There are various shopping malls and well-assorted supermarkets in Penang. A complex that opened here less than a year ago called Gurney Plaza has good international shopping facilities and a large Cold Storage food market which imports product popular with the 5000 strong expatriate population. International designer brands are limited and prices are not any cheaper than you would expect in Europe or the US. Asian brands however are good quality and popular amongst the international and local community and are significantly more affordable.
Of course, in the more tourist areas such a Batu Ferringhi you will be able to buy from street vendors who are well stocked with replica designer brands. DVD and CD purchases are also popular.
In China town you will find plenty stalls offering clothing and all sorts of other goods. You will get the best bargains if you venture into this part of town.
It is accepted that you should negotiate for an item you want to buy from a vendor in Penang. As a rule of thumb if an article is not priced you can ask and then negotiate. The best tip for getting the a good price is to think what you think the item is worth paying for, set your price below that and then haggle with the vendor until you reach the price you want to pay!
As all the big shopping malls and franchised stores are air conditioned, they provide a welcome refuge from the heat in the middle of the day!
Penang is a melting pot of various ethnic groups and all their cuisines are available extensively throughout the island. Food in Penang is a combination of flavors influenced from the Chinese, Malay, Indian, Thai and Burmese kitchens. In keeping with its fast changing economy there are Indonesian and many western food options, including Coffee Bean, Starbucks, and your famous fast food outlets of KFC and McDonalds. Matthew's Deli provides the best delivery European sandwiches in Penang. In addition, there are various morning markets where the locals buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
There are a few up market restaurants that are expensive for local standards, which mostly serve an excellent Euro-Asian menu. The interior styling and ambiance of these restaurants competes with the best that Europe or the US has to offer. Calloway 68 and 1885 at the E&O are just a couple of good options.
The outdoor restaurant at Fisherman's Village deserves a mention here. Serving the freshest seafood, such as lobster, prawn and squid, served in generous portions at the center of the table for everyone to enjoy, a dinner for four, including your drinks (but no wine, so bring your own) will cost you around $50.00.
Although not absolutely necessary, a reservation should be advised at the more popular restaurants. Call to be 100% sure so you won't be disappointed when you arrive!
Eating is a serious business in Penang. Having a bite, or Cheak meek kia is a fundamental part of daily life. One of the most visible eateries in Penang is the hawker stall. The stall may be a single person with a mobile kitchen on a bike or trishaw, or it may be a collective of stalls in an open-air environment, where you eat at plastic tables and chairs. Hawker food is cooked simply and but is rich in local colour and taste and is highly recommended. The variety of food available would require a stay of at least 30 days to sample a good selection! Available at almost any time, the hawker is an essential part of daily life for most locals in Penang.
Typical Malay dishes include satays (meat kebabs in spicy peanut sauce), fried soyabean curd in peanut sauce, sour tamarind fish curry, fiery curry prawns and spiced curried meat in coconut marinade. The variety of wonderful tropical fruits and fruit juices available is huge, and strange sweet concoctions include cendol (sugar syrup, coconut milk and green noodles) and ais kacang (beans and jellies topped with shaved ice, syrups and condensed milk).
The water quality in Penang is good so you can drink coffee and tea, take ice cubes and brush your teeth, without any concerns. Drinking bottled water however is a common practice.
As an indication of the moderate Penang identity, alcohol is as popular here as anywhere else in the world. Wine is more expensive than in Europe or US although beer is comparable in cost. A popular way of drinking in bars is to buy a bottle of your favorite liquor and keep it behind the bar. This is not as expensive as it might sound. For example, a whisky and coke will cost approx $4.00 but a bottle will be charged at approx $35.00. In many places you can take your own bottle and a bar will charge corkage of approx $20.00.
In your hotel, if you want to avoid high mini bar prices we recommend buying from a near by supermarket. Most hotels provide complimentary mineral water.