Penang Island is one of the components of Penang State. Although is the second smallest state in Malaysia, it is also the most densely populated. Penang state comprises Penang Island (293 sq km) and Penang Mainland, or Province Wellesley (760 sq km, nowadays called Seberang Perai in Malay), which is on the mainland of Peninsular Malaysia. Although Seberang Perai is two-and-a-half times bigger than Penang Island in size, its population (54%) is only slightly more than that of the island.
Penang Island is a 15 to 20-minute ferry ride from mainland Penang on the Malaysian Peninsula. There are two bridges connecting the island to the mainland, namely Penang Bridge and the Second Penang Bridge (Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’Adzam Shah Bridge). Penang International Airport sees incoming flights from many international destinations, such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Qatar. Langkawi Island is a 2-hour-45-minute ferry ride away, or a short 35-minute flight. Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur is a 50-minute flight away, or can alternatively be reached by a 4-hour train or car ride.
As Penang has a tropical climate, it is advisable to wear cool clothing. It is usually sunny, but the heat is moderate and still comfortable to walk around outdoors. Shopping malls and restaurants are equipped with air-conditioning so you may want to carry along a light cover-up. If you are attending a formal function, a western-style suit or a batik shirt for men is acceptable. To be safe, check with your host before the event. It is a requirement to dress modestly when visiting places of worship. Mosques will often prepare appropriate cover-ups for tourists. Shoes should also be removed when entering places of worship.
Have a small umbrella on hand when you’re planning outdoor activities, and always carry a bottle of water to keep hydrated amid all that excitement. Do keep in mind that it is not advisable to drink tap water directly.
The official language of Malaysia is Malay, but many locals are proficient in English as well. Most Penangites are competent in more than two languages. Almost all Chinese speak ‘Penang Hokkien’ which is unique because of the blend of Chinese with many ‘adopted’ Malay words and some English words. Penangites’ most common greeting is “Dah makan kah?” (Malay), “Chiak pa boi” (Hokkien), “Saptacha” (Tamil) which literally means “Have you eaten?”.