The Ultimate Budget Travel Guide to Malaysia

I have grown up seeing TV advertisements on Malaysia which had a famous tagline “Truly Asia.” Malaysia is a place that has always been on my bucket list. I visited Malaysia around seven months ago out of curiosity to explore because I had never heard anything about this country beyond the limits of Kuala Lumpur. Other than the city, Kuala Lumpur and the famous twin towers, Malaysia has a lot more that would make it hard for you to step out of this beautiful country. I was there for a few days and realized some fantastic things about this place:

  • Easy Visa entry
  • Rich local culture
  • Friendly and welcoming people
  • Rich, authentic Malay Food
  • A complete backpackers choice with budget-friendly homestays.

I know it is not always simple to travel frequently, so there were few things on which I had to cut down for traveling. I have already shared my best Ten Ways to Cut Your Expenses and save Money for Travel in my previous blog; you can find out how it helped me in planning up my journeys. After exploring the country, I have worked on this guide to bring you the best things you simply cannot miss when you are in Malay. This guide covers the following things in detail:

  • Things to do and see in Malaysia
  • Typical costs to everything
  • Tips to save money while traveling
  • Places in Malaysia to visit for free.
Kuala Lumpur

Things to Do or See When You Are in Malaysia

  1. Get close to twin towers at night: Twin towers are huge and look incredibly beautiful at night. I noticed the towers on my first night in KL. I was far but had that excitement to get close. 😀 When you get there you can sit and chill at the Kuala Lumpur City Center park which has been specially designed to give more greenery to the twin towers. The park also has a pretty lake, and you can enjoy KLCC lake fountain show as well.

    KLCC park
  2. Irish coffee at Healy’s Mac: Healy Mac’s Irish Bar & Restaurant is the most happening and one of the best place to enjoy your nightlife at KL. An Irish woman runs this cafe. Here, I got the amazing taste of Irish coffee, that’s some hot coffee with Irish whiskey topped with fresh cream. It was my first time, and I am telling you, you cannot miss this out. You will also get some fantastic range of pizza’s here. OH! They are damn delicious. 

    Irish beer and Irish coffee
  3. Explore the KL market endlessly: The KL central market will show you the vibrant colors of the city. You will find such amazing authentic stuff, that too on a little cost that you would wish to buy all of them. You know I am such a fridge magnet lover that I bought a lot of magnets, of every possible shape design and color. I also got a customized baby romper designed for my niece. Her name is on it, and it’s adorable. You will also find Malaysian chocolates, ceramics, clothes, and of course a lot of souvenirs to take back home.

    Kuala Lumpur Central Market
  4. Get entertained at Bukit Bintang: Bukit Bintang is the street that has the KL’s most popular bars and restaurants and is definitely a fantastic place for pub crawling. Bukit Bintang is also the spot for shopping. It is the most happening and colorful street in KL. You will hear some live jazz music while passing through the streets and watch cheerful fellows dancing on those kickass beats.
  5. Climb around Batu caves: Batu Caves is a place in KL that has a series of cave temples. This beautiful place attracts both worshipers and travelers because of the charm it holds. The best part is there are over 160 routes in this area, and it’s amusing to explore those cliffs and caves.
  6. Meet Giant Panda: Zoo Negara at Kuala Lumpur is a place where you can make some good friends. I met an angry ape, chilled out giraffe, poser wallaby, super lazy hippo and more of them. Don’t miss to get clicked with some magnificent Malaysian birds and two of the main heroes, giant pandas, Xing Xing and Liang Liang. My bad luck, they were sleeping when I was there. But check out this picture, haha! 😛 

    Zoo Negara
  7. Hangout in Legoland: Legoland is a place from where you would never want to step out. I went for both Waterpark and theme park. Neither could I stop myself to jump into those large water slides nor I could stop myself to take the multiple roller coaster rides. You will also find different countries made of lego in the theme park, something that will keep you amazed. I really was. Everything there is made of Lego, even little dinosaurs. :O And you will also get to see the Legoman dance at the end of the day. I was too tired to dance with them but yeah at least I managed to see them through the huge crazy crowd of kids. 😛

    Kuala Lumpur city made of Lego
  8. Try Nasi Lemak from an authentic Malay Joint: Nasi Lemak is the authentic and the must-try Malay dish, it’s chicken curry with rice. Well! I tried it from the famous Madam Kwan’s kitchen in KL and then later had it from a local joint at Cenang. Both tasted delicious as both served the authentic Malaysian cuisine.
  9. Island hopping tour: Island hopping is quite famous and common in Malaysia. I traveled island to island and got involved in marvelous water activities enjoying the calm and famous beaches in Malay. You can either take your own jet ski (Trust me! It’s more fun and not at all difficult. A 20 minutes practice and you are better to go.) The second option of hopping would be, you can go on a boat with 30+ people and visit nearly 15+ islands.
  10. Swim in the freshwater lake: While island hopping, don’t forget to enter the Pregnant maiden island. This island is in the shape of a laid pregnant woman. You need to ride your jet ski to reach this place to enjoy the freshwater lake. The lake water is hard, and you are not allowed to jump into the water without your live jackets, and its freshness will make you feel relaxed.
  11. Parasailing at Langkawi: When I did parasailing, it took me to an all-new peaceful world. It starts from an isolated part of Cenang, just get into the boat, and it will take you in the middle of the water and get ready to FLY. 😀 Never miss this, you will stay around 20 minutes above the water, it’s all calm and serene flying through the waves where air pushes you. Trust me; it is lovely.
  12. Get lost on the streets on Cenang: Cenang is the most happening and soulful beach in Langkawi. You will find a lot of duty-free stuff to shop, authentic street food to eat, coconut water to drink and local agents to give you the best insights of the water activities. Just hold the famous Irish beer, Guinness and enjoy your evening at the beach. Don’t forget to bring the cans back home. 😉
  13. Experience the height at Langkawi SkyBridge: I watched a Bollywood movie, Don and dreamt of visiting that place when I was in just 8th Standard. The skycab will take you there, and you wouldn’t be able to stop drooling over that scenic beauty. It’s 2170 feet above the sea level, and there’s a spot in the middle of the bridge which has a glass floor. You can actually stand there and feel at what great height you are standing.

    Langkawi SkyBridge
  14. Keep flowing in the Seven Wells waterfall: I was in the skycab while coming down to the Oriental village from the Skybridge when I noticed this waterfall from the above. To reach here, you need to park your vehicle and walk uphill 1 km. It’s a short trek till the falls. Once you are there, you won’t feel like coming out. It will completely relax and refresh you.

    Seven Wells Waterfall
ALSO READ: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE ON BUDGET TRAVELING WHEN YOU HAVE NO MONEY

Cost to Everything

  • Accommodation: If you are looking for budget-friendly stays in Malaysia, you are totally in luck. The city Kuala Lumpur and famous islands in West Malaysia like Langkawi, Penang, and Pangkor have amazing local accommodations to stay. You can find inexpensive and pretty decent dormitories starting from MYR 23 up till MYR 40. I recommend three of my favorite sites to book your hostels in Malaysia: Hostel Bookers, Hostels, Hostel World. Here, it’s also quite easy to find your private room in a local homestay that would cost you from MYR 35 to MYR 58. You can look for homestays on Airbnb and Homestay. The third option other than homestays and the dorms are inexpensive hotels that would cost you around MYR 50 to MYR 121 which come with basic amenities like Wifi, a good room service, breakfast. You can book your hotels with Booking.com.
  • Food: People say that I should have been a food blogger because I talk about food more than I talk about travel. But anyways, my favorite way of managing my meals while traveling is to cook for myself. I did that when I was in Malaysia. I stayed in Kuala Lumpur for a week and cooked both my breakfast and dinner myself. Don’t worry, cooking is not that difficult, a five minutes video to watch and you are good to go. You just need to have some necessary ingredients at your stay. Throughout KL you can find small shops where you can grab sandwiches, pizzas, spaghetti. Even at Malay islands like Langkawi and Penang, you will find great and budget-friendly street foods. The Batu Ferringhi market in Penang and Cenang beach market in Langkawi is known for the local street cuisine and the authentic Malay dish, Nasi Lemak. The food here will cost you nearly MYR 10 – MYR 30. Langkawi islands also have some great home cafes, one of my favorites is Johnny uncles place. It’s such an adorable family and all great at cooking. You cannot miss their prawns in green curry and red curry. Johnny uncle’s cafe is precisely where the Jalan Kuala Muda bridge starts, going towards the airport. The meal at home cafes will cost you around MYR 6 to MYR 15.

    Prawn curry prepared by uncle Johny and his wife for dinner.
  • Transport: Since Malaysia is an island country, traveling from one place to the other can be done more efficiently by domestic flights rather than buses or trains. The domestic trip won’t cost you above MYR 65 to travel from one place to the other. I book my flights with Skyscanner for the best deals, which are cheap and convenient. At the islands, you will get scooty or bikes on rent to travel to the local areas. The rent for scooties is MYR 30 – MYR 35 per day and the full tank cost of the petrol is MYR 10 that would last for at least two days. Uber is a good option to travel within KL as the train cost is quite high there. Also, Grab is the most popular taxi service in Asia; you can use that too.
  • Activity costs: The cost for visiting the twin towers is RM 80 that includes the visit to the SkyBridge on the 41st floor and the observation deck on the 86th floor. Another way of staying close to the twin towers is to visit the Kuala Lumpur city center park for free and spend some time with the towers. 😀 The Legoland in Johor Bahru will cost you MYR 180 for both the water park and theme park. The island hopping tour on the jet ski has the cost of MYR 250, and if you go for it on a boat, it will cost you MYR 35. The parasailing will cost MYR 170, and the cost of snorkeling is MYR 200. Scuba diving with a short training session will cost you MYR 300. The Langkawi sky bridge has a combo ticket for MYR 55 that includes skycab till the viewpoint above the skybridge, then skycab till the bridge, skyrex which is a 3D film projection with dynamic motion, blasts of air, water spray, vibrations, and dramatic lighting, skydome that offers 3D image screening and Langkawi 3D art museum. The ticket price for Zoo Negara is MYR 80.  I was in Malaysia in January 2018, so all these prices are based on that. Do get the updated prices. 🙂

Tips to Save Money While Traveling

  • Cook yourself: I think I say this in almost all of my blogs, but yes, this is very important. Cooking yourself will save you a lot of money that you would spend unnecessarily on eating outside. No need to get into trouble to learn cooking, just a 5-minute video would do.
  • Stay with locals: Staying with locals in Malaysia will help you to save a lot of money. Firstly, you get accommodation at a very low price when you make close connections with locals; they might offer you the stay for free as well. Secondly, they know their native place really well and can help you to plan your trip accordingly without wasting your time and money.
  • Fly cheap: Check the flight prices regularly and also sign up for email alerts, Signing up will send you alerts on a daily basis which will update you if there is a decrease in price. I took six flights within Malaysia that cost MYR 385 in total. My most trusted website for booking flights is Skyscanner; it offers the best deals so even you can try booking from it.
  • Eat Authentic Malay street food: Ditch the big expensive restaurants and go for street food. Trust me! It will give the best taste of the authentic Malay cuisine. My personal favorite is the Petaling street market in Kuala Lumpur city, Cenang beach market in Langkawi,  Batu Ferringhi market in Penang.
  • Plan and don’t move to wrong directions: When you don’t move in the right direction, you waste money on traveling which can affect your budget. So, before leaving for a new place, have a decent amount of information through the locals.
  • Carry water bottles: The cost of a water bottle is MYR 3 at touristy places in Malay, and MYR 2 at regular local outlets so carry your own water bottle, and you can refill it from refillers placed in the city.
  • Drink less: I know that Malaysia is a place where you would just want to chill and have some beer but this will burn your money very soon. If you want to travel longer, you need to sacrifice a bit of drinking, not much though.
  • Walk to close by destinations: The Malaysian islands are beautiful and less populated especially the Langkawi islands. It has the total population of 99,000 people. It’s always fun to walk and explore such locations so that you get to meet locals and exciting places to hang around. I found Johny Uncle when I was walking to look for a scooty on rent.

Places in Malaysia to Visit for Free

  • Water fountain show at KLCC: This is one of my favorite things to do in Kuala Lumpur. KLCC park is the park built to add more greenery to the twin towers. You can hang around this fantastic park and also enjoy the water fountain show at night. All this for free. 😀
  • Batu caves: Batu caves are caves in the KL city which has a lot of temples. You will see a huge statue of Hindu Lord Murugan that stands right at the entrance of the caves. You can walk further to explore more temples and climb around the caves to explore more. Congratulations! This is all for free. 😀
  • Shopping at KL’s only free market: At Pasar Percuma market in KL you can bring your old stuff and buy others things for free. You can also come empty handed and grab some things through the massive stack of books, clothes, films, and more.
  • Scenic beauty in Langkawi for free: Other than the Langkawi sky bridge which is paid there are a lot of free destinations that offers a fantastic view of the island. These free places include Buffalo park, Field of burnt rice, Langkawi craft complex, and Oriental village of Langkawi.
  • Seven Wells waterfall: This is my personal favorite. Though I was tired after my 6-hour long jet ski tour, I was here at the waterfalls for more than 2 hours.  It is that soothing and refreshing, just stand under that heavy water flow and enjoy the fresh water.

My budget Travel Stories on Malaysia

Read through two of my budget travel stories on Malaysia:

Island Hopping Is Now My Favorite Game

   Langkawi, the Eagle Island

I hope this guide will help you to travel cheaper, easier and happier. To get in touch with me for kind of help you can drop me an email at worldthrougherica@gmail.com. Keep traveling. 😀

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