The 6 Challenges I Faced When Leaving Penang

Penang, Malaysia By

Leaving a country or city is always a mission and Penang was no different. In fact it had its fair share of challenges. But, as always we overcame those challenges and it feels good.


Challenge 1 – Packing

Two months in Penang our stuff seemed to be spread throughout the house and mingled with the Owner’s own things. We had to go through toys and clothes, plates and sheets. To be honest it was a mission that took much longer then expected.


But triumphantly we came with 3 bags and left with 2! You can understand we have been trying to do this since Manila so it was a great achievement. We may have 3 carry on bags, but the big luggage is down to 2!

Challenge 2 – USA ESTA VWP

So apparently a friend of mine told me this morning that she had to organise a visa for the US. Having booked tickets for next week I had no idea about this and jumped on it straight away. Receiving a link from a travel agent friend I found I had to purchase a $69.99 Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) to obtain a Visa Waiver Program. In essence $69.99 each to not have to obtain a visa?! CRAZY!

However I went ahead and rang the USA ESTA VISA on +61 280 155 465 and she informed she could do it all over the phone.

“And I have to get one for each person.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“That’s really expensive, isn't it?”

No response.


I gave her all the details and in minutes had 3 visas in my inbox. Apparently mine had problems with the expiry and they were trying to reach me, thank God they didn’t.


After complaining on Facebook it turns out that the USA ESTA VISA is an agency charging you $60 more than what the US government charge. Yes the US charge $10! I immediately called them asking them why they never told me that when I complained about the expense and how do they justify charging an extra $60?

They were able to refund my application, but since the other 3 were already completed and in my inbox they were unable to refund those. That’s a loss of $179.97! They sent me an email saying it states on their website they are an agency. They failed to understand that it was a phonecall and no such advice was given to me. Despite warnings and speaking to management they would not budge. So I guess this challenge was a failure.

Please remember to book your ESTA for the VWP through the official website - The agency website is a replica of this site, so do not be fooled. I booked and paid for my ESTA on the official site and you also receive confirmation immediately. 

The ESTA lasts 2 years for multiple entries of 3 months at a time. We will have to go back to the US plenty of times to get our moneys worth from the scammers USA ESTA VISA!

Challenge 3 – The Hire Car

We had decided to drive the car to Labelle in Georgetown to save on some taxi costs. But then there was the matter of our little MyVi. It’s like a mini car, compact in fact.



However with our newly 2 bags we managed to fit one in the boot, one in the back and kids squished in a corner. All 2 large suitcases, 3 carry-ons, 2 backpacks, 1 handbag and 1 food bag forced into our tiny car.

On top of this win was the amazing service at Labelle. As we drove up to the office to drop the car they had organised a taxi to take us to the airport at local prices. We paid the office and they paid the cabby. We cannot express our gratitude to Labelle enough and if you are in Penang you definitely need to hire a car from them.

Challenge 4 – Airport Check in

We arrive at Penang with plenty of time to spare for once and when we reach the check-in counters they are only doing baggage drops and we have to use the check-in computer-thingos.
Josh tries to check-in and all of us are on the screen. Well wait, no my 2-year-old son is missing. We decide not to check in and head to the service desk.


We find out the flight is overbooked and Caius does not have a seat assigned to him. They go through a lot of effort to move people, relocate people and finally they give me 3 seats in row 5 hot seats and Josh again scores the exit row. Score, thank you Air Asia! 

Challenge 5 – Boarding

The ticket says gate A6. We are running late due to my fiasco with the US visas. I’m mad, angry and now A6 has no one there. We read the departure board and it’s changed to A1 the complete opposite end.


We run to A1 and arrive. Other people are running late, obviously all went to A6.

Challenge 6 – Assigned Seats on an overbooked plane

We sit in our seats only to find out they are not together. My two kids are with a stranger and I am on the other side.


The stranger is more than happy to swap with me. I am sure she thinks she won in this situation.

And there you have it. The six challenges I faced when leaving Penang. 5 wins, 1 loss. I’m still fuming over the whole VISA thing, but running for the plane and the whole craziness with the seating on board it’s fizzled to just a pouting tantrum.

Serves me right for rushing things. I was so stressed they wouldn’t let us in the country I should have done more research. Next time.

Let’s hope we don’t face these challenges again, because we have 4 more flights in the next week!

Would love to hear about your travel challenges. You can comment below or email me. And if you had no idea this post was even here, sign up for our email newsletter and be informed of every new post! Love to have you on board.


Reader Comments...

"I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" -

You always do you research good read as always

Karin Nov 25th, 2012

I don't think visa was a scam. You called them first and they have a business to run. If you buy bread or a book for ten bucks and find later that another shop sells for six bucks, do you go and demand a refund? Hardly so. It's your fault entirely. Be careful next time and research well before you make that phone call.

Kootvela Nov 25th, 2012

I believe every company should be up front about what they offer and not pretend to be someone else. You may look at their website and see for yourself the colours and layout and fonts they choose to look very much like the official site. So I have to disagree, they were not honest, but yes I am usually very careful about dodgy businesses so it is still my fault for falling for it.
I am unsure if it is such a great service why they did not let me know that they were an agency supplying extra services in the first place? Why hide behind the image of being the actual company and not revealing any so called "awesome" benefits?
P.s. I would never buy bread for $10 :P haha that would definitely be a scam...

Erin Nov 25th, 2012

I feel for you. I've made similar mistakes because I was rushed and not paying extra close attention at the time. You survived and carried on...that's what counts. I do appreciate you sharing your experience so that we can learn from them and hopefully not fall for the same scam. Wishing you the best of luck on your next 4 flights! Happy travels!

sonja Nov 26th, 2012

Hi Erin,

We are all booked into the lovely apartment you stayed in at Miami Green, thanks so much for your recommendation.
It's a mistake that many people make, within hours of this ESTA visa coming into being there were websites taking peoples credit card numbers fraudulently. (That's obviously not the case with you, this is just a business that has found a market.....). You know the old saying "without a travel agent, you're on your own" be happy to help anytime with your travel booking and questions :) Visa's can be tricky things....

Gina Edwards Nov 29th, 2012

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