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Home Travel Guide Malaysia Travel Guide Malaysia Travel Guide: How to Plan a Trip to Malaysia

Malaysia Travel Guide: How to Plan a Trip to Malaysia

SKIP AHEAD

Malaysia stands as a nation defined by its rich diversity and striking differences, where contemporary urban centers exist alongside verdant rainforests. It’s a place where a multitude of cultures and flavors seamlessly come together, and where you can revel in the beauty of natural marvels and flourishing wildlife. Malaysia embodies the essence of Asia itself, beckoning as a destination catering to every traveler’s desires. Whether you seek thrilling escapades, cultural immersions, encounters with nature’s splendor, or tranquil moments, Malaysia promises to fulfill your wishes. Embark on a journey to uncover the hidden treasures within this exquisite land and bask in the genuine hospitality and warmth of its inhabitants.  In this travel guide, we will introduce you to some of the best places to visit, things to do, and tips to make your trip to Malaysia unforgettable.

Facts about Malaysia

  • Malaysia comprises two distinct regions: Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, separated by the South China Sea. The former shares a border with Thailand, while the latter occupies part of Borneo, bordering Indonesia and Brunei.
  • The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur held the world’s tallest building title from 1998 to 2004, standing at 451.9 meters (1,483 feet). They remain the world’s tallest twin structures and symbolize Malaysia’s modernization.
  • Malaysia is one of the world’s 17 mega-diverse countries, boasting over 15,000 plant species, 200 mammals, 600 bird species, and 4,000 fish species. Its ancient rainforests date back over 130 million years.
  • Malaysia is a multicultural and multilingual nation, with Malay, Chinese, Indian, and indigenous communities living harmoniously. Malay is the official language, but English, Chinese, Tamil, and various indigenous languages are widely spoken. Major religions include Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism.
  • Malaysia’s cuisine reflects its diverse cultural influences, with popular dishes like nasi lemak (coconut rice with spicy sauce), satay (grilled meat skewers with peanut sauce), laksa (spicy noodle soup), and roti canai (flatbread with curry).
Langkawi Cenang Beach
Experience a water parachuting in Langkawi, Malaysia

Malaysia Visa Requirements

Malaysia typically offers visa-free entry to most tourists for durations of 90, 30, or 14 days, depending on their nationality. However, citizens of certain countries must obtain a visa from a Malaysian Diplomatic Mission before entering the country.

For travelers in transit through Malaysia, no visa is required if you stay within the airport and your layover is under 24 hours. Yet, if you need to transfer between Kuala Lumpur’s two terminals (KLIA and KLIA2), you will have to pass through immigration, and the need for a visa may depend on your nationality.

Read more about Malaysia Visa Application and Requirements

Best Things to See and Do

Malaysia beckons travelers with a tapestry of diverse and thrilling experiences. Here, we present some of the finest attractions and activities in Malaysia:

Orangutan Encounters in Malaysian Borneo:

An awe-inspiring experience awaits those who visit the orangutans, remarkable primates sharing 97% of our DNA. Witness them in their natural habitat at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre or the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, where they are rescued from illegal activities like logging and hunting. Embark on river cruises or jungle treks to spot these gentle creatures alongside other wildlife like proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants, and crocodiles.

Discover Historic Georgetown:

Capital of Penang, Georgetown offers a cultural feast and delectable street food. Explore its colonial architecture, vibrant street art, and diverse religious sites such as the Kek Lok Si Temple, the Kapitan Keling Mosque, and the Khoo Kongsi Clan House. Savor Malaysia’s finest dishes, including char kway teow, laksa, rojak, and cendol.

Adventures in Langkawi:

The Langkawi archipelago boasts 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, renowned for stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and duty-free shopping. Dive into activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, and sea walking at the Pulau Payar Marine Park, where colorful coral reefs and marine life await. Don’t miss the cable car ride to the summit of Gunung Mat Cincang, where the Sky Bridge offers panoramic island views. Explore the mangroves on a boat safari and glimpse eagles, monkeys, bats, and snakes in their natural habitat.

Conquer Mount Kinabalu:

Southeast Asia’s tallest peak, Mount Kinabalu stands at 4,095 meters (13,435 feet) above sea level and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site teeming with diverse flora and fauna. Climbing it is a physically demanding yet immensely rewarding adventure. Plan ahead by booking a guide and permit and allocate two days and a night for the ascent. Commence your journey from the Kinabalu Park Headquarters and reach the summit at dawn for a breathtaking sunrise spectacle.

Hike the Cameron Highlands Trails:

The Cameron Highlands, a favored hill station, invite you to revel in a cool climate and scenic landscapes, including tea plantations, strawberry farms, and flower gardens. Lace up your hiking boots for various trails, ranging from easy to challenging. Popular options include Trail 1 (leading to Gunung Brinchang), Trail 4 (to Robinson Waterfall), Trail 10 (to Mount Jasar), and Trail 14 (to the Mossy Forest). Don’t miss the chance to visit the Boh Tea Centre and Cameron Valley Tea House for insights into tea production and flavorful brews.

Related Reading: 12 Top Things to Do in Malaysia, 10 Must-visit Attractions in Malaysia, 10 Best Cities to Visit in Malaysia

Borneo Orangutans Islands
Orangutan Encounters in Malaysian Borneo

Where to Stay in Malaysia?

  • Kuala Lumpur: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s vibrant capital, offers diverse attractions, from bustling night markets to the iconic Petronas Towers. Its central location and efficient public transport make it an excellent starting point for exploring peninsular Malaysia.
  • Malacca: Malacca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, blends history, culture, and family-friendly fun with its historic architecture, museums, and delectable local cuisine.
  • Langkawi: Langkawi’s serene islands, UNESCO World Geopark status, and romantic resorts create an ideal getaway for couples seeking nature and relaxation.
  • Kota Kinabalu: Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, offers vibrant city experiences and serves as the gateway to Mount Kinabalu, making it a cool choice for adventure and nature lovers.
  • Johor Bahru: Johor Bahru, near Singapore, is a budget-friendly destination with unique attractions, including mosques, temples, and shopping malls, making it ideal for travelers seeking affordability and exploration.

Read more about Where to Stay in Malaysia: Areas & Hotels?

How Long in Malaysia?

Based on different interests and budgets, most travelers choose to spend 5 days to 2 weeks for a Malaysia trip.

  • 5 Days in Malaysia: With just 5 days, focus on Kuala Lumpur’s modern attractions and Langkawi’s serene island life, offering relaxation, rainforests, and beautiful cruises.
  • 10 Days in Malaysia: Extend your stay to include Ipoh’s charm, with colonial architecture and vibrant street art, and explore Penang’s rich history, culture, and cuisine, along with nearby gems like the Batu Caves and Cameron Highlands.
  • 2 Weeks in Malaysia: For a two-week adventure, delve into Borneo’s natural wonders in Sabah and Sarawak, where you can conquer Mount Kinabalu, meet orangutans in Sepilok, explore the vast Mulu Caves, and immerse yourself in indigenous cultures.

Malaysia Transportation: How to Get to and Get around

Get to Malaysia

Air Travel: To reach Malaysia, consider taking a flight to its primary international gateway, Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), situated approximately 50 kilometers south of the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. Additionally, there are regional airports across Malaysia, including Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Penang, and Langkawi, offering international connections. You can easily access flight schedules and pricing information by visiting various airline websites or using online travel platforms.

Train Journey: If your journey originates in Singapore or Thailand, you have the option of traveling to Malaysia by train. The Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) operates train services within peninsular Malaysia. Booking your train tickets can be done online or at train stations. The train voyage from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur typically spans approximately 7 hours, while the train ride from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur covers a longer route, taking around 20 hours to reach its destination.

Malaysia Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Get around Malaysia

Flying: Air travel is the quickest way to travel within Malaysia, with Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) serving as the main hub. Budget airlines like AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines offer affordable domestic and international flights.

Train: Rail travel is a comfortable option for scenic routes in Peninsular Malaysia, including the journey from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. Online platforms like Easybook or 12Go Asia make it easy to book train tickets with various seating and sleeping options.

Bus: Buses are the most economical mode of transportation in Malaysia, connecting cities, towns, national parks, and islands. Websites like BusOnlineTicket or CatchThatBus provide schedules and ticket prices for different bus routes.

Taxi: Taxis are convenient but potentially expensive in Malaysia. It’s advisable to use the coupon system at airports or bus terminals or ensure the meter is activated before your journey. Ride-hailing apps like Grab or MyCar offer an alternative for booking taxis or cars online.

Trishaw: Trishaws, colorful bicycle taxis, are a unique way to explore historical cities like Malacca, Penang, and Kuching. Negotiate the price and duration of your ride with the driver before hopping on for a fun cultural experience.

Ferry: Traveling by ferry to Malaysian islands like Langkawi, Penang, Tioman, or Pangkor is both enjoyable and relaxing, offering scenic views and fresh breezes. Various ferry terminals in Malaysia connect to these islands, and you can check schedules and fares on ferry operators’ websites or at the terminals.

Car Rental: Exploring Malaysia at your own pace is easy with car rentals, available online, at airports, or city outlets. Numerous rental companies offer various vehicles and pricing options, but remember to have a valid driver’s license and international driving permit. Familiarize yourself with Malaysia’s traffic regulations and road conditions for a smooth journey.

Read more about Malaysia Transportation: How to Get to & Travel around

Malaysia Weather: Best Time to Go

Malaysia’s tropical climate features year-round heat and humidity, with occasional rain showers. The best time to visit varies by region due to distinct monsoon seasons impacting weather conditions.

From December to February, the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia (Langkawi, Penang, Kuala Lumpur) enjoys dry, sunny weather, making it an ideal time to explore and experience cultural festivals. However, this peak tourist season comes with higher prices and increased crowds.

On the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia (Tioman, Perhentian, Redang islands), plan your trip between May and September for dry and sunny weather, perfect for water activities. Similar to the west coast, this is peak tourist season, so expect higher costs and larger crowds. Meanwhile, in Borneo (Sabah, Sarawak), the best time is from March to October, offering favorable weather to explore wildlife and natural wonders. But, like other regions, this period sees higher prices and more tourists.

Read on to learn more about Best Time to Visit Malaysia

Typical Cost for a Malaysia Trip

The cost of a trip to Malaysia depends on factors like your stay’s duration, accommodation choice, transportation, dining, and activities. On average, you can explore Malaysia with a daily budget of $30 to $60 per person, covering lodging, transport, food, and activities.

The average cost for a couple’s hotel room is around $88 per night, but it can vary by location and season. Transportation options range from buses, trains, taxis, to Grab and rental cars, with local transport averaging $12 per day. Renting a car may cost $20 to $40 per day based on factors like car type and location.

Food in Malaysia offers diverse options, from street food at $1 to $3 per meal to fine dining at $10 to $20 per meal, with an average daily food cost of $19. Activities average around $10 per day, with expenses varying depending on the chosen activities, from free attractions like museums and parks to pricier adventures like hiking or diving.

The most budget-friendly time to visit Malaysia is late August to early September, while the costliest period is typically from December to January, driven by weather and tourist demand. 

Read more about How Much Does a Malaysia Trip Cost?

Malaysia Nyonya Food
Malaysia Nyonya Food

Useful Tips for Traveling to Malaysia

  • You might need a visa depending on your nationality, and ensure your passport remains valid for at least six months after arrival.
  • Pack lightweight cotton clothing, sneakers, flip-flops, and a light jacket for air-conditioned places due to Malaysia’s hot and humid climate.
  • Consult your doctor for recommended vaccines before traveling and consider travel insurance for emergencies.
  • Experience Malaysia’s culture and history through museums, temples, mosques, and markets.
  • Explore Malaysia’s stunning nature and wildlife, visiting beaches, rainforests, islands, and national parks.
  • Respect local customs and etiquette, especially in Muslim areas, by dressing modestly, avoiding public displays of affection, alcohol, or pork consumption, and using your right hand when eating or offering something.

Read more about 10 Essential Tips for Traveling to Malaysia

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