Located by the Straits of Malacca, Penang was discovered in the 16th century by Portuguese traders who were on their way to the Far East. This once uninhabited island features a sheltered harbour which provided ships with a much needed refuge during the monsoons. Established as a British trading post by Francis Light in the 18th century, Penang grew as a commercial centre and its colonial heritage can be seen to this day.
Also known as "The Pearl of the Orient", this Malaysian State is made up of Penang Island and Seberang Perai and has become an economic hub in the region, whilst retaining its rich cultural diversity. Penang’s multicultural influences not only can be seen in its historical architecture and attractions, but also in its cuisine as well, which forms an integral part of its unique cultural identity.
Penang Travel Tips
The state’s main airport is the Penang International Airport at Bayan Lepas which offers connections to major destinations around the world, including direct flights to Bangkok, Singapore and Madras. The airport is only about 20km from the city centre and taxi or bus services are widely available from here to various points around the island.
Those visiting by car can take the North-South Highway which connects with the West side of Peninsular Malaysia. The main entry point is Butterworth from where you can either drive over the Penang Bridge to the island or take the ferry.
Another option of getting to Penang is by train. Visitors can make use of the KTMB train service which offers connections from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth. The ferry terminal to Penang is located near the Butterworth station and offers easy access to the island.
The most popular and cost effective way of travelling around Penang is by bus. The KOMTAR buildings and Weld Quay in Georgetown are where you will find the main bus terminals, offering connections to the island’s main destinations.
Taxis and car rental services are also available, while for a more traditional mode of transport visitors can take three-wheeled trishaws and soak up the colourful local culture. Of course once in the historic capital Georgetown, sightseeing by foot is one of the best ways to explore this culturally rich area.
What to pack:
Light clothing and sun block are essential when visiting Penang, with its warm equatorial climate and temperatures ranging from 29°C to 35°C during the day. Temperatures at night get cooler and range from 26°C to 29°C, while umbrellas come in handy especially during the island’s wettest periods: April to May and October to November.
What to do and where to go?
Sightseeing in Penang offers a truly unforgettable island adventure. The capital, Georgetown, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to a wealth of attractions that give you an idea of the island’s rich history. Penang beaches provide the ideal coastal escape, while shopaholics can enjoy plenty of retail therapy in the capital. Another not to be missed Penang experience is its diverse cuisine which can be sampled at the many restaurants and local eateries.
Our city guide to Penang Malaysia helps you get an idea of a few of the many highlights you can visit when on holiday.
Municipal Council and Town Hall buildings
Arts and Culture:
Penang Museum and Art Gallery
Universiti Sains Malaysia Museum and Gallery
Penang Toy Museum
Penang War Museum
Kek Lok Si-Temple of Supreme Bliss
Parks and Recreation:
Penang National Park
Penang Botanic Gardens
Area: 1,048 sq km
Language: Malay (also English, Mandarin, Hokkein and Tamil)