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Basic Facts About Living In Penang

Living in PenangIf it is your first time staying in Penang, it may help to have some information about the basic day-to-day facts of living here. I’ve put together a list of things so that you can have them available all in one place at the click of your mouse. The list may not be comprehensive for now but we will continue adding on to it whenever anything new comes up.  We welcome any questions, suggestions or feedback whatsoever.

Currency Declaration:

Arrival into Malaysia- Maximum MYR 1000 ringgit notes and any amount of foreign currency
Departure from Malaysia – Maximum MYR 1000 ringgit notes and foreign currency up to the amount brought into the country

Other modes of payment accepted:

Credit cards – Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club
Travelers cheque – Accepted by all banks, most hotels and large department stores. Avoid additional exchange rate charges with travellers cheques in Pounds Sterling, US Dollars, or Australian Dollars.

Changing money

ATMs are a convenient way of obtaining cash from a bank account in your home country. Aside from the bank, ATMs can be found almost everywhere else e.g. shopping malls and petrol stations.

Cost of Living

Cost of accommodations in Penang island is generally rather high especially in popular neighborhoods. You can find a large variety of housing to choose from in Penang. Condominiums are a popular choice here since many of them offer very good clubhouse facilities like the swimming pool and gym. If you would like to have a pet or a bigger space for your children to run, then a landed house would probably be more ideal.

Buying local produce is rather reasonable. Imported goods and groceries generally cost more due to import duty and taxes. The cost of eating out in Penang varies depending on the type of food and environment. It generally is rather affordable to eat out here but there are also a few fine dining options that may be a little more pricey than others. A more detail breakdown on the cost of living in Penang can be found here.

Security/ safety

Penang is generally a safe state in Malaysia for travel, take the standard safety precautions to avoid theft and be alert to credit card fraud. Always lock your car doors when driving, and never leave your valuables unattended. Do not leave your handbags or wallets visible even while you are in the car as there have been cases of people smashing your car window to steal your belongings. If you have young children, never let them out of sight.


Government tax of 6% and a 10% service charge is added to most hotel and restaurant bills. Tipping taxi drivers is optional. Hotel porters are typically tipped MYR1 per piece of luggage.


For short stays, it may be advisable to drink bottled water. For extended stays however, you may want to consider getting a water filtration system installed in your home.


Ensure vaccinations are up to date and check CDC for the latest specific health and vaccination advice.


220 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs

Mobile phones

Refer to our article “Choosing the Best Cell Phone Plan


Though the official language is the Malay Language, English is very commonly used here in Penang. Other languages used here are Mandarin, Chinese dialects (Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Teochew) and Tamil.

Important And Useful Contact List

Refer to the page useful contacts.

Paying utility bills

  • Online banking – The most convenient way pay your utilities is to do it from the comfort of your own home. You would however need to create an online account with local or international banks in Malaysia. One of the most preferred and accepted local bank for online transactions would be Maybank.
  • Post office – All major utilities can be paid at the post office. Refer to this website for the List of Payees

Postal rates

Postal rates for standard mail within the country are RM0.60 (up to 20gm) and RM0.70 (20-50gm).

For international air mail rates, please refer to the followingwebsite

If you’re in need of courier services whether to a local or international destination, you can either select Poslaju (a courier service provided by Pos Malaysia), or other non-federal courier providers e.g. Fedex, DHL, GDex, City-Link and TNT.

Local weather

Malaysia enjoys a tropical climate with high temperatures and high humidity all year-round. Temperatures during the day rises above 30°C (86°F) and usually drops not more than 20°C (68°F) during the night.

Malaysia experiences the south-west monsoon from May to September and the north-east monsoon from November to March. Different areas of the country also go through dry and wet seasons certain times of the year. At the west coast of the Peninsular, May-October are the wettest months  while September-December are the wettest months for the east coast.

Suitable clothing

Lightweight/ summer clothing would be the most comfortable attire throughout the year. Though some may say that for an Islamic country, all female should wear clothes that cover the legs and upper arms, generally in Penang it is acceptable and in fact, quite normal to see female wearing short-sleeve clothes and shorts in public.

Basic etiquette

  • Remove shoes when entering homes and places of worship.
  • Handle food with your right hand.
  • Do not point your foot at someone
  • When giving or receiving money gifts to/from a Malaysian, do so with your right hand.

You can find more etiquette information and examples here.

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