Heading from the Malaysian island of Penang to its neighbor Langkawi, just about everyone takes the direct ferry (60 RM or $19). Since we usually explore every possible option, we started asking about taking a bus via the mainland and then taking a ferry from a closer point. This was met with the questions of why we would do such a thing. The bus option would take much longer and require a bunch of transfers and it wasn’t even known if we would save much money. In fact, the owner of our hotel said we wouldn’t save a dime. After a little thought considering all these factors, we felt that a travel day sounded good and decided to ignore the naysayers and go the long way. You see we have all the time in the world and if we ended up losing some of it on a bus somewhere, well than that was fine with us.
We ended up navigating the local bus system and arriving as we knew we would. We lost a few hours tops but saved a few bucks as well. Here is the breakdown if you’re thinking of taking the trip.
Ferry from Georgetown to Butterworth – Free this direction (unless I missed something)
Bus from Butterworth to Alor Setar – 9.80 RM
Local Bus from Alor Setar to Kuala Kedah – 1.5 RM
Ferry from Kuala Kedah to Langkawi – 23 RM
Total: 34.30 RM
Total Savings: 25.80 RM
Note: As of August 2013 the total cost has gone up to 37.20 RM
Was it worth it? For us, yes. For others, who knows. Most would scoff at wasting a few hours and a lot of hassle to save less than 10 USD, but that’s just our style and we’re ok with that. You see, we love travel days. Austin and I recently had this discussion. On one level, you feel productive. To see and do the things you have planned, travel days are a must. But at the same time, you also get to sit back, relax and stick your nose in a book or watch a movie or two. It’s not an option. You’re forced to sit down (hopefully, theres a seat on the local bus) and take it easy for the next 2-12 hours, maybe more, if you’re real lucky. It’s a win-win from our point of view.
I’m sure many, if not most people, don’t share our opinion on the matter. Travel days can be exhausting, boring and uncomfortable all in one. I’ll agree with that to some degree. Sometimes, I smell pretty bad after a long bus ride which lacks functional air conditioning. And yes, I’m usually tired, ready for a nap and don’t even want a beer when we do finally arrive, but I enjoy them nonetheless.
There’s also the possibility when deciphering public transportation that something could easily go awry. More expensive travel usually comes with the details all planned out for you and taken care of. All you have to do if fall in line and follow the leader to your next mode of transport. Simple enough. Public transport, on the other hand, requires research on your part, beforehand and during the trip. You have to ask questions, keep track of time, learn of connecting destinations and walk up to ticket windows without knowing if it’s the correct one or what a “normal” price should be. Fun stuff.
While everything worked out great from Langkawi to Penang, my seemingly simple trip to the Kuala Lumpur airport barely worked out at all. I almost missed my flight. First off, let me say that the KL airport is WAY outside of town for who knows what reason. There is a direct express line straight to the airport that costs 35 RM. From what you’ve just read, I sure you’ve already guessed that I looked for a cheaper option. I found one where I’d take a train and then connect to a bus for a grand total of 6 RM. Sounded great. Only problem is I didn’t realize the train took an hour and a half and then the bus took another hour and a half, not to mention the time waiting for both. That’s means I would have to leave for the airport something like 6 hours ahead of time. Clearly, I did not do this and after anxiously waiting for my train stop, immediately took a cab the rest of the way, one crazy ride I might add. Luckily, my cab fare cost the same amount as the express line would’ve cost. Weird, but works for me.
All in all, there are usually multiple options for getting from point A to point B and which you choose is up to you. Occasionally, I like to keep things interesting. Sometimes it works out perfect, sometimes it turns into an adventure and sometimes it gets your heart rate going (almost missing a flight).