I recently spent a month in Kuala Lumpur, but I’m not done in Malaysia just yet! Penang is where I’m currently living for the next 45 days. It’s about a 5-hour drive north from KL and only a couple hours south from Thailand’s border. Getting here was much easier than expected. It always makes me nervous when trying a new route of transportation because the last thing I want to do is miss the departure! Or even worse, when taking a bus or train, missing the destination stop. Personally, I boarded a bus to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. However, flight or train actually would have been my first option.
Unfortunately for me, my poor planning had me leaving Kuala Lumpur the day before Chinese New Year began, which meant sold out trains and expensive flights. But luckily, I did book early enough to catch a spot on a bus! Figuring out how to get from point A to point B took a bit more effort than expected due to the holiday, but it opened up alternatives I forgot existed. After looking into all the transportation options of how to get to Penang, I figured it would be helpful to share what I learned in the process. I’ll even discuss how to travel to George Town once you’ve arrived in Penang.
I already touched a bit on what mistakes I’ve learned from, but I still want to get the point across loud and clear to make sure no one else ends up in the same situation. Whichever method of transportation you prefer, make sure you book it early enough! Chinese New Year is an extremely large celebration within Malaysia. In Penang, the holiday actually lasts 16 days. This means lots of people going home to visit their families. I tried to buy a train ticket an entire month before my actual departure date and they were completely sold out. Moral of the story: do not wait! With that being said, I’m now going to talk about the ways you can travel from Kuala Lumpur to Penang.
Cheap Flights with Air Asia
I was surprised to find that you can take a flight for the price of almost nothing. The flight itself is about 50-minutes and costs around $11. However, like I had mentioned before, it can vary depending on the time of year. When I looked up prices, they were almost $50. Still quite affordable for a plane ticket, but since I knew they were normally much cheaper, I decided not to go that route. Since Air Asia’s main hub is located in Kuala Lumpur, you’ll find the best deals for flights with them. Actually, you’ll find the best deals with them for traveling almost everywhere in Asia!
Catch the ETS (Electric Train Service)
As one of the fastest trains in Southeast Asia, it’s easy to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. The ETS departs from KL Sentral, which is the the main point of transportation when it comes to buses and trains within the city. You can purchase a ticket here at the station or opt for convenience and buy one online at EasyBook. The train ride is about 4 hours in duration and costs around $15. You also have access to purchase snacks and coffee on board. Keep in mind that your final destination is a town named Butterworth. It is directly across the water from George Town.
Board a Bus
This is the method of travel that I chose. It was extremely inexpensive, a ticket costs about $9. The ride is close to 5 hours long including a 30-minute break at a rest stop. This gives you the opportunity to use the restroom and grab a snack to hold you over until you get to Butterworth. The bus stop is actually right outside the train stop. I booked with a bus company named Eltabina and it departed from TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan). That is the main hub for buses, however, leaving from KL Sentral is also an option. You are also able to buy a ticket online at EasyBook to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Penang.
Tips for Travel from Kuala Lumpur to Penang
– Purchase tickets from EasyBook at least 3 hours in advance. The process of receiving the ticket in your email gets sent a couple hours after you book.
– There are sleeper trains you can book if you want a little extra comfort while traveling.
– If choosing the bus route, it’s better to leave early. I left at 7:30 in the morning and slept (well, tried to sleep) most of the ride. The traffic was also non-existent.
– However, when I took a bus from the airport to KL around 6:30 in the evening, the traffic was awful!
– The train and bus stops for Penang are actually called Butterworth.
How to Get to George Town
Once you have arrived in Penang at the Butterworth station, there is actually a ferry in the same area to transport you to George Town. There used to be a walking path to get to the ferry, however, at the moment it is closed due to construction. I think they are improving it, as I heard it wasn’t that great to begin with. In the mean time, there is a free shuttle that departs from the bus station frequently. A ticket to George Town costs only 1.20 RM and it’s free to come back. The ride is about 20 minutes.
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