No doubt the most favored destination of Malaysia is George Town and Penang Island. After George Town was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thousands of tourists flock in every year. The island is also well known for fantastic street foods and beautiful beaches. In addition, George Town is home to landmarks such as colonial Fort Cornwallis, the clan jetty, and the Kapitan Keling Mosque. Penang is also famous for its funicular ascends Penang Hill to the west, with its trails, flower gardens, and panoramic views.

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Getting to Penang

By Air

There are direct flights to Penang International Airport (PEN) from major capitals such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Thailand, and Singapore. In addition, you can find bargains air fairs depending on the seasons. For example, November – February is the peak season to fly to Penang. Airline options include Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, AirAsia, and Malindo Air.

Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Penang
My Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Penang about to land

The airport is about 18 km from George Town; therefore, you need to get a ride to the city after arriving at the airport. The cheapest option is taking the Rapid Penang Bus, which takes an hour to get to Georgetown. Another option is to use Grab, Uber service, or taxi, which will cost you 20 – 30 ringgit for the half-hour drive.

By Bus from KL to Penang

The distance between Kuala Lumpur and Penang is only 358 km, and by bus, it takes about 5 hours. So the journey is long but comfortable. If you are not looking for luxury, the average cost will be around 30 ringgit.

The express bus leaves from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan in Kuala Lumpur and arrives at Butterworth station or the Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal. If you are staying in Georgetown, then getting off at Butterworth and taking the Rapid Ferry is the best option. 

By Train from KL to Penang

Train service from KL Sentral to Penang is excellent, may cost a little more expensive than a bus, but you will definitely have a different experience. The express train takes about four hours from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth station. From there, a short walk to the ferry station will take you to Penang.


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Getting to Penang By Car

Driving from Kuala Lumpur to Penang could be the best option if you enjoy road trips. The distance between KL and Penang is about 358 and takes about 4 hours if there is no traffic jam. However, a car rental is available from Kuala Lumpur Airport. Try to book online in advance for a better rate. 

Getting Around In Penang

The most suitable way to get around Penang depends on which part of the island you are traveling to. Most tourist attractions are in and around the historic George Town area and at the northern end of the island.

From Airport to the City

The airport is about 15 km from George Town; therefore, you need to get a ride to the city after arriving at the airport. The cheapest option is taking the Rapid Penang Bus, which takes an hour to get to Georgetown. The disadvantage is public bus takes about an hour to get to George Town. Another option is to use Grab, Uber service, or taxi, which will cost you 20 – 30 ringgit ($5-$7) for the half-hour drive.

Getting Around George Town

The lovely historic George Town is small, therefore walking is the best way to get around and enjoy the most, especially the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the old town area. But there are public bus loops around central George Town. I also saw people taking the guided tour on a bicycle rickshaw around the town for fun. 

Getting to North and West Coast

I have taken Grab or Uber for longer-distance trips away from my hotels or George Town. Rapid Penang Bus service is a great way to move around, especially for locals. However, I didn’t feel the need as the Taxi hauling service was very affordable. 

Best Time to Visit

As long as you don’t mind tropical climate meaning warm and humid weather conditions, then Penang is an excellent place to visit all year round. Penang’s average temperature is between 28 – 32 C. I have visited Malaysia many times and bassed on my own experience here is a month-wise break-up of the weather so that you can plan your trip accordingly:

November to January

I have been to Northern, central, Southen Malaysia, including Sabah, between December and January and had a wonderful experience during these months. Absolutely the best time as the skies usually remain clear most of the time, and the weather is slightly cooler for sightseeing and other outdoor activities. Furthermore, since this is the beginning of the year-end holidays, bars and restaurants are full of people enjoying the festive season. 

February to April

Most seasonal crowds disappear after the year-end holidays, so the area becomes quieter and more affordable. The weather starts to get warmer along with the rise of humidity. Sometimes, it becomes uncomfortable to stroll through the city center for sightseeing activities during midday. However, it still attracts tourists who like to explore in a less crowded environment at their own pace. 

May to October

This is the wettest period when the weather sizzles and humidity rises; hence the city will experience a drop in tourists. It frequently rains to cool down the environment, so your best friend would be a raincoat and an umbrella. But if you happen to be there during the off-seasons, then definitely have the advantage of saving on the travel expense and avoiding high season crowds.  

Useful Information

Visa – No Visa Required

American citizens do not need to obtain a Malaysian visa in advance for pleasure or business trips if they stay less than 90 days in Malaysia. On arrival, immigration officials will stamp your passport on entry. Your passport must be valid for at least six months. In addition, there are around 70 nationalities that have visa-free entry but the period of stay in Malaysia depends on the nationality. Check here if your country of citizenship falls under visa exemption. 

Useful Information

Buying a SIM Card for Phone

Unless you have a local Malaysia tourist SIM card or expensive international roaming from your carrier, you won’t be able to keep in touch with your family or get Uber or Grab App service when you have no wi-fi. Therefore I recommend buying a local SIM card.

Purchasing a SIM card (prepaid tourist SIM card) is easy and cheap in Malaysia if you are arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) or Penang International Airport (PEN). There are multiple places, including 7-Eleven, to buy a Malaysian SIM card. Note that you need an unlocked phone to use a local SIM card.

I bought a 7-day 4G plan from Digi with 2 GB of data and 1 GB a day for social networks like WhatsApp and FB for RM 20 ( US$ 5.00)


You will find ATMs all over the city, including Penang International Airport. Currently, the exchange rate is 1US$ = 4.2 RM (Ringgit) at this writing.

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Arrival at Penang, Malaysia

We took an Air Asia flight From Bangkok and arrived at Penang Airport (PEN) in about 2 hours. Besides Air Asia, other airlines flying to Penang are Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, and Malindo Air. They are affordable if purchased in advance. After reading many blogs on Penang, I decided to stay at Areca Hotel within walking distance of George Town. The hotel is about 18 km from the airport, about 30 minutes by car and 1 hour by bus. Before getting a taxi, I bought a SIM card to access UBER app for booking my ride.

Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Penang
My Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Penang about to land

Top Things To Do In Penang 

When deciding what to do in Penang, consider what you enjoy most about travel and what interests you most during the holiday. For example, do you like to try local street food, like sightseeing places, historical sites, beaches, communities, interested in learning their culture. No matter what you plan to do, you’ll undoubtedly have a great time in Penang. Here are a few things you can consider.

Day Trip to Penang Hill

If you are looking for a day trip, then Penang Hill is one of the top attractions you can consider. Definitely worth a visit, especially for a peaceful change from city life and stay close to nature. The hill is full of spectacular views, lookouts, rainforest, wildlife, flora, fauna, and British colonial-era hill station.

The breathtaking view of George Town is spectacular from about 833 meters (2733 ft) elevation. It’s a popular weekend getaway for locals due to the cooler temperature, fresh air, spectacular view, and abundant family activities. Getting to Penang Hill Lower Hill Station is easy by Grab or UBER from George Town. Once you are there, the option is to hike the hill or take the Funicular Railway to the top.

Penang Hill
A view from Penang Hill, Penang

Visit Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang

The historic Kek Lok Si temple is one of Malaysia’s most prominent and best temples, located on a hill in the Ayer Itam suburb of George Town. From the top, you can enjoy a spectacular view of Penang along with the magnificent look of Kek Lok Si Buddhist Monastery. I would highly recommend visiting this temple while you are in Penang.

The Dhammikarama Burmese Temple

Dhammikarama Burmese Temple is a Burmese temple in the Pulau Tikus suburb of George Town of Penang in Malaysia. If you want to experience Burmese Buddhists Temples and the culture outside of Myanmar, then it’s an ideal place to visit.

The Dhammikarama Burmese Temple
The Dhammikarama Burmese Temple

Visit Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple

Wat Chayamangkalaram is a Thai temple located right opposite the Dhammikarama Burmese Temple in the Pulau Tikus suburb of George Town. It is well known for its gold-plated reclining Buddha about 33 meters.

Wat Chayamangkalaram
Thai Temple – Wat Chayamangkalaram

A Quick Stop at Floating Mosque of Tanjung Bungah

From George Town, if you are driving towards Batu Ferringhi Beach, located in the Northwest part of the island, then you can’t miss this mosque with a soaring minaret. The Tanjung Bungah Floating Mosque is located on the bay in the Tanjung Bungah area next to the famous Tanjung Bungah Seaside Beaches. The mosque is actually not floating but standing on columns and pillars.

Floating Mosque of Tanjung Bungah
Floating Mosque of Tanjung Bungah

Relax at Tanjung Bungah Seaside Beaches

Tanjung Bungah is a beautiful seaside area between Batu Feringghi to the north and Gurney on the other side. Once a sleepy fishing village hidden among rocky landscapes has grown in popularity to evolve one of Penang’s most favored destinations. There are a few beachfront restaurants and hotels, and most importantly, the Floating Mosque and Penang Toy Museum attract many visitors.

Tanjung Bungah
Tanjung Bungah is a beautiful beach

Beautiful Batu Feringghi Beach

Batu Feringghi is one of the best beaches in Penang, about 17 km north of George Town. Getting to the beach was easy by Rapid Penang Bus service, but I took a 30 munites ride by UBER service, the cost that I could afford. The long beaches stretch up to 4 km, and high-rise hotels, including Hard Rock Hotel, beautiful oceanfront resorts, famous night markets, street food, restaurants, water sports, and beach activities, make it a great getaway destination for tourists.

Visit the Hindu Temple Penang Hill

Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan, well known as the Penang Hill Hindu Temple, is one of the fascinating attractions you can’t miss once on the top of Penang Hill. Just one to two minutes of walk from the funicular railway. I have seen a few other Hindu temples in Penang; however, this one is the oldest, most gorgeous, and most colorful temple. Highly recommend walking around the attractive temple as it is very photogenic and stopping at one of those lookouts for a panoramic view of Penang Island.

Penang Hill Hindu Temple
Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan (Penang Hill Hindu Temple)

Explore Fort Cornwallis

Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia, built by the British East India Company in the late 18th century, located within walking distance from George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the corner of Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower. The fort is named after the Governor-General of Bengal, Charles Marquis Cornwallis.

Fort Cornwallis
Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia

Stop by At Lebuh Aceh Mosque (Acheen St Mosque)

Lebuh Aceh Mosque is a 19th-century mosque built by the Acehnese on Acheen Street, one of the oldest mosques in Penang, dating back to 1808. Some beautiful bungalows surround the area, still living by the descendants of the founder of the mosque.

Visit The Kapitan Keling Mosque

While wandering around George Town, another Mosque you will definitely come across is Kapitan Keling Mosque. It was built in the 19th century by Indian Muslim traders in George Town. Due to its rich heritage and extraordinary architecture, This mosque has become one of the famous sites among tourists, definitely worth checking it out.

The Kapitan Keling Mosque
The Kapitan Keling Mosque in George Town

Visit Masjid Negeri – State Mosque of Penang

The Penang State Mosque, also called Masjid Negeri, is a state mosque located at Jalan Masjid Negeri in George Town. On my way to Penang Hill, I stopped there and had the opportunity to explore. The beautifully designed mosque has a large dome that looks like a flower. The worship area is huge at any time it can accommodate up to 5000 people.

Masjid Negeri
The Penang State Mosque, also called Masjid Negeri

An Evening at Clan Jetties of Penang

A few minutes walk from George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site to the Clan Jetty, known as floating villages. These overwater settlements were built by the Chinese Hokkien immigrants who came to Malaysia in the 19th century. It is interesting to see the descendants of those clans still live there.

Clan Jetties Of Penang
Clan Jetties (Floating Village)

A Few Pictures From My Trip

Where to stay in Penang, Malaysia

Areca Hotel, George Town, Penang

Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of George Town, Areca Hotel Penang is within walking distance of all major sightseeing sights. I certainly enjoyed staying in this centrally located accommodation in Penang. The famous Clan Jetties of Penang is only 1.3 miles from Areca hotel and about 13 miles from the Penang International Airport. If you are driving your rental car, you need to find parking on the street, as no private parking is available for the guests.

Hompton Hotel by the Beach, George Town

This property is a 1-minute walk from the beach. Located in George Town, a 20-minute walk from Tanjung Bungah Beach, Hompton Hotel by the Beach has accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, a fitness center, and a bar. Penang International Airport is about 14 miles from the hotel. The hotel has been rated 8.6 and welcoming guests since 2019.

My Opinion and Last Word

Have you been to Penang, Malaysia? Any cool tips to share?

Over the years I have visited Malaysia multiple times, but during this particular trip, I was flying out of Bangkok to Penang for 4 days then flying to Kuala Lumpur for a few more days. It was a great experience and definitely loved it. Hope my story has given you some idea and motivated you to plan a fall trip. 

Please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you to improve my knowledge. 

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Hasan Mahmud

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