Travel & Places Asia Pacific

Penang Is a Famous Island, but Where Exactly Is it?

Question: Where is Penang?

Penang is a large island located in the Malacca Strait off the northwest coast of Malaysia. The island is south of Pulau Langkawi in Malaysia, around four hours south by minibus from the Thailand-Malaysia border. Penang is around four hours by bus from Kuala Lumpur.

A Little About Penang, Malaysia

Penand Island, or Pulau Penang in Malay, has an area of about 114 square miles, making it the fourth-largest island in Malaysia.

With a population of 678,000, Penang is the most populous island in Malaysia. Georgetown, the sprawling urban capital on Penang, has a rich colonial history and became listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Penang is also famous for its street food and fusion of delicious Malay, Chinese, and Indian dishes. The island is consistently voted as a top food destination by many travel outlets. If you enjoy trying new Asian foods, you’re going to love Penang!

Getting to Penang

Penang has a recently refurbished international airport (airport code: PEN) located around 30 minutes outside of Georgetown with flights to many points in Southeast Asia. A few airlines offer connections to Hong Kong, Guangzhou in China, and Taipei. Low-cost carriers such as Firefly and Malindo Air have direct flights to Thailand.

Penang is connected to the city of Butterworth on the mainland via Penang Bridge. Minivans and an excellent bus system service Penang from Thailand and other major destinations in Malaysia.

The bus from Kuala Lumpur takes a little over four hours to reach Penang, depending on traffic.

Ferries run directly between Penang and Langkawi. Trains from as far as Bangkok stop in Butterworth; you’ll have to arrange transport across the bridge to reach Penang by train.

The Best Time to Visit Penang

Penang is enjoyable at any time of year, however, the driest months are often January and February. Even during these months, heavy thunderstorms can pop up. The wettest months in Penang are usually between August and November.Traveling during the monsoon months is still possible and enjoyable, however, mosquitoes are much more of a problem.

Temperatures in Penang stay warm, from 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night to over 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Afternoons can be scorching in Penang as the humidity is often quite high.

Enjoying Penang, Malaysia

Although Penang is an island, you certainly won’t find the same small-island vibe found on Tioman Island or in the Perhentian Islands. The best beaches on the island are found in the resort area of Batu Feringghi in the north and within Penang National Park on the northwest tip of the island.

Penang has a uniquely eclectic buzz that compliments the thriving art scene. The sounds of Bollywood blast from speakers in Little India as you stroll past colonial-era buldings. Street art, cafes, galleries, and plenty of historical places will keep you busy. You’ll find several interesting museums in Penang as well as lots of old colonial architecture.

Some places of interest around the island include:
  • Balik Pulau, in the interior of Penang, is a green region famous for their strong durian fruits.
  • The snake temple is famous for the poisonous vipers that roam freely.
  • Kek Lok Si, located around 40 minutes outside of Georgetown, is Malaysia’s most impressive Buddhist temple.

See some more things to do in Penang.

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