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How To Travel From Kuala Lumpur To Penang Island

Penang is one of those rare frozen-in-time places which connects centuries old history with today’s modern lifestyle. It caters for the history buff and travel photographer but also for a nature-lover. It’s one of those offbeat, yet popular places in southeast Asia, and Malaysia in particular, that despite growing number of visitors has still maintained its laid-back vibe and an old town charm.

During my two week travel in Malaysia, I ended up staying in Penang for more than 5 nights. Though my initial plan was to explore Penang for only two days, before moving towards the eastern coast of Malaysia, Penang felt so enjoyable and was so laden with unique experiences, that leaving it in two days would have been a shame.

Read my recommended Three Day Penang Travel Guide, and about Georgetown Clan Jetties, but first thing first… How to travel to Penang Island, from Kuala Lumpur.

For a most convenient, quickest and not-so-expensive deal…

Fly! Yes, you heard that right, flying is the most convenient and (of course) the quickest option to get to Penang, and amazingly cheaper too. In fact, it is so cheap to fly between the two destinations that that it may cost you more to travel in a train than flying. Though buses still remain the cheapest option.

With Air Asia, and if booked a week in advance, you can get a one-way ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Penang (or vice-versa) for as low as 45Rm and the travel time is exactly one hour between the two city airports. Now if you add your check-in/check-out time and travel to and from the airports, you cann still reach the destination in under 3.5 hours.

For a nearly-convenient, most time consuming, and most pocket-friendly deal…

Take a bus. You can get a bus from TBS in Kuala Lumpur or KL Sentral (though most buses and particularly the one with lowest fare leave from TBS) to Komtar Bus Terminal in Georgetown, Penang, for as low as 28 or 32Rm.

I travelled by a bus company called The Billion Stars, from Kuala Lumpur TBS to Penang and booked it online, using Easybook. The bus had luxury VIP seating, no less comfortable than a business class seating in a plane. The only problem was, it took around 6.5 hours (plus another 20 minutes for me to get to TBS from downtown Kuala Lumpur) to deliver me all the way from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. If you do not worry about wasting a day and travelling in a budget is your goal-to-achieve, then go for a bus, there can’t be a better deal than this.

For a moderately convenient, quick, but most expensive deal…

Take a train. You can get a train from KL Sentral, which is the transit hub for trains in Kuala Lumpur. To buy tickets, you can do it online at the KTM website or buy them at KL Sentral. I highly recommend going to the station a few days before your intended date of departure since seats go fast, especially on weekends. You can buy a ticket two weeks in advance.

A one-way platinum ticket for the ETS train can cost 79 Rm or about 44 Rm for children between 2 – 12 years of age (please note that for buses and flight, no children concession is applicable).  Another disappointment is that it drops you in Butterworth, which is located on mainland Malaysian Peninsular, and not on Penang Island, which means you then take a connecting bus (but I won’t recommend it due to heavy traffic you may find on the bridge connecting Butterworth and Penang island) or a ferry. From KL Sentral to Butterworth the journey takes about 3.5 hours, and here, another one hour. So 4.5 in total, at least. The ferry costs 1.50Rm and takes 20 minutes one way. You only buy the ticket from Butterworth to Penang. While returning, the ferry service is free. Trains in Malaysia are convenient and always run on time.

The good thing is, however, the views in the train and the views in the ferry will keep you entertained, and you will only fall in love with the journey. Also, trains in Malaysia are convenient and always run on time.

Please Note:

  • You only buy the ferry ticket from Butterworth to Penang. While returning, the ferry service is free.
  • Since the airport is located on Penang island and the bus station too, if you’re travelling by bus or flying there, you directly end up in Penang. If travelling by train, you end up in Butterworth and make your way to Penang in a bus/taxi or via ferry.
  • Penang Island is quite big in size and can take over one and a half hour to reach from one point to another. So make sure you choose your destination bus stop wisely while booking your ticket. 

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Filed under: Malaysia


Shortly after my first real nine-to-five job, I left that lifestyle behind, and with it, everything that didn't fit in my backpack. I've learned that this world is too big (and too interesting!) to stay in one place. I believe that with a little courage and inspiration, everyone has the power to follow their dreams. Just as I've followed mine!

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