Penang is becoming more and more of a tourist hotspot, as many people come here to experience the mix of cultures, fusion of food and storytelling artwork. But the time will come to leave this gem of an island and explore the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. Here’s how to make the journey.
Booking a bus with a pickup point, which was a 10 minute walk from our hostel
This doesn’t happen very often, but we could’ve happily stayed in Penang for another few days. Six days just wasn’t enough. Despite this, we were excited to continue to the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.
It didn’t take long for us to arrange our transport online going from Penang to Kuala Lumpur. We found that Bookaway gave us the best deal; not because it was cheaper, but because it offered transport with a pickup point less than a 10 minute walk from our hostel, at Komtar Station. Departure points were clearly highlighted for each bus, so that we can choose the nearest station to our accommodation.
Searching for the check-in office at the bus station
We left Drippin’ Dragon Hostel, a popular backpacker hostel near China Town, bright and early, with plenty of time to reach the station, even though it was only a 10-minute walk. Travel has taught us to always arrive where you need to be early, because everything isn’t always signposted for tourists.
Once we arrived at the bus station, we asked the first member of staff we saw for directions. He pointed us away from the bus station. To our bemusement, we walked away and quickly found the New Asian Express company office across the road from the main bus terminal, showed them our online booking and sat outside in the waiting area.
Unique seating arrangements
It was 5 minutes prior to departure and there were no signs of any bus, so we went inside to ask. The guy behind the desk didn’t speak much English and just wrote the vehicle registration on our paper ticket, so it became our job to find the bus ourselves. It was only around the corner, but still, poor signposting and bad customer service. If you find yourself in the same situation, make sure to look around nearby, and if in doubt, ask a local. People in Malaysia are generally very helpful, and have very good English. Also, make sure you arrive at the bus station 20 minutes before your bus is due to depart, so you can ensure you are in the correct place.
We’ve noticed a distinct difference in the seating arrangements of buses in Malaysia: there are two seats on one side and one seat on the other side – and we think we know why. Malaysia is a Muslim country and gender segregation is part of their culture/religion. By no means is it enforced, but it allows solo female travelers the choice to sit alone. Moreover, the monorail system in Kuala Lumpur has female-only carriages for the same reason. Very few tourists were on board the bus that day; it was half full and made up of mostly local men and a few local women.
Surprising amenities and highway views
As for the amenities, the website only stated there would be air conditioning, so it was a pleasant surprise to find out the seats reclined and that leg rests folded out. The leg room was phenomenal, and the journey was comfortable to say the least. We sat, no wait… lay with our music on and slept the whole way through. Food wasn’t available on board, however, you’re more than welcome to bring your own snacks.
The journey was smooth and only took around 5 hours. Malaysia’s road infrastructure is great for avoiding congestion but the scenery along the way was nothing but highways. We made several stops along the way for locals to hop-off and new passengers to hop-on at small towns and villages.
Arriving at Bandar Tasik Selatan (BTS), a million miles from the tourist center
Prior to booking the bus, we foolishly didn’t consider the drop off point because we knew Kuala Lumpur is a well-connected city and it would be simple enough to navigate our way to our accommodation at Dorms KL 2. We ended up arriving in the outskirts of the city, which wasn’t ideal for us. For some travelers, this may be a daunting experience, but this wasn’t our first rodeo. Once we got past the crowd of taxi drivers, we found the monorail station across the road from the bus stop. Before using the monorail we stopped for a plate of chicken and rice at one of the few food stalls by the monorail station. 40 minutes after taking our seats on the monorail, we were in the buzzin’ tourist area and just a short 5 minute walk to our hostel.
All in all, we were very impressed with the bus journey from Penang to Kuala Lumpur. The comfort of the seats and the smoothness of the journey. We wish the rest of Southeast Asia would follow suit, with premium quality buses and spacious leg-room.