Digital Nomad In Penang- Local Tips And Sights
Interested in being a digital nomad in Penang?
But you don’t know whether being a nomad Penang is working for you or not? And you aren’t sure that you can work and have fun as Penang digital nomad or is it safe and worth your time and money?
I have experience working and living in Penang thus I can reassure you that Penang is enjoyable and convenient to be a digital nomad Penang. This article will give you my personal insight of living in Penang.
Penang is a popular destination for digital nomads. This digital nomad Penang guide aims to educate you on everything you need to know before choosing this lifestyle based in Penang island!
Some of the links on here are affiliate links and I may earn if you click on them, AT NO EXTRA cost to you. Hope you find the information here useful! Thanks.
Why Become A Digital Nomad In Penang?
Digital nomads often choose Malaysia as a destination of choice when it comes to remote working.
Becoming a digital nomad in Malaysia is a lifestyle that is preferred by many, because of its food, tropical climates, rich history and diverse flora and fauna that will allow you work and at the same time, immerse yourself in nature.
Sounds like a great work-life balance doesn’t it?
From all the states in Malaysia, why choose to become Penang digital nomads?
This is because:
- Penang is a peaceful island,
- has the best food in Malaysia,
- the best sceneries, beaches,
- Best leisure spots, rich with heritage and culture
This means that while you’re working and making that cash, you’ll also be having a holiday that brings fun and value to your life.
If you’re from the country, being a Malaysia digital nomad is fun, you get to explore your nation while earning a living!
If you are a Malaysian, then Penang should definitely be one of your digital nomad spots in the nation!
Psst! Did you know that George Town, Penang has also been listed as one of the top 10 cities for digital nomads.
Cost Of Living In Penang
The cost of living in Penang is cheaper compared to Western countries. Having experienced living as a digital nomad in Penang, I have covered in this article the basic necessities that I think every digital nomad can relate to:
Buying a property in Penang is relatively expensive when compared to other states in Malaysia. This is because Penang Island has limited land and therefore prices increase as the demand for houses increases.
However, most digital nomads prefer to rent houses or apartments. The range for Penang expat rentals is usually starting from RM2,000-RM6,000 ($450-$1380).
What should you consider when renting a place in Penang?
- Location (renting a place in Batu Ferringhi is relatively more expensive than George Town as it is near the sea).
- Type of unit (apartment unit rental, room rental or book an Airbnb)
- Type of room (master, middle, single – a master and middle room would have a higher rent when compared to a single room).
Food Expenses in Penang
Living in Penang is also known as living in a food paradise!
Penang has been endorsed as one of the best destinations in the world for food! While there’s a ton of delicious cafe food in Penang as the state is a hotspot for cafe hopping, this multicultural city in Malaysia has a diversified range of hawker food that is super affordable!
A meal at a cafe in Penang may range from RM20-RM60 ($4.94-$14.81), depending on what you order.
Hawker or local food such as Char Koay Teow, Hokkien Mee, Fried Rice and Laksa range from RM5-RM8 ($1.23-$1.48). That’s really affordable, and of course, these are just some examples of delicious hawker food!
Food is something one should not worry about when considering becoming a Penang digital nomad (more on what food to try in Penang in this article).
Penang’s weather is similar to most places in Malaysia, tropical and humid weather. The weather is usually around 32°C-34°C.
The warmer months in Penang would be May-July, perfect to visit the beaches in Penang. The rainy season in Penang often happens from August-November.
As you move towards the end of the year, Penang island becomes much cooler.
Therefore, December-January is the best time to visit Penang.
Digital Nomad Visas In Penang
Visas to visit Malaysia are not very difficult to obtain.
Most of the time, tourists from the west are allowed to stay up to 90 days in the country.
Malaysia is relatively a small country. Penang, being an island, is really small and you’ll be able to explore Penang in a week.
3 months of staying on the island will make you very familiar with Penang. You will also have ample time to explore the rest of Malaysia.
However, if you do wish to extend your stay in the country, you can apply for the de Rantau program that launches on 1st October 2022 to accommodate digital nomads.
With this new program, you can extend coliving coworking Penang as a Penang digital nomad from three months to one year with this new visa.
You can read more on how to apply, and what the requirements need to apply for this digital nomad visa.
Take note that the application visa cost is $225.00 or MYR 1000. If you bring an accompanying dependent. For each one of them, you have to pay an additional fee of RM500 or $112.
The processing time is about 4 weeks or more and confirmation will be sent through your registered email.
If you’re worried about accidentally overstaying in the country, this list of FAQs may help.
Top Destinations For Digital Nomads In Penang
There are 3 top digital nomad Penang destinations that you should consider when choosing Penang as a destination to work remotely.
If you’re looking to coliving Penang in a location where you would be able to experience the fun and excitement you get from traveling, and discovering new cultures, heritage, and food, then George Town is the place for you.
The streets of George Town are filled with adventure.
If you’re looking to stay long term, this is great because you’ll never get bored of George Town.
There’s always a street you have never explored or festive seasons (Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Christmas) that will bring a new light upon these streets.
George Town was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008.
Being a tourist spot, the town has hotels, homestays, guesthouses and accommodations that are easy to book on Agoda and Booking.com.
Because it is filled with heritage, you’ll get the chance to explore streets and places with rich history and culture such as:
- Lebuh Armenian (the most cultural and touristy street in Penang!)
- Beach Street (the longest street in Penang. It has museums and all essential travel services such as banks, food, foreign exchange currency and accommodation)
- Lebuh China (oldest street in Penang. Area developed first after the British landed in Penang)
- Little India (sounds exactly like what it is! Explore Indian culture through temples, food and traditional wear in Little India)
If you are looking for Penang cafe for work, you can find local food on every corner of every street.
The cafe culture has been growing rapidly in this town. Therefore, being able to sip on your coffee and work from a cafe is definitely an option!
Meanwhile, George Town is famous for its heritage, streets and local food, Batu Feringghi is a more quiet and relaxing digital nomad Penang destination.
If you’re looking to work from a beach, then this is just the place for you! Batu Feringghi is half an hour away from George Town and is a beach hub, perfect for all sand and sun lovers!
Beaches at Batu Feringghi allow you to not only work from a beach but also take breaks and do some watersport activities, such as going on a boat ride!
Besides uniting with nature, there are night markets, also known as bazaars for you to shop in the evenings. You’ll be able to shop for clothes, snacks and souvenirs!
Tanjung Tokong is a good place to co living in Penang if you’re looking for something in between. It is not too quiet like Batu Feringghi and not too crowded like George Town.
Tanjung Tokong is only 15 minutes away from George Town by car. Grab would cost you around RM7-RM10 ($1.73-$2.47). You can choose to reside in this area and still explore George Town, the heart of Penang.
There are also two shopping malls, Straits Quay and Island Plaza that have all the basic necessities you would want to shop for, and a few cafes in the area for you to switch up your work environment every once in a while.
Cool Co-working Places For Digital Nomads In Penang
Are you a digital nomad looking for a co-working space in Penang? Here are a few cool recommendations:
Common Ground Penang is a modern and stylish coworking Penang space with high-speed internet, a cafe, business support services, weekly workshops to inspire you, and lifestyle perks, such as gym membership discounts.
They have 4 monthly packages for you to choose from:
- Hot Desk (RM399/$98.41) – for freelancers or those who are on the go and prefer flexible working hours.
- Fixed Desk (RM599/$147.74) – dedicated desk for startups and teams.
- Private Office (RM799/$197.06) – for those who need their own space to run a business.
- Virtual Office (RM350/$86.32) – work remotely with all the essentials you need for a virtual office.
A virtual office Penang service is currently available at Common Ground Penang.
A popular coworking space Penang would be Forward School. Forward School Penang is an inclusive co-working space because of its various price points.
If you do not want to commit to a monthly package, their daily pass which allows you to work from 9am-6pm on weekdays only costs RM30 ($7.40) and also gives you a 10% discount at Frank Laurent, their in-house cafe.
Depending on your packages, it has printing services, meeting rooms, complimentary beverages, exclusive invites to tech and community events.
Forward School Penang also has co-living spaces. This is a great option for digital Penang nomads who are looking for a place to live in George Town and an office to work in. If you are interested, you can Book Now.
Regus co working space Penang has two location options in George Town.
Their private offices are a bit on the higher end and are priced at a monthly fee of RM490 ($120.85) and RM530($130.72). These prices are different for each location.
They also have a virtual office service that is priced at RM121 ($29.84) per month.
Best Places To Stay For Digital Nomads
As previously mentioned in this article, there are 3 popular digital nomad Penang destinations that you should consider!
Here are some recommended accommodations for Penang coliving (co-living spaces, hotels, guest houses, and Airbnb) with good WiFi for these 3 destinations:
- Forward School – co-working and co-living space.
- Armenian House – explore a famous tourist Penang hotspot, Armenian Street.
- Macalister Terraces – all essentials are within reach as it is located in the heart of George Town.
- TIDO Hostel – safe, clean and good wifi for backpackers.
- Container Hotel – for backpackers, 2-minute walk to Armenian Street.
- Hard Rock Hotel & Cafe – Hard rock-themed hotel, 5-minute walk from Batu Ferringhi bazaar.
- Bayview Beach Resort – rooms with beach view.
- Park Royal Penang Resort – surrounded by lush greenery.
- Tropicana Home Stay – free parking lot if you wish to rent a car.
Best Food To Try In Penang
There are some famous local foods that you must try in Penang.
Delicious chicken curry you must pair with your roti canai for your morning breakfast.
Address: 114, 110, Jalan Transfer, Georgetown, 10050 George Town, Malaysia
You can get most hawker food here for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Some recommended hawker food would be, Chee Cheong Fun, Char Koay Teow and Fried Rice.
Time: 7AM-8PM (closed on Wednesdays)
Address: Lorong Delima 3, Taman Island Glades, 11700 Jelutong, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Famous Penang Teow Chew cendol is a must try dessert on a hot day! Have a bowl on the street side and admire the beautiful street art as well!
Address: Jalan Penang, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Fix all your biryani, tosai, thalis, chai and other Indian food cravings at Sri Ananda Bhavan!
Address: Jalan Macalister, George Town, 10450, Penang.
Traveling To Penang
There are three ways to enter Penang. You can travel using an airplane, AirAsia, or Firefly, by land you can ride the ETS train from Kuala Lumpur or by bus (both will take roughly around 5-6 hours to reach Penang).
If you like adventure but want comfort, I highly recommend that you take the train. You can feast your eyes on Malaysia’s beautiful scenery and it is comfortable riding a train compared to traveling with a bus.
Sadly, the iconic ferry ceased operation in 2020, but you can enter Penang Island using a speedboat. I truly enjoyed riding the train-speedboat to Penang Island, and highly recommend you to try it out.
Traveling inside Penang is easy. You can use Grab or walk around Georgetown to get to places. I would not recommend that you take public transportation as it is unpredictable you can stuck long in a traffic jam plus the timing is rather uncertain.
How To Get Around Penang
Malaysia no longer has uber, but it has Grab which is fairly similar. It makes transporting very easy since the app has a cashless option.
The minimum price on Grab in Penang is RM5 ($1.23) and the maximum would be RM35 ($4.05), if you’re located far away from Penang International Airport.
If you’re in George Town, many of the streets are not far away from each other (5-15 minutes away) and you may choose to walk instead.
There is a bike rental Penang known as LinkBike, a bike rental system. The app is available on ios and Android. You can register and pay for the bike rental by using a credit card.
Your first 30 minutes is free to ride! Every subsequent hour after that is RM1 ($0.25).
However, if you’re planning to travel around using their bike, their bike rental plan would be more cost-effective.
Here are the prices for the daily plan.
You can rent a car from SOCAR Penang. There are 70 cars and 36 zones in Penang for you to rent a car from them.
Depending on the car model, you can rent a car from as low as RM8 ($1.97) per hour.
Renting a car gives you more freedom to explore the Island and the airconditioner really helps cool you down as Penang can be really hot at times.
The only public transport you can get in Penang is the public bus called Rapid.
Rapid bus tickets are RM1.40-4.00 ($0.32 – $0.92).
Language in Penang
Penangites are multi-lingual like most Malaysians, they can speak good English as well as the National Language Bahasa Malaysia (Malay). Do not be surprised to see Chinese can speak Tamil, or Indian or Malay folks can speak Northern Hokkien as this is quite common in Penang Island.
Meeting other digital nomads in Penang
I highly suggest that you use Facebook groups to connect like Penang Digital Nomads. Groups like this can connect you with other online remote workers and exchange knowledge to fully experience Penang like locals plus make new friends.
Unique Things To Know About Penang
- Penang is also called Pearl Of The Orient
- George Town was listed as a heritage site by UNESCO in 2008.
- George Town was named after King George III of Great Britain
- Penang is the first state in Malaysia to go green.
- Penang was part of the Strait Settlements, along with Melaka and Singapore.
- Penang is the only state with Chinese ethnicity being majority of its population.
- Penang is known as the food paradise in Malaysia.
- The view from Penang Hill gives you a breathtaking sight of the whole island.
FAQs On Digital Nomad Penang
Can I Be A Digital Nomad In Malaysia?
Yes, you can be a digital nomad in Malaysia with the De Rantau Visa Program scheme that allows you to live in Malaysia for 1 year per entry and you can renew the visa for an additional 12 months if you are qualified. This is a Multiple Entry Visa, different from Malaysia tourist visa.
Is Digital Nomad Worth It?
YES, being a digital nomad IS worth it! As someone who works as a digital nomad I love the location freedom, unpredictability, and flexibility that this type of lifestyle that allows me. The downside is, you can feel quite isolated as you are constantly flitting between countries.
What Is The Most Common Digital Nomad Job?
The most common digital nomad job:
- Digital Marketing
- Online Teacher/Mentor
- Video Creators
- Digital Entrepreneur
- Software Developer
- Virtual Assistants
- Customer Support Representatives
How Do I Start Living As A Digital Nomad?
You can start living as a digital nomad with these steps:
- Identify your skills and strengthen them
- Build your portfolio and start searching for jobs online.
- Use your skills to make money
- Start networking
- Simplifying your lifestyle
- Build your savings
- Plan your money
- Get travelers insurance.
Where Do Most Expats Live In Penang?
Most expats live in popular areas in Penang like Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah, Straits Quay, Gurney Drive, Pulau Tikus, Georgetown, Queensbay, and Bayan Lepas.
Can Anyone Become A Digital Nomad?
Yes, you can become a digital nomad if you can maintain your income stream 100% remotely. Wherever you plan to work, you need a good internet connection and a laptop. And living within your means by having a solid grasp of personal finance and cash-flow management can help you transition to a digital nomad lifestyle.
How Do Digital Nomads Get Paid?
Digital nomads get paid in many different ways, the most common approach is to create and sell digital products and services. For example, becoming a freelance writer, creating online courses, or developing website themes.
Do Digital Nomads Pay Tax In Malaysia?
Digital nomads only pay tax in Malaysia if the income is generated from Malaysia companies and clients. If you are earning income from companies outside the country, then you do not need to pay taxes.
How Much Money Do I Need To Be A Digital Nomad?
To be a digital nomad, you need average monthly spending between $1000 and $2000. This depends on the area you are traveling to and your lifestyle.
Am I Too Old To Be A Digital Nomad?
No, you can never be too old to be a digital nomad, you can start at any age, in your 30s, 40s, or beyond. You might be thinking that digital nomads are all Generation Z, but once you network with other digital nomads, you might be surprised by the diversity.
Can I Work Remotely From Malaysia?
Yes, you can work remotely in Malaysia by applying to the De Rantau Programme which will enable you not only to live in Malaysia for a year but also grants you discounts on accommodation, networking events, and other services.
With all of the above information, you now have your complete digital nomad Penang guide!
Being a digital nomad is a great way to explore the world and at the same time build your bank account, not just break it by travelling!
Penang is a beautiful city with great people, sights and food and is an excellent choice in destination for being a digital nomad.
It is also three hours away (by car) from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and about 1-2 hours away (by car) from Kedah and Perak (more quieter states in Malaysia).
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