Let us help you plan your dream trip to Penang. This travel guide will give you advice on when to go, what to do, where to stay and tips to make your holiday a memorable experience.

Is Penang Expensive?

It’s cheap to eat street food and at hawker centres. Even dinner at a mid-range restaurant won’t cost that much. However, wine is expensive and hotels charge a tourism tax.

I would say that Thailand is slightly cheaper but Penang is still much better value than Europe, Australia, or North America.

Is It Safe in Penang?

Penang is relatively safe. You just need common travel sense as petty crimes are committed here. See our Malaysia Travel Guide for more information on safety issues.

street art of a red door and a motorbike

When Should I go to Penang?

December to March is the ideal time for your trip to Penang. The rainy season is April to November, with October being the wettest.

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What Is Penang Known For?

Penang is known for its beaches, street food, and Georgetown, its well preserved cultural capital.

Historical Heritage

Founded by Captain Francis Light of The British East India Company in 1786, Georgetown became the first British settlement in Southeast Asia.

Due to its well-preserved cultural and historical heritage, parts of Georgetown were added to the World Heritage list by UNESCO in 2008.

There are more than 1700 historic buildings within the Georgetown Core Zone. Many heritage traders still exist and you can see examples of signboard carvers, pastry bakers, kapok pillow makers, and shoemakers along with many more.

There are too many places to see to list them all but Penang Tourism has lots of different maps available to download that show all the attractions and places of interest.

Street Art

One of the best ways to explore Georgetown is to follow the street art trail. The murals here have become world-famous and there is plenty to see. The Tourism Bureau has street art maps to download and plan your route.

My tip is to get there early (before 9 am) so it’s not too hot and to avoid the large crowds.

street art of a girl and a boy standing on a swing

Peranakan Culture

In Malaysia, the term Peranakan refers to mainly the community of Chinese unique to this part of the world, especially in the Straits Settlements (Penang, Malacca, and Singapore).

Also known as Babas & Nyonyas, they adopted some ways of the local Malays as well as Colonial British. This created a unique lifestyle and their own version of the Malay language called Baba Malay.

The Pinang Peranakan Mansion is a great insight into how Peranakans lived. It depicts the typical home of a rich Baba and gives you a glimpse into their lifestyle.

The building itself was built at the end of the 19th Century and was the residence of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee. He was not a Baba but his house was typical of the Peranakan design with Chinese carved wood and English floor tiles.


Penang Hill is the most popular viewpoint in Penang. You can read more about it on our guide to Penang Hill.


Kek Lok Si Temple is probably the most iconic place in Penang and was the highlight of our trip. You can read about it in our post on Kek Lok Si Penang.

Other temples to visit are:

chinese thai burmese style pagoda with 10,000 buddhas

Clan Jetties

The Clan Jetties also form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are six jetties (used to be seven before a fire demolished one) that are home to various Chinese clans. These houses on stilts are over a century old.

It wasn’t until 1957 that the jetty settlements had water and electricity; before that, they carried water in kerosene tins.

As they are not living on land, none of the families have to pay any tax.

Please remember that people live here so please ask permission before taking photos of their homes.

beautiful chinese clan wooden jetty on stilts

The Blue Mansion

Cheong Fatt Tze, or The Blue Mansion, was an elaborate building in its time. Cheong Fatt Tze wanted to build something to preserve his heritage and his love for tradition. No expense was spared as he brought in artisans from Southern China and furnishings from the UK.

The Blue Mansion is now a boutique hotel but they run tours daily.


While I’m not a big shopper while travelling, I do like to spend an hour or so seeing what a place has to offer. The best malls in Penang are Gurney Paragon Mall and Gurney Plaza, both located along Gurney Drive.

The Batu Ferringhi Night Markets are legendary and a popular place to shop. Get your bargaining skills ready to get a good price. It’s mainly the usual market merchandise of fake anything, souvenirs, and home decor.


Penang is also known for its beaches. Most visitors head to Batu Ferringhi but Tanjung Bungah, Gertak Sanggul, Pasir Panjang and Teluk Bahang are all lovely.

sandy beach with a boat in the sea and island in the distance


Although this is last on my list, it was the main reason for our trip. I’d heard that Penang is a food lover’s dream and it certainly lived up to its reputation.

Street Food is delicious and safe to eat. There are so many hawker stalls dotted around as well as food courts where you will find many under one roof. We always look to see which ones have queues as they would have the most turnover and freshest food.

If you’re not sure where to go or what foods to try, consider a food tour. It’s a great way to try the local food specialties with an expert guide.

Where Can I Go in Penang at Night?

There’s still plenty to do once the sun goes down. Some of my favourite choices are:

Where to Stay

It depends on whether you want to base yourself in Georgetown or by the beach. As I’m a beach lover, we opted for Batu Ferringhi where a lot of resort-type hotels are based.

Some of these include Parkroyal Resort (where we stayed), Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, and Hard Rock Hotel.

Hotels in Georgetown worth looking at are The Edison George Town, Seven Terraces, Jawi Peranakan Mansion, and Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion.

Is Penang Worth Visiting?

Yes, it definitely is. The food and culture are amazing. Just beware that the ocean may not be swimmable. It can be quite dirty and there’s a presence of jellyfish. However, this is a small inconvenience and most of the hotels have great pools anyway.

We enjoyed walks along the beach and watching the stunning sunsets over the ocean.

The food was our main draw and we enjoyed our visit to Kek Lok Si temple. Georgetown is interesting and has some amazing historical architecture. Street art fans will love the 100’s of murals around the city. We didn’t get to the National Park but the hike trails there are supposed to be very good.

view of the beach with a boat and a para glider

Travel Resources to Plan Your Trip to Penang

Ready to book your trip to Penang? Here are some resources that I use to get the best deals:

I haven’t used it but Hostelworld has great reviews.


I hope this guide provides you with enough information to plan your trip to Penang.

bright coloured doors with words the ultimate guide to penang


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  1. Vanessa Shields says:

    Great post on another city I would love to travel to! I think I would love everything about Penang enjoying the beaches, street art and eating way too much street food! That is fascinating that they don’t pay any tax to live on the jetties. I would think it would be higher having an oceanfront property. Lol. A good rule I think!

    1. haha I bet a lot of oceanfront properties wish that was the case 🙂

  2. Traveling to Penang is the closest thing you can get to the old world charm of Malaysia.
    It’s raw and beautiful and brims with history.
    It seems like yesterday since we left and lived on this beguiling island. I am missing it already 😉
    Thanks for sharing 😉

    1. It certainly does have a charm about it. I can imagine you must miss it.

  3. Francesca says:

    Would love to go to Penang! I love the colours and the food tour sounds absolutely perfect!

    1. The food is amazing there.

  4. I’ve seen bits of the street art at times. It definitely seems my kind of place, street art and food, temples. And swimming in the sea is not for me anyway. I’m sold.

    1. I must admit that the food is a major draw.

  5. I missed out on visiting Penang when I was in Malayisa. The street art’s so iconic and I’d like to try the food too! My only question is, is it spicy? I’m a complete wimp when it comes to the spice!

    1. We didn’t find it overly spicy but we both enjoy a bit of heat. There are dishes like satay that are mild and some dishes have the chilli on the side.

  6. Such a wonderful article! We have a trip planned for December to Thailand and this is so exciting! Thanks so much for sharing all of these recommendations.

    1. Glad you enjoyed reading it Kevin.

  7. I absolutely love Penang! My only regret is that I didn’t stay longer than a weekend. I basically just wandered around eating and looking at the street art, which don’t get me wrong was fun too 🙂 Great tips for next time!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it, Dennis.

  8. Great article, Wendy! I loved visiting Penang – pretty much ate my way through it as I hunted for street art! 🙂

  9. What a fascinating place. My cousin absolutely loves it and now I can understand why.

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