Travel from Penang to Thailand overland can be done fairly easily with the following options (with the most popular route being via Hat Yai, where you can continue your journey by train, bus and minivan to anywhere in Southern Thailand):
This is now easily the cheapest way to travel from Penang to the Thai border and we would recommend this as the best way to travel to Thailand from Penang.
There are now numerous daily KTM Komuter trains (commuter) that leave from Butterworth train station on the mainland, just 5 minutes walk away from the ferry terminal, arriving at Padang Besar Railway Station (Malaysia) where the immigration / passport control is located.
This long distance night train then travels up the east coast of Thailand, so if you are going to places like Surat Thani, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Hua Hin, this is a good option for travel.
It is an all second class train with sleeper beds, so a great way to travel to Thailand overnight.
By minivan / local bus from Padang Besar to Hat Yai:
To take the bus or minivan you will first have to cross over the main border crossing (located next to the train station).
To reach the immigration checkpoint from PB station Malaysia, go upstairs to the canteen and you will see a walkway leading over the railway tracks - you will see the Malaysia immigration area to your left as you cross the bridge.
Travel from Hat Yai to other parts of Thailand:
If you take the option of going to Hat Yai, there are a number of sleeper trains heading north to choose from (most are cheaper than the International Express).
From Hat Yai bus station you can also get to most destinations in Southern Thailand, with many long distance buses travelling (mainly overnight) all the way to Bangkok, or frequent daytime departures to destinations closer by.
There are many minibuses that operate between Penang and Thailand with the main destination being Hat Yai (which is about 30 minutes drive from the border crossing and 4 hours away from Penang).
All these minibuses cross the border at Sadao / Danok.
Get dropped off at Hat Yai bus station where you can get a bus to most destinations in Southern Thailand, or at the train station where there are many trains heading north in the afternoon and evening.
You can also buy minibus / bus and boat tickets to most of the popular destinations in Thailand, including Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi and Bangkok.
These tickets will take you by minibus to Hat Yai, then transfer you to another minibus to your final destination.
If you do plan to travel by minibus to the following places in Thailand, you are probably better off buying your tickets for the whole journey in Penang.
The reason I say this is, that at Hat Yai bus station, the agents selling onward minibus / private bus tickets around the bus station will overcharge you - I can guarantee that!
If you stay inside the bus station and use the government buses you will pay the correct amount but will limit your choice of buses.
Here is a price list of minibuses to Thailand (use as a guide only as prices may change).
Penang to Hat Yai - 40 RM
Penang to Krabi - 70 RM
Penang to Trang - 60 RM
Penang to Surat Thani - 70 RM
Penang to Pak Bara Pier - 60 RM
Penang to Phuket - 80 RM
Penang to Koh Lanta - 95 RM
Penang to Koh Samui - 90 RM
Penang to Koh Tarutao - 100 RM
Penang to Koh Phi Phi - 110 RM
Penang to Koh Phangan - 110 RM
Penang to Koh Lipe - 130 RM
Penang to Bangkok - 125 RM
Penang to Koh Tao - 160 RM
There are various departures throughout the day starting at 05:00, which, if you are going on one of the journeys that include a boat trip, this will be the one you will have to catch.
Other departures are at 08:30, 12:00 and 15:30.
You can buy your tickets online, or at most guesthouses and budget hotels, many places along Chulia Street and at the agents near the KOMTAR bus station.
This is a much more interesting way to get to Thailand, but very time consuming.
You can do it in a day or take a few days and stop off along the way at places like Alor Setar and Kangar before crossing the border at Pedang Besar into Thailand.
Penang Airport located about 30 minutes drive by taxi or about an hour by bus, offers a few budget carriers such as Air Asia and Firefly who both operate flights to Thailand.
Air Asia operate regular flights from Penang to Bangkok.
Firefly also fly to Koh Samui, Krabi and Phuket.
For a bit more money Thai airways fly Penang to Bangkok.
As with all budget airlines it is better to book early to get the really good prices.
If you have plenty of time and don't mind spending a bit more, travelling by boat via Langkawi is a nice way to get from Penang to Thailand, plus you get to visit the lovely island of Langkawi!
Firstly you have to catch the Penang Langkawi Ferry, or you can take one of the cheaper options travelling to Kuala Perlis or Kuala Kedah overland, then take the ferry to Langkawi from either of these two ports.
From Langkawi you can then catch a boat to Koh Lipe or Satun in Thailand or take a ferry to Kuala Perlis in Malaysia and cross over one of the land borders to get to Hat Yai.
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