Cost of Living in Penang, Malaysia

One Month’s Spend for Travelers, Retirees and Nomads

Planning an extended stay in Penang? Wondering what the cost of living in Penang might be? One of Malaysia’s most fascinating cities has a lot to offer in the way of outstanding cultural experiences, great food and affordable living. Also, it’s a common destination for travelers, digital nomads and retirees.

When we decided to travel the world full-time, we set a monthly budget for ourselves of $2000 Canadian dollars (about $1,600 USD) per month. We know that it will vary depending on where we are in the world, but we plan to stick to it as best we can and hope it all evens out in the end.

All figures below will be in US dollars. All costs are for both of us combined as a couple, not per person.

Let’s see how our cost of living compared to our budget:

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Cost of Living in Penang – Accommodations

We spent four weeks in Penang at this AirBnb and it was…..let’s say interesting. Our unit was located in the heart of tourist central on Lebuh Armenian. The unit was a pre-war era home that would have at one point in time been considered a shop house. The downstairs area would have been used as a shop for selling goods of some kind and the upstairs would have been the living quarters. Being a pre-war era home, it wasn’t in the best of shape.

Our unit was decorated throughout with vintage items and knick-knacks like cameras, paintings and figurines. We had an odd, yet comfortable outdoor shower area, full kitchen, washer and large dining area. The A/C and wifi both worked great and I had a place to work, so no complaints there.

The Neighbourhood

The neighborhood on the other hand is like a gong show. It was named Armenian St. because of the Armenian traders that settled here in the early 1800’s. Today, the street becomes an attraction for tourists of all kinds in the evenings. Remember how I said our unit was once an old shop house? Well every other house on the street is still a shop house.

I think the worst part of it all was the tri-shaw drivers in the area. They start around 8:00 and they have their phones connected via bluetooth to a speaker system on their bikes. And when they aren’t giving a tourist a ride, they blare TikTok’s on their phones at full volume all day long right outside of the windows and doors. Not just one person, 10 different tri-shaw drivers all at the same time and all playing a different TikTok. The positive was that by 23:00 everything was closed and it was quiet so you could sleep comfortably

In the first pic you can see just how close you are to those windows. And the third pic is of the funky outdoor shower

First pic – Knick-knacks galore. Second pic is of the work station. Also close to the windows and trying to work was a challenge

If you’re interested in checking out the unit you can find it here: Artist Heritage Penang UNESCO Home

If you would like to see the video version of this Cost of Living you can check it our here: Penang

Total cost for accommodation for the month: $1,147

Looking for short term accommodations? Check these great deals:

  • Luxury Accommodations: – Penang Marriott Hotel – Penang Marriott Hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre, a restaurant and bar in George Town. This 5-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk and a concierge service.
  • Mid-Range Accommodations: – Eastern & Oriental Hotel – Situated in George Town, 1.4 km from Northam Beach, Eastern & Oriental Hotel features accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a fitness centre and a garden
  • Budget Accommodations: – Bertam Resort,Penang – The accommodation features room service, a concierge service and organizing tours for guests.

Or check here for the latest deals on Booking.com

Check out our Ipoh, Malaysia Cost of Living Here

Cost of Living in Penang – Activities

Not a lot happened this month as we were working extremely hard trying to get our new website up and running. Besides walking around and checking out the sites we did a food tour while we were in Penang. Awesome guide and great food involved and I would highly suggest it if your’e considering a trip to Penang

Costs for this include tips for both guides

Total Cost for Activities for the month: $105

If you’re Interested in booking this tour: Penang: Morning Walking Food Tour

Check out our video of the food tour we went on.

Cost of Living in Kuala Lumpur – Dining and Restaurants.

As usual, this category includes Grab deliveries, typical dining out and our self guided food tours we record for YouTube. For Malaysian styler lunches with a rice meal and iced Cham(milk and coffee mix) you can expect to pay between $4 -$8 per person. With Malaysian style dinners we were able to get bowls of noodle soup and beers for around $10-$15.

For perspective, we went out one night for beer and nachos at a western establishment and that was almost $50

After 3 months in the country we thought we understood a great deal about Malaysian food. That was until we met Kak Ayu, the owner of Qually’s Syok Segarnya (formerly Qually’s Nusantara Kitchen). Oh Dear God! This woman and her cooking skills. We originally ate her establishment off camera. So we asked if she would be ok with us filming there and agreed. We had a private dinner she prepared for us and she took us along to the market where she purchased everything she would be preparing. Let me tell you that her versions of Nasi Campur are unlike anything you will ever eat in your life. Check the video out below

If you’re looking for more food tours in Penang check out some the most highly rated ones here:

Total Cost for Dining out for One Month: $390

Groceries

This month we went by one of the larger supermarkets a handful of times to pick little up items to have around the house while we worked. Coffee, eggs and yogurt for the most part

Our costs here include basic food items, water and toiletries. With toiletries making up the bulk of the expenses.

Total Cost for Groceries for the Month: $134

Cell Phones

This month we both had to top up our existing Malaysian sim card plans. Quick and pain free with an app you can download that accepts credit cards. The options we chose had unlimited data for the entire month.

Total Cost for Phone and Data for one Month: $14

Transportation

The cost reflects our ferry trip from Butterworth station to Georgetown. Apart from that we didn’t use much transportation as Georgetown is extremely walkable. A couple of Grabs on filming days, getting groceries back to the AirBnb and a final Grab to the airport when we left the country. Insanely cheap transportation costs this month

Total cost for Transportation for One Month: $9

Visas

American and Canadian citizens can visit the country visa-free for up to 90 days at a time.

Total Cost for Visa for one month: $0

Miscellaneous Expenses

This category catches anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere.. We choose to include alcohol in miscellaneous, because we do enjoy a beer or a bottle of wine from time to time while hanging around the Airbnb. You might not drink and if you are planning a budget you can easily omit this cost. For us, alcohol makes up about 70% of this category. This month it also included some clothes for me and a cell phone charger for Angela

Total Miscellaneous Costs for one month: $416

One thing we can’t live without while on the road full time – Saves us lots of money too!

Totals

Total Cost of Living for One Month in Kuala Lumpur

Looking at the table above, you can see that we blew the budget out of the water. $2215 USD works out to a little over $3030 CAD. Holy hell this was a costly month. I’m not stressed about this though as I fell in love with Malaysian food and the city of Georgetown. And It feels great to confirm what we always expected – living abroad can be much cheaper than in your home country. These numbers were about 1/2 of what our typical expenses would have been in Canada for one month.

Have you lived in Penang for any length of time? Were your numbers similar to our cost of living for one month in Penang? Do you have any other tips for potential travelers? Leave a comment and let us know. We would love to hear from you.

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