For travel from Penang Boats leave daily at 08.15 and 08.30 from Georgetown’s Swettenham Pier.One way is 60RM and takes 2h30mins with the earlier stopping at Pulau Payar. Full routes, schedules and fares for Penang to Langkawi by boat check here. Includes boat routes from Malaysia, Thailand and a quick guide to Langkawi arrivals.
Flying to Langkawi the low cost carrier AirAsia offers daily flights to and from major Asia and Southeast Asia destinations (not including Thailand). We flew from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur for just over 100 RM similar to the price of overland travel to Kuala Lumpur (boat to Kuala Perlis and train).
Arriving at Langkawi pier go direct through the adjoining mall area to find the taxi stand out front. Taxis on the island have fixed prices starting 6 RM. To Pantai Cenang it costs a fixed price of 24 RM. You can try haggling but it will end in same result.
Arriving from Thailand this was confusing at first. We would be ready for evening drinks around 6pm to find the blazing sun won’t fall until 7pm. Langkawi is not far from Thailand so sunlight is similar to the southern Thai islands however the Malaysia timezone adds an extra hour to the day. Most restaurants and bars don’t open until after sundown and daytime the streets feel deserted.
Open eateries are hard to come by during the day. The best option on Pantai Cenang is the 24 hour Nasi Kandar Tomato (pictured below) which offers Malay ‘nasi kandar’ dishes, a tandoori corner, roti stand and western foods (Full Review of Nasi Kandar Tomato).
In the evening (7pm+) the Pantai Cenang area comes to life with foods popping up on every corner. You can find cheap roadside Malay dishes including assam laksa and nasi lemak. For a quick guide to Malaysian food check here. The air-conditioned restaurants and western foods are overpriced on Langkawi. For a decent wine and deli bar (not overly priced) try the Red Tomato; an odd mix of art and styles, mostly Mediterranean. The Red Tomato is famous for its gluten free food.
Unlike the rest of Malaysia there is no added ‘sin tax’ in Langkawi meaning alcohol is cheap. Prices are also significantly cheaper than the duty free airports of Langkawi and KL. For 2 liters of Johnny Walkers (Red) it was 75RM, over half the price of mainland Malaysia and neighbouring Thailand. This was the same with popular new world wines i.e. Penfolds, Wolf Blass. A good place to pick up duty free is at Underwater World beside Pantai Cenang. I was scolded for taking the JW photo below.
High sin taxes in the country have brought rather bizarre extra-strong beers and local minimarts stock many 12% to 14% alcohol beers including the Weidmann Extra Strong (pictured below) 8RM.
There are tours and attractions on Langkawi to keep anyone busy. Take your pick. The basic, cheap and non-intensive tour is the island hopping and eagle feeding tour starting 25RM. (Pulau Dayang Bunting – Pulau Singa Besar – Pulau Beras Basah). The Langkawi cable car offer some amazing views over the island (bottom).