Penang: Local Travel Info
Pearl of the Orient
Internal Flights and Major International Airports in Penang
Kuala Lumpur is the major gateway to Malaysia, including Penang, handling almost all of the international flights. You cannot fly direct from the UK to Penang. Travellers need to change at Kuala Lumpur and get a flight to Penang’s Bayan Lepas International Airport if they want to fly to Penang direct. Penang’s airport, near George Town, has regular flights to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, Johor Bahru and Langkawi. Other international destinations offered by the airport in Penang’s include Mumbai, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Sydney.
Getting to and from the Airport in Penang
Penang Bayan Lepas International Airport is located about 20km from George Town and offers daily scheduled flights to and from a large number of Malaysian and Asian destinations. The Penang Yellow Bus Company runs an hourly service between the airport and Pengkalan Weld (Weld Quay) in the city between 06:00 to 22:00 daily (bus number 83). The bus to Penang airport costs around 1 Euro. Some of the major hotels provide shuttle buses for guests arriving at the airport. Taxis and car rental companies operate from the airport. Taxis run on a coupon system, so fares between the airport and various destinations in Penang are fixed. Currently a taxi from Penang airport to George Town costs around 6 or 7 Euros. Air-conditioned taxis and limousines charge higher fares.
Renting Cars in Penang
Renting a car in Penang is pretty simple. There are several car hire companies in George Town, as well as at Penang’s airport and at the popular costal resort of Batu Ferringhi. It’s a good idea to reserve in advance for weekends or holidays times, or if you want an automatic car. Rates start at around 21 Euros per day, plus insurance. You need to be 21 or over; for under 25s there may be a young driver surcharge payable. Airport often has car rental that is cheaper than from the hotels. Remember to haggle! The starting price offered will often be twice what they will settle for. There are numerous car rental desks and agents waiting around the doors to the airport.
For discounted rates on Car Hire in Penang, reserve your car in advance
Drivers License Requirements in Penang
A UK driving license can be used in Malaysia for three months only. You need to be 21 years old to drive in Penang. If you intend staying for longer than three months you should get either a Malaysian driving license or an annually renewable International Driving Permit. All drivers must show a valid driver’s license at time of rental. Additional drivers must meet the same eligibility requirements as the Primary driver.
When driving in Penang, there are a few key rules that you need to remember. Road signs in Penang are usually easy to recognise though you have to learn a few Malay words, e.g. ‘Awas’, which means Caution ‘Berhenti’, which means Stop and ‘Beri Laluan’, which means Give Way. Parking isn’t usually a problem. You drive on the left hand side of the road in Penang. Seat belts and child seats are mandatory. Headlights must be on between 7 PM and 7 AM. When driving in rural Penang, watch out for the water buffaloes sleeping on the road at night. If you’re stopped by traffic police for a traffic offence, the price is usually 65 Euros for a speeding offence. Your car rental agency may be able help with remittance of the fine, depending on their terms and conditions.
Penang by Bus
Buses service the major routes around Penang. Buses in Penang are safe, frequent and convenient, so much so that many visitors don’t bother to hire a car at all. The main bus terminals in Penang can be found at Weld Quay and in front of the KOMTAR Shopping Centre in George Town. Machines onboard the buses accept coins for payment of tickets. The Municipal Council of Penang Island runs a free shuttle bus around George Town, which runs every 12 minutes during the day, although there are no buses on Sundays or Public Holidays. The shuttle bus takes in many of the main attractions in the city. On other buses, journeys cost as little as 0.3 Euros. A new public bus service called RapidPenang launched in 2007, offering improved services and more comfortable buses in Penang.
Penang by Taxi
Taxis in Penang are freely available around the island. Although they are required by the authorities to use a meter for transport charges, most do not turn the meter on. Insist on the meter being used or agree on a fixed fare before boarding. Taxis operate with a coupon system by which fares between the airport and various destinations in Penang are fixed. Air-conditioned taxis and limousines charge higher fares. A typical fare from George Town to Kek Lok Si temple is 4 or 5 Euros. A taxi to the airport costs around 8 Euros (RM 35.00 –RM 40.00), but remember to agree a price first! Alternatively, a ride in an open three-wheeled vehicle – a trishaw - is one of the best ways to see the sights of George Town. There is no standard fare so make sure you agree on the price before you step on the trishaw. For more prolonged sightseeing, it is a good idea to hire them by the hour.
Penang by Train
There are no trains in Penang Island, but many people do take the train to Butterworth on the mainland from elsewhere on the peninsula and then use the ferry (within walking distance from the train terminal) to cross over to the island. You can book train tickets at the Penang ferry terminal or the railway station in Butterworth.
Cycling in Penang
For those who want to cycle in Penang, be aware that there are no ‘high end’ bicycles available for hire in Penang. Instead you might want to negotiate a deal with the larger hotels on Batu Ferringhi beach. They usually have lots of bikes for rent. Alternatively, you can hire bicycles in Penang from car rental companies, for 10 or 11 Euros. There aren’t cycle lanes yet in Penang. Some bike theft does occur, like anywhere else, so remember to bring a padlock.
Water Transport in Penang
From peninsular Penang there is a ferry from Butterworth to George Town on Penang Island. It operates between 5.30am and 1.00am (Last departure) daily. Pedestrian charges are for adults are RM1.20 (0.25 Euros), for children it is RM0.60 (0.13 Euros) and for a Bicycle, 1.4 RM (0.3 Euros). The journey time is about 20 minutes.
Hitch hiking In Penang
Hitch hiking in Penang isn’t uncommon, especially among backpackers. For many years, Malaysia has had a reputation as being a great place to hitch a ride. Obviously, wherever you are in the world, you need to be careful and travel in pairs if you can, as well as letting someone know where you are planning on travelling to. Solo female travellers are taking a particular risk. Since there’s such convenient and inexpensive bus travel, most visitors don’t bother to hitch hike in Penang.