Penang to Langkawi Stress-Free Travel Guide

How to get from Penang to Langkawi? This guide reviews all the methods (ferry, car, bus, and flight) to escape one very cultural tropical island for another that many consider pure Malaysian tropical bliss.

penang_to_langkawi_guide
Langkawi's name come from "helang", the Malay word for "eagle"...

Penang is a fun, beautiful island full of events, at least 20 great beaches, interesting characters, amazing food, a vibrant nightlife, one of Southeast Asia biggest Buddhist temples, a city theme-park inside one of Malaysia’s highest towers, Komtar, and plenty of culture. There are many things to do in Penang, and a vibrant backpacker scene in George Town, but in terms of beaches — and getting that feeling of “tropical bliss” — nearby Langkawi island in Kedah is a much better option. But how to get from Penang to Langkawi?

This post will solve all of your planning questions for a trip from Penang to Langkawi.

Penang to Langkawi: distance

The distance between Penang and Langkawi is 108km as the crow flies. Langkawi is in the state of Kedah, and it’s also a jump-off point for the islands of Southern Thailand: either the gateway town of Satun or the famous tourist island of Koh Lipe.

RELATED: How to do a Visa Run between Penang and Thailand

Penang to Langkawi by ferry

Penang and Langkawi are conveniently connected by a direct ferry. It leaves from the Swettenham Pier, or Cruise Ship Terminal, on the north-easternmost corner of Penang island, and in walking distance from the northern end of Beach Street in George Town.

There are two daily departures from Penang to Langkawi.
They leave at 8.30 am and 2 pm. The cost of a one-way ticket is RM70.

Most guesthouses and hotels can reserve your Penang to Langkawi ferry tickets, sometimes for a little extra fee. You can otherwise just walk to the Swettenham Pier yourself: along the road leading to the port, there are several travel agents selling the tickets for RM70/one way. For peace of mind, however, you can book your Penang to Langkawi ferry tickets online with 12GoAsia. It’s highly advised that you buy your ticket at least one day before.

You don’t need to buy a return ticket, as it’s easy to do so in Langkawi. But if you know when/where you will be returning to Penang (or leaving Langkawi to go elsewhere), many agencies sell return packages.

Children under 12 have a 50% discount.

Penang to Langkawi ferry review

The trip lasts about 3 hours, and the ferries are air-conditioned and fairly clean. It’s not a very scenic trip, to be honest, especially because passengers are forbidden from going on the top of the deck.

Bring a sweater or a jacket, as the cabin can get very cold. In general, there are TVs broadcasting movies during each trip, so you will have something to do. Bring a book anyhow, since many of the movies are only in the Malay language.

Ferries are mid-sized and not always full. They have multiple rows of seats, which are numbered. Make sure to check your seat number before sitting. Toilets are overall well maintained, but when the sea’s choppy, even boys better sit down 🙂

penang to langkawi guide
Pantai Cenang, Langkawi’s beautiful, yet very touristy, beach

How to get from George Town to Langkawi

Depending on where your hotel is located, you should head towards Little India in George Town and then arrive on Beach Street. Walk all the way to its northern end. Once you see the Queen Victoria Memorial Clocktower, take the third roundabout exit, exactly to your right, and walk towards the end of the road. The entrance to the Swettenham Pier and the departure point for Langkawi-bound ferries is there, on the corner.

Penang to Langkawi by car

With a car, it’s possible to drive very close to Langkawi, and then take a ferry from there, at a fraction of the price of a Penang to Langkawi direct ferry ticket. Also, there are many more departures (up to 12 hourly boats) every day.

Besides Penang, there are two other main ports servicing Langkawi: Kuala Kedah, in Kedah state, and not too far from its enticing capital of Alor Setar. And Kuala Perlis, a small seaside municipality in the state of Perlis.

To reach both towns, drive out of Penang on the First Penang Bridge, and enter the NSE Expressway (E1) towards Alor Setar/Bukit Kayu Hitam. It’s about an hour and a half drive to Kuala Kedah, and about two hours to Kuala Perlis.

Remember: you must have a Touch & Go card, or you won’t be able to pay highway tolls in cash at any highway turnpike. If you don’t have one, you can still ride the old road via Sungai Petani, but it will take at least double the time it’d take using the E1.

Both towns are small and revolve around their own jetties to Langkawi, so you won’t certainly get lost. There are guarded parking lots where you can leave your vehicle safely while on Langkawi: they cost between RM10 and RM15 per day.

PARKING TIP: don’t listen to the guys on motorbikes who will inevitably approach your car, suggesting you follow them to their “great, secure parking spots”. Based on personal experience, these people are not dangerous or scammy, but most often are there to sell you more expensive, private parking. It’s much better to stick to the public parking manned by security guards. You can’t go wrong: they have a guard always on standby and are full of parked cars.

In both Kuala Kedah and Kuala Perlis, ferries to Langkawi leave every 45 minutes/1 hour and run from 7 am until 6 or 7 pm.

A one way trip from Kuala Kedah to Langkawi is RM23.

A one way trip from Kuala Perlis to Langkawi is RM18.

If you arrive late, there are several mid-range hotels near the ferry terminal, especially in Kuala Perlis. Expect to pay around RM40/50 per night for a simple double room.

Penang to Langkawi by Bus

From Penang, it’s better to cross the Straits Sea with the free ferry to Butterworth. Get off the ferry, take the free shuttle bus to Butterworth bus station, and then change to a Kuala Perlis-bound bus. This is absolutely the easiest way to get from Butterworth to Langkawi.

A bus ticket from Penang/Butterworth to Kuala Perlis costs less than RM20 with most companies, shop around, and make sure to arrive between 4 pm and 5 pm, or you’ll risk spending the night in Kuala Perlis.

BUS TO LANGKAWI TIP: If you are travelling to Langkawi by bus from other cities in Malaysia, it’s better to go to Kuala Perlis than Kuala Kedah.
There are many more connections between Kuala Perlis and most cities in Malaysia. Most important, Kuala Perlis’ long-distance bus terminal is within walking distance from Langkawi’s ferry terminal. Kuala Kedah’s is not… you need a Grab Car from Alor Setar. To avoid surprises, however, you can also book your Penang to Kuala Perlis bus tickets online with 12GoAsia.

penang to langkawi guide
Langkawi’s famous skybridge, one of the island’s main attractions.

Penang to Langkawi by flight

There are many cheap flights between Penang and Langkawi, usually operated by AirAsia or Fireflyz. They take only 35 minutes and cost around RM60 – even less than the 3-hour ferry ride. If you are booking a future trip to Langkawi, it pays to start looking for flights as early as possible, as you may even be able to find a Penang to Langkawi flight ticket for a ridiculous RM30/40. You can check prices and book your flight from Penang to Langkawi online.

RELATED: Ultimate Guide to Penang Airport and Cheap Flights from Penang

You can conveniently check and book your Penang to Langkawi boat, bus or flight tickets using this form by 12GoAsia, which we strongly recommend.

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Arriving at Langkawi Airport: How to get a Car to Reach Langkawi’s Pantai Cenang

The only problem with arriving at Langkawi airport is that you may have trouble renting a car or a motorbike on the spot. Fear not, however, because, with Grab or a Taxi, a ride to nearby Pantai Cenang should cost you between RM 15/20.

RELATED: Guide to Using Grab in Penang

Otherwise, you can opt for the best option, which is booking a private airport transfer directly to your hotel of choice, using an air-conditioned coach that can fit up to 10 people — a perfect option for groups or moving big luggage. You can reserve your private hotel transfer from Langkawi airport herewith a special RM10 discount.

PRIVATE CAR CHARTER – Langkawi is a big island and, unless your idea of holiday is relaxing at Pantai Cenang and do as little as possible, you will need wheels to get around. One of the easiest way to do this and avoid any stress is booking a private car charter for half day (4 hours) or full day (8 hours) island exploration, including sightseeing and waiting time. We recommend using Klook, a popular booking site in Malaysia, which offers Langkawi Private Car Charters for up to 10 pax starting at RM158. Book your car and driver in Langkawi here.

Penang to Langkawi by Train

Trains are not directly connected to Kuala Perlis or Kuala Kedah, but with the arrival of the ETS Train Service, are certainly a fast method to travel to Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur or the Malaysia/Thai border at Padang Besar.

If coming from Kuala Lumpur/south, you should alight at Alor Setar KTM train station and catch a local bus or taxi to Kuala Kedah, 15km away. A boat from here takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

If coming from the north/Thailand, or if you prefer to catch one of the quickest ferries departing from Kuala Perlis, you should get off the train at Arau in Perlis state. From here, local buses and taxis ply the 18km to Kuala Perlis. As described above, the bus station here is in walking distance to the ferry terminal.

Note, however, that ETS Trains tend to fill up very fast: it’s recommended that you book your train tickets from Penang to Alor Setar or Arau online, especially if you plan on travelling on a weekend.

Arriving at Langkawi Ferry terminal

Langkawi Ferry terminal is nowhere near the famous beach of Pantai Cenang but is in Kuah Town, Langkawi’s main settlement on the southeastern coast.
This is where all ferries to Penang, Kuala Kedah, Kuala Perlis, and Thailand, arrive and depart from. A taxi ride to Pantai Cenang costs around RM25.

LANGKAWI ARRIVAL TIPS: It really depends what you have come to Langkawi for, but if you want to explore, the best is to rent either a motorbike or your own car. Both can be rented by many touts and from any of the ticket selling booths outside Langkawi Ferry Port’s main gate. Just check the bike before you set off, take pictures of all eventual scratches/malfunctions with your phone (or be prepared to argue later), and bargain hard. A good price for an automatic scooter is RM35/day.

Consider that rental cars can cost as low as RM60/50 per day — yes, supply generally outstrips demand unless you travel to Langkawi on a weekend or a public holiday — so groups of more than three people may want to opt directly for a car.

REMEMBER: bargain as there’s no tomorrow. There’s always another tout waiting for you around the corner… actually, most will “attack you” as soon as you pass through the terminal doors. Be polite, firm, and get your wheels: it’s so much more practical than hailing cabs or Grab cars while in Langkawi.

Langkawi Tour: Choose what Places to See in Langkawi

Once in Langkawi, you have a number of options for great things to do. With popular attractions such as the Langkawi Cable Car and Skybridge, and the chance to explore wild nature, or strike off on kayaking trips out at sea, the possibilities for things to do in Langkawi are endless.
But consider that, in order to really get to know Langkawi’s natural wonders, renting a scooter or show up early to avoid queues won’t be enough. The way to go is taking a  guided tour, especially when it comes to watersports and jungle activities — you really need the help of a trained guide to make the best of your trip and stay safe. The following suggestions highlight a few tours that we think you should consider.

places to visit in Langkawi
Langkawi Cable Car gets you to the top of Mount Machinchang, one of Langkawi’s highest points. The views are obviously breathtaking (image credit: Unsplash)

Langkawi Cable Car and Sky Bridge

For starters, everyone going to Langkawi wants to ride on the famous Cable Car. One of the steepest and highest in the world, it offers amazing views of the Langkawi archipelago from the top of the Skybridge. Problem is, the line to get your ticket is always long, no matter what time you arrive. Pro Tip: you can book your ticket in advance and don’t waste time standing in line. You came to Langkawi to explore and enjoy, right?

Another option to ride the Cable Car, see Eagle Square and do some duty-free shopping is taking a full-day private tour of Langkawi with your own English-speaking guide and air-conditioned vehicle. This is a perfect option for families and those who can’t get around using motorbikes.

Langkawi Best Watersports and Activities

langkawi_watersport_activitiesWhen in Langkawi, not enjoying the island’s pristine tropical waters is a big mistake. So get off that sunbed and take part in some fun activities. Again, a guided tour is the way to go — do you really want to spend time trying to charter a boat for the best price? Not recommended, and a waste of time: you also need to make sure that the boatman who takes you is trustworthy.

So take out the guesswork, and let the professionals at Get Your Guide and Klook (two online booking services we use to book our own trips when we travel) do this for you. You can pay with International credit cards, and you’ll be able to cancel your bookings free of charge up to 24 hours before the activity starts.

1) First of all, the popular Langkawi island hopping tour (book here for an RM20 discounted ticket, including pick up from your hotel) is the quintessential way to get off the main island and experience the rest of Langkawi’s archipelago. You’ll spend a half day floating on the sea, and you’ll witness the famous Langkawi “eagle feeding”. The local eagles will fly down from the sky to eat close to your boat… prepare your cameras!

2) Everyone loves a jet sky tour of Langkawi’s archipelago. This 4-hour-long tour is a favorite, as it mixes jet skying with the exploration of the eight Dayang Bunting islands. You’ll swim in the largest freshwater lake in Malaysia, hike in the jungle, and scoot over waves assisted by a trained guide.

3) Families may opt for a unique 4-hours mangrove safari tour on Langkawi’s coast. Depending on season and availability, you may experience mangrove planting, and your guide will tell you all about this important plant.

4) For sporty types, Langkawi also offers interesting kayaking and swimming guided tours. You’ll paddle for three hours along mangrove forest and up some of Langkawi’s most hidden nooks and crannies. A perfect tour for adventurous types, families, and team building activities.

5) If you want to try something different, getting on a fishing trip with a local is something worth considering. You’ll get in a local boat for 3 hours, accompanied by a local angler who knows all the best fishing spots in Langkawi.

Langkawi Best Cruises

langkawi cruisesAnother recommended activity is taking a cruise in Langkawi.

1) The most popular (and fun) is definitely hopping on a Langkawi Sunset Cruise. This cruise includes a scrumptious seafood dinner, which is often barbecued to perfection, and a free flow of drinks. At sunset, Langkawi is at its most magical, and being able to catch a pink-turning-purple sunset from the vantage point of the sea makes this cruise a perfect choice for that romantic getaway. You will see it’s very popular with bachelor and bachelorette parties — many people, in fact, come to marry on idyllic Langkawi. Besides drinking, eating and dancing, you’ll have a chance to swim and try the “natural jacuzzi”. Curious? Book your coveted spot.

2) To pair a fun boating experience at sunset with nature, we recommend the Flying Foxes and Wetlands Sunset Cruise. You’ll cruise from the Kilim’s Mangrove Forest towards islet Pulau Dangli, where you’ll see the flight of the flying foxes, Malaysia’s biggest bats, and feed tropical fish. Very good choice for families with children.

Nature Tours in Langkawi

Langkawi nature tours
A macaque in Langkawi’s rainforest (image by Pixabay)

The beauty of Langkawi is that, regardless of its touristic development, it still has plentiful and beautiful nature. The best way to get to know it in a safe, exciting and educative way is to rely on a nature tour led by a professional and licensed tour guide.

1) Experience the rainforest on a guided morning trek through the beautiful landscape of Gunung Raya. You could also combine or hike at night in the Lubuk Semilang park when the insects and fauna are completely different. This is a perfect time to look for rare nocturnal animals like flying lemurs and flying squirrels.

2) Bird lovers should consider an interesting half day bird-watching tour in a remote area of Langkawi. Your guide will help you spot hornbills, Little and Pond Herons, Egrets and more local birds. Pick-up and drop-off from your hotel, and transfer in luxury a/c private coach.

3) Nature lovers won’t find a better tour than the Kudang Badak River Tour and Swimming, led by an expert guide, with a home-cooked lunch with a local family — another insight into this less-touristed area of Langkawi. You’ll cruise for 3 hours through a beautiful and secluded mangrove forest looking for birds and lizards — including the giant monitor, a lesser cousin of the Komodo Dragon. Before you return to your hotel, you’ll have a chance to take a swim in a secluded and untouristed jungle setting.

langkawi zipline adventure tour
(image from Get Your Guide)

4) Last but not least, adrenaline junkies should try Langkawi’s zip line adventure tour over the Machinchang GEO Park. You’ll soar above Malaysia’ only UNESCO Geopark and the beautiful Seven Wells Waterfalls on one of the longest zip line courses in the whole Malaysia. This is not for those who suffer vertigo though, as believe us — we tried — some of the jumps are quite long and high. For all the others, it’s a great and fun experience for a memorable nature adventure in Langkawi.


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