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How to get around Penang

How to get around Penang

Covering almost three hundred square kilometres, Penang Island has plenty to offer the visitor, from the delights of colonial George Town to the natural beauty of Penang National Park (check out our guide for things to do in Penang). It’s an easy island to get around, helped by the fact that most of the sights are concentrated in the northern and eastern parts of the island. The rest of the island, in the south and west, are beautiful and remote, but less visited.

Grab Taxi

One of the biggest changes travellers will notice to transport over the past few years is the introduction of e-hailing apps, with perhaps the best known being Uber. Southeast Asia has its own version called Grab (plus others) which has made travel around the region so much easier. Gone are the days of negotiating fares, language-barriers, having the correct change, and wrong turnings.

And if you’re wondering – is there Grab in Penang? Well, yes there is!

Grab app on phone

Grab taxis are ubiquitous on Penang and no journey is considered too short or too long. Whether you’re hopping across the centre of George Town, or taking a island-wide journey from the airport to the national park, Grab taxis are the way to go.

Install the app before your first journey (this is number 1 of our top tips for visiting Penang) and you’ll soon be booking a ride. Amongst other features, the app lets you see where the drivers are, chat or call them, see their rating and photo, specify your destination and see the total fare. For return journeys from more remote places, e.g. the national park, they’re useful as not many regular taxis wait around at these locations.

You can link your credit card (international ones included) to the app and pay that way, saving you scrambling around for the correct change when you arrive. On a side note, Grab also has a food section, great for ordering takeaways after a long day sightseeing.

Bus

Penang benefits from a comprehensive bus network linking many of the most frequently visited areas of the island. In particular, the service is excellent in the arc between the airport in the south, George Town, and the National Park on the northwest corner.

The main bus company is Rapid Penang who have 40+ bus routes covering the Penang mainland and the island. The informative moovit website is a great resource for accessing up-to-date timetables, routes and maps. Most visitors to Penang find themselves using either the 101 (from/to the Jetty) or 102 (from/to the airport) buses, which link George Town, Batu Ferringhi, National Park, and most places in between. The majority of buses originate/terminate at Weld Quay (commonly referred to as the Jetty) where you’ll also find information booths and ticket kiosks.

Fares start from RM1.00 and are paid to the bus driver directly. You can also buy an unlimited weekly pass for RM30 if you’re intending to use the buses often during your visit.

If you’re just in the city centre and need to nip around between the sights, there’s a free bus covering the area called the Free CAT, which does a loop from the Jetty around George Town. It runs every day from 6:00am to 11:30pm, with a frequency of ten or fifteen minutes.

Car

Visitors often wonder if hiring a car is a wise choice when visiting Penang and the answer is nearly always, no. It does give you unlimited flexibility and most useful if you’re heading to the more remote areas on the west coast where the roads are quieter. Otherwise, if you’re planning to spend most of your time in the popular areas of George Town and Batu Ferringhi , it’s really not worth the trouble.

Angry drivers, traffic jams, lack of parking, and only a cursory adherence to traffic rules make driving a challenge. With the affordability of Grab taxis and buses, it’s not something we’d recommend.

If you do decide to hire a vehicle, most operators are based at the airport or in the city centre on Jalan Transfer. Expect to pay about RM150 per day, plus extras like insurance and extra driver fees.

Walk

Central George Town is perfect for a sightseeing stroll, especially early in the morning or at sunset. Many of the major sights, such as the E&O Hotel, Fort Cornwallis, Peranakan Mansion and the Clan Jetties are within a small area, allowing you to cover them all in the space of 5km.

With some exceptions, the city streets are easy enough to navigate with good footpaths, plenty of pedestrian crossings and a welcome lack of mopeds using them as shortcuts.

Cycle rickshaws

For a more traditional Penang transport experience, consider a cycle rickshaw tour of George Town, which takes in the places such as Fort Cornwallis, Penang Town Hall, Beach Street, Kapitan Keling Mosque, complete with an informative local driver for company.