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Safety tips for expats living in Penang

Safety Tips

Penang is a beautiful island located in the northwest coast of Malaysia. It’s a popular destination for tourists and expats due to its rich culture, delicious food, and stunning landscapes. However, as with any new place you visit or live in, it’s crucial to take necessary precautions to ensure your safety. In this blog, we’ll discuss some essential safety tips for expats living in Penang. We’ll cover topics such as crime prevention, health risks, natural disasters, and transportation. By following these tips, you can enjoy your time in Penang without worrying about your safety.

Understanding Penang’s Safety Situation

Penang is generally a safe place to live, but like any other city, it is important to be aware of the potential risks. The crime rate in Penang is relatively low compared to other cities in Malaysia, but it is still essential to take precautions to avoid being a victim of crime. In addition to crime, Penang is also prone to natural disasters such as floods and landslides.

Crime Rate

According to the Royal Malaysia Police, the overall crime rate in Penang has decreased over the past few years. However, petty theft and pickpocketing are still common in tourist areas, so it is important to be cautious with your belongings. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewellery. It is also recommended to avoid walking alone at night, especially in dimly lit areas.

Natural Disasters

Penang is prone to natural disasters such as floods and landslides. It is important to be aware of the weather conditions, especially during the monsoon season. Make sure to stay up to date with the latest weather reports and follow the instructions of the local authorities in case of an emergency.

Health Risks

Penang is a tropical destination, and as such, there are some health risks to be aware of. Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever are prevalent, so make sure to use mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved clothing. It is also important to stay hydrated and avoid consuming tap water. Make sure to drink bottled water or boil tap water before drinking.

Safety Tips for Penang

Crime Prevention

One of the best ways to prevent crime is to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Here are some safety tips to help you stay safe:

  • Avoid dark alleys and poorly lit areas
  • Be cautious with your belongings and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewellery
  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings

Disaster Preparedness

It is important to be prepared for natural disasters. Here are some essential safety tips:

  • Understand evacuation routes and make sure to follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Prepare an emergency kit that includes essentials such as water, food, and medical supplies
  • Sign up for emergency alerts from local authorities

Health and Wellness

Staying healthy is essential, especially in a tropical destination like Penang. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy:

  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
  • Avoid consuming tap water and make sure to drink bottled water or boil tap water before drinking
  • Be cautious when trying new foods and make sure to avoid food poisoning
  • Make sure to get vaccinated before your trip

Signing up for emergency alerts

In case of an emergency, it’s important to have the latest information from local authorities. Signing up for emergency alerts can help you stay informed about any potential threats or dangers in your area. To sign up for emergency alerts in Penang, you can visit the official website of the Penang State Government (https://www.penang.gov.my) and look for the “Emergency Alert” section. From there, you can register your contact details and select the types of alerts you want to receive. You can also download the MySejahtera app (https://mysejahtera.malaysia.gov.my/) which is the official contact tracing app used by the Malaysian government. The app not only helps with contact tracing but also provides real-time updates on the latest COVID-19 cases and other emergency alerts. Once you have signed up for emergency alerts, make sure to keep your phone charged and within reach so that you can receive any updates or notifications in a timely manner.

Navigating Transportation in Penang

Getting around Penang can be a challenge, but there are several transportation options available. Here are some safety tips to help you navigate transportation in Penang:

  • Understand the public transportation system, including the bus system and taxis/ridesharing services
  • If you plan on driving, make sure to understand the rules of the road and consider renting a car

Understanding the Rules of the Road

Penang follows left-hand traffic rules, which may be different from what you’re used to. Keep this in mind when crossing the road or turning at intersections. Also, be aware that road signs and traffic signals may be in Malay, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the most common signs and signals. One important rule to remember is that you must always wear your seatbelt when driving or riding in a car. Failure to do so can result in a fine. Additionally, Penang has strict laws against driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If caught, you could face severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Another thing to keep in mind is that Penang has a high number of motorbikes on the road, and they often weave in and out of traffic. Be aware of your surroundings and give motorcyclists plenty of space. Finally, it’s important to note that Penang has a number of toll roads. Make sure you have enough cash on hand to pay the tolls, or consider getting a Touch ‘n Go card, which can be used to pay for tolls as well as parking fees and public transportation fares. Remember, following the rules of the road is essential for keeping yourself and others safe while driving in Penang.

Avoiding food poisoning

  • Choose restaurants with a high turnover of food, as this means the food is fresher.
  • Look for places with good hygiene practices, such as clean tables, cutlery, and crockery.
  • Avoid eating food that has been left out in the open for too long.
  • Make sure that your food is cooked thoroughly, especially meat and seafood.
  • Be careful of fruits and vegetables that have been washed in tap water, as this could be contaminated.
  • Drink only bottled or filtered water, and avoid ice in your drinks unless it’s made from filtered water.
  • Be careful of street food, which may not have been prepared under hygienic conditions.

By following these safety tips, you can reduce your risk of getting food poisoning in Penang.

Getting vaccinated

Before moving to Penang, it’s important to check if you need any vaccinations. Some diseases that are rare in your home country may be more common in Penang. You can check with your doctor or a travel clinic to see what vaccines you might need. Some recommended vaccines for Penang include:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Typhoid
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Rabies
  • Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
  • Influenza

Make sure to get vaccinated at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow the vaccines to take effect. It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of your vaccination record with you while travelling. In Penang, you can get vaccinated at private clinics or hospitals. The Penang Adventist Hospital is a popular option for Expats. You can also visit the Ministry of Health clinics for affordable vaccinations. Some of these clinics may require you to bring your passport and proof of residency. Remember that vaccination is an important step in protecting yourself from diseases. By taking the necessary precautions, you can ensure a safe and healthy stay in Penang.


Living in Penang as an Expat can be an exciting adventure, but it’s important to take safety seriously. By following the safety tips we’ve outlined in this article, you can ensure that your time in Penang is as safe and enjoyable as possible. Remember to be cautious with your valuables and avoid dark alleys, stay alert, and be prepared for natural disasters. Also, don’t forget to stay healthy by staying hydrated, avoiding food poisoning, and getting vaccinated. By understanding Penang’s safety situation, crime rate, and the potential health risks, you can take steps to mitigate these risks and enjoy all that this beautiful city has to offer. Finally, don’t forget to make the most of Penang’s excellent transportation system, whether it’s by bus, taxi, or car. With a little preparation and caution, you can make the most of your time in Penang and create unforgettable memories.

Note: Some of the info here are derived from AI. As such it may not be 100% accurate but it is always a good idea to do your own due diligence.

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