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Penang (or Pulau Pinang in Malay) is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Malaysia which is also known as the food heaven of Malaysia. Located just 350km from Kuala Lumpur (KL), you can easily travel from KL to Penang within 5 hours.
In this post, I will be sharing about my Penang travel experience including how to transport KL to Penang, what to do in Penang, the Penang tourist map, how long to stay and how much did I spend there.
Table of Contents
1. ABOUT PENANG
Penang is a state of Malaysia situated 350km from the capital Kuala Lumpur, on the northwest coast of Peninsula Malaysia. The state consists of 2 parts: Penang Island and Seberang Perai. The area that you might want to visit is George Town which is located on Penang island.
Penang modern history started in the late 18th century when the island was offered to the British. In 1786, Francis Light founded George Town as a free port. Thanks to that, Penang maritime trade grew tremendously.
In 1826, Straits Settlement was formed with the incorporation of Penang, Singapore, and Malacca with George Town – Penang as the capital. In 1832, Straits Settlement’s headquarter was moved to Singapore. However, Penang still remained a significant financial hub and an important tin exporter of Malaya.
From 1941 to 1945, Penang was occupied by the Japanese. Not until 1945, did the British recapture the island. After that, Penang was merged into the Malay heartland by order of the British.
In 1969, the Malaysian federal government suddenly revoked George Town as a free port. Thus, Penang suffered a dramatic economic downturn due to the maritime trade slump.
Nowadays, Penang is known as the Silicon Valley of the East and become a famous tourist attraction drawing a vast influx of tourists every year.
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Best time to visit Penang
The weather in Penang is warm and humid all year round. Rain may occur at any time but mainly in October. Although the rain won’t last long, it’s still better to avoid it, thus, check the weather forecast of Penang before your trip.
Penang tourists’ peak season is from November to February next year when the temperature is cooler and a lot of festivals are held. Therefore, it is considered the best time to travel to Penang.
Meanwhile, Penang attracts the least tourists in April, May, and September – November due to the high chances of rain. You can also see fewer crowds in March because of its high temperature during this month.
2. HOW TO GO FROM KL TO PENANG?
Penang is situated about 370km away from Kuala Lumpur (KL). There are various ways to go from KL to Penang such as bus, flight, train, and private vehicles.
The bus is the cheapest and most convenient vehicle to transport from KL to Penang.
The standard bus ticket is about RM40/way. Companies such as Konsortium, Transnasional, and Plusliner are recommended which take 4.5hours to go from KL to Penang without any transit stops. There are also premium options (such as the Aeroline bus) cost around RM60/way, providing more spacious legroom and a small meal.
The main bus station in Kuala Lumpur is Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS). You can either buy tickets online or at ticket counters or at ticket vending machines on the right side inside Gate C. However, it’s always recommended to buy tickets online in advance to avoid tickets sold-out. In addition, if you book tickets online, then you need to arrive at TBS only 30mins before departure time, meanwhile, you need to reach the station at least 1-hour earlier if you buy tickets offline.
Here is the website to buy tickets from TBS to Penang (Sugai Nibong station): click here.
There are 2 bus stations in Penang which are Sugai Nibong and Butterworth. From Sugai Nibong to George Town, you can take only a bus which passes by the beautiful bridge of Penang. On the other hand, if you stop at Butterworth station, you need to take a ferry and a bus to reach George Town. Normally, people would prefer to stop at Sugai Nibong station. So make sure the bus stop at the right station that you want to reach by checking with the ticket seller and bus driver.
Flights to Penang from KL are operated by Malindo, AirAsia, etc. daily and take 1.5 hours.
There are 2 airports where you can take the flight to Penang: KLIA2 Airport and Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Aiport.
KLIA2 Airport is located just a few kilometers away from KLIA international airport. From KLIA Airport, you can reach KLIA2 Airport in 5 minutes by shuttle train. If you depart from KL city center, there is a train line called KLIA Ekspres which connects KL Sentral station and KLIA2 airport (and KLIA airport). The total journey takes about 30 minutes.
Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Aiport is situated on the outskirts of Subang Jaya. From KL center, you can take a bus at Brickfields Asia College bus stop to Jabatan Penerbangan Awam Malaysia (DCA), from there, you can walk to the airport within 9 minutes.
Check out the flight tickets: click here.
From KL Sentral, you can also take Electronic Train Service (ETS) to Penang Butterworth. The total ride from KL to Penang is 4 hours. You can buy the train ticket at the station or buy it online via this link (remember to choose to depart from KL Sentral to Butterworth and choose the departure date).
Note: ETS is also called KTM train.
During our Penang trip, we drove from KL to Penang, the trip takes 5 hours (or more) depending on the traffic. Be noticed that heavy traffic jam is common during weekends.
3. GETTING AROUND PENANG
There are multiple ways to get around Penang such as walking, bicycle, Grab, or Bus. For the 1st day, maybe you can have a walk to the attractions around George Town, they are quite close to each other. Otherwise, you can also consider other means of transport as below:
If the weather is pleasant, getting around Penang by bicycle is a perfect idea. You can find a lot of rental shops around George Town. One-day rental costs only around RM10-20. If you stay in a hotel, maybe it will provide bicycles for free or for rent too.
Grab is an application to book cars/taxis in Southeast Asia (same as Uber). If you travel with a group of 3-4 people, then carpooling will be an affordable and easy option.
Here is the link to the app: click here.
Surprisingly, there is a free bus line called Central Area Transit Loop Line (CAT). The CAT buses operate daily from 6 AM to 11:30 PM and stop nearby several tourist attractions in George Town. Click here to see bus routes.
4. WHERE TO STAY IN PENANG?
There are 2 main areas that you can stay in Penang: George Town and Batu Ferringhi.
- George Town is the capital of Penang where most of the tourist attractions are located in. Most of the places of interest can be reached by walking such as Khoo Kong Si, Penang street art, etc. This area offers a wider range of accommodation budgets from 5-star hotels and Airbnb to budget hotels/hostels.
- Meanwhile, Batu Ferringhi is the most popular beach in Penang where you can have a relaxing holiday in luxury resorts and have fun with watersport activities such as Jetski, parasailing, etc. In addition, there are some places that you can visit around this area such as Escape theme park, Penang national park, Spice garden, etc.
Fortunately, Penang island is not that big. You can easily reach either area within 30 minutes by car/ motorbike.
Here are some hotel options in Penang:
During our trip to Penang, we rented an apartment for 5 people in Tropicana 218 Macalister condo at the price of RM1400 for 2 nights. The apartment is clean, close to the center, has an ocean view of Penang, and has a swimming pool. The only concern is that they do not offer teeth brushes and toothpaste. Overall, highly recommended!
Here are some details about the apartment:
- Link to book rooms: click here
- Address: 218, Jalan Macalister, George Town, Penang, 10440
- Price range: from RM240/double room/night
5. WHAT TO DO IN PENANG?
Khoo Kong Si is the biggest clan temple in Malaysia which is located in Cannon Square, George Town. The Khoos emigrated from Fujian (China) who were among the richest Chinese traders in Malaysia in the 17th century. They erected a clan complex in 1851 as a small clan village consisting of their own financial, educational, welfare and social organizations, etc.
However, the complex was burnt down in 1901 due to lightning. It was then rebuilt but on a smaller scale in 1902 and completed in 1906.
Address: 18, Cannon Square, George Town
Opening hours: daily 9:00 – 17:00
Entrance fee: RM10
Penang street art
Penang is well-known for its creative mural art which can be found everywhere around George Town. The paintings are even more lively when they are incorporated with real objects such as bicycles, motorbikes, etc.
Some of the most famous Penang mural arts are Little girl in blue, Little children on a bicycle, I want bao, etc. To find those paintings, you can ask the local shopkeepers or drivers, they will show you where they are.
Entrance fee: free
Kek Lok Si temple
Kek Lok Si temple is the biggest Buddhist temple in Malaysia located at the foot of the Air Itam mountain. The temple was initially erected in 1980 by Beow Lean- an immigrant Chinese Buddhist. Later, the expansion of the temple was made by the Chinese community in Penang.
To be honest, I must say that this is the most beautiful Buddhist temple that I have visited with a great harmonized architecture that combines Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism and traditional Chinese architectural style.
Admission is free in the Kek Lok Si temple. However, to get uphill by tram, you need to queue and pay RM4/adult/ 2 ways.
Address: Tingkat Lembah Ria 1, 11500 Air Hitam, Pulau Pinang
Opening hours: daily 8:30 – 17:30
Entrance fee: free
Escape theme park
The escape theme park offers a plethora of fun and adventurous activities such as zipline, banana flip, chairlift, speed racer, etc. If you travel with a group of friends, then this will be an amazing place to go. You may need a whole day to explore all games here.
Regarding tickets, you can either buy them at the park or buy them online. Online booking is cheaper by about 7% and saves your queuing time. Here is the link to book Escape Themepark tickets: Click here.
Note: clothing policy is strict in Escape theme park Penang, each area requires different clothes, so remember to bring: sports shoes, flipflop, a swimming suit, and a bath towel.
Address: 828, Jalan Teluk Bahang, Teluk Bahang, 11050 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang
Opening hours: daily 10:00 – 18:00
Entrance fee: RM167/adult
There are 5 jetties belonging to 5 Chinese clans which are Tan, Lim, Chew, Yeoh, Lee. Among them, the Chew Jetty is the most famous to tourists. This place is also used to celebrate Chinese New Year in recent years.
Address: Chew Jetty, Weld Quay
Opening hours: daily 9:00 – 21:00
Entrance fee: free
Penang Wonderfood Museum
Known as the food heaven of Malaysia, Penang offers to tourists a plethora of delicacies. If you are a real foodie, you can take time to discover about Penang food culture in Penang Wonderfood Museum.
There are 3 zones in the museum which are Info Zone, Wow Zone, and Educational Zone.
The Info Zone displays more than 100 local traditional food replicas of the Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Perakanan.
In the Wow Zone, you can take instagrammable pictures with giant food models such as char kuay teow, cendol, curry mee, etc.
The last section – Educational Zone – is displayed to show how our food options would affect the environment.
Address: 49, Lebuh Pantai, George Town
Opening hours: daily 9:00 – 18:00
Entrance fee: RM18/Malaysian, RM28/Foreigners.
Note: You can book the tickets online at a cheaper price via this link.
Upside down museum Penang
If you are hunting for a fun activity in Penang, then check it out at Upside down museum. There are different upside-down settings that you can take funny photos with. In each area, there are staffs who will guide you on how to take photos. The total visit time is about 40mins.
Address: 45, Lebuh Kimberley, George Town
Opening hours: daily 9:30 – 18:30
Entrance fee: RM27/adult, RM16/kid
6. Penang tourist map
Below is the tourist map of Penang with all places of interest in Penang.
7. HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY IN PENANG?
For Penang, I would say 3 days 2 nights is just enough to visit all the famous places of interest in Penang. Transportation time from KL to Penang already takes roughly 10 hours for both ways, so take that into consideration when planning your Penang trip.
If you like to learn more about culture and history, then plan more days in Penang. Penang was a well-known trade port in the 18th century, that’s why it is a mix of different cultures with an in-depth history. Thus, to get more understanding of Penang, at least 4 days would be recommended.
8. HOW MUCH TO SPEND IN PENANG?
During my visit, I spent around 700 RM/person for 3 days 2 nights in Penang including transportation from KL to Penang, condo apartment, food, admission fee, etc.
In fact, Penang travel expenses can be varied. It can be as low as 500 RM/person for 3 days 2 nights if you choose a more budget-friendly hostel/dorm and have local street food. In contrast, it can be expensive if you stay in a 5-start hotel and spend money on shopping, etc.
Above is my experience of traveling from KL to Penang. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask in the comment box.
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