How to take the KTMB train from Singapore to Penang
With Penang being the food haven it is, there’s no doubt that Singaporeans love visiting the island despite its location up north in Malaysia. Those who are looking for an alternative way to get to Penang without flying can actually do so for less than ~S$50 with the KTMB train from Singapore to Penang.
Besides saving on airfare, you also get to go on an adventure and see Malaysia’s landscapes en route. Our guide will walk you through essential details, including travel time, costs, train transfers, and the perks that come with your ticket.
What route does the KTMB from Singapore to Penang take?
The entire route from Singapore to Penang covers a total distance of 593km in approximately 12 hours.
Your journey will start at Woodlands CIQ and cover Johor Bahru, Gemas (in Negeri Sembilan), Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth. The latter is Penang’s mainland, where you’ll then hop on a short ferry ride or bus to Penang Island.
– From Singapore to Johor Bahru –
Woodlands to JB Sentral
Image credit: @chrothan via Instagram
The journey begins at the Woodlands Train Checkpoint, which is a 13-minute walk from Woodlands MRT Station. This is where you’ll board a KTM Shuttle Tebrau train, which will take you around 5 minutes to get to JB Sentral.
Tickets for the Tebrau Shuttle can be purchased at the ticketing counters at Woodlands CIQ, through the official KTM Berhad website, or mobile app. They’re usually priced from RM20-RM40 (S$5-S$11), depending on the class of travel.
Immigration at JB Sentral
When travelling from Singapore to JB Sentral in Malaysia, Singaporean visitors will need to go through the immigration process at Woodlands CIQ and JB as well.
To ensure a smooth transition, make sure your passport has 6 months validity and you’ve filled out the immigration card that can be obtained on the train or at the Woodlands Train Checkpoint. Expect a brief process where your passport will be checked – and don’t forget to ensure that you’ve been issued an entry stamp.
The overall immigration process typically takes about 15-30 minutes on both sides, but it can vary depending on the crowd and time of day. Be sure to arrive with some extra time to spare, especially during peak travel hours, to ensure a hassle-free journey into JB. If you’re still unsure, check out our guide on the best time to go from JB to Singapore.
– Johor Bahru to Gemas to Kuala Lumpur –
JB Sentral to Gemas
Sunset captured at Gemas Station.
Image credit: @hariharansagivan via Instagram
Upon arrival at JB Sentral, you’ll then transfer onto the KTM intercity rail service to Gemas, Negeri Sembilan. This portion takes approximately 4 hours 45 minutes. The train service between JB Sentral and Gemas departs 4 times daily, with the first train of the day departing at 8.30am, and the last train departing at 8.25pm.
Expect to see views of the countryside when you look out the window as the train passes through charming small towns such as Kulai, Tampin, Seremban, and Ipoh. If you have plenty of time, you can choose to take a breather at Gemas. There are affordable accommodation options such as Gemas Golf Resort and you can stretch your legs wandering around the small town and fuelling up on local Malay food around the area.
Gemas to KL Sentral
From Gemas, you can hop onto the Electric Train Service (ETS) that’s also under KTMB to get to KL Sentral in Kuala Lumpur. The train departs 2 times daily, at 8.05am and 3.20pm respectively. This leg takes 2 hours 35 minutes.
That said, if you don’t wish to stay the night at Gemas, you can catch the 3.20pm train if you take the 8.30am train from JB Sentral.
Walk around and explore KL Sentral, Malaysia’s largest transit hub.
Image credit: @ikhns1014 via Instagram
Once you’ve arrived at KL Sentral, you can explore shops, restaurants, lounges and even the adjacent NU Sentral Mall while you wait for your next train to Penang. Should you want to leave the station, there are plenty of things to do around. Little India in Brickfields, for instance, is a 10-minute walk away from the station.
It’s also a good idea to make a pit stop in Kuala Lumpur before continuing your journey to Penang. KL Sentral is well-connected to various parts of the city, and an LRT train leads you directly to the landmark KLCC within 5 minutes. While you’re there, there are plenty of things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
Near the station, there’s also an array of budget-friendly hotels that cost as low as S$35/night, such as City Central Hotel. If you’ve got a higher budget, you can settle in at one of the bigger hotels such as Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral.
-Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth-
KL Sentral to Butterworth
From KL Sentral, the final leg leads to Penang. You’ll get onboard another ETS train which winds its way to Butterworth, Penang’s mainland, in approximately 4 hours. There are 6 departures daily, with the earliest being 8.03am and the latest being 8.10am.
Image adapted from: @snufkin.and.mii via Instagram
Upon arriving at Butterworth Station, you’ll need to catch a ferry to the island. Tickets for the ferry ride can be purchased at Butterworth Ferry Terminal, which is a 500m walk away from the train station. Prices range from approximately RM1-RM2 (~S$0.30-~S$0.60) for a 1-way ticket.
Another way to get to the island is via one of the 2 bridges: the Penang Bridge (Jambatan Pulau Pinang) and Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge. You can call a Grab car to Komtar, Penang’s transportation hub on the island in Georgetown, for RM30-RM40 (~S$8.70-~S$11.60) – depending on the size of the car you wish to travel in.
Travel time & costs from Singapore to Penang
Screenshot from: Google Maps
The total duration of the journey from Singapore to Penang Island can vary based on factors such as train schedules, layovers, and potential delays. On average, you can expect the entire trip to take around 12 hours for a 1-way journey.
Also, do take note that each leg of the journey would require a separate booking. The journey entails several segments, each with its own cost:
Woodlands CIQ to JB Sentral
Price: RM17.40 (~S$5.03)
Booking link: Shuttle Tebrau website
JB Sentral to Gemas
Price: RM21 (~S$6.07)
Booking link: KTM website
Gemas to Kuala Lumpur
Price: RM29 (~S$8.38)
Booking link: KTM website
Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth
Price: RM78 (~S$22.53)
Booking link: KTM website
The total expense for a 1-way train ticket can range from approximately S$35-S$40, which is a bargain considering that a flight would typically cost around S$130.
However, do keep in mind that these costs might vary based on factors such as currency exchange rates and any potential fluctuations in ticket prices.
Should you take the train instead of a flight to Penang?
Taking the train from Singapore to Penang offers several advantages such as cost-effectiveness, convenient departure and arrival locations, a hassle-free travel experience without airport security checks, and a lower carbon footprint on the environment.
However, it comes with drawbacks such as a significantly longer travel time, limited comfort options, less frequent schedules, potential delays, and the need to change trains along the way.
For time-efficient travellers, a flight may be the better option for you. Those who want to experience the beauty of slow travel, on the other hand, can check out the overland train.
Tips for a smooth train journey from Singapore to Penang Island
Embarking on an overland adventure from Woodlands to Penang Island entails careful planning to ensure a seamless and enjoyable travel experience. Here are some tips to enhance your train journey:
1. Buy food onboard
Hot meals and snacks available on the ETS train from KL Sentral to Butterworth.
Screenshot from: @donnysunjana77 via Youtube.
While meals aren’t typically included in the ticket price, the trains offer onboard dining options. This way, you don’t have to worry about tabaoing food onboard as you can get hot meals on board such as a packet of Bihun Goreng for RM11 (~S$3.20).
There are also snack options such as potato chips, instant noodles, and sandwiches priced between RM3-RM6 (S$1-S$2).
2. Pack essentials such as powerbanks & water
A good neck pillow will make your journey a lot more comfortable.
While taking the KTMB from Woodlands CIQ to Penang is a comfortable experience, don’t expect amenities like those you’d find on planes. There won’t be in-train entertainment here – so we’d recommend charging up your electronic devices and downloading a few movies for the journey.
You should also pack essentials such as snacks, water, reading materials, and neck pillows. The train is outfitted with power sockets, but we’ve read some reviews that they don’t work as well. So we’d recommend bringing along a fully-charged power bank just in case.
3. Dress comfortably
Comfort is key for a long train journey, so make sure to opt for comfortable attire, such as loose-fitting clothing and suitable footwear. This also makes it easy to move around if you need to transfer trains. Train cabins can sometimes be cooler than expected, so bring along a light jacket and long pants to keep you cosy.
4. Stay updated on train schedules
Screenshot from: KTMB
Train schedules and other details can sometimes change, so it’s advisable to always check the official KTM ETS Berhad website for the latest information regarding schedules, ticket prices, and any potential updates about the journey.
Travelling from Singapore to Penang by train
Whether you decide to explore KL during a layover or embark on the full 12-hour journey directly, we recommend this route primarily for travellers who have the luxury of time to appreciate the scenic train journey.
By following these tips and embracing the unique aspects of train travel, hopefully you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your overland journey by KTMB from Singapore to Penang Island.
For things to do in Penang:
- IG worthy things to do in Penang
- Bakeries in Penang
- Coffee-lover cafes in Penang
- Pet-friendly cafe in Penang
Cover image adapted from: @makio75, @vicki___77 & dewi.k.58 via Instagram
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