Cost of living in Penang for a family


Penang Sunset

After four months in Penang, we've finally hitting the road again. Our destinations: Kuala Lumpur and Cherating in Malaysia, Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand and Singapore (not in that order!) before returning home to Australia for a month for Christmas. We're excited to be travelling again but very sad to be leaving Penang.  When we started this trip, one of our aims was to try to find a place outside of Australia where we would be happy to live. We wanted somewhere less expensive than Australia, with a good standard of living, easy access to facilities, good schooling, an interesting culture that we could learn from and most importantly a great social network of friends. Penang offered us every one of these options. The food in Penang was just amazing and cheap. The cost of living is about 1/3 of what we pay in Australia, but if anything we had an even better standard of living. And we made so many great friends, particularly in the last few months when the kids started making friends and we spent every afternoon down by the pool or playground catching up. We've enjoyed hosting many families in our house too. The more the merrier!

In case you are considering moving to Penang, here is a break down of our costs. These costs are based on a family of 4, with two young children that don?t eat a lot and aren't enrolled in an international school.  

FYI: RM3 is roughly 1USD or 1AUD

Housing & Utilities

The cots of renting an apartment varies depending on size, age, furished or unfurnished, quality of furnishing, length of rental agreement and the facilities the complex has.

We rented in Miami Green - one of the nicer apartment complexes near the beaches in Penang, with several pools, a squash court, tennis court and 24-hour security (I have no clue why it 'needed' 24 security guards as crime rates in Penang are very low and we felt safer there than in most Western cities. In 5 months we heard of one break in and one bag snatching in another suburb entirely, not near our apartments).

For a furnished apartment in a complex with a pool expect to pay RM1200-5000 per month. You can rent a lot cheaper than this but you will be in an older apartment block without facilities or security, and the apartments will often be quite small. Apartments in Georgetown and over near the bridge are more expensive. Apartment near the beaches near Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bungah  tend to be between RM1200-3000  per month furnished. Unfurnished  and longer leases are cheaper though.

You can also rent large, modern houses for a similar price to apartments although its almost impossible to rent one for anything less than a 12 month lease.

We paid:

  • 3 bedroom Apartment: RM2200 / month for a 4-6 month lease. RM2500 per month on a shorter lease.
  •  Electricity: RM200 per month (use of AC overnight and for a few hours during hottest part of day)
  • Gas (for stove): RM5 per month
  • Water: RM8 per month
  •  Cable television: RM49 per month for basic package plus childrens channels and western news channels. RM125 per month for the full package.
  • Cleaning: House cleaner 2x weekly RM70 per week

A clear afternoon over Miami Green


Buses in Penang are great but not quite comprehensive. They service Georgetown well but school drop offs and grocery shopping is a little hard without a car. You don't need a car but life is a lot easier with one.

  • 5 year old sedan: RM1100 per month with additional excess, free services and repairs
  • Petrol: RM60 per week (RM1.80 per litre)
  • Bus (Batu Ferringhi to Georgetown): RM2 per adult, children under 6 are free.

The bus home to Penang

Food & Grocery

If you're moving to Penang, find out where the nearest local markets is - Grocery stores are expensive but the markets are cheap.  You may need to go the supermarket  every few weeks for some western brands, formula, yogurt, nappies, cereal and non-halal foods, but everything else can be found at the markets. Chicken and seafood are available at the markets. Mince, steak, sausages etc are cheaper if bought from a bulk butchers rather than the supermarket.

  • Vegetables: RM12 per week
  • Fruit: RM50 per week
  •  Chicken: RM9 for 1kg breast
  • Mince: RM16 per kg
  • The Basics:  RM50 per week (bread, milk, juice, yogurt, coffee)

Eating Out

Eating out in Penang is quite inexpensive. If your happy to eat where the locals do you'll often pay only a few ringget more than you would cooking at home. Hawker Markets and small local restaurants will offer the cheapest food, whereas the tourist restaurants in Batu Ferringhi will blow your budget (even if they are quite cheap in comparison to what you'd pay back home in the west in a good restaurant).

At a Hawker Market or local eatery

  • Breakfast with tea and water: RM10-15
  • Dinner or lunch with just water: RM15-25
  • Dinner with beer and juices: RM45-60

At a local restaurant

  • Dinner with just water: RM30-40
  • Dinner with beer & juices: RM55-80 
  • Dinner at a fancy restaurant: RM80-200

Little India - Queen & Market

Daycare & Schooling

There are a lot of great International Schools in Penang. St Christopher's Elementary School is the cheapest and has a fantastic reputation. Dalat, Tenby and Uplands are a lot more expensive but very good schools and your best option with highschool aged children.

We had hoped to send Noah to St Christopher's but they have a long waiting list so we ended up just sending him to a local Chinese run daycare. Formal schooling in Penang doesn't start until 7 years of age. Like the rest of Asia, Malaysia is very focused on education so daycares have become mini-schools, covering the same content that would be covered in Kindergarten and Grade 1 in the west. Daycares in Malaysia generally follow a very Asian eduction model so it can be hard to find playbased learning for younger children if this is what you are used to. Some daycares will have even the three year olds sitting down with pencils in hand writing. Others take a more relaxed approach in the younger age groups, but generally from 4-5 years the children will be doing 2.5 hours of lessons per day.

Daycares commonly offer three options - 5 half days per week, 5 full days per week or a mix of both (for example three half days and two full days). We sent our children to Apple Tree Daycare in Tanjung Bungah. Taska Lin has one of the best reputations although its more expensive. If play based learning and small teacher-child ratios is important to you check out the new Cherie Hearts Centre in Tanjung Tokong. If we return next year Hayley will attend that centre (the only reason we didn't send the children there this time was it had only just started and there were no 5 year olds enrolled so Noah would be lost for friends!)


  • RM180-350 per month for 5 half days, including lunch and morning tea.
  • RM300-450 per month for 5 full days, including morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.
    RM200 per year once off fee for books, craft materials, uniform.
  • After school tuition in anything from reading and maths to music and karate is widely available in Penang. Expect to pay anything from RM20-60 per month for one hour of tuition per week.

Miami Beach


Cinema: RM40 (a family of four, including snacks)

Doctor's consult: RM20 at a local hospital, RM50 at a private clinic

Emergency consult with xray: RM70

Parking: RM1 per three hours on weekdays, RM3 per three hours on weekends.

If you're contemplating a move to Penang and want to know the cost of something I've left out please let me know and I'll add it into this post. Or if you live in Penang and think I'm wrong on any of these costings ... or have some additional information I'd love to know.

NOTE: We're getting a lot of questions after posting this from other families looking to move to Penang, which I think is fantastic! But we were holidaying long term (5 months) in Penang so we don't really know the answers to questions like tax rates in Malaysia and buying a car. We're more than happy to answer anyone's questions but if you have specific questions pertaining to working there it might be best to head to one of the expat forums. Best of luck and perhaps we'll see you soon when we head back for another six months!

Next Post: Kuala Lumpur with kids: Batik painting at the Craft Complex Previous Post: Tanjung Bungah Night Markets: Food heaven

About the Author


Tracy Burns

Tracy always talked about traveling a lot more than she ever traveled. Married to an avid traveler that thankfully changed. After almost two years exploring South East Asia and Australia, enjoying the most amazing food, temples, beaches, and more importantly every sweet food treat she can find, Tracy is keen to explore further afield. Tracy juggles homeschooling, playtime, blogging and learning more about photography while they travel. Some days she juggles them better than others!

Comments (68):

  1. Interesting break down of living in Penang, how long are you planning to stay there? how many RMs make a dollar?

  2. We just left Penang a few days ago, but are thinking of returning there next year to live for 5+ years ... unless we find somewhere we like more. Its approximately 3 Ringgit (RM) to 1 USD. Generally we've found the cost of living is about 1/3 of living in Australia.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Colin Burns, Marie S. Fabre. Marie S. Fabre said: Penang Cost of Living: cost of living for as an expat family in ...: They service Georgetown well but school dro... [...]

  4. Funny, what really struck me was the cost of chicken breast! 9RM for a Kg? That is soooo cheap! We pay $8 CAD! You've got me thinking about Penang but my biggest thing is that I would not want to rent a car so how hard would it be to get groceries? Also are there hawkers markets near where you were staying (walking distance)? I really rather eat out than cook at home as meal planning is the bane of my existence!

  5. Hi Amy,

    Around the place we lived (Miami Green) there really isn't too much, but 5-10 minutes on the bus in either direction you can get hawker villages for breakfast/lunch and dinner. I kind of think having a car is very useful in Miami Green, but if you chose to stay at another apartment block closer to things you wouldn't need a car.

    Having said that if you are happy to catch the Bus most of the time, then once a week or once every two weeks you could simply do your shopping and then catch a taxi home. It is about 15RM ($5) from the big shopping centre to Miami Green so this would certainly be much cheaper than renting a car.

    I really enjoyed the freedom that the car gave us to travel around the island and to socialise. For example I played squash twice a week and at least one of those games was on the other side of the island. If I didn't have a car it would have been a nightmare to get to and I wouldn't have done it.

    It really comes down to what you like. Another family just arrived and they are giving life without a car a go for a month (they are living at Miami Green) and they then see how they go.


  6. Chicken is crazy cheap isn't it. Its $14AUD per kilo in Australia. Penang is really a mini-metropolitian city. Public transport is good but a car makes it easier. If we go back to Penang I'd like to live a bit closer to shops/markets (Tanjung Bungah would be my first choice, then Batu Ferringhi) so we can just walk everywhere. I'm with you - cooking is the bane of my existence too! But I think I'd like to try somewhere even smaller next time - still have my dream of living on a beach or with a woods behind us having a simpler life - tv off, kids out playing outside, enjoying nature ... Penang is great but its just too easy to spend all your time in apartment complexes and shopping centres!

  7. Hi ,
    I am kumaran, working in singapore . Got offer in penang I have few quries to come over there ,So kindly calarify my doubts .Thanks for your favour.
    I am a family guy with 1yr old kid. my pay over there is 7000MYR is it ok reg the expense and how much I can save . its quite a normal family.
    what would be the medical expense?
    reg the security aspect? and can I get appartment around 2000 with good condition.
    is family can be run around 3K MYR and save 4k MYR ??
    what about the tax??/

  8. Hi Kumaran
    I'm not sure we can answer all of your questions. We weren't working in Penang this year - just holidaying there so we didn't have to deal with tax. Security was fine - we found it to be a very nice, safe place and most apartment complex's have security guards. As to whether you can save on that wage ... possibly if you own your own car, send your child to a local school/daycare and shop in the markets (not at the grocery stores). Yes you can get an apartment for 2000 per month - but do you want furnished/unfurnished? Expect to pay anything from 800-2200 for an apartment, depending on how nice it is, whether its furnished, what facilities it has. I think anything from 1500-2000 will get you a decent size furnished apartment in good condition with swimming pool and security, 1000-1500 for unfurnished. Near the bridge to Butterworth and in Georgetown is more expensive, the cheapest places are in Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi. Hope this helps.

  9. Love the info and the detail with which you've been writing lately! cheap cheap chicken! I agree with you, your standard of living is probably higher than it was in australia! we can't even afford to go to the movies as a family of 4, let alone Gold Class!!!

  10. Hey guys,

    I am a local Penangite of Chinese ethnic. Have been living on this island for the past 34 years... LOL. Went to Melbourne recently to find out why many of my local friends were sending their kids there for schooling. Bumped into this webpage and will be more than happy to help out with any of your enquiries pertaining to this little northern state of Malaysia.

  11. Hi Kumaran,

    With MYR7k per month, I can't say you could save up a lot as an expat in the end of the day. The rentals of a decent car + a furnished apartment will eat into more than 50% of your pay. Having said that, it is suffice to survive... LOL.. if you could compromise on a smaller locally assembled car + a semi-furnished apartment.

  12. hallo!
    thanks a lot for your Blog, it's very useful. we are a german family with two young children just like you lol and we want very much to spend a long vacation in penang. could you plz tell us the best time to visit the island?

  13. Most of the year is lovely in Penang we've found. Penang doesn't seem to have the same monsoon season that other nearby areas suffer from. We were there in March-April, then July-November. March-April was ridiculously hot, I'd avoid those months (although they are the best months for diving/snorkelling on nearby islands and fantastic thunderstorms in the middle of the night). July-November had fantastic weather - cool mornings, the odd night where it rained over night but the days were nice. Some days I even wished we had jeans! July-November also has some fascinating Chinese and Hindu festivals so its a fun time to be there and experience the culture.

    We are hoping to head back to Penang in April to rent a house. Our idea is to spend part of the year in Penang, then travel part of the year, perhaps doing houseswaps or renting out our place.

    If you do decide to come to Penang we'd love to hear from you and catch up if we are there.

  14. Thank You! What a wonderful, positive and detailed experience of Penang - great information if considering staying with a family.

  15. I have recently applied for a job in Penang. I am married with one child who is just about to finish elementary school.I would like to rent an unfurnished house, send my child to an international school and probably rent cars for my wife and I.

    The package of offer is 80,000 sterling a year + housing + car + school fees etc.

    I understand tax is quite high but I would appreciate your comments on the standard of life we could expect on that kind of package.

    Two further questions: - is pollution from burning forests in Indonesia an issue.

    The population of Penang is large but does the place feel congested or too busy.

    I would appreciate your comments

  16. Hi, how exciting for you and your family. That salary would have you living like Kings in Penang. Apart from education, everything costs roughly 1/3 of what you would pay at home. Honestly on that package you could put away a significant portion of your salary ... or support us! We live cheaply ... really! Just joking.

    We weren't working there so we didn't pay tax but I can put you in touch with someone that could answer your questions if you would like.

    At certain times of the year the sky can get very hazy from burning in Indonesia. You get sick of not seeing blue sky but the air pollution is not bad enough that it would trigger respiratory problems or stop you from enjoying the outdoors like it can in China/Korea/Thailand. You get a lot of afternoon storms and breezes around that time of year that tend to clear the air.

    Congested ... well it depends where you are living. The roads are always busy, particularly around Georgetown. In fact Georgetown has some of the worst peak hour problems I've ever seen. But parks, markets, shopping centres, beaches etc are never what I'd call congested or too busy, at least by Asian standards. Have you spent any time in Asia - happy to help you compare Penang to somewhere else you may have been.

  17. Tracy,

    Many thanks for your interesting reply as it certainly provides a level of confidence.

    Re income tax, I appreciate your offer of further assistance in that regard.

    Re the congestion, having spent 10 years in Hong Kong, I can bet that Penang does not compare.

  18. Hi, I'm Kris. I stumbled upon your informative site giving an interesting perspective of Penang. Thanks a lot!
    I am planning to move to Penang (from India) with my family comprising my wife and our daughter (12 years) for work. The total monthly package I may get is a little more than RM15000. Can I have your comments on (1) educational cost (approximately) in an international school (my daughter will seek admission into 7th grade); (2) the cost of a new Honda (City, for example) and (3) the compensation I get i.e., RM 15000 per month? Thanks for your time

  19. Hi Kris, I can't actually comment on the cost of purchasing a car. We only hired one. We'll be back there in May and would be happy to check it out for you but you may need to know before then. I do know they are a lot cheaper than in Australia. Double check too the visa that you are entering on - if it gives you residency you may find that you can purchase certain brands of cars tax free.

    There are two international schools that I have friends with daughters enrolled in a similar grade to yours - <a href="" rel="nofollow">Dalat</a> and <a href="" rel="nofollow">Uplands</a> (I've given you links to their fees pages). Both schools have very good reputations, but they're not cheap! There's a new Tenby International School opening at some point but I don't know when.

    RM 15000 would definitely be enough to live comfortably on. Although on that salary I would recommend finding a local person to rent an apartment off (not an apartment owned by an expat as you'll pay more). Are you bringing your own furniture over or will you need to rent a furnished apartment? You'll probably also need to live on the north-western side of the island as rent is a little cheaper over here. A lot of expat families live here anyway as it's close to the international schools. We think, taking out the cost of education, we could live very comfortably in Penang on RM8-9000 a month, including eating out four nights a week in local restaurants, have a car and pay for a cleaner. We wouldn't be shopping for clothes every weekend or holidaying once a month to Thailand and we'd have to watch our budget but we'd have a nice lifestyle.

    Hope this helps.

  20. Hi Tracy,
    Thanks a lot. Its quite helpful, indeed!
    The links to Dalat and Uplands are useful. Equally useful is the information about expat population living in the proximity of international schools in the north-western side of the island. (This perhaps is what exactly I wanted to ask but did not!)
    Thanks again

  21. Glad I could help - actually I realised last night I got my geography a little wrong. For some reason I always think of it as the NW of the island but it's really the north. Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi have lots of expats. Over the near the bridge a lot of others live to due to the proximity to the mainland but it's further to the schools and rents are higher! Tanjung Bungah is my pick for where I'd live in Penang - green suburb (used to be Australian RAAF accommodation), wet markets right there, beach and plenty of buses ... and the most amazing Indian food in Penang.

  22. Hello Tracy,

    How are do you doing?

    Well, I'm a brazilian guy and I found your website in, I'll explain my situation for you and if you can help me I'll be so glad hahaha..

    I work in Bosch Brazil here I'll do a programm interniship in Bayan Lepas, Malaysia (Penang)..
    There my conditions will be: The Bosch will pay for me the accomodation (hostel)..
    And my allowance will be 500 RM per month...

    Only this..

    I'm a single guy...and I'll go alone to Penang..

    How much I'll spend beyond my allowance to eat, live, drink some drinks at night, take bus, and know the heritage places in Penang?
    I want only a etimate, to think in my costs..

    Thanks so much Tracy...

  23. PS: I'll lunch monday till friday in Bosch, so it doesn't have costs for me...only on saturday and sunday I'll have costs to lunch

  24. <a href="#comment-8739" rel="nofollow">@Fábio Rosa</a>, Hi Fabio,

    It's Colin here. Just wanted to reply to you sorry we have taken a while we have been driving for the last 4 days from Melbourne to Brisbane in Australia.

    One thing I can say is that a lot of Malaysians live on that amount of money per month. We certainly couldn't but that there are a few reasons for that, i.e. there are 4 of us and I am a little prone to luxuries :).

    I would think with an allowance of 500RM/month you would be on a very tight budget. I'll give you an example of some costs.

    Breakfast - if you eat Roti or some other type of simple bread meals you'll probably spend 3-5RM for breakfast including a drink.

    Lunch - this gets covered at work...

    Dinner - Although you could eat for 10RM I would probably budget 15RM if you a big eater or like a beer at dinner.

    Beer - Can of beer is about 6.50RM in a corner store and between 7-9RM at a restaurant. A large bottle of beer is between 14-18RM.

    Bus tickets are usually 2RM for a short distance trip, but might be more. So there is another 4-6 RM per day.

    A can of softdrink is usually about 1.50RM.

    I don't know how extravagantly you live but I hope these examples of price help you.


  25. Thank you for writing this informative post. It certainly helps. How did you find your apartment? Did you use an agent? Did you pay any deposit or other fees for the apartment not mentioned above? Thanks!

  26. Hi Dave, we found an apartment through word of mouth. You can find many advertised on the internet but they are a lot more expensive - the cheapest way we've found is to book accommodation in hotel or guesthouse for a week and start asking around - taxi drivers, mini market operators and tour agents generally all know someone who works as a rental agent locally. It took us only a day to find someone!

    Deposit - yes we had to pay one month's rent in advance. Some rental agents also ask for a commission of half a months rent ... which is fair enough if you are renting for 12+ months but if it's only for a few months negotiate. Rental agents will usually get a commission from the owner of the apartment and when I've spoken with local people they say the agents commission on a short term lease should only be a small amount. You are also expected to clean the apartment before leaving - 150-200RM will pay for someone to do it for you if you don't have time.

  27. Hi Tracy, Colin,

    I am happy to have found your post while googling for information about living in Penang for a family of 4. My husband and I were hired by same company in Bayan Lepas and we'll be moving there with our 2 girs (5 and 2) hopefully in 2 months time (we're still getting our working documents completed). Regarding rentals, I also heard that agents really do charge half of monthly rate if you go to them to look for a place to stay. Is it really normal there that you go to agents or can any local help you find an apartment? What's the risk of trying to find one on your own? I am thinking maybe there's an advantage or there's more security if you go to agents? But what do you think?
    We've been trying to contact pre-schools nearby the working place but only one responded. D'Monte in Bayan Lepas which is along the way to the work place. We were told this is a montessori type school and charges higher than others but the others are not responding to their queries so maybe, we need to find some time to go to these pre-schools when we get there.
    About eating out in hawker markets, do you find it OK for your kids? I mean, us adults, we should be fine with anything but I'm just worried about my kids. The had hepa vaccines though but as a mother, i want to be careful. How about the water they serve in these places, is it really safe for drinking?
    What brand of car did you rent? From readings, brand new Protons (local made) are cheap and comparable to a yearly rental or maybe 2nd hand of other brands. Any thing you heard from the locals about getting Proton?
    How about the cleaners you hired? How many hours do they spend cleaning your apartment? Do you think it is safe to have your apartment cleaned even when you're not around? I was thinking of getting it cleaned during weekdays when we're out to work and kids at school because on weekends, kids may just be running around and messing up you know.
    Oh, we love Indian foods - curry, chicken tekka masala, roti, naan, tandoori chicken and a lot more but not the too spicy ones for me. So glad to hear that Penang has variety of foods.
    How about children play parks or resorts to visit on weekends? Have you been to any of these places?
    Ow, I think I got too many questions already. I'll go back visit you again when I am notified of your reply.
    Thanks for your time and have a good day.

  28. Hi Jane,

    Fantastic news on the move :). We have literally just rented a house in the last couple of days in Batu Ferringhi. We move in at the middle of June.

    To answer your questions.

    1. Agents charge both you and the owner of the house a commission for finding you an apartment. I think this stinks actually because generally you are coming to them, rather than them finding you, but it is the case. We just drove around a few suburbs we were considering and looked for signs out the front. Luckily we found a place (through a friends suggestion) and dealt directly with the owner so we haven't had to pay a commission. In terms of how much, I heard it was one months rental not a half a months rental.

    2. You can go through agents or just ask people if they know of a house. The only time you will avoid agents though is if the owner is promoting the place themselves or you catch a place before it goes on the market. We went to visit a garage sale down the road from our friends place and chatted with the family having the Garage Sale. They were leaving in a few weeks so we asked them about their place. The father gave us the owners details and we went from there dealing directly with the owner.

    3. Schools in my opinion are something you need to look at once you get here. Don't commit until you have seen the school and met the teachers etc.

    4. Foods are fine for kids (health wise, but we aren't all that picky). We're not all that "germ" focused or anything and have a pretty high tolerance for this. If you're constantly washing your hands or are worried about the cleanliness of restaurants in Western countries then I think you might be cooking at home a lot :) We have now been travelling for 500 odd days and only really been sick a couple of times and, for us, never in Malaysia. We all got a little sick in Bali, but nothing serious.

    5.Cars are actually quite expensive over here. Although protons are relatively cheap cars and repairs and parts are cheaper than others from all accounts the upkeep is higher because the quality of the cars aren't all that great to begin with. We are looking at buying an old Mercedes/BMW/ or Range Rover rather than a new car.

    These are websites that you can look for some cars... At least it will give you and idea to buy outright.

    We currently have a rental car and it is MYR1200/month for a Proton Wira sedan. It is about 5 years old, but feels like we are driving a 15 year old car. Just so you know...

    6. There are a few playgrounds around - but I think Tracy will be better positioned to tell you about those :)

    Good luck with the move and make sure you get in touch with us when you get to Penang, perhaps we can catch up and take you to our favourite Indian Restaurant :)


  29. Hi Jane, just adding to Colin's comments - I'm pretty sure it is just half a months rental commission that agents charge. It does seem to be very standard - although you may find some local people that won't charge you this. We have friends who we rented off originally and they don't charge this but they are no longer in the rental business. But I can ask them if they know agents around Bayan Lepas.

    Playgrounds - there are lots of great ones. Most apartment complexes and neighbourhoods have a small playground - just your standard swings, slide and something to climb on. Out towards Bayan Lepas is Queensbay Mall that has a giant indoor playground. It's a little expensive (RM18 per child). Near Georgetown is the Youth Park that has a huge playground, swimming pools and skate park. It's free. And in Batu Ferringhi is the Adventure Zone playground. I know there is also an island resort opposite Bayan Lepas that locals can pay to go over and use their day facilities, such as the pool and rock climbing gym. And of course theres always McDonalds! playgrounds. Most hotels will also sell membership to their facilites for between 300-750RM per year.

    Apartment cleaning - look we left our cleaners in the apartment alone but only after we had known them for a month or two and they were recommended to us by the apartment complex we were staying in - they cleaned most of the apartments there and allegations of theft would have destroyed their business so there would have been no point. I think it would depend on the cleaner but I probably wouldn't be doing it until I knew them for a few months.

    Hope we haven't missed anything

  30. Thanks Collin and Tracy for taking time to get back on my questions. I appreciate it. I will have to digest all these first, LOL.
    I was telling my husband about your blog this morning on our way to work (we're in Taipei) and we're Asians anyway :) I told him about your family tavelling with 2 kids in tow and keeping the colored pens and papers as contant entertainment for the kids...I'll find more time to read your other posts soon.

  31. any idea how much is costing the internet per month.

  32. <a href="#comment-18093" rel="nofollow">@naturebe</a>, It varies from Postpaid (i.e. a contract) to pre-paid.

    We can get ADSL into our home for about 140MYR/month. This is for 4mb transfer rate which the fast we can get in our area... I don't think they have fast here as they don't promote it...

    Prepaid internet is through a USB modem which is about 15/20MYR per week, which is unlimited download but much much slower.


  33. thank you for your respond.

    it is fascinating how you managed so cool,so many trips! with 2 kids.

    I read almost all your reports but couldnt find any tip about residence permit/visa in malaysia.
    I am well grounded about MM2H, but any idea how we can extend our residence to 6 months without applying for this program.

    my information till now:
    1- applying for extension in immigration office penang after 3 months.
    2 x 1 month extension is possible. total 5 months
    2- a trip from langkawi to satun in thailand by ferry and back "in the same day" .somebody says ,there must be 1 night between return journey.
    3- ???

  34. Hi, sorry it's taken a few days to respond.

    1) I might be wrong, but I think only one 30 day extension is possible through this method?
    2) It is possible to do it in one day, I have friends who have done this but it's a very long long day! If you miss the ferry back you'll need to stay over night.
    3) Another option is to drive to the Thai border at Sadao. We did this last year. The drive takes two hours. Once at the border you just leave your car, walk across, have some lunch and walk back. We did it easily in a day. No need to go to Hat Yai. My understanding is this is the quickest way. We wrote a post on it last year. With AirAsia, it also pays to keep an eye on their sales. They fly directly from Penang to Singapore, Medan and Bangkok - if you get the right sale you can have a short holiday and get your new visa on the way back.

  35. Wow, great post! Thank you for sharing all this info, and for keeping up with the comments. My family (me, my wife, and 3 girls -- ages 7, 5, and newborn) are planning to move to Penang this November from Costa RIca (we're originally from the USA).

    We're not sure which part of Penang to move to -- which neighborhoods do you recommend? I work on-line and we homeschool, so I'm mostly concerned about security, beauty (I would rather be surrounded by nature than concrete), and proximity to activities and good restaurants, etc.

    As I mentioned, we're homeschooling our kids, but we like to supplement their education with other activities, classes and tutoring. Do you have any recommendations for how to find these? Also, do you know if there are a lot of other families there that homeschool? Did you find it easy to make friends there? And are your friends mostly expats or locals?

    Also, what company did you rent your car from?

    Thanks for all your help, and it would be great to meet you when we get there!

  36. Hi Brandon, I'm envious that you're in Costa Rica. That's always been one of our dream places to live. Maybe we can swap notes one day!

    Where to live? That's a good question. We've chosen to base ourselves out near the beaches. Despite the tourist crowd it's less busy than in Georgetown on around Queensbay, which are two other areas that expats tend to base themselves. I personally really like the suburb of Tanjunga Bungah - it's green, that's where the markets are and our favourite restaurants but it's a bit hard to find a rental house there and there have been a lot of home breakins lately. If you want an apartment though it's a great location. We are living in Batu Ferringhi, which is the next suburb out. The main street and beach is touristy and concrete but we're at the back of the suburb with a mountain looming over us. The streets here are a little quieter - the kids have been riding their bikes this week, but security is better. Anyway, I'd start by taking a look at these two suburbs to see if there is something that you like. There's plenty of great restaurants and lots of families around. The only negative is some activities are only available in closer to Georgetown so you might end up driving a lot!

    To be honest, nature and beauty aren't exactly Penang's strong points. The water is polluted and the population density is high. But a 5 min drive takes you to quiet beaches and great bushwalks. There are also plenty of gorgeous green parks and the Penang Hill to go up, most streets have big trees and mountains in the background ... it's definitely not a concrete jungle but it's not a tropical paradise if you get what I mean.

    Homeschooling - I'm just starting to find out about the homeschooling community here. Last year when we were here we sent the kids to a local daycare, and are doing the same at the moment but we'll go back to homeschooling soon. There are several homeschooling groups, I'm not sure how regularly they meet but I'll be investigating it! I'd actually love to get a few other homeschooling families together a few mornings a week to do joint activities, pool resources etc. Dalat International School has a homeschooling support centre - you can pay to join and get access to their library, materials, afterschool sports and even help with developing programs or testing (although that's extra!). Tuition is easy to find and cheap. Art classes, music classes, maths, english, karate, soccer ... it's all available and cheap. The best way to find tuition activities is probably to get here and ask around.

    Car rental - we rented through a local expat who runs a rental company. I can give you his number when you get here if you like.

    Making friends has been really easy actually. It's one of the reasons that we love it. We have a mix of expat and local friends. Renting in an apartment complex for a few months was a great way to meet people. Starting in a house is a bit isolated but we'd be happy to meet you and throw a gathering to introduce you around when you arrive.

    Hope this helps. Happy to swap emails if you like and talk more.

  37. Nice post! We (my wife, daughter and I) are looking to move to Penang from Phuket. I guess we do not see a future in Phuket. As far as visas, other then MMH2, what other options do we have for a long stay (2 years ). I have searched the net but can not get a clear answer. We are not looking to work there just stay and enjoy. We are from US.
    As far as rentals, we are looking more for a house in a nice and secure area. What suburbs would you recommend?
    Thank you in advance for your help.

  38. Hi Tony. Other visa options - there area few. If your daughter is over 7, you should be able to arrange a 2yr student visa for her that will give at least your wife a guardian visa for the same length of time. Sometimes both parents can get it, it seems to depend on the whims of immigration at the time. There's also a business visa if you set up a company here (that doesn't necessarily involve you working). I'm not sure of all the rules and regulations, we're looking into it at the moment but like the MM2H it involves having cash in a local bank account. A lot of people just stay here on the 90 day tourist visa, and just leave the country every few months. I've heard of a lot of people that have stayed for at least 2 years doing this. Of course you need to be smart about it - don't always just duck over to Thailand for 2 hours and come back, don't leave it till the day that your visa expires and once a year stay out of the country for at least a few weeks.

    By secure - do you want a gated housing community or just a safe suburban street with good fences? There are a few gated housing communities around - Straits Quay and Alila are two that come to mind but you'll pay a lot more for these. Still it can be worth it for the security. Other nice suburbs include Tanjong Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi. Like any suburb, they have their good and bad streets. The biggest thing I think is to find a street where most houses are occupied, choose a place with a good fence and good security (bars on your windows and locks). Generally Penang is a safe place, but breakins do occur, usually when no one is home. Some expats live over near the bridge to the mainland and the airport but I don't know these areas very well.

    Hope this helps.

  39. Dear Colin and Tracy,

    Good day mate ! how's it going ?

    I'm a Penangite and currently residing in Melbourne, and by reading your blog posts about Penang, everything that you mention and calculate (costs of living and expenses) is pretty much spot on.

    Thanks for the sharing and I'm sure you will love Penang even more. In fact i'm thinking of moving back to PG because of friends and family members though I love Australia as well :)

    BTW, are u a Queenslander ?


  40. Hi Tracy and Collin,

    Thanks for the input.

    Do you know of any good car rental co?
    Just a basic car to get around the island.

    We hope to meet you when we get there.


  41. Hi Tony, would be great to catch up when you arrive.

    We use a local guy and I can't remember his website. His car rental prices are the best, although it's not uncommon for little things to be wrong like perhaps one electric window not working. But he also has a very good service policy - anything that goes wrong he will fix for no extra cost or replace the car, unless of course you crash into someone! I will try to find his details tonight.

    Another good rental company is Kasina . Their prices are a little more but the cars are better quality.

    One thing to know with Penang is daily/weekly rental prices for cars are high. One day is 150RM. But monthly prices are low - 1100-2000RM for the whole month depending on the car and rental company.

  42. Hi Tracy,

    Wow, you have finally moved in Penang! Congratulations. Read your post about the unpacking and getting your new home ready in a week time. Good for you. My family will be moving there by end of next month. We are preparing ourselves for the packing of stuffs to bring - definitely, we'll leave the appliances as the voltage setting there is 220V, here is 110V.

    We are yet to find a place to stay accessible to our would be new workplace in Bayan Lepas. An acquiantance offered us a rental condo in E-park. Do you have any idea/inputs about the said place and its surrounding? I saw that your place is not close to said E-park condominium but you might have gone to that area when you were scouting for a place. Thanks in advance to your response.

    BTW - your kids have grown taller quicker than I thought. (comparing previous photos and recent photos you've posted in your blog)


  43. Hi Tracy,

    Kudos, you have provided all useful and detailed info.

    I am currently in Shanghai, will relocate to PG by October. Would like to get some pointers about the sports and Cricket leagues happening in Penang.

  44. They just keep shooting up and up! Their diet obviously isn't as bad as I thought it was!

    I don't know a lot about E-park but I can ask around. I've driven past that area and it's a nice location. Close to the bridge and Queensbay Shopping Mall (which is huge and amazing), not to far from Tesco (which is by far the cheapest supermarket). There are some nice night markets over the way too. We prefer our side of the island as it's a bit quieter ... that side is more heavily populated ... but then that side has the benefits of being closer to sporting facilities etc.

    Sorry I can't help more. Will ask some friends.

  45. Hi Parthi
    There are a lot of sporting options in Penang, but most are in closer to Georgetown. What sports are you interested in? I know squash, soccer, badminton, cycling and hiking are all popular here, but there are others. The Penang Sports Club has cricket on every weekend, and I know one of our Indian friends plays from time to time with his friends - nothing organised, just anytime they have a day off the men put together a few teams for a social competition.

    I'd start by looking at the Penang Sports Club (the membership is expensive but you can just pay for a yearly fee). You could also try contacting - maybe they can help you out more.

    The Penang Squash Club is quite popular and cheap if you like squash.

    Hope this helps.

  46. hi,

    im mike from australia

    i now live in perth, which is still booming with the mines and oil and gas , i have travell to thailand , 5 times but dont feel to safe there and iv been south and northern thailand , and there very bad things happen to westerns all over thailand, after reading all about your lifes in penang, just mite come and have a look for my self, dont want to work for ever and perth so expensive now, food, is a joke, how many , english/australian/western people live on penang , and what do the malays thing of western people living in penang/malaysia,



  47. Hi Mike, sorry for the slow reply - we've been holidaying on a island with very little internet. The cost of things in Australia is one of the primary reasons we've left. It's a joke honestly how much you have to pay for some things.

    We've found Penang to be very safe, stable and friendly. There are a lot of western people living in Penang, particularly in some apartment complexes. With the Australian Airforce base over on the mainland you'll find that there are a lot of Australians here, along with a fair number of English, Americans and Europeans. Attitudes of locals are for the most part very positive although you will occasionally strike the odd negative attitude. On a whole Malaysians are very friendly, welcoming people but you can understand the odd negative attitude when foreigners are coming in driving up the price of houses, loud tourists who have little regard for local customs etc ... On the whole attitudes, if you attempt to mix with locals, don't expect it to be just like home and show respect for the culture and beliefs you'll find towards foreigners living in Penang are very positive.

  48. thks, heaps

    great news


  49. Hi Colin and Tracy,

    Thanks so much for all your fabulous tips on Penang living! I started reading your posts with a million questions in mind but you've already answered most of them already!

    My husband and I (we're Australian) have travelled a lot throughout South East Asia and have been to Penang a couple of times. We love it there! We're currently negotiating a possible employment contract to commence next year. Thinking at this stage it'll be for a year or two but we're not too worried if it's a little longer.

    We're an 'older' couple with no kids (I'm 46, my husband is 55) but we do have a dog. Which brings me to my you know how easy it is to rent a place that allows a dog? I've already looked into taking her over and it seems there's no real hassle there (one month quarantine in Aus to bring her back though). Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated. We'll be working in Georgetown if that helps in regards to locale.

    I'm sure I'll be returning here with further questions if the jobs work out...will know in the next week or two. Fingers crossed!

    Cheers and thanks,

  50. Hi Monita, almost every house on our street has a dog including people renting. So I think it would be very easy. I know people who live in smaller apartments with dogs as well, but not everyone allows this and it might not suit your dog. But if you were going for a house it should be fine.

    On a 1-2 year lease near us an unfurnished house rents for 1200RM per month, furnished closer to 3000RM. But we are quite far from Georgetown - 40mins - 1hr depending on traffic. Closer to Georgetown the prices increase a lot but you should be able to find somewhere halfway in between for a reasonable price. Take a look at Tanjung Bungah and Takong Takong - they are close to the beaches and a couple of hills that are both great places to walk a dog, and not too far from Georgetown but far enough out that it's easy to find a house with a small yard for a reasonable price.

    Good luck with the negotiation and decisions, Tracy

  51. Hello, Tracy and Collin,

    It's interesting of reading your article and it's very helpful for me as I am moving to Penang with my wife and cats. Thank you for your sharing, the information is really helpful.

    I am trying to rent a car for one month before I can buy a used car. I learnt that you get a Proton at a very good price, could you please pass me the contact number of the rental company?

    Many thanks,

  52. <a href="#comment-27402" rel="nofollow">@Nelson</a>, The guy we rented off is named Cedric. You can call him on +60 (0) 16 521 1100 - drop the zero in brackets if you are outside Malaysia. I think prices have gone up a little but if you were to rent it long-term you could probably get it for less... Bank on 1200MYR/month and you should be fine.

    Good luck!


  53. Hi anyone...We're two Canadian snowbirds currently live in Bangkok. I'd be happy to share info about BKK with any who may have good info on costs of living and where to go..who to talk to....on the ground either Kuala Lumpur Malaysia or Ho Chi Mihn City Vietnam. We upload prodigiously about our lives here on youtube channel . My wife Patricia and I are travel bloggers, youtubers, writers. We spend six months in any place and move on. Like Tracy & co we raised our son on the road and successfully navigated the waters of distance education through to UNI. If you have any good ideas where living is easy and a reasonable cost please drop us a line......Thanks Tracy for passing us the info on Penang...we will travel there from BKK at the end of Nov to check it out. We've been several times in the past but hadn't considered living there until recently. Thanks all. Think global when you think of Pat & I...we'll go anywhere.

  54. Hie Tracy,

    I'm a follower of your blog. Great blog you have here.
    Anyway, I am thinking of sending my 1/2 yo son to pre-school/nursery for half day.

    I read above that you send your kids to Apple Tree. How is it?

    I prefer learn through play concept for such young age. Not those 'pencil-holding' type. What school do you recommend?



  55. Our main desire to live in SE Asia is to be a good "base camp" and jumping off point to visit other countries in the region. Maybe living in one country for 3 months. We'd want to live in a pretty, safe place (our kids are 8 and 12 and we homeschool) that has good internet (I am semi-retired and work for myself). It should be a place where it is fairly easy and inexpenive to drive/fly/ferry to other places like Angor Wat, Thailand, China, Indonesia, etc.

    With all your research on the region, do you have a recommendation of cities to consider?


  56. Prob the most useful break down of living in Penang i've seen on the net.


    very inspiring and informative.



  57. Hi Tracy!

    Thank goodness for your post :) I'm moving to Penang in a month or two, and was hoping you could advise as to which school would be better for a high-schooler - Tenby Intl or Sri Pelita. Still in two minds between the two, but haven't heard very much about either from online comments.....

  58. Wow, sorry to all the people that commented over the past few months and I never replied. For some reason I was never notified of the comments.

    Lana - I've been to both schools but only ever to investigate primary school. Tenby is a brand new campus and very modern. It looks lovely and I know at least the lower school principal and teachers are wonderful. I'm not sure about the high school. Sri Pelita is an older school with a much higher percentage of local students. They seem to have a very holistic approach to education and I was really quite impressed with their programs. But it's a much older school and the facilities are not as good. If I had to choose one or the other I'm still not sure which one I would choose. The other thing to consider is Tenby follows the UK/USA school calendar year - so the school year starts in September. Sri Pelita follows the Malaysian calendar so school starts in January.

  59. Great and useful blog. Me and hubby are planning to start a family in Penang within the next few years and your blog is useful for us to estimate the potential costs to budget. Thanks!

  60. We have heard so many great things about penang and are thinking to plant ourselves there for a few months at least. We are on a similar journey to you, out to discover an alternative place to live and it sounds pretty perfect.

  61. Hi Guys,

    I just got a job offer as Oracle Consultant in Penang for one year, I'm single then the company just shoulder my one way ticket, monthly salary of RM 8000. Then I'm also entitled for 12 days vacation leave and 6 days sick leave. Then there is outpatient and medical insurance. Do you think is this a good offer?

    I don't know what is the cost of living in Penang, then plus factor the company will not shoulder my relocation expenses. So i have to pay my own rent expenses.

    Help me guys...appreciate your reply on this...xoxo

  62. Hi, sounds like a great opportunity. For a single person, RM8000 is more than enough to live well. We can live off that as a family of four so you should be fine, even if you like to live extravagantly. Generally speaking we've found the cost of living to be 1/2 to 1/3 that of any Western country we have visited.

    The only problem I can see is from memory Oracle is over near the airport right? Rental prices for nicer apartments over that side of the island can be really high, practically the same as what you would pay in a western country. There are of course cheaper options (obviously locals live over that side of town too and have to be able to afford rent!). It may just take you a little while to find the right apartment.

    As for the package - I would be asking them whether your package includes days off for local public holidays or international public holidays. Malaysia has a lot of public holidays so I would be asking for my package to include those as it will give you at least another 10 days holiday each year. It would be worth you asking for assistance with accommodation for the first week while you look for an apartment too.

    I did write another cost of living article which lists out some more expensives -

  63. Hi
    such a detailed and informative article
    just love u r whole family especially kids
    so cute they are
    after reading this and some of comments i really think to move there

  64. Hi Tracy, Colin & friends,

    I'm Jess here. I've stumbled upon your blog accidentally and I love the sharing on your blog. I'm glad you love Penang. I'm a local here on the island. I'm the owner of a unit at Miami Green at Batu Ferringgi.

    My condo unit is situated at Grand Tower, which is the newest block in Miami Green. Therefore you will be able to save up on the property agent fee because you will be dealing directly with the owner. It is a newly renovated unit that comes with full brand new furnishing. The kitchen consist of a dry kitchen and wet kitchen, fully equipped with modern amenities like built in oven, cooking hob and modern cooking hood.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me at if you are looking for a long term, good quality and relaxing accomodation in Penang at a reasonable price.

    Thank you.


  65. Hello Tracy and Colin.
    A many have already stated, it has been a pleasure to read the information you have shared with others on your experience in Penang.
    My wife and I have been researching ares of SE Asia for an early retirement. (middle of 2013 following my 50th birthday at which time I am eligible for early retirement) Our desire is to locate a place or places we might live for short or long-term and spend our time helping in various humanitarian activities. It can be a broad range of activities. We are open to assisting in any areas of need. We are Christian and do not really know how many Christians are in Penang, either locals or Expats.
    My early retirement income will be limited to about $2500 per month not counting savings. We would like to spend under that amount in order to save as well as have funds available in our humanitarian efforts and travel to some of the close countries. (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc...) We have been considering Cambodia as our initial starting point but are re-thinking this as I am wondering if we might want to be in a more structured environment initially and be more comfortable in going to those other locations to scout out other opportunities to serve.
    This may not be at all in your are of interest but if you do have any information you think would benefit us we would be grateful. I will be 50 next year and my wife a little younger. Our kids are adults so we have decided to strike out on some adventures.
    All the best to you and your young family,
    Bill & Gina Brick

  66. Dear all, we are moving to Penang in July 2014 and have two sons aged 4 & 6 who will be attending Uplands School in Batu Feringi. We'd love to hear from those who have applied for the guardianship visa vs MM2H visa and see if the guardianship visa is a realistic way to live in Penang for approx. 5 years. We have visited a few times and love the island and FOOD! Would love to find out about living in a condo in Tanjung Bunga vs Batu Feringi? We will not have a car for a few months so will be dependent on taxis and buses so initially thinking Batu Ferringi - is that where most families live? Look forward to hearing from you

  67. You can buy a bus pass in penang, 7 days bus pass for RM$30 or one month bus pass for around RM$80 at the bus terminal or in Komtar bus terminal. Those pass is unlimited travel any where around penang. value for money, when I visit penang each year I buy those pass.

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