Where to live in Penang?

Penang consist of two parts – Penang Island and Seberang Perai (the mainland).  Though Penang is considered a small island, but there are several areas or neighbourhood for you to consider for your housing needs. The question of where to live in Penang depends on what you are looking for. The best answer to where to live in Penang Malaysia is to start asking yourself these few questions:

  1. Do I need to live near my work area?
  2. Do I need to live near my kids’ school or university?
  3. Am I going to buy or rent a property in Penang?
  4. Do I need to live in Penang near people of my ethnic background?
  5. Am I going to use my private car or do I need public transport to move around in Penang?
  6. Do I need to live near the area where expats normally live?

When it comes to the best place to stay in Penang for expatriates, that would be in the North part of the island. These areas are Tanjung Bungah, Tanjung Tokong and Gurney Drive. However I am still going to walk you through some of the major areas of this island on what it has to offer.

I have included a map breakdown to the different major areas. To view it in full screen, click on the top right corner of the map. Please note that the border of all these areas are just a guess estimate and may not be the exact borderline of the area.

Neighbourhoods in Briefs

Batu Ferringhi

Batu Ferringhi is located at the furthest north part of the island. It gives you a feel that you are on an island holiday. The surrounding area is close to beaches, nature park, night markets and nice large hotels. There is a large number of tourist staying here during the weekends or holidays, thus giving it a touristy feeling. There is also an international school (International School of Penang – Uplands) which was previously situated in Gurney Drive to cater for the expats living in this area. The disadvantage of staying at this part of the island is the time to commute to town (Gurney) which takes about 25-30 minutes. Batu Ferringhi can be accessed through a winding single track road from Tanjung Bungah or through the back of the island via Teluk Bahang. There are no big supermarkets here, but the nearest can be found at Tanjung Bungah or Tanjung Tokong which will roughly take about 10-15 min drive. So it really helps if you have a private car to drive around this part of the island.  A rough estimation to travel from Batu Ferringhi to Bayan Lepas area on a normal traffic flow day will take about 1 and a half hour. Some still find this part of the island appealing if you love the panoramic views of the island’s beautiful stretch of beaches as well as the lush green hills. Some of the famous apartments or condos among expats here are Miami Green and Island Resorts.

Sunset at Batu Feringghi. Photo: Me + Camera = My

Sunset at Batu Feringghi. Photo: Me + Camera = My

Tanjung Bungah

Tanjung Bungah also spelt as Tanjong Bungah is a town that is en-route to Batu Ferringhi. This place is a favorite spot for foreigners to settle down because of the suburb neighborhood feeling and basic amenities within a short distance drive. Most of the apartments, condos and housing area are situated near the beach or near the hillside . There are two international schools located here, Dalat International School and Tenby International School. Basic amenities like supermarkets (Cold Storage) & hypermarkets (Tesco) is only a short drive to Tanjung Tokong. There is also a wet market, restaurants serving German, Belgium and Indian cuisine and convenience stores located in this area. Driving time from Tanjung Bungah to Gurney will take about 10 – 20 minutes depending on the traffic. However, if you are working in Bayan Lepas then the travelling time to the south side of the island will take you about 45min to 1.5 hour or more. Apartments and condos that are popular among the expats near the hillside are Marina Tower, Surin, The Waterfront, Coastal Towers, Twin Towers and for the one near the beach is The Cove.

Tanjung Tokong

Tanjung Tokong is a neighborhood between Gurney drive and Tanjung Bungah. This is also another place famous among expats. There has been quite a lot of development going on in this area. Penang ‘s first and only seafront retail marina, Straits Quay can be found here. It has specialty shops, trendy restaurants and bars and a performing arts center inside it. This part of the area also has a hypermarket (Tesco) and a shopping mall where you can find international grocery (Cold Storage). Basically almost all the basic amenities can be found here. Travelling to Bayan Lepas will probably take you around 45min to an hour.

Gurney Drive

This is a good place to base yourself if you don’t want to bother with a vehicle, everything is within walking distance. Gurney drive is a popular seafront promenade in Georgetown. It is famous for the ‘hawker food’ along  Gurney drive. Most of the time tourist and locals will flock to Gurney drive for the food and the shopping malls. This is where you find major hotels, restaurant, pubs and hospitals.  There are 2 big shopping malls here – Gurney Plaza and the newly built Gurney Paragon. You can get a nice view of the sea if you are staying opposite the seafront. But sad to say, when the tides are low you can see the accretion of silt or mud off Gurney Drive. Overall, expats still love it here because of the environment and basic amenities. Rental and price of properties here are much expensive compare to other areas. Some of the famous super condos and apartments that expats usually stay are Silverton, Gurney Paragon, The Regency, Gurney Park, 8 and 11 Gurney.

Jesselton Height

This lush greenery neighborhood is Penang’s affluent housing area. You will find stunning mansions, large compounds and mostly landed properties. This resident area has a few nice parks beside it – Penang Botanical Garden and Youth park. This residential area provides good space for your morning walks, jogging, cycling or kids to run about. One thing that I like about this place is the lush greeneries surrounding this place that provides a sense of tranquility around the neighborhood. Nearest basic amenities will be at Pulau Tikus or Georgetown. Driving to these places will probably take you about 10 minutes.

Pulau Tikus

This is another affluent suburb neighborhood next to Georgetown. You can find quite a number of large houses surrounded by large compounds. But in recent year, more and more apartments or condos are being built around this area. Pulau Tikus is strategically located with the east coast facing Gurney drive and towards the south, Georgetown, therefore making it very accessible to all the main areas in town. There is an international school, SCIPs in this neighborhood and most of the major hospitals, schools, restaurants and pubs are within close proximity. This area is definitely a nice neighborhood to live in and perfect for expatriates. The residential apartment Bellisa Court is one of the sought after place due to its access to variety of eating spots within walking distance.


Georgetown is the capital of Penang and this is where the central business district lies. In 2008, Georgetown was listed as the UNESCO World Heritage site because of its historic commercial centre that retains many of its colonial era-shophouses. Today most of these colonial architectural buildings have been converted to shoplots, banks, heritage hotels or guest houses and restaurants. The heritage site is located somewhere in between Beach Street and Penang Street. Condos and apartments are mostly at the West end of the heritage site where most of the shopping malls, major hospitals and schools are located. During the peak hour, traffic can be quite bad especially in the heart of Georgetown. Not many expatriates stay in this area except for a few that lives in their own shop-house in the heart of Georgetown.


Jelutong is a residential area at the outskirts of Georgetown. The main roads leading to this area are Jalan Jelutong and the Jelutong Expressway which is a reclaim land. In the 1970’s, Jelutong was a working class neighbourhood infamous for gangsterism. Things have pretty much changed today in this part of the neighbourhood due to the improvement of the standard of living and also development in this area. This area is predominantly inhabited by local Chinese ethnic groups. The construction of the Jelutong Expressway has helped to solve the traffic woes of travelling between town and the South part of the island mainly Bayan Lepas. You can still find all the basic amenities here from wet markets to schools and the nearest hypermarket, Tesco within a stone throw away. Jelutong is strategically located but not favored by expats.

Air Itam

Air Itam is a town towards the West of Georgetown which is famous to two Penang attractions, Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si Temple. This neighborhood is densely populated which can be a nightmarish drive during rush-hour traffic thus making it not very appealing to stay. All three main access roads to this neighborhood are congested in the morning and evening during peak hours. There are basically two township here, the old and new with Farlim constituting the newer township. There are a couple of hypermarkets in this area, Air Itam wet market and business center situated mostly in Farlim.

Bayan Lepas

Most of the people leaving here in Bayan Lepas are people working in the Free Industrial Zone (FIZ). There are probably close to over 100 companies in the FIZ area, mainly in the electronic or semiconductor industry. This part of the island is one of the main labor market for the whole of Penang. For those that work in FIZ and hate the traffic of travelling between town, than the better option would be to stay at this part of the island. You can still get all the great amenities here. Bayan Lepas has one of the biggest mall, Queensbay and also some smaller malls like Sunshine and Bukit Jambul. It is also home to the Penang International Airport and University Science of Malaysia (USM). Travelling time from here to Gurney Drive will roughly take 30~45 minutes on a normal traffic day. Rental here is also much cheaper compare to Gurney or areas up North. If you are working across the island (Penang  mainland), and still prefer to stay in an island, then Bayan Lepas would be a better choice.

Balik Pulau

Balik Pulau a direct translation from the Malay Language meaning “Back of the Island”; a small town nestled among fruit orchards and paddy fields. Houses here are much cheaper compare to the other parts of the island. Though being slightly remote, there is a Prince of Wales Island International School located here. Balik Pulau provides its residents with convenient access to public amenities and a self-sufficient township that includes a hospital, new wet market, banks, food court, post office, primary and secondary school within the vicinity. As you can see from the map, there are two routes linking to this township, Jalan Tun Sardon and Jalan Balik Pulau, a winding hilly road. Travelling time from Balik Pulau township to Georgetown takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

Where to Live in Penang - Balik Pulau

View of Balik Pulau. Picture taken in 2004

Batu Maung

This place used to be a small fishing village two decades ago, but the past couple of years Batu Maung has seen rapid development with the creation of a new township called Southbay. This area is a stone’s throw away from Queensbay Shopping Mall, Penang International Airport, FIZ, hotels, schools, hospital and other amenities. This place is easily accessible through Jelutong Expressway, Coastal Expressway and the newly constructed second Penang Bridge and it is also near to the airport. Going to Georgetown will probably take you about 20 to 30 minutes via the Jelutong Expressway. In recent years, this place has managed to attract many local upper middle class and expatriates who are working in the nearby Bayan Lepas Multi National Corporations. This place holds a great potential with the linkage of the 2nd Penang Bridge to Batu Kawan as in 3 yrs time a premier shopping outlet, international hotels, residential units, cafes and F&B outlets will be built around that area.

Teluk Kumbar

This is another area that is slowly developing into a new township. There are quite a number of new apartments and landed properties being developed in this area to accommodate to the population influx. Teluk Kumbar is located between Bayan Lepas and Balik Pulau. There is only one road accessible to Bayan Lepas which poses a traffic nightmare due to the bottleneck road between Permatang Damar Laut and Jalan Dato Ismail intersection. Most of the modern amenities can only be experienced in Bayan Lepas, therefore price of residential areas are much cheaper here. Teluk Kumbar is well known for its seafood along the beaches as there are quite a number of small fishing villages and also nice beaches.

Source: PenangForExpats.com