Planning to visit Malaysia? You’re gonna love it! Malaysia is a bit more developed than its neighbors, and it’s a wonderful country with diverse landscapes to see. You’ll find there national parks, beautiful beaches, delicious food, a breathtaking architecture and an unique wildlife.
Malaysia is divided into two main landmasses: Malaya on the western side with Kuala Lumpur and Penang among other places. And Borneo on the Eastern part with all the animals, the beaches and the volcanoes. What to do in Malaysia? Here’s a list of the best places to visit in Malaysia, then I’ll share Malaysia travel tips!
Things to do in Malaysia
Cameron Highlands is an area of Malaysia made of hills and valleys, located between Kuala Lumpur and Penang. You can admire there beautiful tea plantations. You can also go on a hike where you’ll walk between the plantations, around lakes and you’ll admire waterfalls. The Cameron Highlands are also home to lavender and strawberry farms, orchards, and honey bee farms.
You have to see BOH Tea Plantation to see the tea-making process. There’s also the Time Tunnel museum where you learn about the history of the area. It’s a bit colder here than in the rest in the country (we’re at high altitude). Click here to find your accommodation. Click here to visit the Cameron Highlands from Kuala Lumpur.
The Perhentian islands are on the east coast of Malaya, less visited than the west coast. So there are less people, however the islands are wonderful! They’re one of the most beautiful places in Malaysia! White sand beaches, crystal-clear water… Perfect if you want to relax, go diving, snorkeling, or jungle trekking and see lizards and monkeys.
There are two islands: Perhentian Kecil for the backpackers/party animals. And Perhentian Besar, quieter and caters more to families and couples. FYI, between November and March, you can’t access the islands because of the monsoon. Click here to find your accommodation.
Kuala Lumpur (often called KL) is the capital of Malaysia. It’s mostly known for the Petronas towers but there’s more than that in Kuala Lumpur. It’s interesting to admire the architecture, the are numerous malls and you can feel a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian culture. Go to the central market and also the Kuala Lumpur tower, the botanical garden, the Batu caves and of course the Petronas towers. I wrote a detailed article about my visit to Kuala Lumpur. Click here to find your accommodation. Click here to find the best activities.
Melaka is a small town in the south of Malaysia you can explore by foot. It was an important trading place in the past (its location was strategic). The Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and the Indians fought to control Melaka, and you can feel the influence of all of them today. It’s probably why it’s one of the most interesting places in Malaysia.
Go to the night market at Jonker Street, visit Dutch Square in the city center, Cheng Hoon Teng (the oldest Chinese temple of Malaysia) and Melaka Straits mosque. I wrote a detailed article about my visit to Melaka. Click here to find your accommodation. Click here to go there on a day trip from Kuala Lumpur.
George Town is the second largest city of Malaysia. Located in Penang it’s one of the most famous places in Malaysia! Why? It’s known for its street food! Head to Gurney Drive or Chulia Street and try it! George Town is also known for its street art, attracting thousands of visitors every year. Head to the clan Jetties, to Penang Hill and Khoo Kongsi. I wrote a detailed article about my visit to George Town. Click here to find your accommodation. Click here to find the best activities.
Langkawi is located northwest of Malaysia, very close to Thailand. One of the most popular Malaysia tourist spots. Perfect place to relax, go snorkeling, or eat seafood. Pantai Cenang is the most popular beach with palm trees, restaurants along the beach and water activities. Take the cable car to see the Sky Bridge, admire the Seven Wells waterfall and go on a mangrove tour. I wrote a detailed article about my visit to Langkawi. Click here to find your accommodation. Click here to find the best activities.
Taman Negara National Park
Taman Negara National Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Malaysia, and it’s understandable! You can go jungle trekking, bird-watching, see tigers, peacocks or explore the caves with a guide. You can try the canopy walkway and see life high in the trees. There are also night safaris if you want to. Click here to find your accommodation. Click here to go on a day trip from Kuala Lumpur.
Gunung Mulu National Park
Gunung Mulu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s in Borneo and it’s not easily accessible (by plane or by road, boat and hiking!). But it’s worth it. It features Southeast Asia’s longest cave system, there’s a canopy walkway and numerous animals: calaos, bats, gibbons, deers… You can go kayaking, mountain bikiing, etc. You have to see the extraordinary limestone karst formations! Click here to find your accommodation.
Tioman Island is on the east coast of Malaya, and it’s not the most visited place. However it’s a wonderful island. ABC Beach is the most popular beach, Juara Beach is quieter and perfect for swimming. Salang Beach is ideal for snorkeling. You can enjoy numerous activities: kayaking, trekking, hiking, biking, etc. There are beautiful waterfalls in Tioman island! Click here to find your accommodation.
Kuching is the largest city of Borneo, and it’s a good starting point to explore Borneo’s rainforest. Kuching means “cat”, there are cat statues all over the city. It’s a modern city with skyscrapers but also a lush jungle. There are many markets, Chinese temples, gardens, and locals selling handicrafts. Click here to find your accommodation.
Sipadan is a small island located northeast of Borneo. A quiet island with white sand beaches. It’s actually one of the most renowned islands in the world to go scuba diving. Underwater you can see turtles, sharks, barracudas or manta rays.
Kota Kinabalu (often called KK) is in the north of Borneo. The city is surrounded by virgin forest and large mountain ranges. The city center is small, but go to the floating mosque, wander in the market and have a walk along the sea. Most attractions are just outside the city. Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park allows you to relax one of the five islands and go hiking. But don’t miss Kota Kinabalu national park. It allows you to climb mount Kinabalu. Click here to find your accommodation.
Ipoh is the third largest city of Malaysia and it’s considered Malaysia’s culinary capital. The food is delicious. Ipoh is also known for its post-colonial archtecture. Admire the street art, have a walk in the old town and don’t miss the Japanese gardens. There’s also Sunway Lost World, a nice theme park. And Kellie’s castle too, the ruins of Malaysia’s only castle. Click here to find your accommodation.
Kota Bharu is located northeast of Malaya, very close to the Thailand border. It’s ften used as a stopover to get to the Perhentian Islands. But there are things to do there. There are many museums covering the history and culture of the area, like the Royal museum our the Museum of Royal Traditions and Ceremonies. There are numerous markets too, such as the central market. The sea is not far, you can go rafting or diving there. Kota Bharu is a conservative city. Click here to find your accommodation.
These were the best places to visit in Malaysia! You can also check out this backpacking Southeast Asia guide! Now here are a few Malaysia travel tips!
Malaysia travel budget
- Accommodation is not expensive in Malaysia. A night in a hostel dorm costs around 25-50 MYR ($6-12). A night in a mid-range hotel costs between 75 and 200 MYR ($18-48). Prices start at 200 MYR ($48) per night to stay in a luxury hotel. Click here to find your accommodation.
- Food is not expensive either. Street food is delicious and costs 5-15 MYR ($1-3.50). A dish in a local restaurant costs between 10 and 20 MYR ($2.50-5). Western food (pizza, burger) is expensive and is not good so don’t touch it. If you really want to, you’ll pay around 50 MYR ($12). A beer costs around 15 MYR ($3.50).
- Regarding transportation, a subway ride in Kuala Lumpur (KL) costs between 1 and 5 MYR ($0.25-1), depending on the distance. Bus rides, either in KL or elsewhere, cost more or less the same. The taxis are often unmetered, so be sure to agree on a fare beforehand. You have to haggle! To get around in the country, there’s the bus. A bus ride to go anywhere in the country costs between 40 and 60 MYR ($9.50-14.50). Train rides are a bit more expensive. Finally, there are domestic flights, which cost between 100 and 300 MYR ($25-70).
- Regarding activities, the prices vary a lot. From 10 MYR ($2.50) to get in a museum to 100 MYR ($24) to get on top of the Kuala Lumpur tower. Generally speaking, activities costs around 20-40 MYR ($5-9.50).
Basically, if you’re traveling on a budget, you can get by with $40 per day. Otherwise you’ll spend about $75+ per day.
How to get around in Malaysia
In Kuala Lumpur only, there’s the subway. Otherwise there’s the bus and taxis in all major cities of the country. To get around in the country, you can either take the bus, the train or a flight. Domestic flights serve many cities in the country (Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Kota Kinabalu…).
Best time to visit Malaysia
It’s quite hot (20°C-30°C/68°F-86°F)and humid all year round in Malaysia. There are two monsoons in Malaysia: from November to March on the east coast (Perhentian islands…) and from April to October on the west coast (Langkawi, Penang…). The west coast monsoon is less violent and the rain doesn’t last long. It’s better to go to Malaysia between March and early November.
Visa policy of Malaysia
If you’re an European citizen or coming from a Western country, you don’t need a visa to visit Malaysia. You can stay up to 90 days. You can find all the details here.
Safety in Malaysia
Malaysia is a safe country. There are very few crimes or attacks targeting tourists. It’s one of the best places to solo travel. There are a few scams, like inflated prices when you take the taxi or pickpockets in big cities. That’s it. However avoid Eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau. There are kidnappings in this area. If you don’t there, you shouldn’t have any problems. Before traveling, don’t forget to get travel insurance. It will protect you against illness, injury, theft and cancellations. Click here to get one.
Packing list for Malaysia
I’m not gonna list all the things to pack for Malaysia. I don’t know how long you’re gonna stay there, where you’re going in Malaysia, what you’re going to do and when you’ll visit. Take all the necessary clothes, toiletries, and also:
- hand sanitizer
- combination locks
- a money belt
- a security cable lock
- a travel plug adapter
- a stainless steel water bottle
- a lifestraw (a water bottle with a purifier)
- a menstrual cup (for the ladies)
Here’s a full list of travel accessories, which can be useful!
What to eat in Malaysia
There are some really good dishes you have to try in Malaysia! Nasi lemak is a very popular dish. It’s rice cooked in coconut milk with a boiled egg, vegetables, meat, peanuts and spices. Apam balik is a pancake filled with sugar, peanuts and corn. Satay are skewers of chicken, beef, or pork with peanuts sauce, cucumber and onions. Laksa is a noodle soup with meat or fish and vegetables. The recipe changes depending on the city. Rojak is a fruit and vegetable salad. Finally roti canai is a crispy creme with a thin curry sauce.
You can now visit Malaysia and enjoy your time there thanks to this Malaysia travel guide!
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