As a multicultural destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is difficult to define Penang in just one word. As such, knowing the local culture beforehand will help you understand Penang better.


Most signs are written in Malay and English, with some in Chinese. Names of roads and main destinations are in Malay as well. It would be helpful to know some basic Malay although English is widely spoken in many areas.

Fares for visitors

In Penang, quite a number of attractions offer subsidised fare for local Malaysians. Visitors may notice the word “MyKad” stated on some price boards. MyKad refers to the Malaysian national identity card, where statements stating “Price for MyKad holders” refer to prices applicable to Malaysian nationals. Entrance fees and fares are usually obviously displayed to avoid confusion. In the occasion where prices are not stated, do remember to check before proceeding.

Tipping Culture

Service charges are already included in places such as hotels and restaurants, so additional tipping is not required. You may tip as a gesture of expressing your appreciation when hospitable treatment or help is rendered.

Things to note during Ramadan

‘Ramadan’ is a major Muslim event that occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims fast daily from dawn to sunset and refrain from drinking water during this time. Out of respect for those fasting, try not to waste large amounts of food or behave imprudently in front of Muslims during Ramadan.

Things to note for pedestrians

Walking around George Town is common and one of the best ways to tour this UNESCO heritage city, accessing quirky small lanes. Traffic lights for pedestrians are available at most main streets. Pedestrians are advised to obey the pedestrian crossing lights for safety reasons.