kuala lumpur to penang bus

Kuala Lumpur to Penang by Bus

After a month of remote work in KL, it was time to head off to my next destination; George Town, Penang. With its old shop houses, rich history and promises of incredible food, I couldn’t wait to get there. For George Town / Penang Island, you firstly need to get to Butterworth (otherwise known as Penang Sentral). From here you can get the ferry to Georgetown or drive/bus over the bridge. After much deliberation over how to get to Penang from Kuala Lumpur, I decided on the bus.

Flying is obviously the quickest way but also the most expensive. Given the number of bags with me, initial cheap flights of £17-30 quickly escalated once you add three extra bags. Alternatively, you can catch the train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. This is typically the fastest way on the land, however the trains weren’t very frequent. I wanted some flexibility, so the limited trains weren’t for me. After having a recent positive experience getting the bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, I decided to give the buses another go.

Booking Tickets for The Penang Bus

You can buy bus tickets for Penang online ahead of time. Sites I’ve had good experiences with in the past include EasyBook and BusOnlineTickets . I opted to buy my ticket at the station as I wanted some flexibility in the morning to go-with-the-flow.

Most buses to Penang depart from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS station) in Kuala Lumpur. I was staying in KLCC, so this was an easy Grab ride from my serviced apartment for RM16. If you’re travelling to TBS by taxi, you’ll likely also be dropped at the main lobby entrance. Once inside, follow signs for the ticket counters. You’ll see a row of ticket machines and counter options. Ticket machines are much quicker but only accept cash. I paid RM 34 for the bus from TBS to Butterworth (Penang Sentral). When buying your ticket, you’ll be asked to select ‘From/To’ Destinations, a time, bus company, a specific seat, your name, passport number and mobile.

TBS Station

TBS station itself is fairly big, with several convenience stores (like 7/11) and restrooms. After I bought my ticket for the 11:30am bus from KL to Penang, I made my way to Gate 17. To note, once you’re scanned into your gate area you’ll be waiting in an area without bathrooms. There was a small shop by my gate but that was it.

This was my only negative part of the journey. I saw waiting by my gate from 11am, for my 11:30am bus, for it to arrive 40 minutes late. There were no updates on what was going on, if i’d missed it or if it was just delayed. All other buses seemed to be arriving at the gate fine and i spent over an hour watching people come and go.

The bus finally came at 12:10. However it arrived at another gate without any announcement! A guy came over to our gate and very nonchalantly started speaking. A few people I’d been sat waiting with all got up, so I followed to ask if he knew something about my buses whereabouts. Turned out he was there to collect us from Gate 17 and walk us to Gate 4 across the station. There were no proper announcements or checks to see if everyone booked on the 11:30am had made it! I highly imagine many people missed this as the bus was practically empty, despite the seat selector being full when buying my ticket.

The Journey From Kuala Lumpur to Penang Sentral

The journey itself was fairly uneventful. We left TBS at 12:15 and drove north-west, on the AH2, towards Penang. We stopped at a petrol station just outside of Ipoh at 14:23pm to use bathrooms and buy food/drinks. It wasn’t clear how long we had here so I only went to the bathroom. The driver came back on the bus and did head checks at 14:42, before continuing with the journey. 

A few fellow passengers had their phones blaring out tv shows, music and games during the journey, which was annoying.

At 4:06 we reached our second stop which was a bus change over. Anyone heading to Butterworth / Penang Sentral had to go into a second Jasmin Express bus. Straightforward enough but it would have been great to get a heads up this was happening. People from my new bus then moved somewhere else. It was all a bit chaotic but I guess apart of the experience. There was a small food stand here but I wasn’t going to risk the buses leaving without me so I left it.

By 4:20pm, we were off again. Again, it was a fairly uneventful journey. There was bad traffic coming into Butterworth, but it might have been caused by the heavy rainy. We arrived at Butterworth / Penang at 5:05pm

The Bus Conditions and Tips

Both buses were spacious with comfortable reclining seats and strong aircon. I had significantly more space than I would have on a plane, so that already made up for the slow journey. There were no toilets on board, but the rest stop half way was adequate enough.

Some of the buses from Kuala Lumpur to Penang have extra amenities, like Wi-Fi. If this is important to you, check the bus facilities online before booking or ask at the train station ticket counters. These tend to be 5-10 RM more expensive than buses without Wi-Fi.

My top tip is to bring food and drinks with you!! There aren’t substantial stops, as I experienced with Singapore to Malaysia, so I arrived at George Town starving!

Penang to George Town Ferry

Once you arrive at Penang Sentral, collect your bags and head into the bus terminal. You’ll need to take the escalators up to level 2 for taxis, ferries and local buses to George Town. I originally considered a taxi, but didn’t have enough cash for the RM 70 fare. After giving up on taxis, I walked to the ferry station, just in time for the 5:20pm ferry. This area was well signposted and people were friendly to direct me. The ferry only cost RM 2 and took 10 minutes! The ferry itself was comfortable with lots of seating, air con, and despite the torrential rain, it wasn’t bumpy!

Arriving at George Town

Once you arrive at Georgetown ferry terminal, you’ll be faced with a 5-10 min walk out. I note this, because carrying nearly 60kg backpacks in the torrential rain made this difficult. There’s a taxi rank once you’re through the station, which I took to my hostel for rm20. The driver conveniently covered the meter with a baseball cap, so I was potentially ripped-off. However, I couldn’t face navigating George Town without phone data and my heavy bags in the torrential rain. I made it to my hostel just after 6pm.

Overall, getting the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang was the best option for me. It was cheap, very comfortable and fairly stress-free. It did take longer than expected, but that was largely due to the delays at TBS in Kuala Lumpur. In terms of timing, I left my serviced apartment at 10:30am and got to the hostel in George Town just at 6pm. That did also include taking taxis to/from my accommodation and having no wait time for the ferry – so it was long! However, the total spend only came to 68rm (£11.40)! Money saved went towards well-deserved icy Chang Beers when I arrived.

Hope this helps anyone looking to take the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang or George Town!

Happy Travels x