Useful Tips For Backpacking Penang

Besides Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Melacca,Langkawi, Penang is another amazing destination you shouldn’t miss when visiting Malaysia.

Penang is voted as 1 of 10 cities to visit in 2016 by Lonely Planet. The island is a harmony of nature, culture, architect, and food.

If you want to travel to Penang on a budget, here are some things you should know.

Flight booking

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It’s easy to find a flight to Penang, many airlines -both tradition and budget- have flight route to the island. However, you should pay attention and look for a direct flight instead of wasting time and money for a flight which has to change airplane in Kuala Lumpur.

Plan early and look for discount tickets is always a good idea.

 

Accommodation

Penang is a tourism city, it easy to understand that there is a vast diversity of accommodations here. A place to stay in George Town would be ideal to explore the culture and food of Penang.

Dorms in Love Lane Road, George Town is a place for budget travelers, the cost for a night here is only from 4.5 to 9 USD. Other standard hotels in Penang usually cost from 15 USD per night (include breakfast).

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If you look for a more luxurious accommodation,  Penang Batu Feringghi- a suburb of George Town- is the place for you. There are many world-class resorts and luxurious hotels here.

 

Food in Penang

If you happen to be a fan of affordable South East Asian food, Penang is Malaysia’s food paradise location and you will be able to discover many of Malaysia’s top dishes by exploring George Town’s endless street food options.

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If you are lost for choice, head straight to Red Garden, a Malaysian food paradise full of a wide selection of affordable Hawker stands, fit for any budget. Here you can truly dive into some Malaysian Classics.

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Grab a table, walk around and pick up a selection of different Malaysian dishes to try. South East Asian food is best shared with friends (Can pick one 1/2 dishes each), this is a fun way to sample a lot of different dishes for affordable prices and have fun at the same time, a great way to discover new Malaysian foods.

 

Attractions you shouldn’t miss

UNESCO World Heritage Zone & Armenian Street: old historical area in the heart of the UNESCO Heritage Zone in downtown Georgetown. The area contains a melange of late 19th-century colonial and settler architecture, texturized by a community that still maintains a traditional way of urban life. For walking, highlights include Armenian Street, Pitt Street, Love Lane, Little India, the esplanade, and Beach Road. Within this area, the Khoo Kongsi clan temple, Kapitan Keling Mosque, and Pinang Peranakan Mansion are highlights. A small flea market starts every evening at the park near the Armenian Street & Lebuh Acheh junction (pickpocket alert). Mostly, used second-hand junk for sale, but there may be the occasional find. Further towards Penang Road, the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion on Leith Street that exemplifies early Chinese courtyard houses is also a favorite.

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Penang Street Art: In conjunction with Penang’s Georgetown Festival, certain old walls within our dear capital has gained a new lease of life, thanks to the awesome efforts of Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, Penang Street Art artist. The artworks are funny, fascinating, and very much open to everyone’s interpretations.

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Penang Hill / Bukit Bendera: Probably has the best view of Georgetown, especially at night. Go up via the Penang Hill Railway (Return fare: Malaysians – Adult RM10, Child RM4; foreign tourists: Adult RM30, Child RM15). The train takes 5 minutes to reach the summit. The service runs from 6:30AM-9PM daily, accessible by taxi or Rapid Penang bus no. 204 to the last stop (RM2). The train, which was upgraded in 2011, is a fascinating little cable train service that lifts you out of the heat and humidity of the coastal plain and up to a fabulous view and cool breezes.

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Kek Lok Si-Temple:  A sprawling hillside structure that is reputed to be the largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia, with the Khmer/Thai/Chinese style Ban Po Thar (Ten Thousand Buddhas Tower) and various Buddha images in the main temple complex. Furthermore, a mini-funicular train (RM4) connects to the summit of the hill featuring a giant 36.5m high statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. The current bronze version was completed after donations from mainland Chinese in 2003. Photographers will find it well worth the inclined elevator ride up. During the Chinese New Year period, the temple is decorated with hundreds of lanterns which turn it into a night-time wonderland. Located near the village of Air Itam; a taxi from Georgetown will set you back RM 20-25; catching a bus from the station next to the Komtar or 7-Eleven at Lebuh Chulia will cost you RM2 (take Rapid Penang bus no. 203 to Air Itam, the last stop).

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The complex reeks of commercialism with shops at every level and Buddhists may find little sacred at this site. Try to avoid the busy weekends. During the fifteen days of Chinese New Year, the temple is colorfully lit and opened to the throngs of tourist and worshippers till 11pm.

 

Staying safe

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Penang is a relatively safe place for travelers, however, it has its share of crime. Apply common sense as you would when you’re in your home country. Precautions should be taken to guard against snatch-thieves, pickpockets, and scams. Some other precautions:

– Avoid walking alone or be extra cautious in deserted places, alleys, and streets, especially after dark. Love Lane has become safer in the last few years when it was a red-light strip but muggings and snatch-thefts can occasionally happen. Some suburbs like Jelutong have higher crime rates but these are usually off the tourist trail.

– Don’t accept rides from unlicensed unmarked taxis known as Kereta Sapu. Be wary of strangers offering a ride in their car.

– Be wary when carrying valuables (camera, handbags, etc.) in motorbike or bicycle baskets. Thieves (usually also on motorcycles) may target these when you’re stopped at a traffic light.

– Use the safe in your hotel room if available to store valuables. Do not leave valuables in your car.

– Be careful when placing your cellphone, handbag, camera, valuables on the table when dining at roadside stalls, food courts, or open-air restaurants. Quick-fingered thieves may walk by and swipe them when you are not looking…

– Do be wary of purse snatchers – especially when wearing jewelry and/or carrying bags. Some of these felons practice the art of ‘ride-by’ grabbing handbags which can result in serious injury to the victim. So ladies: walk against traffic and keep the handbag on the side away from the road or better still, don’t carry one. Safety in numbers may apply.

– Do be wary of the (sometimes aggressive) long-tail macaques at the botanical gardens. Don’t eat when entering the gardens. The monkeys love food (including ice-cream) and may try to get it.

– Look out for men who grope people on the bus (it happens to both male and females!). In the event this happens, get off the bus to a fairly populated, well-lit street, in the event the perpetrator may choose to follow you. You can easily look help from other locals or the ‘Polis’ (police).

– Be careful about your surroundings in waters off Batu Feringhi beach, where you may be harmed by unregulated & haphazardly piloted jet skis and/at other water activities. Jellyfish (including the rarely seen but dangerous box jellyfish) can be a risk at certain times of the year. Be careful with strong currents off Kerachut Beach during the monsoon season (usually June-Oct). The sea off Kerachut Beach may be infested with jellyfish during certain months, so swimming during this times is not advisable.

– Look both ways when crossing the road. Do not assume vehicles will stop for you at pedestrian crossings.

– Don’t be too paranoid and enjoy Penang.

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