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How to Navigate Public Transportation in Penang

public transportation

Penang is a bustling island state in Malaysia that offers a wealth of cultural and historical attractions. As an Expat, navigating Penang’s public transportation system can seem daunting at first, but with a bit of planning and preparation, you can easily and affordably explore the island’s many sights and sounds.

The good news is that Penang’s public transportation system is relatively efficient and affordable. There are several modes of transportation to choose from, including Rapid Penang buses, taxis, trishaws, and ride-hailing services like Grab and MyCar. In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide to navigating Penang’s public transportation system as an expat.

Types of Public Transportation in Penang

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of planning your route and purchasing tickets, let’s take a quick look at the different types of public transportation available in Penang:

  • Rapid Penang Buses: These are the most common and affordable modes of transportation in Penang, and they cover most of the island’s major attractions and destinations.
  • Taxis: Taxis are readily available in Penang, but they tend to be more expensive than other modes of transportation.
  • Trishaws: Trishaws, or cycle rickshaws, are a popular way to explore Georgetown’s historic streets.
  • Ride-hailing services: Grab and Airasia Ride are popular ride-hailing services in Penang, and they offer a convenient and affordable way to get around the island.

Rapid Penang Buses

public transportation

Rapid Penang is the main bus operator in Penang, offering a network of bus routes that cover most of the island and mainland. The buses are modern, air-conditioned, and equipped with free Wi-Fi. The buses run from early morning until late at night, and the frequency of buses depends on the route. To use the Rapid Penang buses, you need to purchase a Rapid Penang card, which is a contactless smart card that can be loaded with cash value. The card can be used to pay for fares on all Rapid Penang buses. You can purchase a Rapid Penang card at any Rapid Penang service centre or authorized agent. You can also top up your card at these locations. Once you have your Rapid Penang card, you can board any Rapid Penang bus by tapping your card on the card reader located at the entrance of the bus. The fare will be automatically deducted from your card. It’s important to note that some Rapid Penang buses have a designated seating area for women and children. You should respect this area and avoid sitting there if you’re not a woman or child. Overall, the Rapid Penang buses are a convenient and affordable mode of transportation in Penang. They can get crowded during peak hours, so it’s best to avoid travelling during these times if possible.


public transportation

Taxis are a popular mode of transportation in Penang, especially for short trips. They are easily available and can be hailed on the street or found at designated taxi stands. Taxis in Penang are metered, so it is important to ensure that the meter is turned on when you board the taxi. The flag-down rate for taxis in Penang is RM3, and the fare is charged at RM0.25 per 200 meters or 45 seconds of waiting time. Taxis in Penang also charge a surcharge of RM2 for trips from the airport. One important thing to note about taxis in Penang is that some drivers may refuse to use the meter and instead negotiate a fixed fare for the trip. It is recommended to avoid these taxis and look for another one that will use the meter to avoid being overcharged. Another thing to keep in mind when taking a taxi in Penang is to have small change on hand. Taxi drivers may not always have change for larger denominations, so it is best to have the exact fare or small bills ready. To hail a taxi in Penang, simply stand by the roadside and raise your hand to signal the driver. You can also find taxis at designated taxi stands around the city. Ride-hailing services such as Grab are also available in Penang and can be a convenient option for getting around the city.



public transportation

Trishaws, also known as beca in Malay, are a popular mode of transportation among tourists in Penang. They are three-wheeled bicycles with a passenger seat at the front and are often decorated with colourful designs and ornaments. Trishaw rides can be a fun and unique way to explore the city, especially in the historic Georgetown area. Trishaws are generally not practical for longer distances or for commuting purposes, but they can be a great way to see the sights in a leisurely manner. Negotiate the price with the trishaw driver before starting your ride, and make sure to agree on the duration and route of the ride. Prices can vary depending on the length of the ride and the number of passengers. It’s important to note that trishaws are not as common as other forms of transportation in Penang, and may not be available in all areas. Additionally, while trishaws are generally safe, it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution when travelling in one.

Ride-hailing services

public transportation

Ride-hailing services such as Grab and Airasia ride are also available in Penang. These services can be convenient if you’re in a rush or don’t want to wait for a bus or taxi. To use these services, you’ll need to download the app, sign up for an account, and link your credit card or other payment method. Once you’ve set up your account, you can enter your pickup location and destination, and the app will show you the estimated fare and travel time. You can choose from a range of ride options, from budget to premium, depending on your needs and budget. One thing to keep in mind is that ride-hailing services are subject to surge pricing during peak hours or periods of high demand. This means that fares can be significantly higher than normal, so it’s a good idea to check the fare estimate before booking a ride. Overall, ride-hailing services can be a convenient and affordable way to get around Penang, especially if you’re travelling in a group or need to get somewhere quickly. However, they may not always be the most cost-effective option, so it’s worth comparing fares with other modes of transportation before making a decision.

Planning your Route

Planning your route before you start your journey is crucial, especially if you’re new to Penang. Here are some tips to help you navigate the public transportation system like a pro:

Understanding the bus routes and schedules

The Rapid Penang Bus system has an extensive network of routes that cover most of Penang Island and parts of the mainland. To plan your route, you can visit the Rapid Penang website or use their mobile app to check the bus schedules and routes. Each bus stop has a list of the buses that stop there, and the schedules are usually posted at the bus stops as well. You can also ask the bus driver or conductor for assistance.

Choosing the right mode of transportation for your destination

While the bus system is extensive, it may not cover all the areas you want to visit. In such cases, you can consider taking a taxi or a trishaw. Taxis are readily available and can be hailed from the street or booked through a ride-hailing app. Trishaws are a unique way to travel short distances and explore the city’s heritage sites. They are available in tourist areas and are a fun way to experience Penang’s culture.

Using Google Maps for navigation

Google Maps is an excellent tool to plan your route and navigate Penang’s public transportation system. You can enter your destination, and the app will suggest the best route, including the bus number, stop, and walking directions. You can also check the estimated travel time and the fare for each mode of transportation. However, it’s always good to double-check the information with the bus driver or conductor, especially if you’re unsure about the route.

By following these tips, you can plan your route and navigate Penang’s public transportation system with ease. In the next section, we will discuss the different types of tickets available and how to purchase them.

Where to purchase tickets

You can purchase Rapid Passport, single-ride tickets, and stored-value cards at Rapid Penang ticket counters, which are located at major bus terminals and some bus stops. You can also purchase these tickets on board the bus, but be sure to have the exact change. Taxis and trishaws usually do not require tickets, but you should negotiate the fare with the driver before boarding.

Understanding fares and pricing

Rapid Penang buses have a flat fare of RM1.40 for most routes, with higher fares for express routes and longer distances. Taxis and trishaws usually charge a higher fare for tourists, so it’s important to negotiate the fare beforehand. Ride-hailing services such as Grab and Airasia ride use a dynamic pricing model, which means that fares may vary depending on the time of day, demand, and other factors.

Types of tickets available

  • Single-use tickets: These tickets are valid for a single journey and must be purchased before boarding the bus.
  • Stored-value cards: These cards can be topped up with money and used to pay for multiple journeys.
  • Unlimited-use passes: These passes allow for unlimited travel on a specific route for a certain period of time.

Tips for Riding Public Transportation in Penang

  • Always be aware of your surroundings while waiting for public transportation in Penang, especially at night.
  • Keep your belongings close to you and avoid flashing any valuables.
  • Stay in well-lit areas and avoid standing alone at deserted bus stops or stations.

Knowing when to board and disembark

  • Listen carefully for announcements or signs indicating the arrival of your bus or train.
  • Make sure you are waiting at the correct bus stop or station for your destination.
  • Be prepared to get off the bus or train when it reaches your stop, as drivers may not always announce the stops.

Dealing with traffic and delays

  • Be prepared for traffic delays, especially during peak hours.
  • Try to avoid travelling during rush hour if possible.
  • Be patient and understanding during delays, as they are common in Penang.

Tips for riding taxis and trishaws

  • Always negotiate the fare before getting into a taxi or trishaw.
  • Make sure the driver turns on the meter in a taxi.
  • Be aware of scams and overcharging, especially as an expat.
  • If possible, ask a local for an estimate of what the fare should be.


Penang’s public transportation system might seem overwhelming at first, but with a little planning, you can easily navigate the city like a local. Whether you prefer to take the bus, hail a taxi, or ride a trishaw, there are plenty of transportation options available to you.

Planning your route ahead of time, understanding the ticketing system, and being aware of your surroundings are all important steps to take when using public transportation in Penang. With these tips, you can avoid getting lost, save money, and have a more enjoyable experience exploring all that Penang has to offer.

So why not give public transportation a try? You might be surprised at how convenient and cost-effective it can be!

Note: Some of the info here are derived from AI. As such it may not be 100% accurate but it is always a good idea to do your own due diligence.

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