Where to stay in Penang for first time: 5 Safe areas

Penang is one of my favorite destinations in South East Asia. I understand that finding where to stay in Penang as a first-timer can be overwhelming. That’s why, in today’s article, I will help you to find the safe places to stay in Penang for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safest areas to stay in Penang for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map. I’ll also share where I stayed in Penang and recommend some of the best hotels for various budgets.

Penang island is a popular tourist destination in Malaysia. It is connected to the mainland by the Penang Bridge and the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge. 

The capital city of Penang is George Town, located on the northeastern tip of Penang Island. George Town is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Penang has a rich cultural heritage influenced by its history as a British Straits Settlement. The fusion of various cultures, including Malay, Chinese, Indian, and European, is evident in its cuisine, festivals, and architecture.

The local street food is particularly famous, with dishes like Penang Laksa, Char Kway Teow, and Nasi Kandar being popular among locals and tourists alike.

In addition to its cultural and culinary attractions, Penang offers various tourist spots. Some notable places include Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang Hill, Clan Jetties, and the Penang Butterfly Farm.

In recent years, Penang has gained international acclaim for its vibrant street art scene. Murals and installations can be found throughout George Town, adding to the city’s unique charm.

Is Penang safe to visit?

Yes, Penang is generally a safe place to visit. The city has a low violent crime rate; however, like any popular tourist destination, petty crime is common. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of pickpockets and practice common sense, as you would when visiting any place.

Where to stay in Penang for the first time?

The best and safest areas to stay in Penang for first-timers and tourists are George Town, Gurney Drive, Batu Ferringhi, Bayan Lepas, and Tanjung Bungah. These areas offer a variety of accommodations for all budgets and needs.

George Town is the most popular area to stay in Penang for first-time visitors. It is the heart of the island and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has well-preserved colonial architecture, street art, and popular attractions like Fort Cornwallis, Clan Jetties, and the Penang Peranakan Mansion.

Gurney Drive is a bustling waterfront area in George Town that is known for its modern feel, popular shopping malls, and beautiful sea views. It is home to a Hawker Centre, Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon Mall. 

Batu Ferringhi is the best location to stay in Penang for a beach holiday. This area is known for its beautiful beaches, water sports, night markets, and a relaxed resort atmosphere. It is also close to Penang National Park, ESCAPE Penang theme park, and Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm.

During my trip to Penang, I stayed in George Town at the Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion. It was a beautiful historical mansion with old-style furniture and clean spacious rooms. The location was also very central,  on the edge of the heritage area, an easy walk to get anywhere.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Penang for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Penang first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Penang first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Penang, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Penang have been carefully selected by me from well-known and secure booking sites such as booking.com, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. 

If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

5 Safe areas to stay in Penang for first-timers and tourists:

1. George Town

George Town is undoubtedly the best area in Penang for first-timers to book their accommodations. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is packed with important attractions. Stay here allows you to easily explore these landmarks on foot.

You’ll be within walking distance to the major points of interest such as the Penang Street Art, Chew Jetty, Clan Jetties, Fort Cornwallis, Padang Kota Lama (Esplanade), Rainbow Skywalk, and Pinang Peranakan Mansion.

History buffs will have plenty of museums and art galleries to explore. These include Wonder Food Museum, Upside Down Museum, Ghost Museum, and 3D Trick Art Museum.

You can explore places like Little India, Chinatown, Chulia St, and Campbell Street for unique shopping experiences with a great selection of restaurants, bars and hawkers stalls. Additionally, George Town has a lively nightlife scene with bars and pubs.

George Town is well-connected and serves as a central hub for transportation. You can easily access public buses, taxis, and rideshare services, making it convenient to explore other parts of the island.

Best places to stay in Penang in George Town for first-timers:

Luxury ($$$): Eastern & Oriental Hotel, 5-star waterfront hotel located on Farquhar Street in Georgetown, great base to recharge and explore the city.  It is close to night markets, Gurney Drive, and the old town. 2 mins walk to Blue Mansion and 10 mins to Chulia Street. It has a beautiful infinity pool, 24-hour front desk, currency exchange, and free parking. 

Mid-range ($$): Areca Hotel Penang, 4-star beautiful hotel, located in a traditional house in central George Town, an easy walk from major sights. It is also easy to use Grab if you venture further, or it’s too hot or rainy. The Octopus Pedestrian Bridge nearby offers easy access to Komtar Tower Mall shopping area and the historical streets. The hotel has a kids’ club, library, and luggage storage space.

Budget ($): Savv Hotel, 3-star good value for money hotel in a prime location, within walking distance from the Ferry if you need to get across to Butterworth. Close to major sights like the Street Art, Jetty Food Court, Komtar, and Cheong Fatt Tze. Easy access to the Esplanade, Chinatown, and Little India. Lots of restaurants and coffee shops nearby.


2. Gurney Drive

Gurney Drive is a popular area to stay in Penang, offering a vibrant beachfront atmosphere, lively nightlife scene, easy access to the old town, and lots of shopping opportunities. This area is home to Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon Mall, making it great locations for those who enjoy shopping.

The area is famous for its night markets, where you can find a diverse array of local street food, snacks, and souvenirs. Gurney Drive’s Hawker Centre is particularly well-known for its delicious food offerings, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

Best places to stay in Penang in Gurney Drive:

Luxury ($$$): Ascott Gurney Penang, 5-star hotel, conveniently located on Gurney Drive, and is connected to Gurney Walk and the Menara Gurney Offices, which have many restaurants, cafes, and specialty shops. It has an infinity pool, tour desk, a fitness center, and very good breakfast. 

Mid-range ($$): Sunrise Gurney, 4-star accommodation situated on Gurney Dr, close to Northam Beach and the heart of Penang, good base for a group of friends or big family. It has paid airport transfer, free parking, and Outdoor swimming pool. The Three-Bedroom Apartment can accommodate up to 8 people.

Budget ($): Gurney Lodge, 3-star accommodation located along Gurney Drive of George Town. Within walking distance to Gurney hawker center where you can find many delicious food and drinks. Short stroll from Gurney Plaza. Easy to use Grab to attractions. It has a 24-hour front desk, free parking, family rooms, and laundry services.  


3. Batu Ferringhi

Batu Ferringhi is an excellent choice for first-timers and tourists seeking a beach getaway with water activities, vibrant night markets, and a resort-like atmosphere. 

Batu Ferringhi is renowned for its long stretches of sandy beaches and clear waters. It’s a great destination for relaxing by the sea, enjoying water sports, or taking a leisurely stroll along the shore.

You can explore the Batu Ferringhi night market, where you can shop for souvenirs, clothing, accessories, and local crafts. The markets come alive in the evening, creating a lively atmosphere for visitors.

This area is home to the Tropical Spice Garden, a popular attraction for those interested in learning about spices and tropical plants. Guided tours are available to discover the diverse flora.

A short drive away from Batu Ferringhi, the Escape Adventureplay Theme Park is an outdoor adventure park with zip lines, obstacle courses, and other adrenaline-pumping activities.

Batu Ferringhi is a convenient starting point for trips to the Penang National Park. You can take boat rides from the area to visit attractions like Monkey Beach and explore the park’s diverse ecosystems.

Best places to stay in Penang in Batu Ferringhi for tourists:

Luxury ($$$): Hard Rock Hotel Penang, 5-star seafront hotel located along Batu Ferringhi Beach, in a quiet area to relax away from the crowds. Short walk into town to many lovely restaurants. It has a swim-up bar with sunset views, Airport shuttle, a kids club, and comfortable family rooms.

Mid-range ($$): Shangri-La Golden Sands, Penang, popular 4-star beachfront hotel in the center of Batu Ferringhi Beach, within walking distance of Batu Ferringhi night market. It has 3 swimming pools for kids and adults, 2 restaurants, and free parking. Rooms are spacious and clean.

Budget ($): Rasa Motel, great accommodation located close to Batu Ferringhi Beach and Batu Ferringhi Night Market with lots of shopping and dining options. You can use the local bus to Georgetown.


4. Bayan Lepas 

Bayan Lepas is a practical choice for those with specific needs, such as business travelers or those looking for convenience near the airport. This area is home to the Penang International Airport and Penang Free Industrial Zone, where many multinational companies and technology firms have set up operations.

You can go shopping at Queensbay Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in Penangs. The mall offers a wide range of retail outlets, restaurants, and entertainment options.

Bayan Lepas is close to the Penang Bridge, which connects the island to the mainland. The bridge offers scenic views and is an important landmark in the region.

You can see live snakes in the temple at The famous Snake Temple, visit the Penang War Museum to see  remnants from World War II and learn about the war history of the region. 

Best places to stay in Penang in Bayan Lepas for visitors:

Luxury ($$$): Amari SPICE Penang, great 5-star hotel in Bayan Lepas, good base to stay if you have events or conferences at the  SPICE Arena and Setia SPICE Convention Centre. It is also close to Penang international airport. 

Luxury ($$$): Lexis Suites Penang, 5-star beachfront hotel on Jalan Teluk Kumbar, away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown Penang. It has an Outdoor swimming pool, a spa, a fitness center, and a very good breakfast. Just be mindful the location is far from the city area.

Mid-range ($$): AC Hotel by Marriott Penang, 4-star hotel conveniently located along Jalan Bukit Gambir, on the outskirts from city center, a good base if you want to stay near Penang International Airport as it is only a 10 mins taxi drive away. Also 30-40 mins drive to Georgetown, Seberang Perai, Butterworth. It has an outdoor swimming pool, free shuttle services, and good breakfast. 


5. Tanjung Bungah

Tanjung Bungah is a coastal suburb situated between George Town and Batu Ferringhi. This area is known for its picturesque beaches, offering a more tranquil atmosphere compared to Batu Ferringhi. 

The Tanjung Bungah Floating Mosque, also known as Masjid Terapung, is an iconic architectural landmark. It sits on the water, and its picturesque setting makes it a popular spot for photography.

The Penang Botanic Gardens are also within a reasonable distance, providing a lush green escape for nature lovers.

Best places to stay in Penang in Tanjung Bungah:

Mid-range ($$): Hompton Hotel by the Beach, popular 4-star hotel near Tanjung Tokong Beach and Tanjung Bungah Beach, featuring free private parking, an onsite restaurant and a bar. Rooms are spacious with wonderful views of the ocean.

Budget ($): Tanjung Point Residences, 3-star sustainable aparthotel close to Tanjung Tokong Beach, Tanjung Bungah Beach and Straits Quay. It has 2 swimming pools including a kids pool and a garden.

Mid-range ($$): Jazz Hotel Penang, great 4-star hotel close to Straits Quay, offering Indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, 2 restaurants, and family rooms.


In conclusion, George Town, Gurney Drive, Batu Ferringhi, Bayan Lepas, and Tanjung Bungah are the best places to stay in Penang for first-timers and tourists. These are popular destinations on the island that provide a wide range of accommodations and attractions for all budgets and preferences.

 You can continue reading other destinations in Indonesia in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Penang. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

Leave a Comment