The preferred mode of transport to catching a train, the Penang ferry service connects George Town and Butterworth via the Port of Penang. With several cross-channel services, both passengers and vehicles can board the ferry by purchasing a ticket from Butterworth terminal. High speed ferries to resort islands such as Langkawi in Kedah are also available.
With a new experience around every corner, the best way to discover the real Penang is on foot. With roads sometimes congested during the day, start off early in the morning to avoid the two-way traffic rush. Wander the streets and alleyways at your own pace or alternatively hire a bicycle from the hotel stretch of Batu Ferringhi and in the city.
A regular bus service provides transport between the beach resorts at Batu Ferringhi and George Town as an inexpensive way of getting around the island. The Central Area Transit (CAT) bus service allows visitors to get around central Penang for free, travelling to major attractions and shops hassle-free. Find them at regular intervals from 7am to 7pm weekdays and until 2pm Saturdays.
In keeping with the old world charm of Penang, a trishaw ride is a relaxing way to discover the sights. A cycle rickshaw, this is a popular way to travel at a leisurely pace, allowing you to stop to take photographs whenever you feel the need. As there is no standard rate, be sure to agree on a price before you sit down.
Predominantly Muslim, public shows of affection are generally frowned upon, particularly on the East coast of Malaysia where men and women keep a safe distance from each other. Dress conservatively if entering a mosque and if invited into a Malaysian home, it is best to present your hosts with a gift known as the buah tangan, meaning 'fruit of the hands'.
The currency in Penang is the Malaysian ringgit (RM) or MYR. With one ringgit equivalent to 100 sen, banknotes are in denominations of RM100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2. The city centre offers the best rates of exchange. For ATMs you will find more in the cities. However, most credit cards are accepted in hotels and restaurants.
Plan your visit to Penang during one of its many festivals. Chinese New Year is celebrated in late January or early February while the orange throwing ceremony of Chap Goh Meh commences on the 15th night of the first month on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Wesak Day also celebrates the Lord Buddha's birthday, where temples are brimming with worshippers.
Being a melting pot of culture, English is widely spoken – even though Malay is the standard language of the city. There are many languages which are understood, including various Chinese and Indian dialects as well as Thai and a few European languages. For 'how are you?' ask apa khabar? in Malay, ni hao ma? in Mandarin or lu ho bo? in Penang Hokkien.
Leaving Auckland you can get to Penang in 13 hours, 15 minutes via Kuala Lumpur thanks to Thai Airways or Malaysia Airlines.
Penang International Airport is located 16 km south of George Town, the capital city of Penang. There are a number of direct flights running daily from other major capitals in the region. The best way to travel to Penang is via connecting flights from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Once you have arrived you can choose from a range of transfer options.
Driving around Penang Island is relatively easy, so it's worth renting a car from the airport if you like your freedom and flexibility. George Town is full of one-way streets so be wary when navigating through the city if it's unfamiliar. There are a number of car hire companies to choose from and a five-seater sedan generally starts at around AUD$50.
With a taxi booth in the arrivals hall at Penang International Airport, getting a ride to your accommodation couldn't be easier. Fares start at AUD$5 to Bayan Lepas and Tabung Haji, AUD$12 to George Town and AUD$18 for as far as Batu Ferringhi. Taxis are a relatively inexpensive way of getting around Penang, especially if you are only interested in the tourist destinations.
Choose from a shared airport transfer in an air conditioned mini coach, or book a personal transfer in advance. A number of local operators will arrange your transfer with 24 hours' notice. Prices are extremely reasonable to suit every budget and drivers will be happy to give you information for travel during the rest of your stay.
Discover the beautiful Malaysian countryside and see a family of orangutans in their natural habitat. Cross the Penang Bridge and board a boat from Eco Park, heading onto the Taiping Lake gardens, one of the oldest parks in the country. Stroll the half-mile boardwalk through the Matang Mangrove Forest for a glimpse at Penang's varied wildlife.
Leave the heat, hustle and bustle of the city behind and enjoy a scenic train ride to Penang Hill. Standing at 2,300 feet (720m) above sea level, marvel at the panoramic views of George Town, Tanjung Bungah and the mainland at the summit. Alternatively, trek to the hilltop if you're feeling energetic for views of the mist covered valley, giant bamboo trees and wildlife.
Take a glimpse into Penang's culture and lifestyle with a tour combining a visit to a Batik factory, a traditional Malay village and the legendary snake temple. Get the whole family involved in Batik painting and enjoy the laid back atmosphere of traditional village life while discovering the tranquil countryside. With prices starting at AUD$18, this is great value for money.
If you're stuck on how to spend an evening, a private tour will give you dinner at George Town's exclusive 32 Mansion restaurant followed by a ferry ride across the Strait of Malacca to the mainland. Discover Malacca and George Town, two historic cities with a unique architectural and cultural background, and finish with a return trip via the eight-mile Penang Bridge.
With an open view of the beach and sea, Ocean Green is popular in Penang for its fresh seafood and great views. Salivate over the steamed tiger prawns with homemade chili sauce to start followed by sizzling oysters and baked crab. With exceptional service to match the food and beautiful views to boot, you really can't go wrong with an evening at Ocean Green.
If you're a fan of Japanese noodles, this is a great find. Traditional surroundings and friendly service mean Soba Yoshi is a hit with many visitors. The sashimi is consistently fresh and is well worth a try along with Ramen noodles and teppanyaki steak. Set in Krystal Point (Penang's shopping mall hub) take a break from retail therapy with some tasty Japanese cuisine.
For affordable Malay food, even the three-course menu won't burn a hole in your wallet. With a cosy atmosphere and eccentric owner known as the local medicine man, every dish is hand-cooked by his wife. The set menu of fish or pineapple curry served with rice and vegetables followed with a pudding is little more than a few dollars.
With Indian restaurants in Penang famous for their banana leaf rice and nasi kandar, Kashmir is famous for its range of north Indian dishes. With a great selection of breads, spicy curries, tandoor grills and biryanis, there is something here for everyone. With good service and ambience, Kashmir blends contemporary design with traditional decor. Make sure to book a table in advance!
Forget the night market in Batu Ferringhi set up for tourists. For a real taste of a Penang head to Farlim on a Wednesday night, where an open field is filled with hundreds of stalls. Enjoy mouth-watering food from Malaysian-style cinammon rolls to Char Koay Kak, a ricecake in thick black soy sauce.
Where the Middle East meets the Mediterranean, Momo has five bars and several stylish areas spanning 16,000 square feet. One of the best new dance clubs Penang has to offer, Momo is open until 3am, allowing you to dance and drink all night. Save Momo for the biggest night on your trip.
Catering to a younger crowd, Mois is the place to be for a party with the best beats. Set in a white colonial style building, guest DJs perform every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with live performances from bands. Free entry before 10pm, head here early to chill out with a beer al fresco.
One of the most famous spots in Penang, head to Slippery Senoritas for the best dancers, DJ sets and live bands. With ladies night on a Wednesday, a choice of 69 designer cocktails and a fiery Latin vibe, make sure you don't leave Penang without heading here first. After all, it's not all about quiet beaches.
One of the most sought-after tourist destinations on the island, make a trip to the star-shaped Fort Cornwallis for the open air amphitheatre and history gallery. Explore the old chapel, prison cells and harbour light or visit the Seri Rambai, a famous cannon believed by locals to have a positive effect on women's fertility. With great sea views, take the whole family for a history lesson with a difference.
With Buddhist temples, Christian churches, Hindu temples and mosques, Penang is never short of multicultural history. For the largest complex of Buddhist temples and pagodas, visit Kek Lok Si or Wat Chayamangkalaram for one of the world's largest reclining Buddhas. At 180 feet, the gold plated statue symbolizes peace and detachment from the world and is well worth a visit.
With crystal waters perfect for snorkeling, catch a catamaran from Penang and dive into waters filled with parrotfish, damselfish and spectacular coral. Pulau Payar is the largest uninhabited and preserved marine park extending over a number of islands on Malaysia's west coast. Discover the captivating underwater world or alternatively hire a jet ski or canoe off Penang's beaches from Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang.
In Teluk Bahang, the Tropical Spice Garden is a paradise boasting over 500 varieties of flora and fauna from Malaysia and other regions. In South East Asia's only dedicated spice sanctuary, transport yourself to a tranquil tropical garden laced with the scent of spices as you wander through. For an afternoon activity the whole family will love, visit the Butterfly Farm where children can handle butterflies and caterpillars for a truly hands-on experience.
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