1) Clan jetties of Penang – Free
This is one of the last strongholds of old Chinese settlements on the island, formed in the 19th century – the perfect place to begin your journey. As the wooden houses are perched right above the water, you can be guaranteed of an immersive culture like no other. Just make sure you’re respectful of the inhabitants and their daily rituals as you wander about.
Fun fact: There were originally seven jetties for each clan – Lim, Chew, Tan, Yeoh, Koay, Lee and Mixed Surnames – but one of them was destroyed by a fire.
This location is perfect for its picturesque houses, long boardwalks and glimpse into the lives of a former seafaring community. As there’re no entry costs and it only takes a 20-minute walk from the Komtar building (heart of George Town), this is practically free of charge!
2) Penang street art trail – RM10
Rent a bicycle and get close to where all the action is; whether it’s exploring the narrow lanes with ease or finding the hidden gems! Eko Baiku Enterprise rents out well-maintained bicycles for just RM10 per day. Apart from the street art created by various artists (both local and international) that’s Instagram-worthy, there are also some unique sculptures to check out.
Splurge: Via Metro Bike, you can opt to rent a trishaw for two people (trishawman included) for RM200, which gives you a minimum two hours ride around George Town Heritage Zones.
Kuala Lumpur-based firm ‘Sculpture at Work’ won the Penang State Government’s contract to create a whopping 52 pieces of iron rod sculptures that illustrate long-forgotten anecdotes of Penang’s streets. We can’t think of a better way to discover Penang, unless it’s….
3) Embarking on a culinary marathon – RM1-6.50
Penangites are proud of their food, and even that’s an understatement! They usually live by the saying: “food should be cheap, good and big portion”. And then when they find such a place, it becomes their go-to for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything else in between. Want to feast like they would, without breaking the bank? Here’s a locally-recommended list:
- Sister Yao Char Koay Kak at Lorong Macalister – A plate of delicious fried rice cake, smoky and savoury, only costs RM3.50!
- Chulia Street Night Hawkers – Head straight for the Char Kuey Teow stall (RM4.50 to RM6.50), where you can choose to have it cooked with either chicken or duck egg.
- Ali Nasi Lemak at Beach Street – Depending on whether you’d like to go back to basics or with yummy sides, it can cost anywhere between RM1.50 to RM4.00.
- Famous Teochew Cendol at Jalan Penang – Cool off after all that exploring with a bowl of cold dessert for only RM2.70.
- Cecil Street Market (also known as “Chit Tiau Lor Bansan”, which is Hokkien lingo for 7th Street Market) – Hawker centre for one of the best bowls of duck meat noodle soup and some of the most affordable drinks.
- Khoon Hiang, along Jalan Dato Keramat – This kopitiam’s Kopi ‘O’ would only set you back RM1, while the rest of the drinks menu is priced just as affordably.
- Mamak Abu at Jalan Penang – One of the cheaper mamaks to satisfy all your late-night greasy cravings.
Splurge: If you want to chill in a café and take even more Instagram-worthy photos, check out Gudang Café (the food and beverage options are surprisingly affordable) at Gat Lebuh Armenian.
4) Panoramic views of the city – Depends
After you’re done stuffing yourself, it’s time to relax and unwind. Take our suggestion: ride the longest funicular railway track in Asia up to Penang Hill for a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the city, sea and sky. Tickets are priced at RM10 for adults and RM5 for children (aged 4 to 12 years old) as well as senior citizens (60 years and above).
Fun fact: The full height of Penang Hill is 2,733 ft above the sea level. Besides the train, you could choose to walk up to the peak – there are several routes available (no entrance fees), one of which begins at the Penang Botanic Gardens.
So if you’re one to enjoy nature and would like to burn off all that extra calories, take a hike and save money in the process! For those who prefer a more leisurely kind of walk…
5) Alternative places for window shopping – Free
First off is the Lorong Kulit flea market which is Penang’s biggest flea market, housing antiques, second-hand and vintage items. Then there’s the Hin Pop-up Market, a former bus depot turned into a beautiful space for anyone to sell a bit of everything, from plants and home-made trinkets to hand-drawn postcards and second-hand books.
Speaking of the latter, the Chowrasta Second-hand Book Market is another place worth checking out. You’ll find it ensconced in the first floor of the Chowrasta market, with hundreds of tomes to browse through – stacked right up to the ceiling!
Splurge: At the Tropical Spice Garden in the City, located at the eastern end of Little India. Instead of the cliché souvenirs (made in China, no less) for your friends and family back home, why not spend a little more to buy fragrant spices and aromatherapy scents produced in Penang?
There's no time like right now!
What are you waiting for? With just a RM50 note, you can see and do so much in the charmingly historical city of Penang. And because this itinerary is flexible, you can choose to splurge for a more atas experience, or save even more by using “Bus #11”: your two legs! Best of all, the list includes only authentic Penang experiences so you can come away feeling like you’ve properly immersed in the local culture.