There’s a big difference between navigating traffic and searching for pirated DVDs in JB and going on holiday to Penang. Think of all the retro things you miss about Singapore—shophouses with character, Peranakan tiles, uncrowded streets, a slow pace of life and hawker food that actually tasted good—multiply by 10, and you have a pretty good estimate of the awesomeness of Penang.
Airfare / Bus fare
Penang is just an hour and a half away by plane, and one of the cheapest destinations to get to on budget airlines. So long as you book at least 2-3 weeks in advance, you’ll rarely find yourself paying more than $100.
The average ticket on Tiger Airways, Jetstar Asia or AirAsia costs around $84 to $95. It’s worth noting that Penang is one of those destinations that seems to go on sale very frequently, so subscribe to the budget airlines’ newspapers and you might be able to get a return ticket for $60 or so inclusive of all taxes.
You can also take a coach up to Penang if your butt can stand being seated for almost 12 hours. A return ticket departing Golden Mile Complex should cost around $74 if you book with Billion Stars Express in Singapore.
From the airport or bus terminal, take a Rapid Bus ride costing a maximum of RM4 to Georgetown, Tanjung Bungah or Batu Ferringhi. There are prominent signs indicating the bus routes at the airport, and bus drivers are usually happy to inform you when you’ve arrived at your destination if you ask them beforehand, so taking the bus isn’t as painful as it sounds.
Cost: 85 SGD
Penang is Malaysia’s favourite city for tourism after KL, so you can find hotels of all shapes and sizes, from hip backpackers’ hostels in historical shophouses to posh hotels dating back to colonial times.
Most of the cultural and historical sights are in Georgetown, where most of the budget accommodation is situated, as is the backpackers’ quarter. Many tourists also stay in the Batu Ferringhi area, which is by the sea and populated mainly by luxury hotels and resorts.
If you’re on a budget, a stay in an inexpensive hotel in the Georgetown historical centre can cost as little as 15 SGD to 20 SGD per double room, while a mid range hotel with air conditioning and trendy interior can be had for around 40 to 50 SGD per room. Don’t believe us? Run a search on Agoda and see for yourself.
Due to the availability of inexpensive accommodation, few people use Airbnb, which is actually a pity as there are some very cosy looking private apartments in Georgetown for 20 SGD to 60 SGD a night.
All in all, you’re looking at costs of about 20 SGD to 30 SGD per person if you’re staying with a friend in mid-range accommodation.
Cost: 20 SGD per night / 140 SGD for one week
When Singaporeans visit other destinations in Southeast Asia, their inner princesses kick in and they start taking taxis everywhere without even bothering to check the location of their destination.
Well, while Malaysian cabs might be cheaper than those in Singapore, hopping into one anytime you need to walk more than 3 steps in a non airconditioned place will increase the cost of your trip drastically.
The Rapid bus system is efficient enough and takes you to most major tourist areas for 1.40 MYR (0.50 SGD) to 4 MYR (1.50 SGD). To travel from Georgetown to Batu Ferringhi you will pay about 2.70 MYR (1 SGD).
If you get confused with the bus routes just ask, people are more than willing to help. The Georgetown city centre itself is fairly compact and you should be able to get around easily on foot. Alternatively, rent a bicycle for 4 MYR (1.50 SGD) to 8 MYR (3 SGD) per day.
Cost: 8 MYR (3 SGD) a day / 24 MYR (21 SGD) for one week
Anyone who seriously believes Singapore is a food paradise needs to go to Penang.
While the standard of our hawker food has been falling as older hawkers retire or decide to hire workers to replace them, Penangites are still fiercely proud of their local food.
Ask locals for recommendations if you really want to know what’s good. Even if you’re too shy many of the big hawker centres like CF Hawker Centre off Lebuh Armenian are pretty reliable, with most stalls serving up grub of a high standard.
Hawker prices are about 30% cheaper than in Singapore, and you can get a generous plate of wanton mee or a bowl of Penang laksa for about 5 MYR (1.87 SGD) to 6 MYR (2.24 SGD).
Cost: 20 MYR (7.50 SGD) a day / 140 MYR (52 SGD) in a week
Most Singaporeans who visit Penang just eat their way through the entire holiday, spending nothing on actual tourist attractions. Walking around the UNESCO World-Heritage listed historic centre is free, but just in case you’re the museum or temple-going sort here are some of the better known attractions.
- Khoo Kongsi Clan Temple – Free
- Kapitan Keling Mosque – Free
- Kek Lok Si Temple – Free, 3 MYR (1.10 SGD) to pagoda, 4 MYR (1.50 SGD) funicular tram ride to the summit
- Penang Butterfly Farm – 27 MYR (10 SGD)
- Snake Temple – Free
Cost: 50 MYR (19 SGD) to keep yourself occupied for a week
Total cost of a week-long holiday in Penang: 317 SGD
If you happen to be planning a trip up to Penang over the upcoming long weekend, it would be prudent to make sure you travel in peace by securing your travel insurance plans first. You can of course do this easily with MoneySmart’s Travel Insurance Wizard, and travel with the peace of mind that you’re properly protected.
Are you inspired to travel to Penang? Tell us why in the comments!