George Town, Malaysia Tips and Tricks

3D Coffee

I imagine there are hundreds of thousands of people travelling right now and tens of thousands writing blogs or uploading vLogs to YouTube, some have not only the money to complete their adventures in one way or another but have a companion or two. I on the other hand tend to travel alone these days and that is fine and dandy with me, it means I’m flexible and can basically do what I please. Recently that involved staying longer in George Town than I originally planned.

As far as the money side goes I’m either doing somethings wrong or all these YouTubers aren’t sharing the secret of how the pay their way. As of yet I haven’t earnt anything from my YouTube channel, my affiliate links or my blog. The analytics tell me more people are reading my blog and I’m starting to get views on my YouTube channel, so maybe I just need to keep the ball rolling.

I have managed to secure a few good affiliation deals, one with Vidahost this is my website hosting company. My Tech Guru videos now have an affiliate link for good hosting, I am also waiting on confirmation from “Send My Bag” an excellent alternative to carrying your own luggage and better still a cheaper option than budget airline luggage charges. Alpha insurance has also allowed me to join their scheme but as yet I haven’t received the link.

I signed up for Google Adsense (which hasn’t worked) and have separated my websites into www.mrjholt.co.uk, which is this blog, www.mrjholt.info is now my review website, www.techsixty.co.uk is now my technology coaching website and my other sites will be coming online shortly, I know these are going to be difficult to upkeep and maintain but as I already own them I might as well put them to good use. Although the domain names are very similar I can link the sites together. So if you visit this blog there will be links to my other sites as if they were just extra pages on the co.uk domain. This gives me the flexibility to design the sites differently and make them user-friendly.

So back to my travels…..

There are a few things that you need to know to ensure you have a relaxing and enjoyable stay on the island of Penang.

Be prepared to politely say “No” because you’ll spend a fortune if you don’t. Everyone is very friendly and chatty but there is lots of competition vying for you cash. One of the best and cheapest ways of getting from the mainland to the island is to use the local ferry service, officially a fifteen minute service but since the bridge opened you just wait until the next one arrives which nowadays is around every hour, or not! Officially you pay 1.20 ringgit to Penang Island and then the return journey is free. The journey takes anything between 30 – 60 minutes depending on the weather. You will congregate in a seating area, I say congregate as queuing is not a thing here. There is a small kiosk which sells drinks and snacks and luckily some fans in the roof as this area gets very humid.

Once the ferry arrives and everyone has disembarked, all the vehicles drive onto the ferry. The passengers then follow the last car on board and the 4 times I used the ferry it was a bit of a stampede. On board you just find a convenient spot to enjoy the views and wait until you reach the other side, where walking passengers will disembark first.

Once across the 3 km divide you’ll wander through stalls and kiosks selling snacks, fruit and drinks until you arrive in the middle of bus terminal A and bus terminal B. This is where the taxi drivers hang out and try to persuade you to take their taxi. I have learnt a few things on my travels and one of them is never get in the vehicle of a taxi driver who is touting for business. If you want a car to take you to your destination then use Apps like Uber or Grab these 2 apps also give you different vehicle options and a clear indication of the price. If you have no choice then at least you’ll be able to agree a fair price before you get into a vehicle. Here in George Town you don’t have to worry about taxi’s as there is a free bus service called the cat, which stands for Central Area Transit. This is a circular route but can get you most places around George Town. Other buses are really cheap but do not give change, so ensure you have plenty of it before getting on board. The cat stop is in terminal A over to your left, assuming you’re facing inland. If you haven’t booked accommodation then there are lots around the port area, more on accommodation soon.

I met a chap who was in a rush to meet his group as he had been separated from them at the train station. He thought a taxi would be quicker than the ferry and was convinced he had a been good at bartering with the taxi driver. A trip in a clean, fairly modern taxi for 60 ringgit.  I thought it was a little expensive, however the bridge over to Penang Island is some distance away from the ferry terminal, so who was I to judge. I followed the guidance from Dale Carnegie’s book how to win friends and influence people and agreed it was a good price. Although the twist to this tale is the taxi driver used the ferry.

If you are a bit uneasy about the road, just in front of you is the footbridge across that extremely busy bit of tarmac. If you haven’t perfected the art of packing light yet, then I would imagine you would like to drop that heavy bag off at your chosen place of rest. I booked via Airbnb prior to arriving in George Town at the Ros Heritage, I also extended my stay by 8 days as there is so much to do here. I would suggest you only book a couple of nights in any given place, based on my experience you may want to move around the island to enjoy what Penang has to offer and committing to one property is inconvenient. I also viewed a few other options and for what I paid I could have had a far nicer place, not that there’s anything wrong with the Ros Heritage apart from the mouse. Checkout the container hostel, go left and first right you can’t miss the big white building with black livery. I viewed a dorm in here and they look very clean and modern to stay here is 45 ringgit per night, although the reception staff told me to book online as it’s cheaper. They also told me that during the week they are quiet and at weekends they turn people away, so if you will be in George Town over a weekend book in advance.

I also viewed a room at the Tonight Motel which is a coffee shop with rooms out back, they are nice looking rooms with a small on suite. The price was again 45 ringgit which seemed a bargain. As you wander the streets you’ll discover hundreds of guest houses and everything in between too. I really don’t think you’ll have a problem finding accommodation in George Town.

As the bus service is so cheap, I recommend getting out to see the island just be aware that some of the drivers would like to compete in a formula 1 race because they don’t hang around. I saw several signs stating you could buy a day pass for the buses but I tried at 2 different ticket offices and no-one had any. The pocket map from the bus station is a really handy tool and I used it to find my way to some beautiful and interesting places.

George Town has a lot to see and do, so check out my other post on Things to do for free in Penang.

Shopping is well catered for in George town and if you grabbed that bus pocket timetable from the Jeti it lists them all and how to get there. I bought a new camera in EOS Boutique , the camera was a £200 cheaper than in the UK but the store didn’t give me the form to claim the 6% tax back at the airport and I even asked them if I needed one. Ensure you get the tax refund form from the shop, especially on big-ticket items as 6% is not to be sniffed at.

As you can imagine the choice of cuisine is immense, well after all you are in Malaysia, just be aware there is also a vast difference in prices too. Eat in an open street cafe which is full of locals and you’ll pay pennies for a drink and not much more for a meal. A place with air conditioning and the price goes up, westernised inside then ouch! Expect to pay the same as back home. I visited the Street Art cafe four times and the Black Kettle twice for what I spent in those two cafés I could have eaten for 3 months.

An app I found really useful was Penang Tourism Information https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.convep.penang

This app shows you the position of all the street art and recommended walks. Check out the app because it is very comprehensive, if I visited everywhere it suggests I would still be there.

George Town offers a free public WiFi service but in my experience it was a complete waste. I opted for a maxis hotlink 4G sim card, I download the hotlink app which is free to use over data so if you do use up your 5GB for 30 days you can top up really easily. I also discovered that topping up with 1GB at a time is cheaper than the 30 day package 1GB is 3 ringgit and 5GB package is 48 ringgit. I found the speed to be faster than my home network. I did a speed test and it was 73Mbps down and 38Mbps up, excellent speeds for live streaming and uploading my YouTube content.

I didn’t use taxi’s in Penang but have heard that some fix the meter, so I would suggest downloading the grab car app as it’ll tell you the price the journey should be and give you other vehicle options. Trishaws used to be a big thing in Penang but are dying out, you’ll find a trishaw cafe next to the container hotel if you want the slow-paced tourist experience of sight-seeing.

Across the road from the container hotel is a cafe, more like a garage with tables in and outside they advertise toast. I discovered this on my penultimate day and visit it on my last day too. The food and service were excellent and it’s really cheap, hence why I had 2 bacon sandwiches for my last breakfast.

I really enjoyed Penang and I’ll miss the people, the atmosphere, the temples, the sights and the wonderful but spicy food.


 

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