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Georgetown is the capital of the island and state of Penang, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. It was listed by UNESCO in 2008 as a World Heritage Site, together with fellow former Straits Settlement, Melaka.
Georgetown is Penang's transportation hub. Ferries to and from Butterworth arrive at the Raja Tun Uda terminal on Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld) on the east side of the city; the bus station is nearby on Victoria Street. Take a note of where these are located as you will no doubt want to see them again rather shortly in order to depart.
Boats to Langkawi and Pulau Payar depart from Swettenham Pier (close to Victoria Memorial Clock Tower), about 700m north of Weld Quay. During the main season they leave at 8:15 am (via Pulau Payar) and 8:30 am, take about 2 hours until Langkawi.
The short ferry ride to Butterworth; departing at regular intervals is free. However, note that it costs RM1.20 for foot passengers coming from Butterworth to Penang.
A bus and train station awaits upon arrival in Butterworth - from where you can get transport connections to many of the major destinations in peninsular Malaysia. The ticket counters and waiting area are located under the overpass adjacent to the small market. Train tickets should be purchased in advance from the ticket booth at the island ferry terminal, the train station.
Air Asia connects Penang Airport with several destinations within Malaysia (Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Langkawi) as well as Hong Kong, Indonesia (Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya), Singapore and Thailand (Bangkok).
The easiest way to get to Georgetown is certainly via Butterworth Bus Terminal and take the car ferry over to the Weld Quay ferry terminal.
However, there are busses that go right onto Penang island. These however, stop at the Sungai Nibong long-distance bus station, about 15km south of Georgetown.
Public transportation around the city is well organized (by Malaysian standards) with modern low floor aircon buses. Main public bus terminals are at jetty and Komtar building/mall where you can get a map with all lines. When boarding a bus you MUST have prepared exact change! All buses stop on their route, and if you don't mind going around the city a bit if you actually want to leave it, you have good chances of getting where you want. But if you're planning to venture out of Georgetown to the suburbs and beyond for a day's tripping, do bear in mind that the public buses stop picking up passengers after 10PM daily - apparently even on weekends and holidays. And if you need to take a taxi back to your quarters after midnight, be prepared to pay a 100% surcharge on top of the fare.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, "City taxis are required to charge according to the meter effective from August 2006". However, as in Kuala Lumpur, many taxi drivers have no respect for the law or at least believe that foreigners have no legal rights and will frequently try to cheat foreigners. A common ruse is to refuse to use the meter or to hide it behind a piece of cloth or a rudimentary cardboard panel. If encountering a driver playing these games seek an alternative taxi.
Either firmly agree on the fare before you get in or insist on using the meter. No driver is likely to agree to a negotiated fare of less than would occur if the journey were metered. Taxis can also be hired for a minimum of 3 hr. A good way to see the northern and western parts of the island if you don't have your own vehicle.
Trishaws cater to tourists. However, these trishaw rides are becoming more of a curiosity rather than the norm as the number of trishaw peddlers are now lower in number than before.
You may also rent your own motorbike or scooter to get around.
Street names can be confusing: the street signs are in Malay, but locals will invariably use the old English names, e.g. Pitt Street instead of Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Beach Street instead of Lebuh Pantai. Lebuh, Jalan, Lorong, are the Malay words for street, road, lane, respectively.
Georgetown can be difficult to walk around because of underdeveloped footpaths. In places without footpaths it can be difficult to get around safely on foot due to the heavy traffic and prevalence of deep, wide open drains. Be careful about those, or walk on the side of the road in places without a footpath. If you are walking on the side of the road, try to walk against traffic as far over as you can so you can see the cars coming. Use the pedestrian bridges where available to cross the road. Some areas do not have crosswalks and instead have the pedestrian bridges that go over the traffic.
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