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Penang (Malay: Pulau Pinang) is the second smallest of the 13 states of Malaysia, and George Town is its capital. George Town is situated on the island of Penang opposite the city of Butterworth on the mainland. Many attractions of Georgetown are the be found in the old city, which is located to the northeast of the Komtar tower, which also functions has the main busstation, and can also function as a great point of reference as it is the highest building in the town.
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Like the rest of Malaysia, Penang has a hot and humid tropical climate with daytime temperatures mostly around the 30 °C mark while nights are around or above 20 °C. Monsoon rains arrive around November and last until at least March.
Penang International Airport (PEN) has quite a few international and domestic services. AirAsia flies to/from Hong Kong, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Macau and Singapore. Other airlines serve cities like Taipei, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Langkawi, Medan, Phuket, Jakarta and Bangkok.
Several companies offer bus services to George Town from Kuala Lumpur (5-6 hours), Johor Bahru and Singapore (both around 10 hours) and other cities and towns across the Malaysian Peninsula. There are also minivans services to places in southern Thailand with van/ferry combinations possible, even to the Perhentian Islands.
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Most bus lines on the island are passing Georgetown. The fare you need to pay is depending on the number of kilometres. You will get the ticket from the driver, but the money needs to be put into a slot, so make sure that you are able to pay the correct amount, as the driver will not be able to give you change.
Georgetown is the biggest city on Penang, but not so big that you can not explore it on foot. That said you need to be aware of the busy traffic, as sidewalks are laid randomly at a couple of places in the city.
Tap water in Malaysia is generally clean and safe for consumption. However, it is advisable that water from the tap is boiled before consumption. Bottled water is the best option, and it's easily available in stores everywhere. Ice cubes are safe for consumption.
Non-alcoholic drinks which are very popular amongst the locals are teh tarik (aerated tea) and Milo, a chocolate malt drink from Nestlé. Many Malaysians are sweet-toothed, so the drinks prepared can be very sweet. When ordering drinks, you can ask them to make it kurang manis, which means less sweet in Malay.
Although Malaysia is a pre-dominantly Muslim country, alcoholic beverages are available for sale at many places. The government imposed a high duty rate on alcoholic beverages. The price of a 325ml can of beer range from as low as RM4 (for purchase in 24-can carton during promos) to as high as RM9 (at 24-hour convenience stores), depending on the type. At restaurants and bars, expect to pay at least double or triple the price. Some of the popular lager amongst the locals are Carlsberg, Heineken and Tiger.
See also: Travel Health
Malaysia has modern healthcare services in both public and private sectors. Public healthcare, like most countries, is usually full with locals and the wait could be extremely long. For many visitors, private healthcare is the better option.
There are no required vaccinations for travelling to Malaysia, except for Yellow Fever, which is mandatory for travellers who come from, or have visited within the past week, any of the Yellow Fever endemic countries in Africa and South America. In these cases, a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for entering Malaysia. Vaccination against Yellow Fever must be taken at least 10 days prior to the date of arrival to Malaysia.
Recommended vaccines for travellers are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Polio (booster), Tetanus (booster), and Typhoid Fever. If you're venturing into rural and remote areas, further recommended vaccines are Japanese Encephalitis, Meningitis, Rabies, and Tuberculosis, especially when travelling for longer periods and when you are living or working more closely with humans or animals (rabies). Malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended for those visiting rural and remote areas of Sabah and Sarawak.
See also: Travel Safety
Malaysia is a safe country to travel to, even for women travelling alone. However, just like any other place in the world, it is not crime-free so travel with some common sense of safety. Pickpockets and bag snatchers have been reported in busy places. It is recommended that travellers, especially women carrying handbags, take extra precaution in these places.
If you encounter problems or difficulties while travelling, you may seek the Tourist Police for assistance. They can be identified by the regular dark blue police uniform, a police hat with checkered stripe and a red-and-blue-colour badge with the letter "i" on the breast pocket. Tourist police usually patrol major urban tourist spots.
In case of emergency, the numbers to call are:
All emergency numbers are toll-free. 999 calls can be made from any phone in Malaysia. Calls to 112 will be redirected to 999.
Malaysia prescribes capital punishment for very serious offences. Drug (Malay: dadah) trafficking is punished on conviction with mandatory death sentence under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. Possession of illegal drugs over a certain amount, depending on the category of drug, is presumed as trafficking under Section 37(da) of the same Act. The most famous case of drug trafficking conviction is the 1986 executions of Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers, the first Caucasians to be executed in the country for drug trafficking offence. The two Australians were arrested at Penang Airport in 1983 with 141.9 grams of heroin, an amount presumed to be trafficking. Having possession of heroin in 15 grams or more constitutes trafficking. Other drug-related offences (possession below the amount of trafficking, drug abuse) carry severe punishment of imprisonment or caning, or both.
Internet cafés are available in cities and major towns. Wi-Fi hotspots can be found in shopping malls, restaurants, food courts and cafés. Many of these hotspots are provided free-of-charge. Internet cafés can also be found in cities and towns.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Malaysia is on the GSM 900/1800 and UMTS (3G) mobile network. If you have an "unlocked" GSM band mobile phone, you can buy a prepaid SIM card and use it with your phone here for cheaper rates instead of roaming here. Prepaid mobile SIM cards are available cheaply at mobile phone shops and 24-hour convenience stores.
Below are the area codes in Malaysia:
|01||Mobile Phones (nationwide)|
|02||Singapore (special access code to call Singapore)|
|03||Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor|
|04||Penang, Perlis, Kedah|
|06||Negeri Sembilan, Malacca|
|080||Brunei (special access code for use in Sabah and Sarawak only)|
|08x||Sabah, Sarawak (x determines the region)|
|09||Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan|
|1-300||Non-geographical numbers (local call rate)|
|1-800||Non-geographical numbers (free call from landline, local call rate from mobile phone)|
Area code is not required when calling a number of the same area code. However, it is mandatory when calling from a mobile phone.
There is no charge for receiving calls on any Malaysian phones. Only the caller is charged for the call made. However, if you're on mobile phone roaming service, you will also be charged for any calls received, by your operator.
To dial out of Malaysia, use the international access code 00 (zero zero), followed by the country code, followed by the area code (remove the preceding 0, if any), and finally the telephone number.
e.g. To call London, United Kingdom, dial 00-44-20-xxxx xxxx; or to call Dallas, Texas, United States, dial 00-1-214-xxx xxxx.
For mobile phones, the plus sign "+" can be used as the international access code.
e.g. Using the previous scenario, type +44-20-xxxx xxxx or +1-214-xxx xxxx and press the call button.
The country code for Malaysia is 60. To receive calls from overseas, that person will have to dial the country's international access code, followed by 60 for Malaysia, followed by the area code (remove the preceding 0), followed by the phone number.
e.g. If your prepaid mobile number is 012-1234567, and someone in the United Kingdom were to call you, the number to dial is 00-60-12-1234567. Those calling you from the United States and Canada will have to dial 011-60-12-1234567.
The emergency number is 999 and can be dialled from any phone, free of charge. The worldwide standard emergency number for GSM mobile phones, 112, can also be used on a mobile phone, even without a SIM card. Calls to 112 will be routed to 999 centres.
Pos Malaysia is the national postal service of Malaysia. Rates for sending a standard letter locally is 30 sen (20 gram) to 40 sen (up to 50 gram). International airmail has minimum rates ranging from RM1.00 to RM2.00, depending on destination. It costs 20 sen to send a postcard or aerogramme locally, or 50 sen to send a postcard or aerogramme to anywhere in the world.
Expedited Mail Service (EMS), branded locally as Poslaju, is available for both domestic and international destinations. Domestic EMS has a next day delivery guarantee. International EMS guarantees mails and parcels to be delivered out of the country by the following day. The time required to arrive at its destination will depend on clearance by authorities and the postal service of the destination country. For most countries, delivery of documents can be done in 3 to 5 days.
If you need to receive mails or packages from home, there is Poste Restante service available at all General Post Offices (GPO) in the country. There is one GPO in almost every capital city of every state, and in all federal territories. Mails sent from Singapore and Brunei will be retained for one month while mails from all other places will be kept for two months, after which if unclaimed, will be sent to the Dead Letter Office.
Generally, post offices are open from 8:30am to 5:00pm Monday to Saturday, except the first Saturday of the month. They are closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.
Electricity voltage in Malaysia is 240V AC 50Hz. The UK 3-pin plug is the standard used in Malaysia. European 2-pin plug can also be used on the 3-pin socket by inserting a screwdriver (or any hard object that fits) into the earth pin hole to open the live and neutral shutters. However, this practice can be hazardous.
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