Georgetown Penang. Possibly the most eclectic city we’ve ever been to. Not only is it a mixture of varying architectural styles, but also food, cultures and traditions as well as languages and religions. Malay, Chinese, Indian and Thai people all seem to co-exist here peacefully and without any issues whatsoever. It really is fantastic to see.
Penang is a fantastic city and a good gateway town for anyone who wants to travel to South East Asia but may feel a little nervous.
The vast majority of people speak English. There’s lots of cool stuff to do, the food is cheap and super tasty and you don’t even need a travel adapter for your gadgets as they have the same power outlets as we do.
So without further ado, here’s a quick guide to Penang or as we’ve come to call it “South East Asia for beginners”.
Table of Contents
From Langkawi To Penang:
After a few fun-filled days crisscrossing Langkawi on a motorbike (Read more here), it was time to move on. Below is a list of our available options for getting to our next destination, Penang.
#1 Most Expensive: 70 MYR (€15.24)
Ferry straight from Langkawi to Penang, roughly 4 hours
Ferry leaves at 10.30 am, arrives at 3.00 pm and costs.
70 MYR (€15.24)
(Penang to Langkawi – leaves 8.30 am, arrives 2 pm)
#2 Cheapest: 35 MYR (€7.62)
Ferry from Langkawi to Kuala Perlis Leaves Langkawi at 7.30 am, 8 am,9 am, 10.30 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, 3.30 pm, 5 pm, 6 pm and 7 pm. Takes a little over an hour and costs 18 MYR (€3.92)
You can easily walk from the ferry terminal to the Kuala Perlis bus station, it should take no longer than 10 minutes. From here you can catch the bus to Penang with prices starting at as little as 17 MYR (€3.70).
#3 Cheap: 38 MYR (€8.37)
Ferry from Langkawi to Kuala Kedah leaves at 7.30 am, 8.30 am, 10 am, 11.30 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3.30 pm, 5 pm, 6 pm and the last one at 7 pm it takes 1 hour 45 mins and costs 23 MYR (€5)
Outside the ferry terminal, the local bus to the Terminal Bas Shahab Perdana in the centre of Alor Setar centre passes by regularly and for only 2.50 MYR (€0.50). The bus takes around 40 mins to get to the Bus Terminal.
To find the bus stop, walk out of the terminal, take a left and immediate right towards the main road. When you reach the main road take another left and carry on until you come to a large junction. It is near the large ‘Kuala Kedah’ letters. Cross the road and take a right at this junction. On the left-hand side is a blue shelter near road signs. Wait here and the bus should arrive sometime between half past and quarter to the hour.
The bus will drop you in the bus loading bay/car park, behind the Terminal Bas Shahab Perdana.
There are frequent buses to Penang, and Buttersworth, the last buses leaving between 8 and 8.30 pm. Ignore anyone who approaches you and says there are no buses or, obviously enough, attempts to offer you a lift at a cheaper rate than a taxi.
Instead, cross the car park and head into the building on the right-hand side. You will find the ticket counters on the left-hand side and right side of the building so do scout! Either way, there are plenty of buses heading towards both Penang and Butterworth.
If you do get a bus to Butterworth, you will need to take the ferry over to Penang. The ferry costs 1.20 MYR (€0.25), takes 5 minutes to cross and runs until midnight.
We jumped the last bus to Penang (8.30 pm) with the company PlusLiner and paid 13 MYR (€2.83)
Check what bus terminal in Penang you are arriving at as some will travel to KOMAK (in Georgetown) or the Terminal Sungai Nibong which is about 30 minutes south of Georgetown Centre.
Within the terminal grounds, as if facing the main road, head to the left-hand side to take the local Rapid bus to Georgetown. You can jump on #401 to Georgetown. The #401 runs as late as 11 pm (we jumped on one that arrived at 11.20 pm but we think it was delayed arriving so triple-check what times the buses finish at.
The local Rapid buses start running as early as 5.30 am which is handy if you arrive early on an overnight bus.
Buses #301 #303 #304 head towards the jetty which isn’t too far from the Georgetown centre.
Accommodation In Penang:
Dripping Dragon Hostel:
20 MYR (€4) bed in large dorms with cube-like beds (so you do have some privacy). Wifi is woeful but there is a free “buffet” breakfast which is porridge, toast/bread and jam and free tea or coffee (free tea or coffee and water all day). Nice hang-out area with a large TV and a big collection of movies to watch.
There’s a bar on site and they organise pub crawls and some interesting nightlife. It’s a great place if you want to meet people and it’s within walking distance of the Jetty and Komtar Mall bus stops and markets etc.
Private rooms for 50 MYR (€10), including WiFi, free fruit, water and a small semi kitchen i.e. a prep area with access to hot water (handy for making coffee, porridge etc.) Lovely owners and close to cheap delicious street food.
We stayed at Lee’s Homestay via Airbnb. Private room with twin beds, decent wifi and a kitchen close to Gurney Drive within Georgetown. We paid €9 per night, and €32 for three nights including service fees.
Things To Do In Penang:
Sri Mahamariamman Temple:
A colourful Hindu temple in the centre. of little India. Head down around 7.30 pm – 8 pm and watch the locals worship. The priests will happily invite you in and you can take some moments to sit and reflect on Hinduism and soak in the beauty of the temple. Shoes off don’t openly take photos or videos and be respectful.
Street Art DIY Walking Tour:
We did this late in the evening as we heard there were queues to grab a snap with Penang’s most iconic interactive street art murals.
Download the street map here, visit the lesser-known ones early on and hold off for the 3D ones until after 5 p.m. as we found there were no queues. The sun doesn’t set until 7 pm and the murals have a spotlight shining on them so losing daylight isn’t a huge issue.
Coincide the street art tour with the trip to Little India and float among the streets and laneways of the bustling neighbourhood. Be warned, don’t arrive hungry unless you want to eat everything in sight. Even with full bellies, the mouth-drooling smells will have you starving enough to binge.
Take the #101 or #102 towards Batu Ferringhi, mention the “Floating Mosque” to the bus driver and he can tell you the stop or use Maps.me (free) to keep an eye on the journey. The mosque itself is gorgeous to visit, the call to prayer is particularly beautiful. Just make sure you go at high tide or “The floating mosque” will not be floating.
Penang National Park:
From Georgetown take either the #101 or #102 to the National Park for 2.70 MYR (€0.60). The bus will take an hour to reach the National Park.
There are a number of hikes to choose from, the most popular being Monkey Beach or Turtle Beach.
We chose Turtle Beach because A: there’s a sanctuary, B: Monkey Beach was cut off by a landslide and C: Monkeys scare the shit out of us.
Sanctuary opens 10 am – 4.30 pm and closes between 1-2 pm.
Download a free map on Maps.me for the hiking trail.
There is a canopy walk that allows you to glide (or hobble anxiously) across the treetops on a narrow wooden bridge but make sure it is fully open. We made it across 4 platforms to find the rest closed so we couldn’t go any further and had to turn back. Bring plenty of water and lunch as there are no shops or food stalls.
Visit Cat Beach:
A short 5-minute bus ride from Batu Ferringhi. You can just visit or help out for the day. Jump off the bus at the roundabout and take the right. At the end of the road take a left at the Fishing Village Seafood Restaurant and take the second right to the beach. If lost, just head to the beach and follow the cats!
Gurney Drive, behind Gurney Plaza (towards the coast), is a long street full of all different types of street food.
Try Rojak! Cheap and delicious. The perfect dish for sharing. Pick your skewers (each costs 1 – 3 MYR) mostly a selection of fish, chicken, with tofu and egg, and the guys will chop it all up, top it with cucumber and onion salad and drown it in peanut curry sauce. You’ll see all the locals eating it.
Stalls start closing up from 10.30 pm onwards. So there you are now! We hope this guide to Penang was in some way useful to you. If you fancy a bit of a giggle and a little more detail on how we spent our time here you can watch our Penang Instagram highlights here.
Remember, we’re only human, If there’s anything we missed or got wrong, or maybe you just want some more info, have a Penang question or a burning desire to say hi! Please feel free to get in touch.
Until then… Happy Travels TUG x
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