Penang is the most popular tourist destination in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur, and if you go there, it’s easy to see why – it is honestly so beautiful and unique. If you are short on time, I’ve put together an itinerary for you to make sure you don’t miss any of the best stuff if you’re just spending one day in Penang!
How to get to Penang from Kuala Lumpur
This is the most economical option, costing about $10 USD (40RMB) one way. The trip takes about 4 to 5 hours. Taking the bus in Malaysia is a bit complicated, so stay tuned for my guide on that, coming soon! Keep in mind that if you only want to spend one day in Penang, you’ll probably have to stay at least overnight if you’re coming in on the bus.
You can find cheap flights for less than $100 return, fly time is 55 minutes. However, take into account the time and cost of getting to the airport from where you are staying in KL. If you are short on time during your trip to Malaysia, this is the best option. We did this to make the most of our one day in Penang. We arrived about 9am and flew out around 10pm (ahem, would have if our flight hadn’t been delayed… but that’s another story for another travel failure post day!).
Morning – Kek Lok Si Temple
This temple is one of the largest in South-East Asia, and it really is extremely vast. You could spend a whole day walking around here and never get bored of the intricate designs, the wonders of the architecture, the bright colours. It’s also so full of culture and history, there is a lot to learn if you stay alert.
Where to eat in Penang
Lunch in Penang Road Famous Laksa
As the name suggests, this place became famous after its specialty laksa dish gained popularity. Laksa is a typical Malaysian dish which you should definitely try! With that in mind, all around this area are so many different specialty food stalls and restaurants, so feel free to explore and decide the best food in Penang for yourself.
Afternoon – explore Georgetown
You’ve probably seen the pictures of the famous street art that’s dotted around the town. The art is unique and inspiring and there is more than you probably realise! However, it’s not that easy to find a specific one you’re after. There are no signs around or anything like that. While I was there I found this map which points you to all the main wall arts in George Town – it gives you directions to each spot. Very useful!
Longest coffee house in Penang
This is so much more than just a coffee house. It is a maze of artwork, table games, ponds, and fun, not to mention amazing desserts and drinks (although on the pricey side for Malaysia). For us it was just one of the few places with decent air conditioning to escape the early February heat.
Chew jetty isn’t your usual pier – it is full of life. People still live in the ‘clan jetty’, in houses that rise above the water. As you walk along, there are also people selling all sorts of things, and plenty of colours and artwork. From here you can also view Penang Second Bridge, which is the longest bridge in Malaysia and one of the longest in the world.
Dinner – night market
Penang has at least one night market happening every night in different locations (you can find them here). This is the best way to get a taste of the local food and culture – and also eat for cheap!
If you’ve still got room, there are also many places around George Town specialising in traditional deserts. Basically, Penang is a foodie’s paradise!
Evening – train up Penang hill (optional)
If you have time to make it up Penang hill and watch the sunset, it’s the perfect way to finish your day.
This is the only activity in this itinerary which will cost money, but at $7.50USD (30RMB) it’s worthwhile to get up to the highest point in Penang (Penang hill) and get a panoramic view of the city.
Is one day in Penang enough?
You could definitely spend more than one day in Penang if you have the time. It’s one of those quirky little places where you can always find something interesting to do or see. It has history, art, culture and nature. It’s one of my favourite places in Malaysia so I would say if you have more time, spend it in Penang!
That being said, it is a small island and is relatively easy and cheap to get around. Most of the main activities can be covered in one day in Penang with no problem.
Staying the night (or staying longer)? Find somewhere to stay in Penang
If you are planning a short trip to Malaysia, here’s how to make the most of your time there.
PSA: I’ll be posting a lot more about Malaysia on here and on my Instagram in the next few weeks – so make sure you’re following along!
Planning a trip to Penang? Let me know your plans in the comments! Or if you’ve been, let us know what you thought about it.
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