Pulau Penang, metropolitan of the North, pearl of the Orient, this once forest covered island with its white sandy beaches and towering Western Hill at 833 meters above sea level. Beach Street (lebuh Pantai) in George Town is one of the oldest paved roads in Malaysia, and it must have been here where public transport once has started on this green turtle shaped island. Now this modern financial and commercial capital at the entrance of the Straits of Malacca has a perfect functioning public transport system.
Penang has its public transport system well in place, and it is easy to get around the island by bus, taxi or trishaw, all are in expensive.
Getting to Penang
The island offers four main ways of transport to get to the island.
By sea – There is a 24 hour ferry service from the mainland for passengers and vehicles, which once was the only way to get to the Island. The ferry terminal in Butterworth is just North of the Pinang Bridge, in Pulau Penang the ferries arrive at Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld) in the Waterfront District. The ferry fares are collected at the Butterworth terminal.
Penang is a deep water port connecting Penang Harbor to over 200 ports in the world
Cruise ships from around the region anchor in Pulau Penang, and are catered for at the Cruise Ships Terminal.
By air – the Penang International Airport transports and receives passengers and cargo from all the major capitals around Asia. Malaysia Airlines operates direct air services to Penang from London, Singapore, Bangkok, Nagoya, Medan, Xiamen and Madras. The budget airlines flying in to Pulau Penang are Lion air, Fire Fly and Air Asia.
By road – The only road bringing traffic from the mainland comes over the almost 14 kilometer long Pinang Bridge (Jambatan Pulau Pinang) This 4 lanes bridge can be congested at certain parts of the day, another option then might be the ferry. The toll for the bridge is levied on the mainland side of the bridge in Butterworth.
Arriving by coach from any of the big cities in Malaysia is an easy way to get to Penang. Main bus station for coaches is Sungei Nibong bus terminal, found between the airport and George Town.
By rail – KTM or Malayan Railway does not stop in Pulau Penang but provides daily train services to Butterworth from Kuala Lumpur, Alor Star and Padang Besar, as well as from Haadyai and Bangkok in Thailand.
The local transport is inexpensive, enjoyable and easy way to travel, avoid rush hour, unless one enjoy the crowds. Buying a good local map helps when traveling around Pulau Penang. Within the Heritage district there is a free hop-on hop-off buss service called CAT, with stops at all the main attractions and shopping centers.
Trishaws – These three-wheeled vehicles are a real novelty in Malaysia. Trishaws are bicyle rickshaws, trishaws allow visitors to enjoy the sights in Penang at a leisurely pace. The drivers allow travelers to stop at any point to take some pictures or buy souvenirs. Standard fares are unknown, best to agree on the price before getting in the trishaw. They can be hired at an hourly rate at as well. Most Trishaw stations are found in the Heritage District along the main roads.
Taxis and Limousines – Taxis in Penang are plentiful and can be found all over the island, most taxis do not use the meter. Agree a price with the driver before leaving for the destination. But compared with prices world wide, taxis are cheap in Penang.
Buses – Most of the buses use coin machine to collect fares, have small change available as the driver will not be able to do that . The main bus terminals are Pengkalan Weld (ferry terminal) and the KOMTAR building.
Yellow Bus Company – operates an hourly service between the Airport and Pengkalan Weld (Weld Quay|) in the city between 6.00 am to 10.00 pm daily (Bus No.83).
Car Rental – If the traveler is comfortable to drive on the left side of the road, then rent a car to explore the island at leisurely pace. All major International car rental companies can be found here. An international driver license is needed to rent a car.
Motorbike/Bicycle Rental – Motorcycles and bicycles offer unique and an inexpensive fun way to explore the island. Close to the hotels are always small shops to be found ready to rent the vehicle of choice.
Island Tours – Famous places and landmark can be visited either by air-conditioned coach or boat, there is a large variety of island tours to be found, every hotel or budget hotel will have a tour desk, or local operators/travel vendors. There is a city tour, round island tour, hill and temple tour, also the three Malaysia Tourism offices are extremely helpful.
Sea tours – Almost all hotels offer little tours, visiting the uninhabited small islands off the North coast. There are regular ferries to Langkawi, which could be done as a day trip, but we advise at least one night stay on the beautiful island of Langkawi.
Pulau Penang is a worthy metropolitan island and bustling capital city, with a top notch public transport system, to ensure that the visitor won’t get lost.
Also check the following website – www.malaysia.com
Author: Frank Amptmeijer – www.frankamptmeijer.com
Research: Franklin-Paul Blake