Penang International Airport


Penang is a large, densely populated island in northwest Malaysia. The Brits and their economic-development-as-colonization East India Company mucked around with the island for 160 years, leaving some nice colonial architecture and an atmospheric old “Red Hairs cemetery”, full of colonists who died of malaria.

These days, people visit Penang to see UNESCO-designated George Town, and to eat, because Penang has the reputation for best street eats in Malaysia.

Most of the traffic at Penang’s airport is domestic, but there’s a small, surprisingly comfortable international terminal that connects Penang to surrounding Asian countries.


1. Free Wifi

Yes. One click and no time limit, although access will time out after a period of inactivity, at which point you have to one click again. There are power outlets for public use in the terminal if you have the right kind of three prong plug.


2. Train Connection To Somewhere Worth Seeing On A Four-Hour Layover

No.  Penang doesn’t have rail public transit, and it’s not really a stopover destination. If you do end up there with a few hours to kill, it’s a 20 minute, RM40 (CAD$15) taxi ride from the airport to historic George Town.


3. Duty Free Costs

1L Bombay Sapphire gin = RM73 (CAD$25)
Coco Mademoiselle eau de parfum 50ml = RM318 (CAD$107)


4. Security Screening

A breeze.  I showed up a bit early for my flight and I was the only person in the immigration hall. Security was the same – the four staff hanging around had to fire up the dormant screening equipment when I arrived. The security screening was easy –no having to get mostly undressed or take my laptop out of the case.


5. Ease of Orientation

There are only six international gates… From any gate in the international terminal, you can see all of the other gates. That kind of says it all.


6. Pre-Flight Food

Surprisingly good. Unlike many airports, the food choices are better on the public side, before you go through security. I had my last street-style meal of mee goreng and milk tea at the little kopitiam (Malaysian street restaurant) just inside the entrance and then moved over to hipster Kaffa for a very passable Americano.


7. Architecture/Interior Design

Largely unremarkable. The undulating roof overhang outside the Departures level is the only element of architectural note in the airport. The baggage collection area on the arrivals floor is a bit ghetto, but the departures level is off-white and glass, mostly clean and mildly institutional.


8. Most Interesting Destination on the Departures Board

Langkawi.  It’s a 23 minute flight.  Is that even enough time to reach cruising altitude?


Overall Rating for PEN: 76%