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Butterworth is the main town on the mainland side of Penang state in Malaysia.
Smaller, more industrial and practical, Butterworth does not have any of the atmosphere which Georgetown across the Penang Straits has. It is however an important transportation hub for all train and many bus services which do not go directly to Penang island.
Butterworth is also the mainland terminal for the Penang ferry.
Butterworth railway station is conveniently located next to the bus and ferry terminal, south of the town centre. It is a major rail terminal for Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malayan Railways) trains heading south to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and north to Hat Yai in Thailand as well as the State Railways of Thailand's International Express to Bangkok.
To/from Kuala Lumpur - from Kuala Lumpur the Senandung Langkawi arrives at Butterworth at 05:40 and then departs for Hat Yai. In the other direction, the train from Hat Yai arrives at Butterworth at 22:30 and departs for Kuala Lumpur. The Ekspres Sinaran runs on Sundays between Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth. It departs Kuala Lumpur at 08:10 and arrives at Butterworth at 15:50. From Butterworth, trains leave at 08:00 and arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 16:05.
To/from Bangkok - an overnight train departs Bangkok daily at 14:45 (Thai time). It is scheduled to arrive at Butterworth at 12:55 (Malaysian time) but normally gets there late, usually around 14:00-14:30. Fares vary depending on the type of berth and carriage; an air-con upper berth costs 1,120 baht (as at April 2007). The surcharge for a bicycle is 104 baht to the border; a further small freight charge may be made by KTMB for the border-Butterworth leg. The International Express leaves Butterworth daily at 13:15, going via Hat Yai, Surat Thani (for Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao), Chumphon, Hua Hin, etc.
To/from Kuala Lumpur - almost hourly, journey takes 5 hours. The bus station, is just a few yards from the train station, located under the highway overpass. Any train station representative can point you in the direction of the bus stop.
If you are in a rush to get to KL, the bus may be your best bet. The journey time can be half as long. Most of the coaches have AC, as well as other comforts. Much of the journey is very scenic.
If you are concerned about securing a fair price, just ask a train station agent, most should be happy to give you a rough estimate on how much a bus will cost. Armed with this information, you can walk over to the bus staging area,which is more of a collection of ticket booths mixed in with food and beverage vendors, and find the best price.
The buses, in most cases, do not have restrooms, but, the buses make a number of breaks at rest stops, which have restrooms, and food/drink. Take note, many of the restrooms did not have toilet paper.
The much-loved Penang ferry departs regularly from the Butterworth Ferry Terminal for George Town. The ferry terminal is conveniently connected with the railway station and bus terminal via covered walkways - a rare example of good public transport planning in Malaysia. Caution when using the toilets. Travellers may want to consider using toilets at their hotels or at restaurants as the ferry toilets are infamous for their overuse and offensive odours.
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