If you are one of the privileged few to be arriging in Penang by cruise ship, this article is intended to give you an idea of what to expect. Arriving by cruise is one of the most exciting way to reach Penang. Long before you arrive, you would have seen the island emerging from far away. As you draw closer, things get sharper. You can see the skyscrapers lining the coast. It's almost like a mini version of Singapore, except that, there's a lot more hills here.
Map of Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal
Map showing the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal and nearby attractions.
Your cruise ship will take you right up to Swettenham Pier, the same place used by the ferry for services to Langkawi and Medan. You will see a mix of old and new harbour buildings, including old warehouses as well as newly built marinas and piers. Behind this front line of buildings, the treasures of George Town await your discovery.
If you are coming from overseas, you may have to clear customs before you are allowed to enter George Town. Having done the necessary formalities, you emerge from the Passenger Terminal of Swettenham Pier, out the gate, and into the heat and humidity of George Town.
In front of you are two roads: on the right is King Edward Place, on the left Weld Quay. There will usually be a line of trishaws waiting to pick up customers. Tour guides would also have stationed themselves here to provide their services. Engaging their services will certainly give you a personal experience of the city. Many of the trishawmen are also quite knowledgeable about the sights and attractions of George Town, and can serve as impromptu tour guides.
Free-lance tour guides from Penang Tour Guides are available to take visitors around. They charge according to time and can drive small groups of visitors of maximum 4 guests in cars. These tour guides offer tailor-made tours of Penang. Their services are usually pre-arranged in advance. Minimum rate for a guide with car is RM90 per hour for minimum 4 hours, inclusive fuel. These guide can also take visitors on walking tours of the city. For details, contact Rose, the tour coordinator at Penang Tour Guides, by filling up the form below. Rose may also arrange vans and buses for larger groups. Inform Rose what you expect to see/do/experience, so that she may select a guide that is most appropriate to your needs.
You can also explore George Town on your own. I have created free walking tours which you can print out and take with you as you explore the city. These walking tours show you some of the most important streets of George Town, where you will pass many of its interesting sights:
Light Street & Pitt Street Walking Tour: Light Street shows you the colonial part of George Town, the area where the British began their settlement. The street connects with Pitt Street, which cuts through a broad cross-section of the various communities of the city.
Exploring George Town by Bus
If you have enough time, you can take the bus to explore George Town. The Rapid Penang buses are all air-conditioned and are clean and comfortable. Seats are limited, but they have big windows that offer you good views of the city. The best bus route to take is CAT, which is a free shuttle bus that goes around the city. I have created an itinerary below that you can print out and take with you: Sightseeing with CAT. The CAT is the free bus service that goes around the city, stopping at various important sights. Hop on and off at any point of your choice without paying anything!
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Take the CAT Free Feeder Bus
What's the best way to see Penang on a budget? Take the bus! In Penang, there are at least 12 absolutely FREE bus routes which cover almost every major neighbourhood on Penang Island and Penang Mainland. All you need to do is hop aboard!
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