Recently, my family made another road trip out of Penang heading south to Kuala Lumpur and then onward to Singapore. Driving Malaysian highways can be quite an adventure for a family of five in a Toyota Avanza. So with a bag full of snacks, RM100 on a Touch n Go card for zippier transition through the toll plazas, a dual screen DVD player for the kids, and a Garmin GPS to guide us, we were on our way.
Scenic. Quick. Easy. Adventurous. Edgy. Stimulating. Convenient. These are the words that
come to mind when thinking about riding my motorcycle or motorbike in Penang. Read more…
If you are at the airport you can follow the signs to Ground Transportation. Line up for the desk just after you come out of the customs area, tell them your destination and pay the fee. Then walk out to the first curb, move down to the right, get in your taxi and go.
are available in front of hotels, along the streets in heavy tourist areas—esp. Batu Feringghi & Georgetown. Normally they don’t want to use their meters, even though they may have signs on their door saying that you should insist on it. Penang taxi drivers seem to unanimously feel that using the meter will not get them enough money to make ends meet. So, before heading to the taxi stand, find out from a reliable source what you should pay to get where you’re going and then be ready to negotiate. Read this post about what to do about tipping your driver.
If you’re going to spend some time here, it probably will pay to find a limo driver who you like & become his regular customer. Some limo drivers work in companies that have a number of drivers & cars. It’s good to have a relationship with one of these drivers as they’ll nearly always be able to send their back-up if they can’t come to help you.
Check out this post about a recommended driver.
Trains—The Malaysian train system can get you to KL, Singapore, even Bangkok, but the system is surprisingly old. It’s clean, air-conditioned & got everything you need, but seems to be 1970s in design. See more at: KTM
Beautiful air-conditioned busses travel between Singapore & multiple places in KL, & two locations on Penang island—one at Queensbay Mall, the other at the Sungai Nibong inter-city bus station. Complete with a downstairs living room for those who move there first. Note, you can urinate in the on-board bathroom, but if you need more, you must ask the driver to pull over at the next rest stop.
Similar to Aeroline.
Rapid Penang Buses—Penang has an excellent, modern, air conditioned bus service, starting right from the airport. In fact, you can ride the bus from just in front of the airport to Teluk Bahang—at the complete opposite end of the island—for a mere RM 4 ($1.30).
On most routes buses are normally supposed to come by about every 20 minutes, but when it is not rush-hour, it seems that they often come bumper-to-bumper, meaning that you may have to wait up to an hour at a stop. It seems that the routes from the Jetty to Batu Feringghi & Teluk Bahang stop about 11 PM.
Buses also host a WiFi hotspot, hosted by the DiGi mobile carrier. This can make longer commutes more tolerable.
Or follow on twitter @rapidpg
Penang International Airport is an increasingly busy hub served by over a dozen airlines. Here is a list of destinations served by direct flights as of late 2011. Airlines change their flights all the time so check directly with the airlines to confirm they are still flying that route.
- Hong Kong
- Johor Bahru
- Kota Kinabalu
- Kuala Lumpur
- Cathay Pacific
- Hong Kong
- China Airlines
- China Southern Airlines
- Banda Aceh
- Kota Bahru
- Kuala Terengganu
- Johor Bahru (seasonal)
- Malacca (seasonal)
- Indonesia AirAsia
- Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta
- Jetstar Asia Airways
- Lion Air
- Malaysia Airlines
- Kuala Lumpur
- Sriwijaya Air
- Thai AirAsia
- Bangkok Suvamabhum
- Thai AirAsia International
- Bangkok Suvamabhumi
- Tiger Airways
- Wings Air
To the Mainland/Peninsula
The Penang Bridge is currently the only physical connection between the island of Penang and the mainland crossing the Penang Straits. It is 13.5 km (8.4 miles) long and is the site of the annual Allianz Penang Bridge International Marathon. The bridge is free for driving to the mainland, RM 7 to return.
Currently, it is the longest bridge in Malaysia and the fourth longest in Southeast Asia, but it will soon be eclipsed by the Penang Second Bridge coming in at 24 km (15 miles). On the island, the second bridge starts nearer the airport at Batu Maung and crosses the strait to Batu Kawan on the mainland. The second bridge should be completed in 2013.
The Penang Ferry Service
The ferry, departing from the Jetty about 15 minutes drive north of the bridge, is likewise free to travel to the mainland, RM 7 to return when driving your own personal vehicle. There are other rates for pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles.
This ferry service is the oldest in Malaysia and captures a special place in the hearts of Penangites. Some liken it to the history and nostalgia that surround the San Francisco trolley.
Driving in Penang, Malaysia can be difficult. The drivers might be more aggressive than you are used to in your home country. The spaces are tighter. The gaps are smaller. There will probably come a time when you will get a ticket for a moving violation or a parking violation.
The first thing you should do is see if your ticket/summons comes from MPPP (Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang) or from the Police.
If it’s from MPPP you’ll go to the first floor in KOMTAR take a number and then pay there. It won’t cost much.
If it’s from the Police it will cost quite a bit more. Go to the big white and blue police HQ on the south side of Jalan Dato Keramat. Seek legal parking behind the station on Lorong Singgora, then walk to the front of the building. Facing the HQ, move all the way to the left end where there’s a sign reading “Cawangan Trafik Timur Laut”. Queue up, pay at one window and pick up your receipt at the next. If you don’t argue, you may be awarded with a discount.
Every year you’ll need to pay your road tax at the Post Office. Before doing that, you’ll need to pay your car insurance. The Post Office will check their computer to confirm that your insurance is paid before you can pay your road tax.
If all the slots for stamps showing that you’ve paid happen to be full, you’ll have to go to the Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan (JPJ) at I-Avenue in Bukit Jambul to get a new pink card issued, so that you can renew.
Once you pay your road tax, you’ll need to apply your tax sticker to your windshield, very carefully following the instructions so that you don’t destroy the sticker when peeling it off it’s back. Study the old one before you take it off so you understand what’s supposed to be included on the sticker and what’s not. Do this when you’re not in a terrible hurry!
If you are going to be in Penang for a while, get a car and drive yourself around. There are many complexities around doing this but here are some of the things you need to know.
Driving licenses are honored in Malaysia, according to the law. You may want to get an International Driving Permit as well, but legally they’re not required here. Section 28 of Act 333, Road Transport Act of 1987 reads:
A driving licence issued under the corresponding provisions of law in force in any country which is a party to a treaty to which Malaysia is also a party and which purports to recognize domestic driving licences issued by the contracting countries shall, so long as such licence remains in force in that country, be deemed to be a driving license granted under this Part.
Traffic Signals–Often you’ll approach an intersection to see lots of red signal lights, but all the traffic speeding ahead through the intersection. Look again & you’ll probably see that there’s a single, less prominent green arrow pointing forward. The multiple red lights are for people who are turning, & they don’t display a red turning arrow, but rather a full red light. Don’t stop in the middle of the road unless you’re fairly certain that the straight on lanes are supposed to stop, otherwise you’ll likely be rear-ended.
Left hand turn on red after stop? Apparently the rule is this, if there’s a solid white line across the turn lane, then you must wait until the turn light turns green; if it’s a dotted line, then you can go once the traffic clears and it’s safe. Exception: one location we know of has a solid line, but also has a Yield (Beri Laluan) sign. Everyone there seems to follow the Yield sign & to proceed when the traffic clears whether or not the light is red.