How to get from Hat Yai to Penang (George Town) - Complete Guide

How To Get From Hat Yai To Penang (George Town) – Complete Guide

If you are planning a trip from Hat Yai to Penang this post is for you. Here you will find all the important information on the journey itself, the border crossing experience, the prices, alternative options for getting from Thailand to Penang and so much more!

I have searched far and wide and researched so much about the journey from Hat Yai to Penang, it is unreal. I found many outdated and some confusing pieces of information so now that I have covered the train journey from Hat Yai all the way to George Town, I decided to share my experience with you.

There were 2 reasons why I wanted to know exactly what to expect on this trip.

Firstly, I really needed to know how much the trip would cost me. In Thai baht (so that I would have enough baht left over for the journey and not be left with the extra money that I couldn’t spend), and in Ringitt, as I needed to know how much Malaysian money I had to get in while still in Hat Yai.

Also, I knew I most likely wouldn’t have any internet data on the Malaysian side, so I wanted to be sure I knew exactly how to get to George Town and my accommodation and what to expect during that journey. I had to plan the entire journey as there was no room for research along the way.

So if you want to know exactly what to expect and how to get from Hat Yai to Penang, I’ll save you hours of research.

Here’s everything you need to know about getting to Penang from Hat Yai.

How to get from Hat Yai to Penang George Town by Train

The best way to travel from Thailand to Malaysia overland is to first head to Hat Yai. No matter what is your starting point – Krabi, Bangkok or Phuket – I recommend heading to Hat Yai first. 

Hat Yai is a great starting point for Thai-Malay border crossing whether you are travelling to Penang, George Town or all the way to Kuala Lumpur.

From Hat Yai, you will be able to easily get to the border town of Padang Besar, where you can cross the border by train, bus or on foot.

Things to Know Before Travelling from Hat Yai to Penang

Can You cross the border from Thailand to Malaysia over land?

Yes! In fact, this is a very popular land border crossing mostly because of how easy and fast it is. The most popular Thai-Malay border crossing among travellers and backpackers is the Padang Besar. This border can be crossed by train, bus or on foot. 

Currency Exchange

I strongly suggest getting some Malaysian Ringgit before you travel from Hat Yai. You will have to pay for the train by cash and there are no ATMs in Padang Besar. You can exchange money in Hat Yai very easily. I recommend JR Tour and Thairat Exchange for the best rates but there are plenty of other places.

Sim Card 

Be aware that your Thai SIM card will no longer work once you cross the border into Malaysia.

However, you can get a Malaysian SIM card on the Malaysian side of Padang Besar railway station.

Get one there only if you are desperate though. I decided against it because it didn’t seem like a good deal. I got a much better internet deal at the shop in George Town.

But if you don’t care, then you will be able to purchase a SIM card in Padang Besar.

To be honest I managed to get all the way to Penang with no data.

I had suspected that this might happen, so I prepared myself well.

I took screenshots of all the routes, Google Maps and bus numbers, and pages with my accommodation and its address. I took a screenshot of everything I needed on the internet. And it worked like a charm. So well, in fact, that I only got an actual SIM card the next day.

A great way to avoid all these problems is to choose an eSim.

Have you considered an eSIM yet? Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store that solves the pain of high roaming bills by giving you access to eSIMs (digital SIM cards). With eSIMs from Airalo, download and install a digital data pack from 200+ countries/regions and be connected anywhere in the world the second you land. Check out Airalo Rates here!

Crossing the border

Please remember that you will be crossing an international border. Check the visa requirements for your nationality.

For some reason, I kept forgetting to check these things throughout my stay in Southeast Asia. I booked my flight from Singapore and only then realised that I did not know the visa requirements for Polish citizens. Fortunately, I could stay visa-free for 3 months, but silly me, I did not check before booking the flight.

I also found that border controls can be a bit stricter when travelling overland. The officials tend to be more suspicious and less pleasant. I had a great experience crossing the border in Padang Besar, but a few people before me had some trouble with their visas and passports. Do your usual checks before travelling.

Did you get your travel insurance yet? Travel Insurance will let you travel with the peace of mind knowing that no matter what, your unexpected medical or travel emergencies are covered. I use Heymondo for a few reasons. They have clear policies with no deductibles, the price is excellent for what they offer and the price doesn’t go up when you are over 30 years old. They have a dedicated, easy-to-use app and free assistance calls. Heymondo offers my readers 5% off so go ahead, and click on this link and get your quote.

Why to travel to Penang from Hat Yai?

Should you travel to Penang from Hat Yai or maybe from Krabi or Surat Thani?

I considered all of these options. At first, I wanted to travel all the way from Krabi. And that’s doable too. But a bit risky.

To get from Krabi to Penang, you would have to leave quite early from the bus station in Krabi Town to Hay Yai and then take the last train to Padang Besar.

After crossing the border at Padang Besar you will have to catch the train to Butterworth and finally get the ferry to Penang. This whole journey can take even over 12 hours.

This is a very long trip with many possible delays and issues. If you arrive late in Hat Yay you will miss the last train. 

If you don’t mind spending a little extra and want to take a direct shuttle you can easily book the private shuttle to Penang from Ao Nang. I have seen some shuttles offered from agencies on the street in Ao Nang for around 1000Baht. 

Yet it is a very long journey and once I read a comment on TripAdvisor from someone saying they would rather have a root canal treatment than do this journey again (funny!). Those are hardly big comfy busses. You will travel in minibuses and in a peak season, most likely you will be squeezed in like sardines.

But if you’d be prepared to spend this much, you might consider taking a plane instead. There are daily flights from Krabi to Penang. 

Here are the main reasons why you might want to travel from Hat Yai to Penand instead of Krabi:

  • To break up the already long journey
  • To ensure that in case of any delays, you do not miss the last train to Padang Besar
  • You will arrive in Penang or George Town relatively early instead of at arriving midnight
  • You will be able to visit Hat Yai itself for a day

So if you are travelling from Thailand to Malaysia overland, I definitely suggest stopping in Hat Yai for a night and travelling to Penang the next day.

I have exciting news to share with you, my travel friends!

I have just launched my own Backpacking and Budget Solo Travellers FB Group and I would love you to join me there! Travellers of all budgets and ages are welcome! I would like to create a community where we share tips and experiences and where you could ask me all travel and budget backpacking related questions!

I hope to see you there! Pati

How to Get to Hat Yai?

How to get to Hat Yai From Krabi

There is a direct bus (minivan) you can take from Krabi Town to Hat Yai and it takes between 4 and 5 hours. You can either get one from Krabi Bus station or book one directly with your hostel or hotel. I strongly suggest the latter.

The bus from Krabi Bus Station is around 380Baht but you will have to either get a songthaew for 50Baht or a taxi for 100 Baht to get there from Krabi Town.

I booked my transport to Hat Yai via my hostel. The price was cheaper than on the street, just a little more expensive than directly from the bus station but I saved money on getting to the bus station so I definitely recommend doing that! I paid 450 baht and had a very comfortable journey.

If you prefer to book it yourself you can do so via 123GoAsia. 

How to get to Hat Yai From Ao Nang

The best way to get from Ao Nang to Hat Yai is by private shuttle which you can book from any of the agencies on the street. It cost around 500Baht. I have not taken any of those shuttles and I don’t know anyone who did so I cannot say if this is a good way of travel.

You can also take a songthaew from Ao Nang to Krabi Town for 50Baht and take a bus from Krabi to Hat Yai. The last bus from Krabi to Hat Yai leaves around 4 pm. But I suggest booking it online to be sure.

How to get from Hat Yai to Penang George Town by Train

How to get to Hat Yai From Bangkok?

It takes around 14 to 15 hours to get to Hat Yai from Bangkok so if you decide on this journey I recommend booking a sleeper train. This way you will have a comfortable journey and sleep through most of it. 

You can also travel by bus which will be slightly cheaper but definitely less comfortable. 

How to get to Hat Yai From Phuket

There are daily busses between Phuket and Hat Yai and the journey takes approximately 8 hours.

The first bus leaves at 5 am and the last one at 9:30 pm. 

It is a long journey so if you are travelling from Phuket, I recommend staying in Hat Yai at night. Alternatively, you can travel from Phuket to Hat Yai overnight and take the 7:30 train to Padang Besar. 

Are you looking for more of the off-the-beaten-path Thailand?

Then you should definitely visit the incredibly authentic town of Phitsanuklok!

And while there be sure to visit Sukhothai Historical Park on a day trip!

How to Travel from Hat Yai To Penang (George Town) by Train

To get to Penang from Hat Yai, you will first have to get to the Padang Besar border crossing. Once you cross the border at Padang Besar you can board the train to Butterworth from where you will take a ferry to Penang. 

Getting from Hat Yai to Padang Besar by Train:

There are only two trains per day departing from Hat Yai to Padang Besar and the journey takes only around an hour. The first train departs at 7:30 am and the second at 2 pm. The ticket costs 50Baht and can be bought only on the day.

There will be 2 Padang Besar stations. The first one is the Thai Padang Besar – this is not where you will be getting off. The next station after this will be the Malaysian Padang Besar and this is your station. 

How to get from Hat Yai to Penang George Town by Train
How to get from Hat Yai to Penang George Town by Train

It is very easy from here. Just follow the signs for the border crossing and passport control. Everything is happening at the train station. 

Once you find yourself on the Malaysian side you will be at the Padang Besar Malay station. 

Remember that Malaysia is one hour ahead of Thailand. I almost missed the train as I thought I still had over an hour.

How to get from Hat Yai to Penang George Town by Train
How to get from Hat Yai to Penang George Town by Train

Padang Besar to Butterworth

Once you cross the border and security, head over to the train station and get your ticket to Butterworth.

The ticket costs 11.40RM and the journey lasts around 2 hours. You can only pay by cash so be sure to exchange some money when still in Hat Yai.

Here you can also buy a sim card as I mentioned earlier. 

Please remember that Malaysia is one hour ahead of Thailand! I almost missed my train because I forgot about it and thought I still have more than an hour till my train departs. 

How to get from Hat Yai to Penang George Town by Train

Butterworth to Penang 

You finally arrived in Butterworth!

The best way to get to Penang from Butterworth is by ferry. Just follow the signs for the ferry terminal. You will walk for maybe around 10 minutes on the elevated footbridge.

The ferry leaves every hour and costs only 1.2RM! It’s a lovely journey as well!

Welcome to Penang! My favourite place in the whole of Malaysia!

How to get from Hat Yai to Penang George Town by Train

Getting to George Town

If you are going to George Town you can either take a taxi or a local bus.

Busses to George Town leave from the station just on the right side of the ferry. Take a bus to George Town depending on the location of your accommodation and be sure to have exact change as the bus drivers do not give change. The bus ticket cost depends on the length of the journey. If I remember well I paid around 1.40 RM. 

There is also a free CAT (Central Area Transit) bus that operates between the Ferry Terminal and the KOMTAR bus terminal.

How to get from Hat Yai to Penang George Town by Train
How to get from Hat Yai to Penang George Town by Train

How to Travel from Hat Yai To Padang Besar by Bus (If You Missed the Train)

It is best to travel from Hat Yai to Padang Besar by train as the train station is right in the middle of the town and the ticket is crazy cheap.

But in case something happens and for some reason, you miss the train you can also grab a minivan bus to Padang Besar from Hat Hai Bus Terminal.

The ticket costs around 60baht and the last bus leaves at 6 pm. 

How to Travel from Hat Yai To Penang (George Town) by Bus

Hat Yai to Penang by Bus

You can also book a minivan from Hat Yai to Penang which will cost around 500Baht.

When I checked Easybook I found a bus going to Penang from Hat Yai for around 10 USD. The company (as of 2024) is Billion Stars which I used to travel to Kuala Lumpur so it seems legit. This could be a good option if you don’t want to fuff around with different trains.

Again, I didn’t take this bus to if you did, please let us know how it went!

If you think I missed some important information or if you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will definitely answer!

Until then, have a blast in Penang!

Happy travels!

Pati x

Be sure to check out my George Town guide! It’s a town that will steal your heart! And if you are wondering what to do in Kuala Lumpur I got you covered too!

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