Penang International Airport (PEN) is about 20 kilometres south of Georgetown and is the third busiest in the country after Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu with an extensive network of domestic flights and international routes to major destinations across Asia.
Taxis from the airport are by a coupon system at a fixed price to various zones with a 50 percent surcharge after midnight until 06:00. Cheaper online services such as Grab and Uber are also available. Travel time to Georgetown is about 30 minutes.
Rapid Bus Routes 102 (Teluk Bahang, KOMTAR); and 401 and 401E (Weld Quay) service the airport.
Butterworth train station is best reached by ferry from Penang. Take the first right leaving the ferry once you are on the mainland. A train ticket office operates at the ferry terminal in Georgetown but only sells tickets to KL Sentral, for other destinations purchase at the station or online.
The Georgetown counter is open Monday to Thursday: 08:45-11:00; 12:00-16:00; Friday: 08:45-13:00; 14:30-16:00; Saturday: 08:45-11:00; 12:00-15:30
Butterworth to KL Sentral departs: 0:45; 06:10; 07:33; 13:30; 16:05 (ETS gold: 4.5 hours: 59 ringgit; ETS platinum: 4 hours: 79 ringgit)
For onward travel to Bangkok, purchase a ticket to Padang Besar from Butterworth. Tickets to Bangkok can only be purchased from Padang Besar.
For onward travel to Singapore, after KL Sentral, change at Gemas to Johor Bahru then catch the shuttle train from JB Sentral to Woodland CIQ.
Penang’s intercity buses terminate at Sungai Nibong terminal, 15 kilometres south of Georgetown with connections all over Malaysia and to Thailand and Singapore. Most big bus and travel companies that operate regular services here will transfer travellers to KOMTAR Terminal in Georgetown. Bus companies operate ticket counters on the ground floor of KOMTAR, and many guesthouses can arrange tickets or they can be purchased online.
Taking an immediate right after alighting from the ferry will land you smack in the middle of the Rapid Penang Weld Quay Jetty bus station where many buses depart every 30 minutes from 06:00 to 23:30. Prices for single tickets start at 1.40 ringgit for journeys under seven kilometres, up to a maximum of four ringgit for journeys over 28 kilometres—you will need correct change. In practice, most destinations outside Georgetown cost two to three ringgit, unless you are going further afield to places like the airport or to the Penang National Park.
You can also buy a Rapid Penang Tourist Passport, allowing a week’s unlimited travel on the buses, for 30 ringgit. This is available from the Rapid Kiosks at Weld Quay and KOMTAR (Monday to Saturday 08:00—20:00).
A free CAT (Central Area Transit) bus operates between the Ferry Terminal and KOMTAR (the other main terminal) with stops at many of the major streets and several tourist sites.
The buses are well air-conditioned and comfortable and some, including route 401E to the airport, have free WiFi. On the downside, the buses aren’t all that reliable and the frequency of services is sometimes not as generous as the published timetables would have you believe. You may find yourself waiting a long time for one to show up, which could be frustrating if you have limited time on the island.
However, using the bus network is a cost-effective way of getting around, and if it’s not as rapid as you might like, at least it gives you more time to take in the sights of Penang along the way. If you have limited time, you may find downloading the Grab app more convenient.
Bus routes in and around Penang include:
10: Jetty to Botanic Gardens
101: Jetty to Teluk Bahang (for Penang National Park), via Batu Ferringhi (for beaches and Tropical Spice Garden)
102: Airport to Teluk Bahang (as above), via Snake Temple, Georgetown and Batu Ferringhi (as above)
201: Jetty to Paya Terubong, via Air Itam (for Kek Lok Si Temple and Penang Hill)
203: Jetty to Air Itam (for Kek Lok Si Temple and Penang Hill)
204: Jetty to Penang Hill Railway Station (for Penang Hill funicular railway)
304: Jetty to Gurney Drive (for Gurney Plaza shopping centre)
401E: Jetty to Airport
This is not a complete list of services. Please consult the Rapid Penang website for details of interim stops and further information.
Penang Hop-on Hop-off operates a city route and beach route to all Penang’s major attractions. A 24 hour ticket costs 40 ringgit and a 48 hour ticket costs 75 ringgit.
Ferries run between Butterworth and Georgetown. The fare for the 15-minute trip is 1.20 ringgit (free in the opposite direction) and the service runs every 20-30 minutes from 05:20 to 00:40. In Georgetown the boat docks at Weld Quay. Coming down from the ferry ramparts taxi drivers will offer rides but unless you are going to Batu Ferringhi or somewhere else outside Georgetown, it is cheaper to take the bus or walk.
Ferries to Langkawi leave from the harbour near Fort Cornwallis at 08:30 and 14:00 and costs 70 ringgit including port fees (approximately three hours). Ticket agents can be found along Lebuh Light near the terminal. Book at least a day in advance.
Taxis, most of which are red and white, can be flagged down on the street. Despite the taxis having meters, drivers are reluctant to use them and most destinations have a set price that may only vary by a couple of ringgit from driver to driver. Alternatively download the Grab app.
Human-powered trishaws are a fun way to explore the city, and most drivers make excellent guides. Negotiate a price for a short trip or the going hourly rate is around 40 ringgit. Find them on Lebuh Armenian near Yap Kongsi or on Jalan Penang near Lebuh Chulia.
Bike hire shops are dotted around the UNESCO World Heritage area and many guesthouses offer bikes for rent. LinkBike is a station to station bike hire service operated via an app.
La Belle, occupying a bright yellow shop on Lebuh Leith rent cars and motorbikes including Vespas from 100 to 300 ringgit per day for cars and from 30 to 70 ringgit per day for motorbikes. A promotion was running at the time of research for any car at 60 ringgit per day.
La Belle: 48 Lebuh Leith; T: (0426) 42 717; (0164) 160 617; https://www.facebook.com/LaBelleCar/; Open daily 09:00—22:00