Two stunning Malaysian islands, two very different places. And in some ways these islands offer you the best of both worlds. If your preference is for searching out some history with beautiful old town colonial buildings, or traipsing the streets to find the amazing street art, then Penang has you covered. If you’re looking for the island life, with stunning beaches and inspiring waterfalls then you’ll want to visit Langkawi. And with these islands being relatively close to each other, and very accessible from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, they offer the perfect place for both tourists and travellers alike. So, we’ve provided you with all the information that you’ll need in travelling between Langkawi and Penang, with our Penang to Langkawi ferry guide!
But don’t fret if you don’t want to take a boat, we’ve also got you covered. And what’s more, we’ve also provided detailed guides with the best things to do on Penang and Langkawi, where to stay and so much more!
Getting from Penang to Langkawi
So the good news is that there is a direct ferry from Penang to Langkawi, operated by Langkawi Ferry Services (also known as Super Fast Ferry Ventures), that takes you around 3 hours. The morning ferry departs from the Penang Ferry Terminal (Swettenham Pier) at 8.30am in the morning, arriving into the Kuah Jetty point in Langkawi at 11.35am. There is also an afternoon ferry run by the same company, departing Penang at 2.0pm and arriving to the Langkawi jetty at 5.05pm
If you’re looking to do the journey in reverse and take the Langkawi to Penang Ferry, the morning boat departs at 10.30am and the afternoon service at 3.00pm. Again both journeys take roughly 3 hours.
A one way ferry ticket will cost you around 20 USD (15.15 GBP), but make sure that you book online as the ferry often sells out! The Penang Langkawi Ferry that we took was sold out, and a few people were turned away when they arrived.
Langkawi to Penang and Penang to Langkawi Ferry Timetable
|Service||Penang to Langkawi||Langkawi to Penang|
Location of the Penang Ferry Terminal
The port in Penang (The Swettenham Pier or PPC Building) is handily located right next to the Pesara King Edward and Fort Cornwallis in Georgetown. You can easily get a great photo of the Clock Tower, which is a few steps away from the terminal.
Address: Ground Floor, PPC Building, Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, George Town, 10300 George Town
Location of the Langkawi Ferry Terminal
The port in Langkawi is located in the town of Kuah, and it’s worth heading out of the terminal to see the enormous Eagle Statue, Dataran Lang, either when you arrive or depart. It’s also worth noting that this is the same port that you will arrive into/depart from if heading to Koh Lipe in Thailand.
Address: Straits Court Condominium, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah
What to expect on the Penang to Langkawi Ferry
Although the ferries are a little dated, Malaysia in general has very high safety standards in comparison to many other countries in the region. So the direct journey, easy booking process and being relatively comfortable taking a ferry it was the obvious choice for us.
Getting your tickets
Even though you’ve booked your tickets online, you’ll still need to pick up your physical tickets at the Penang or Langkawi ferry terminal. It’s a really easy and smooth process, in our case taking no more than 5 minutes. There are lots of different tickets offices, but just head into the first one you see and if you’re not in the right place, in that typical Malaysian friendly style, you’ll be pointed to the right one.
Boarding the ferry
As you enter into the ferry terminal with ticket in hand, head to the clearly marked ticket counter on the ground floor, where you’ll have your ticket scanned and then be provided with your seat numbers (they write them onto the back of your ticket). Then just follow the bright yellow signs for Langkawi/Penang and hey presto, you’ll be on the ferry before you know it.
As you board the ferry, your backpacks or suitcases will be stored on the boat for you by the helpful staff. Once done, they’ll point you to the lower or upper deck for you to find your seats.
The seats are pretty comfy, but don’t expect much in way of entertainment or refreshments, both are a bit lacking. Staff do walk around and try to sell some Pringles and other snacks, but better to prepare beforehand and buy your own. And it’s well worth taking a good book or at least some headphones to keep yourself entertained for this three hour journey.
Of course you’re at sea, so the journey can be a little bumpy, but nothing worse than you’d expect from any other ferry journey. Around halfway in the crossing, the ferry stops at the smaller island of Pulau Payar, they don’t make any announcements about this island stop, so a few people did look a little confused!
Our top tips for the Penang to Langkawi ferry
- Take a jumper or fleece, it can be pretty chilly on the boat. For some reason they love to crank up the airconditioning…
- Buy your own snacks and drinks before boarding
- If you get sea sick, it may be worth getting some motion sickness tablets
- Take a book or something to keep you entertained
Can you fly from Penang to Langkawi and Langkawi to Penang?
Yes, if you’re not that comfortable in taking the ferry, then your only other real option to get between Langkawi and Penang is by plane. And although a slightly more expensive exercise than taking the ferry, it is also a great option with the journey taking around 35 – 40 minutes. There are usually 5 flights each day from Penang to Langkawi (all in the afternoon) and the same from Langkawi to Penang (once again 5 daily flights).
Are there other alternatives to the Penang Langkawi Ferry?
In short, yes, but we’re not sure why you would take them. You can get a bus from Penang to either Kuala Perlis or Kuala Kedah, which takes between 2.5 and 3 hours, then you’ll still need to take the ferry across which takes between 1 hour 15 minutes to 1.5 hours. More interestingly was that even online, you can’t find the schedule for these ferries, so in our opinion it’s not worth the extra hassle and time that it would take.
Getting around Penang and Langkawi
Taxi: Once you’ve arrived into Penang or Langkawi, we’d definitely recommend that you look into the Grab App. It’s Southeast Asia’s equivalent to Uber and is excellent in making sure that you pay the right fare for your journeys. We have used it for months while in Southeast Asia and would recommend it to anyone.
Maps: If you’re into your hiking, or just looking to walk around town, we love Maps.me. It’s a really useful map app, where you can download regional maps, then using GPS services (no data required) will help you navigate the tracks. It’s populated in part by travellers so you’ll also get all the insider tips about where to visit while in town.
Why go to Penang?
One of the absolute must-see places when visiting Malaysia, Penang is actually an island, connected to mainland Malaysia by 2 bridges, making it really accessible from other cities like Kuala Lumpur. Many people actually get a little bit confused around the difference between Penang and Georgetown – Penang being the island and George Town the largest city or town on the island. So just in case you need a few more reasons to make the trip to Penang, here are some of the reasons you must visit:
- The island is an amazing melting pot of cultures, and between the Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences, you’ll find some of the finest cuisine in the country.
- If you’re looking for history, then the George Town old town has it in spades, from the oldest remaining fort in Malaysia, Fort Cornwallis, through to the beautiful temples and clanhouses, there is loads to explore.
- The street art pulls travellers and tourists from all over the world, you can’t come to Malaysia and not see it!
- And of course, like most of Malaysia, it’s really very affordable! Your budget can stretch pretty far in Malaysia.
What are the best things to do on Penang?
Check out the George Town Street Art
An attraction that has drawn travellers for years now, the Penang or George Town Street Art circuit is one of the highlights of any visit to the island, if not Malaysia! Handily, we have a full article (including a handy interactive map) on the Penang Street Art scene – check that out here.
Penang Hill and Habitat
One of the fastest and steepest funiculars we’ve been on, this takes you to the top of Penang Hill. And it’s well worth the visit up the top as you’ll have the most stunning view of Penang! Great news too is that it’s a relatively cheap exercise, at only 30 MYR / 7.30 GBP / 5.60 GBP) per person.
If you have the time, we’d definitely recommend that you go to The Habitat there and do a 90 minute guided rainforest walk. It’s a really peaceful place.
If you’re feeling super energetic you can even hike up the hill – it is about 4,000 steps and will take a good 90 minutes, maybe longer.
Tip: The funicular starts at 6.30am, so a great place for sunrise. However, nothing on the hill (including the Habitat) opens until 9.00am. So probably better to only head up at around 8.30am, when it will still be relatively quiet. We ventured up at 8.00am and were some of the first people up there!
Walk the Heritage Trail
Definitely one of James’ favourite things to do in Penang (he’s kind of a history buff), is to wander around George Town and see some of the colonial buildings, like St George’s Church, or the Clock Tower, the City Hall and Town Hall and even the old fire station, to snap a picture.
Tip: One thing we would avoid if we went again is Fort Cornwallis – it’s not expensive to enter (about 4.88 USD/4.00 GBP) but is really not very interesting.
Explore the museums
If museums is your thing, then George Town is for you. There are a number of wonderful museums dotted around the city that are worth checking out. Firstly, the top rated attraction in Penang, you can do a tour at The Blue Mansion, Cheong Fatt Tze. In case you don’t know Cheong Fatt Tze, he was known as the ‘Rockefeller of the East’, a legendary figure who’s home has been turned into a beautiful museum (and a hotel).
Visit the amazing temples
Head out of the city to Kek Lok Si Temple, it’s really close to Penang Hill so great to combine these into one trip. And in George Town check out the Kapitan Keling Mosque, Khoo Kongsi clanhouse, or even the Sri Mahamariamman Temple.
Relax on Batu Ferringhi Beach
A bit out of George Town, but if you’re up for a day of relaxing on the beach and can’t wait until Langkawi, then we’d suggest that you head over to Batu Ferringhi Beach – the best beach on Penang and the second most popular spot on the island after George Town itself.
Where to stay in Penang
There are loads of really great hotel and other accommodation options in Penang. However, in our opinion you want to stay right in the heart of Georgetown. This will give you the best access to all the main tourist attractions and best food in areas like Little India that you won’t want to miss!
Luxury: Set within one of the beautiful old colonial buildings, right next to Fort Cornwallis and Pesara King Edward is the Royale Chulan Penang Hotel. This 4* hotel has wonderful views over the water back towards Butterworth on the mainland. It has a great breakfast, gym and wonderful pool – we’d highly recommend it!
Backpackers: The Spices Hotel is a great option if you’re on more of a budget! Once again it’s in a great location, especially if you’re keen to get out early and avoid the crowds when exploring the best street art murals. A small budget hotel, it comes with all the amenities you’d expect, like Wi-Fi, air conditioning and a nice common area to relax.
Why go to Langkawi?
Sun, sun and more sun. Seriously, Langkawi is all about the island life. But why else should you go to Langkawi?
- Once again, the island has some great food options – Malay food is some of the world’s best and you’ll be craving Nasi Lemak as soon as you leave…
- If you are in for a bit of a longer itinerary, then Langkawi has a direct ferry to Koh Lipe in Thailand, so a great jumping off place to explore the islands of southern Thailand.
- If you’re keen on finding a resort and chilling out, then some of the best in Malaysia are right here in Langkawi, many with private beaches to give you total seclusion
- There is a lot of natural beauty, from beach hopping, to hiking and waterfall chasing.
What are the best things to do on Langkawi?
Ascend the Langkawi Skycab
It’s a little way out of town but the cable car on the island is well worth a visit. The steepest cable car in the world, you’ll be whisked up the side of a hill to get some spectacular sweeping views over all of Langkawi. More than that, the Skycab is more than just a cable car and has a host of different attractions – you can do a 3D experience, you can take a sky tram or, as we did, definitely walk the Sky Bridge! The Sky Bridge is – as the name suggests – a walkway at the top of the cable car where you wind your way around the hill to get even more fantastic photos.
The Sky Cab isn’t that cheap – its 85 MYR (20.75 USD / 15.75 GBP) for adults – but the Sky Bridge is only 6 MYR (1.45 USD / 1.10 GBP) per person. Do check their website beforehand since due to high winds, the cable car upper station is often closed.
Sail around the mangroves
Langkawi boasts a 100 square kilometre nature reserve, called the Kilim Kast Geoforest park which is bursting with natural beauty including towering limestone rocks, dark and cool caves, beaches, lagoons, animal life and mangroves! You can take a boat tour to see them all, starting with the leafy green mangroves on one side and the limestone formations on the other; quite the introduction we must say! You’ll definitely spot lizards and monkeys but might also run into more exotic creatures like kingfishers, crocodiles and possibly even the white bellied sea eagle.
Climb Gunung Raya
You definitely want to go up this hill to get to the highest point on Langkawi and, of course, get those postcard perfect views. Either you can drive up there (in a rental car, moped or through a Grab taxi) or, like us crazy kids, you can hike up. If you do hike up, its not the easiest (you have been warned!). Over 4, 000 steps in the heat of the day is tough for even the most hardened hiker, but we promise the views are worth it!
If you do want to go up the Viewing Tower at the end (we recommend it), it costs 10 MYR (2.45 USD / 1.85 GBP) but you get unlimited free tea 😊.
Jump on a jet ski
Langkawi is home to a number of smaller islands and one of the best ways to explore it is via boat or on the back of your very own jet ski! It’s a really fun way to journey around the islands of Dayang Bunting, and you’ll find yourself gliding across the ocean’s surface, island-hopping as you go! Usually part of the tour is checking out the so-called Pregnant Maiden Lake, where the hills look the a pregnant woman on her back, plus trekking through jungles, crunching sand between your toes on epic beaches or even going kayaking. We recommend the best provider on the island, Mega Water Sports, which you can book through Get your Guide.
Bounce around the beaches
As you’d expect from an island paradise, Langkawi has a number of gorgeous beaches. While some of these are private and attached to the many high-end resorts, others are free for you to roam, as long as you can make your way there! The most accessible is Pantai Cenang, which is near the harbour and many of the beachfront hotels, and should definitely be on your itinerary. Right next to it is Pantai Tengah, a quieter beach, that is worth a visit. At the top of the island is the most beautiful of them all: Tanjung Rhu and, if you’re heading to the Temurun waterfall, you could also stop off at Sandy Skulls, a short walk from that fall.
Chase the island’s waterfalls
Probably the most famous is Seven Wells Waterfall, named for it’s seven rock pools at the base. This waterfall is easy to reach since its about 20 minutes walk (5 minute drive) from the cable car, so can easily be added to that journey. There are two other waterfalls that make the list: Temurun and Durian Perangin. We cast our vote for Temurun, just so you can add the Sandy Skulls beach to the list and make it an easy roundtrip.
Where to stay in Langkawi
There are some phenomenal resorts on Langkawi, and many are way out of our price range, but we’ve stayed at a few places on the island and here are some of our recommendations:
High-end: Personally we didn’t go for the full 5 star experience (which of course you could, with places like the Danna, Datai and Four Seasons). If you’re wanting to go upmarket but still affordable, we can’t recommend Aloft more. Excellent location for Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah, great facilities and somewhere we can’t wait to come back to in the future.
Mid-range: A great place to be based if you’re keen to explore the Langkawi Cable Car and the beaches in the north, the Smith House is a mid-range hotel, with excellent rooms, one of the best breakfasts we’ve had in Malaysia and is also handily located right near the airport (don’t worry you don’t hear any planes though).
Budget: Want to be right in the heart of it on Pantai Cenang? Then look at the Cenang Plaza Beach Hotel. 160m to the beach, aircon, good rooms and all at a great price.
What’s the best time of year to visit Penang and Langkawi?
The best time of the year to visit both Penang and Langkawi is between December and March. The weather throughout those months is most likely warm and dry! Although December through January is also the peak season and so you’ll have the highest number of tourists and steeper prices around those dates.
You’ll want to avoid the months of August, September and October when the monsoon rains mean that your island getaways will be much of a washout!
What should I pack for Penang and Langkawi?
Depending on what time of year you are travelling to Malaysia, you’ll either need clothes for hot and sunny weather, or hot and rainy weather – so the good news is you can leave those thermals behind (one caveat on that is you’ll want to bring a fleece for the cold ferry ride). Here are our must-pack items for Penang and Langkawi:
- Make sure that you bring long sleeve tops/long shorts or skirt if you’re visiting any religious places. Malaysia is a Muslim country and although super relaxed, it’s awful seeing tourists walking around religious sites in next to nothing.
- Sunglasses and suntan cream – it’s hot so make sure they’re in your luggage.
- Comfy hiking shoes – if you’re keen on your walking, and for bashing the streets of Penang, it’s worth a good sturdy pair of shoes or hiking sandals. We love our Teva’s!
- If you’re looking to do any water activities, we’d definitely suggest you pick up a waterproof bag before you go… check out this one from Osprey.
- Island essentials, your swimming gear, flip flops, a hat – you know the drill.
- If you’re coming from the UK then you’re in luck, Malaysia uses the same plug as back in blighty. However, travelling from anywhere else and you’ll need an adaptor. We never leave home without one.
What camera equipment and other gear do we use?
We’re living proof that you don’t need the most expensive gear to travel the world and take good photos. Here are some of our must have items that make it into the packing list for all our travels.
- Main Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
- Drone: DJI Mavic Air – Fly More Combo
- GoPro: Hero 7 Black
- GoPro Dive Case: Go Pro Housing
- GoPro Case: Smatree GoPro Carry Case – Small
- Packing Cubes: Eagle Creek Packing case
- Backpack: Osprey Farpoint 70
- Powerbank: Anker Powercore
- Phone: Xiaomi Mi 9
- Hard drive: Transcend Slim Storejet 2TB
- Laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad 720s
- Headphones: Bose Quiet Comfort 35
- Wifi Hotspot: GlocalMe G4
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Penang Langkawi ferry safe?
Yes, absolutely! The Penang Langkawi ferry will only travel when it is safe to make the crossing. In terms of safety, and in comparison to many other countries in Southeast Asia, the ferry crossing between Penang and Langkawi felt a lot more professional than we have experienced elsewhere.
Although, it’s worth noting that if the seas are a little rough and you aren’t used to ferries, it might make for a slightly uncomfortable journey. Especially if you suffer from motion sickness.
What is the distance between Langkawi and Penang?
The distance between Penang and Langkawi is 120km, which will take you around 3 hours on the ferry or 35 – 45 minutes by plane.
How long does the Penang to Langkawi ferry take?
The Penang to Langkawi ferry usually take just over 3 hours. It may take a little longer given weather conditions, but the majority of the time the ferry runs on schedule.
Which should I choose: Penang or Langkawi?
This is a really tough one to answer, and would totally depend on your preference! They really are chalk and cheese places: Penang is much more geared to exploring heritage buildings and street art, and Langkawi is more beach life. What’s really great is that they are so close you could have both within one holiday!
What did you think of our Penang to Langkawi ferry review and travel guide? If anything has changed or is missing, please do let us know! We rely on other travellers to help us keep these guides up to date. Just leave us a comment below, or get in touch here.
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