General information about Penang

State Emblem

 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.

State Flag

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 its name.

State Anthem (Malay)

Selamat Tuhan kurniakan

Selamat Pulau Pinang

Negeriku yang mulia

Kutaat dan setia

Aman dan bahagia

Majulah jayalah

Negeriku yang kucinta

Bersatu dan bersama

Untuk negeri kita


Penang is popularly known as Pearl of the Orient and also dubbed as the Silicon Valley of the East. Bounded to the north and east by the State of Kedah and to the south by the State of Perak, it consists of a turtle-shaped island and a coastal strip on the mainland called Province Wellesley (Seberang Prai). The island measure 292 square kilometers and is situated on the north-western coast of the Malay Peninsula at the entrance to the Straits of Malacca while the mainland measures 738 square kilometers. The capital of Penang is George Town.

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 2 bridges. The first Penang bridge is 8.4 km (5.2 miles). The bridge was inaugurated on 14 September 1985. The Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge or Penang Second Bridge is a dual carriageway toll bridge. It connects Bandar Cassia (Batu Kawan) in Seberang Perai on mainland Peninsular Malaysia with Batu Maung on Penang Island. The total length of the bridge is 24 km (15 miles) with a length over water at 16.9 km (10.5 miles), making it the longest bridge in Malaysia and the longest in Southeast Asia. The bridge was officially opened on 1 March 2014.

You can also reach Penang island via an efficient ferry service. The ferry service is run by Penang Port, the only port operator in Malaysia that operates ferry services linking between George Town (Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal) and Butterworth on the mainland (Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal). Penang Port operates a fleet of four ferries maximum during peak hours with 20-30 minutes intervals from 5:20 am to 10.00 pm and one ferry from 10:00 pm to 1:00 am with an arrival interval of 1 hour.


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. The average rainfall is 255 cms (100 inches) throughout the year. Humidity is usually high, and the temperature varies between 21 - 32 degrees Celsius (70 - 95 degrees Fahrenheit).


Penang has 1.89 million people (in a 2016 survey), 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 41.5 percent, Malay 40.9 percent, Indian 9.9 percent and others 7.7 percent (2013, Penang Institute).


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 the year.


Depending on activity. Generally you can't go wrong with clothes made of light cotton or other moisture-absorbing fabric. Swimwear, sunglasses and sunblock 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.

Travel Documents

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 that are not recognised by Malaysia must apply for a document in lieu of a passport and visa which is issued by Malaysian missions abroad. 

Working papers are required for temporary employment in Malaysia. Visitors wishing to extend their stay may apply at the Immigration Office in Lebuh Pantai. It is an offense 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

Health Requirements

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 from this ruling, for yellow fever if they are under 12 months old, and for smallpox if they are under 6 months old.

Customs and Duties

Royal Malaysian Customs welcomes travellers to Malaysia. Under the provision of the Customs Act 1967, travellers entering Malaysia are required to declare all dutiable or prohibited goods in their possession. Failure to declare dutiable or prohibited goods or making a false declaration is an offense. Travellers who visit Malaysia for a period of not less than 72 hours are eligible for a specified amount of customs duties exemption.

Subject to Customs Duties Order, travellers should pay only a customs duty at a flat rate of 30% ad valorem. In the case of alcoholic beverages, tyres, spirits, tobacco, cigarettes and motor vehicles, the rate of duty will be based on the prevailing Customs Duties Order.

For more info, please visit the Royal Malaysian Customs Department website.


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

Currency Exchange

The Malaysian ringgit (symbol: RM; currency code: MYR; formerly the Malaysian dollar) is the currency of Malaysia. It is divided into 100 sen (cents). The ringgit is issued by the Bank Negara Malaysia. The Malay names ringgit and sen were officially adopted as the sole official names in August 1975. Previously they had been known officially as dollars and cents in English and ringgit and sen in Malay, and in some parts of the country, this usage continues. 

For a general idea of how much your currency is worth in Malaysia, go online and use a currency exchange tool.

Money Changers

Licensed money changers operate all over George Town, 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 in front of the shop and are more competitive than bank rates.

Getting There

By Air – The Penang International Airport is 16 km from George Town. Cathay Pacific, Eva Air, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Thai International offer connecting flights.

By Rail – 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.

By Driving – The 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. 

Moving Around

Penang's public transport system is at hand and moving around by taxis, buses or trishaws may be a fun and inexpensive way of catching the sights. 


Launched on 31 July 2007, Rapid Penang marked a definite improvement to the public transport system. RapidPenang's fleet of comfortable and clean buses will definitely help bring back the shine to the Pearl of the Orient. It will also play a major role in the logistics and transportation hub of the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) initiative and complement several mega projects such as the RM2.7 billion second Penang Bridge, the estimated RM1.6 billion monorail and RM1.2 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR). It is also linked to the upcoming major infrastructure projects here such as the RM2 billion integrated terminal for rail, road and sea are known as "Penang Sentral" in Butterworth.

Rapid Penang Sdn Bhd: Lorong Kulit, 10460 Penang. Tel: +604-228 8991 


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 licenses are required should you desire to rent an automobile to drive in Malaysia.
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a major offense and can involve steep fines as well as
  • detention.
  • The wearing of seatbelts while driving is compulsory.
  • When it comes to motorbikes, expect the unexpected from the drivers.
  • Crash helmets are compulsory while riding motorbikes.
  • Malaysia's traffic system still consists of "roundabouts" (traffic circles) and they are found almost
  • everywhere.
  • Medical assistance is available in every town and city at clinics, or at local hospitals.
  • Local pharmacies can often provide assistance for minor illnesses or the proper material needed for minor
  • injuries. You will need a doctor's prescription for any purchase of antibiotics.


The economy of Penang is multifaceted, diverse, vibrant, thriving and growing. Not depending on anyone 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.