With so many things to do, see and taste, Penang is an easy place to explore on your own. But if you have limited time, want a local’s perspective, or enjoy detailed historical and cultural information, take a guided tour.
Best tours of the island
While it’s no secret that Penang is famous for its food, how do the uninitiated uncover Penang’s food secrets? After all, no two kopitiams are made equal, and tourist traps abound. Leave it to the professionals at Simply Enak to introduce you to the best of the island’s iconic eats. Mark Ng, co-founder of Simply Enak, and his fellow tour guides are sanctioned by Tourism Malaysia, and are knowledgeable about cooking to boot.
Go green! Reduce your carbon footprint by exploring George Town on foot, by bicycle or in a trishaw. It’s an ideal alternative to renting a car, which leaves you at the mercy of the island’s notorious traffic. In addition to renting out bicycles and trishaws, Metro Bike Centre on Pengkalan Weld organises quirky tours such as the ‘Night Fun Ride’ on LED-lit bikes and the guide-free ‘Audio Trishaw Tour’.
The Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) is a charitable NGO dedicated to promoting and conserving the cultural heritage of the island. As part of their endeavours, the PHT organises a host of fascinating tours focusing on the heritage zones. Guides are very knowledgeable and, more importantly, passionate about their town. Also, they’re armed with the anecdotal information only locals can provide.
Penang Global Tourism is the state tourism bureau and they have come up with a selection of free tours for the budget-conscious traveller. These guided tours will give you a taste of what Penang has to offer including guided walks at the Botanic Gardens, around George Town (including a night trail) and even a Francis Light cemetery tour. As these are free, they are only available on certain days, usually weekends. Prior registration is required to ensure you have a place.
The Penang National Park, or Taman Negara Pulau Pinang, is the smallest national park in Malaysia weighing in at just 2,300 hectares. You can opt for a guided tour and most hotels can organise this for you, but the main trails in this park are relatively easy and you can get enough information from most places (either online or even from your accommodation) to make up your own tour.