Popular for its street food, colonial architecture, commissioned street graffiti, and for being a UNESCO World Heritage site, Penang is slowly gaining popularity with digital nomads looking to explore beyond Bali or Kuala Lumpur.
As the second largest city in Malaysia, Penang has a relaxed island vibe yet is still a developed city with plenty to offer. There are plenty of cafes to work out from, however, the internet speed is considerably slower as compared to other digital nomad friendly cities.
Find out more about living as a digital nomad in this booming city with our digital nomads guide to Penang.
Depending on your nationality, you will get 3 months visa on arrival. For visa runs, you can either fly to neighboring Thailand or Singapore. Air Asia is a budget airline with many cheap international flights to neighboring countries.
The newly opened @CAT is located in the heart of Penang and has everything a digital nomad would want in a co-working space. The wifi is possibly the fastest in Penang, and this is a great place to meet and connect with local startups.
As the space is huge and there weren’t many people at the co-working space at the time we visited, distractions were limited and we were able to get a lot of work done.
Work-Friendly Restaurants & Cafes
The comfortable chairs, several power sockets, friendly staff, good coffee, and chill atmosphere makes this place a decent cafe to work out from. Unfortunately, the wifi is not fast enough for photo uploading or heavy internet surfing.
This cafe has decent wifi but only when there aren’t too many others surfing the internet at the same time. Some power sockets are available.
We stumbled upon this hipster cafe while walking around town. They serve good coffee and freshly made juices, and there are a few tables with power sockets (not many). Decent wifi and semi-comfortable chairs. Since it is located in the heart of Georgetown, it can be hard to get a seat at peak times.
Possibly the most digital nomad friendly cafe in Penang, the Twelve Cups has pretty fast wifi, several power sockets, comfortable chairs, and a bright and welcoming atmosphere.
This little cafe is located inside the old Hua Hin bus depot and is part of a famous art space. The wifi is reasonably fast and there are hidden power sockets under the benches, and is a pretty conducive place to get work done.
Where To Stay
Finding a longer term accommodation is where Penang loses out to other popular digital nomad cities. Accommodation prices are generally higher than Chiang Mai, and unlike renting an apartment in Chiang Mai, landlords and agencies in Penang generally will not accept tenants for less than 6-12 months.
You are also expected to make appointments with real estate agents for house viewings, and you won’t be able to just show up and ask to view a room as you would in Thailand, for example.
A popular area to live in Penang is Gurney, which is close to Georgetown (the tourist Unesco heritage area) but with more accommodation options. Expect to pay around 3500 ringgit a month (USD836) for a modern apartment in Gurney.
3 bedroom condos are popular in Penang and are suitable for those looking to live in Penang for a longer period of time. Since most condos are 3 bedroom condos, this can be on a pricey side if you are traveling as a solo traveler.
Airbnb is also a great option to skip the real estate agents and there are many modern condos available for short term rental.
If you are looking for short term accommodation alternatives, here’s where we stayed in Penang:
Betel Nut Lodge is a 19th-century heritage building located within the UNESCO World Heritage site of George Town that has been restored to a B&B. From the B&B, you can explore everything by foot and it is only a 15-minute walk to the @CAT Penang coworking space.
Suitable for long term rentals, the VOUK Suites offer western standard living and each apartment comes with a kitchenette, room service, wifi, and other amenities.
Where To Workout
Penang has many options for one to keep fit. If you love running outdoors, there is a nice paved sidewalk around Gurney Drive. Most of the sidewalks are also paved and running outdoors as a female is generally safe if you follow the usual precautions.
If you enjoy biking, there is a shared bike system called LinkBike that is available to locals and foreigners. All you need to do is to download the app and connect it to your credit card.
There are also many indoor gyms in the Gurney area and they are on average around 200 ringgit (USD48) monthly.
Top Things To See And Do In And Around Penang
Although not as beautiful as the beaches in Langkawi, the beaches in Penang are still worth checking out.
Hiking and Trekking
The Penang National Park is a great place to hike, with many available trails through the jungle. There are also hiking trails from the Botanic Gardens leading up to Penang Hill.
UNESCO World Heritage Zone & Armenian Street
The UNESCO Heritage Zone is located in the heart of Georgetown and is famous for its late 19th century colonial and settler architecture, graffiti street art, as well as the many tourist shops.
Safety For Women Digital Nomads
In comparison to other Malaysian cities, Penang is considered to be a generally safe city for travelers. Most of the crimes that happen to tourists are muggings and snatch-thefts. Apply the same common sense as you would back home.
Get Your Travel Insurance
Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance whether you are a short term or long term traveler. Things can go bad suddenly and you don’t wanna get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. We recommend World Nomads.
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