Digital Nomad In Penang- Local Tips And Sights
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!
A digital nomad is a person who is not dependent on a location.
They are able to earn a living by working from any part of the world as their income is generated through online or remote working jobs, such as freelance writing, social media managing, design, website building, proofreading, online teaching and so many more!
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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 a Penang expat?
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
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 rent 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 check this Malaysian government website.
To extend your stay for more than 3 months, you cannot extend your visa.
Take note that the visa cost is $45.00 for a single entry. Additionally, there is a service fee of $35.00 for standard processing.
If you’re worried about accidentally over-staying 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 work in a location where you would be able to experience the fun and excitement you get from travelling, 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.
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)
As for food, 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 live 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.
In this area, you can also visit two very famous tourist spots, Kek Lok Si Temple and Penang Hill.
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:
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 Penang place would be Forward School. Forward School 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 also has co-living spaces.
This is a great option for digital nomads who are looking for a place to live in George Town and an office to work in. You may inquire more here.
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 (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 spot, 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.
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.
Penang has a 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).
Here are bus schedules for different places in Penang.
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.
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).