Is Malaysia worth visiting? - yes, yes and YES! Not being part of the popular Banana Pancake Trail, the country is often overlooked by travelers to Southeast Asia. That's a real shame since there is a wide variety of things to see in Malaysia in terms of culture, history and most impressively - nature. With a 78 EUR (88 USD) daily budget for both of us, we have collected some unique travel experiences during our 18 day stay and can wholeheartedly recommend anyone to do the same.
Continue reading to learn about our overall Malaysia travel budget, average daily expenses as well as unmissable places to visit. We hope we will be able to convince you that Malaysia is worth visiting 🙂
To help you navigate
Our travel profile
To help you decide how your travel style is relatable to ours, it's best we introduce our travel profile briefly. We are hopeless foodies and yoga enthusiasts in their 30s who have outgrown dorms but still enjoy the hostel atmosphere while backpacking the world, collecting unique travel experiences and actively seeking adventures. Our travel budget is definitely not shoestring, but not a luxury one either. We strive to spend as little as possible but as much as necessary to experience the things we want to experience.
Before we visit any country we set up our daily travel budget per destination. If you are curious to know how we set our travel budget, read our Travel Budget Guide to learn more.
Malaysia travel budget per day
With a high human development index and a strong economic growth, Malaysia is one of the more expensive countries in Southeast Asia. Prices in Malaysia being higher, our Malaysia travel budget had to be more generous in comparison to any other country we have visited in the region. We were prepared to spend up to 100 EUR (ca. 114 USD) per day for the two of us, but were very pleased we ended up with a much lower average.
In total, we have spent 18 amazing days in Malaysia. These two-and-a-half weeks of vacation resulted in the following expenses for two people (note: exchange rate as of September 2018):
This is the breakdown of average daily costs into categories:
Daily accommodation expenses in Malaysia for the two of us:
For us, Malaysia was the most expensive country in terms of accommodation cost. A simple double room with a private bathroom we usually book was good 15-30% more expensive than in any other Southeast Asian country. The most effective method to keep our Malaysia travel budget within limits was getting a room in the less popular parts of the city. Sometimes this resulted in fun surprises, like staying in a hotel in the middle of Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur. We actually lived within the market! This was fun 🙂
Sure, being further away from the center required us to walk more but we saw it as a pleasant and fortunate inconvenience. Check out more of our TIPS on how to save on accommodation while traveling.
Another luxury we sometimes had to forego not to exceed our Malaysia trip budget was having a private bathroom. Having less privacy in exchange for being able to see more places in Malaysia sounded like a fair deal though.
Looking for cheaper accommodation didn't mean staying in dodgy places. Nowadays there are so many modern, super cute "affordable luxury" hostels we feel are perfectly made for us. They typically have a neat design, great beds, powerful and reliable internet connection and clean bathrooms. Honestly, what else do we really need? In George Town we stayed at Fhoya-Fhoya - one of those places and absolutely loved the hotel and the unbelievably friendly hosts. As you can see from the table below, it may have been on the more expensive side of the price spectrum, but it was absolutely worth it.
|Melaka||capsule in a hostel, excl. breakfast||64.00||13.28||15.44|
|Melaka||double room, shared bathroom, excl. breakfast||54.50||11.39||13.15|
|Kuala Lumpur||double room, private bathroom, excl. breakfast||60.50||12.64||14.60|
|Taman Negara||double room, private bathroom, excl. breakfast||51.67||10.80||12.47|
|Cameron Highlands||double room, shared bathroom, excl. breakfast||77.50||16.20||18.70|
|Georgetown||double room, shared bathroom, excl. breakfast||101.00||21.11||24.37|
|Langkawi||private bungalow, excl. breakfast||100.00||20.90||24.13||Daily average||87.56||18.30||21.13|
Malaysia has a fantastic selection of food, both local and international. Any culinary caprices can be easily satisfied, especially in the bigger cities like Kuala Lumpur or George Town. The latter is the gastronomic capital of Malaysia with a very diverse street food offering. For foodies like ourselves this is an absolute must-visit place.
In Malaysia we were also confronted with Newton's third law of physics. Namely, that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When we decided to save money on hotel breakfasts, we inevitably increased our average spending on food. Booh! Our breakfast was mostly bought at shops like 7-11 and usually consisted of a coffee, a yoghurt and a little snack. Naturally, by lunch we were starving and ended up having bigger meals than we would have otherwise... The food was great though 😉
Our personal food highlight was the Jonker street night market in Melaka. We tried many different street food dishes from grilled oysters through Japanese octopus snacks and finishing with a delicious coconut shake. This absolutely mind-blowing six-course dinner had only cost us 52 MYR (10.87 EUR or 12.55 USD) for both of us! Delicious, exotic and budget-friendly - just another reason why Malaysia is worth visiting.
|Snacks, coffee & cake||12.80||2.68||3.09||Daily average||106.98||22.36||25.81|
Activities - Malaysia highlights
We felt our almost-three-weeks Malaysia trip was very rich in terms of activities and places visited, however we didn't spend obscene amounts of money in this category. Since many of the things we did we organized ourselves, it helped us go below our target Malaysia travel budget.
One the reasons for visiting Malaysia is the great variety of things to see and places to visit. Within three weeks we did the most unexpected range of activities and gathered some of the most unique travel experiences! Although you can find a detailed backpacking Malaysia itinerary at the end of the post, we couldn't resist sharing with you our absolute highlights. You can't understand a travel budget without knowing what can be done with it. So here comes:
- Melaka - oysters, octopus, duck and coconuts at the night market
- Taman Negara - jungle trekking, sleeping in a cave
- Cameron Highlands - unforgettable foggy sunrise over tea plantations
- George Town - UNESCO World Heritage site with most fun street art
- Langkawi - world's steepest cable car ride (with an amazing view!)
Here below is an overview of costs for some of the activities we did:
|Taman Negara park entrance||6.00||1.25||1.45|
|Taman Negara guided overnight trek (2D1N)||230.00||48.07||55.50|
|Taman Negara guided night trek (90 min)||30.00||6.27||7.24|
|Orchid park entrance (Cameron Highlands)||6.00||1.25||1.45|
|Time Tunnel entrance (Cameron Highlands)||6.00||1.25||1.45|
|Sky Bridge(Langkawi)||55.00||11.50||13.27||Daily average||37.00||7.73||8.93|
So many things to see in Malaysia, so little time - is how we felt for most of our time in the country. Since we only had 18 days, we had to travel extensively to see all the things we had in mind. Consequently we ended up staying only a couple of days in each destination. This is not how we usually travel, as we prefer a slower exploration of the local country and culture. Malaysia got us carried away 😉
Since we moved a lot, almost every third day we had to transfer to another city. This and the generally higher prices caused transportation costs to accrue to 17% of our total Malaysia travel budget. To give you some perspective, in Indonesia transportation only accounted for 7% of our overall expenses.
Getting around Malaysia is fairly simple with a well developed transportation infrastructure. Public transport is punctual, fast and comfortable, so you really shouldn't worry exploring the country by yourself. Grab (local Uber) is a very convenient and affordable option for traveling between train stations and your accommodation. Follow the link to register to Grab and get a DISCOUNT.
NB: We didn't include any flights to or from Malaysia in this budget since it was only a stop (not the destination) on our longer trip through Southeast Asia.
|Bus KL - Melaka||25'000||5.23||6.03|
|Bus Cameron Highlands - Butterworth||32.00||6.69||7.72|
|Bus KL - Melaka||25'000||5.23||6.03|
|Transfer KL - Taman Negara (bus + boat)||190.00||39.71||45.85|
|Ferry Penang - Langkawi||75.00||15.68||18.10|
|Shorter distance Grab (2-5 km)||7.00 - 10.00||1.46 - 2.09||1.69 - 2.41|
|Longer distance Grab (15-20 km)||20.00 - 40.00||4.18 - 8.36||4.83 - 9.66|
|Motorbike rental (Cameron Highlands)||80.00||16.72||19.30|
|Motorbike rental (Langkawi)||36.00||7.52||8.69||Daily average||62.39||13.04||15.05|
Since we already had to stretch ourselves to keep up with our ambitious travel itinerary, there was no more room left for yoga. We compensated this apparent lack of exercise by challenging ourselves to do a minimum of 12'000 steps per day (about 9 km) and engaging in other physical activities like trekking in the jungle.
Shopping and Other expenses
In total in 18 days, we have spent the following amounts on shopping and other expenses within our backpacking Malaysia travel budget:
We usually don't shop nor do we buy souvenirs. We simply don't have space to carry any additional things, plus we don't want to contribute to our friends' and family's dust collectibles. That being said, David couldn't resist a beautiful cotton set of pants and a shirt from a little shop on Langkawi. This fashion splurge added up to 67 MYR (or 14 EUR / 16.70 USD), which is something our Malaysia travel budget could luckily handle 😉
A typical price for a 0.5l beer is between 10 and 19 RYM, 15 being the most common price in local shops (3.14 EUR / 3.62 USD). If you go for a couple of drinks to a nicer bar and order anything beyond a beer, you should be ready to pay prices comparable to those in Western Europe.
Langkawi is a duty free zone. Yup, the whole island is a duty free area. What this really means that although cocktails may be cheapER here, since alcohol is still pretty pricey in Malaysia, this is not a backpacker party central. Which is nice. You can enjoy a nice glass of wine while overlooking the sun setting down from the comfort of your sunbed on the beach. And man, are those sunsets picturesque!
Malaysia backpacking itinerary
Budget talk over. Here comes the fun part - an inspirational Malaysia backpacking itinerary for 2-3 weeks including our absolute highlights. The coolest part is that in this short period of time you can get a bit of everything - city, jungle, beach, highlands. It is like a tasting menu of Malaysia, where you try delicious and flavorful samples leaving you wanting to come back for more.
If you have a chance to extend the trip, go to Borneo - this is a whole different world in a parallel universe. Something we have saved for our next trip to Malaysia.
D1 - 3: Melaka (aka Malacca)
D3 - 5: Kuala Lumpur
- Spend hours crawling, jumping, stretching on the floor trying to get the best shot of Petronas Towers
- Buy genuinely fake items on the Chinatown market and learn its history at Lost in Chinatown
- Buy electronics - Kuala Lumpur has amazing, huge malls where you can find anything you might need
- Walk aimlessly through the city and embrace its vibe
- Visit the famous Batu Caves 13km from KLCC
- Book your transfers to other destinations in one of the travel agencies (we used Han Travel)
D5 - 8: Taman Negara
D8 - 10: Cameron Highlands
- Get up early to catch the scenic sunrise over tea plantations
- Learn how the local tea BOH is made & have a cup yourself
- Visit orchid farms and enjoy the gorgeous flowers
- Have a strawberry desert at one of the strawberry farms
- Visit Time Tunnel - fun museum of region's history
- Stroll on the night market and enjoy locally grown vegetables
- Check out our proposed list of what to do in Cameron Highlands in one day
D10 - D13: Georgetown, Penang
- Pose for funny pictures with street art in Penang
- Try the famous Penang curry
- Stroll along the beach and enjoy the view
- Visit one of the unusual museums in the city
- Learn about the city's history and culture
- Take a ferry to Langkawi island
- Sip cocktails while watching an amazing sunset over the beach
- Swim, sunbathe, read a book on the beautiful beeches
- Shop duty free in one the many shops
- Buy quality cotton clothes in one of the specialized shops
- Rent a scooter and explore the surrounding area
- Take a ride on the steepest cable car on Earth (or so we thought!)
- Take fun pictures in the 3D art museum
Fly out of Penang International Airport either internationally or back to Kuala Lumpur and then further on.
Malaysia is worth visiting!
Although your Malaysia travel budget will be higher than if you were to travel to Indonesia or Thailand, you should not dismiss visiting Malaysia altogether. The country is absolutely gorgeous and has some unique travel experiences to offer. If you are on a tighter budget, don't dismay. Read our Budget Guide blog post going through detailed opportunities to save money in each of the budget categories we have listed here above.
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