Penang, Malaysia

Known affectionately as the Pearl of the Orient, the city of Penang in Malaysia is consistently listed as one of the very best travel destinations in the world and it is easy to see why. Backed by pristine scenery around the island and an ever-growing population of tourists, Penang has in recent times consolidated itself as THE destination to visit in Malaysia.

This is thanks to the island's reputation as a haven for mouth-watering culinary adventures. Penang's street food is world-renowned and no trip to the city is ever complete without embarking on a food trail to sample some of the very best the city has to offer. A good place to start is along Gurney Drive.

Penang has also looked to establish itself as a green and healthy state in Malaysia. That is proven by the increasing number of cyclists on the roads in Penang. In fact, when in Penang, one should rent a bicycle and go in search of the famous Penang street murals in George Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fancy a little time off from all the exploring? Penang has many artsy and modern cafes and bars and visiting one of the ambient establishments (might we suggest café hopping?) is bound to be an enjoyable experience of good coffee and even better enjoyment. So what are you waiting for? Come visit the city of Penang and be dazzled by its culinary indulgence and cultural heritage now!

Tips for travelers: Things to know before visiting Penang, Malaysia

Trip101 has partnered with over 200 accredited and experienced tour guides from more than 50 countries to ensure you receive the most accurate and authentic travel information. These guides bring a wealth of local expertise, offering insights that go beyond the typical tourist experience. Trust the travel tips from experts who live and breathe their destinations to provide you with unparalleled local knowledge.

These insightful tips are shared by our accredited Penang tour guide(s), Vincent

Getting Around In Penang
Getting Around In Penang

How far away is city center from the airport, and what's the easiest way to get there?

The airport is around 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the city center, which adds up to about a 30-minute drive. The best way to get there is by using the popular e-hailing service, Grab, which is easily available. Alternatively, you can use conventional taxis, but they do not run on meters. Instead, you need to purchase a ticket at the counter in the arrival section of the airport, with the price depending on your destination. For instance, going to the city will cost a certain amount, while going to the beach area will be slightly more expensive. The third option is to rely on public transport (buses), but tourists often avoid buses because they may not reach their exact destination, requiring an additional cab ride from the bus stop to their accommodation.

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Local Food
Local Food

What are some of the best local food to try in Penang?

Some must-try local foods in Penang include roti canai with chai tarik, a popular breakfast option featuring a type of flatbread served with various curries and a "pulled" tea. Mee goreng, a Malay dish of fried noodles, is another favorite. Char kway teow, fried flat noodles, is a staple dish in Penang and a must-try for visitors. Assam laksa, a spicy, savory, and sweet noodle soup, offers a distinctive flavor. Curry noodles and nasi kandar, an Indian Muslim dish consisting of rice served with a variety of curries and side dishes, are also highly recommended. Satay, skewered and grilled meat which can be chicken, beef, or pork, is another local favorite. For snacks, travelers should try ban chien kuih, a Chinese sweet-filled pancake, and apam balik, a thick, fluffy pancake with various fillings. Peanut barley candy is a popular snack, and for dessert, cendol, a traditional treat made with shaved ice, coconut milk, and palm sugar served with green rice flour jelly, is a must-try.

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Healthcare
Healthcare

What healthcare facilities are available for tourists/foreigners in Penang?

Penang has international-standard medical facilities, promoted through the government's medical tourism initiative. Gleneagles Hospital Penang is a notable example, with 80% of its patients coming from other countries, particularly Indonesia. They choose Penang for its superior facilities and lower costs. Penang has about six international hospitals that attract many foreigners, including those from Indonesia, Thailand, and China. Many expatriates also choose to live in Penang because of the high-quality medical facilities available.

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Staying Connected
Staying Connected

Should travelers consider getting a local SIM card? If so, would it be cheaper to grab one at the airport upon arrival or wait and buy one at a local shop in the city?

Yes, it is suggested for travelers to get a local SIM card. The airport has a section where you can buy SIM cards from various brands all in one place, making it convenient. Prices are more or less the same whether you buy at the airport or from a local shop. For short stays, a one-week SIM card is recommended. Additionally, SIM cards can also be purchased at shopping malls, which have dedicated floors for mobile telecommunication services.

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Money Matters
Money Matters

Where can you usually find the best exchange rate in the city?

The best place to exchange currency for good rates is in Georgetown City, where roadside shops offer better rates due to lower rental costs. Although currency exchange centers are available at the airport and in shopping malls; the rates there are typically not as favorable because of higher rental expenses. One recommended spot is Kassim in Georgetown.

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Important Travel Info
Important Travel Info

Are there any medications or items travelers should avoid bringing into the country?

Drugs are strictly prohibited. Travelers can bring their own medication, especially if they have health challenges. However, it is advisable to bring only a supply sufficient for the duration of their stay in Penang or Malaysia. Refer to this link for an updated list of restricted items from Malaysia Airports: https://airports.malaysiaairports.com.my/passenger-guide/lags-restricted-items

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Attractions
Attractions

Are there any dress codes to follow when visiting religious sites or monuments in Penang?

For Muslim attractions, especially for ladies, proper attire is required, including a full-length dress and a scarf to cover the head. Some mosques, such as one in Georgetown, provide robes for visitors. Shirts with sleeves and skirts below the knee, pants, or jeans are acceptable. Sleeveless tops and short pants are not allowed. For Chinese and Indian attractions, there are generally no strict dress codes. However, you may be required to remove your shoes and hat or cap when entering a temple.

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What To Buy
What To Buy

Where are the best places to find souvenirs in Penang?

Chowrasta Market, located in Georgetown along Penang Road, is a popular place to buy souvenirs and local goods. It is the oldest wet and dry market in Penang, built about 200 years ago. The market opens at 6:30am and closes around 12:30pm to 1:00pm. It is known for offering a variety of items, and it is supposed to be cheaper, though this may vary.

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Climate Tips
Climate Tips

What's the best time to travel to Penang weather-wise? Are there any seasons to avoid?

Penang has two types of weather: hot or rainy. The rainy season typically occurs towards the third quarter of the year, though climatic changes have made weather patterns less predictable. Generally, the temperature ranges from 33 to 37 degrees Celsius. The best time to visit Penang is from October to February, when many activities are available, especially for those arriving on cruises. It is generally better to avoid the rainy season as it can be messy and risky. The dry season is preferred for tourism. On hot days, it's advisable to avoid direct sunlight by walking in sheltered areas or along the shade and to bring a water bottle.

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Area Guide
Area Guide

Which neighborhoods in Penang have the best nightlife scene and events?

For nightlife or entertainment, I suggest the following neighborhoods: 1. Queens Waterfront 2. Straits Quay 3. Chulia Street, George Town

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