Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah (Malay: Langkawi Permata Kedah) is an archipelago of 99 islands (an extra 5 temporary islands are revealed at low tide) in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia.
By far the largest of the islands is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi with a population of some 64,792, the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba. Langkawi is also an administrative district with the town of Kuah as the capital and largest town. Langkawi is a duty-free island.
Langkawi is famous for its beautiful scenery and landscapes - it even made it on our list of Southeast Asia's most beautiful islands.
Even though Langkawi also has a few nice beaches, the nearby islands of Koh Phi Phi and Ko Lipe up north in Thailand are better if you are looking for a beach holiday.
The islands are a part of the state of Kedah, which is adjacent to the Thai border. On July 15, 2008, Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah had consented to the change of name to Langkawi Permata Kedah in conjunction with his Golden Jubilee Celebration.
Getting to Langkawi
Langkawi International Airport (IATA: LGK | ICAO: WMKL) is located at Padang Matsirat, on the northwestern part of the island. In 2008, it handled 1.2 million passengers.
The following airlines offer service to/from Langkawi: AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, Happy Airways, and SilkAir.
Direct flights are available to Langkawi from Penang, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hat Yai, and Phuket.
Langkawi Ferry operates fast A/C boats from Kuala Perlis (RM18, 75 min), Kuala Kedah (RM23, 105 min), Penang (RM60, 165 min) (the ferry is freezing cold, so bring warm clothes), and Satun (RM30 or THB300, 75 min), (Satun ferry to Langkawi: last boat departs Satun at 4PM.
Telaga Harbour operates ferries from Ko Lipe, Thailand twice per day during the high season, at 9:30AM and 2:30PM (RM128 1-way, RM248 return, 75 min). These boats dock at the south end of Pattaya Beach. Bookings can be made online.
There is effectively no public transport on the island, so your choices are to use taxis or to rent a car, motorbike/scooter, or bicycle.
A taxi from the Airport to Pantai Cenang costs RM18. You can buy a coupon at the taxi desk in the airport. From the ferry terminal to Pantai Cenang the price is RM24. For those arriving at the Kuah Jetty and going into Kuah Town, the price is RM8.
By car or motorbike/scooter
Renting a car or motorbike/scooter is highly recommended due to lack of public transport. This can be done at the airport, the port complex, or from shops on Pantai Cenang. Refrain yourself from renting from touts, as many are operating illegally without permits and usually without insurance.
Renting an air-conditioned mid-sized sedan costs RM70-RM150 per day (depending on model, condition and length of stay) and a 150 cc motorbike/scooter costs RM40 to RM45 per day. Cheaper but usually very used and older are the semi-automatic 115 cc bikes for RM25 a day. A tired Proton with in Pantai Cenang maybe around RM60-90/day.
Remember to have regularly check on your fuel level, petrol pump stations, (gas stations) are far from one another. However, rental agencies do not care how much fuel is in the tank when the vehicle is returned so do not spend more on fuel than you have to. Fuel only costs about RM 1.90 a litre and you should return the bikes with the same filling level as you picked it up. Some rentals do check the level and mark it when you sign the slip.
At the gas/petrol station for the first time will confuse you. You will need to guess how much fuel you need and pay first. Most saloon cars if empty are RM50 to fill up and motorbikes are aprox RM5. Sometimes you fill up your car/bike and you haven't used what you have paid for not to worry you can claim this back at the counter.
Remember to drive safely and slowly on the island and on the left side of the road. There are tourists, children and animals like chickens, cows and even buffaloes crossing. Take care not to run over the beautiful snakes or monitors. Cattle and snakes like to lie on the road at night; the blacktop radiates heat.
Laws you need to know. 1. Drivers Licence needs to be with at all times. 2. Seatbelts mandatory in all vehicles. Fines given ranging from 50RM plus if not wearing. 3. Helmet mandatory. Fines same as above but more importantly the hospital does not have facilities to treat head injuries you will have to get medivac out to Penang 45min+ and thats if the helicopter is available. 4. International driver's license if from another country.
Road blocks are commonplace in Langkawi; they are mainly interested in locals with no licence/tax disc. Make sure you have the above items an you will have no problems.
You can rent bicycles in many of the hotels. Expect to pay between RM10-30 per day.