Penang vs Langkawi: Which Island in Malaysia Is Better?

Penang vs Langkawi: Which Island Destination in Malaysia Is for You?

While both islands are gorgeous, choose one that suits your travelling style more!

Penang and Langkawi have gorgeous skies and seas, perfect for a vacation. Aside from Malaysia’s metropolis, these two destinations are also popular among locals and tourists.

Since Penang and Langkawi are both islands and offer similarly fun experiences, deciding which one to go to can be tough, especially for foreign travellers. We’ve compiled the must-see attractions, must-try food, nightlife, shopping areas, and more for each. Hopefully, it will be helpful to your Penang vs Langkawi dilemma. Read on to find out which island in Malaysia you should explore first! 

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1. Must-see attractions

Speaking of attractions, Penang Island definitely has more to offer, as it is bigger. Langkawi, on the other hand, is best known for its stunning beach views and fun water activities. Nonetheless, whether it’s Penang or Langkawi, both islands have their own iconic landmarks that are worth seeing.


Image credit: RAVINDRAN JOHN SMITH via CanvaPro

If you travel to Penang by car instead of taking a plane, then you would probably pass by the iconic Penang Bridge. It connects Penang Island and Mainland Penang, and it is the first attraction you will see before entering the island. 

While you’re here, pay a visit to Kek Lok Si Temple, a large Chinese temple complex adorned with many sculptures and carvings. Aside from the impressive architecture of its pagodas and buildings, it looks even more stunning during Chinese New Year and Wesak Day celebrations. You will witness vibrant lanterns and dazzling lights during these seasons, a view to enjoy both during the day and at night.

penang vs langkawi

Penang Hill | Image credit: Pavel Muravev via CanvaPro

Another one of the must-see attractions on this island is Penang Hill. Also known as Bukit Bendera, visitors can take the funicular train ride and reach the top. Here is where you will be greeted by chilly weather and a panoramic view of the entire island. There’s also a love lock bridge here that resembles the Pont des Arts in Paris. 

Afterwards, head to the Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm to take pretty pictures with flowers and butterflies. If you’re looking for a more thrilling adventure, make sure to visit Escape Theme Park: one of Malaysia’s leading theme parks with attractions like the world’s longest zip coaster and longest tube water slide, as well as tower climbing and free-falling l. Penang also has tons of family-friendly interactive museums for a wholesome experience.

penang vs langkawi

Penang street art | Image credit (L-R): Yaopey Yong; Dave Webb

Meanwhile, in George Town, it may take you a day or two to find all the street art. Take pictures with these murals that depict the life and culture of the island. While exploring the artworks, take a stroll through the Chew Jetty, a water village filled with traditional wooden stilt houses. You can also head to Batu Ferringhi Beach for a glorious sunset beach view and entertaining activities like banana boat rides or kite-flying. 

Also read: 10 Penang Airbnbs Where You Can Live Like a Local


penang vs langkawi

Langkawi Sky Bridge | Image credit: Manish Tulaskar

Whenever we think of Langkawi, we often think of gorgeous sandy beaches and exciting water activities. However — speaking as a local — this island in Malaysia actually has more to offer. Take the Langkawi Sky Bridge as an example. To reach the bridge, visitors have to take the Langkawi Cable Car going up. This 125-metre-long cable-stayed bridge is one of the best-known attractions in Langkawi. Its bridge deck stands 660 metres above sea level, allowing you to catch a glimpse of the blue sea and high mountains from a bird’s-eye view.

Dataran Lang | Image credit: asnidamarwani via Canva Pro

The symbol of Langkawi is undoubtedly the massive eagle statue in Dataran Lang. It is also known as Dataran Helang, as helang means “eagle” in Malay. This place is a large scenic spot that’s located on a waterfront, forming a picturesque view of the sky and sea, making it a perfect photo-taking spot.

Beyond water sports and other outdoor activities like snorkelling, taking a boat, and parachuting, visitors are also welcome to pay a visit to Underwater World Langkawi. It is one of the largest marine and freshwater aquariums in Southeast Asia, featuring 4,000 different aquatic species, an underwater tunnel, and a 3D theatre. 

penang vs langkawi

Image credit (L-R): Nur Syafiqah; sitriel via CanvaPro

If your preferred vacation style is more calming and relaxing, take a therapeutic walk at the seaside while indulging in the magnificent sunset view. Langkawi is truly a place with many beautiful beaches in Malaysia. Tanjung Rhu Beach and Pantai Cenang are great for those who love the sight of powdery white sand and crystal-clear water.

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2. Food and dining


Char Kuey Teow | Image credit: CM Lau via Canva Pro

There’s a reason why Penang is named one of the best foodie destinations in the world. Its street food selection is famous even among locals. Penang laksa and Penang char kuey teow are both must-try local delicacies that will keep you coming back to the island. You can also try other Malaysian dishes like nasi lemak, tau sar piah, oyster omelette, and wanton mee while you’re here.

Head to street markets like the Batu Ferringhi Night Market, Macallum Street Night Market, and Cecil Street Market for the tastiest street food. What’s more, cafe-hopping is also another activity to try when you’re on this island in Malaysia. Kafka Coffee, The Mugshot Cafe, and Wheeler’s are some of the top cafes in George Town. 

Hence, when it comes to Penang vs Langkawi in terms of food, the former is more comprehensive as it offers all sorts of Malaysian food.


Nasi dagang | Image credit: Mohd Nazri via CanvaPro

Compared to the food scene in Penang, Langkawi’s food choices are less vibrant. Even so, there are still a number of eateries that are worth trying. While Penang is mainly popular for its Hokkien and Teochew cuisines, Langkawi has more of the traditional food of ethnic Malays. That said, this is your best bet for heritage dishes to fully immerse in Malaysian gastronomy.

Dive into fragrant and scrumptious local Malay food at Nasi Dagang Pak Malau. This restaurant features a wide variety of dishes, such as nasi dagang, gulai ikan, fish curry, and traditional Malay kuih. While dining here, you also get to relish a gorgeous view of the green field right by the restaurant. 

For delicious and exquisite Asian fusion meals with elegant interiors and magnificent ocean views, check out Kayuputi Langkawi. Additionally, extend your foodie journey by trying other yummy dishes at Scarborough Fish & Chips, Pia’s The Padi, The Gulai House, and fatCupid Langkawi.

Also read: What to Eat in Malaysia: 15 Malaysian Food Staples For First-Time Visitors

3. Public and private transport


penang langkawi transport

Image credit: malaysiaguy via Canva Pro

As previously mentioned, you can either take the bus or drive to Penang Island, or fly directly to Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas. But if these are not your options, then taking the ferry is another fun, affordable way to travel from the mainland.

Once you’ve arrived on the island, the best public transportation is Rapid Penang’s bus services. Seek out signboards and see which routes serve you best. Once you’ve boarded the bus, pay the amount and receive your ticket. Since most buses do not carry change, it’s better to prepare the exact amount. 

In addition, there’s a free shuttle bus service called Free CAT Bus that operates within George Town, allowing you to visit Penang’s popular attractions without having to spend a single cent. Another more carefree and unique way to explore the island is by renting a bicycle or a motorbike. 


penang vs langkawi

Langkawi Cable Car | Image credit: Jesse Vermeulen

This island in Malaysia is a great place to explore by car. However, if that’s not what you’re looking for, you can rent either motorbikes, bicycles, or scooters to tour the island. Buses are also available here, but the stops are limited in quantity, so these are not recommended if you want to make the most out of your trip. 

Besides that, travellers can also call taxis or use e-hailing services like Grab. When you compare Penang vs Langkawi in terms of transportation costs, the taxi rate in Langkawi starts from approximately RM6. This is slightly higher than taking the bus in Penang, where there are free bus services. 

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4. Nightlife

Whether it’s Penang or Langkawi, the nightlife scenes will not disappoint. It’s mostly a matter of preference in terms of what type of night out you wish to have.


penang langkawi nightlife

Manchu Bar | Image credit: Manchu Bar Official Facebook Page

Penang’s bustling nightlife will surely satisfy you if you’re a partygoer. In George Town especially, there are plenty of bougie bars, pubs, and clubs you can visit once the sun goes down.

Peace Club Penang is a disco club where you and your friends can have some alcoholic drinks and dance the night away. Meanwhile, The Original Reggae Club, Manchu Bar, Magazine 63, and Good Friends Club are some of the best bars for tasty cocktails and liquors. These spots even have colourful lights and delicious snacks for guests to munch on.

Also read: Top 8 Hidden Bars & Speakeasies to Discover in Penang


penang langkawi nightlife

Yellow Cafe Langkawi  | Image credit: Yellow Cafe Langkawi Official Facebook Page

Likewise, Langkawi is heaven for night owls and travellers looking for a great time. Its nightlife scene stands out from Penang, as you get to relish flavourful snacks, alcohol, and wonderful beach views — all while having a great time with your friends. 

Galaxy Family Karaoke, Marrakesh Musicteque Club & Lounge, and Sunba Retro Bar are amongst the top bars and pubs on this island in Malaysia. Meanwhile, restaurants like Yellow Cafe Langkawi, Hidden Langkawi, and El Toro Langkawi operate until or past midnight. Thus, you need not worry about having nowhere to fill your tummy or spend quality time with your travel mates late at night.

5. Day trips


penang vs langkawi

Penang Bridge | Image credit: Aaron Lee

There are tons of day-trip locations that travellers can check out in Penang. Apart from the main attractions in Penang island, why not check out Mainland Penang as well? For instance, Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam are perfect destinations for a food hunt. 

In Butterworth, the best eateries include Peter Jawa Mee, Cook Idea Sa Ho Fan, and Nasi Kandar Jeti. Meanwhile, Bukit Mertajam’s Old Town has an abundance of locals’ favourite restaurants, such as Kha Zee Roaster, BM Cup Rice, and BM Best Cendol.

In addition, fulfil your day at Penang Bird Park, where you can get in touch with more than 300 native and exotic bird species. The Butterworth Art Walk is also another local tourist spot you can check out for striking murals and art installations. If you love hiking or taking a walk in nature, then Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest is another great place to visit.

TripZilla Tip: Although driving is pretty convenient for a day trip, prepare to possibly encounter traffic jams and/or difficulty in finding parking spots.


Alor Setar Tower | Image credit: Muhamad Ajwad Ibrahim via CanvaPro

For those who don’t know, Langkawi is under the state of Kedah. You can take the ferry and trains to get to most cities and towns on the mainland. We often associate paddy fields with Kedah, especially in its capital Alor Setar, where you can spot these almost everywhere. Have fun at the Paddy Museum, a large museum that boasts a scenic view of these lush agricultural fields.

Moreover, head over to the Alor Setar Tower, also known as the Kedah Tower. This 165.5-metre-tall telecommunication tower is the tallest tower in the state. There is a revolving restaurant at the top, and an observation area for visitors to get hold of the entire city’s view. Besides, you can also spend some time at Aman Central, a large shopping mall situated in the heart of the city.

Also read: Where to Travel in Malaysia: Top Destinations From Every State in the Country

6. Shopping


penang vs langkawi shopping malls

Design Village Penang | Image credit: Design Village Penang Official Facebook Page

While there are tons of night markets in Penang, you will not be able to resist going to the malls, especially considering Malaysia’s scorching hot weather all year round. Some of the best malls for you to shop ‘til you drop are Queensbay Mall, Gurney Plaza, Gurney Paragon Mall, 1st Avenue Mall, and Prangin Mall

If you have little time to spare, you can also travel back to Mainland Penang and get a fantastic shopping experience at the Design Village Penang. This award-winning outlet mall features numerous famous brands at a relatively cheaper price. Other than that, IKEA Batu Kawan is also great for purchasing furniture, daily household items, and savoury Swedish meatballs.


Most Malaysians enjoy shopping in Langkawi, as there is no tax and there are lots of duty-free shops. Here, you can get your hands on items like chocolates, alcoholic drinks, perfumes, and tobacco products for a significantly cheaper price compared to the rest of Malaysia. Head to shopping havens like Langkawi Fair Shopping Mall, Teow Soon Huat Pantai Cenang, The Zon Duty Free, and Langkawi Parade to score sweet deals.

Also read: A Guide to Road Tripping Around Malaysia: How Long It’ll Take & Which States to Visit

The TZ Verdict on Penang vs Langkawi

So, which is better, Penang or Langkawi? In the end, there is no right answer for which island in Malaysia is more ideal for first-timers. It really depends on what you want out of your trip. 

Penang is ideal for travellers who would like to immerse in Malaysian culture, enjoy mouthwatering local food, and gain all sorts of diverse experiences.

Langkawi is geographically smaller than Penang, and therefore, is easier to explore on a short trip. It’s great for those who want a chill and laid-back vacation and appreciate water activities. 

Penang is for travellers who want to explore as much as they can. Langkawi, on the other hand, is for those who want to relax and take it slow on vacation. Regardless, both destinations are equally amazing and worth a visit!

Also read: 15 Famous Buildings in Malaysia: Where to See Architectural Attractions

That is pretty much what we think about the Penang vs Langkawi dilemma. So, if you haven’t been to either destination, have you decided yet? If you have been to both Penang and Langkawi, let us know which is your preferred destination on our Facebook page!

Featured image credit (L-R): Geraldine Ng | Unsplash; 35007 via CanvaPro

About Author

Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.