Penang – Pearl of the Orient

Andrew Leeson


Penang Pearl of the Orient

The island is home to 1.67 million people, of which approximately 740,000 live in and around the capital, George Town. This lively city was heritage listed by UNESCO in 2008, and offers a fantastic blend of Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures, all interwoven with its British Colonial past. George Town is laced with a maze of narrow streets filled with cafe’s, restaurants, traditional shophouses and eclectic street art. Districts such as Chinatown and Little India offer some of the best street food you will taste anywhere in the world.

Where are the favourite places to stay for expats?

Away from George Town itself, there are a number of very popular expat locations in which to reside. Along the North coast of the island is Batu Ferringhi, which nestles beside the most popular beaches on the island, providing a real holiday feel to your stay. Just further along is the town of Tunjung Bungah, which was originally developed by the Australian Defence Force (The Butterworth Naval Base is just over the bridge from Penang). This area offers a great range of accommodation options for long term stays.

Arguably the most popular location for expats in recent times has been Tanjung Tokong. This neighbourhood is ideally located between the beaches and city, has excellent shopping and lots of new developments, such as Straits Quay. For those who enjoy being in the heart of the action, then the Gurney Drive district is the place for you. Here you’ll find the islands main shopping centres, and a wide range of food and entertainment right on your doorstep.


George Town has a very good public transport system, which is cheap and reliable, however for those who choose to reside outside of the main urban areas, having your own transport may make good sense. Penang has its own international airport, with regular cheap flights to Kuala Lumpur (55 minutes), Singapore (90 minutes), and Bangkok (120 minutes).


Penang has highly affordable world class Hospitals, 24 hour clinics and internationally trained English speaking medical specialists. This is certainly one of the biggest attractions for many retirees who live on the island.

Cost of Living

This is another major attraction. The savings really are phenomenal. Generally, rent is about 80% cheaper than in major Australian cities. Restaurants, groceries and utilities are about 60% cheaper.

Visa / Property

Penang comes under the ‘Malaysia My Second Home’ (MM2H) retirement visa program, which is one of the most attractive in all of Asia. Property can be purchased by foreigners.

For more information on these two topics, please view the Malaysia Visa and Property sections of our website

For those considering retirement or semi-retirement in Asia, Penang really is a strong contender for your new home. It ticks so many boxes, providing a safe, culturally diverse and cost effective base from which to explore the region.

If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

Andrew Leeson

Andrew Leeson

Over 20 years of experience helping people live a better life in SE Asia. Having worked in financial services in Asia I understand the challenges when moving to and living in a new country. I have travelled extensively throughout the region and experienced what SE Asia has to offer to retirees.

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