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Is there Grab in Penang? A complete guide to using Grab in 2024

Is there Grab in Penang? A complete guide to using Grab in 2024

Taxi services in Penang have undergone something of a revolution in the past few years, with a company called Grab very much at the forefront. E-hailing apps are commonplace across the globe and offer the traveller numerous advantages, including set fares, driver tracking, destination point on Google Maps, and the option to pay using credit card (international ones accepted).

The most popular e-hailing app in Penang is Grab and it has arrived in a big way, making moving around the island that much easier.

Is there Grab in Penang?

Yes, there is. Grab has been operating in Penang for several years now and has established itself as the leading player in the field.

Grab is location-based so it makes more sense to install the app once you’re in Malaysia, then the features will start to work properly. You don’t specifically need a local Malaysia SIM to get going, just access to the internet (e.g. and e-sim or Wi-Fi will be ok).

What we love about Grab in Penang

Grab taxis help make any visit to Penang so much easier. Gone are the days of haggling with unscrupulous taxi drivers, or waiting endlessly in the rain for a taxi to arrive. When you’re in such a beautiful place as Penang, you want to spend more time sightseeing and less time haggling with taxi drivers.

Here are some of the reasons we love Grab:

  • Set fares with no worries about negotiating.
  • Destination is entered into Google Maps (or similar) before the journey, removing the need to explain to the driver where you want to go.
  • Payment can be made by cash or credit card (international cards are accepted by the app).
  • The driver’s location is displayed on a map so you can easily see where they are and when they’re due to arrive. Handy if it’s raining and you don’t want to hang around on the street.
  • Drivers have ratings so you can be (fairly) sure you have someone trustworthy.
  • In-built messaging system so you can chat to the driver before they arrive.

Grab is perhaps best known as a e-hailing/taxi service but they offer other services including food delivery service which we love. Being able to scroll through many of Penang’s best restaurants and arrange a delivery is a fantastic treat.

Can you use Grab from Penang Airport?

Yes you can, and many other travellers will be doing the same thing.

Expect to pay around RM30 from the airport to George Town (compared to about RM50 with a normal taxi). The airport bus is about RM3 to the city but will take much longer.

Ideally, you’d have the app installed before you arrive and then, once it registers your location, you’re able to view the available rides and make a booking.

Grab have a useful page on their website giving exact instructions on how to find your driver. In a nutshell, Penang International Airport has a specific e-hailing collection point which you’ll find on Level 1; it’s called the E-Hailing Pickup Point and is easy to find.

Types of Grab in Penang

There are four different types of Grab service types in Penang:

  • GrabCar: the standard Grab cars
  • JustGrab: as above, but could also include regular taxis if they’ve signed up
  • GrabCar Plus: similar to GrabCar but must be newer vehicles, higher driver ratings and more space in the boot
  • GrabCar 6-seater: this category is only for vehicles with six seats (and six seatbelts)

All of the Grab vehicles must meet minimum standards relating to vehicle age, type and maintenance. The vehicles need to be Malaysian registered and privately owned. There’s a register of car models which don’t meet this criteria and they’re listed on the website. As you can see, the requirements are quite strict and mean you’re (almost) guaranteed a smooth ride. You can see more details on the Grab website.

Note that motorcycle taxis are illegal in Malaysia so you won’t see that listed as an option, unlike in some neighbouring countries.

Grab is a large company offering other services alongside transport and in some ways it’s following the model WeChat used in China and is aiming to become an ‘app for everything‘. Once you have the app installed, you’ll also be able use it for things like food delivery, parcel collection, groceries and online payments.

How to pay for Grab in Penang

When you book your ride, you can select payment either by cash or credit card. From our experience, international credit cards work fine, just try to set it up before taking your first trip.

The drivers don’t seem to mind which payment method you choose and there’s an option to add a tip afterwards in either case.

Top tips for using Grab in Penang

  • Install the app as soon as you can, even though it won’t start working fully until you’re in Penang.
  • Register a credit card before your first ride if you plan to use one.
  • Be wary of cancelling a trip unless you really have to; your rating could drop and make future rides harder to book.
  • Try to choose an easy pickup point with plenty of space for the driver to stop; this just makes it easier for both of you.
  • The traffic in Penang can be terrible in rush-hour; it’s sometimes better to walk around the corner or cross the road to find a better pickup spot which will miss the traffic. It will also increase your chances of being accepted by a driver.
  • During rush-hour, drivers will be more picky about who they pickup and where they’re heading. You may find drivers less inclined to accept a ride out to Batu Ferringhi if the traffic is bad, for example.
  • The airport and larger shopping malls, etc have specific e-hailing pickup points which you should head towards.
  • Having a local SIM or some other way to access the internet is handy, as it allows you to track the driver and respond to messages in case they are late or lost. We’ve been caught out a few times when we used hotel Wi-Fi to book the ride and then headed downstairs (out of Wi-Fi signal) and were unable to get back online.
  • At busy places with lots of other Grab users, try to memorise the last few digits of the licence plate, so you can easily spot your driver.
  • The app also tells you the vehicle make and colour which helps.
  • You’re asked to upload a photo of yourself when registering; the driver will be able to see it so they sometimes spot you first.
  • Try to rate your driver after the ride, it helps other riders know what to expect. You’ll get your own rating too from each driver.
  • At more remote places (e.g. Penang National Park), you might want to book slightly ahead if you can see there aren’t many drivers around. That way, by the time you’ve reached your pickup spot, you’ll have less time to wait.
  • The opposite is true of busy places (e.g. Penang Hill funicular station at Air Itam on a weekend), where you’ll often find a driver is already sat waiting and accepts your ride instantly. In this case, make sure you’re on the spot and ready to ride (no quick trips to the toilet for example!)

Final thoughts on using Grab in Penang

Grab is a game-changer in Penang, making travel across the island so much easier. The modern and easy-to-use app allows you to book rides at the click of a button, and you always know where the driver is, where you’re going, and what you’ll pay.

For the more remote locations, it’s handy to know you can always book a ride home. At busier places, there’s nearly always a ride within two minutes.

Increasingly, Grab is seeping into other aspects of a traveller’s life, with the excellent takeaway service, groceries, and online payment options making your time in Penang even simpler, one click at a time.