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If you’re thinking of setting up base as a digital nomad in Malaysia or looking for somewhere to base yourself as a digital nomad in South East Asia, I can recommend the City of Georgetown on Penang Island very highly to you!
Since leaving my job 8 months ago to travel and blog full time, Georgetown was my first base where I stayed in one place, joined a Penang co-working office and worked worked worked!
I really enjoyed my 3 weeks in Georgetown, I was very productive, and honestly, I could have stayed longer because Georgetown is such a liveable city.
If you want to know more about Georgetown in-depth then head on over to my full travel guide to Georgetown, however with a digital nomad focus, here are the reasons I really enjoyed being based in Georgetown Penang for a few weeks and why you should consider it too as one of the best digital nomad hubs in South East Asia.
Digital Nomads in Georgetown
Coworking Space Penang
aCat Co-working Space
A Co working space in Georgetown was a must for me and was the make or break as to whether I decided to go to Georgetown after being in Thailand.
I researched the best Georgetown Penang co-working spaces. This post helped me most in telling me that aCat was number one, followed by Regus at Gurney Paragon, Regus at iDEAL Bayan Lepas and Scoopoint.
aCat Penang attracted me most as it was rated number one but it was also the cheapest.
After looking on their website and seeing that they offer 1 day pass and 10 day pass, that their website is good and fully shows what they offer and after hearing from 2 travel blogging digital nomad friends that they had spent a day here in the past and liked it, I decided to base my stay in Georgetown around aCat Penang Co-working space and I’m so glad I did!
The main office is a really good size, it’s light and airy with lots of hot desks as well as more permanent desks for those who are running start up’s or their own business on a more long term basis from there. The hot desks were never full and I sat in the same chair for 3 weeks. I value that kind of thing as it helps give me the routine I needed.
There’s a kitchen offering free tea, coffee and biscuits along with a fridge and cutlery so I could buy cereal and milk and eat breakfast there.
The staff that work for aCat Penang are really nice and those that work there permanently but for other companies were also really nice. The majority of people are Malaysian with a few foreigners so it was nice to feel like I was getting even more of a local experience by working there and chatting with people from Malaysia now and again too.
The one thing I had heard about the wifi in Malaysia is that it isn’t that great. This worried me a little, however the wifi at aCat Penang is fantastic and really fast.
If you buy the 10 day pass which works out as great value – 150RM / £28.00 / $37.00, the office is open to you 24/7. I stayed until about 22:30 one night and went in on the weekends, other people were about too and it felt very freeing to not be restricted by 9:00-18:00 Mon-Fri.
The full pass details are here, but overall if you are looking for a digital nomad base in Georgetown Malaysia, aCat Penang is a really good place to work from, whether it’s for a few days or a few weeks!
The Food in Georgetown
Georgetown is known for its food and wow is it good! The local Asian food on offer is Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Japanese and you can find Thai too! Not only that but the cafe culture in Georgetown is really good as well offering Western Meals like high quality Brunches, Vegan and Vegetarian Food, and lots of Cake and Coffee!
I tended to eat breakfast at my desk, for lunch I would mix between going to a Vegetarian restaurant near the co-working space as there are lots, sitting in for lunch paying around 12RM / £2.25 / $3.00, or heading to Sri Weld Food Court just down the road and getting Noodles or Rice from a stand for 5RM / 95p / $1.25.
For dinner I had the same options, either a sit in meal at a restaurant or a cheap meal from a street food stand or food court.
I checked out a few cafes in Georgetown too on the weekends but I didn’t see the point in buying more pricey coffee and trying to work from a cafe when I had a very good desk to work from at the co-working space with great wifi and free green tea!
Aside from work food was the epicentre of my day and really helped make Georgetown even more enjoyable for me!
Accommodation in Georgetown
Georgetown has plenty of accommodation but I really wanted to stay in an Airbnb over a guesthouse or hotel, firstly for the price but also because I really wanted that local feel in Georgetown. I didn’t get to stay in one of Georgetowns beautiful heritage buildings as my budget didn’t cover this and I didn’t see any on Airbnb available for my dates but I did stay in a local flat building on the top floor- 24 floors up with an amazing view over the city!
It was by no means luxury and in a very local area but I really felt like I lived in Asia being there and I loved it!
I stayed Sunshine Room through Damon, I didn’t actually meet Damon but we spoke over WhatsApp a bit and he was really helpful. The flat has 3 rooms and he doesn’t live there as he rents all 3 out on Airbnb. There’s no kitchen except for a sink and no living area but that was fine with me. Sunshine room is the best room and I really recommend the room and flat. I paid 48RM / £9.00 / $12.00 a night there.
My friend stayed in this Airbnb for a few weeks. They didn’t have availability when I checked, it’s a shame as she really liked it and it’s in a Heritage building with a kitchen but it is a bit further away from aCat Penang.
Either way, Airbnb’s are available and good for long term accommodation in Georgetown, alternatively there are loads of hostels, hotels and guesthouses for all budgets.
If you’re new to Airbnb be sure to sign up with this link so we both get credit towards our stays!
Cost of Living in Georgetown Malaysia
As you can see the cost of living in Georgetown is really not that high at all and you can stay in Georgetown Penang on a budget.
I definitely spent more than I needed to day to day by eating in places that do cost more money because I wanted Sushi and Western Vegan Food sometimes but if you stick to the food courts and street food stands which offer great food you can stay there so cheaply!
The Cafe hopping eating Cake, drinking Coffees and Smoothies also costs more and is by no means what I would say cheap but you can’t get a Mango Matcha Latte in London for £3.00 however you can here!
Easy to get to
Penang island is in North West Malaysia. I got to Georgetown from Krabi in Thailand, it’s a long 12 hour day journey but easy enough to do both ways.
Malaysia is well connected by decent buses, after Georgetown I headed to the Perhentian Islands but I could have also got a bus or flight to Kuala Lumper or Singapore easily enough.
90 Day visa for Malaysia
Finally, Malaysia is very generous and offers a free 90 day visa on arrival, no paper work is needed in advance. Visa’s are a big thing that digital nomads need to think about, especially in Asia where many are 30 days and cost money.
Having 90 days is so freeing and means I didn’t have to rush my time in Georgetown because I knew I also wanted to spend about 2 weeks in Malaysia afterwards seeing more of the Country because Malaysia really offers so much!
So there you have it, if you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to help you and give you more info because I really think it’s a great digital nomad base in Asia!