Taking a cruise to Malaysia is a fun and exciting way to arrive. You’ll get to see the many forested islands as you weave your way up the Malacca Strait and dock at Port Klang just south-west of Kuala Lumpur. And once you dock, there are a few things you can do and although I strongly suggest a day trip to Kuala Lumpur to get a real feel for Malaysia and its capital, I do recommend understanding the travel times to make sure the cruise doesn’t leave without you.
Depending on where you are going, it’s approximately 41 km from Port Klang to Kuala Lumpur and only takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. If you choose to travel by taxi or bus, it may take a few minutes longer due to heavy traffic and road conditions.
You’ll begin your day trip at Port Klang. Port Klang is the closest dock to the capital city, Kuala Lumpur and is the 11th busiest transshipment port and the 17th busiest container port in the world.
There are three ports at Port Klang: Northport, Southpoint, and Westport. Southpoint is the original port with Northport and Westport coming much later. It was developed by the Malayan Railway and opened on 15 September 1901. At the time is was called Port Swettenham named after Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham who had initiated a rail system between Klang and Kuala Lumpur. Before this, ships had a difficult time navigating through the jetty. So this new location at the mouth of the river was chosen.
Before the railway was put in, the trip from Klang to Kuala Lumpur was horse or buffalo-drawn wagons or boat ride along the Klang River to Damansara. This was a long and rather tedious journey and with the rising need to transport tin and other materials from KL, the railway was initiated.
Today, cruise ships normally dock at Port Klang Cruise Centre, however, there are sometimes exceptions. It’s best to check with the front desk onboard your ship to find out exactly where you will dock. When you get off the ship, first check in with The Port Klang Cruise Centre. There you will find everything you’ll need for your daytrip to Kuala Lumpur: currency exchange, wi-fi, taxi information desk, ATM, tourist information and souvenir shops.
The nearby town of Klang has a lot to offer. There are street markets, plenty of historical sites and beautiful temples to visit. Even the port itself has a number of shops and restaurants serving up local delicacies like steamed crayfish and salt-baked crab. An excursion to nearby Crab Island could be a great way to spend your time near Klang. Catch the ferry to Crab Island if you are looking for a tranquil day of fun and seafood.
Getting to Kuala Lumpur
The biggest destination for most tourists coming into Port Klang, is a day trip to Kuala Lumpur. It’s a bit of a journey and the trip getting there and back will take up some of your shore leave time, but in my opinion it’s well worth it. Kuala Lumpur has a unique blend of history and culture that you will surely not want to pass up.
Some cruise lines offer a shuttle service to Kuala Lumpur. Although convenient, I have heard from many tourists that it can get quite expensive at upwards of US$60 per person as of this writing. I cannot vouch for this price for every cruise line, so as always, best to check with the front desk on your ship. The biggest complaint about the shuttle service I have heard is that it does not stop at any of the sites. It merely picks you up and drops you off at the shopping mall.
If your cruise line doesn’t offer shuttle service, or you are looking for a less expensive way to enjoy Kuala Lumpur for the day there are three other options. train, bus or taxi/grab. All three will take about the same amount of time, it just depends on your exact destination. The Port Klang Cruise Center will be able to help you make the best decision.
When traveling to Kuala Lumpur, you have to keep in mind that even though it’s a tourist destination, it’s also a thriving metropolis and the capital of Malaysia. You’ll be well aware of this as you get closer to the city and see the high rises and skyscrapers. So taking into account the regular city traffic expects some delays now and again.
Usually, peak hours for traffic starting at 7 am and can last until 9:30 am, while in the evening it will start around 4:30 pm and can stay congested until after 8 pm. Lunch time can also get a little heavy, so best to keep track of the time and take these periods into account when making plans.
The roads are not always in the best of repair. They are bumpy and full of potholes. I’m not trying to dissuade you from taking the trip at all. I just want to give it to you straight so you know what to expect. Visiting Kuala Lumpur is worth a little traffic and discomfort for an hour.
Let’s take a look at the different choices and see how they compare.
The komuter KTM train station is about 13km from the port. You’ll have to hop a taxi to get there. The train is the least expensive way to go and you can find the timetables in the Cruise center. The issue is, when you get to Kuala Lumpur, to make sure you allow yourself enough time to get back to the station before your train departs to return to the port.
The train is a favorite simply because most of the sites to see are close to each other and on the train route. The coaches are comfortable, and air-conditioned and you can purchase tickets either at the ticket counter, online or at a ticketing vending machine. It will take you directly to the KL Sentral KTM station. It’s advised when coming back on the train from KL Sentral, to go ahead and get off in Klang (22km away) and take a taxi to the ship, since it will be difficult to find taxis at the Port Klang station.
The Jetbus runs from Port Klang to Kuala Lumpur several times a day. Again the timetable and pickup information is available at the Cruise Center. The bus is not as luxurious as the train and can get caught in traffic, but they are air-conditioned and seat up to 25 people.
The areas you are most likely to get jammed up are Jalan Ampang, and Jalan Sultan Ismail ( these are in the vicinity of the Petronas twin tower). Also in the Bukit Bintang area where all the shopping malls are located.
Some tourists choose to go this route for the simple fact that a hired van can shuttle you and your party through the different sites. They will stop where you want them to, and another benefit is, if you hire a driver for a round trip, they will know exactly where to pick you up and what time to return so that you can be assured to get back to the ship on time.
The official taxis have blue, red and/or white colors and they have a meter. They have 4 and 6-seater minivans available for the sightseeing tours.
Whatever option you choose, it’s advised to allow plenty of time to get back to your ship and avoid trying to cut it close. You won’t be able to see everything in one day, so leave some sights for next time if it’s starting to get late. There have been tourists who have missed their port call because of traffic. It’s a messy situation and requires them to get a hotel room for the night and make further arrangements with the cruise lines which could cost them more cash.