46 leaves Padang Besar at 18:00 (Malaysian time) and arrives Bangkok at a 10:10 (Thai time), and train 45 leaves Bangkok at 15:10 (Thai time) and arrives at Padang Besar at 9:53 (Malaysian time). This train is only with second class A/C berth and costs 960/760THB lower/upper berth. It is advisable to book ticket for this train on-line directly at SRT website as KTMB (Malaysian railways) does not sell ticket for this train. Note it would be very expensive if you take this train just to Hat Yai (approx. 400THB) as you need to pay for the berth ticket.
Both Thai and Malaysian immigration inside the trains station open one hour before departure of Thai trains.
Note Malaysian time is one hour ahead of Thai time (e.g. 12:00 in Thailand is 13:00 in Malaysia). When connecting trains in Padang Besar, be sure to check the departure time is in Malaysian or Thai. There is also no ATM or official currency exchange in Padang Besar station. It is advised to exchange enough money to buy the onward ticket before heading there.
Direct express buses linking Padang Besar directly with Kuala Lumpur and Penang or Butterworth are operated by Plusliner Bus Services and perhaps Transnasional (though it’s not one of the towns on the Transnational website). Express buses depart from Jalan Masjid in Padang Besar. Local buses connect Padang Besar and Kangar.
The Malaysian immigration checkpoint is located at the edge of town. It is quite easy to drive from Thailand into Malaysia or vice-versa. Just make sure your insurance is in order. There is a distance of several hundred metres between the Malaysian and Thai checkpoints, with a duty free shopping complex in Malaysian territory in between. Most people do not walk but catch motorcycle taxis (RM3) which can be found in abundance in town and will bring you through the two checkpoints into the centre of Thai Padang Besar.
See the page for the Thai town of Padang Besar for details on how to cross the border from the Thai side.