The Butterworth to Penang Ferry is the traditional way to travel to Penang Island from the mainland. The ferry opened back in 1894 and was then the only way for railway passengers from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur to reach George Town. It is still the most convenient way for rail travellers to reach Penang Island.
Update as at 2023.
Most of the old car ferries pictured here have been retired and replaced by more modern Fast Ferries for pedestrians only (vehicle owners have to drive over to Penang island via one of the bridges). The old vehicle ferries are still used for motorcycles and bicycles only. The fare information, pier locations and timings given below are still correct as at March 2023.
Most vehicle traffic these days uses the two road bridges to Penang but the ferry, which carries cars and motorbikes, is a pleasant alternative for those not in a hurry. I took my car on the ferry in December 2018 (both ways) and found it a relaxing way to travel and very convenient for my hotel which was located just metres away from the ferry terminal at Weld Quay.
From Butterworth to Penang
From Penang to Butterworth
Ferries depart every 30 minutes. You won't have to wait long for your ferry. At weekends and on public holidays the service starts 20-30 minutes later in the morning.
Depending on the currents and sea conditions the journey takes between 10 to 20 minutes. If you drive your car onto the ferry you can get out and walk about and enjoy the scenery.
Although the ferries are new, the fares remain the same. Fares are cheap. You only have to pay for the ferry from Butterworth to Penang. The return journey is not charged. (Penang Bridge has the same system of charging only one direction).
Vehicle Ferry (for motorbikes and bicycles only)
On the Butterworth (mainland) side the ferry pier is known as Pangkalan Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal and it is adjacent to a multi-story transport hub and commercial/shopping complex called Penang Sentral. A bus terminal and Butterworth KTM Railway station are connected to this complex although ongoing construction work means that the connection between train and ferry is currently not as seamless as it could be. The location is shown here:
Pangkalan Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal
On the island, the ferry pier is conveniently located on Weld Quay in the heart of George Town's UNESCO World Heritage zone and you can walk to most of the city's top attractions nearby. The ferry pier is known as Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal and it is next door to Weld Quay Bus Terminal for smooth connection to the island's RapidPenang bus services if required.
The exact location of the Butterworth to Penang ferry pier is marked on this map:
Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal, Georgetown, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Take a look at my Penang Heritage Trail to see the myriad of attractions you can find close to the ferry terminal on Penang Island.
I recommend the Butterworth to Penang Ferry. Where else can you get a harbour cruise for just a few cents?
If you are fond of ferries, how about taking a ferry from Penang to Langkawi, or vice versa? Ideal for tourists who want to experience both islands, this is probably the easiest and cheapest way to travel between the islands. It's quick too, since this is a 'super fast' ferry and the trip takes only 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
*(subject to conditions)
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