Slow travel in Penang, 1 month budget

Nighttime city skyline of Penang, Malaysia, a good place for a slow travel budget.

Last Updated on May 28, 2023 by Ellen

Our slow travel in Penang lasted about a month and it was easy to stay on budget on this Malaysian island. We stayed in the metropolitan area around George Town. It’s the second largest city in the country — with about 2.5 million inhabitants. It is both a modern, bustling, commercial and tech center and a place with long Asian, Chinese, Indian, and Western histories.

Penang as a colonial British military and trading post was first established in the 1780s. Today there are dozens of high-rise condominium, hotel, and office towers in addition to top-quality hospitals, universities, mega-malls, parks, and tropical beaches.

We visited George Town over the 2018 Christmas and New Year’s holidays and found it to be a very welcoming, comfortable, and inexpensive place to stay. In fact, we liked it so much that we returned in August and stayed for another month.

Below is the complete cost breakdown for the period of August 4 to September 4, 2019. Each day, we recorded our previous day’s expenses. So these are the actual totals for two people.

Slow travel in Penang: 1-month of expenses

$610  Airbnb Apartment
$349  Medical (dental and imaging test)
$288  Groceries
$235  Restaurant / bar
$131  Travel (distance)
$84    Travel (local)
$59    Charity & gifts
$37    Supplies
$28    Entertainment
$1,821  Total expenditures for 2 people

A few notes

-All prices are converted to US dollars from Malaysian ringgit.
-Dental service was regular checkups including one X-ray and one filling.
-The CAT scan price included the reading and doctor visit.
-Long-distance travel is arriving airfare and ground travel expenses from Thailand.
-Local travel includes a month-long bike rental and all buses, and Grab rides (Grab is like Uber in Southeast Asia).

As you can see, without the medical charges and transit costs from Thailand, we would have spent just over $1300 for the month — certainly a realistic slow travel budget for many retirees and expat travelers.

We did spend a lot of time reading, writing, bike riding, beach-going, taking photos, and ate most of our ‘restaurant’ meals at cheap, popular, outdoor food courts/hawker centers. 

People sitting at tables in a crowded area by food vendors

Of course, it is always possible to spend more on accommodations, dining, shopping, sightseeing, etc. But we had a nicely equipped, 3-bedroom, 2-bath, apartment (including electric, water, internet, and big smart TV) and did everything that we wanted to do as longer-term visitors.

Take a video tour of our Penang rental apartment here.

Read more about how you can do slow travel in Penang at the official government website here.

Skyline with an apartment rental highlighted near the waterfront shore of George Town, Malaysia, where our slow travel in penang lasted one month.
This is only one example of our slow travel budget.

We have shared other monthly budget breakdowns:

Hopefully, this information will help those who are thinking about extended travel or retirement in places with lower costs of living. As we like to say, ‘the slow-travel lifestyle dream can be endless, if you spend less’. Happy trails!

Get more slow travel budget breakdowns in the Earth Vagabonds Newsletter

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