With its small, winding streets lined with heritage buildings several centuries old and its heritage status drawing throngs of tourists to its streets, it’s no surprise that driving and parking in Penang could be a tedious affair. Ditto if you’re in Georgetown during one of its many festivals – religious, cultural, artsy, you name it. Do not despair, though, as public transportation in Penang is the way to go if you plan on exploring, and it comes in several convenient options.
Public transportation in Malaysia has a bad rap in general, with tales of cabs that refuse to use meters, dirty buses, and long waiting times making the rounds in forums and among locals’ conversations. However, in Georgetown, Penang, using public transportation is indeed the preferred way of travel in town and beyond – for tourists and locals alike, with convenient stops, affordable fares and less traffic to be stuck in.
Here are four of the most common means of getting around:
1. Bus – Rapid Penang
Among the three states where Rapid buses run, Rapid Penang is one of the most extensive, allowing accessibility to most areas on the island. On the Rapid Penang website, you can not only access bus routes and fares, but there are online planners to plan your trip to specific places of interest. You can also estimate what time the next bus will arrive at a particular stop. Bus ETAs are also visible at major terminals such as the Komtar complex and the jetty, heading to Butterworth. Fares run from RM1 – RM4 per trip, depending on the distance. In town, you can hop on the free CAT shuttle bus that runs along 8 stops in Georgetown. Concession rates are available for senior citizens, physically disabled individuals as well as school children in uniform.
2. Bike Rentals
You can rent bikes easily in Georgetown, as there are many shops that either specializes in bike tours or bike rentals as a side income. Browse TripAdvisor or local blogs for recommendations if you’d like, but really, most offer similar fares, depending on whether you are just checking out the street art in town or exploring the more hilly outskirts out of Georgetown. Biking allows you to slowly enjoy the scenery – the heritage buildings, the street art, the fresh air – without leaving carbon footprints! To ramp up the fun factor, consider joining one of the many organized bike tours run by bike shops, where you can explore Penang while making friends with fellow tourists and locals, who will give you many suggestions on where to find the best laksa or char kuey teow in town.
A colorful, sometimes overly decorated mode of transportation unique to Penang and Malacca, the trishaw is another unique way of taking in the views of The Pearl of the Orient. Similar in function to Thailand’s tuk tuks and Indonesia’s bemos, the trishaw, known in the Malay language as beca, is eco-friendly, as your driver cycles you, seated in a small carriage, around town while explaining its history and culture to you. Trishaws can be slightly pricier than bikes or even short cab rides – rates range from RM 15-RM30 per hour. However, the experience is worth it – trishaws are a legacy fighting for survival, with less than 200 riders in town, and some of them are actually homeless. What better way to help them earn an honest living while learning about life in Penang?
4. Taxis, Car Rentals & Student Cabs
If you absolutely need the comfort of a car, cabs are available in abundance. However, avoid being taken advantage of by cabs that overcharge you by using services such as MyTeksi, where information about metered fares and drivers’ contact information are available to you before you make the booking. Car-pooling services such as Uber and Tripda are also available in Penang. Another option: If you know students from some of the universities and colleges in Penang, student cabs are a cheaper option of getting around Penang. Run by students who have cars and are looking for extra income, student cabs typically charge half of a standard cab fare to passengers – a great bargain indeed, and a win-win situation for both parties!
Penang is blessed indeed, for travelers exploring the city have many means of getting in, out and around the island, and in town. So, if you are in Penang, do utilize the plethora of transportation options that are available to you, and make your tour a timely yet enjoyable one!
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