Crafting up a Malaysia travel plan? There’s hardly a more essential stop than Penang. Split between its namesake island and a strip of the mainland on the northeastern side of the Malay Peninsula, Penang delivers everything you’d expect from this fascinating, yet oft ignored, Southeast Asian country whether its in the form of delectable food, unforgettable cultural sites or blissful tropical scenery.
The biggest problem with planning a trip here comes in choosing where to stay in Penang. As one of the most popular destinations in Malaysia, Penang has an accommodations scene that’s anything but easy to navigate. Hundreds of choices await, ranging in quality from sleazy hole-in-the-wall backpackers that double as brothels after dark to opulent five-star luxury resorts that’ll take your breath away.
A little intimidated? Take away all the stress by reading through this complete guide to the best places to stay in Penang…
Where to stay in Penang, Malaysia: A complete guide to the best hotels & areas for travellers
Even though it’s not technically correct, when most travellers talk about visiting Penang they’re referring to the island, and, even more specifically, George Town.
While there’s obviously more to Penang than its urban centre (actually the second biggest city in Malaysia!), most of the sites that’ll interest the average traveller fall in and around here.
Instead of getting too bogged down in details and over complicating things, let’s just narrow our guide down to the following best areas to stay in Penang for travellers:
- George Town: Penang’s heart and soul, and the best area to stay for first-time travellers, foodies, and culture lovers.
- Batu Ferringhi: A beach town 30 minutes west of George Town that’s home to the island’s best nightlife, great beaches, and top-notch mid-range & luxury accommodations.
- Tanjung Bungah: A sleepy, but quickly growing, beach town with relatively little going on. Perfect place to stay for travellers looking for a relaxing urban getaway in Penang.
- Bayan Lepas: The closest area to Penang International Airport. It offers a few quirky attractions, but is, overall, most suitable for travellers transiting in or out of Penang.
✓ Best area to stay for first-timers, foodies & culture lovers
When you’re on a quest to decide where to stay in Penang, there’s no better choice overall than George Town. The island’s urban centre isn’t just Penang’s most compelling destination, but an absolute must-see whether you’ve got 10 days in Malaysia or a month.
The heart of George Town (and most of the best places to visit in Penang) beat around its UNESCO World Heritage area, a fascinating mishmash of British colonial architecture, scruffy Chinese merchant houses, temples & mosques. Throw in healthy smattering of street art & some of the best street food in the world, and you’ll see just why George Town is the ultimate place to stay during your visit to Penang.
Attractions in George Town: Kek Lok Si Temple, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Kapitan Keling Mosque, Khoo Kongsi, Fort Cornwallis, Sri Mariamman Temple
Where to stay: The best hotels in George Town
George Town offers Penang’s most eclectic selection of accommodations. And that’s exactly what makes it so hard to choose where to stay! In George Town, you’ll encounter anything from budget guesthouses that you’d rather keep a secret from your friends & loved ones to some of the most Instagramable luxurious digs in Malaysia.
Whatever your style, here are the top picks for the best hotels & places to stay in George Town:
- B Street Hotel: Quite possibly the best budget hotel in George Town, this property offers clean modern accommodations in the midst of George Town’s UNESCO area. The rooftop bar, unleashing views over Old Town, is a delightful surprise in its price range.
- Noordin Mews: A superb mid-range boutique hotel housed in a historical building in the heart of George Town. Rooms are spacious & bright and offer a quiet, relaxing escape amid the urban bustle. The UNESCO World Heritage area is just 10 minutes away by foot.
- Cheong Fatt Tze The Blue Mansion: Famous as a tourist attraction in its own right, this brightly-coloured Chinese mansion turned boutique hotel features a unique design for each of its classically inspired rooms. Extra amenities like a delightful outdoor pool area give this historical property an added boost over its obvious old-world charms.
- Eastern & Oriental Hotel: George Town’s most prestigious five-star hotel set in a glorious 19th-century building overlooking the Strait of Malacca. Even if the spacious colonial-style rooms and outdoor pool don’t convince you to grab a room here, the 24-hour butler service should push the scale in its favour.
✓ Best area to stay for nightlife & adventures by the sea
When the bustle of George Town seems a little much, beeline for the seaside charms of Batu Ferringhi. Although there are better beaches elsewhere in Malaysia, the stretch of white sand in and around Batu Ferringhi offers some of Penang’s best ocean frontage.
It’s the chilled-out beachfront vibe that makes Batu Ferringhi the perfect place to stay for travellers who want to spend their time on the water—whether it’s to swim or partake in more adrenaline-pumping activities like parasailing, waterskiing, paddle-boarding, or windsurfing.
Batu Ferringhi is also host to Penang’s most popular night market, a bustling affair spinning deals for everything from tacky souvenirs to designer fashion accessory knock-offs (careful going back home through customs!). The area has also sprouted a strip of bars that are perfect for lounging around as the sun dips below the horizon.
Attractions in & around Batu Ferringhi: Batu Ferringhi Night Market, Batu Ferringhi Beach, Penang Butterfly Farm, Tropical Spice Garden, Penang National Park, Penang Botanical Gardens
Where to stay: The best hotels in Batu Ferringhi
Whereas George Town’s famous for having a little of everything, the accommodations scene in Batu Ferringhi shines most for those with mid-range & luxury travel budgets.
The popular stretch of white sand beaches left some of the world’s most recognizable hospitality brands to battle over frontage. The result is that Batu Ferringhi is home to some of Penang’s best resorts (at surprisingly decent prices!), and is the perfect place to stay for a relaxing, stress-free holiday on the island.
Keep on the look out for these top hotels & places to stay in Batu Ferringhi:
- Double Tree Resort by Hilton Hotel Penang: Just about the cheapest price you’ll ever find to stay into a Hilton (and one on a pristine white-sand beach to boot!). The chain holds up to its name here with spacious family-friendly accommodations & a whole host of amenities from an outdoor swimming pool & play areas for the kids to a spa for mom and dad.
- PARKROYAL Penang Resort: An upscale but affordable resort with spacious rooms decked out in modern Asian designs. Pad your travel budget ever so slightly to upgrade to a premier room for a private balcony with dramatic sea views.
- Hard Rock Hotel Penang: A legendary Penang resort that’s as exciting for grown-up music fans as it is for kids. Rooms are decorated with rock-inspired motifs and throw in extras like BOSE sound systems and Fender guitars just for good measure. The hotel sits directly on Batu Ferringhi Beach and is just a five-minute walk from the town’s famous night market.
- Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa Penang: One of the most exclusive resorts in Penang, this 5-star gem charms with 30 acres of tropical gardens set to oceanside vistas. The rooms are, of course, delightful, but what really pushes this resort beyond most are the amenities from a 9-hole on-site golf course & the Eco Centre and Adventure Zone to the on-site spa & wellness centre.
✓ Best area to stay for a quiet urban getaway away from the crowds
Although only a 10-minute drive from Gurney Plaza in George Town, the town of Tanjung Bungah feels miles away from the non-stop buzz of Penang’s capital. Stretched out along the northern shores of Penang Island, Tanjung Bungah presents one of the best opportunities in the area to catch a sea breeze while getting a little rest & relaxation without getting too far off-the-beaten-path.
Even with its upward growth in recent years, Tanjung Bungah still presents a quiet alternative to George Town’s big city vibe. Truthfully, beyond attacking your need-for-speed with some high-octane water sports, there’s surprisingly little to do in Tanjung Bungah. And maybe that’s precisely why you could use a stay here!
Attractions in Tanjung Bungah: Floating Mosque, Toy Museum, Penang Water Sports Centre
Where to stay: The best hotels in Tanjung Bungah
The seaside glories of Tanjung Bungah have left the area with a barrage of accommodations options ranging from budget homestays to mid-range resorts. Compared to either George Town or Batu Ferringhi, the selection is quite a bit smaller in Tanjung Bungah with fewer high-quality properties available.
If you absolutely are dead-set on staying here, check out these best hotels & places to stay in Tanjung Bungah:
- Ardour Lodge: The best budget guesthouse in town featuring an unmistakably Southeast Asian influence. The garden-like atmosphere is a nice touch.
- Suites @ Straits Quay Marina Mall: A mid-range apartment with plenty of space for up to 5 guests and a wide array of on-site amenities including an outdoor swimming pool, gym, tennis court, and restaurant.
- Four Points by Sheraton Penang: A good value resort boasting spacious rooms with a clean-lined modern design aesthetic. Grab one of the value-laden deluxe oceanview rooms to fall asleep to some truly relaxing scenery.
✓ Best area to stay for late-night arrivals & early-morning departures
The industrial hub of Bayan Lepas might, at the surface, not seem like one of the best choices for where to stay in Penang. Your intuition is probably right—although it comes with a caveat.
While I would sway most travellers towards George Town or Batu Ferringhi, there are certain situations where staying in Bayan Lepas might make sense.
The area is home to Penang International Airport and when arriving late or departing early this might just be one of the smarter places to stay on the island.
Even if you manage to get “stuck” here, Bayan Lepas has a handful of quirky attractions like the The War Museum, the Snake Temple (just what sounds like), and Penang Aquarium. With the brand-new Queensbay Mall, the largest of its kind in Penang, Bayan Lepas is also a great destination for shoppers.
Attractions in & around Bayan Lepas: The War Museum, Snake Temple, Queensbay Mall, Penang Aquarium, Bukit Jambul Orchid & Hibiscus Garden
Where to stay: The best hotels in Bayan Lepas
Thanks in part to its proximity to the airport and the bridge to the mainland, there’s a handful of decent choices in Bayan Lepas at nearly every price point. Of course, for a wider selection—and, in my opinion, better location—you’d do well to check out what’s available in George Town or Batu Ferringhi.
Need to knock out a good night’s sleep before your flight home? Check out one of these best hotels & places to stay in Bayan Lepas:
- U Hotel Penang: A stylish modern hotel that’s far better than its bargain-basement prices would predict. Room are cozy and decked out with contemporary furnishings and fixtures. Penang International Airport is just 6 kilometres away.
- Hotel Equatorial Penang: Offering 5-star amenities at 3- to 4-star prices, this resort-style hotel oozes with appeal for couples & solo travellers alike. Even with everything at your fingertips—from squash & tennis courts to an on-site spa—the hotel offers guest a complementary shuttle to the heart of George Town and Batu Ferringhi to ensure you’re getting the full Penang experience.
- Lexis Suites Penang: A luxurious 5-star escape situated along the southern shores of Penang just 5 kilometres from the airport. Each of the 222 roomy & well-appointed suites comes equipped with a private pool that unleashes incredible panoramic sea or town views.
Summary: The best places to stay in Penang
- Looking for the best budget digs in Penang? There’s a whole slew of options in central George Town to choose from including the delightful & budget-friendly B Street Hotel.
- Travelling with your family? Despite the hard-partying ways of its inspiration, the Hard Rock Hotel Penang in Batu Ferringhi is one of the most family-friendly choices in Penang with tons of on-site activities for the kids and plenty of fun for mommy & daddy.
- Got a little more to spend on some mid-range digs? It’d be hard to do much better than Noordin Mews, a beautiful boutique hotel within a short walk of the main sites of George Town.
- Ready for the ultimate Penang luxury stay? The legendary Eastern & Oriental Hotel in George Town or the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa Penang will have you quickly singing praises thanks to their dramatic sea views and brag-worthy amenities.