What to Do in Penang with Kids

If you are going to visit the best places in Malaysia, please make sure you go to Penang.

Penang is the heart and soul of Malaysia; it is a melting pot of culture with beautiful people, interesting attractions and is a foodies paradise! (Locals will tell you it is the food capital of Malaysia!)

The first question you will want to know when you visit Penang is:

Where to Stay in Penang?

Batu Ferringhi, Penang

This depends on what you want. Most people choose to stay at Batu Ferringhi. (The locals call it ‘foreigners rock’).

This is where you will find all the big name resorts with kids clubs, buffet breakfasts and most of them are right on the beach.

While it is a beach and you will find many water sports, be aware that it is not really a swimming beach – the water is not as clean as you may expect it to be.

Batu Ferringhi comes alive at night. The main street is transformed into a bustling market place, with every type of ware (including genuine fakes) available. Feel free to haggle and barter for your best bargain.

Don’t eat at your over-priced hotel restaurant, walk to the Long Beach Hawker Centre with some spare change and you will experience some of Penang’s best food.

If you do choose to stay at Batu Ferringhi, please leave your resort to explore Penang. There are attractions easily accessed from the bus stop in front of your hotel.

George Town, Penang

If you are after something less ‘foreigners rock’ then George Town is the place to stay.

It is the capital of Penang and has something for everyone. It is a place where there is a Catholic Church next to a Mosque next to a Temple.

In George Town, there is a range of accommodations available for families from large hotels, home stays, and self-catering apartments.

You won’t find a resort here, but there is something about living amongst locals that really does it for me. You can even find Airbnb properties to give you that more local experience. See what is available here.

What to do in Penang with kids?

Monkey Spotting Penang Malaysia
Monkey Spotting

Regardless of where you stay and how luxurious it may be, please get out and explore Penang, Malaysia.

We have been there twice with our children; both times we had a baby who was welcomed by every local.

Here is a list of things to do in Penang with kids in no particular order.

Explore George Town

Down town Georgetown Penang Malaysia
Down town Georgetown

George Town is now a bustling and vibrant city with more motorbikes, buses and cars than you can imagine.

Getting around Georgetown is easy.

Taxis are plentiful and quite cheap. If you jump in a taxi make sure you haggle your ride before you get in. The taxis have signs saying “haggling prohibited” but no one seems to take any notice.

A good rule of thumb is to take off five ringgit from what is offered to you.

A great way to see Penang is to hop on the free shuttle bus. Every 15 minutes you can hop on a bus which does a circuit of the main tourist sites of Georgetown.

Special bus stops around the city are specially marked to help you navigate and explore.

It is crowded with locals hitching a lift to work or to shop; be friendly and say hello, they will love the chance to chat with you!

Penang Butterfly Farm

Butterfly Farm Penang Malaysia
Butterfly Farm

Kids of all ages will love it here.

You can get up close and personal with so many different kinds of butterflies, they flutter by freely and if you keep still – one might just land on you.

The farm is filled with stone paths leading around ponds and up bridges where beautiful orchids are home to even more butterflies.

Allow 2 hours for a relaxing visit here. It is the last stop on the bus, so very easy to find.

Spice Garden

Explore the Spice Garden Penang Malaysia
Explore the Spice Garden

Not far from the Butterfly farm (a quick taxi or bus trip) you will find the Spice Garden.

We had Grandpa with us who loved reading all about the Spice trading history, looking at all the signed plants and smelling the spices.

Hubby and the little kids didn’t bother so much with that, but had a ball running along the beautiful paths and roaming freely amongst the gorgeous gardens.

There is a giant swing which swings you out over the edge of the rainforest. There are numerous waterfalls, ponds and bridges to find. It is a lovely place to stop for an hour or two. Nice tree top cafe too!

Penang Hill and Funicular Railway

Funicular Railway Penang Malaysia
Funicular Railway

Penang is hot and very humid. A great way to escape the heat is to head to the top of Penang Hill.

Catch the funicular all the way to the top; in just a few minutes you will be at the top to have a gorgeous view of Penang. It is much cooler up here.

If it is a rainy morning, don’t bother as you will be unlikely to see much at all. You are best waiting until later in the day when the rain clears. There are a few cafes and exhibitions to looks at also. (If you have little ones, avoid the owl museum – found out the hard way – lots of little breakable things in there!)

Top Tip:

When you are ready to return, line up so you are first in line to board the funicular…then race to get to the front carriage. (Speeding down the track with front seat view is awesome!)

Penang Botanical Gardens

On Board the Botanic Garden Train Penang
On Board the Botanic Garden Train

When travelling with kids, sometimes you need to let them loose.

The botanical gardens are a must for energetic kids. They can run along set paths, climb bridges and watch waterfalls. For one ringgit you can jump aboard the mini train for a ride around the gardens.

There are lots of monkeys to spot – be careful to hide your food!

Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple Penang Malaysia
Kek Lok Si Temple

This is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia.

It is open to the public and a worthwhile experience for you and the kids. There are lots of steps and narrow columns to climb, so leave the stroller behind.

The temple grounds are beautiful; there are sacred ponds and manicured plants to admire. The kids will love climbing the seven tiered Pagoda of King Rama VI and will be awed by a massive bronze statue of the goddess of mercy.

There are also glass elevators to ride in and turtles to feed. A great 2 hours of exploring and learning!

Eat – Then Eat Some More

First Curry in Little India Penang
First Curry in Little India

I could seriously write thousands of words here, but I won’t. Try something new everyday, there is so much for your tastebuds to learn.

By far our favourite place to eat is Gurney Drive Hawker Centre. I am drooling as I remember it.

From 6pm until late there will be hundreds of Penang’s finest foods for you to sample – and will cost you a few ringgits only.

This place will be buzzing with locals; don’t be afraid to ask them for a recommendation, or follow behind and order the same. When buying food for the little ones, remember to ask the cook to not put any chilli on their food.

My favourite food:

  • Char Kway Teow (flat noodles fried with seafood)
  • and Nasi Kandar: aromatic rice with curry or whatever.

We also caught the free shuttle bus to Little India. You will have a great time exploring lane ways and finding the perfect curry. The restaurateurs will delight in making your kids feel at home.

Shop Till You Drop

You need to take advantage of great shopping and cheap prices.

Shops generally open after 10am and are open till late at night. Gurney Plaza is one of many upmarket modern shopping centres where you will find your brand name stores with great savings.

If you want to shop with the locals, head to the Komtar (biggest building in Penang) or Prangin Mall which is across the road.

Here you will find a myriad of interesting shops and boutique stalls. You’ll find lots of cool gadgets and knick knacks for the kids to have fun with.

Catch the Ferry

Ferry to Butterworth Penang
Ferry to Butterworth

If you head to the ferry terminal in Georgetown, wander along the pier and food stalls and jump on a ferry – just because you can.

You will most likely be the only foreigners on it, but it is so much fun for the kids. They can sit and watch other giant ferries pass by and after about 20 minutes you will be at Butterworth, the mainland.

When you get here, it is up to you. You can turn around and go back – return trip is free – or you can stay and explore.

The Penang Bird Park is a short taxi ride away and there is a Temple next door worthy of a look.

You could also take the bus to Sunway Carnival Mall for some retail therapy. From here you can catch a bus back to Georgetown which takes you across the bridge which links the mainland (quite a long journey, our kids fell asleep!)

Organised Tours or Independent travel?

Personally, I wouldn’t bother with organised tours. You can get package deals through various operators who will pick you up from your hotel and take you to three attractions on one day – Easy!

But the thing is; Penang is easy and much cheaper to do yourself.

When you have kids you need that flexibility to stay longer or leave earlier. It is very easy to flag down a taxi driver and negotiate his services for the day.

This way you can see two or three attractions in one day and your driver will be waiting patiently until you are ready for the next one or to return you to your hotel. He’ll let you leave the stroller and umbrellas in the boot too.

The bus system is so fantastic and cheap.

You can reach most destinations by bus and the drivers are happy to point you in the right direction. You can buy prepaid bus tickets to give you unlimited hassle free travel.

I love Penang, it is my spiritual home.

I do hope you visit and love it as much as we have. Make sure you stay for at least one week, more if you are able.

There is so much more to see – and eat!

Popular Penang Tours

If you do prefer to book tours in advance so you can just arrive and enjoy your vacation, check out the following popular Penang tours with our booking partner, Get Your Guide.

More Asian destinations for your Family Trip

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Malaysia is a great family travel destination. Here are some suggestions on what to do in Penang with kids.

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28 thoughts on “What to Do in Penang with Kids”

  1. Great introduction on Penang with kids. My younger daughter would LOVE the Butterfly Farm and I’m certain she would be very interested in visiting the temples as well. We have traveled quite a bit in North America and in Europe with our kids but haven’t ventured to Asia yet – hoping to get there soon!

  2. Val, I love your point about doing a tour on your own. It’s the best way to go whether you’re with our without kids.
    I’m definitely bookmarking this post as my travel buddies and I are planning to visit Penang next year. Thanks!

    1. The Butterfly farm is amazing! Tame butterflies landing on the kids…. A definite hit…. We have been there twice! The ferry is wonderful, a relaxing trip away from the hustle and bustle of Georgetown!

  3. I’m going to throw a spanner in the works now. I’m in Batu Ferringhi right now, we’ve been on Penang for 11 days and I really am not impressed at all. Batu Ferringhi is too far from everywhere, we are spending hours on buses to see anything and the buses are extremely unpleasant, incredibly crowded, with scrums of people that push small children out of the way and rudely reserve seats for adults far more capable of standing on the windy, dangerous, road to BF than a 5 year old. The buses are also infested with pick pockets, we have been victims and there are warning signs on the buses. In 11 days we haven’t seen everything we wanted to see, the buses are just too hard. Food in BF is OK, you mention Long Beach, we’ve eaten there most evenings, it’s for the tourists, overpriced and not so great. Georgetown is much better for food, quality wise and price wise, but it’s almost an hour on the bus from BF. I’m going to have to write a post I think!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences Alyson. It’s always great to get different perspectives because everyone’s travel experiences and likes are so different.

    2. I have to partially agree with Alyson. We’ve been doing non-stop world travel for almost 8 years as a family ( 45 countries on 5 continents so far on $23/day pp).

      We’ve spent a LOT of time in Penang recently as it’s been a great place for my 12 year old to immerse in her Mandarin and she is now so fluent she won a Chinese elocution contest amongst 1000 Asians and the 1st Caucasian to do that.

      We tried BF at first, but I agree that it is too far out and isolated. We love the Tanjung Tokong area which is an easier access to Georgetown and everything, but not right in the thick of it which is too intense for me for a long stay.

      The buses in Penang CAN be a challenge ( I wrote about it here- http://www.soultravelers3.com/2012/10/getting-around-penang-by-bus.html

      BUT they are better than most places in Asia. There are basically no side walks, lights or cross walks, and crazy traffic, so that adds to the challenge of getting around with kids via bus…not to mention the heat and humidity.

      That said, even with the challenges, we think Penang is one of the gems in Asia.

      1. Personally, Batu Ferringhi is not on my list…I love Georgetown! BF is the “foreigners Rock” so yes, it is over priced. It is a long way from town, but I guess many travellers book into their resorts and never leave! This post was to get people to Penang…and hopefully really explore Georgetown and other non tourist spots! Sorry you had such an unpleasant experience, maybe just not the spot for you?

      2. Jeanne,
        Glad you like Penang. We love it! We don’t stay at BF, agree there are many other beautiful less harassing places to stay. personally I found the buses fine, I am always cautious when I travel on any bus in any country, but have found if we are friendly to the locals, they will be friendly towards us too!

  4. Just happen to stumble upon your site, very informative with some nice pictures. Allow me to comment here my views as a local resident Batu Ferringhi is an upper class tourist area which does not portray the real Penang and so is Gurney Drive hawker. I would recommend places in Georgetown where like you have seen ethnic Chinese, Indians, Malays,Thais and minority races live side by side. Penang is rich in diverse cultures and historical places and of course the food. Penang is a foodie haven where you can taste local( Peranakan), Malay, Chinese Indian and Thai hawker food. Agree that you would need at least a week to really get to know Penang. Try to visit the Penang Tourist Center for the tourist maps or the official website which have loads of info on the cultural and historical areas as well as hawker food recommendations.
    Keep up the good work and I am sure a lot of people like me find your site very interesting.

  5. As a local in Malaysia, I’ve been to Penang several times and I have to agree that staying in Georgetown would give you better access to all the glorious foods that are found in Penang Island. Another great places that I have in mind is Malacca (I believe you have been there) and if you’re adventurous enough, Sarawak 🙂

  6. We are in Penang; Batu Ferringhi right now and staying at the Park Royal. Location is perfect for the kind of holiday we were looking for. If you’re after a resort style holiday and still be able to walk out your door to access street markets and hawkers food this is the place to be. Great for kids, safe, people are pleasant and everything is reasonably priced (except hotel restaurants and one or two larger establishments). We are well traveled and can share some basics with you; Penang is safe (of course you need to have your wits about you any where you travel). Choose your holiday destination according to the type of holiday your looking for. Food, transport, activities are cheap in Penang; just like anywhere you need to check out your options for, don’t just book the first hotel package. Penang is clean compared to many cities although navigating a pram is a little challenging, just accept you need to be walking on the road way a little, simply follow the lead of the locals.
    If your looking for similar destinations try Sharm El shake or dahab in Sinai Coast.

  7. Thank you for all the information. It is very useful for me I see my self following ur tips to the T very soon. Thanks once again.

  8. Hi, I would like to know what can I do at night with my kid in Penang during our holiday on end of October? Can anyone tell me? Thank you.

  9. hai val
    about to travel to penang with my one year old daugter in january 2016
    still confuse abut where to stay which is kid friendly and on budget
    can you please help me :). lots of thanks
    and are the food street kid friendly or do i need to bring their meal anywhere we go?

  10. Thank you for so many fantastic suggestions here. We have just booked a family holiday to Penang and can hardly wait! Anticipating lots of fun with our three children, not to mention the delicious food!

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