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The island of Penang has beautiful beaches, but in all fairness you can find nicer beaches in Malaysia. Still, the island attracts many tourists, because the capital Georgetown (nowadays also called Penang) in particular has a rich cultural history with Malayan, Chinese, Indian and European influences. The city center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Penang is also known as the country's 'food paradise'.
The island has approximately 750,000 inhabitants, of whom the majority lives on the east coast, where you'll also find the capital Georgetown.
The island of Penang is almost 300 square kilometers and lies off the northwest coast of Malaysia. The capital Georgetown lies in the eastern part of the island, opposite Butterworth on the mainland, with which the island is connected by the Penang Bridge. Penang's east coast is an urban area, while the island further north gets more and more rural and quiet. Tourist beaches are located on the north side of the island.
Since the seventies of the previous century Penang has industrialized rapidly. Especially in the so-called Free Trade Zone, near the airport, there are many factories mainly specialized in the production of electronics. Despite this industrialization the island draws millions of tourists annually, mainly attracted by Georgetown's historical center and the beaches on the north coast.
The modern airport, Penang Bayan Lepas International Airport, is situated in the south of the island, at a half-hour drive from the capital Georgetown. By rental car the airport can be reached via the main road along the east coast. The way and exit to the airport are clearly signposted.
Georgetown has two local bus stations: near the city's highest building KOMTAR, and near the ferry port. Buses within the city and across the island run frequently. There's a separate bus terminal near Sungai Nibong for buses to destinations further out on the mainland, including the Malayan capital Kuala Lumpur. There's also a free shuttle bus through Georgetown's center. The bus runs along the main places of interest, but not on Sundays and holidays.
You don't need a rental car to visit Georgetown or the tourist resorts in the north of Penang, but if you want to discover the quieter parts on the island it's the only comfortable means of transportation. The roads on Penang are excellent. Apart from Georgetown's center you'll have no trouble finding a parking place for your rental car. Watch out for young motorcyclists though who sometimes drive recklessly.
Penang's high season falls between November and March. Especially around Christmas and New Year's Eve and during Chinese New Year (end of January or beginning of February) the island gets very busy. If you want to visit Penang during these months, we advise booking your accommodation well in advance. Although the capital houses several hotels, most tourists stay along the white beaches on the northern coast. Batu Ferringhi is a popular seaside resort.
For more information about Penang, we recommend Google and the following sources: