6 reasons to visit beautiful, budget-friendly Penang
An island north of Malaysia, Penang is not an overseas destination that comes top of mind. With streets vibrant with heritage structures and street art, and its world-famous street food, among others, Penang can be a refreshing surprise, if you give it a chance.
Walking around the capital is like walking back in time, and through different, colorful cultures.
George Town, Penang’s capital, is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with streets upon streets of charming ancient houses designed with a mix of British, Malay, and Chinese architecture, and ornate British colonial buildings. Penang is a melting pot of cultures given its rich history as a trading post and its past as a British colony. A colorful illustration of this is Harmony Street, where different religions flourish, and where church, mosque, and temple alike can be found.
Outside the capital, other heritage structures can be explored too, like the Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple with its massive complex.
There is street art almost everywhere.
Aside from the charming old houses and ornate buildings, there is street art at almost every corner of George Town. From caricature art made from welded wire, to mixed media scenes of daily Penang life, and glorious, colorful cat murals, the street art at almost every corner of George Town makes the capital even more vibrant.
Between the heritage structures and the street art all around, you can easily take days walking around and still see something new.
It is perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers, too.
While Penang’s main showcase is culture and heritage, it has beautiful natural sights, too. Being an island, naturally, Penang has beaches where you can take a dip or simply relax. Batu Ferringhi is the usual go-to area.
Must-visit among Penang’s nature spots is Penang Hill, where the air is cool – similar to Tagaytay – and where trees, including century-old ones, thrive. The Habitat in Penang Hill in particular has nature trails to walk among both ancient and new trees. There are also canopy walks.
Penang Hill also offers spectacular views of the city, both beautiful during the day and night. Getting to Penang Hill is also quite an adventure as you take a funicular railway ride up!
And, speaking of adventure, you can also include nature encounters with an adrenaline rush in your Penang itinerary. Escape Park offers activities like tree climbing, tree swings, aerobat, and more.
It is a foodie paradise.
Penang is recognized by travelers and media alike as among the top food destinations in the world. From street food to charming restaurants, there is much to explore in Penang. Because of the many rich cultures present here, there is a variety of food to try, too – Malay, Chinese, and Indian, among others. Must-try is Penang’s Assam laksa, with its unique savory flavor and spiciness, and the tasty fried noodles of char kway teow, among many others. And, delicious food can go as low as less than 5 ringgit (below P70). Check this link for a list of some food worth trying.
It’s easy to get around.
You can easily spend your entire trip in Penang just walking around in George Town, to take in the heritage houses and buildings, entering museums and clan houses, look for cat street art, and go on food trips. There is also a free shuttle bus going around George Town. There is much to explore, and accommodations usually offer free maps for heritage walks, street food trips, and street art, so you’re all set – in fact, even two days of walking around may not be enough.
There are also the Rapid Penang buses for going around and outside Georgetown. This is how you can go to Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang Hill, and Batu Ferringhi. There are even buses to and from the airport. For a bus route and guide, check here.
It fits all budgets.
From hostel to hotel, street food to fine dining, and bus to private car, Penang offers options for all budgets. You can tailor your itinerary where you can scrimp on one expense and splurge on another. Food and bus fare, particularly, are as low as below 5 ringgit (less than P70). Hostels are can go lower than P500 per night.
How to get to Penang: Take a flight to Kuala Lumpur, then another flight to Penang. If you are not visiting Kuala Lumpur, this is the best option as passing by Kuala Lumpur takes time as it is an hour away from the airport. AirAsia is a convenient option for flights as you can get Manila-Kuala Lumpur-Penang flights in one booking and need only pick up your baggage at Penang.
If you are visiting Kuala Lumpur, you can take the bus or train from the airport to KL Sentral station (from here you can get off and explore the city first), then from here take a bus to Penang (around 5 hours from KL Sentral), or a train to Butterworth for a more leisurely ride (6 hours or more), then a 10- to 15-minute ferry to Penang. – Rappler.com
Claire Madarang is a writer, researcher, and documenter whose work and wanderlust takes her to adventures like backpacking for seven weeks and exploring remote islands and bustling cities alike. Follow her adventures, travel tips, and epiphanies on her blog Traveling Light and on her Instagram.
Penang is indeed a must-visit when traveling to Malaysia. Book your accommodation with Agoda for the trip and enjoy extra savings.