Penang Travel Guide

Small in size, big in flavor. Penang's culinary scene is world-renowned, but the tiny island's essence merely begins on the plate, spilling over to larger-than-life wall murals, colonial heritage sites, sandy beaches, and jungle-covered mountains.

UNESCO Heritage listed George Town draws history buffs and trend-setters alike. It's maze of colonial heritage buildings conceal narrow alleyways with interactive street art, trendy cafes, and boutique stores. How many wall murals can you hunt down?

Nature lovers escape to the jungle with treks from Penang Botanic Gardens to the peak of Penang Hill. For a more docile option, take a short boat ride through Penang National Park to witness macaque monkeys playing on the shores of aptly-named Monkey Beach.

Penang's legendary cuisine lies not within its mega shopping malls and waterfront restaurants, but in unsuspecting hawker markets known as "cafes". Here you'll find world-class dishes from laksas and curries to pizza and kebabs.

Pulau Pinang, or the 'isle of the betel nut', was a jewel of the British Empire during the 1800s with a strategic position on spice trade route. Visit the Tropical Spice Garden for a glimpse into the herbs and spices that saw Penang dubbed 'The Pearl of the Orient'.

Today, Malay, Chinese, and Indian locals thrive side by side, meaning there's almost always an atmosphere of celebration, be it for Ramadan, Deepavali, or Chinese New Year.


Who Will Like Penang

Food Connoisseur

Discover Penang's legendary street food scene with hawker stalls waiting around every corner. Take your taste buds on a journey around Southeast Asia with bargain-priced dishes like Hokkien noodles, pad Thai, roti canai, Chinese-style seafood, and local favorites laksa and nasi kandar.

Culture Buff

Uncover the true meaning of multiculturalism with Penang's seamless blend of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures. Join in festivities like Muslim Ramadan, Buddhist Chinese New Year, and Hindu Deepavali. Explore Malaysia's British colonial roots in George Town and learn Penang's role in the Spice trade at the Tropical Spice Garden.

Relaxation Guru

Retreat to the beaches of Batu Ferringhi to soak up the sunshine on the white, sandy shore.

Nature Lover

Wander through a mix of lush, natural rainforest and landscaped imported gardens at Penang Botanic Gardens or take a stroll through the treetops at Penang Hill. Watch cheeky macaque monkeys play at the aptly named Monkey Beach or learn which fruit, vegetables, and spices are native to Malaysia at the Tropical Spice Garden.

Outdoor Trailblazer

Tackle a steep 8km climb to the peak of Penang Hill from the Moon Gate at Penang Botanic Gardens. Alternatively, follow the hiking trails through Penang National Park to the idyllic shores of Monkey Beach or Turtle Beach. Camping is allowed in designated areas.

Retail Therapist

Hit the twin mega-malls Gurney Paragon and Gurney Plaza or hunt for bargain clothing, accessories and souvenirs at the Batu Ferringhi Night Markets.

Photography Whiz

Pose in front of interactive wall murals at UNESCO Heritage listed George Town, or take a panorama of the island from Penang Hill. For a colorful sunset shot, head to the beaches of Batu Feringhi or Penang National Park.

Fun Expert

Get ready for a thrilling adventure at Theme parks Escape Theme Park and Adventure Zone or pose for wacky photos at the 3D Trick Art Museum.

Top Sights & Attractions In Penang

Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera)

Overlook $$$$$

Perbadanan Bukit Bendera, Jalan Stesen Bukit Bendera, Air Itam, 11500 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Price: Adult: RM30 (USD$6.40), Child (4-12): RM15 ($3.20) Time spent: 1.5-4 hours

Hours: 6.30am-11pm, 7 days

Tropical rainforest providing cool breeze, relaxing nature vibes, and panoramic views over Penang. Attractions on top of the hill include a mosque, Hindu temple, restaurants, nature trails, monkeys, a treetop canopy walk, landscaped gardens, playgrounds, and accommodation. Reachable via funicular from the Penang Hill office or by hiking or 4x4 drive from the Penang Botanical Gardens.

website email +60 48288880

Full attraction details...

George Town UNESCO Heritage Site

Modern History Free

10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Price: Free Time spent: 1-6 hours

Hours: 24 hours, 7 days

A fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and British Colonial architectural styles resulting in an unconventional yet charming urban formation. George Town's rich cultural diversity saw it listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Most recently, a dynamic street art scene has burst into George Town. Some wall murals, like Ernest Zacharevic’s "Boy on Chair", provide interactive settings for visitors to become part of the picture and pose beside painted characters.

website email +60 42616606

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Penang Botanic Gardens

Garden Free

Kompleks Pentadbiran,Bangunan Pavilion, Jalan Kebun Bunga, 10350 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Price: Free Time spent: 1-2 hours

Hours: 5am-8pm, 7 days

A garden oasis offering a serene slice of Penang's natural habitat fused with imported plant species in landscaped gardens. Prominent features include Pinang palms (from which Penang island received its name), a cannonball tree, an orchid garden, fern house, cactus house, lily pond, Japanese garden, and herb garden.

website email +60 42264401

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Avatar Secret Garden

Garden Free

336, Jalan Tokong Thai Pak Koong, Tanjung Tokong, 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Price: Free Time spent: 30-90 minutes

Hours: 8am-12am, 7 days

A serene, rocky beach by day that turns into a scene from James Cameron's 2009 movie Avatar by night. A section of Penang's natural rainforest has been decked out in colorful LED and optic fiber lights, creating a mystical setting centered around a large banyan tree bearing an uncanny resemblance to the movie's sacred spirit tree, Eywa.

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Tropical Spice Garden

Garden $$$$$

Lot 595 Mukim, 2, Jalan Teluk Bahang, Teluk Bahang, 11050 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Price: Adult: RM31 (audio guide) (USD$6.61), RM48 (live guide) ($10.24), Child: RM18 (audio guide) ($3.84), RM25 (live guide) ($5.33) Time spent: 1-2 hours

Hours: 9am-6pm, 7 days

A tribute to Penang's history on the colonial spice trade route between Europe and India, the Tropical Spice Garden showcases a living collection of fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, and spices that naturally grow in Malaysia and made the island of Penang highly coveted during the 18th and 19th centuries.

website email +60 48811797

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Weld Quay Clan Jetties

Waterfront Free

Pengkalan Weld, George Town, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Price: Free Time spent: 30-90 minutes

Hours: 9am-9pm, 7 days

A series of wooden jetties like fingers reaching into the sea. Lined with modest houses, shops, and cafes, the stilted villages provide a glimpse into Penang's Chinese community of yesteryear. Each 100-year-old jetty belongs to a Chinese family or "clan" who originally moved to Penang to construct Weld Quay, a large port required tor the island’s booming economy.

website +60 195935333

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Food & Drink in Penang

Northam Beach Café

Asian Street Food $$$$$

55, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, Pulau Pinang, 10050 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Hours: 4:30pm-1am, 7 days

Modern and stylish hawkers' market providing the perfect spot to indulge on Asian street cuisine as you watch the sun softly set behind rows of fishing boats. Over 40 food stalls and a central drink vendor share dozens of numbered tables. Diners give their table number when ordering meals and watch in delight as a bargain-priced feast is delivered to their table.

+60 42266205

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Holy Guacamole

Mexican Tex-Mex $$$$$

65, Love Ln, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Hours: 12pm-2:30am, 7 days

Put a Mexican spin on your night out at Holy Guacamole, located on Penang's nightlife hub, Love Lane. Fill up on Tex-Mex staples like nachos, burritos, tacos, and fajitas, paired with a perfectly mixed pitcher of margaritas or sangria.

website email +60 174829065

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Long Beach Café

Asian Street Food $$$$$

11100 Batu Ferringhi, Penang, Malaysia

Hours: 5:30pm-11:55pm, 7 days

A popular hawkers market located in beachfront district Batu Ferringhi, away from the hustle and bustle of George Town. Long Beach Café offers over a dozen flavor-packed meals that won’t break the bank. Noodle dishes like laksa and mie goreng abound, while other options include Indian curries, Thai classics like pad Thai, satay sticks, kebabs, and even pizza and pasta.

+60 164222113

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Tree Monkey

Thai $$$$$

Lot 595 Mkm 2, Lone Crag Villa, Jalan Tanjung Bungah, 11100, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Hours: 10:30am-10:30pm, 7 days

Relax in the lush, rainforest setting of the Tropical Spice Garden while enjoying authentic Thai food at Tree Monkey. The restaurant uses fresh herbs and spices locally grown at the Tropical Spice Garden, sending blissful aromas through the restaurant that will have your tummy rumbling in anticipation. Choose a Thai tapas plate to sample the flavors of Thailand, or for a more substantial meal, don’t go past a spicy Thai curry.

website email +60 48813494

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Dessert $$$$$

L1. P5, Ground Floor, Gurney Paragon Mall, Gurney Dr, George Town, Penang 10250, Malaysia

Hours: 10am-10pm, 7 days

Decedent Magnum ice-creams are more heavenly then ever at the Magnum store located within Gurney Paragon Mall. Browse through the Magnum menu to choose your favorite flavor and toppings, then watch as staff skilfully deck out your ice-cream, creating a work of art that almost looks too good to eat.


Full cafe details...

Food Delivery & Discovery Apps:

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Grab Food

Areas of Penang

  1. George Town Historic center The center of Penang's colonial heritage with historical attractions including Fort Cornwallis and Cheong Fatt Tze (the Blue Mansion). George Town is a hub for international restaurants and local street food alike, and it also has its fair share of boutique cafes, artisan stores and interactive wall murals. Accommodation options range from backpacker hostels to luxury hotels.
  2. Batu Ferringhi Sandy beaches Luxury international resorts, like Hard Rock Hotel and Shangri-La, line Batu Ferringhi's white sandy beaches. The coastal town offers chilled vibes by the hot light of day and comes to life in the cool evenings with beachfront bars, local and international dining options, and a popular night market.
  3. Gurney Drive Modern & trendy An up-market waterfront promenade lined with residential skyscrapers and shopping malls. Home to several hawkers' stalls and a short drive from George Town's center, Gurney Drive is the prime location for longer-term travelers preferring apartment living over hotels.
  4. Tanjung Bungah Seaside promenade The closest beach district to George Town, Tanjung Bungah is a popular choice for travelers wanting to explore the historic town but stay by the beach. The area is home to Straits Quay Marina, lined with international restaurants, residential apartments, and a small shopping mall. International hotel chains like Mercure, and Hilton are dotted along the coastal strip.
  5. Bayan Lepas Duty-free manufacturing zone Known as the "Silicon Valley of the East" the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone is a manufacturing hub for engineering and electronic companies like Intel, Motorola, and AMD. The industrial area's close proximity Penang's airport makes it a popular choice for business and transit travelers. It's also home to one of the island's largest shopping complexes, Queensbay Mall.
  6. Butterworth Mainland commercial hub Connected to Penang Island via road bridge and ferry, Butterworth is part of Penang state, but located on the peninsular mainland. The district is a major commercial hub, but also home to tourist attractions like a historic Hindu temple, and several popular hawker stalls.
Airbnb in Penang:
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Best Places To Stay in Penang

Getting Around Penang


Rideshare apps like Grab are a cheap, safe, and popular way to get around Penang, offering a predictable price and visible route. Be mindful of traveling to lesser populated areas like Kek Lok Si temple at night as it may be difficult to find a return driver.


Several affordable scooter hire companies are available in George Town. Scooters provide a cheap and convenient way to get between tourist attractions within George Town as street side parking is usually free and available. Traveling long distances between areas like George Town and Batu Ferringhi is not advisable as the roads are very windy making the drive both uncomfortable and hazardous.

Car Rental

Driving a hire car on Penang Island is reasonably safe as heavy traffic is uncommon outside of George Town. Hire cars are best suited for longer journeys or to off-the-beaten-track parts of the island, just be mindful of the steep, narrow, and winding roads in mountainous areas like Pearl Hill.


Taxis are equipped with meters but prefer to negotiate a set, usually higher, price. Insist on using the meter wherever possible. Keep an eye out for blue SUVs marked "Teksi Executif" (Executive Taxi) near upscale hotels which are rare to find but typically use the meter.


The local bus service, RapidPenang, operates across the island, with the most frequent services running within George Town. The main bus terminal is located at KOMTAR, George Town's tallest building. Always give the driver the exact fare as they rarely carry change. Alternatively, foreigners can purchase a Rapid Passport for RM30 (USD$6.40), which provides unlimited bus access for 7 days.

  • Bus 101 runs from George Town, through the northern coastal towns, to the Penang National Park entrance.
  • Lines 203 and 204 depart from George Town to Kek Lok Si Temple and the Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera) Funicular Base Station.

A free CAT shuttle bus also operates every 20 minutes between Weld Quay Ferry Terminal and KOMTAR within George Town.

Transport Apps:

Mobile app
Mobile app
Rapid Penang Journey Planner


Shopping opportunities in Penang range from multi-level mega malls with cinemas and international fashion stores, to local street markets with hand-made souvenirs, imitation designer bags, and cheap clothing. Bargaining is expected at markets, but aggressive negation is not part of the culture. Smiling politely and offering win-win prices will almost certainly secure a good deal.

Batu Ferringhi Night Market

Market Free

Jalan Pantai Batu, Taman Pantai Batu, 11200 Tanjong Bungah, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Price: Free Time spent: 30-120 minutes

Hours: 6pm-11pm, 7 days

A classic night market selling clothing, souvenirs, and locally handmade items. Don’t pay the first price, vendors expect to be haggled with so but bring your best bargaining skills.


Full attraction details...

Gurney Paragon

Shopping Mall Free

163-D, Gurney Paragon Mall, Gurney Drive, 10250 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Time spent: 1-2 hours

Hours: 10am-10pm, 7 days

A 9-story mall with over 40 fashion boutiques, 30 eateries and a cinema. Stores include H&M, Lacoste, Hush Puppies, Swarovski, Cotton On, Victoria's Secret, Starbucks, and TGI Fridays.

Parking: RM1/hr (USD$0.21 / hr)

website email +60 42288266

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Gurney Plaza

Shopping Mall Free

170, Persiaran Gurney, Pulau Tikus, 10250 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Time spent: 1-2 hours

Hours: 10am-10pm, 7 days

A collection of 380 shopping malls spread over nine floors. Included are a major cinema, supermarket, and clothing, accessory, and book stores. International brands available range from Adidas, Boost Juice, and Levi's, to Bobby Brown, Chanel, and Guess.

Parking: RM2/hr (USD$0.43 / hr)

website email +60 42228111

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Queensbay Mall

Shopping Mall Free

Queensbay Mall, 100, Persiaran Bayan Indah, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Time spent: 1-2 hours

Hours: 10:30am-10:30pm, 7 days

Penang's largest shopping mall with 5 levels of local and international brands covering fashion, homewares, entertainment, sports, and electronics. Upper levels include a movie cinema, karaoke box, and kids' play center.

Parking: RM1/hr (USD$0.21 / hr)

website email +60 46198989

Chowrasta Market

Market Free

Lot 26, Jalan Chowrasta, George Town, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Time spent: 20-90 minutes

Hours: 6:30am-6pm, 7 days

A local market in George Town selling mostly fresh produce like fruit, vegetables, seafood, sweet snacks, pickled fruits, and fried chips. Upper level stores sell clothing, accessories, footwear, and second hand books.

Parking: RM1/hr (USD$0.21 / hr)

+60 164343768

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Best Time of Year to Visit Penang

Penang, like the rest of Malaysia, is humid and warm all year. Locals tend to stay in-doors during the day, saving activities and errands until the cooler evening hours.

Peak Season

December-March & June-September, between 23°C and 32°C, humid and hot.

Off Season

April-May & October-November, between 23°C and 31°C, monsoon season.

Best Photo Spots in Penang

Cheong Fatt Tze (The Blue Masion)

Museum $$$$$

14, Leith St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Price: Adult: RM25 (USD$5.33), Child: RM12.50 ($2.67) Time spent: 45-90 minutes

Hours: English Tours available at 11am, 2pm & 3pm

A popular photo spot for weddings, the Blue Mansion's architectural beauty is undeniable. Take a quick portrait in front of the iconic blue-framed door, or opt for a guided tour to discover more photo-worthy spots inside.

Rainbow Skywalk at KOMTAR

Observation Deck

1, Jalan Penang, George Town, 10000 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Price: Adult: RM48 (USD$10.24), Child: RM28 (<90cm, under 12 years) ($5.97) Time spent: 30-90 minutes

Hours: 11am-8pm, Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday
11:30am-8pm, Wednesday
11am-9pm, Saturday-Sunday

Malaysia's tallest outdoor glass skywalk. The horseshoe-shaped bridge is an ideal setting for a selfie or panorama overlooking George Town.

George Town UNESCO Heritage Site

Modern History Free

10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Price: Free Time spent: 1-6 hours

Hours: 24 hours, 7 days

Wander around George Town to hunt down a series of interactive wall murals by street artist, Ernest Zacharevic. Equipped with a street art map, you'll be posing in tradition-inspired scenes like Brother and Sister on Swing and Susu Soya Asli & Segar.

Tip: Photographers: bring a model to pose with the artwork. Models: Bring a photographer!

website email +60 42616606

Full attraction details...

Kek Lok Si Temple

Religious Free

11500 Air Itam, Penang

Price: Free Time spent: 45-120 minutes

Hours: 8:30am-5:30pm, 7 days

Most spectacular during Chinese New Year when the Buddhist temple illuminates with fairy and neon lights every evening, Kek Lok Si provides interesting photo opportunities throughout the year with its interesting spire and range of shrines ad statues.

Tip: Chinese New Year is determined by the lunar calendar so dates vary each year. Check dates online before planning to photograph the illuminated temple.

website email +60 48283317

Full attraction details...


Credit cards accepted: Everywhere

While most stores located within shopping malls and international restaurants accept cash and card, local markets and hawker stalls tend to only accept cash. MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted credit cards, American Express is usually either not accepted or occurs an additional fee.

Contactless payments accepted: Many places

ATM Access: Easy to find

It's always wise to carry local currency. ATMs are easily found in shopping malls and bank branches within George Town, but are harder to find in beachfront areas like Batu Ferringhi.

Currency exchangers: Easy to find

Currency exchange stores are more common in George Town than other parts of the island. Most shopping malls will have at least 1 currency exchange store. Passports must be presented as proof of ID in order to exchange money. It is also possible to change currency at banks, but this attracts a higher fee of around RM10 per transaction or 1% for each check.

Tipping is not expected in Penang's restaurants, but a small contribution for exceptional service won't be turned down. Many restaurants include a 10% service charge in the bill, so check your bill to know whether or not you should tip. Tipping bellboys and waiters in high-star hotels is more common.


Daily Budget

BudgetRM100-RM200 (USD$21.33 - $42.66)

ComfortableRM200-RM600 (USD$42.66 - $127.97)

LuxuryRM500-RM2,000 (USD$106.64 - $426.58)


BudgetRM50-RM150 (USD$10.66 - $31.99)hostel or 1 star hotel

ComfortableRM100-RM400 (USD$21.33 - $85.32)3 star

LuxuryRM450-RM1,000 (USD$95.98 - $213.29)4-5 star


Street FoodRM5-RM12 (USD$1.07 - $2.56)

Mid-Range RestaurantRM30-RM60 (USD$6.40 - $12.80)

Fine Dining RestaurantRM150-RM400 (USD$31.99 - $85.32)


Public BusRM1.50 (USD$0.32)Single ticket

Public BusRM30 (USD$6.40)Weekly pass

TrishawRM30 (USD$6.40)1-hour

RideshareRM6 (USD$1.28)1-way ride within George Town


Jet ski rentalRM80 (USD$17.06)Per 15 minutes, from Batu Ferringhi

Food tourRM220 (USD$46.92)4-hour tour

Island sightseeingRM285 (USD$60.79)6-hour tour

Cable carRM30 (USD$6.40)Adult ticket

Batik painting classRM35 (USD$7.47)Small handkerchief

Typical Costs In Penang

  • Meal in inexpensive restaurant: RM10 (USD$2.13)
  • Small bottle of water in restaurant: RM1.25 (USD$0.27)
  • Large bottle of water in market: RM1.72 (USD$0.37)
  • Domestic beer in restaurant: RM10 (USD$2.13)
  • Domestic beer in market: RM5 (USD$1.07)
  • Bottle of wine in market: RM45 (USD$9.60)
  • Cup of coffee: RM5.50 (USD$1.17)
  • Short taxi trip: RM11.50 (USD$2.45)
  • 1-way public transport trip: RM2 (USD$0.43)
  • 1L of gasoline/petrol: RM2.22 (USD$0.47)
  • Pair of jeans: RM187.49 (USD$39.99)
  • Summer dress: RM85.50 (USD$18.24)
  • Cinema ticket: RM15.50 (USD$3.31)

Internet, Mobile & Tech


Average Internet speed in Penang: 8.90 Mbps

Public wifi access: Have to know where to look


The 3 major mobile providers, Maxis, Celcom and Digi all providers have websites in English. SIM cards can be easily bought at any mini-mart, mall or gas station, but you must show a Passport or ID card as proof of identity. SIM cards are compatible with GSM 900/1800 international cell phones and require SIM-unlocked GSM phone. Maxis has the best network coverage in Penang.

  • Digi - "Traveler Sim" package valid for RM20 (USD$4.27) (7 days, RM5 (USD$1.07) preloaded credit, 2GB high-speed internet, 7GB social internet, 10 mins calls to all domestic networks, 10 mins free IDD calls, unlimited SMS)
  • Celcom - "Ultra-Pass 5GB" package for RM19 (USD$4.05) (7 days, 5GB internet, 1-hour unlimited internet/day, unlimited late-night YouTube)
  • Maxis - "Hotlink Red" for RM10 (USD$2.13) (7 days, RM5 (USD$1.07) preloaded credit, 300MB high-speed internet for 2 days, 500MB basic internet). Additional data plans: RM10 (USD$2.13) for 1.5GB, 7 days or RM35 (USD$7.47) for 6GB, 30 days.

Phone country code: +60

Getting Into Penang

Penang island can be reached via plane, ferry, or car from within Malaysia. Direct flights are also available from several nearby countries in Southeast Asia, like Singapore and Thailand, but international flights often stop in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur (KL). Flights from KL to Penang take around 1 hour.


Penang International Airport (PEN) is located within commercial district, Bayan Lepas at the south end of the island - a 30 minute drive to George Town and a 55-minute drive to Batu Ferringhi. George Town can also be reached via bus. Lines 401 and 402 depart from a bus stop in front of the arrival hall and stop at KOMTAR bus terminal. Tickets costs RM2.70 (USD$0.58).


Cars can be hired from major cities on the Malaysian mainland including Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. Cars should be returned to the location collected from, rather than left in Penang, to secure the best price. A road bridge connects Penang Island to the mainland at Butterworth.


Ferries run between Pangkalan Sultun Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal in Butterworth and Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal in George Town every 15 minutes. Ferry tickets cost RM1.20 (USD$0.26) for adults, RM0.60 (USD$0.13) for children, RM1.40 (USD$0.30) for bicycles, RM2 (USD$0.43) for motorbikes, and RM7.70 (USD$1.64) for cars. Ferries also travel directly to Penang from Langkawi, and Indonesian island, Sumatra.


KTMB operates electric train service to Butterworth Train Station, a 5-minute drive from Pangkalan Sultun Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal, from which a 20-minute ferry can be caught to Penang Island. Domestic train routes travel from southern regions of the peninsular mainland, while northern routes travel down from Thailand.


Long-distance buses travel from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Singapore, and Thailand, arrive at the Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal. George Town can then be reached via Rapid Penang bus 401 or a 20-minute rideshare or taxi ride.


Minivans run between George Town and major cities in Thailand. The service is more expensive than traditional busses, but a reasonable price can usually be bargained. 3rd party ticket agencies often inflate prices.


Most nationalities can enter Malaysia on a visa waiver (passport stamp), valid for 14, 30 or 90 days. Overstaying a Malaysian visa can result in being fined.

Health & Safety

Penang is relatively safe with low levels of crime. It's important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and heat stroke from being out in the beating hot sun. Mosquitos can be troublesome, especially in the evenings and in jungle habitats like Penang Hill. Although local mosquitos rarely transmit serious diseases, it's best to always carry insect repellant.

Penang's street food scene is an important part of its cultural identity, and hawker stalls or street vendors with low hygiene levels don't tend to last long. However, it's best not to order from vendors with dirty finger nails, aprons, or cooking utensils to be on the safe side.

Is it safe to drink tap water? Boil water first

Large bottles of water are cheap and easy to find in minimarts and supermarkets. Ice in restaurants and bars is safe to drink.

Important Phone Numbers:

Tourist Police: +60 42221522

Emergency: 999

Police: 999

Ambulance: 999

Fire: 999


Medical clinics run by general practitioners are located in almost every areas of the island. Most doctors speak English fluently and should be visited for complaints not requiring specialist attention.


Penang is a popular destination for medical tourism, with specialists including optometrists, dentists, and plastic surgeons providing operations at lower fees than in western countries like Australia and the United States. Many specialists are trained in western countries before returning home to Malaysia.
The island has several public and private hospital options. Public hospitals are cheaper but primarily used by locals so they have longer wait periods, causing most tourists to choose private hospitals.


  • Money requests. People may approach you asking for money stating they have lost a credit card or had a card eaten by an ATM. They usually ask politely and may have a young child to tug on the heart strings.
  • Drink too much or display drunken behavior in public.
  • Wear overly revealing clothes like bikinis (other than at the beach or hotel pool) as this is disrespectful to Malays.
  • Kiss, cuddle, or otherwise display affection to your significant other in public.
  • Physically touch a person of the opposite sex, even shaking hands is prohibited in Islam.
  • Swimming at the beach as there are often a lot of jellyfish.
  • Remove shoes when entering temples, mosques, homes, and some business. As a general rule, if you see shoes outside a door, take yours off too.
  • Accept drinks when offered.
  • Carry your passport at all times. This is a requirement of Malaysian law.
  • Greet people politely and with a warm smile.
  • Ask for directions. Most locals are happy to point tourists along their way.
  • Dress respectfully with covered shoulders and knees, especially when visiting mosques or temples.
  • Take caution when crossing roads as cars don't always stop at pedestrian crossings.
Travel Deeper

Penang Culture & History

Penang's modern history began in 1786, when British Captain Francis Light, established a colony of the East India Trading Company on the island, naming the capital George Town. Penang then became part of the Straits Settlements and a hub for tea and spice trade.

18th Century Fort Cornwallis built by the East India Trading Company

Penang merged with the Federation of Malaysia upon the nation's independence from the British Crown in 1957. Trade remained the island's primary industry until the 1970s when the economy shifted towards electronic manufacturing.

Penang is a thriving example of Malaysian multiculturalism with 3 main ethnicities, Malay, Chinese, and Indian, thriving together in harmony.

Historic center George Town became a well-known artistic hub when, in 2012, the Penang Municipal Council hired street artist Ernest Zacharevic to install a series of wall murals depicting local culture and traditions. Several artisan stores, and art galleries now line the streets of George Town and the city hosts an annual arts festival, the Gorge Town Festival.


Penang has a larger Chinese population than other areas of Malaysia, so it's not uncommon to hear Cantonese, Mandarin, and Hokkien tongues, although Malay is the official language. Hindi and Tamil are also common, mainly spoken among Penang's Indian population. The majority of locals, whether of Malaysian, Chinese, or Indian descent, have a strong command of English and enjoy the opportunity to practice with tourists.

Basic Phrases:

  • Thank you - Terima kasih (te-ree-mah ka-seh)
  • Yes / No - Ya (yah) / tidak (tee-dak)
  • Goodbye - Selamat jalan (s'la-mat zha-lan)
  • You're welcome - Sama-sama (saa-ma saa-ma)
  • I don't understand - Saya tak faham (saa-yah tak faa-haam)
  • Where is the bathroom? - Dimana tandas (dee ma-na tan-das)
  • Turn right / Turn left - Belok kanan / Belok kiri (beh-lock kaa-naan / beh-lock kee-ree)
  • Go straight - Jalan terus (zha-lan te-roos)
  • Water - Air (ah-yer)
  • How much - Berapa (be-raa-paa)
  • Please - Tolong (toh-long)
  • Coffee - Kopi (Ko-pee)
  • Less spicy - Kurung pedas (Koo-roong pe-das)
  • With rice - Dengan nasi (Deng-gan na-see)
  • with noodles - Dengan mee (Deng-gan mee)
  • I'm ready to eat - Saya sedia Makan (sai-yah se-dih-ya ma-kan)

Events & Festivals In Penang


  • Chinese New Year. Celebrations of the lunar new year centered around family reunions, visiting relatives (both locally and overseas), and exchanging "ang pows" (red packets containing money). The festival is celebrated for 15 days, ending on the full moon. Relatives of Penang's Chinese population flock to the island to join in the celebrations. Major festivities are held at George Town's Chew Jetty and also at Kek Lok Si temple, but individuals often celebrate near their homes with decorations and fireworks.
  • Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. A 2-day-long annual festival held on the 8th and 9th days of Chinese New Year located at large field, Pedang Polo. International and local hot air balloon enthusiasts bring their prized possessions to display and compete. Activities include hot air balloon rides, a walk-in cold inflation balloon, daily stationary launching called "night glow", food stalls, childrens' games, and more.
Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
  • Thaipusam. Annual Hindu festival commemorating the birthday of Lord Murugan, celebrated by millions of devotees who conduct a procession in the form of a 7-kilometre uphill walk from Arulmigu Maha Mariamman Temple to the Waterfall Hilltop Temple at Penang Hill, as an act of gratitude and penance for wrong-doing.


  • Songkran. Thai water festival celebrated at Buddhist temple, Wat Chayamangkalaram. Visitors participate in a communal water fight with water guns, balloons, and buckets of water to symbolize washing away troubles and starting the new year with a clean slate.


  • Vesak Day. Celebrated on the May full moon, this Buddhist festival honors the day the Buddha was born and also achieved enlightenment. Vesak Day is celebrated at Buddhist temples across Penang which devotees attend to place offerings and seek blessings.


  • Ramadan. The 9th month of the Islamic calendar observed as a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad. Celebrated with Ramadan Bazaars predominantly in George Town where traditional Malay meals, snacks, and drinks can be found after dark.


  • George Town Festival. A month-long festival celebrating art, music, theatre, dance, opera, and film to commemorate George Town's listing on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008.


  • Bon Odori Carnival. A Japanese carnival usually celebrated with Japanese dance, music, and other live performances as well as food stalls, souvenir stalls, and fireworks displays.


  • OBSCURA Festival of Photography. One of the most popular photography festivals in Southeast Asia, held in George Town with exhibits celebrating photographers from Asia and around the globe. The festival incorporates print exhibitions, slideshows, workshops, talks, a photobook micro-festival, portfolio reviews, and fringe events.


  • Deepavali (Diwali). An important Hindu festival, also known as Festival of Lights, which celebrates the victory of good over evil. It marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year and is celebrated in Penang with lights and images crafted from colored rice placed within Hindu temples at major public venues like shopping malls.
Deepvali rice decorations


  • International Dragon Boat Festival. A 2-day festival held at Teluk Bahang Dam. Dozens of Malaysian and international dragon boat racers send colorful boats racing along the water to the sound of beating drums.
Last Bit

Myth Busting

  • Street food is unhygienic. Many tourists prefer to eat at established restaurants, believing street-vendors to be dirty and unhygienic, or maybe they just think the food is too cheap to be good. Street food is a large part of Penang's cultural identity and vendors take their pride in their food and hygiene, often operating in stalls and preparing recipes passed down by their parents and grandparents.

After Penang, Go Further

Most major cities in Malaysia can easily be reached from Penang via plane or ferry. Nearby countries including Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore are also a short flight away.

Travel & lifestyle blog

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