Home » Koh Lanta to Penang: How to get there cheap

Koh Lanta to Penang: How to get there cheap

Koh Lanta to Penang for cheap

Like to know more about George Town? Click on the links below:

Want to know how to get from Koh Lanta to Penang on a budget? I traveled from Koh Lanta to George Town in early 2016 without overpaying for the tourist bus. Read my guide if you know want to learn how you can also save 400 baht on the Koh Lanta to Penang journey.

Getting from Koh Lanta to Penang

The most obvious way to get from Koh Lanta to Penang is by booking an all-inclusive ticket through a travel agent.

The problem is that this will cost you 1100 baht! You will also be crammed into a hot, stuffy tourist bus. This is a major rip-off. After all, you can travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by train for only 271 baht.

Fortunately, there’s a much cheaper way to do the same trip.

The cheap way to Penang from Koh Lanta

The cheap way to Penang from Koh Lanta costs 700 baht. I’ve taken it myself, and it involves four steps:

  1. Minivan from Koh Lanta to Hat Yai.
  2. Bus from Hat Yai to Padang Besar.
  3. Train from Padang Besar to Butterworth.
  4. Ferry from Butterworth to George Town.

Sound complicated? The good news is that it’s surprisingly easy and hassle-free.

Step One: Minivan from Koh Lanta to Hat Yai (550 baht)

The first step is to take a minivan from Koh Lanta to Hat Yai, a small city that’s an hour from the Malaysian border. This costs 550 baht.

Book the minivan through a travel agent. It will pick you up from your accommodation and take you to Trang (a small town three hours from Koh Lanta). In Trang you’ll transfer to another minivan, which will take you the rest of the way to Hat Yai (another 1.5 hours).

At this stage you are probably wondering, what happened with getting to Penang for cheap!? 550 baht is expensive. Unfortunately, you can’t really avoid it. Koh Lanta is a tourist island with no public transport running to Hat Yai.

The only alternative is to take a minivan to Trang for 320 baht, and then take a public bus from there to Hat Yai for 150 baht. This will save you 70 baht – but still isn’t cheap. Because my visa was expiring, I decided to take the faster route straight to Hat Yai, so I can’t vouch for this option.

Step Two: Bus from Hat Yai to Padang Besar (44 baht)

Edit: Since I wrote this guide, another traveller has commented that the bus-stop’s location has changed from the Clock Tower to the bus station, some 2.5 km from the centre of the city. If anyone has taken the journey and can confirm this change, that would be very helpful. Thanks to Hyoga for pointing this out.

Step two requires taking a public bus from Hat Yai to Padang Besar, a town straddling the Thailand-Malaysia border. The bus costs 44 baht and leaves every half-hour.

When you arrive in Hat Yai, the minivan will probably drop you off at a travel agent. Ignore the agent’s offers and walk directly to the bus-stop. Hat Yai is small, so this should take only 15 minutes.

Hat Yai clock tower on a map
The clock tower’s location in Hat Yai
Bus from Hat Yai to Padang Besar
The bus to Padang Besar

The bus-stop is easy to find. It’s on a main road and in front of a large courtyard with a white clock-tower. It’s a Hat Yai landmark, so if in doubt, ask someone. Once at the bus-stop, look for an old red bus with a sign saying “Padang Besar”. Pay your 44 baht after you’ve hopped on the bus. It takes about an hour to get to Padang Besar from Hat Yai.

Step Three: Train from Padang Besar to Butterworth (11.40 Malaysian ringgit)

The bus from Hat Yai will drop you outside the Padang Besar border-control. From here you can walk right across the border into Malaysia. After clearing Malaysian customs, find the train tracks. They are on the right-hand side as you leave customs. Take the the footbridge over the tracks and into train station.

Buy a ticket to Butterworth at the station. This costs 11.40 Malaysian ringgit (about 105 baht). Why Butterworth? Butterworth is directly across the water from Penang (which doesn’t have its own train station). Trains leave every three hours and have air-conditioning. There’s no reserved seating, so don’t be the last person onboard. The train to Butterworth takes about 1.75 hours and goes past some fantastic limestone scenery.

Step Four: Ferry from Butterworth to George Town, Penang (1.20 Malaysian ringgit)

The last step is also the easiest. Take the ferry from Butterworth over to George Town, Penang.

Ferry from Butterworth to George Town
The ferry to George Town

Butterworth train-station is located right next to the ferry pier. Look for the signs as you exit the station. Ferries leave regularly and cost 1.20 Malaysian ringgit. The crossing takes 15 minutes and drops you in downtown George Town. From here it’s just a ten minute walk to Chulia Street and Love Lane, the home of George Town’s cheap sleeps.

Final thoughts on the Koh Lanta to Penang journey

Paying an agent 1100 baht to get from Koh Lanta to Penang is crazy when you can do it yourself for just 700 baht. The way I’ve described is easy and takes as long as the tourist bus (about 9 hours). Do yourself a favour and save the 400 baht. It will buy you plenty of curry and cendol in George Town!

Want to know more about Penang before you arrive? Check out the links below for more information:

Was this Koh Lanta to Penang on a budget guide helpful? Is there anything I’ve left out? Do you know how to do it for cheaper? Leave a comment below

33 comments

  1. Freddi says:

    Hi there! This bus stop in the clocktower, does it only have buses going to Padang Besar or does it have buses going to other places as well, like say Krabi or Trang?

    • youmustroam says:

      Hi Freddi. I’m sorry, but I don’t have an answer based on my own experience. However, I do know that you can catch a local bus from Hat Yai to Trang. I think it goes from the bus station near the Diana Department store. This is about 2 km away from the clocktower. I haven’t caught it myself though so I can’t say for sure. Hope this helps!

    • Ryan says:

      March 13, 2018
      Mini van leaves from bus station ever 20 minutes. Fee is 50 baht per person. Buses no longer leave from clock tower.

  2. Hyoga says:

    Great info, thanks! We will probably still check in Saladan the prices to go to Trang/Hat Yai (did you do this?) but the info is great.

    Can you withdraw RM in the border directly? Any tips in doing so (atm commissions etc)?

    Thanks!

    • youmustroam says:

      Hey, no I didn’t check in Saladan so there’s a chance you could get an even better deal.

      Crazily, there’s no ATM to get cash at the border/train station. But if you follow the main road from the border for about 200 metres, you will find a bank and also a 7/11. Both have an ATM. The 7/11 ATM has no withdrawal fees for international cards.

      Good luck and thanks for reading!

      • Hyoga says:

        I have an important update: the minibus to Padang Besar no longer leave from the clock tower area! It’s very recent apparently. Now you need to go to the bus station directly, some 2.5 km from the van stop in the city. Costs around 50 baht pp the tuk tuk (we paid 100 for 4 people actually)

        • Nick Cheply says:

          Did you take the public bus or minibus? From what I see online there’s a public bus for 44 baht that leaves from the clocktower and a minibus for 50 baht that leaves from the bus station. Sounds like maybe you just took the minibus? Just trying to clarify for myself and other potential future travelers 🙂

  3. Aimee says:

    Hi,

    Can you advise on what time you left Kih Lanta and what time you arrived to Pedang Besar doing this route?

    I want to be able to catch the ets train from Penang to KL on the same day if possible.

    Thanks, Aimee

    • youmustroam says:

      Hi Aimee

      I left Koh Lanta around 0800 and arrived in Pedang Besar at about 1510. This included making all the connections efficiently, it would have been hard to get to Pedang Besar much quicker than this. The queue for immigration was not too long either.

      I hope this helps,
      Daniel

  4. Frederica says:

    Hi, I was looking into your post with interest as I’m planning on doing the same travel, except KL as final destination. 🙂 Question on the bus to Padang Besar, next to which border control does it leave you? The Thai one? Because from the Thai border control to the Malaysian one is about 1km so I’m wondering if you walked that part or if the bus is amazing enough to leave you on the Malaysian border? 😉

    Thanks!
    Frederica

    • youmustroam says:

      Hi Frederica

      When I did this, the bus left me on the Thai side of the border. After passing this I walked to the Malaysian border control. You are right, it’s about a 1km walk down the road.

      Hope this helps,
      Daniel

  5. BigmanSolo says:

    I have been quoted 600baht from my accommodation to Penang in a minibus so maybe that is the real cost plus any commission the agent takes?
    Hopefully they have more efficient ac than the whispering systems 20 years ago!

  6. DW says:

    Thank you for posting this information – I did a similar journey yesterday, but went to Langkawi from Padang Besar. Here are some details of my trip:

    Minivan to Hat Yai (via Trang) cost 500b from Klong Nin area of Koh Lanta – most places quoted 650b. A minibus to Trang was consistently quoted at 350b – all in May 2017. I highly recommend shopping around for the best deal.

    Upon reaching Trang, we pulled up at a random petrol station where another minibus was waiting to take us to Hat Yai, which ended up calling at the Trang bus station anyway (few km east of the town). Therefore, you should have no problem getting a minibus from Trang station to Hat Yai, although I can’t confirm the current cost. For me, 500b from Koh Lanta to Hat Yai was a reasonable price, considering a transfer just to Koh Lanta pier is priced at 150b from Klong Nin Beach.

    Arriving in Hat Yai, we stopped at a travel agent where some people transfered to yet another minivan heading to Penang. I tried to book a seat on this minivan to Padang Besar, (which I assumed being Penang bound, would pass through there) but the travel agent wouldn’t let me know – perhaps it was full, or maybe the minivan takes a different road. However this may be worth trying, assuming you have Penang bound passengers on your minivan to Hat Yai.

    The minivan which brought us to Hat Yai took me to Hat Yai bus station upon request, at no extra charge. I then purchased a ticket to Padang Besar for 50b. Be careful that they don’t try to charge you extra for your bags, as they tried to with me!

  7. Gelieke says:

    Thank you so much for this article! It helped me a lot to plan my own journey. I did it a few weeks ago, and managed to do it for about 570 baht (or 72.60 ringgit). I bought a ticket for a minivan from Koh Lanta to Trang for 300 baht at a travel agency close to Long Beach. The lady behind the counter told me that it would be cheaper for me to buy the ticket from Trang to Hat Yai at Trang, as you wrote, so that’s what I did. They dropped me off at Trang bus station and I didn’t have to wait for long: within five minutes I got a ticket for a minivan from Trang to Hat Yai for 120 baht and we were on the road again. In Hat Yai, I was dropped off at the bus station, which is also where the minivan to Padang Besar was leaving. I bought a ticket for 50 baht. At the train station in Padang Besar I got a train ticket to Butterworth for 11.40 ringgit, and finally took the ferry to Georgetown for 1.20 ringgit!

    Seems like one can save a bit on the first half of the journey by booking at the right travel agency and just booking the minivan to Trang instead of to Hat Yai – however, I’m not sure whether there are many buses going from Trang to Hat Yai every day, or whether I’ve just been lucky with my timing.

    • youmustroam says:

      Thanks for the detailed comment Gelieke! I’m really happy to hear that the post is still helping people! I hope you enjoyed your time in Georgetown as much as I did 🙂

  8. Carlos Johansen says:

    Hey fellows, so I did this today and it takes forever. Literally more than 12 hours for me. I got picked up before 8am in Koh Lanta and arrived 830pm to my hostel in George Town. I waited for 1 hour to get the train. I didn’t wate a lot of time but leaving from Koh Lanta and immigration was probably the slowest part.

  9. Chantal says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I just did this route today with this article’s help but managed to do it for about 520 baht! I bought my Lanta-trang ticket directly from the minivan station for 250baht. They droppd us off at the main trang station where I paid 120 to go to Hat yai (only about a 20 minute wait for the new minivan to fill). Once arrived, From the hat yai station it was 50baht for the minivan to pedang basar (maybe took a half hour wait for lunch). Border went smoothly but got a bit lost to find the train station because I walked too far, however I found a money changer to change all my BHT to MYR and then walked back to catch the 4:25 train (they go every hour I believe). Train was 11.4 and then free shuttle to catch the ferry , which cost 1.20. Was a long day (10+. Left Lanta a 8am and arrived in georgetown close to 7pm ). Very straight forward since the various transports are well coordinated. I didnt have to walk anywhere except for the border and to find the train.

  10. Luciano says:

    Hello, did this same schedule a week ago 05/07/2018 and it works perfectly. Everything goes smoothly between the transfers.
    Thanks for the info

  11. Juan says:

    Thanks for post and comments. Trang to Hat Yai minibus or bus cost in October 2018 Baht 120. 2.5 hours to HY, they tell me. I’m sitting on a minibus. They leave when full, bus leaves only at 13hr.

  12. Jesper says:

    Today I planned to do the same route, but it worked out bad. I booked a minivan ticket on Koh Lanta, from Koh Lanta to Hat Yai. The minivan picked me up on 9:00 and drove me to Krabi bus terminal, where they planned to book a ticket to Had Yai for me. But all minivans where fully booked and the first bus left around 1600. I had to wait 6 hours.

    Therefore I I booked a new ticket by myself to Trang where I will arrive around 15:00-1530. I don’t think it is possible to make it from there’s to Had Yai, Padang Besar and Butterworth this day. Think have to stay somewhere on this route I guess. To bad, because booked a hotel in George Town already.

    Is this the normal route (thrue Krabi bus terminal) or got I into a scam? Anyway, I lost at least five hours without being more south then Koh Lanta.

  13. Malik says:

    Hey together,

    we did the trip a few days ago and it went out perfectly!

    We also tried to find the Minivan Station and talked therefor with local people. Officially there is not such a place. The cheapest way we could figure out to go from Ko Lanta to Trang was about 300 Baht (link in the video description linked below). In total we spent for the trip 730 baht (because we have huge backpacks) . With smaller ones we should have done it for 650 Baht.

    We also documented the trip in a vlog (unfortunately in German) but anyway you’ll get an impression about the transfer and the location.

    Here is the Link:

    https://youtu.be/uCrbz0HTaAs

  14. Toby harris says:

    Hey thanks so much for this! We did this the other day (Nov 13 2019) and went exactly as planned. A couple notes from our trip to help anyone in the future-

    We got a private minivan from Koh Lanta to Trang for 300baht was the best price we could find.

    Only waited for 10 mins in Trang and next bus to Hat Yai for 120baht, this one took us right to the bus station where we needed to be (terminal 1 next to Central Festival Mall if looking on Maps)

    The next bus to Padang Besar is now 50baht and there is a sign saying you will have to pay extra for big luggage but we didn’t get charged for our packs. Also if you ask you can be dropped right at the border and walk through; it will save you a 20min walk in the heat from the town.

    When going through Thai immigration stay on the left single line for the Supervisors Office and not the main line with Thai and Malay nationals as we got right to the front and then told to queue again even though none of the staff said anything while we were waiting.

    Don’t bother changing money with the touts as the border. If you need to change cash to Ringgits continue straight past the train station after the Malaysian Immigration, take a right turn at KFC and there is a licensed changer a little way up the street on the right hand side. He gave us the legit rate with no commission and we wished we had changed all our money there as it was a better rate than we got in Georgetown.

    12 hours total trip which was a long day but we were never waiting longer than 10 mins for our transfers. Cost Per person was 470 Thai Baht + 12.60 Ringgit for the train and ferry to Georgetown. Thanks so much for this and hope these notes can help anyone in future!

  15. Vivien says:

    Thank you for this advice. We follow this itinerary step by step from Long Beach in Koh Lanta to Georgetown and it was very easy.
    We bought a ticket Koh Lanta-Hat Yai at the bus station («Koh Lanta – Trang Minivan station » visible on maps.me) for 500baths/pers (departure at 8am).
    Arrived in Hat Yai few hours after bus switch in Trang. We took another minivan for Pedang Besar for 50baths/pers.
    Arrived and crossed the border very easily !
    Then we took a train to Butterworth 11MYR/pers, perfect timing and quiet journey.
    Finaly we arrived at the ferry very closed to the train station and bought a boat ticket for 1,2MYR/pers.
    With a travel agency this journey cost 1200baths and by ourselves it cost around 700baths for the same duration so it totaly worth it !

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