You should look for accommodation on your own, as you can often get better deals from the online booking sites than working through conference organisers. Examples include Agoda, Traveloka, and Booking.com (Traveloka was recommended by Tuck-Po’s students). AirBnB also operates here.
We recommend staying in George Town, in the core or buffer zones of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Major tourist attractions are concentrated there. Eating and drinking places are available on every street, and there are also 24-hour restaurants for the nocturnal fraternity. The Opening Day events and the Conference Dinner, together with selected side events, will be held there as well. (Note that there is George Town, the inner city which is the World Heritage Site, and there is "greater George Town," which may have few or none of the locational benefits described earlier. Certain establishments—which shall remain nameless—appear to opt for the latter interpretation of “George Town” in their advertisements. To check your selected accommodation against “reality,” consult this map, which indicates the official borders of the heritage zone.)
The disadvantage of staying in George Town: commuting to campus for the conference. (We are working on this; check back in a few months for details.) Your best bet is to look for somewhere within walking distance of Komtar, which is where you can catch a direct bus to USM (more details here). The core heritage zone is walkable from the Komtar area.
For budget travellers who don’t mind sharing bathrooms and dorm rooms (single, double, and triple rooms—but no private bathrooms—available), we can recommend Tido Hostel Penang, based on Tuck-Po’s experience doing residential fieldwork in George Town with her students. Intimate and comfortable, within walking distance of the core heritage zone. Nearby Penang Road and Chulia Street are popular hotspots for eating and drinking. This hostel is certainly good for bonding with other conference participants!
Those who wish to stay close to the conference site (and we mean close, as in close-enough-to-rush-back-for-a-quick-shower close) may wish to book accommodations at the USM Guesthouse. Rooms are limited; book early. Please communicate directly with the Guesthouse. We will not assist with bookings. Note that the Guesthouse is located on campus and therefore subject to the regulations of USM, which is a “dry” campus.
Off-campus, but near to campus and the airport (and far from water or heritage), hotels are available too. To look for them on the booking sites, use the search strings “USM” or “Universiti Sains Malaysia.” Some of the listings you’ll find are in residential areas.
The established beach hotels (which will not be convenient during the conference) are located in Batu Ferringhi on the northern coast of the island.
Warning: CHAGS will take place between the heritage celebrations beginning the weekend of 7 July (which in 2018 will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the UNESCO listing), and the George Town (arts) Festival in August. August is also a popular month with tourists. We recommend staying a little longer to catch some of these events (not yet announced) but, even more, we recommend that you book accommodations early.