Viktorija Panovaite
How to get to Penang

How to get to Penang island in Malaysia?

There are many options how to get to Penang island in Malaysia. Everything depends on your travel habits, how much time you have and how much money you want to spend. Here are possible options how to get to Penang:

Hich-hiking

The cheapest and most adventurous way to get to Penang from any other country or any city in Malaysia. But can take some time. Nomad Travellers did that, so you can read about their adventures or ask advice.

AirportBy plane

The quickest way (from Kuala Lumpur to Penang ~1 hour) but as well the most expensive one (comparing with other travel ways).

Penang Bayan Lepas International Airport (IATA: PEN) is ~ 1 hour from George Town. This airport has direct flights with 8 countries.

Flights operated by Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, China Airlines, etc. For cheaper alternatives – Air Asia, Firefly Airlines, SilkAir, Korean Air, Wings Air, etc.

Sometimes you can get cheaper tickets in flight search sites like: 

Usually I check all of those sites (and more) before buying the flight ticket. Yeah, it takes time, but only in this way I can find the cheapest ones. Most often I buy (if long distance flight) one direction from one website, another from another. Sometimes the cheapest ticket price doesn’t mean that you will pay such amount – like in the last “pay” step – some sites put over their service taxes which rise the ticket price higher than possible to buy in another site.

How to go to the city from the airport
You can either take taxi. Takes ~45 min. to reach any place in downtown. Taxi counter is on the right side of the arrival doors.
Or you can take a bus, takes ~ 1 hour to George Town. Bus lines 102, 306 and 401E are Rapid Penang operated bus services, of which the 102 service goes to Teluk Bahang from Penang Airport via Komtar Shopping Center and the 306 service connects Penang Airport with Penang General Hospital via Air Itam, while the Rapid Penang buses from Penang International Airport all go to George Town and Balik Pulau.  The bus will stop at a number of halts until it gets to Komtar Tower and Shopping Center. Due to the many stops, this service is not as fast and if you are in a hurry you should take a taxi rather than the bus. As well buses come every ~30-40 min.

You can find Rapid Penang bus stop just after arrivals exit, passing couple of streets on the left side.

I found useful poster inside airport:

how to get to Penang from airport by bus
Click on photo to enlarge it

Important: in the buses you need to pay exact amount for a ticket (to George Town 2.70 MYR), drivers don’t have change. So before going to the bus stop change money in the airport any kiosk. Also inside the buses is quite cold – just have a jacket or something else to cover yourself. 

TrainBy train

Probably the safest way to get to Penang. But not so quick and not the cheapest way (depends what kind of class seats you will take).

Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB), the national train company, serves a daily route to Butterworth from Kuala Lumpur. Daytime train from Kuala Lumpur will take ~6,5 hour, night train – 9,5 hours. If you travel to Penang by train you will need to stop at Butterworth station. From there you can take the connecting ferry (information about it below) to the island. You can also take a taxi at Butterworth train station, but it’s quite expensive. You can book train tickets online and get some discount.

The North south line starts in Singapore and goes all the way to Bangkok in Thailand.

  • More information about how to travel by train between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang & Bangkok here.
  • Travelers experience using night train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang here.
  • Experience on traveling from Bangkok to Penang by train here.

CarsBy car (or motorbike)

Most flexible traveling way but costs and timing depends on the company with whom you are traveling, traffic on the way.

Most probably you will rent a car/motorbike? There are numerous car rental companies in Kuala Lumpur and also at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. For example you can check Easybook. If you are planning a one-way road trip to Penang, it’s best to find a rental company with an office at Penang. For motorbike you can check here.

The road from Kuala Lumpur to Penang is in very good shape. The North-South highway connects Penang to major cities on the West side of Peninsular Malaysia. Travel by highway can take anywhere from 4-5 hours with toll charges in between.

Once you reach Butterworth, which is the island’s main entry point from the mainland, you may take either the Penang Bridge or the ferry to cross over to the island, which still operates from Butterworth to Weld Quay and will transport your vehicle too at a small charge. Return trips from Penang via the bridge is free of charge.

BusBy bus

One of the cheapest and often quickest way to get from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. The trip by bus usually takes around 5,5 hours. The prices (35 to 60 MYR) depends on which day you leave, at what time and which operator you choose.

Buses depart at the main terminal in Kuala Lumpur, Puduraya bus station (known as well like Pudu Sentral station), to the central bus station Sungai Nibong in Penang (as well known like Express bus station).

There are almost 100 bus operators, offering regular bus services in Malaysia. Here, most of the bus services are operated by the state-run bus company intercontinental that covers wider bus route services in Malaysia. There are a number of renowned agencies that have a large fleet of buses operating on diverse routes on a daily basis. In Malaysia, buses are considered as a quite affordable medium of traveling. You will not only feel comfortable but also reach a particular destination promptly.  The most popular coach operators are Plusliner/Nice, Transnasional, Konsortium and Mutiara. The most luxurious and most expensive operator is Aeroline (but you will travel in a very comfortable manner to Penang).

You can also take the bus from numerous other locations within Peninsular Malaysia to Penang Island. For example there are daily buses from Kota Bharu, Johor Bahru (Singapore) and even Bangkok.
There are minivans/minibuses that drive between many places in Thailand to Penang, same goes for the trip between Penang and Kuala Besut (Perhentian Island). Minibuses are more expensive than regular buses, but offer a direct route to many destinations.

There are a number of online sites which offer e-ticketing. Here, you will get discounts on each booking which save your time as well as money. But you need to keep in mind: first, always book ticket from reputed online web portal for example Easybook (they as well provide car rental and other services), second boarding a bus, do check the current schedule of it, so that you’re late in reaching your preferred destination.

By the way, Sungai Nibong bus station in Penang is about 15 km South of the tourist/accommodation areas. Taxi drivers will try to convince you that the only way to go to downtown only by taxi. It’s not true – there is a local bus stop at platform 1. Bus 401 goes to downtown for 2 MYR. You might have to wait half an hour for one to show up.

My experience going from Kuala Lumpur (KL) to Penang by bus.
In my case,  we went to buy bus ticket to Pudu station 1 day before the journey (but you can go there just at time when you want to leave). Like there were many operators we just went to the nearest one. We told that we want to go to Penang port (Butterworth). The seller told that the ticket price is 55 MYR, I was surprised like I knew, it cost less. They tried to convince me, that the price higher because of National holidays. Official National holiday was held only 1 day (we wanted to go after this celebration) but he told us that holidays are all weekend. I thought “let it be”. But when they show the ticket it was written 30 MYR, when I asked about different prices, the guy suddenly changed the price by hand. I thought OK, maybe they included ferry price as well.
But I was surprised when they bring us to Penang Express Bus station, not Penang port (Butterworth), even if it was written on the ticket the final destination port. When I asked bus driver that we paid for a ticket till port, he just smiled and told that all buses stops here. So people in bus station was cheating with a prices (because real price was 30 MYR and National holiday was only 1  day, not all weekend) and final destination – they sold us what we needed but not what they provide :(. We overpaid and needed to find the way to get to George Town. So be careful buying tickets in Pudu Sentral station!

In general the trip with bus was OK, the bus not the newest one, but seats (even if already old and a bit damaged) quite spacious. But there is no toilets or electricity plug in (at least in the bus which we take). Only on the way, I don’t know why, we stopped and needed to go to another bus with all our stuff.

FerryBy ferry

Except if you fly, go by car or bus through bridge, to get to Penang island you will need to take a ferry.

Penang Ferry Service is the oldest ferry service in Malaysia. The Ferry operates a fleet of 4 ferries, with the first ferry departure from Butterworth (Sultan Abdul Halim) at 05:20 am, with the last at 00:40 am; and the first departure from Penang island (Raja Tun Uda) at 05:40 am, with the last at 01:00 am. You can reach Penang by ferry in ~15min. and the service runs every 20-30 min. You can buy tickets as well online.

Terminal location on Butterworth side

The Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal is right next to Butterworth train station and the bus station.
  • If you are arriving by train, keep to your left after leaving the platform and follow the covered walkway up a slope. It will only take you 1-2 min.!
  • The bus terminal is now located in front of the railway station.

Terminal location on Penang side

Ferries depart from the Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal at Weld Quay otherwise known just as Jetty.

From here you can catch a bus to anywhere on the island as the RapidPenang Jetty bus terminal is on both your right and left as you exit the ferry area.
You can also catch the “Free Cat” (CAT) Penang bus here which takes you around the old part of George Town past many of the George Town hotels and onto KOMTAR.
The free Penang bus now leaves from the new Terminal B, on the left hand side as you come down from the ferry. They depart every 15 min.

Coming down from the ferry, taxi drivers will offer rides but it’s easy to reach George Town even by walk. Even if  you are going to Batu Feringgi or somewhere else outside Georgetown you can use public buses.

Ferries from Penang International Airport depart in George Town, located ~16 km distance from the airport. A regular bus service operates between the airport and city center locations, as well as the bus terminal in Victoria Street, which is near the main Ferry Weld Quay. More information about ferries from Penang International Airport here.

 

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SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

  • Which the most convenient way for you to travel?
  • Have you been in Penang island? What was you experience traveling there?
  • If you have been in Malaysia, did you find easy to travel inside the country?

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Some information and pictures used from internet sources.

Useful? Great! :) You might also like these:

How to get Indonesian visa in Penang
Disappearing and resurgent street art in Penang
Funny Malaysian signs

 



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5 thoughts on “How to get to Penang island in Malaysia?”

  1. The new KTMB high-speed ETS Trains from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth station are now much faster than what is listed here. I think these trains are relatively recent. They started running in 2015 or 2016. The standard time for the trip from KL to Butterworth is now almost exactly 4 hours.

    These ETS trains are very fast, very comfortable, and make few stops along the way. I took this train a couple of times (from KL to Butterworth, and also from Butterworth back to KL), and every trip was about 4 hours.

    They’re a bit more expensive than taking the bus, but there are a lot of advantages: The bathroom are big, modern, and very clean. The tickets come with a little snack or meal that they bring to your seat. There is also a cafeteria car, and you can go there to get a cup of coffee, hot noodles, sandwiches, etc. There are a few seats in the cafeteria car, and you can enjoy your snack there or bring it back to your seat. Also great is that every seat has an electrical outlet underneath it, so you can plug in your laptop or charge up your phone and other devices. The plug is the standard 3-prong plug that they use in Malaysia, so you might need an adapter depending on the plug your devices have.

    I took a bus once from KL to Penang, but after I discovered the ETS train, I never took that bus again. I guess I just like trains better. I particularly like how roomy it is and the fact that you can easily get up and go for a walk and stretch your legs during the trip. You can catch this train from KL Sentral or from the Kuala Lumpur station (the next stop inside Kuala Lumpur city).

  2. We took a plane to Penang island because we value our time to explore more of the place and it’s worth it!

    1. From which country/city you took the flight to Penang island? First time I wanted to see a bit more, that’s why was choosing bus from Kuala Lumpur. But yes, second time – flight looked for me better choice :)

What's in your mind? :)