Arriving in Penang by ferry is a lot of fun. If you are a visitor on your first visit to Penang, and you will be arriving on Penang Island by ferry, I hope this article will provide you the information and right expectation.
Arriving by ferry, by default usually means taking the ferry from Butterworth, although it is also true to say that you can take a ferry from Langkawi or Medan. Every day, thousands of people arrive in Penang by ferry, mostly as commuters going to work, with some tourists as well.
Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda passenger walkway (3 August, 2013)
Passengers waiting to board the Penang Ferry (3 August, 2013)
Arriving from Butterworth by Ferry
The ferry terminal in Butterworth is called Pengkalan Sultan Abdul Halim. It is within walking distance from the Butterworth Bus Terminal, which is called called Penang Sentral. The same Penang Sentral will eventually be an integrated rail, bus and ferry hub, but until that is in place, you need to walk a bit to the interim station, which is set within the old railway yard.
(There has been a lot of delays in the construction of Penang Sentral, due to land acquisition issues as well as delay in federal fund allocation. The present arrangement is not the neatest way to start your journey to Penang, but once the integrated terminal is completed, this will be a thing of the past.)
Passengers exiting the Penang Ferry Terminal (3 August, 2013)
Ferry services no longer run 24-hours today. The first ferry from George Town leaves at 6:28 am and from Butterworth at 6:16 am. The last ferry from George Town leaves at 1:00 am and from Butterworth at 12:40 am. Depending on time of day, there is a ferry every 10-20 minutes.
Passenger paying the fare for boarding the Penang Ferry (3 August, 2013)
At Pengkalan Sultan Abdul Halim, you pay a fare of RM1.20 for adults one way (service from George Town to Butterworth is not charged) and 60 sen for children aged 5-12 to board the ferry. It's free seating on board the ferry.
The journey across the channel to Penang Island takes about 20 minutes, and as the island gets nearer and nearer, you will be able to see the city spread out before you. The ferry is heading towards Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda, which in Penang is universally called "The Jetty". The term "Jetty" refers not only to the ferry jetty, but also to the adjacent Weld Quay Ferry & Bus Terminal, so once in Penang, you will see that all buses heading this way is signaged "Jetty/Jeti".
Penang Ferry Terminal, cars and motorcycles queuing to board (3 August, 2013)
Pier at Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda (3 August, 2013)
Arriving at the Jetty
To the left of the Jetty are the historical clan jetties. You may have heard or read about them, and are probably anxious to explore them. The best time to do so is at dusk, when the alleyways are starting to get dark. If you go there in the day time, the place may appear rather stark and unromantic.
To the right of the Jetty are the other piers of George Town. At the far right is Swettenham Pier, which is where you would arrive if you took a cruise ship to Penang. Next to it, is the Tanjung City Marina and the Church Street Pier. It looks rather modern today, due to a recent restoration, though in fact it was built in the early 20th century.
Disembarking from the ferry, you walk through the wooden passageway of Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda and is eventually deposited to ground leval at the Weld Quay Ferry & Bus Terminal. This is where you can take the bus to all the places in Penang. You can check the Rapid Penang Bus Routes here. The taxi stand is also next to the bus terminal. Remember that in Penang, the taxi drivers still do not use the meter, and expect to take you anywhere according to a pre-agreed fare.
Boarding ramp, Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda (3 August, 2013)
Passenger benches on board a Penang Ferry (3 August, 2013)
Arriving by ferry from Langkawi and Medan
Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda only receives ferry boats from Butterworth. If you are taking the ferry from Langkawi or Medan, you disembark at Swettenham Pier.
Langkawi Ferry Services operates a ferry service between Langkawi and Penang daily. At time of writing, there is a direct service leaving Penang at 8:15am with a return journey from Langkawi at 5:15pm. Another service, with a stopover at Pulau Payar, leaves Penang at 8:30am with a return trip leaving Langkawi at 2:30pm. Trip takes about 2 hours 45 minutes. The ticket is RM55 (adult) and RM40 (child) one way, and RM105 (adult), RM75 (child) for two-way return. Ticketing counter number is 04-2642088 (Penang) and 04-9663779 (Langkawi).
Medan - Penang Ferry
There is also a ferry service between Medan and Penang operated also by Langkawi Ferry Services. Passengers should check in one hour before departure. The ferry leaves Medan at 9:00am in the morning for Penang, and takes 6 hours. At the same time, another ferry leaves Penang at 9:00am for Medan. The fare, excluding surcharge and embarkation fee, is RM110 (adult) and RM60 (child) one way, and RM180 (adult), RM100 (child) two way. Contact number is 04-2642088 (Penang) and +62-61-4521666 (Medan).
Swettenham Pier, George Town (3 August, 2013)
Where to find food?
There are coffee shops all along Weld Quay. If you are able to eat as the locals do, turn left and go along Weld Quay until you reach Chew Jetty. You will see many Chinese coffee shops here, as well as across the road.
A short walk takes you down to Lebuh Pantai, where there's the Sri Weld Food Court, in front of the junction with Lebuh Bishop. There, you can get a great variety of hawker food. There are also several Chinese coffee shops in Lebuh Gereja and Lebuh China where you can easily get something to eat.
Where to refuel?
If you came by car aboard the ferry, the nearest petrol station is a Shell Station along Weld Quay. Upon heading out of the ferry terminal, turn left. See map below.
Where to stay?
Both hotels and budget accommodations are a distance from the jetty. Check the Penang Travel Tips pages on Hotel and Budget Accommodation to find out more.
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