Welcome to Penang, one of Malaysia’s many gems located on the northwest coast of the Malaysian Peninsula. More than just an island, Penang is a melting pot of cultures, a paradise for foodies, and a historical hub. With its vibrant street art, bustling markets, and one-of-a-kind street food culture, Penang invites travellers to dive into its unique blend of tradition and modernity.

From the iconic George Town with its colonial architecture to the calming beaches of Batu Ferringhi, Penang boasts attractions for all. Get around the island using a combination of public buses, trishaws, and ride-hailing apps to make the most of your exploration. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a return traveler looking to rediscover the charm, let our travel guide walk you through the essentials.

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Before Penang became a bustling tourist destination it is today, it was a crucial trading post under the influence of the Malay sultanate in the 18th century. The British East India Company then established George Town on the island in the late 18th century, transforming it into a trading hub.

Today, Penang, also known as the “Pearl of the Orient”, has evolved into a UNESCO World Heritage Site, particularly in George Town, which showcases well-preserved colonial architecture, cool street art, and a harmonious blend of diverse traditions. The island has preserved its cultural richness, with Chinese temples, Indian mosques, and British colonial buildings coexisting in an urban tapestry that’s truly unique.

What Penang is best known for is its gastronomic delights, earning it the reputation of the “Food Paradise of Malaysia.” The island’s street food, culinary offerings, and hawker centres beckon foodies from all over the world. Penang’s famed dishes, such as the char kway teow, laksa, and nasi kandar, are iconic and contribute to its status as a the place for outstanding street food.

Image by Steve Douglas.

Visitors also gravitate to Penang for its cultural diversity and historical significance. George Town, with its UNESCO-listed heritage sites and Clan Jetties, really takes visitors back into time. Penang Hill provides panoramic views of the island, while Kek Lok Si Temple showcases intricate Buddhist architecture. The island’s beauty stretches to its pristine beaches, particularly in Batu Ferringhi, offering a relaxing escape for those in search of a sandy getaway.

The island’s history saw waves of migration, with Chinese, Indian, and European influences shaping its cultural landscape. The result is a harmonious blend of traditions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in George Town, showcasing its well-preserved colonial architecture, bold street art, and diverse culinary offerings.

Image by Zhen Hao Chu.

Penang is generally considered safe for women travellers. Malaysia, including Penang, is known for being a relatively safe destination for visitors. The local culture is generally respectful and hospitable, making it a welcoming place for women. But, like all destinations, it’s always wise to practice some form of safety precautions.

Generally safe, it’s still important to be mindful when exploring the city at night. Be sure to use reliable transportation and choose secure accommodations. Most hotels and guesthouses prioritise safety for their guests, so this is not something to be overly concerned about.

Other things to note, keep your valuables secure and avoid overly displaying expensive items in public. Do your research and stay informed of local customs and traditions, and keep emergency numbers with you at all times.

It’s important to note that experiences may vary, and personal safety can depend on individual circumstances and behaviours. By exercising common sense and taking necessary precautions, women travellers can generally enjoy a safe and memorable experience in Penang.

Image by Yaopey Yong.

Getting in and around Penang in itself is pretty easy and there are a multitude of ways you can explore the island. It goes without saying that having a car makes all the difference as it gives you complete freedom as to how and when you want to explore the island. This is also the most popular options for travellers driving into Penang from other parts of Malaysia. But if you’re flying in, there are many options available without having to rent a car.

Utilise the extensive bus network known as Rapid Penang for budget-friendly and efficient way to get around the island. There’s also ride-hailing services like Grab for hassle-free and reliable transportation, which can take you to wherever in Penang. In George Town, you can opt for trishaws as your preferred mode of transport. It’s a unique and fun way to experience the city’s heritage.

Thanks to its compact size, Penang, especially George Town, is perfect for exploration on foot. Wandering through the streets of this city will lead you to hidden gems, street arts, and markets that may not be accessible or easily found if you were in a vehicle.

Pro-tip: When exploring George Town, take your time to wander through its narrow streets and alleys, where surprises await at every turn.

In Penang, the most widely accepted and convenient mode of payment is cash. However, credit and debit cards are also commonly accepted in urban and tourist areas. But in this digital age, QR payments are fast becoming a thing of the norm, so even hawker stalls will have payment options like GrabPay and Touch ‘n Go eWallet. Even street food stalls have QR codes printed and on display, so if you’re not one to carry cash, it’s nothing to fret over. Although, it’s always great to have some cash handy.

In Penang, accommodations cater to various likings, ensuring a comfortable stay for every kind of traveler:


Eastern & Oriental Hotel

Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa

For some luxury and more, choose the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, a historic colonial gem in the heart of George Town. Alternatively, escape to Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa in Batu Ferringhi for a tranquil beachfront retreat. It’s truly one of the best resorts on the stretch, and it’s adults-only pool is a real sell.


Hotel Jen Penang by Shangri-La

The Edison George Town

For a blend of comfort and affordability, consider Hotel Jen Penang by Shangri-La or The Edison George Town. Both offer modern amenities and convenient locations for exploring the island. But if you’re staying in the Batu Feringghi stretch, there’s also Shangri-La Golden Sands, which is perfect for families thanks to its many fun slides and pools.


The Southern Boutique Hotel

Tune Hotel George Town

If you’re on a budget, The Southern Boutique Hotel provides a stylish and affordable option in the heart of George Town. Tune Hotel George Town is another budget-friendly choice with a focus on simplicity and convenience.

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1. George Town Street Art: George Town boasts some of the best street art in Malaysia, and some come from far and wide just witness them and snap some photos while they’re at it. So, when in Penang, make checking out the street art a priority. Let the murals and sculptures that adorn the city, tell you stories of its history and culture.

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2. Penang Hill: Take a funicular train to Penang Hill for panoramic views of the island and the mainland. Explore The Habitat Penang Hill for nature trails and the iconic Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk. This excursion is perfect for those who can’t get enough of being outdoors.

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3. Clan Jetties: One of Penang’s unique must-sees is definitely the Clan Jetties. These are traditional waterfront villages built on stilts, and each jetty represents a Chinese clan, showcasing the island’s cultural diversity.

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4. Kek Lok Si Temple: Visit Kek Lok Si, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, nestled on a hillside. Marvel at its intricate architecture, including the towering Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

Famous for its many delicious dishes, Penang is a foodie’s heaven, and a trip here truly wouldn’t be fruitful without some form of indulgence. With so many to choose from, it’s a hard task to narrow them down to only a few of the best, but here are some worth checking out.

1. Gurney Drive Hawker Centre: Dive into a gastronomic adventure at Gurney Drive Hawker Centre, known for its diverse selection of Penang street food. Try local favourites like oyster omelette, char kway teow, Penang laksa, nasi kandar.

Address: Persiaran Gurney, 10250 George Town

2. Aunty Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery: Want something Michelin-starred? Aunty Gaik Lean’s Malaysia’s first Michelin-star restaurant beckons locals and travellers alike with their unforgettable Peranakan dishes. Some even say this is the best restaurant on the island. Must-try: Ulam Rice and Curry Tumis Fish.

Address: 1 Bishop St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town
Contact: +6017 434 4398

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3. Line Clear Nasi Kandar: Savour the iconic Malaysian dish, nasi kandar, at Line Clear. This no-frills eatery is famous for its flavourful rice dishes accompanied by all kinds of curries. Come here with an empty stomach.

Address: Beside 161 & 177 Penang Road, George Town, 10000 George Town
Contact: +604 614 440

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4. Tek Sen Restaurant: Enjoy a taste of Penang’s Chinese heritage at Tek Sen Restaurant. Known for its traditional family recipes, this restaurant offers a delightful array of dishes in a cozy setting.

Address: 18 Lebuh Carnarvon, George Town, 10100 George Town

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From top-notch establishments to casual and trendy bars, Penang’s nightlife is bustling. Here are some fine recommendations:

1. Good Friends Club: Spoil your alcoholic tastebuds with some of the most innovative cocktails found on the island at this bar. Their pulut hitam cocktail will knock your socks off and have your ordering seconds and thirds. Highly suggest striking up a convo with the bartender if you want to know more about their local-inspired cocktails.

Address: 39 Jalan Gurdwara, 10300 George Town
Phone: +6010 568 0527

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2. Mish Mash: Mish Mash’s unique ambience is one not to be missed, a hidden gem known for its creative cocktails and cozy setting. The skilled mixologists craft drinks using locally sourced ingredients and their pizzas are much to rave about.

Address: 24 Muntri St, 10200 George Town
Phone: +6017 536 5128

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3. No Bar Here: Looking for an upbeat place that is tres chic? Check out No Bar Here, where it’s really a vibe with loud cocktails and delicious music. No reservations require here, just walk in for a fun night out in town.

Address: 25 Jalan Gurdwara, George Town, 10300 George Town

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4. The Canteen At ChinaHouse: Experience the eclectic vibe of ChinaHouse, a unique venue combining a cafe, restaurant, and bar. Enjoy live music, art exhibitions, and an extensive drink menu.

Address: 183B Victoria St, Georgetown, 10300 George Town
Phone: +604 263 7299

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The best time to visit Penang depends on your preferences for weather and activities. The island experiences a tropical climate with relatively consistent temperatures throughout the year. There are two main seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. Dry season is usually from December to February and is considered peak tourist season. All things outdoors are great during this time too and humidity is lower.

Rainy season is in between May to August, so visitors can expect rain to be intense with frequent afternoon showers. But mornings are still sunny. While weather may not be favourable for some, this period is usually when you can expect lower hotel rates. Overall, the best time to visit Penang for a balance of good weather and fewer crowds is during the inter-monsoon periods (March to April and September to November).