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Finding a 3 Month Apartment Rental in Penang

In my last couple of posts I shared some of the things we have learned about renting properties for a month or two. We are still learning and every place is different. This post describes our experience apartment hunting in Penang Malaysia.

The first thing we did as part of our research was to look at where on the island we might like to live. We had been to Penang on vacation before so we had some knowledge of the geography of the island. But a week or two on vacation is different from 3 months living somewhere. We did a lot of online research. We read blogs of other ex-pats who had lived on the island.  Here are some great resources that we used:

Penang for Expats - Good overview of the neighborhoods.

Soul Travelers 3 - Lots and lots of great info.  We found some of the info a little out of date now in terms of prices and ability to rent for shorter terms.

Where's Sharon - More recent article with lots of great info.

All of this research gave us great insight. From them we learned that rentable property of a high standard was plentiful. But we didn't know was that most of those properties are available only if you commit to a 12 month lease. We realized there were fewer choices when we hit the ground. More about that later.

We started narrowing our search of where to live and from reading all the posts we decided there were four main neighborhoods with a good selection of condos being recommended, Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah, Tanjung Tokong, and Gurney Drive.

When we were on vacation here in the past we stayed in Batu Ferringhi, which is the main beach and resort area on the island and an area favored by visitors. We already knew this was going to be too touristy for us. We wanted a more authentic experience and didn't want to pay tourist rates for everything. Also being near the beach was not that important to us since the water in Penang is not suitable for swimming due to jellyfish and general pollution. Plus, I don't much like swimming in the ocean anyway. Most importantly we knew we wanted to go to Georgetown regularly so this was just too far away for us.

Tanjung Bungah is a little closer to Georgetown and we may have considered it, but generally we wanted to still be closer to the city. We will explore this area soon, so we will know whether to consider it for the future.

Before we arrived in Penang we thought we wanted to be in Georgetown itself. For our first few days while we were apartment-hunting we rented in Times Square which is fairly central, just outside the UNESCO World Heritage Zone and in walking distance to most places. Times Square is the only major condo development in central Georgetown and would have been the main option to live longer term, but we just didn't like it there.The building is quite shabby and in need of some love, and the facilities were just ok. We ruled out downtown Georgetown.

That left us with Gurney Drive and Tanjung Tokong. I think we could have been happy in either place. Gurney Drive is more central, it has all the shopping malls and entertainment options you could want and the world class hawker center for all your street food needs. Tanjung Tokong is a short bus drive away and there is an upscale marina development there called Straits Quay. It felt a bit surburban and perhaps too sleepy for us, so we weren't sure.

It came to the time to start viewing places and decide. The Soul Travelers 3 article names two real estate agents, one they worked with, and one they had heard good things about. We reached out to the agent that had found their place but she unfortunately wasn't interested in discussing anything less than a 12 month lease. Further confirmation to us that this may be harder than we thought. So we tried the second name in their blog post Michelle Lai and found her to be super helpful. We would never have found our place without her. We quickly arranged for Michelle to pick us up from our temporary Georgetown location and drove us around the neighborhoods for a closer look.

Michelle explained that we definitely would have limited choices with a 3 month rental. Many buildings have rules about renting for less than 12 months, and even if they don't many landlords are not willing to rent for less than a year. Most of the Gurney Drive properties fall into that camp, and most of those apartments were much bigger than we wanted and subsequently too expensive for us.

So that took us back to Tanjung Tokong. After a driving tour Michelle showed us a beautiful apartment with sweeping views over to Gurney Drive and the Georgetown skyline. The owner was trying to sell the apartment so was happy to consider a 3 month lease. In fact that would be perfect for her. She explained that having the place rented was a positive for many potential buyers because it showed them the income potential. The facilities in the condo development were amazing including a gorgeous resort style pool, and a very well-equipped air-conditioned gym. We still had the nagging feeling that it was just too suburban and sterile for us. So we told Michelle we'd think about it, and come back the next day to explore the neigborhood further on foot and make sure we liked what we saw.

Next morning we set out to the large grocery store, Tesco which was next door to the condo complex. We wandered around the store and realized it was a fantastic source of all things tasty for us to cook at home. We quickly decided that even if we didn't end up living nearby we would definitely return to Tesco for grocery shopping. Then we took a walk to the "center" of Tanjung Tokong. Here we found a great choice of restaurants and small stores, and a wonderful food court with a great array of street food / hawker stalls. All of this was about 10 minutes walk from the apartment. After a tasty lunch at the food court, we decided we were too tired and hot to explore the wet market around the corner. Instead we caught the bus back to Georgetown and realized it was a 10 minute ride and only RM1.40 (USD$0.33) to Gurney Drive. We were sold!
View over to Gurney Drive from our balcony on the 16th floor

Comfy bedroom
The all important comfy sofa.  We could fit our trailer in this apartment 5 times over!
Even though the Straits Quay development is a little corporate feeling, it had some good bars and restaurants, and it has a great location on the water. It is also just a short walk or bus ride from other places we want to be on the island. We decided to make it home for the next 3 months.


  1. We have found that 3 month rentals still fall into the "vacation rentals" with prices to match which makes it very difficult to find something nice for what we consider a long time. You've done very well. One place we looked at went from the advertised price of $US1300 a month to $US2100 a month when we said we wanted 4 months. He wanted 6, which he may or may not get. We declined.

    1. Yes I think we are finding it varies place by place. The properties in Penang are much more like family homes, high quality and well equipped so 12 month rentals seem to be the norm. We were lucky to find this and yet still we are probably paying 50% more than if we had a long term rental, but still less than AirBnB.

      We are looking at Thailand next and because we are staying for a month in a couple of cities each we will stick with AirBnB. The property choices in the cities we are looking at seem much more like "holiday homes" and less set up for full-time living than where we are now. It's all a learning process.