Being in Penang

First of all, Penang is a metropolis. Its capital city, George Town, is modern and equipped with all of today’s creature comforts including WiFi, broadband, Starbucks, multiplex cinema and Uniqlo that exist side by side with traditional traders of trishaw makers, bamboo furniture weavers and hawker food. English is spoken widely and it is a relatively safe place in terms of travelling alone or with children.

Staying Connected
The centre of George Town city is proud to be a free WiFi zone. The state government has spent millions installing this convenience. There are hotspots to gain this free connection and if all else fails, most cafes as well as restaurants in Penang offer free WiFi in return of a coffee or meal purchase from their establishment.
Find a hotspot near you here.

Being Mobile
Driving in Penang, if you’re not used to it, may get a little tricky. The little lanes snaking through its city along with the fearless driving tactics of Penangites may intimidate. So, it’s best to rely on the reasonably good public transportation consisting of buses, taxis, ferries and trishaws.

While buses are the cheapest form of public transport available in Penang, taxis are yet to run on meter and can either be hailed from the street, via an app or phone call. What you do is, agree on a price to your destination before getting into the taxi. As a reference, a 8km or 15 minute ride may cost between RM17 – RM25.

Trishaws are ubiquitous in George Town, just hail them when you see them and their going rate is roughly RM30 for an hour. Ferries float on the channel between Butterworth on the mainland and the island. The trip is around 15 minutes at around RM7.70 to the island and free to the mainland. For an inexpensive fee and easy tour of Penang island, there’s a hop-on hop-off bus service too at RM45 for non-Malaysian ID holders and RM19 for those who are.
Public Buses Routes
Taxi Service App 
Penang Hop-on Hop-off bus City Tour 

Free buses:
CAT bus is a central area bus service in George that operates every 20 minutes.
Pulau Tikus Loop 

Otherwise, there are bicycles, motorcycles and cars for hire all over George Town and even at some hotels. Just be wary of where you hire them. To be on the safe side, ask your hotel concierge for recommendations.

There are five, four and three star hotels in Penang. Globally known brands such as Shangri-La, Sheraton and St. Giles can be found here, as well as charming boutique hotels housed in refurbished pre-war shophouses in George Town. While the former will give you familiar comforts, the latter will give you an inkling of Penang’s architectural heritage.

Examples of boutique stay:
Hotel Penaga (city)
23 Love Lane (city)
You Le Yuen (city)
Lone Pine (beach)
Cheong Fatt Tze (mansion, city)

Ringgit and Sen(se)
Malaysia’s currency of ringgit and sen is accepted everywhere in Penang. So are credit cards with Visa or Mastercard being the most popular, especially for restaurants and shops. American Express and Diners Club are accepted in mostly multi-national establishments such as big hotels and chain stores. A six per cent goods and services tax was implemented within the first half of 2015 and bills include this along with 10 per cent government tax. So, don’t be surprised if your restaurant bill seems to be more than the prices stated on the menu. Banks offer secure 24-hour service in the form of ubiquitous ATMs that will allow you to draw out from your home accounts either via MEPS or credit cards with no fuss.

Image credits: Su Aziz