Ferry travel in Malaysia is either a necessary evil or rustic delight, depending on your personal disposition. Ever more of the smaller islands are developing their own airports meaning that travelling from Kuala Lumpur to the beach resorts is now more relatively simple.
Flights are relatively cheap if you book in advance and avoid weekend travel. But most people still choose to get around via bus and boat, with the sometimes arduous journey making arriving at your destination all the more rewarding. Surprisingly, there are no ferry services between the Malaysian Peninsular and East Malaysia making flights the only method of navigating the gap.
Ferry travel from Kuala Lumpur
Low-cost air travel has reduced the need for ferry departures to neighbouring Indonesia, but if you want to embrace the busy Asian waterways it is still possible to reach Sumatra by boat from KL.
Daily services leave nearby Port Klang on Indomal Express to Dumai. They set sail at 09:00 and 10:30 with the voyage taking around three hours and costing around RM100.
Aero Speed sail to Tanjung Balai with boats departing at 11:00 from Monday to Saturday and costing RM120 for the three-and-a-half hour journey.
Ferry travel from Pulau Langkawi
The two Malaysian mainland ports servicing Pulau Langkawi are Kuala Kedah (website: www.langkawi-ferry.com) and Kuala Perlis.
From Pulau Langkawi there are also departures to Penang and the Thai port of Satun. For onward travel from the port it is usually necessary to travel to the nearby state capital of Alor Setar.
Ferry travel from Penang
Although Penang island is attached to the mainland by a 13km bridge, ferry services remain the lifeblood of the city-state’s transport network.
Trips to Butterworth leave every 20 minutes and take the same amount of time, running from early morning until late evening. There are direct daily services up the Malaysian west coast to the duty free island of Pulau Langkawi right up north by the Thai border.