Penang on a Budget (Part 2)

Is it really possible to do Penang on a budget?

A Hundred Ringgit and a Map of Georgetown, Penang

A hundred ringgit and a map of Georgetown, Penang

The Ministry of Tourism Penang Office and Project Penang invited me and 9 other bloggers to Penang to highlight that Georgetown *is* doable on a budget. To show us how affordable it was, we were given only RM100 (about USD 30) to spend over the two days we would be visiting Georgetown. This would cover our food and also our entrance fees to several heritage sites around this city of contrasts. We were also given a bus pass for a week for the local bus (Rapid Penang) which we took advantage of a total of two times on this trip.

Budget Hotel / Boutique Hospitality

Hutton Lodge, the place we stayed at, was a budget hotel. Located right in the heart of Georgetown, this refurbished Colonial-era bungalow was very comfortable. I shared a dormitory room with four other ladies (which worked out great as we were all bloggers and had much in common). Based on the prices online, I believe the cost to each of us in the room would have been less than RM 40 per person/night which was a really good deal. Hutton Lodge also has single and double rooms available.

Hutton Lodge, Georgetown, Penang

Hutton Lodge, Georgetown, Penang

The hotel was clean, and the staff helpful. Just don’t expect too much in terms of amenities. You get a towel, clean sheets and soap in the shared bathrooms. They also provide free wifi though it was spotty at times. In the morning, you get a free breakfast of toast and banana bread, coffee and tea (which was surprising though, if you ask me, unnecessary—Penang is Food Paradise after all).

Read a fellow blogger’s assessment of Hutton Lodge: Explore Life Lah! Penang – Hutton Lodge

If you walk around Penang, you would find many similar budget hotels all over Georgetown. Most of them were refurbished old houses or shoplots, which lends them a character and charm all their own.

If you are one of those who need more luxury, never fear – several refurbished old shoplots and houses were also used as boutique hotels. We were fortunate enough to visit one boutique hotel, The Boutique Residence at Pitt Street, that was in the process of being set up.

Inside The Boutique Residence at Pitt Street, Georgetown, Penang

Inside the Boutique Residence at Pitt Street Georgetown Penang

While maintaining the original shophouse structure, the interior has been revamped and remodeled with a small pool on the inside. There are only ten rooms, and each room is given a special touch in terms of design and details. If you are planning on visiting Penang soon,  check them out to take advantage of their special opening prices.

Bustling, Noisy, Exciting

Georgetown is a busy city. As you walk around the city, you will find other pedestrians in their daily chores–shopping, eating and carrying on with their business of the day. And crossing the streets is not for the fearful. Though not as bad as Vietnam, you still need some boldness in stepping out to cross the roads. Just don’t make any sudden moves, and you’ll find yourself crossing like a pro in no time at all.

Bustling Georgetown, Penang Streets

Bustling Georgetown Penang Streets

Besides the general busy-ness, everywhere you go, there are lots of people. As we walked Chowrasta market and the surrounding streets, we found ourselves hemmed in by people shopping, bicycles laden with goods pushing through the crowds, shopkeepers speaking into a bullhorn to invite you to step in and try their product, and other people  wending their way through to make it to the next street corner.

You can find food, clothes, herbs, spices, plastic wares, toys, shoes, you name it here in Chowrasta, on the streets. Inside the market, there are all types of produce and fresh meats to be bought and upstairs, many treasures in the form of second hand books await your discovery.

Busy scenes in and around Chowrasta Market, Penang

Scenes in and around Chowrasta Market Penang

See more great pics of Chowrasta Market and elsewhere by fellow blogger Williamgraphy

When you walk a little further past ChowRasta Market to Little India the scene and sounds change. At every street corner, shops will have Indian Bollywood music blaring out of loudspeakers, inviting you to bounce along as you walk through. The scent of incense and flowers and spicy foods surround you making this part of Georgetown a heady experience.

We found ourselves stopping at a little cart to try out some fried samosas that had been recommended highly by another traveler just here a few weeks ago and they were indeed delicious. And the colours you find in Little India are a photographer’s delight–from bright garlands of flowers, to the colourful saris you find hanging all over, there is much for the eye to take in. I wished Nate were with me then as he is a much better photographer. I tried to do it justice but you’ll just have to take my word that you need to go and explore this place yourself.

Scenes from Little India, Georgetown, Penang

Scenes from Little India Georgetown Penang

Strolling through Georgetown is a great way to satisfy your taste for exploration. Of course, there also were moments of discontent which marred my visit…


My budget trip to Penang was sponsored by Project Penang, the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia Penang Office, and AirAsia. Though the itinerary was set for us, my reflections and opinions are entirely my own. Follow along as I explore Georgetown, Penang and see my “home away from home” with new eyes. Subscribe to our blog and get the latest updates sent free to your email Inbox or RSS reader! In the meantime, read fellow blogger Naked Traveler’s roundup of her Penang experience.

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24 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Janice says:

    You make me want to make a return trip!

  2. Caroline says:

    Too bad that KK did not bring us to the boutique hotel! :(

  3. Charmaine says:

    So where have you spent the RM 100 on? :p

  4. Alice says:

    I love Penang to bits! Lovely pictures and scrumptious food!

  5. jim johnston says:

    I loved Penang–can’t wait to return. Thanks for all the great tips. Happy New Year to you all. Jim (& Nick), Mexico City

  6. Ben says:

    So interesting to learn about your family spot through different lenses this time. Like most Southeast Asian destinations, this looks like a real bargain. Having fun learning about your trip. Your blog posts always read like a suspense thriller! Can’t wait to hear more in your next post!

    • Nate says:

      Ben –

      heh, “suspense thriller.” Thanks. That’s the idea – keep ‘em coming back for more ;-)

      When we tallied up the amount that Annie actually spent on those two days, even I was amazed!

  7. sophia says:

    100 RM for all that? amazing. That is one measly meal in Los Angeles! This series is making me homesick for Southeast Asia. Btw, Penang is now in my friends’ vocabulary. They used to not even know what that is. Now they can’t wait to visit after I told them all about the wonderful Penang street foods.

  8. Chris says:

    Why is it that it is always the food that gets to me? :-D Enjoyed the post. Happy New Year to you guys!

  9. FiSh says:

    a stay of below 100 bucks is really worth! thanks for the info since i’ll be visiting penang during the upcoming CNY holidae :)

    Latest: “Lou Sang” in Cantonese Style

  10. Dear Annie,

    This is amazing value!

    When I was working in KL in the mid 90s, I used to go to Penang for the annual half marathon with my colleagues. Each year, I remember calculating that one could live comfortably in Penang with RM700 per month which includes paying for rent.

    I clearly remember that a Penang assam laksa was 50 sen a bowl and I needed 2 bowls for RM1 because they are so small!
    I’m quite sure it’s not possible to get by on that monthly amount now but I doubt if it is a lot more though.

  11. Mavis says:

    Hi Annie, it’s always worth to view your blog. interesting! :D nevertheless, i’m would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very happy dragon year! gong xi fa chai.

  12. Alaiyo Kiasi says:

    This was an amazing value! Your photos are excellent and gave me a well-rounded look at Penang and particularly Georgetown.

  13. babe_kl says:

    Wishing you and your family a roaring success, great health, peace, harmony and a compassionate spirit as we welcome the year of the dragon! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

  14. I have not been to penang for the longest time ever!

  15. sippitysup says:

    Oh, I can dream can’t I? GREG

  16. rebecca says:

    looks like a fun town

  17. Winston says:

    What a fantastic and helpful post. That budget hotel doesn’t look very budget at all! So nicely kept and looks comfortable too. Being a student, I like “anything” on a budget, really. Hope to visit that market in my next trip to Penang! Have a good one, Nate.

  18. Alicia says:

    Hi Annie. I love your blog….so cool….

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My Photo Annie is mistress of the kitchen while Nate is the master of the grill and smoker. We cook the homestyle Asian and Hawaiian foods of our younger days while also exploring the wider worlds of Western foods.

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