Georgetown is the capital of the island and state of Penang, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with fellow former Straits Settlement, Malacca.
Founded in 1786 by British trader Francis Light, Georgetown was one of the three Straits Settlements along with Malacca and Singapore. Modern-day Georgetown is one of Malaysia's largest cities with 600,000 inhabitants.
The town seems quite relaxed, as restaurants, small shops, and mall shops don't fully open until around noon. If you're waking up early, be sure to look for Chinese Dim Sum stalls as they are only available in the morning. But don't bother looking for any other activities besides eating.
Today, the town is known for its well-preserved colonial core, with original shophouses dating from the 19th century to the 1930s still surviving, together with their trades of old. Street markets and hawkers continue to be a part of daily life, and the atmosphere is often likened to that of Singapore back in the 1960s and 1970s.
The town truly springs to life in the evenings, when most of the locals head to the nearby street hawkers to have their meals and, sometimes, a couple of drinks.
Like most Malaysian cities, Georgetown is a patch quilt multicultural city comprising mainly of Malays, ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indians. What separates Georgetown, and the state of Penang, from the rest is that there is a higher proportion of ethnic Chinese compared to Malays. With the combination of cultures and religions, Georgetown takes its religious holidays seriously. Many shops will close during certain holidays in addition to Saturday afternoon and Sunday. During the day you can hear Muslim prayers in the distance from the local mosque and see Chinese locals burning incense to worship their ancestors on the streets and in temples.
Street names in Georgetown may be somewhat confusing at first, especially if you are not familiar with some simple Malay. The most common Malay street name designations in Georgetown include Jalan, often abbreviated Jl, a title given to major roads, street is given as Lebuh and laneways or small side streets are called Lorong. Other less common street names you may see include Persiaran meaning Drive, Lebuhraya meaning Avenue and Pengkalan for Quay. When in doubt, keep in mind that the first word of a street name is the street designation, such as Lane, while the remaining words are always the name given to the street. The exception here is the Gat Lebuh street designation, meaning Street Ghaut, which refers to extensions of a street that are part of reclaimed land.
You will find that street names are often referred to by their English and Malay names interchangeably. In the case of Jalan Penang it is common to hear it as Penang Rd, or the more confusing Beach St for Lebuh Pantai, with Pantai meaning Beach in Malay. To further add confusion, you may hear streets being referred to by their previous English name before independence. As an example Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, previously titled Pitt Street, is still occasionally used by locals. Thankfully, many of the street signs have been altered in recent years to now include the English translation, especially around tourist areas.
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Check Georgetown's 7 day forecast at MET.gov.my
With Georgetown being fairly close to the equator you can expect a typical tropical climate. Temperatures are generally constant year round, with daily highs of around 30-32°C (86-90°F) and nightly lows around 22-24°C (71-75°F). Humidity is also usually high so do not be surprised of occasional stinking hot days.
Along with the glaring sun and humidity, rainfall is almost guaranteed daily and the occasional deafening thunderstorm from the Strait of Malacca will drench the city, especially during the wet season. Annual rainfall averages around 2,500 mm, with the wettest months being around September to November. The driest months of the year run from December to February, although rainfall is still frequent.
- Penang Global Tourism Centre, 10 Whiteaways Arcade, Lebuh Pantai (Beach St), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 09:00-17:00, Sa 10:00-16:00, Su 10:00-14:00. Consider making your way to the local tourist centre, located in the charming colonial Whiteaways Arcade. The staff are friendly and the centre offers all the typical services of a tourism centre. It is a great place to pick up a map or brochures and to find out about the latest events around Georgetown and the whole of Penang.
The nearest airport is Penang International Airport (IATA: PEN), formerly Bayan Lepas International Airport, around 16 km from the centre of Georgetown in the town of Bayan Lepas. The airport is served by 15 airlines with flights operating to both domestic and international Asian destinations. Domestic flights include Johor Bahru, Kota Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kuantan and Langkawi, served mostly by AirAsia and a few destinations by Malaysia Airlines and Firefly. International flights also call at the airport from Banda Aceh, Bangkok, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Ko Samui, Medan, Phuket, Singapore, Surabaya and Taipei.
Ground transport options to the airport fall under two categories: local taxis or the public bus system, Rapid Penang. Taxis run off a pre-paid coupon system that you collect from the taxi counter near the arrivals area of the airport. The coupon to Georgetown will cost around RM44.70, but between 00:01-05:59 will cost RM67. For a bus to Georgetown take bus 401/401E to Weld Quay (Not to Balik Pulau), with 401E being an express service, or bus 102 to Teluk Bahang. The fare to KOMTAR is RM2.70, where you can then transfer to another bus if needed. Have the correct fare ready as bus drivers don't give out change.
For those who are in Butterworth, or have made their way up by train, the easiest way to reach Georgetown is by the Penang Ferry Service, the oldest ferry in Malaysia. See the Butterworth Get in section for information on how to arrive by train. Only a short walk from Butterworth train station is Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal, with ferries departing every 10-20 minutes between 05:20–00:40 daily. The fare to Georgetown costs RM1.20 for adults or RM0.60 for children. If you are returning to Butterworth the journey is free. Ferries arrive at Raja Tun Uda ferry terminal at Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld). Virtually all Rapid Penang buses on the island arrive and depart from Weld Quay, via KOMTAR.
Langkawi Ferry Services operates twice daily ferries between Swettenham Pier in Georgetown and Langkawi, with the first days service stopping via Pulau Payar en route. Ferries are scheduled to depart from Langkawi at 14:30 (via Pulau Payar) and 17:15 while from Georgetown at 08:15 (via Pulau Payar) and 08:30, taking around 2h 45min. Fares cost RM60 (RM115 return) for Adults and RM45 (RM85 return) for children. Tickets for the ferry can be booked online here.
Swettenham Pier is the cruise terminal of Georgetown, with many cruises calling here from other cities in the region. Star Cruises is a primary operator at this port with common itineraries including a 1 night cruise on the high seas or a 3 night cruise to Krabi and Phuket before returning to Georgetown. The port is also a frequent stop for round-the-world and major regional cruises often originating from Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Europe and North America. Typically these cruises allow a port visit in Georgetown for several hours before continuing to another destination. Refer to individual cruise companies for details of these cruise routes and the duration of stay at each port.
Long-distance bus is a common means of travel between cities and regions in Malaysia. The bus network is not only extensive but is also relatively cheap and comfortable. Georgetown has one bus terminal, Located at KOMTAR, but only some of the buses heading towards Penang terminate here. Most buses will arrive and depart the other bus terminals located just outside of Georgetown.
The Sungai Nibong Express Bus Terminal is south of Georgetown in Sungai Nibong. To reach Georgetown from here, a taxi will cost around RM30 or you could take bus 401 or 102. The other unimaginatively named bus station, Butterworth Bus Terminal, is on the mainland near Butterworth Train Station and the ferry terminal. Once here, the Ferry is the easiest way to travel between Butterworth to Georgetown. For more information on the Penang Ferry see Georgetown (Malaysia)#By boat.
Rapid Penang is the public bus network that serves not only Georgetown, but the whole state Penang. The fleet is clean, modern and air-conditioned with low floors for disabled access. Most buses will pass through both main bus terminals in Georgetown, KOMTAR and Weld Quay (often called Jetty). Bus information centres, or Rapid Kiosks, are also available at these locations. Depending on the service, buses begin operating around 05:30 from Weld Quay and can cease operating as early as 22:00, with some major bus routes continuing until midnight. Bus schedules can be found here.
The fare structure used by Rapid Penang is distance-based. Most fares within the city will cost RM1.40 or RM2. For travel heading outside of Georgetown expect to pay between RM2.70 to RM4. When boarding a bus keep in mind that the exact fare is required, so keep hold of some loose change and if unsure how much to pay just tell the driver where you are going. If you plan to stay in Georgetown and around Penang for more than a few days may be of benefit to purchase a Rapid Passport. This 7 day travel pass allows for unlimited travel on all Rapid Penang buses throughout Penang for RM30. The Rapid Passport can be purchased from any Rapid Kiosk, namely KOMTAR and Weld Quay, or from the Penang visitors centre at Whiteaways Arcade on Lebuh Pantai.
There is also a free bus service that operates around the historic area of the city, known as the Central Area Transit bus, or CAT. Aimed mainly at tourists, but used by all, CAT buses operate between Weld Quay and KOMTAR with 19 stops along the way including at Little India, Lebuh Light, Jalan Penang and Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. The bus operates between 06:00-23:40 from Weld Quay, every 20-30 minutes. A map of the CAT bus route can be found here.
Georgetown, in particular the historic area, is a relatively compact city to explore on foot. However many areas do lack footpaths, making the city a bit of a pedestrian nightmare. Walking along the side of the road is common and almost expected if you want to properly explore the city. Doing so is considered safe but do keep an eye out for traffic, wide open gutters and other hazards, particularly at night. Streets that do contain footpaths tend to be wider and busier, with the quality of the paths ranging from exceptional to dilapidated. You may also spot the occasional footbridge along busy roads, which are particularly handy to use compared to waiting for a break in the traffic.
The humble trishaw, or beca in Malay, was once the primary mode of transport for the locals. With the introduction of an extensive bus network the trishaws of Georgetown have dwindled and are now primarily aimed at tourists. Saying this, they are still a fun and unique way to travel the streets at a leisurely pace and perhaps find some of the city's hidden gems along the extensive back streets. Trishaws are generally found around inner city streets and tourist attractions. Hiring can be done on an hourly basis, costing around RM30-40/hr, or for shorter travel the price will vary, around RM10-15 for a 15min trip. Always agree on a price in advance and do not be afraid to haggle, as drivers will often inflate their first price.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, "City taxis are required to charge according to the meter effective from Aug 2006". However, as in Kuala Lumpur, most taxi drivers have no respect for this law. Attempts at finding a taxi driver willing to use a meter will be futile. Always haggle with the taxi driver and firmly agree on a price beforehand.
Taxis can also be hired for a minimum of 3hr at RM25-30/hr. A good way to see the northern and western parts of the island if you don't have your own vehicle.
You may also rent your own motorbike or scooter to get around. These shops can be found along Chulia Street and also Penang Road. Cost is around RM25 for 24hr rental. Deposit is often RM200.
See Penang for attractions located throughout the rest of the island; this covers only sights located within Georgetown.
Thanks to the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing and strict zoning laws of Georgetown, a combination of historical buildings and gently crumbling, but largely intact, shophouses offer a glimpse into the town's past. Restoration works are slowly progressing.
It may be worthwhile engaging a walking tour guide, for example from the Penang Heritage Trust, (26 Church St, ☎ +60 4 264-2631. Fax+60 4 262-8421) as they are trained to give in-depth details on the history and culture of heritage sites. There are several themed walking guides to choose from and each typically takes 3h. Book ahead.
- Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Leith Street. Built in the 1890s, and restored in the 1990's (earning it an UNESCO award in 2000), this indigo-blue Chinese Courtyard House in George Town was the main residence of Cheong Fatt Tze, known as the 'Rockefeller of the East' and 'J.P. Morgan of China'. Cheong was a prominent, successful Hakka Chinese merchant who demonstrated his business ability after marrying into a wealthy family, founding the Chang Yu Winery and ending the segregation of Chinese from Europeans on passenger ships. The mansion was built according to feng shui principles by master craftsmen brought in from southern, who used their skills to fashion a sprawling mansion with 38 rooms, 5 granite-paved courtyards, 7 staircases, and 220 windows. The mansion features in various films including the 1993 Oscar-winning Indochine. Tours: 11:00, 13.30 and 15:00 sharp (RM12, 60-90min, no indoor photography, consider booking in advance). Lodging also available, see the sleep section.
- Fort Cornwallis, Light St. The fort, named for Charles Cornwallis is built on the site where Captain Francis Light, founder of Penang, first landed on August 11, 1786. It was first built in 1793. But this site was an unlikely spot to defend the city from invasion. In 1810 it was rebuilt in an attempt to make up for initial strategic planning errors. In the shape of a star, the only actual buildings still standing are the outer walls, a gunpowder magazine, and a small Christian chapel. The magazine houses an exhibit of old photos and historical accounts of the old fort. RM2 for adults.
- Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi (龙山堂邱氏宗祠), 18 Cannon St. M-F 09:00-17:00, Sa 09:00-13:00. Built in 1850 by the forefathers of Khoo family who emigrated from South China, as a clan-house for members of the Khoo family. In 1836, construction of a new temple began and was completed 8 years later. Fire razed the wooden structure to the ground in 1894, it was allegedly struck by lightning. Chinese believed that it was due to its resemblance to the Emperor's palace, which provoked the gods. A scaled-down version was later built in 1902 and completed in 1906. The richly ornamented carvings of the roofs, walls and pillars reflect the art and architecture of ancient China and made of the finest wood. Expect to finish a visit to Khoo Kongsi with a sore neck. RM10.
- Municipal Council of Pulau Pinang Hall (formerly City Hall), The Esplanade (Jalan Syed Sheikh Barakbah). A well-preserved colonial building from the heyday of the British Empire since 1903, at a cost of 100,000 Straits dollars.
- Penang Islamic Museum, 128 Armenian St, ☎ , fax: +60 4 264-4692. W-M 09:30-18:00 (09:30-16:00 during Ramadan). Located in the Syed Al-Attas Mansion, a century-old mansion named after its owner, a spice trader from Aceh. RM3, children (under 12) RM1.
- Pinang Peranakan Mansion, Church St (Lebuh Gereja), ☎ . M-Sa 09:00-17:00. Daily conducted tour 11:30–15:30. Originally the home of Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, leader of Penang and Perak Hai San groups in the Larut Wars from 1860-1884. The mansion is a typical representation of the Straits eclectic style of architecture highly favoured by rich Peranakan families of old. Affectionately called Hai Kee Chan or Sea Remembrance Store, it served as his residence and office. Admission fee is RM10 for adults), free for children below 12.
- Queen Victoria Clock Tower (At the Intersection of Light Street, Beach Street, Fort Road and King Edward Place). The 60 ft high clock tower was presented to Penang by local millionaire Cheah Chen Eok in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
Georgetown has a profusion of sites of worship of all different faiths.
- Church of the Assumption (Formerly Cathedral of the Assumption), 3 Lebuh Farquhar. The first permanent Catholic Church to be built on Penang Island, established by a group of Eurasian immigrants who accompanied Penang's founder, Sir Francis Light, to the island. It is also one of the few churches in Malaysia with church bells that were cast way back during British rule. It also houses one of the last remaining and oldest European-made air organs in Malaysia.
- Dhammikarama Burmese Temple, 24 Lorong Burma (Opposite Wat Chaiyamangalaram), ☎ . 05:00-18:00. A Burmese Buddhist temple founded in 1803. At the entrance a pair of white elephants, which are sacred in Buddhism, guard the temple while within a bodhi tree and wishing pond greets the visitor.
- Kapitan Keling Mosque, Jl. Masjid Kapitan Keling, ☎ . Built in the early 19th century and named after Caudeer Mohudeen, an Indian Muslim merchant who was also the Kapitan Keling, or leader of the Keling community. This historic mosque features a dome-shaped minaret that reflects Moorish Islamic influence and has been a prominent place of worship for local Indian Muslims for over 200 years. Free tours operate during non-prayer times. Shoes must be removed prior to entering the mosque and women are provided with heavy robes to wear. Men who are not appropriately dressed will also be supplied robes.
- Kuan Yin Teng (Goddess of Mercy Temple), Jl. Masjid Kapitan Keling, ☎ . Built in 1801 by early Chinese settler, Kuan Yin Teng is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Penang. This temple is flocked to by pilgrims year round, particularly on the 1st and 15th days of each lunar month. The building is decorated with intricately crafted dragons and a pair of stone sculptured lions which guard the temple. Puppet shows and Chinese operas are staged in the Temple's square on the Goddess of Mercy's feast days and there is an octagonal well in one corner, which was once a public well for the Chinese community.
- St. George's Church, 1 Lebuh Farquhar. 09:00–17:00. Boasting the title of the oldest Anglican Church in South-east Asia, St George's was completed in 1818 by convict labour. The church was designed by Capt. Robert Smith, a military engineer who is known for his oil paintings of early Penang that are located in the Penang State Museum. A memorial dedicated to Capt. Francis Light, in the form of a Greek temple with a marble slab, stands in the grounds of the Church.
- Wat Chaiyamangalaram, Lorong Burma (Opposite Dhammikarama Burmese Temple), ☎ . 06:00–17:30. Founded in 1845, this Thai-style Buddhist temple that is famous for its 33m reclining Buddha, one of the world's longest. The temple was built on a piece of land given by Queen Victoria to 4 women trustees as a gesture of goodwill to boost trading relations with Thailand. The guardian dragon and statue at the entrance are both ostentatious and spectacular.
Graffiti has become all the rage in Georgetown, after Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic painted several whimsical murals of inner city life like the pensive "Boy on a Bike" and the cheerful "Little Children on a Bicycle" on the walls of old buildings as part of a 2012 festival. Since then, many more wall paintings have popped up around the city, grabbing the attention of passers-by. Wire art has also been widely installed by the heritage board, commemorating bits and pieces of Penang history with pithy quotes.
- Penang State Museum, Lebuh Farquhar, Pulau Pinang. Sa-Th 09:00-17:00. Formerly the Penang Free School which was built in two separate stages in 1896 and 1906. The museum is an interesting starting point to discover the multi-ethnic background of Georgetown. 2 floors display the history of the immigrant community that participated in the creation of the present city. The museum also exhibits the paintings of Captain Robert Smith and the lovely engravings of William Daniell. Other exhibits include a former Penang Hill railway carriage, a handwritten Qur`an and old Malay weapons donated by the family of the late Dato' Haji Fathil Basheer. RM1.
- Clan Jetties (姓氏桥), Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld). There are six clan jetties along the shorelines of Georgetown. They are worth walking to and looking at, as they provide an insight to the way locals live in traditional huts built on the sea on stilts. Chew Jetty is the most well known and leads to a small temple at the end. Lee Jetty is brightly lit at night by beautiful lanterns. Be cautious while walking in this area.
- Chew Thean Yeang (周天央) (CTY Aquarium), 82 Burmah Rd, ☎ , fax: +60 4 229-4049, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The largest live fish shop in South East Asia, but the workers are mostly rude and impatient.
- Protestant Cemetery. The burial site of Captain Francis Light, Thomas Leonowens and more. Filled with crumbling, vegetation-covered tombs, it bears witness to a century of colonisation. There are around 500 burial sites here, a quarter of which no longer bear readable inscriptions. Accessible through a gate in the rear wall is the Roman Catholic Cemetery, most of whose graves are so old the inscriptions are no longer readable.
Besides enjoying excellent food, walking tours and sightseeing the beautiful old city, Georgetown itself does not offer that much to the adventurous tourist. If you, tired of walking, want to kill a couple of hours there is the possibility of catching a movie at Cathay Cineplex on the 5th floor of the Komtar shopping-complex. Other opportunities are Golden Screen Cinemas in Gurney Plaza. For inclement weather, there's always snooker and bowling too, at Prangin Mall and elsewhere.
Many Georgetown shops now offer bike rentals for RM10/day, as travellers embark on a street art trail of sorts, cycling around main roads and hidden back lanes to look at murals and wire art. Although bike paths exist around the city centre, walking or renting a motorcycle may be an easier/safer decision.
- One Indoor Archery Sport, Komtar Walkway, 1st Floor (not ground floor) Penang Road 10000 (Next to GeorgeTown White Coffee), ☎ 04-261-3133. till midnight. 11 targets set up for archery. Bows provided. The staff are happy to give advice and you can watch locals come in to shoot and discuss craft. 8 RM for 1 dozen arrows.
- Nazlina Spice Station, 71 Stewart Ln, ☎ . Tu-W, F-Sa. You've eaten the food, now it's time to try cooking the dishes. Nazlina's morning classes include the hustle and bustle of a wet market tour to look over ingredients before heading back to the kitchen. Deeply knowledgeable about Penang cuisine, she will give cooking lessons based on the wants of the class. There's room for bookings up to 12, which is a bit squeezy. But if you're lucky there may be fewer people, so you can get a more personalised experience. RM160.
Street markets remain a daily way of life in Penang, and locals often go to them to buy cheap accessories and fresh food. Bargain hard to get a good price and preferably get a local to accompany you.
- Little India, junctions of Market Street (Lebuh Pasar) with King Street and Queen Street, is where many traditional Indian traders selling all sorts of Indian traditional wares such as saris, garlands, trinkets, sculptures, Indian music, handicrafts, Punjabi suits, Singhalese silverwares, stainless steel housewares and accessories since 18th century. Spicy Indian food likes roti canai or thosai are available along the streets either at coffee shop, restaurant or road-side hawker stalls.
- Little Penang Street Market, Upper Penang Rd. Last Sunday each month, 10:00-17:00. A local flea market set up to promote creativity, entrepreneurship and street revitalisation in the community. The project aims to upgrade local arts, crafts and culture by providing design and marketing support to local artists, artisans and cultural entrepreneurs. Visitors can find many different types of merchandise there including silverware, clogs, henna art, seashell art, hand-paint clothes, hand-made jewellery, calligraphy, batik, portraits and there is also live music, a children's corner and other interesting activities.
In the heart of Georgetown, 1st Avenue, KOMTAR and Prangin Mall are all connected by walkways.
- 1st Avenue, 182 Jl Magazine, ☎ . 10:00-22:00. Next to Komtar and Prangin Mall. It is a stylish city mall like Gurney Plaza. It has Aeon Big (Formerly Carrefour) Hypermarket, a cinema and some entertainment centers .
- KOMTAR (Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak). Penang's first skyscraper and a bit of an eyesore, it is a useful navigational landmark but not so good for shopping anymore.
- Prangin Mall, 33 Jl Dr Lim Chwee Leong, ☎ . 10:00-22:00. Located next to KOMTAR, has stolen much of its neighbor's buzz and offers a convenient yet sanitized shopping experience. It offers five floors of shopping, dining and entertainment. It is often crowded here as people can't get enough of the mall.
Further north are:
- Gurney Paragon, Jalan Kelawei. Fancy shopping mall built around a preserved old school building.
- Gurney Plaza, Persiaran Gurney, ☎ . 10:00-22:00. One of Penang's premier shopping malls with lots of good food, plenty of stuff to shop, Parkson as its anchor tenant, RedBox Karaoke and 12 cineplexes.
- Island Plaza, Jalan Tanjung Tokong. Anchor tenant: Metrojaya Stores. Restaurants, food court, and more than 150 specialty shops.
- Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang. Upmarket shopping mall next to a marina. Good open-air seating for meals.
- Ghee Hiang (义香), 95 Beach St and 216 Macalister Rd, ☎ +60 4 262-0635, +60 4 227-2222. The oldest bakery in Penang, established since 1856; other well-known product includes sesame seed oil.
- Him Heang (馨香), 162-A Burma Rd, ☎ +60 4 228-6129, +60 4 228-6130. Arguably the most famous Chinese bakery in Penang, popular among locals and Singaporean tourists. Its most famous products are Tambun Pneah and Beh Teh Sor. Go early in the morning or order through phone first due to limited daily production.
- Ng Kee Cake Shop (伍记), 61 Cintra Street, ☎ . The shop produces and sells Cantonese traditional biscuits including wedding biscuits. One of the famous biscuits is pepper biscuit (咸切酥, Ham Chit Soo).
- Sin Hock Seng, ☎ . (新福成), 316, Penang Rd. The shop sells more than one hundred different types of biscuit. Basically, you can find any kind of traditional biscuit there.
Penang is widely considered to be the food capital of Malaysia, and Georgetown is the best place in Penang to eat. (See Penang for listings of local dishes.)
Gurney Drive may be the main location where tourists go to have their food, but that does not necessarily mean that the best food can be found there. In fact, most locals consider it to be overrated and expensive. It's best to ask the locals to point you toward the best locations for food, though walking into any "coffee shop" or stall would almost certainly guarantee a worthwhile experience for your taste buds. Knowing some Malay or Hokkien will be useful, but most vendors speak enough English to communicate the basics.
- Amelie Cafe, Lebuh Armenian. A small cafe decorated with hand-made bags and paintings. A peaceful place where you can taste home-made cakes, salads, soups, pasta and juices. RM4-12.
- Soul Kitchen, trattoria, Lebuh Muntri (A few steps from the Red Garden Cafe). An Italian style restaurant sometimes with a lunch menu for RM25 that includes a soup, a pasta main course (very good carbonara), a juice and a dessert. RM25.
- New World Park Foodcourt, Lorong Swatow, (Off Jl. Burma). Local specialities including curry mee, prawn mee, laksa, chee cheong and fun. For dessert try the ais kacang special with ice cream on top.
- Red Garden Cafe, 20, Lebuh Leith, (Not far away from the backpacker area around Chuliah St). Local food. This one is open from the early evening until late at night. Satay, roasted and BBQ'd chicken, duck and pork variations with noodles or rice (Chinese stall in the right corner). Also Thai, Filipino, western and fusion food.
- Sri Ananda Bahwan, 55 Penang St. 53 & in the Indian quarter, offers great Indian food for a very good price. They have branches all over Malaysia.
- Jaya Indian restaurant open 24 hr and tourist friendly. Wide variety of fresh Indian food, including chicken masala, fresh garlic naan, roti prata, roti cani, tandoori chicken, and curry puffs. The prices are cheap and the food is fast and fresh.
- Kapitan's, 93 Lebuh Chulia, ☎ . 24 hours. No matter what time of the day this mamak restaurant serves up great Indian food at a decent price. They are well known for their biryani, tandoori chicken and butter chicken. Also consider trying a drink called Badam milk, unless it has already sold out.
- Krsna Restaurant, (In the heart of Little India), Used to be known as Krishna Vilas. Cheap banana leaf style food but now served on paper. Loads of rice with dal and condiments.
- Tai Tong, 45 Lebuh Cintra. Well priced dim sum breakfasts from 6AM-noon, served in the traditional way on carts wheeled among the tables. Get there earlier for more variety.
- No Eyed Deer Restaurant, Tanjung Tokong (Above the 7-Eleven store in the Prima Tanjung complex opposite Island Plaza), ☎ , fax: +60 4 899-3488. Favourite haunt among the locals & expatriates living in Penang. Western and Asian cuisine, famous for its Laotian laksa, chicken parmigiana and steaks. Popular dishes include its chicken Kapitan Bryani, chili lime sea bass, grilled lamb chops, mutton rogen josh, and spaghetti marinara. They are also reputed to serve one of the best fish & chips in town. The weekends are normally pretty busy, thus it is advisable to get there early.
- Cherry Sweet Spicy Thai Food, 8 Clove Hall Road., ☎ +60 4 227 6758, +60 4 229 2561. Daily, except on Wed,12 noon-3PM, 6-10PM. Pork-free.
- eGate (Next to Tesco hypermarket along Jelutong Expressway). Restaurants such as Tao Japanese and formulaic outlets such as Starbucks, Old Town Kopitiam, Subway, Oasis.
- Illyana's, Teluk Kumbar. A Malay style eatery with a popular Thai cook. Notable dishes include lala fried with olive oil, satay and the clay pot fish head curry. Seafood is always fresh, you pick what you want from the fresh seafood laid out and the chef cooks it for you in whatever style you fancy.
- Salsas, Upper Penang Rd (At the junction of Penang Rd and Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah). Good western food at reasonable prices.
- Yellow Light Thai Food, 1-C Fettes Rd, ☎ . Closed on Monday.
- Sri Lankan - Top Secret, 98 Jalan Mutri, ☎ . 4PM .... Serving Sri Lankan and western food. Also home to the Penang Hash House Harriers chapter. In the later-earlier hours it becomes a bar and place where the regulars and travelers hang out. 15 rm.
- Eden Seafood Village, ☎ . 69A Batu Ferringhi. Daily 6PM-11PM.
- Ocean Green Seafood, (Hotel Paramount), Jl Sultan Ahmad Shah. Used to be a popular seafood place for Penangites but of late, other seafood places have become popular. Commendable dishes include mantis prawns fried with salted egg yolk batter, fried sharksfin with eggs, and prawns.
- Oriental Seafood Restaurant, ☎ . Macalister Rd. (A sister outlet of the Oriental Seafood at Gurney Drive). This outlet at Macalister Rd is less pricey and it's for the locals who crave crabs and prawns, however unlike the one at Gurney Drive it lacks a view. Service is quick and you can order other side eats such as fried noodles. Crabs go by the kg so prices fluctuate. Ask first before ordering. They accept credit cards and cash.
- Seoul Garden Korean Restaurant, Sunrise Tower, 1st Floor, 190-192 Gurney Drive, ☎ +60 4 229-8705. The food here is not bad except that the kimchi can be quite different each time you eat here. Long established venue that attracts Korean expatriates during lunch and dinner. Nice views.
Upper Penang Road
If you're looking for something to do at night, there's always Upper Penang Road, where clubs, pubs and bars are always flooded with young people. UPR is located just opposite the famed Eastern And Oriental Hotel and beside the City Bayview Hotel.
- The Garage, 2 Penang Rd. Once owned by the Wearne Brothers, the Garage used to be a motorcar showroom and has since been restored to its Art Deco glory, housing clubs, bars and boutiques like the Slippery Senoritas and F.A.M.E.
- Slippery Senoritas, Upper Penang Road (Located in the Garage), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Open 11AM - 3AM. Salsa Club & Restaurant. (Lunch, dinner, music) 1/2 price drinks until 9PM. Live music/D.J's from 9.30PM. "Ladies Nights" Wed and Fri. Large club of 2 stories. Has another club called "Fame" connected to it in the courtyard. Get bottle service upstairs. Cover is less than US$10 but just go into the courtyard, buy a beer, and they will stamp you for free.
- Mois, 1 Upper Penang Road. A club for the younger crowd in a grand colonial-style building.
- Soho Freehouse, 50 Penang Rd, ☎ . Selection of continental food and beer. Good place for gaming with pool tables and foosball.
Love Lane and Lebuh Chulia are also favourite hangout haunts, with many bars and cafes mixed with backpacker hostels.
- Church Street Cafe, 12 Church St (Lebuh Gereja), ☎ .
- The Meeting Point, Lebuh Chulia (Next door to Banana Guest House). Open 5PM-4AM. Chilled out reggae bar with most seats outside offering beers from RM8 (Jazz) and some snack food.
- Hong Kong Bar, Chulia Street. Famous and historically significant bar, home to many Commonwealth soldiers in Penang, particularly Australian forces based across the water at Butterworth. Run by the ever friendly Jenny. Fantastic atmosphere.
- Rock World, China Town (Walk down Lebuh Campbell). Seems to be visited mostly by Chinese Malaysians, and is fairly empty on weekdays.
- 75 Travellers Lodge (Formerly W & O Guest House), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 75 Jl. Muntri, . Right in the middle of Chinatown. Free 1 hr internet included in the room rate with 24 hr WiFi. Dorm beds from RM12. Single from RM18-22, double/twin rooms RM25-35.
- Banana New Guest House (Banana Guest House), No. 326, Chulia St, ☎ . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 12noon. Clean, well organised and friendly. Free WiFi. RM25-120.
- Cathay Hotel, 15 Leith St, ☎ , fax: +60 4 263-9300. Frequented by western backpackers.
- Friendship Motel, 20 Penang St, e-mail: email@example.com. ☎ +60 4 261-8909, +60 4 262-8909, +60 4 262-9909, . From RM28 for a small A/C room with shared bathroom. Free internet.
- GoodHope Inn, 22 Jl Kelawei, ☎ , fax: +60 4 229-0222. Room: RM100.
- Hang Chow Hotel, No. 511 Lebuh Chulia (Located at the west end of Lebuh Chulia), ☎ 04-261 0810. Budget hotel with free WiFi. Family room comes with a king and a queen bed, ceiling fan, air con and shower closet. The toilets are shared but very clean. This is a family run business, with a cafe on the ground floor and friendly owners. RM50.
- Hotel 1926, ☎ , fax: +60 4 227-7926. 227 Jl. Burmah. Heritage boutique hotel. Room Rate: RM80-100.
- Hotel Mingood, 164 Argyll Rd, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. ☎ +60 4 229-9922, (Fax:+60 4 228-0766). Room Rate:. 5⁰N.421829, 100⁰E.330421. From RM80
- Hostel Red Inn, 55, Love Ln (walk in to Love Lane from 7-Eleven Chulia St.), ☎ . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. New and stylish. Laundry service, DVD, clean toilets, breakfast included, computer for free internet (no printer). RM28-100.
- Jim's Place, 431 Chulia St. Just look out for the reggae colors. Rooms about the same price as in the other places. Friendly and helpful owner and staff.
- New Asia Hotel (Heritage), 71 Kimberly St (cross junction-Pintal Tali St./Rope Walk St), ☎ , fax: +60 4 2633669. Refurbished Sept 2011, heritage hotel, operated since WWII. A/C or fan), WiFi, flat-screen TV, water jug/heater, spacious common dining area, clean, security CCTV, friendly staff. From RM50-150.
- Old Penang Guesthouse, 53 Lorong Love, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Budget heritage hostel with a modern fit-out in a historic restored pre-war building. Wi-Fi, In-room air-conditioning, towels and simple breakfast are included. There is also a downstairs communal area with DVDs, TV and books. Laundry service is available for an additional charge. The staff are very friendly and happy to suggest places to visit around Penang. Dorm: RM26, Privates from RM 55.
- One Malaysia Guesthouse, 369 C.Y. Choy Rd, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Near Komtar Tower. Free pickup from transport terminals, free WiFi, free english newspaper, free mineral water. Very kind and friendly owner. Please call in advance. Double - 25 Rm, single - 15 Rm, dorm - 10 Rm.
- Oriental Guest House (formerly known as W&O Guesthouse), 81 Jl Muntri, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 2 storey shop house building with the same owner as 75 Travellers Lodge a few doors away. Large airy rooms with windows, fan, sink. Friendly, clean and efficient, right in the middle of Chinatown. Cafe (known as Western Oriental Cafe) with TV. Breakfast, lunch and dinner in front of reception. Internet RM3/hr, RM2/half hr, laundry service, taxi, arrange local tours, sell boat, bus and train tickets and help to apply for Thailand visas. Single RM15, double/twin RM20-30, triple RM30-40.
- Reggae Hotel and Guesthouse, 57 Love Ln. Dorm rate: RM25. Opened Sept 2011, clean with a nice bar/restaurant/patio area. Western-style bathroom with hot shower. Free wifi. Dorm beds have individual 'stalls' with curtain for privacy and a small mirrored cabinet and two power plugs. Scooter rental in front is not run by Reggae, but the scooters are reliable if a little on the pricy side - RM30 for the day with RM20 deposit.
- Ryokan@Muntri St, 62, Lebuh Muntri (Muntri St) (via Upper Penang Rd. A stone's throw away from Cititel Hotel and Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion.), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12PM. Boutique hostel with a chic, comfortable and secure environment. Bar and cafe serving daily breakfast and beers in the evening, laundry service, bunk and suites, lockers, light boxes, clean toilets, library and iPad2 for surfing, printing facilities. RM33-RM38 for bunk beds & RM 136 for suite with full facilities.
- Star Lodge, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 39 Jl. Muntri, . All rooms with windows, fan, sink, toilet and hot shower. Single rooms RM28-32, double/twin rooms RM35-40, triple rooms RM45-60. For A/C add on RM10/day. Free 1 hr internet included in the room rate plus free 24 hr WiFi.
- Super K Hostel, 324 Chulia St. Dorms with free Wi-Fi, chiropractic mattresses (none of the cheap thin mattresses), café, convenience store, open 24h, laundry service and free lockers. RM 25.
- Tune Hotel, 100 Burmah Rd (5 min from Komtar in George Town), ☎ . Single room from RM70+++ (promotional prices can be as low as RM10-30+++, check website regularly several months in advance, nice and clean. A/C and other services are not included in the online price, but can be purchased separately.
- YMCA International Hostel, 211 Macalister Rd. RM66-RM85 per night.
- YWCA Penang, ☎ . 8A Jl. Mesjid Negeri (State Mosque Rd./Green Lane Rd). Only has 5 single rooms, 5 double rooms and a dormitory so call to book first. Also, it is next to the State Mosque.
- Hotel Noble, 36 Lorong Pasar, ☎ 04-2642372, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. fan single and double rooms with bathrooms. need to pay for WIFI. Rm25.00.
- Pin Seng Hotel, 80 Jalan love Lane., ☎ 60-4-261-9004. fan single and double rooms with bathrooms has WIFI. RM25.00.
- An-Nur AnCasa Express@Georgetown, Lot 1238, Jl Kampung Kolam, ☎ . 3 bed rooms, all of which have A/C, LCD flat-screen, cableTV, and kitchen with refrigerator and coffee/tea maker. From RM180.
- Banana Boutique Hotel (Heritage Building Hotel) (previously Blue Diamond Guesthouse), No 422 Chulia St, ☎ . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 12noon. In an interesting and attractive century old building, newly restored and under new management. Walking distance to Upper Penang Rd where you can find cafe, bar and night spots. RM138-599.
- Berjaya Georgetown Penang, ☎ , fax: +60 4 226-7111. 1-Stop Midlands Park, Burmah Rd. Location: 5⁰ 25'58.62"N; 100⁰ 18'25.05"E. Rooms from RM250/night.
- Cititel Penang, 66 Penang Rd, ☎ , fax: +60 4 370-2288. Rooms from RM130-RM350/night.
- City Bayview Penang, 25A Farquhar St. ☎ +60 4 263-3161, (Toll free within Malaysia 1 800 888854), (Fax:+60 4 263-4124). . Location: 5⁰ 25'18.68"N ; 100⁰ 20'9.01"E.
- Hotel Continental Penang, 5 Penang Rd, ☎ .
- Hotel Grand Continental Penang, 68 Brick Kiln Rd (Jl. Gurdwara), ☎ , fax: +60 4 263-0299. Location: 5⁰ 24'43.90"N; 100⁰ 19'43.19"E. Centrally located in the city. However take due precautions as the location is in a slightly run down area.
- Hotel Malaysia, 7 Penang Rd, ☎ , fax: +60 4 263-1621, e-mail: email@example.com. 3 star hotel with budget rates.
- Grand Paradise Hotel (Previously Midtowne Hotel), 101 Macalister Rd, ☎ , fax: +60 4 229-5149.
- Naza Hotel Penang, ☎ , fax: +60 4 890-8600. 555 Jl. CM Hashim, Tanjung Tokong.
- PPisland Hotel, Penang, ☎ , fax: +60 4 2299 072. 33A, Abu Siti Lane. A new boutique hotel with 3 star qualities. Rooms rate from RM68 (promotion) per night.
- Red Rock Hotel (formerly Agora Hotel), ☎ . 202A Macalister Rd.
- Sunway Georgetown, 33 New Ln (Lorong Baru), ☎ , fax: +60 4 228-8899. Location: 5⁰ 24'51.44"N; 100⁰ 19'32.88"E, centre of Georgetown, walking distance to Komtar and famous New Lane hawker centre (night time). May ask for room without breakfast since there are many food stalls around the area. RM140-RM460 per night.
- Hotel Penaga, Corner of Jl Hutton & Lebuh Clarke, ☎ . Rooms and suites individually furnished with antique cabinets, benches and chairs. The classics of mid 20th century furniture design are also in every room. They also have world class facilities such as the Penaga Spa, a business centre, a garden, and a swimming pool. From RM443.70.
- Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, 14 Lebuh Leith, ☎ , fax: +60 4 2625289, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Instead of just visiting this beautifully restored heritage building, why not consider sleeping there. The Mansion boasts 16 rooms with all the usual modern fittings, although there is no pool available. Breakfast included. RM420.
- Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang, 10 Farquhar St, ☎ , fax: +60 4 262-6333, e-mail: email@example.com. Founded in 1884 by legendary hoteliers the Sarkies brothers who also found Singapore's famous Raffles Hotel, the E&O is Penang's grand old colonial hotel. Rooms from RM400++.
- Evergreen Laurel Hotel, 53 Gurney Dr (Pesiaran Gurney), ☎ , fax: +60 4 226-9989. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- G Hotel, ☎ , fax: +60 4 238-0088, e-mail: email@example.com. 168A Gurney Drive. Brand new post-modern luxury hotel in town with direct sea views. Comfortable, hip and funky.
- Gurney Hotel, 18 Gurney Dr (Persiaran Gurney), ☎ , fax: +60 4 370-5000, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hotel Royal Penang (formerly Dorsett Penang Hotel), ☎ , fax: +60 4 2296601. 3 Jl. Larut, (Larut Rd). This 273-room Singapore-managed, is a short drive from Komtar and the food hub of Macalister Rd. From RM480++ for deluxe room.
- Northam Hotel All Suite, 55 Northam Rd (Jl. Sultan Ahmad Shah), ☎ , fax: +60 4 370-2222, e-mail: email@example.com. 142 A/C suites, cableTV, en-suite bathroom, water-massage Jacuzzi.
- Traders Hotel Penang (formerly Shangri-La Hotel Penang), Magazine Rd, ☎ , toll-free: 1-300-88-7388. Next to Komtar and Prangin Mall, in the heart of Georgetown. The rooms are fairly old, but the staff are friendly and attentive. Guests can book a free shuttle bus to Rasa Sayang Shangri-la and Golden Sands in Batu Ferringhi.
Georgetown in general is a safe city as serious crimes are pretty rare. Be extra careful in crowds and on roadsides, as they are the spots where petty crimes such as snatch thefts and pickpockets occur.
Some local men like to yell things and make suggestive comments to women walking alone, and sometimes they can get "too friendly". If you are a woman, you should travel in a group. Men walking alone may have to deal with a similar amount of harassment too, especially around the Love Lane/Lebuh Chulia areas. There are large numbers of prostitutes and/or ladyboys prowling the streets here and they can be very aggressive. Over the last few years this problem seems to have faded away but it's still a good idea to exercise caution walking around at night.
If you look like a tourist, you will get considerably higher prices from the salesmen in markets, like Batu Ferringhi Night Market, or the market near the Kek Lok Si temple. The real price of the product is always a lot less and at times the "best price" is five times the normal price.
Taxis generally do not use meters due to poor enforcement by local authorities, even though it is "compulsory". The meters are often claimed to be "broken" or are hidden. You should always ask for the use of the meter. The metered price is always less than a price given in advance. Tourists are often cheated, sometimes even left by the roadside in the middle of nowhere if they refuse to pay a considerably inflated sum of money. You should negotiate the fare before boarding if the taxi driver refuses to use the meter, preferably seek a different taxi if they refuse to use the meter. Taxis from Penang Airport are paid using slips given in a small office in the airport building.
Do not use drugs, and stay away from them. You will get the death sentence if caught dealing with certain types of drugs and Malaysia's laws provide very harsh punishment for any drug related offence. The amount of the drug you are caught with will determine whether you are charged as a user or a dealer. Pay heed to the warning signs at all entry points to the country and just don't have anything to do with illegal substances.
There is still plenty more of Penang to visit, simply hop on one of the local Rapid Penang buses and explore.
- Visit Air Itam, a town just west of Georgetown. Visit the famous Penang Hill, either by funicular train or spend a few hours and trek to the top. The views of Penang are exceptional from the hill. If you still have time then visit the gigantic Kek Lok Si Temple.
- Relax on the beach at Batu Ferringhi and the nearby resort town of Tanjung Bungah. If you're hungry for seafood look no further than the fishing village of Teluk Bahang and if you still have some energy left go for a leisurely trek in Penang National Park.
- Discover Penang's backcountry at Balik Pulau. The area is literally the back of the Island and is a slice of an undeveloped Penang. Around the expansive area you will find kampungs, fruit farms and rice paddies scattered throughout.
- Cross over to Penang's mainland (Seberang Perai), which is somewhat off the tourist track. The towns of Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam are a great place to start.