The island of Penang, derived from its former name Pinang in Malaysian, is a great place to add your travel bucket list if you intend to explore other places in Malaysia beyond Kuala Lumpur. Penang is a miniature cultural world of Malaysia, modern and ancient that I have felt right from the first time I arrived here. Penang is not only has the vibrant and gentle of George Town with beautiful murals, but also a land of art, stylish coffee shops and a rich culinary culture. So, are you planning a budget trip to Penang (Penang budget trip) and don’t know what to do in Penang? Let’s check out our wonderful Penang trip blog (Penang travel blog, Penang blog) with the fullest Penang travel guide (Penang guide, Penang budget travel guide) from how to get there, what to eat, where to stay to help you make a perfect Penang itinerary on a budget!
- Penang travel blog — The fullest Penang guide for first-timers
- Exploring Penang – Things to do & what to see in The Pearl of the Orient of Malaysia
- Penang Malaysia things to do — 9 awesome things to do in Penang from cooking curries to zip-lining
- Penang travel tips — Some best tips for traveling and dining in Penang Island, Malaysia
- 4 reasons why you should visit Penang
Penang trip blog: How to get to Penang?
There are many different ways to get to Penang
If you depart from Hanoi and want to get directly to Penang, the plane is the best means, although usually you still have to transit in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, domestic flights of Malaysia are very cheap with Air Asia or Malaysia Airlines, round-trip tickets for Kuala Lumpur – Penang route are sometimes down to under $45. From Penang there are also some direct flights from other Southeast Asian cities such as Yangon, Bangkok or Singapore.
Getting from the airport to the city
The simplest and fastest way is still take a taxi, but to save money you can take the bus. The airport is about 20km from the center of George Town (because visitors often love to book hotels here) and note that the traffic in Penang is crazy. The street is very nice but there are also many vehicles, the waiting time for red light is too long leading to traffic congestion.
The shuttle bus from the airport to the city is parked just outside the arrival hall of the airport, under the bus company that operates all of public transport here, called Rapid Penang. You can take bus number 101 to enter the city, the fare is only 2.7RM, but sometimes the bus takes more than 1 hour to get to city. In the return trip, you also catch this bus to back the airport, but very bad luck. I spent for an hour to wait but no see any bus 101 to return to the airport, finally, I was so panic, and have to catch a taxi for RM35 (bargained from RM40). The taxi ran so fast, it took only about 30 minutes to reach the airport although the road is quite congested. (1 USD → 4.115 RM).
If you getting to Penang from Kuala Lumpur or other Malaysian cities
Because Penang is located not far from the mainland but also has a large bridge across the sea connecting mainland and the island, so alternative flying, there are many other ways to visit the island.
- By train: It takes 10 hours from Kuala Lumpur to get to Jalan Bagan Dalam and stop at Butterworth Railway Station in the mainland near the ferry station, to get to the island you have to take a taxi or take a ferry. The ferry runs from 6AM to 12:30 PM every 10 minutes with a trip and takes about 20 minutes to reach the island, the ticket price is also very cheap, only 1.5RM and the return trip is free.
- By bus: There are some buses from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, the traveling time takes about 5 hours and usually to the end stop is Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal near the airport. You can book tickets through the website: 12go.asia.
Penang budget trip: Getting around on the island of Penang
Rent a motorbike to travel on the island
Although the bus frequently runs on the island, but I recommend renting a motorbike to seft-drive to take initiative. The price of motorbike rental in Penang is also affordable, but gasoline in Malaysia is so cheap, the gas price is only 2/3 of the gasoline price of Vietnam.
There are many motorbike rental shops along the Lebuh Chulia street, I rented one from an old guy with long hair and tall. This man looked quite fierce and seemed to be careful, deliver a motorbike to me and giving very detail instructions, telling me to go carefully and take care of his motorbike. The rental price depends on the type of motorbike, the cheapest one is Dream (a type of gear motorbike). I rented a scooter that was still very new at RM29 / day, too cheap, but it was very new one and good quality.
Regarding the traveling by motorbike on the island, you should note that Malaysia has a law on the left side of the road opposite to Vietnam, so you need to get acquainted gradually. The road in Penang must be said to be very beautiful, the traffic is consciously organized, when you park at a certain point, remember to park the motorbike correctly, there will often be very clear directions. Only one crazy thing about riding a motorbike in Penang is a lot of traffic lights, but the waiting time is super long, at the large intersections the waiting time can be up to 2.5 minutes at a time.
Walking in George Town
George Town is also quite large but you can still easily walk to visiting and eating. In the center of George Town, there are many good shops, eateries, suitable for walking, in addition, the Street Art area is also very good for strolling.
Penang blog: Where to stay when traveling to Penang?
George Town: Of course, because this is the center of all services on the island. Room rates here are also quite cheap and close to the night markets, super rich food. This area is about 40 minutes from the airport by car.
Batu Ferringhi Beach Area: This area concentrates many resorts and 5-star hotels, about 45 minutes drive from George Town. Passing the traffic jam area in center, you will reach the section running along the very beautiful and quiet mountainside road. You can find, check rates, reviews and book hotels in this area on Agoda.com or Booking.com.
Also you can refer to The Frame Guesthouse (Agoda.com or Booking.com) that I stayed when I came to Penang, this is a hostel located on Lebuh Chulia Street in George Town old town, mainly for backpackers in dirty chic design style but very clean. The space in the hostel is quite airy, mainly European backpackers, so it is very comfortable to stay. Price range 35RM / bed in a mixed room with 6 beds, breakfast included.
In addition, you can refer to one of the best Airbnb in Penang: Beautiful Cosy.Mountain View.Swim Pool at $16/night or 好评中！Seaview CleanCozy Suite WiFi+Netflix 海景套房@安居小岛 at $29/night.
–> Airbnb link discount up to $35 for the first booking here: https://www.airbnb.com/c/anht5185
Penang travel guide: Discover Penang cuisine
It is no coincidence that I titled the article that “traveling to Penang a week is not enough”, in addtion to so many tourist attractions, one thing will keeps you in the city – this beautiful island is cuisine. Penang has a wide variety of traditional Muslim dishes, Malaysian street-food, and many restaurants and cafes with its own unique dishes, which a week to try is not enough.
Regarding street food, where bustling and most famous is in Chulia Street, the eateries here are open until 12 pm with the countless street foods such as:
- Char Kway Teow 炒 粿 條 (Fried flat noodles): Fried egg noodles with shrimp and bean sprouts.
- Koay Teow Th’ng 粿 条 汤: A type of soup cooking with meat, fish and rice noodles.
- Penang Assam Laksa (Assam Laksa/Spicy & Sour Fish Noodles): A famous traditional dish in Penang with mackerel stewed in a broth with tamarind, lemon, chili and shrimp, extremely rich in flavor.
- Penang Rojak: A typical salad of Penang with peanuts, squid and a few thin slices of pineapple.
- Nasi Kandar: A Muslim dish, if you are not familiar, it will be quite difficult to eat, it is characterized by the main orange color of curry and spices.
- Curry Mee: A very popular dish in Penang, the main ingredients are egg yolk noodles and vermicelli, shrimp, scallops, squid, tofu and meat and main ingredient of curry sauce.
In addition, you can also enjoy some dishes in the cafes, because each shop has their own signature dish. For example, Mugshot cafe with Bacon egg bagel is quite famous.
Penang trip blog: Getting around the attractions in Penang on a motorbike
List of main attractions you can note as below:
Wandering in Chulia Street – The bustling street in George Town
Referring to George Town, everyone thinks of Chulia because this is the main street which concentrates many cafes, restaurants and street food, especially bustling at night. If you love nighlife, you can not ignore the bars here, with vibrant live music, delicious drinks and beautifully decorated.
Around the George Town area, there are many other attractions, if you have time to wandering you can visit such as St. George’s Church, Little India,.. Remember to rent a Trishaw, the signature vehicle in Penang for your group to riding around the streets and take photos.
Take pictures in the Street Art neighborhood
This seems to be a symbol of George Town with many murals on large walls stretching across many streets. Coming to Penang, you couldn’t help but take pictures with these funny pictures.
Tip: The paintings on the wall may be located on different streets, you can see on the map quite clearly, but some pictures have been removed and replaced so don’t be too surprised if you do not find the picture you are looking for. Some of the paintings are located in the streets farther than you have to drive around to see.
Take a train up Penang Hill
Every big city always has a place for you to stand on it and see the whole city view, Penang Hill is such a place. On Penang Hill is an entertainment complex similar to Ba Na Hill in Da Nang, although not as large, with restaurants, gardens and a quite romantic love lock bridge. The highlight of Penang Hill is the train that takes you to the top of the hill, not a cable car but a small train going up on a steep rail.
How to get there: Getting to the foothills of Penang Hill, buy a ticket, priced at RM30 / adult.
Tip: You should come here in the afternoon and can stay until evening to see the shimmering city whe it lights up. Coming here in the morning, if the bad luck meets the foggy day, we cannot see anything. Train time is 6.30 am – 11 pm.
Food Street of Gurney Drive
This neighborhood next to Chulia Street is Penang’s street food paradise. Here sell almost all the typical street food of Penang, open from morning to midnight at very cheap prices. In addition, near Gurney Drive, there is the busy shopping district of Gurney Plaza, which concentrates a lot of high-end fashion brands, if you are a shopping fan, you can not miss this place.
Also regarding the food street, you can consider adding Viva Local Food Haven, which is a truly culinary paradise. Here is almost a foodcourt-like gathering area with a campus of about 1000 square meters, each eatery have a small stall around and in the middle of a dining table for visitors. Diners order their food, then they will bring it to their table, the number of restaurants as well as a lot of dishes for you to choose.
Kek Lok Si Temple
This is the largest temple in Penang quite close to Penang Hill, so if go to Penang Hill, let combine this place into one itinerary. Although not as large and majestic as the Fo Guang Shan Temple in Kaohsiung – Taiwan, Kek Lok Si is also one of the largest temples in Southeast Asia. The temple is located on a mountain top that is not too high to be able to ride a motorbike, standing here can overlook the sea, high-rise buildings in Penang.
Batu Ferringhi Beach
This beach is located in the northwestern part of the island, where luxury resorts and 5-star hotels are concentrated. It takes 30 to 45 minutes to drive from George Town depending on traffic conditions, but in general the mountain road is very nice. Batu Ferringhi Beach has a long sandy beach, but due to the lack of rich flora as in Langkawi Island, so mainly people come here to walk, swim and playing games such as parachuting, jet skiing…
Right near this Batu beach, there is a night market selling a lot of things, but mostly miscellaneous items like clothes, hats or bags … in general, the things are not very nice and you have to bargain hard, otherwise, walking around the street is also fine.
Visiting old houses
Penang is a city with a long-standing culture, and is a busy trading hub for hundreds of years, so on the island there are still many ancient houses with high cultural values. Ancient houses such as Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion or Peranakan is currently opens to visitors, entrance tickets at around 15RM. These houses bearing ancient Indian or Chinese architectural styles that are well worth a visit.
ESCAPE Adventureplay and Penang Butterfly Farm
ESCAPE Adventureplay Park is located quite far from the city center, must go through Batu Ferringhi beach and is a place for those who love to play adventure games and are eager to explore. There are a number of games, both traditional and modern, such as walking on stilts, bungee jumping, rope walking, …
Right near the amusement park is the Penang Butterfly Farm. The flora here is extremely rich and green, is a good environment for flowers to grow as well as thousands of colorful butterflies living on nectar. This farm opened in 1986 with a campus of nearly 1 hectare also acts as a research center for butterflies.
Chew Clan Jetties Floating Village (Clan Jetties Of Penang)
This floating village located on the east coast near George Town, built in the 19th century by migrants from Fujian, China, used to be a busy trading port. Currently the houses in this area are protected as cultural heritage. Come here to visit to walk on jetties, to immerse yourself in people’s daily life and buy cute souvenirs.
In addition to the main attractions mentioned above, you can visit the night market in Tanjung Bungah area, Penang National Park, the administrative building of Penang City Hall, … That is to say, eating and playing in Penang is not enough for a week, even at first glance, the island is not too large. If you want to experience the delicious Penang cuisine, stylish cafes or the typical old houses of Penang but limited time, you need to make a reasonable itinerary and schedule, so you will not miss the must-see spots on your journey.
Bonus: Map of attractions in Penang.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in and from Penang you can refer to
- Private Penang Airport Transfers (PEN) for Penang
- Private City Transfers for Penang and Surrounding Cities
- Shared Penang International Airport (PEN) Transfers for Georgetown or Batu Ferringhi
- Explore Georgetown
- Penang Hill and Temple Sightseeing
- Penang Heritage & Street Food Tour
- Georgetown Scenic Night Tour
- KL TravelPass (Metro Card) in Kuala Lumpur
- [SALE] 4G Prepaid SIM Card (MY Airports Pick Up) for Malaysia
- 4G WiFi (MY Airport Pick Up) for Malaysia
Are you looking for more top things to do in Penang: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Read more: Penang travel blog — The fullest guide for a budget trip to Penang of Malaysia. And Penang in 1 day: Let’s check it out here.