Penang is beautiful. It is one of the most charming cities in Asia, if not the world. Penang is located on the northwestern coast of Malaysia (coordinates: 5°24’N 100°14’E) and getting to Penang, a popular international hub, is easy since travel options are plenty.
Most Western tourists stop for a quick layover at the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Airlines (MAL), the national carrier, regularly flies between these two major cities, KL and Penang. MAL makes 20 flights daily to Penang. Cheaper flights from the capital city are available on board two budget airlines, Air Asia and FireFly. Meanwhile, Asian tourists from Thailand and Singapore are getting to Penang by air via direct flights on Thai and Singapore airlines, respectively.
The very busy Penang International Airport is located in Bayan Lepas, Penang’s main industrial hub. Once at the airport, you won’t have a hard time searching for a taxi or getting on a bus to your final destination. There are also booths at the airport to exchange money or make a phone call.
If you wish to see the view from below, getting to Penang by land is also not a problem. You have three options. You could take the rail, go by bus or drive all the way on your car. The Malaysian Rail travels daily along the entire length of the Malaysian Peninsula, taking passengers to Penang from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Thailand. Since Penang is an island, the train only goes up to Butterworth in the mainland, and from there you must take a short ferry ride across to Georgetown. The train ride is six hours long. An alternative train route is from Alor Setar in Kedah. Once you make it across by ferry and see Georgetown for the first time, you’ll say it: “Penang is beautiful.”
The bus ride is also about six hours long. It is quite a treat, thanks to the scenic areas across the peninsula. The ride is comfortable and nice, on board the NICE (Nationwide Interstate Coach Executive) bus line. NICE buses are super luxurious – air-conditioned and with spacious leg room. There are only 22 seats to make sure it doesn’t get crowded. You will be treated with snacks, coffee or tea, newspapers, and pillow and blanket, while you relax and watch TV. You get off at the Penang bus station on Anson Road. This luxurious ride is a bit on the expensive side; fare is RM50 for adults and RM35 for children. Take the Plus Liner bus if you wish to economize.
Meanwhile, getting to Penang by sea does not only involve that short ferry ride from Butterworth to Georgetown, but also the much longer ferry rides from Langkawi (approximately two hours) and Medan, Indonesia (about six hours). These long rides end at a pier near Fort Cornwallis.
Now, if you are truly adventurous, driving your own car all the way from Kuala Lumpur is also a plausible option. Malaysia has modern highways that guarantee stress-free driving. Prepare loose money to pay toll charges along the way. Getting to Penang takes about 4-5 hours by car to Butterworth. From there, you could either drive over the Penang Bridge or take the ferry across.