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From trishaws peddling past British colonial shophouses to having a mosque resides peacefully beside a temple, Penang has a kaleidoscope of cultures and a rich history. With a population of 1.8 million and a staggering 70% of them is Chinese, Penang stands out from the Malaysian island and oozes out its own character. Here is how I survived with $200 or less (including buying a bus ticket to Hat Yai) and had an exciting time in this splendid island of Penang.
Honestly, this decision to leave my comfortable place of zen and peace in Singapore for Penang was on impulse. Therefore, on a fine day where daydreaming caught me and my tight budget didn’t stop me, I decided to hop on an adventure that brought me all the way to Thailand with only $500. No fuss, no muss.
Located 720km away from the +65 and that’s about 8hrs ride up, I should have done this sooner and often. I crossed the border and bought a ticket to Penang from Larkin, Johor. Also, if any of you are asking why the hell from Larkin and not from Golden Mile, Singapore, why the inconvenience and hassle – Simple! I’m broke and gotta cut costs at every corner.
Here’s the comparison :
Singapore → Penang (by flight): $75sgd
Singapore → Penang (by bus): $45sgd
Larkin → Penang (by bus): $25sgd
We have an obvious winner, haven’t we.
After doing much research in the bus on the way to Penang (I didn’t even bother reading this much for academics), it has a solid transit system called Rapid Penang. From which I often used for my commute. It can get you pretty much anywhere for about 2RM (0.60SGD) in a clean air-conditioned bus. However, the only downside about Rapid Penang is the bus stop, you won’t even know you’re standing at one.
Additionally, you can take the grab services too, by all means, it will usually cost you around 8RM(2.70SGD) or more. So, I took the grab from Georgetown to
Batu Ferringhi and it almost killed me, 20RM (6.66SGD)! And, I know it’s not a lot but I’m traveling on a tight budget remember.
Total cost on transport : 38RM + 75RM (bus to Penang) = 113RM (37.7SGD)
Total spent so far : 188.1RM (62.7SGD)
Is it dangerous?
Certainly, I can tell from a man point of view that is extremely safe, however for ladies, I’ve seen dozens of them traveling solo and wandering around the streets of Penang be it night or day. In contrast with Bali, where men approach you for “shrooms-shrooms or wik-wik” at almost every turn (or maybe I have yet to encounter).
Most countries in Southeast Asia are known for its welcoming vibes and thus attracted cooler and laid back travelers. Consequently, you will tend to meet fun-loving people from wherever so you won’t ever feel lonely if you’re traveling solo.
Where did I stay?
Traveling solo means you have to bear all the costs by yourself. Thus, posh hotels for broke and solo people like me can’t gel well.
Georgetown is sprawled with various fun hostels for backpackers and digital nomads as well as normal travelers. With the endless option, you will always be spoilt for choice.
A quaint and cozy hostel with an exterior of a shophouse. Georgetown Residences provides one of the lowest rates in town and excellent accommodation. Furthermore, with free breakfast, strong Wifi connection and privacy for each bed, it lives up to the rating of 8.2 from Booking.com
Located at the corner of Lebuh Chulia, with the surfeit of hostels, travel agencies, bookstores and food stalls nearby. After dark, Lebuh Chulia lit up with food trucks and bars. Additionally, there’s an intersection within walking distance called Love Lane with an array of bars and shisha lounges.
Total cost on accommodation for 2 nights : 24 SGD
Total spent so far : 260.1RM (86.7SGD)
How much did I spend on food?
Now, what is Penang without its plethora of choices when it comes to eating? I almost went broke (I thought so) satisfying my tummy and never looking back with regret.
Penang is all about its street food so be adventurous about it. The best of Chinese, Indian and Malay street food dishes are all here. I was salivating and too excited to eat that I didn’t join the millennials-picture-taking group, but I tried some.
Total costs on food, drinks and shisha: ahem moment of truth… 128.8RM (42.7SGD)
Total spent so far: 386.1RM (128.7SGD)
Chendol is a must to try when in Penang (& yes Chendol is originated from Malaysia, not from Singapore). It is a bowl of shaved ice, green rice-flour jelly, palm sugar , and coconut milk. Also, a bowl (about 2RM) will suffice to respite from the heat but you’d always come back for more.
Highly recommended: Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul
Nasi Kandar is a meal you can have at almost any time of the day. The thought of the burst of flavor from the mixed curries and gravies is enough to salivate you (I am now). It is the Penang’s dish and you can’t leave Penang without trying a plate of it. (9RM)
Nasi Kandar is made up of piping-hot steamed rice, an array of meats, fishes and veggies of your choice and the linchpin to the meal is the mixture of gravies.
Highly recommended: Deen’s Maju Nasi Kandar
What did I do there besides eating?
Interesting question. Although Penang is known for its cuisines and gastronomical adventures, it is not lacking in the activities section either. You can’t escape the street murals of Penang in Georgetown, it is everywhere at every turn. Some would rent a bike to hunt all of them down, others like me, prefer to walk. Under the sun.
Also, if you are really into it, here is the map to all of them. Good luck hunting!
Now, I would say that this is my favorite part of the broke trip. Firstly, it is the different side of Penang. With more greeneries and laid back nature, it is a beauty to witness the zen Penang brings amidst the hustle and bustle. Lastly, it is free! (hehe) Warning, it’s gonna be a long walk.
From Batu Ferringhi, take a slow walk and hike all the way up till you see some cars parked along the road with food stalls by the roadside. (Don’t worry it’s not like hiking up Adam’s Peak or Lombok’s majestic Mt Rinjani) & viola! You have reached the site of Titi Kerawang Waterfall.
I must say traveling broke is a whole new & humbling experience. There is so much you can do within a small budget and still get the best out of it. Although it is risky, do have spare cash or extra amount in your bank for rainy days.
& oh I bought a bus ticket to Hat Yai, Thailand for 60RM(20SGD)
Total spent so far : 446.1RM (148.7SGD)!!!
Finally, to conclude the trip, head back down to Batu Ferringhi, the famous stretch of beach in Penang, sit back with a drink in one hand and bask in the beauty of the golden sunset. Hands down Penang!
There I have it! As I typed out this blog, I’m pretty amazed myself as I managed to survive with, not $200 but $150 in 3 days in Penang!! Hence, the remaining money was brought forward to my next adventure in Thailand.
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