Kuala Lumpur to Penang by train in COVID-era

train from kuala lumpur to butterworth, penang

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

We’re laying up in George Town, Penang Island, Malaysia. Our journey from Kuala Lumpur to Penang by train in the COVID-era was pleasant — with a few changes along the way.

Getting from Kuala Lumpur to Penang by train is the easy way — better than a bus if you have a broken bone.

Now it’s time for healing.

Hopefully, in coming weeks, my wife, Ellie, can rest and recover from the fractured right wrist she sustained in Thailand.

Then we will get on with our vagabonding adventures. We have an exciting plan in the works.

Kuala Lumpur to Penang by train

inside the train to penang from kuala lumpur

Unlike our train trip from Thailand into Malaysia – which ended up being an achy, 30-hour trial for my suffering spouse – the transport to the touristy northern shore of Penang was fast and efficient.

The main problem three weeks ago was that we were unknowingly traveling on a Malaysian holiday (some end-of-school-year celebration). So when we tried to buy express train tickets at the Thai border — sold out!

We ended up forced to take an alternate train, then a bus, to complete our desired journey to Kuala Lumpur (KL). In total, six extra hours and many unwelcome arm jostles.

This time, with a proper new cast, and train tickets bought in advance, we made the 3.5 hour train trip — no arm problem on the smooth tracks.

Tickets cost 79 ringgit per person ($18). Trains to Penang run several times each day. I stopped at the Kuala Lumpur station a few days prior to buy the tickets, though the clerk pointed out it’s easier online. KL Sentral is the other train stop in the city for Penang.

By the way, bus tickets are around $5, and travel time is slightly longer.

Our train was on time – but did sit in the Kuala Lumpur station for about 20 minutes after boarding. The cars seemed mostly full. It’s not a high-speed rail system – but it’s clean, modern, and comfortable; top speed probably 60 mph. There is a snack bar on board.

There were about a half-dozen stops en route. Masks are mandatory.

Ferry from Butterworth to George Town, Penang

theo with luggage at port in george town

At the end of the rail line, in the town of Butterworth, on the Malaysian mainland, we made the short walk to the ferry boat for the 10-minute crossing over to historic George Town on the island (per person fare: 35 cents U.S.). I functioned as the family pack mule since Ellen was disabled.

We’d taken the ferry on a previous visit. But post-COVID crisis, the boat is now smaller. Passengers only. No more car ferry. Autos must use the lengthy toll bridge to get to Penang Island.

The current boat is sufficient. A long line formed before boarding. And with a fragile arm, the cramped quarters were a concern compared to the old monstrous ferry.

We waited for the whole crowd to disembark at the dock. Outside the port gate we summoned a Grab ride (like Uber – $4) for the final few miles to our big comfy apartment ($600 monthly, including utilities).

Layin’ up in Penang

Here we have malls, restaurants, stores, every convenience – within blocks. This is a pretty well-to-do area; high-rise condos, expensive cars everywhere. There’s a Starbucks right across the street! (Thankfully, there are also classic Malaysian, British colonial, Chinese, and Indian cafes and restaurants, too). 

skyline view of penang after train from kuala lumpur and theo's bicycle

I already bought a used bicycle and rigged up a basket for groceries and beer. The waterfront/beach is a five-minute ride. 

All in all, once again it seems like we’ve been put in the perfect place for our circumstances. A good spot to relax and get our medical issues and checkups taken care of, work on writing my “COVID Ati experience” book, and plan out the rest of our year’s travel and beyond.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails, & more beer.

Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “Kuala Lumpur to Penang by train in COVID-era.”

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