bus travel in Malaysia

Arriving at Butterworth by bus

Arriving at Butterworth by bus you’ll end your journey at Penang Sentral. Penang Sentral is a hub from which you can catch the train, bus or ferry.

From Penang Sentral there is a train service north to Padang Besar on the Thai border. You can cross the border to Thailand at the station. From there you can transfer to trains travelling north through Thailand. Or you can cross the border at the road crossing and catch buses to other parts of Thailand.

Alternatively, arriving at Butterworth by bus, you can catch other buses to various parts of Malaysia from Penang Sentral. Finally, there is a ferry service four times an hour, across to Penang Island, a 15 minute journey.

arriving at Butterworth by bus

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by plane, train, bus and car – March 2017

You have a few choices travelling between Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

Read the latest version:



The main carriers from Penang to Kuala Lumpur are Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia.  Kuala Lumpur has two main terminals at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).  KLIA, which is where the full service airlines fly to and from, and KLIA2, which the low cost airlines use.  (There is another airport, Subang, which Firefly and Berjaya Air operate from, which is likely to be useful only if you wish to go to that area.)  Prices vary, but can be very cheap – as cheap as bus or train fares.

Air Asia web site

Malaysian Airlines web site

Air Asia

A flight takes only about 45 minutes, and in that time on Malaysian Airlines they serve a drink in a plastic container and a packet of peanuts, and then come around to collect the rubbish.  Those two activities take up the cabin crews’ time while at crusing height.

the cabin in economy

peanuts and juice

the seat back – screen not activated for use on this short flight

On Air Asia you would not normally be served anything, but of course the flight time is similar.


KTM – train company web site – note that for purposes of the web site your point of origin is Butterworth, and destination is Sentral Kuala Lumpur.

For more information and links please see http://www.travel-penang-malaysia.com/ktmb-ets-schedule.html

Penang now has the ETS – Electric Train Service – meaning that the journey to KL from Penang-Butterworth can take as little as just over four hours. This  provides more comfort and safety than buses, in a similar travel time, and for a similar price as the better bus companies.

For my blog about a recent train ride from Penang to KL see here


Penang to KL by bus

KL to Penang by bus

Aeroline bus company

Transnasional bus company

Nice bus company

Konsortium bus company

There are many more bus companies.


Driving from Penang to Kuala Lumpur

Heading south – typical landscape

And which is best?  Of course, this is hard to say.  Let’s compare them in terms of travelling time, cost, scenery and enjoyment.


If your destination is KL, then let’s look at the time it will take.  You should be at the airport perhaps 1.5 hours before departure. Flight time is about 45 minutes, and then once you have landed it will take at least 45 minutes to collect your luggage if you have any, and to get into central KL, and more likely one hour or more. Thus total time from Penang airport to KL hotel is at least 3.5 hours.  That is faster than any other mode.  It can also be quite cheap if you catch one of the Air Asia specials. Catching a taxi to and from Penang airport, or parking charges there can add considerably to the cost, however.  There is no airport bus in Penang, just a local bus, which is not very frequent or reliable.  Using the Grabcar app from Gurney Plaza to the airport is about RM26. Uber may be similar. Apart from shortly after take off, the scenery you will see from the plane is not very interesting. It is more stressful flying, but if you are also flying out of KL, it can often be the easiest mode of transport.

If you are flying out of KLIA then flying is probably the best option.  The airline you choose usually depends on which terminal in KL you fly out from. In Penang, there is only one terminal, so there is no issue with convenience for any airline.  But in Kuala Lumpur there is KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) and KLIA2.  Air Asia flies to KLIA2, so if you are flying from KL on Air Asia, it makes sense to fly from Penang also on Air Asia. And if you are flying from KLIA, then you will probably want to choose a full service airline to fly on from Penang, as it will fly into KLIA.  Of course, you can transfer between KLIA and KLIA2, but it takes some time, and is less fun if you have luggage.


The train takes a similar time to the bus. It takes about four hours, or up to four and a half, depending on the schedule.  Occasionally incidents on the E1 motorway block or slow traffic,   which obviously won’t affect the train, but will the bus. You will also have the travelling time to the station at Butterworth, so add on at least an hour for the trip to the ferry terminal, and ferry to Butterworth.  It is very relaxing, though, and the scenery is better than travelling by air or road.


Travelling time by bus can be from four and a half hours to more, depending on traffic. But you will probably leave home an hour before the bus departs, so this must be added to the total travelling time. Bus fares vary quite a bit depending on which company you choose to travel with. But the more expensive bus companies tend to be safer, and more comfortable. Aeroline, the most expensive company,   quotes on its web site a price of RM60 one way in March 2017. Of course, by bus or car the scenery will be the same, as either way you will be travelling on the E1 north-south motorway. Mostly, the scenery is not very exciting. However, around Ipoh, which is about half way, the scenery improves for a while. The bus can also be quite relaxing, depending on the skills of the driver – the cheaper the bus company, the worse the drivers, generally. Many people find the bus the most enjoyable way to travel this route. I would avoid any very late night / overnight bus journeys if at all possible, as bus drivers and other vehicle drivers have been known to fall asleep at the wheel.


When I drive, with three very short stops on the way, it takes about 4.5 hours in light traffic. By car you will presumably be driving directly from home to your destination, so it takes only about an hour more than flying. The road charges are about RM45, and I suppose you will use about RM70 for petrol, although this will vary quite a bit according to your car and driving style. Of course, there are other costs, but for me, as I don’t drive much anyway, it is really only these costs that count. RM115. Double the bus fare for one person, but if two or more people,competitive. Naturally you will be able to carry much more luggage, be able to visit other places en-route if you wish, and have use of the car in KL. You will have to pay for parking, however, which at many hotels is RM10 per day.

Is it fun to drive? Not particularly. It’s frustrating as the speed limit is pathetically low, and for the section of the road which is three lanes each way, the left lane is mostly empty, while most drivers drive in the middle lane, making overtaking in the left lane necessary when the right lane is also blocked by a slower vehicle. This is hardly ideal.

My conclusion:

The disadvantage of the train is that Butterworth station is a bit far from George Town, and you need to catch the ferry.  But the bus station has the same disadvantage, being next to the train station.  The other terminals for the bus are from Sungai Nibong or Queensbay Mall – also a bit far.  Then, you find the same disadvantages for the bus and train in KL, where the terminals are not central.  But the airport in Penang is further away, and the airport in KL is even further out, so really, unless you are flying out of KLIA, I find the train offers the best combination of safety, comfort and convenience to central Kuala Lumpur.

For historical interest you can see a much older blog on this topic

Penang to Langkawi by air, ferry; car, bus and/or train and ferry – updated June 2013

For the October 2018 update click:


Langkawi Online gives a summary of options for travelling to Langkawi. I concentrate here on the trip from Penang.


Air Asia can be cheap, if you get a promotional fare. It is about 25 minutes in the air, but from when we left home by taxi to when we were in our hotel room about four hours had elapsed.  Which was about the same amount of time as driving and catching the ferry, although the flight was less strenuous.

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Firefly can offer cheap fares to LGK.

Malaysian Airlines flies  to LGK via KUL, and thus is not very convenient or fast. It has no direct flights.

Unless you go by air, you are going to have to catch another form of transport, and then a ferry. In Malaysia they haven’t generally grasped the concept of a convenient (in terms of time and proximity) connection between different modes of transport. You need to check timetables to find the least inconvenient schedule for you. As you cannot book in advance for the ferries from Kuala Kedah and Kuala Perlis you cannot be sure of when you will reach Langkawi.


Try http://www.ticket4u.com.my/plusliner/ Please note that the ferry terminal is not particularly near Alor Star. It is a 15 minute drive to Kuala Kedah. Instead, consider Penang to Kuala Perlis. I have yet to take a bus on this route, but will possibly try it next time.

Departure : PENANG to KUALA PERLIS (10 Jun 2013)
Trip ID  Type   Departure Terminal Departure   ETA  








Normal Price (RM) :




Return : KUALA PERLIS to PENANG (13 Jun 2013)
Trip ID Type Departure Terminal Departure ETA








Normal Price (RM) :





Member Amount

Non Member Amount




Discount (Adult)



Insurance Coverage – LMS



Ground Handling Fee



Total Fare

RM63.60 (save 3.20)



In my opinion, the real choice is between flying or driving and catching the ferry – if you are living here and have a car. With a car you can plan when you will be at the ferry terminal in order to maximise your chances of obtaining a ticket, and minimise your waiting time. Thus I have done this trip twice by car.  Failing this, a bus is the next best. 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. I have paid between RM10 and RM12 per day (24 hours) for undercover parking at Kuala Perlis.


There is a ferry directly from Penang to Langkawi, which takes 2 hours 45 minutes, according to the schedule. We’ve been told by friends the ferry directly from Penang to Langkawi can be terrible, if the seas are choppy. Reading the reviews on Trip Advisor really put us off. They said the same, but worse.

There are also ferries from Kuala Kedah (1 hour 45 minutes to Langkawi), which is on the coast about 15 minutes drive from Alor Star; and Kuala Perlis (1 hour 15 minutes to Langkawi), which is about 45 minutes drive from Alor Star.

http://www.langkawi-ferry.com/Home/Schedule.aspx says, “ONLINE BOOKING ONLY AVAILABLE FOR PENANG TO LANGKAWI AND PENANG TO MEDAN”  A friend rang to confirm that you can only buy tickets on the day, at the ferry terminals.

My thoughts? The ferry from Kuala Perlis is quicker, in reality the crossing taking one hour, and the terminal area seems more organised than Kuala Kedah.  I prefer the shorter crossing time and slightly more driving time.



KTM has only two trains a day to Alor Star or Arau, as their schedule shows. Then you would have to connect to the terminal by taxi or bus.  Unless you really, really want to catch the train, it is the least attractive option.

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Penang to Kuala Lumpur by plane, train, bus and car

Read the latest version, October 2018:


I recently caught the train and a flight between Penang and KL Here is an updated blog that supercedes this one: https://tropicalexpat.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/penang-to-kuala-lumpur-by-plane-train-bus-and-car-march-2017/

Update February 2017

I wrote this over four years ago.  Apart from the train service, not much has changed, so I will cover only the train.

In the interim period the train line has been upgraded from single track to double track all the way to the Thai border from Gemas, south of KL.  And Penang now has the ETS – Electric Train Service – meaning that the journey to KL from Penang-Butterworth can take as little as just over four hours.

This is a major improvement and provides more comfort and safety than buses, in a similar travel time.

The disadvantage of the train is that Butterworth station is a bit far from George Town, and you need to catch the ferry.  But the bus station has the same disadvantage, being next to the train station.  The other terminals for the bus are from Sungai Nibong or Queensbay Mall – also a bit far.  Then, you find the same disadvantages for the bus and train in KL, where the terminals are not central.  But the airport in Penang is further away, and the airport in KL is even further out, so really, unless you are flying out of KLIA, I find the train offers the best combination of safety, comfort and convenience.

For more information and links please see http://www.travel-penang-malaysia.com/ktmb-ets-schedule.html

As yet I have not travelled on this train, but once I do I will update with a few photos and blurb about the experience.

End Update


For details of each mode of transport please see these blogs:


A flight on Malaysian Airlines to Kuala Lumpur
A flight on Air Asia to Singapore – just for comparison.

Air Asia web site

Malaysian Airlines web site

Air Asia


Penang to Kuala Lumpur by night train UPDATE February 2017 – this train is no longer provided.

Continue reading on my new site:  http://tropicalexpat.com/index.php/2018/09/19/cleaning-my-air-con/

Kuala Lumpur to Penang by bus in the rain

This is the companion blog of the Penang to KL by bus blog, so I don’t feel the need to repeat the information in the former blog. In this case I catch an Aeroline bus from the Corus Hotel in central KL to Queensbay Mall in Penang – I could’ve stayed on to Sungai Nibong had I wished.

Your Aeroline ticket entitles you to sit in the Aeroline hospitality area of the Corus Hotel ground floor coffee shop, and serve yourself coffee or tea.

The Bus:

the bus

driver and crew area

stairway and upper deck

lounge area on lower deck

upper deck

upper deck from rear

entertainment console

head phones

air and light controls

even a power point

Leaving KL:

just having left the hotel

joining the motorway – and now it’s motorway all the way to Penang

merging onto the motorway

we head towards Ipoh

“toll plaza”


left side to head south, right side to head north


one hour since departure

fried rice with a little chicken on top was served




turn off to Cameron Highlands


jungle destroyed – for new palm oil plantation, one imagines

rain is getting heavier

scenery is improving


the tunnel north of Ipoh

light at the end of the tunnel

mist and clouds


a few nice hillocks

we finally stop

this rest area is quite busy

you could pick up something to eat if you wished

we stopped for about 10 minutes


getting dark



bad traffic – but almost all is continuing north, whereas we are turning off soon to the Penang Bridge

on the bridge approach

crossing Penang Bridge

at the Queensbay Mall terminal

We arrived at 20:20. Food is now quite poor quality compared to the past – so in future I will bring my own.  But the drivers were good on both the trip south and north, and this is the most important thing. The stewards and drivers I spoke to all spoke good English.

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by bus

From Penang to KL you can drive, fly, catch the train or a bus.

For the latter, you can catch the bus from three places: Butterworth on the mainland,  the terminal being close to both the train station and ferry terminal; from Sungai Nibong toward the south part of Penang Island, but close to nothing else; or from Queensbay Mall – but only for Aeroline buses.

Aeroline also terminates at the Corus Hotel in central KL, near KLCC, which for many people is more convenient than terminating at the Pudu Sentral bus station.  We bought the tickets online.


Aeroline is probably the most comfortable bus to catch, so we caught the 8:30AM from Queensbay Mall to KL, Corus Hotel. The Aeroline office is open from 7:30AM to 7PM.



Kota Baru to Penang by bus – AKA Circling Malaysia by rail (mostly) 4/4

The Plan:

This trip completes my three day circle of Malaysia.  The plan is to catch a bus to Butterworth Terminal, and then the ferry across to George Town, this being nicer than going to the bus terminal at Sungai Nibong in the south of Penang Island.

approximate bus route


Now, this is obviously not by rail.  But when one has arrived by rail into Kota Baru what does one do? Well, you could backtrack by catching a (night) train back from Kota Baru to Kuala Lumpur, and another to Penang.  It costs more, takes longer, and you miss some nice scenery in northern Malaysia. But it is by rail.

Or you could catch a bus to the Thai border from Kota Baru, via Pasir Mas, walk across the border and on to the train station at Sungai Kolok, and then catch the train to Hat Yai, and another train to Butterworth. You will be passing through the Moslem separatist states of Thailand where terrorists occasionally kill whoever happens past, local or tourist.  And from Hat Yai to Butterworth it is difficult to get on a train unless you  have an advance booking.  You can catch a mini bus from Hat Yai to Penang, if you wish, though.

The Trip:

We chose the easy way – to catch a bus from the Tesco Bus Terminal, so named because is is relatively near Tesco. You can kind of see Tesco in the distance. The taxi fare from the Tune Hotel is RM10 if you happen to have stayed in that fine establishment.

Tesco Bus Terminal at Kota Baru

This bus site gives some more information. Our bus departed at 9.30 AM, and was scheduled to arrive in Butterworth around 16.00, from memory, but actually arrived about 16.45, despite light traffic on the whole route. It cost RM34.10, the .10 being for insurance. Insurance?

The first bus company we tried said their bus was full, but after another counter which had buses for Butterworth opened we were able to purchase tickets. And their bus was not full, so was more comfortable. My feeling is the scenery is better from the right side of the bus. The bus had no on board toilet, and only stops once, for lunch, apart from picking up and dropping off passengers at a few stops en route.

bus route

I have also driven this route in the past, and include a few photos I took from then.  It is quite a nice route, with nice scenery, and is generally not so busy.

our bus

lower deck

upper deck

The first part of the route, to Pasir Mas and Tanah Merah is urban and partly rural.

still semi urban

By the way, at Pasir Mas the bus stop is only a few minutes walk from the railway – there is no need for a taxi between them. Then the scenery starts to improve.

you see quite a few lorries carrying logs

outside an army base

lunch stop

Considering a stop was overdue we kept an eye out for eligible places, but the bus just kept on going past them until we finally stopped 13.15 at a very uninteresting “food court” with no view, and a little mediocre food still left. We scraped up what we could and ate hungrily, as we had not brought anything much with us to eat. (Note to self – take some sandwiches and something to drink for next bus trip.)

About 40 minutes later we departed.

Apparently elephants come out at night – a good reason for not travelling during the night. Another is that drivers sometimes fall asleep.

The next stop for about 10 minutes at 15.15 was to fill up with diesel.

A little while later, at 16.10 we pulled into the Kulim Bus Terminal where we waited for a few minutes. I could see a lake from my window.

a lake near the Kulim Bus Terminal

And finally at around 16.50 we arrived at Butterworth Bus Terminal.

you arrive somewhere around here in Butterworth Terminal

We alighted here for the ferry, but the bus would continue on and across the Penang Bridge to the final stop at Sungai Nibong in the south of the island.  The toilets at the Butterworth Terminal are around the back of the ticket window building, and cost 30 sen to enter.

The ticket windows. Walk clockwise around this building to the toilets.

The ferry is down the walkway shown in the pictures, up some steps, and then turn right. For the station go more or less straight ahead. There is a clear sign showing which is which.

walk this way towards the ferry – and the train station

The ferry requires 50 sen and 20 sen coins to the value of RM1.20. If you don’t have this change you can get it at a window, and then put the coins into the turnstile.

on the passenger deck of the ferry

The ferry departs when vehicles are on and most passengers too. There are several per hour.

George Town in the distance. The ferry will arrive in another ten minutes or so.

Once the ferry docks you walk down and the bus station for local buses is on the right, and taxis on the left.  No taxi might want to take you if you are just going locally as the fare will only be RM10 or RM15.  In which case just walk to the road and hail one – but either cross the pedestrian bridge or walk back up the road a bit because it is congested and too busy to be safe where buses enter and leave the bus station. Taxis are supposed to use the meter, but generally won’t, so establish the fare before you get in.