The Ultimate Penang Travel Guide
Penang is a state in northwestern Malaysia that has been recognized by many publications and news sites like Lonely Planet, Yahoo! News, CNN, Forbes, and Los Angeles Times. Penang is an extremely popular tourist destination, and you will be missing out a lot if you do not add it to your bucket list now.
About Penang, Malaysia
Also known as the Silicon Valley of the East, Penang is one of the most urbanized states in Malaysia. It has the highest GDP per capita among all Malaysian states, as well as the highest Human Development Index.
Penang has a highly diverse culture, primarily because of the number of colonizers in the past. This makes the place interesting as the mixes of eastern and western, old and new, and historical and contemporary influences are apparent. As a result, it is almost impossible to run out of things to do and appreciate in Penang.
How to get to Penang from Manila
Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and AirAsia are just some of the airlines that offer connecting flights from Manila to Penang (PEN), and last for at least 6 to 8 hours.
From the airport, you can ride one of the buses that depart every 30 minutes. The bus line Rapid Penang can take you to major landmarks like Komtar Tower in George Town, and to points in Seberang Perai. Fare costs around MYR 2 to 3 (Php 25.50 to 38.25).
Getting Around Penang
- Buses are the cheapest and most common mode of transportation in Penang. However, they are reputedly not as fast as taxis, as they frequently stop to collect passengers. The best part about these buses, however, is that they cover almost every route, and you can get to anywhere starting at MYR 2.
- Just like in any part of the world, taxis are the fastest way of getting from place to place. However, it can get expensive. Furthermore, in Malaysia, taxi drivers are known for not using the meter to decide the fare. Instead, passengers will tell the driver their destination before riding, and they will dictate the price. For this reason, it is best to put your haggling skills into use. Otherwise, get a local tour guide or friend to help out.
- The KTM Intercity Train in Penang can take you to as far as Kuala Lumpur and even Singapore. Unlike the other two vehicles mentioned above, the train is mostly used for long-distance traveling.
Best time to visit Penang
There is no definite “best” time to visit Penang. Malaysia possesses a tropical rainforest climate, meaning there is a fair amount of precipitation almost monthly, and that there are no temperature extremes like subzero winters or harsh summers. Generally, however, the weather becomes more stable from November to January. During that time, the climate becomes ideal for sightseeing and going on a walking tour.
Best Places to Stay in Penang
Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel
Location: 20, Stewart Ln, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang
Price: Php 510 via Agoda.com
Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel is perfect for both solo backpackers and group travelers. They give free drinks between 8 PM to 9 PM. That means there is a party here nightly. Party with your friends or go meet fellow travelers.
Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel
Location: 62 Lebuh Muntri, George Town, Penang Island 10200
Lowest Price: Php 420 via Agoda.com
For cozy, affordable rooms and a close encounter with local life, book a room in Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel. Here, they have minimalistic rooms that are spacious enough. They also offer breakfast here, just like your actual home away from home.
Location: 2-16 Lorong Stewart, George Town, Penang Island 10200
Price: Php 8,800 via Agoda.com
Seven Terraces is perfect in terms of affordability, accessibility, and proximity to the best destinations in Penang Island. The hotel screams tradition in every corner and everything is just lovely here. Seven Terraces is one of the four George Town Heritage + Hotels in Penang.
The Edison George Town, Penang
Location: 15 Lebuh Leith, George Town, Penang Island 10200, Malaysia
Price: Php 4,851 via Agoda.com
Another historical building that is beautifully refurbished to fit contemporary times is The Edison George Town. Rooms are spacious, come with afternoon tea service, and the hotel is within the UNESCO Zone in Penang. Note that this boutique hotel does not have an elevator.
Where to Eat in Penang
- Tek Sen Restaurant – Tek Sen Restaurant is popular for its delicious Malaysian dishes. If you want to try the flavors of the state in a fine dining restaurant, then this is the place for you. They also serve Chinese and a variety of Asian dishes.
- Andrew’s Kampung – If you and your friends are on a limited budget, go to Andrew’s Kampung. It offers a huge selection of Malaysian and Asian dishes for fairly affordable prices. While here, don’t forget to order a serving of Malaysian curry and fried ice cream!
- Wheeler’s Coffee – Do you have the rest of the afternoon off? Drop by Wheeler’s Coffee, a nice and cozy café that serves pizza, sandwiches, and a host of healthy veggie dishes and soup. Try their aglio olio here too—you’ll love it.
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Internet Access in Penang
The average internet speed in Penang is around 6.0 Mbps, a slightly faster one compared to the Philippine average 5.5 Mbps. However, this speed can considerably go down if you connect to a public place (i.e., local café, your hostel, etc.).
If you need to connect to the internet, consider getting Smart Travel WiFi. You don’t have to share it with others, plus it is cost-effective for short-time travels, at just Php 390 for a day. If you can’t, you can always purchase a SIM card, which is readily available in shopping malls in Penang.
Best Things to do in Penang
- Walk along the Street of Harmony – Start your day right by exploring the Street of Harmony, an area that where temples, places of worship, and other cultural sites are located next to each other. Some landmarks include 19th century St. George’s Church, The Goddess of Mercy Temple, and Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling mosque. If you’re not a fan of walking, then…
- Ride a trishaw – A trishaw is like the Philippine tricycle, but it is not motorized. A lot would agree that riding a trishaw is the best way to explore the UNESCO Heritage Zone. Most trishaw drivers are locals who are more than happy to give some history on each site, like Little India, Melayu Lane, and Penang Road.
- Try some assam laksa from the local street markets – Asam laksa is a Malaysian poached fish dish that is most known for its distinctly spicy and sour taste, which comes from the ingredients lemongrass, chili, and galangal, a variety of ginger that has a stronger flavor.
- Take unlimited photos in Made in Penang: The Interactive Museum – Propose to your loved one in a creative (and whacky) way, touch a giant tempura, or pretend to be a local fisherman in this one-of-a-kind museum. You can take unlimited photos for an entrance fee of just MYR 15 (Php 192).
- Conquer Penang Hill – Penang Hill is a series of hills in the northern part of Penang Island. Millions of tourists have visited this hill since 2014. You decide on how to conquer this hill that overlooks George Town: climb, hike, or ride the Penang Hill Railway, which transports people from the base to and from the summit regularly.
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Best Places to Shop in Penang
- Chowrasta Bazaar – Nothing beats visiting the local market when looking for a souvenir. Chowrasta Bazaar, which has been in Penang for at least two centuries, is a wet market, but if go to the second floor, you will find some interesting shops that sell unique handicrafts, secondhand books, and a variety of other items that make good souvenirs.
- Thieves’ Market – The Thieves’ Market got its name from a rather shady history—it used to be a place where stolen items (like umbrellas, caps, and shoes) are re-sold! Today, the market has evolved into a flea market of sorts, where you will find almost everything ranging from trinkets to woodcrafts and clocks. Make sure to catch this at 8:30 AM.
- Little India – This small part in Penang has a lot of interesting Hindi culture clothes, handicraft, and jewelry shops, as well as many food stalls and Indian cafés. It gets busy at certain times of the year, and when it does, expect to hear Bollywood music!
Penang Tour Packages
Georgetown Heritage Tour Visit Penang’s Georgetown (Book now) – a modern metropolis and a city with old historical traditions. Explore old Chinese temples Hock Teik Cheng Sin and Cheah Kongsi and also see an old luxurious mansion and learn about the city from your English speaking local guide.
Penang Hill and Temple Sightseeing (Book Now) – Explore a beautiful Buddhist temple, Kek Lok Si, with its stunning architecture and sculptures. Get an insight into a local culture from your informative Malaysian English speaking guide.
Heritage on a Plate Food Tour (Book Now) – Visit four different food tasting locations and sample up to 6 different variations of Malaysia cuisine.
Penang Travel Tips
- Do not leave your hostel or hotel without an umbrella. Unexpected rain showers are common here in Malaysia.
- Always bring a water bottle with you. The weather here is hot and humid… just like in most parts of the Philippines!
- Observe the proper dress code especially when visiting places of worship. Penang is a melting pot of cultures, so it is best to be wary of customs and etiquette at all times.