Penang is one of the most visited states in Malaysia and is located on the north-west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Penang consist of two parts: Penang Island and Seberang Perai. Widely known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient,’ Penang attracts millions of tourists every year with its mixture of multicultural heritage, natural charms, and wonderful food.
Penang is also a popular medical tourism destination, with around 60% of the tourists who visited the state in 2017 came for affordable, high-quality medical treatment. According to the former Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, Penang’s medical tourism contributed 42.3% in revenue to the health tourism market in Malaysia. Medical tourists get the best in terms of quality, options, and savings. The top medical procedures are cosmetic surgery, eye care, and dental surgery.
Penang is a preferred medical tourism destination for the following reason:
World-class doctors and well-trained nurses.
Offers a wide range of excellent healthcare services.
Affordable medical procedures cost less than other medical countries.
The perfect environment for rejuvenation and recovery.
Popular Areas in Penang
Packed with diverse culture and beautiful scenery, Penang is a wonderful place for tourists to explore. There are plenty of places to enjoy the most incredible sites including the white sand of Batu Feringghi, the iconic architecture of Kho Kongsi, the beautiful landscape from the summit of Penang Hill, the Tropical Spice Garden, and the pit vipers in the altars of Snake Temple.
Penang’s capital, George Town, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. George Town is home to a great number of heritage and arts as well as the largest collection of pre-war buildings in Southeast Asia. This historical city is the best place for tourists who want to indulge in cultural sight.
Considered as one of the best places in the world to savor delicious food, the culinary in Penang is a blend of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Peranakan, Thai and European specialties. Tourists can try traditional cuisines such as Assam Laksa, Nasi Lemak, Lok Lok, and many more. Vegetarian versions of the famous local street dishes are also available in various Chinese and Indian outlets.
Weather and Climate in Penang
Just like any other parts of Malaysia, Penang enjoys a year-round tropical rainforest climate which means it is warm and humid through the year. However, the temperature of Penang Island is often higher than the mainland. The average temperatures range between 29–32°C during the day and 25–29°C during the night.
The weather is usually warm in January and February. The rainy season usually starts during the southwest monsoon from April to September and October to early November. The best time to visit Penang is from late November to February as the weather is mostly sunny but it’s not too hot or humid to do outdoor activities during the day.
Getting Around in Penang
Penang is easily accessible by air since Penang International Airport has daily flights to and from domestic destinations and has International connections with Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok, Taipei, Hanoi, and many more major cities in Asia. The airport mainly serves budget airlines such as AirAsia and Firefly, although larger airlines including MAS and Qatar Airways also operate less frequent flights.
To reach George Town, tourists can take a taxi, bus, an airport transfer, or hire a car. Note that airport taxis operate on a voucher system, tourists must buy a voucher beforehand from inside the terminal to avoid taxi cheats. The taxi fare to George Town should cost around RM38 (around 9.00 USD).
There are several different types of public transportation available in Penang. Walking or a trishaw ride is the best way to get around George Town. Free CAT Bus (Central Area Transit) is available for tourists to get to popular attractions in the capital city for free. To travel around surrounding suburban areas of George Town, tourists can opt for Grab (e-hailing app like Uber).
For longer distance trips away from the capital city, Rapid Penang Bus or renting a car/scooter are the best options. Taxis are widely available around the island but be sure to agree on a price first because taxis here do not use meters.
Tourist Visas in Penang
Nationals of most countries are granted visa-free entry to Malaysia for 30 or 90 days. Holders of passports issued by China, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Serbia, and Montenegro are required to apply for a Malaysian tourist visa. The foreign nationals who require a visa to enter Malaysia must apply and obtain a visa in advance before entering the country.
All visitors must hold a passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry into Malaysia. Do ensure to have a valid visa and obey all the rules because the Malaysian Government has a very strict visa regulation and will punish those who violate the terms.
Local Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (RM) is the local currency. It is made up of 100 Sen (cent). 1USD is equivalent to RM4.20. Formerly known as the Malaysian Dollar, older Malaysians sometimes refers to Ringgit as ‘Dollars.’
Money & Payments: ATMs are available across Penang. Credit cards (Visa and MasterCard) are accepted in most hotels and established restaurants. There are plenty of moneychangers in the region and most banks will exchange cash with a commission. Be sure to carry small bills since many street vendors only accept cash. Tipping is not necessary because service charges are already included in hotels and restaurant but tourists may tip as a gesture of appreciation.
Local Language: the official language is Malay but English is widely-spoken since many locals can speak English proficiently. Other major languages spoken in Penang are Hokkien (Penang Hokkien), Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Mandarin, and Tamil.
Local Culture and Religion: Islam is the official religion of Penang but there are other religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Christianity. Tourists can see the diverse culture and faith of Penang in Pitt Street, known as ‘Street of Harmony,’ where four different major places of worship stand only meters away from each other.
Public Holidays: Penang celebrates all the major religious holidays such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year, Wesak Day, Deepavali, and Christmas. Many festivals are lined up throughout the year. Penang also hosts unique festivals like George Town World Heritage Day every year on July 7 to commemorate the inscription of the city as a World Heritage City by UNESCO.