Expatriates in Penang can look forward to Malaysia´s favorite pastime: dining out, Penang having taken this obsession to new heights. From crowded hawker centers to 5-star hotels, the city is overflowing with good food. In particular, a trip to Gurney Drive is an initiation ceremony for new Penangites, where hundreds of local delicacies are packed to the bursting point.
The city is also a hub of tourism, and for good reasons. Sightseers will be thrilled by its multicultural heritage as they explore remnants of the British colonial era (e.g. Fort Cornwallis and Suffolk House), ornate Chinese buildings (e.g. Kek Lok Si temple) and a vibrant Peranakan culture (e.g. Pinang Peranakan Mansion and Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion).
City dwellers will be happy to know that despite the high population density, there are still numerous parks and gardens in Penang. Penang Botanic Gardens is well worth a visit with its free roaming monkeys and rich landscape. The Penang Butterfly Farm and Penang Bird Park are also good ways to spend an afternoon. If you tire of greenery, the many beautiful beaches surrounding Penang Island are also perfect escapes.
Expatriates looking to send their children to international schools will be pleased to know that Penang has several top-notch schools, many following either a British curriculum or the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
At the primary and secondary level, potential options are: The International School of Penang, Fairview International School Penang, Tenby International School and The Prince of Wales Island International School.
At the tertiary level, schools include the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Tun Abdul Rahman University College, SEGi College and others, most of which also offer pre-university studies. There are two medical schools in Penang: Penang Medical College and Allianze College of Medical Sciences.
Although not the most environmentally friendly option, driving is the most convenient form of transportation within Penang for long-term residents. Foreign driving licenses are permitted to be used for up to three months, after which they have to be converted to a Malaysian Competent Driving License.
Penang is well-connected by roads and the mainland is easily accessible via the three-lane Penang Bridge. Sebarang Perai on the mainland is then further linked to the rest of the country via the North-South Expressway.
However, Penang is very prone to traffic congestions, especially at peak hours, so a certain amount of planning is encouraged to avoid this.
Public transportation, in the form of buses (Rapid Penang) and rail (Monorail and Intercity Rail), are available, though less convenient than driving. Taxis are a possible alternative but most do not adhere to a meter system, so some haggling is necessary.
Penang is also home to an international airport that handles flights to various parts of Asia.