Located 5o north
of the Equator, Penang, the only island state in Malaysia is also known as
the Pearl of the Orient. The turtle shaped island, measuring a total of 285
square kilometers, is situated on the north-western coast of the Malay Peninsula
at the entrance to the Straits of Malacca. Bounded to the north and east
by the State of Kedah and to the south by the state of Perak, it consists
of the island of Penang and a coastal strip on the mainland called Province
Wellesley (Seberang Prai). The island and mainland are separated by a channel
3 km wide at the narrowest point and 13 km at the widest. They are linked
by the 13.5 km Penang Bridge, the third longest in the world, and a 24-hour
ferry service. The urban centre is Georgetown.
Penang's climate can be
described as equatorial, a pleasant mix of warm, sunny days and occasional
cooling rain storms, with August through November being the wettest months
generally. Average rainfall is 255 cms (100 inches) throughout the year.
Humidity is usually high, and the temperature varies between 21o
and 32o Celsius (70o to 95o Farenheit).
Penang has 1.2 million
people, more than half of whom live on the island. The population is
multi-racial, young and almost equally distributed between male and female.
The racial breakdown is as follows: Chinese 59 percent, Malay 32 percent,
Indian seven percent and others two percent.
Although Malay is the national
language, English is also widely used, particularly in business and the tourism
industry. As Penang was (and still is) a meeting point of many cultures,
other languages and dialects are also spoken and understood these
include the various Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien) and Indian
(Bengali, Hindu Malayalam, Punjabi and Telegu) dialects, as well as smatterings
of Thai, and some European languages. The Alliance Francaise and Goethe Institute
for example, offer courses in French and German respectively.
The official state religion
is Islam, but freedom of worship is observed. Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism,
Sikhism, Taoism and other religions are freely practiced Muslim mosques,
Buddhist and Hindu temples, and Christian churches are commonly found throughout
the island. Visitors can expect to be amazed by the diversity and profusion
of festivals and other religious celebrations which occur regularly throughout
Depending on activity.
Generally you can't go wrong with clothes made of light cotton or other moisture
absorbing fabric. Swim wear, sunglasses and sun block will come in handy
for days on the beach. Flip flops and strappy sandals are the most comfortable
footwear for walking and sightseeing. Unless you can afford to launder your
clothes daily, don't bother with socks. Some classy establishments in Penang
observe a dress code, so if you plan on dining there, don't leave that designer
gown, suit and shoes behind.
Please note that there
are NO nude beaches in Penang. Public nudity, in general, is frowned upon
by the locals.
Visitors to Malaysia must
possess a national passport or other internationally recognised travel documents
such as Certificates of Identity and Emergency Certificates of Affidavits.
Passports must be valid for at least six months beyond the period of allowed
stay in Malaysia. Those who are in possession of passports which are not
recognised by Malaysia must apply for a document in lieu of a passport and
visa which is issued by Malaysian missions abroad. For citizens of most
countries, no visa is needed for short social visits. For further informationon
visa, click here.
Working papers are required
for temporary employment in Malaysia. Visitors wishing to extend their stay
may apply at the Immigration Office in Lebuh Pantai, two days before the
visa expires. It is an offence to overstay the validity of the visit passes
therefore read carefully the visit passes endorsed on your documents.
Please ask the Malaysian
embassy in your country for more information, or visit the Malaysian Immigration
website at http://www.imi.gov.my
Smallpox and Yellow Fever
vaccinations are not required for travellers entering Malaysia, except for
those who have visited endemic zones 14 days (for smallpox) or 6 days (for
yellow fever) prior to arriving in the country. Children are exempted form
this ruling, for yellow fever if they are under 12 months old, and for smallpox
if they are under 6 months old.
Items such as cameras,
watches, pens, lighters, cosmetics, perfume and portable cassette players
are duty free in Malaysia. Visitors bringing in dutiable goods such as video
equipment may have to pay a deposit of up to 50% of the value for temporary
importation, refundable when they leave. You are advised to carry the receipt
of purchase. If you pay any tax or deposit, please ensure that you are given
Tourist whose stay in Malaysia
in excess of 72 hours are exempted from paying taxes on the following:
one quart bottle of liquor,
25 gms of tobacco or 200 sticks of cigarettes,
a pair of new shoes,
electrical and battery-operated personal appliances,
foodstuff to the value not exceeding RM 75.00,
and souvenirs and gifts to the value not exceeding RM 200.00
Import licenses are required
for firearms and commercial quantities of gold.
Please note that Malaysian laws provide the death
penalty for drug trafficking. Other forbidden items are pornography,
flick knives, broadcast receivers of a certain frequency, goods from Israel,
and animals like piranhas. For more information please visit the Malaysian
Customs and Excise website at
The currency exchange for
the Malaysian Ringgit is pegged at RM3.80 per USD. For other currencies,
please ask the local money changers or banks. The former offers better rates
and are open to negotiations. For a general idea of how much your currency
is worth in Malaysia, go to www.oanda.com/converter/classic for the most
Licensed money changers
operate all over Georgetown, particularly in Lebuh Pantai and Jalan Mesjid
Kapitan Keling. They provide a convenient means of exchanging foreign currency.
Rates are usually displayed on a board and are often better than the bank
Air The Penang International Airport is 16km from Georgetown.
Cathay Pacific, Eva Air, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Thai
International offer connecting flights.
Butterworth is a major station on the north-south railway from Singapore
to Bangkok. The ferry terminal to Penang island is within walking distance
from the station.
North-South Expressway is an excellent freeway linking Alor Setar, in the
north of Peninsular Malaysia, through Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru in the
south. Click here for more details.
For a list of regional
and international Tourism Malaysia offices and their contact details,
Penang's public transport
system is efficient and moving around by taxis, buses or trishaws may be
a fun and inexpensive way of catching the sights. Click
here for more details.
In general, Malaysians
are gentle and discreet people. Please be considerate to your hosts. Blatant
displays of affection like French kissing, groping, fondling, caressing etc
in public are a definite no-no. What you do in private is entirely up to
you. In the open, go easy on that smooch.
If you visit
a mosque or temple that is not usually on the tourist maps, it is a good
idea to request
permission from the caretaker on the premises. Moreover, they
will often be able to tell you more
than any tourist book.
Most credit cards are accepted at hotels and restaurants, but
if you travel away from the cities,
you will need cash.
Many banks have ATMs that are connected to international networks
such as Cirrus and will issue
cash in the Malaysian currency (the Ringgit).
Smoking is prohibited in air conditioned public places by federal
law. You will risk fines of up to
RM 500.00 (not to mention the ire of non-smokers) if caught.
Keep your passport handy, but in a safe place. It is your only
form of identification and is also
required when changing money at banks.
International driving licences are required should you desire
to rent an automobile to drive in Malaysia.
Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a major offence
and can involve steep fines as well as
of seatbelts while driving are compulsory.
When it comes to motorbikes, expect the unexpected from the
are compulsory while riding motorbikes.
traffic system still consists of "roundabouts" (traffic circles) and they
are found almost
is available in every town and city at clinics, or at local hospitals.
Local pharmacies can often provide assistance for minor illness
or the proper material needed for minor
injuries. You will need a doctor's prescription for any purchase
The economy of Penang is
multifaceted, diverse, vibrant, thriving and growing. Not depending on any
one sector for its growth, Penang's economy continues to thrive even during
economic slowdowns. This can be attributed in part to the excellent
infrastructure and transportation facilities. With an international airport,
an excellent port for ships, access to the North-South highway and the railroad,
Penang is an ideal location for the manufacturing sector as demonstrated
by the presence of several international companies.
The betelnut tree gave
the island its name.
The Penang Bridge is not
only a source of pride to the people of Pulau Pinang; it also unites the
island with the mainland and part of the State. In addition, it symbolises
the unity between the State and the Federation. The two pillars of the bridge
stand for two basic features of the new Economic Policy, namely the eradication
of poverty and the restructuring of society. The four cables represent the
four major races of the nation Malays, Chinese, Indians and others.
The five blue and white
waves symbolise the five principles of the Rukunegara (Principles of Malaysian
Nationhood) and also the five administrative districts of the State. The
five colours at the base of the betelnut tree have the same meaning.
The Penang flag consists
of three vertical stripes of equal width of light blue, white and yellow;
the white stripe in the centre has an areca nut palm on a mount.
The light blue signifies
the sea which surrounds the island of Penang. The white represents the State
itself in its serenity. The yellow signifies prosperity. The betelnut tree
(pokok pinang) is the name of the tree from which the island takes
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