Penang Travel Guide

George Town at night

George Town at Night via Wikipedia

I took a four-day-three-night trip to Penang last week and it was fantastic. Hope the travel guide here is helpful to those who are not very familiar with Penang in Malaysia.

Introduction of Penang

Penang (Malay: Pulau Pinang) is a state in Malaysia, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. Penang is the second smallest state in Malaysia after Perlis, and the eighth most populous. A resident of Penang is colloquially known as a Penangite.

Cities in Penang

The state of Penang is made up of two parts, Penang Island, a turtle-shaped island 8km west of the mainland in the Straits of Malacca, and Seberang Perai (formerly Province Wellesley), a rectangular-shaped district connected to the the mainland.

Georgetown is Penang’s largest city. Development of the eastern coast of the island is slowly linking Georgetown, in the northeast, with the city of Bayan Lepas in the southeast. The northern coast, including Batu Ferringhi, is also being heavily developed and features the island’s best beaches and resorts. The island’s western side is still relatively quiet and undeveloped, with a peaceful “kampung” (village) feel about it.

  • Georgetown - The capital of Penang; a favorite spot for tourists as it has many quaint pre-Second World War houses, as well as 19th century churches, temples, mosques, and colonial buildings. The city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site  in July 2008.
  • Batu Ferringhi – Located on the north coast, with white sandy beaches, luxurious hotels & restaurants. A favorite spot for both locals & tourists.
  • Bayan Lepas – Penang’s main electronic manufacturing area and location of its international airport.
  • Balik Pulau – Literally “Back of The Island” in Malay; a small agricultural centre surrounded by Malay villages, fruit plantations, and padi fields.
  • Teluk Bahang – quiet little fishing village at the northwestern tip of the island.

Food in Penang

Penang was recognised as having the Best Street Food in Asia by TIME magazine in 2004, citing that nowhere else can such great tasting food be so cheap. Penang’s cuisine reflects the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia, but is also strongly influenced by the cuisine of Thailand to the north.

I enjoyed very much a cafe called George Town White Coffee; their Mee Goreng was very good! I think you don’t need too many recommendations for food in Penang. Simply go there and try out different food! Most are very good from my experience.

Shopping Malls in Penang

I don’t like shopping that much; but for those who want to shop in Penang, I found some useful information.

Among the more popular ones on Penang Island are:

  • Queensbay Mall, Penang’s largest and longest shopping centre,
  • Gurney Plaza, touted as Penang’s first lifestyle-oriented shopping mall. Opened in 2001, it is located at famous Gurney Drive.
  • KOMTAR is Penang’s oldest modern shopping mall, opened in 1986. Plans are currently underway to revive the massive complex.

Notable shopping malls on the mainland part of Penang:

  • Sunway Carnival Mall located at Seberang Jaya.
  • Seberang Prai City Perdana Mall located at Bandar Perda.

Penang Airport

The airport is on the southeastern coast of the island, some 20 minutes from Georgetown. Take Rapid Penang bus no. 401A from the terminal building to KOMTAR (first bus 0530 last bus 2335, every 30 min; fare 2.70 RM).

Direct domestic flights are available to Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, and Langkawi. Direct international flights are available to Jakarta, Macau, Taipei, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Medan, Singapore, Phuket, Perth and Banda Aceh.

Transportation in Penang

Taxis in Penang are equipped with meters but most drivers are reluctant to use the meters. Always haggle with the taxi driver and agree on a price beforehand.

These three-wheeled human-powered trishaw might be the best idea for a pleasant city tour. One can stop at any point to take a photo or buy souvenirs. Many trishaw riders are also excellent ‘tour guides’. Negotiate the fare first before getting on a trishaw; it is advisable to hire them by the hour for extended sightseeing.

Rapid Penang Bus

Rapid Penang Bus By Roslan Tangah via Flickr

RapidPenang, the local bus service, features new buses. All bus stations and bus stops which are serviced by the RapidPenang buses are labeled with proper signboards to ensure user-friendliness. Buses are somewhat frequent on the main artery to Batu Ferringhi. Rapid Penang bus 101 bound for Teluk Bahang goes through midtown Pulau Tikus, (northwest end of) Gurney Drive, Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi and terminates at the Penang National Park entrance. Avoid so-called ‘minibuses’ because they usually go as far as Tanjung Bungah and can be poorly maintained.

Rapid Penang bus 203 and 204 to Air Itam (RM1.50 Adult) departs westward on Lebuh Chulia (the main backpacker hotel road) or southbound from the KOMTAR building are handy for visiting both Kek Lok Si Temple and Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera) Funiciular Base Station, approximately 30mins south west of the city center. The driver will inform you of when to alight. Bus 204 departs from the funicular base station to return to Komtar and onward.

The main hub for buses in Georgetown is KOMTAR, the tallest building in town. The secondary hub is located at the Pengkalan Weld (Weld Quay) ferry terminal. All buses depart from the ferry terminal will stopover at KOMTAR, but downtown-bound buses destined for KOMTAR may not go all the way to the ferry terminal; ask the bus operator. There is a new long-distance bus terminal at Sungai Nibong, refer to by bus entry.

Municipal Council of Penang Island provides a free shuttle bus service in Georgetown which runs approximately between the Pengkalan Weld ferry terminal and KOMTAR every 20 minutes Mon-Fri 6AM-11.40PM, plus Saturdays 7:00am-2:00pm(no service on Sundays or public holidays).

Also, foreigners can purchase a Rapid Passport for only RM20 and enjoy a week of unlimited travel onboard all rapid Penang buses.

Places to See in Penang

Ke Lok Si-Kuan Yin Statue

Ke Lok Si-Kuan Yin Statue via Wikimedia

Here is a list of places of interest you can visit in Penang; I didn’t visit all of them but these are the places my friends recommended.

  • All the major heritage building sand clan houses in the George Town inner city! Just carry your camera, enough water to drink, and some protection from sun burn.
  • Thee Kong Tua (Jade Emperor’s Temple) in Air Itam
  • Penang Hill (I wanted to visit this place but i was under renovation; very unlucky huh?)
  • Kek Lok Si Temple
  • Reclining Buddha
  • National Park (Muka Head)
  • Toy Museum
  • Tropical Spice Garden
  • Snake Temple
  • Butterfly Farm

Nothing too exciting at Penang, which seems to me a very quiet city but I do enjoy the quietness. You get nice food and a good place for a short getaway trip for people in Singapore. What’s your favorite if you’ve been to Penang?

More Resources for Penang Travelers


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