Eyeglasses for expats in Penang, Malaysia

eyeglasses and an expat

Last Updated on May 27, 2023 by Ellen

Eyeglasses for expats in Penang, Malaysia, are no problem. There are seemingly countless shops for prescription eye wear all over the island. The one we’re about to recommend is in George Town.

Reminder: We are an independent blog. We do not work with affiliates or sponsors, and we get nothing – absolutely nothing – for rave reviews.

Vision First in the Komtar complex is a place we recommend to any expat visitor looking for eyeglasses – or, in our case, eyeglass repairs – while in Penang.

Right, broken glasses; left, expat with new frames from a shop in Penang, Malaysia.

To be clear: we did NOT order prescription lenses here. However, I have every confidence this place would deliver exceptional results if I had ordered eyeglasses from them.

I have this confidence based on our repair work in 2019, and again in 2022. Also, the reviews by locals on their lenses are the highest in town – a full five-star rating.

Eyeglasses for expats in Penang

In 2019, my husband Theo had prescription reading lenses put into a new frame. The old frame was damaged – by accident, of course – by some loving elephants in Thailand who were excited about feeding time. (We recommend that elephant camp, by the way.)

Three years later – the frames are sturdy and there are no problems.

So when my frames broke, I wanted my prescription lenses put into new frames. But they had to be cheap frames, because they are cheap lenses. The shape of the old frames were unusual, so it took Vision First staff an hour to find a fit that didn’t require the lenses to be cut (I have progressive lenses).

The style wasn’t my first choice, and it’s not a perfect fit on the old lenses. But for $36, I get to keep using the old, scratched up, chromatic progressive lenses I bought at a bargain in the Philippines.

Bonus: Vision First repaired my old sunglasses for free! These progressive lenses are made from the thinnest possible material and they are polarized. The frame was so stretched out from hinges corroded from salt water and air that I couldn’t look down without the sunglasses falling off my face.

Vision First staff placed plastic washers at the end of the arms to prevent the frame from being too wide. I’m thrilled because even though it’s an old prescription and my vision isn’t perfect with these sunglasses, it’s better than nothing!

When I think of all the people in the world who don’t have money to buy prescription glasses, I consider myself super lucky to be traveling with several pairs.

Let me take you around the world on a quick review of where I’ve bought eyeglasses for expats.

An expat wearing eyeglasses outside Vision First in the Komtar complex in George Town, Penang, Malaysia.

Eyeglasses for expats abroad


  • The eyeglasses I bought in Mexico are still my best pair, even though the prescription is really old (2016).
  • The lenses are lightweight Cristal progressive, and I have great peripheral vision (even though it’s not 20/20).
  • Read more about the prescription eyeglasses I bought in Mexico in another post.


  • Another great eyeglass-buying experience. Plus, this is where I bought the sunglasses (2018) I just had fixed in Malaysia.
  • I dropped down from the Cristal brand to get the price down, and although I lost a bit of peripheral vision, these are my second-favorite pair of eyeglasses.
  • The cost and place where I bought prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses in Barcelona is in another post.


  • I bought two pairs of prescription eyeglasses in the Philippines during the pandemic during our ‘travel pause.’
  • These lenses are chromatic progressives, but they are the cheapest lens material I’ve ever had, so they are heavy on my face and offer little peripheral vision. I knew they would be the ‘worst’ I’d ever had yet, but was willing to buy them because of the incredibly low price (for chromatic progressives).
    • We bought a family eyeglasses (five people) because they couldn’t afford new glasses and all of them really needed it. Therefore, I got the near-cheapest option for myself.
  • Read about where I bought prescription Transitions eyeglasses in the Philippines in another post.


  • Although I haven’t ordered prescription lenses for new eyeglasses in Penang, Malaysia, I would definitely go to Vision First in the Komtar center if I’m in this part of the world again when I need new glasses.
  • New frames to fit old lenses without cutting cost just $36 – with free sunglasses repair.
  • Service was amazing – helpful and considerate and polite.

As always, with any health care, vision care, and dental work abroad, we find where to go mostly by asking locals and researching reviews online and in local Facebook groups.

Expat in front of eyeglasses selection in Vision First, in Penang, Malaysia.

Thanks for reading, “Eyeglasses for expats in Penang, Malaysia.”

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