Getting from Surat Thani to Penang, Malaysia

If you're ready to depart from Thailand to explore Malaysia or you need to do a visa run, here is our guide to help you get there with ease!

You’re gearing up for an exciting excursion down to Malaysia from Surat Thani or elsewhere in south Thailand, and Georgetown is calling your name. But let’s face it – getting there can be a bit of a puzzle, right? No worries, intrepid explorer, we’ve got your back.

There are 3 ways to get from Surat Thani in Thailand to Penang, Malaysia:

  1. Take a van or bus
  2. Take the train
  3. Hire a private taxi to the border

(and bonus, there are direct flights from Phuket if you want to fly to Penang)

Private Taxi

Are you feeling fancy? Opt for a private taxi to take you right up to the border. It’s like having your chauffeur ensuring you arrive in style and comfort. Ask your accommodation or a local tourist office for help arranging a private driver. Check private rides.

Taking a Van or Bus

You and a bunch of fellow wanderers pile into a van, embarking on quite the road trip to Pedang Besar at the border, or maybe they’re taking you down to Penang. Check van times and buy tickets.

Taking a Train

Ah, the romance of train travel. While the days of one seamless train journey from Thailand to Penang are sadly behind us, you can still channel those old-school vibes. Naturally, this is how I chose to go on my adventure to Malaysia!

You can hop on a train from Surat Thani to Pedang Besar at the border with Malaysia, and from there, walk across the border and catch another train that’ll whisk you away to Butterworth Train station.

Keep in mind that there is only one train that goes to the border with Malaysia. It’s a sleeper train from Bangkok and stops in Surat Thani around 2 am. Yes, you read that right – you can be a midnight explorer!

Crossing the Border

Upon arrival at the train station in Pedang Besar in the morning, you will first need to meander through where you’re guided and cross Thai immigration, then Malay Immigration. After you clear both, you’ll go upstairs to buy your train ticket to Butterworth Train Station.

The train ride from the Malaysian border to Butterworth is about 3.5 hours. They keep the train freezing cold; bring something cozy!

Butterworth to Georgetown

As you travel from Butterworth Train Station to Georgetown, remember that Penang is a relatively small island, so distances are manageable. Here’s how you can make the transition:

Ferry Transfer

You can take a short walk from Butterworth Train Station to the Butterworth Ferry Terminal, located nearby. The ferry provides a scenic and iconic route across the Penang Strait to Georgetown. The ferry ride offers stunning views of the city skyline and the iconic Penang Bridge. Once you arrive at the Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal in Georgetown, you’ll find yourself in the city’s heart.

Rapid Penang Bus

Alternatively, you can take a Rapid Penang Bus from Butterworth to Georgetown. Buses are a cost-effective way to travel and offer a comfortable ride. Look for buses that have routes connecting Butterworth and Georgetown, such as the Rapid Penang Bus 101 and 401E. These buses are a convenient option for reaching various parts of Georgetown. Check buses.

Grab or Taxi

Grab, Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing service, operates in Penang. You can use the Grab app to book a ride from Butterworth Train Station to your desired location in Georgetown. Taxis are also available; you can negotiate the fare before starting the journey.


Have you traveled to Malaysia?

Did you take this trip? What did you think? Have you got other routes from southern Thailand? Let me know in the comments!

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