Penang FAQs

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Area geography

Penang lies off the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia and is bounded to the north and east by the state of Kedah, to the south by the State of Perak and to the west by the Straits of Malacca and Sumatra (Indonesia).

It is geographically divided into two sections, the island of Penang covering an area of 285 square kilometres, and Seberang Perai, a narrow strip of approximately 760 square kilometres, which is separated by a channel 4 kilometres wide. The two are linked by the 13.5-kilometre Penang Bridge and a cross-channel ferry service. Penang Island is irregular, with a hilly terrain and mostly forested interior. Seberang Perai, on the other hand is mostly flat except for Bukit Mertajam.

Notes currencies cards

Ringgit (MYR, Symbol RM) often referred to as the Malaysian Dollar is the official currency of Malaysia. While notes are in denominations of RM 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1, coins are in denominations of 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 sen.

MasterCard, Visa and American Express are widely accepted. Diners Club is accepted at shopping centres, departmental stores and some posh restaurants and hotels. ATMs can be found throughout town and most accept international credit cards like Visa, MasterCard and others. Travellers cheques are accepted by all banks, hotels and departmental stores.

If you are looking to exchange your currency, you can do so at the airport, hotels, banks, malls and money changers throughout Penang. Avoid exchanging your money at the airport, hotels and banks, as they have the worst exchange rates. Instead choose from the many money changers in George Town who will be willing to negotiate better rates. You are more likely to fetch a better deal for higher denominations above RM 1000, rather than smaller denominations.

Cellular service for tourists

Malaysia has three main cell phone service providers including Celcom, Maxis and DiGi. Celcom service providers sell a local pre-paid SIM that can be used with international cellular phones. All incoming calls are free of charge, and outgoing calls are charged on peak and off peak rates. Pre-paid SIM cards can be procured from anywhere, especially large-scale shopping malls.

Wifi internet

Wi-Fi hotspots can be found throughout Penang - in hotels, airports, coffee shops and even hawker centres. Internet cafes can also be found around town, but don’t forget to check with your concierge or local tourist information centre about the best places close by. The usual charges are about RM 5 to RM 10 per hour.

Drinking laws

The legal age for alcohol consumption and purchase is 18 years. Liquor is available in pubs, supermarkets and provision stores. While most nightspots shut at 1 am, there are some places that stay open later.

Tipping

Tipping is not mandatory in Penang, unless of course you would like to leave a tip for good service. RM 5-10 is generally considered a good tipping amount.

Custom visa

A visa is required to travel to Malaysia. Get in touch with your Malaysian consulate to apply for a visa. The processing time generally varies depending on the city where you are applying from. Passports should be valid for at least six months after the date of arrival in Malaysia.

There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency notes or travellers cheques that one can bring into the country, however amounts exceeding RM 10,000 or its equivalent in foreign currency must be declared. Travellers can carry up to 1 litre of alcohol and 1 carton of cigarettes without paying duty; amounts above that will be subject to local taxes. Malaysia has a very strict drug-abuse policy, including death sentence for convicted drug traffickers. 

Safety

While the crime rate is low, the problem of pickpocketing persists in Penang. Be wary of “Snatch thieves” and avoid dark, deserted areas. Women should keep a close watch on their handbags. It is advised to put away your passport, flight tickets, extra cash and travellers cheques, along with any extra credit or ATM cards into the safe the minute you check in. Keep a close watch on personal belongings when travelling on overnight trains and buses.

General information

Languages spoken

Bahasa Melayu, English, Hokkien, Mandarin, Indian (mainly Tamil) and Chinese (mainly Cantonese) dialects

Time zones

IST (GMT/UTC + 8:00 hours)

Major religions

Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Hinduism

Domestic international calling codes

(0) 4 (area code) / + 60 (country code)

Electricity standards

240 v/ 50 Hz. UK-style three-pin plugs are used.

Common greetings

Hello- Hello

Good Morning- Selamat Pagi

Good Evening- Selamat Petang

Goodbye- Selamat Jalan / Selamat Tinggal

Thank you- Terima Kasih

Sorry- Minta maaf

Do you speak English?- adakah anda bercakap bahasa Inggeris

I do not understand- i tidak faham

No- tidak

Yes- ya

I do not know- saya tidak tahu

How are you?- Apa khabar?

What is your name?- Nama kau apa

My name is _____- Nama saya (your name)

Where is the washroom?- Tandas / Bilik Air

Is this vegetarian? ( point to a dish in a menu card)- ini adalah vegetarian

Where is this? (point to a monument, amenity on a paper/map)- di mana

How much does this cost?- Berapa harga?

Too expensive!- terlalu mahal

A little cheaper- sedikit lebih murah

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Emergency numbers

Police: 999,

Ambulance: 991,

Fire department: 994,

Tourist Police: +604 261 2211