The reviews of the ferry ride from Penang to Langkawi were that if the weather was calm it was OK, but if rough people were sick, and the cabin is enclosed, so it becomes a very unpleasant crossing. See my blog on travel options for more details.
It was high season – December 2012. The flights were expensive at the time. And as you cannot book ferry seats in advance for ferries from Kuala Kedah and Kuala Perlis, we decided to drive so we could arrive early enough to get tickets. Being high season we may not have been able to get on otherwise. We decided on departing from Kuala Perlis, because that is the shortest crossing.
By car you can take the E1 motorway to Alor Star (Exit 177) and use the local roads to Kuala Perlis, and this is the shorter route. However, the local roads are not so safe, and certainly not at night, when you may have straying animals, and plenty of vehicles with no lights, to contend with. Or you can take the E1 further north to Exit 194, and have a dual carriageway all the way, but the distance is considerably greater, and it takes a little longer. I feel it is the safer and easier option.
We took the shorter route to get to Kuala Perlis, and the longer route back on our return from Langkawi.
It took us about one hour twenty-five minutes to get to Alor Star, and about 45 minutes thereafter to get to Kuala Perlis.
We used MAT Parking. If you want to use it too, drive past the terminal on the one way road, stopping briefly around the middle of the terminal to drop off a passenger with your luggage, and then drive about 300 metres up the road. Jeffery’s number is 017-4065929. He charged us RM60 for 5 days. We paid less last time, but then it wasn’t high season. As you approach the terminal on the one way road motorbike riders will accost you asking if you want parking, so you can choose other places to park. It looks like you can park free on the road before you get to the terminal – perhaps 200 metres away from it. Many people commute to work on Langkawi, so your car might stand out at night-time.
The passenger with the luggage can queue for tickets at the front of the terminal. The first ferry is at 7am, then 8.15 etc. We were there around 7:45 AM and it took about 10 minutes to buy tickets as there was a short queue.
Across the road from the terminal there are plenty of places to eat or drink if you wish. Also hotels – e.g. T Hotel – perhaps RM80 for a room.
Boarding started at about 8AM.
Luggage is stored unattended near the entrance doors of the ferry on the lower deck. The toilets aboard were Western style, clean and not smelly – far better than the usual Malaysian standard.
The ferry left late, at around 9AM – perhaps due to a large group of passengers arriving late. Most seats were occupied on the ferry.
It was a smooth trip apart from about 30 seconds of rocking around 30 minutes into the trip – perhaps hitting a current. The same happened on the return trip.
We arrived one hour after departure. Disembarking is a bit chaotic.
Just follow the exit signs and you are soon outside. Across a pedestrian crossing you will find the tourist office, travel offices, and car rental agencies, all in one oval building. It is easy to get yourself organised.
All in all, a good trip, with everything going smoothly.