Following the crowning of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, Penang has seen a boost in the tourism industry. Penang has been in the top three with approximately 11% of the total registered hotel guests of the country. The tourism industry is relatively vibrant in Penang as the average hotel occupancy rate in Penang was recorded higher than the country, with 63.5% and 64% recorded in 2011 and 2012 respectively compared to the country 60.6% in 2011 and 62.4% in 2012.
What are the 5 most useful living tips for foreigners to Penang Island? We shall explore from different angles includes transportation, food, accommodation, laundry and money matters.
Public transportation is not as convenient as to her other neighbourhood island cities such as Singapore, Taiwan or Hong Kong. There is no MRT and subway service in Penang. As a result, transportation in Penang is highly dependent on motorcycle vehicles and cars. According to the Road Transport Department, there are more vehicles in Penang than there are people! Rapid Penang is one of the leading bus operators in Penang. Foreigners are encouraged to visit Rapid Penang if you are considering having more economical methods to travel around the Penang Island. There are various packages offered to both locals and foreigners from Rapid Penang such as purchasing a Rapid passport for only RM30 and enjoy a week of unlimited travel onboard all rapid Penang buses.
Hotels in Penang, in general, are located in the North-East district along the beaches in Batu Ferringgi that are mainly catered for local and foreigners for vacation, while most of the smaller budget and boutique hotels are predominantly located in the historical city of George Town. The promotional rates of boutique hotels are between RM350 to RM500 per rooms per night. Apart from the North-East District, the South-West District- Bayan Baru- is well positioned to be the upcoming and dynamic growing locations in Penang too. Due to its neighbourhood of industrial areas that housed a few hundreds of MNCs, South-West District are one of the preferred retail/shopping destination for working professionals, families, visitors and MICE (meeting, incentive, convention, exhibition). So, visitors to Penang for business purposes can explore the hotels, homestay or rental houses in Bayan Baru area.
Penang street food is food paradise of Asia. Penang has won many awards and recognitions in food industry, such as ranked in CNNGo’s Asia’s 10 Greatest Street Food Cities in 2012. Renowned travel guide publisher Lonely Planet has listed Penang as top culinary sport for 2014, British daily The Independent reported. Penang was known for its hawker fare and the “must tries” were char koay teow, Hokkien mee, asam laksa, nasi kandar, cendol, mee goreng, fried oyster, etc. Foodies don’t need to worry as to where to taste these authentic local cuisines. Food will never be an issue in Penang. It is so convenient to get food all around Penang Island, as we can get many restaurants, hawker centres, and food stall, everywhere. It is not too exaggerate to mention food is at your doorstep when you are in Penang!
Visitors who stay in Penang for a period of time may concern where to get the laundry. Laundry in Penang is conveniently found especially in those high population areas. Visitors who stay in hotel may have to pay a surcharge of laundry items which may be pricy if compared to do the laundry at laundry shops. Laundry shop in Penang normally charge price per KG for normal cleaning. Example for normal cleaning services including wash, dry and fold normally range from RM3-RM4/kg. However, bear in mind that if your clothing does not meet minimum loading per machine, normally the laundry shop may still charge the customers for minimum loading price, which may be around RM12-15/loading. Another option to save the laundry cost, visitors may explore homestay or vacation house rentals which most of them provides washing machines to their guests.
Money matters, Banking hours and Government Offices
Travellers are advised to bring a combination of traveller’s cheques, cash and credit cards. Credit cards are widely used in larger shopping malls and hotels. Smaller shops accept transactions in cash only. Foreign currency can be exchanged in banks, airports and money changers around the Island.
All government offices operate on a five-day week. Offices are open from Mondays to Fridays and are closed during the weekend. If a public holiday (for festivals and special occasions) falls on a non-working day, the following day will be declared a holiday. Working hours are from 8.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday. There is a long lunch break on Fridays (12.15pm – 2.45pm) to allow the Muslims to perform their prayers.
Banks are open from Mondays to Saturdays and are closed on Sunday and Public holidays. Bank working hours are from 9:15am to 4:30pm while Friday and Saturday observe a shorter working hours, i.e Friday from 9:15am to 4:00pm and Saturday from 11:00am to 2:00pm. Only major branches are open on Saturday. Most banks are closed on the first and third Saturdays of the month, so, visitors are advised to obtain further information on local banking hours upon arriving at their destinations. However, for financial matters that can handle through ATM machines, ATM machines are operating 24 hours throughout 365 days.
Please visit Happy Homestay Malaysia to find out safe, clean and affordable stay in Penang Island.