GeorgeTown, Malaysia: The Border Hop Turned Weekend Getaway

George Town, Penang

Find Georgetown on a map: Here   

We loved Georgetown!

The 6 Reasons You Need To Visit:

1. It’s the perfect border hop! (Read on for Directions from Thailand)

  • If you’re past your stay in Thailand and those 30 (or 60 days depending on an extension) are up, you’ll likely be coming to Georgetown for a weekend getaway. It’s the most cost effective and fun little (mandatory?) escape from Thai immigration. Side note, Morgan was almost deported for falsely being accused of overstaying…it was hilarious. *Read our SE Asia Visa/Passport Tips Here!*

2. Do you like European style architecture?

  • If yes, this is your spot. This city is an architectural gem in Malaysia. For Morgan and I, this was a little time lapse to our semester abroad in London a few years back. It was a pleasant surprise because we knew very little information before arriving at this famous city. Fun fact: it’s a UNESCO world heritage site!

European style architecture in Georgetown

3. The Street Art

  • Probably the most well-known aspect of this city. If you search photos of this popular destination, you’ll most definitely see some glimpses of the street art. Plan on spending a couple hours observing these expansive and beautiful wall-to-wall murals.

  • If you’re wondering how to find these masterpieces displayed on random walls across the city, it’s actually a lot easier than you think! Just follow one step…load Google Maps on your phone when you have Wifi (before leaving a coffee shop, hotel, hostel, etc.). If you zoom in on the camera icons displayed throughout the map, you’ll quickly find each and every single piece of street art. You’ll likely take a couple wrong turns, but that’s part of the fun, right?

  • Another fail safe plan to see the street art is by keeping an eye out for groups of tourists making strange poses against a wall.

4. Random Tours

  • You can choose from a wide range of tours focused on Georgetown’s history or Half-day tours in a rickshaw driving to specific restaurants throughout the city. Ever thought about walking through a museum full of cameras? Here you can!

5. Food/Snacks:

  • They call it the Dragon Ball. That’s all you need to know. It’s exactly what we needed after an insanely humid 10-minute walk. While it looks like an ice ball completely doused in syrup, it’s much more than that! The most enjoyable part is watching how it’s created.

  • Top Recommended Restaurant: Junk
    • If you’re looking for the best burgers in Malaysia, here you go. Great atmosphere and likely the best dinner spot in Georgetown.

6. Accessibility

  • You’ll walk everywhere because it’s so simple to get around. There’s no stress with taxi drivers or tuk tuks. In Georgetown, all you need is a map and a travel buddy who wants to take a bunch of photos.

 

  • You’ll likely stay on one of these two streets: Love Lane or Stewart Lane (home to the infamous Tipsy Tiger party hostel). *Morgan and I definitely recommend the Kimberley Hotel if you’re looking for something a little nicer.*

How To Get There:

Like any business question or the most popular diaper brand…it depends. If you’re already in Malaysia, the simplest mode of transportation is by bus. This is the website we used and highly recommend: Bus Online Ticket.

Unless your bus takes the Penang Bridge (pretty unlikely), you’ll take a short ferry ride to Penang Island. Upon arrival, you’ll either take a taxi or do what we did…follow people that looked like they knew what they were doing because we heard they were staying in Georgetown 😅

*It’s really only a 10-15 minute walk from the harbor to Georgetown and the streets were marked well!*

Now…if you’re coming from Thailand, there are a couple steps you’ll need to follow.

It’s pretty common for backpackers to take the overnight/sleeper trains from Bangkok to the Malaysian border. While there’s no reason to worry, just be smart and always have your bags locked on the train. *Previously these trains carried passengers past the border. New immigration laws I suppose?*

After the train, you’ll take an 1-2 hour Metro from the border to Butterworth. From Butterworth, you’ll take the same short ferry mentioned above to Penang Island.

Seems like a headache right? Add on the 17+ hour train ride with not the best night of sleep…those extra steps seem like hell.

Well, you’re not wrong. But, it’s easier than you think. First off, the train ride isn’t that bad. Yes, 17 hours seems incredibly long…especially without Wi-Fi. But, the seats and beds are comfy with non-stop food being sent your way.

Once you arrive at the border, you’ll pass through immigration and buy your Metro tickets.

“HOLD UP…where do you buy these Metro tickets?”

“Am I just going to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere and be expected to find my way to Butterworth?”

NOOOO!!

Once you pass immigration, you’ll be staring at the ticket booth for the Metro. If you’re lucky, you’ll even be looking at the next Metro loading up passengers.

*Only downside…if you’re off by just a couple minutes, you could be waiting an hour or two. In that case, you’ll go up to the cafeteria on the second floor and play some card games/read books/stretch those legs after sitting for 17 hours.*

Annnnnd…We’re done!

You now officially know everything you need for a quick trip to Georgetown. We hope this information helps you decide whether or not visiting Penang Island is on your list of places to travel to during your SE Asian adventures 🙂

Thank you for reading! Drop us a comment if you have any questions, I personally had a ton of questions when planning a trip to Georgetown so we’re here to help!

Read our most popular posts: How To Pack For Backpacking SE Asia, Travel Apps Every Backpacker Needs, How To Save Money While Traveling, and The Secret To Finding Work Abroad!

See you next time!

– Kyle

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