Malaysia is often overlooked by most travelers as a pass-through country when they are backpacking around Southeast Asia but what they may not know is that, Malaysia is one of the easiest and cheapest places to travel in Southeast Asia with a very generous visa policy (up to 90 days), great selection of food, and many cool and unexpectedly awesome places to see.
Here is a complete travel guide and a 10 days itinerary on what to see, where to stay and how to get around in Malaysia.
Looking for a complete guide to Borneo and Brunei? 2 Weeks Itinerary for Borneo and Brunei.
Malaysia Itinerary Map
Southeast Asia Travel Video
When to Visit Malaysia
Humidity is high all year round in Malaysia and the temperature often hovers around 30°C in the low lands and 20°C in the high lands.
March to April is often considered to be the best time to visit since it is the shoulder season which will give you the best of both worlds, with relatively drier weather than January and February but less tourist than from May - October.
That said, if your holiday doesn't coincide with the recommended period, any months in between March to October is also a good option.
Where to Stay in Malaysia
Penang - The Frame Guesthouse (Budget) - 8 USD/Night (Dorm) | 21 USD / Night (Double Room with Shared Bathroom)
How to Get to Malaysia
Malaysia is easily accessible via AirAsia, a popular low-cost airline in Asia that is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur. All the flights will pass through KL so you won't have any trouble traveling to Malaysia from within Asia.
If you are coming from Singapore, there are several buses leaving from Singapore to Melaka every day. It should cost you around 80 MYR and it will take you 4 hours to get to Melaka. You can book your bus ticket from Easybook.com for this trip.
If you are currently in Thailand and want to visit Malaysia, there are several buses connecting Hat Yai (Thailand) to George Town, Penang. The bus should cost around 40 MYR and will take around 4 - 5 hours.
How to Get Around Malaysia
The bus system in Malaysia is very well-connected and accessible to tourists and most people speak English which helps a lot in navigating the country via public transport.
All the places recommended in this itinerary are all connected via Kuala Lumpur so you can easily book your bus tickets online at Easybook.com and show up to either at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan or KL Sentral Bus Terminal
Within big cities like Kuala Lumpur, you can take the RapidKL train which should cover most of the tourist attractions in and around the city. GRAB taxi app is also a great option if you are looking to get around places further away from the usual tourist area.
For smaller cities like Penang, you can easily walk to most places or you can get on a local bus and visit most of the tourist attractions easily and cheaply.
For Cameron Highlands and Melaka, most tourist attractions in these 2 places are in walking distance. In Cameron Highland, there are several hiking trails you can hike to see places and in Melaka, you can either walk or easily call GRAB taxi app to get around the city quite easily.
This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
Internet in Malaysia
Internet access in Malaysia is really good even if you just rely on Wifi. The hostels I stayed all have great Wifi or if not, any cafes, notably PapaRich and Old Town White Coffee cafe that are literally in every city in Malaysia, all have reliable fast Wifi.
If you want access to the internet on the go, you can get a local sim card as well for a very decent price. I got 5 GB sim card for 30 days from Celcom for only 30 MYR and I got 4G connection in almost every places I visited.
For more information on Malaysia sim card: Malaysia Prepaid Data SIM Card.
If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Malaysia, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
10 Days Itinerary for Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur (3 Nights)
Kuala Lumpur is a bustling capital city of Malaysia with plenty of overlooked things to do and places to visit.
First and foremost, if you are interested in the history of Malaysia and how it came to be, I would recommend you visit the National Museum (Muzium Negara). The museum is very well-organized with 4 rooms dedicated to each period of the history from the founding period to modern Malaysia. There are a lot to learn from their bloodless struggle for independence.
You can spend your first day exploring the city with a visit of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. Be sure to check out the park behind the Petronas towers before you leave as well. It's a great place to cool down from the heat of KL.
Another great place to explore is the Bukit Bintang area where all the high-end shopping malls are. Even if you are not into shopping, it is still a great place to visit to see the architecture, the people and all the delicious food to eat.
If you are interested in the cafe culture (Kopi culture) in Kuala Lumpur, there are several cafes you should check out like VCR, Yut Kee and many others.
Looking for a complete guide to cafe-hopping in Kuala Lumpur? 8 Best Cafes And Restaurants In Kuala Lumpur.
Photos by IQRemix.
At night, you can visit the Jalan Alor Street and try all the street food they have there. From Indian to Thai, there are countless street-side restaurants you can sit and enjoy.
The next day, you can make a day trip to Batu Cave and hike up 272 steps to the sacred Hindu temple inside a limestone mountain. The Batu cave is easily accessible via a train connecting Kuala Lumpur with the cave.
Looking for a complete guide to Kuala Lumpur? Top 10 Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur.
Melaka (1 Night)
After Kuala Lumpur, you can take a bus south to the historic port city of Melaka formerly known as Malacca, for a one night stop and explore the diverse culture of the Nyonya and see how to colonial powers influenced and shaped the city to what it is today.
The city is only 2 hours away from Kuala Lumpur so you can easily see most of the tourist attractions in a day. First and foremost, visit the Stadthuys Square and Christ Church, a unique red-colored square which is considered to be the oldest Dutch colonial structure left in the East.
Nearby the Stadthuys, there is a walking street called Jonker Street where you can find plenty of restaurants and street food stalls to indulge yourself in. On a weekend at night, the street turns itself into a flea market where you can buy cheap handcrafts, street food and many more.
You can also walk up from the Stadthuys to St. Paul's Church and A Famosa fort and get a view of Melaka from the St. Paul's Hill.
If you want to learn more about the history of Melaka kingdom and how it became an important port city of the world that conquered the trade of the Ancient time, you should drop by the Sultanate Palace Museum and the Maritime Museum. The former talks about how the kingdom came to be whereas the latter focuses more on the maritime trade, how it works under the sultanate, the Dutch and the British. I really enjoyed the content of both museums.
Looking for a complete guide to Kuala Lumpur? 8 Incredible Things To Do In Melaka (Malacca).
Cameron Highlands (3 Nights)
After Melaka, you can take a bus back to Kuala Lumpur in the morning and get another bus to Cameron Highlands. It should take around 4 hours to get from Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands and should cost you no more than 35 MYR.
There are 2 ways you can explore Cameron Highlands, one is with a tour and another via hiking. Since you will have 2 full days in Cameron Highlands, I would recommend you do a tour to visit further away tourist attractions like the Boh tea plantation, and the Mossy Forest and another day hiking on your own.
It should cost around 50 MYR for a half-day tour including a visit of the Boh tea plantation and a hike around Mossy forest. I went with Eco Cameron and I can vouch for them. The guide is well-informed and he even took me to a secret mossy forest instead of the well-trodden one.
For the second day, I would recommend you go on a hike on your own through the tea plantation. There are several (14) hiking trails you can do in Cameron Highlands but the one I recommend is a combination of trail #6 and trail #10 which will take you up to Gunung Jasar and down through Cameron Valley tea plantation. Check out my complete hiking guide to Cameron Highlands for further detail.
Looking for a complete guide to Cameron Highlands Attractions? 7 Best Things To Do In Cameron Highlands.
Penang (3 Nights)
Last but not least, let's visit the food paradise of Malaysia, Penang, another important port city that have seen better development by the British in recent time compare to Melaka.
George Town is a good place to base yourself out of to explore Penang as there are quite a few cool things to do in the area. Such things to do are exploring the street arts of George Town, walk along the Chew Jetty, and enjoy cheap beers at the Antarabangsa Enterprise stall.
From George Town, you can also take a direct bus and spend a day at the Kek Lok Si temple, try the most delicious Laksa there and be sure to visit the Farlim Night Market in the evening and indulge yourself in all the street food Penang has to offer.
Looking for a complete guide to Penang? 7 Delicious Things to Do in Penang.
Further Reading for Malaysia
Malaysia may often be overlooked by travelers, but the country has so much to offer that you can’t get anywhere in Southeast Asia.
Here is a selection of articles you might want to read about Malaysia:
- Are you planning to travel to Malaysia as part of a big Southeast Asia trip? Check out our 3 months backpacking itinerary for Southeast Asia.
- Kuala Lumpur is where you will likely land when you are traveling in Southeast Asia and from the outside, it may look like your typical Asian cities but KL is so more and at a cheaper price too. Here’s a complete guide on things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
- Not your first time in Kuala Lumpur? How about we go explore the cafe and the unique Kopitiam culture of Kuala Lumpur with the 8 Best Cafes and Restaurant to try in Kuala Lumpur guide?
- If you are looking for a day trip from Kuala Lumpur or somewhere to stop on your way to/from Singapore, Melaka is a great place to stop and learn a little bit about this ancient port city. Check out my 8 Incredible things to do in Melaka travel guide here.
- Cameron Highlands is a break from the hot humid weather and the bustling city of KL you need. Surrounded by mountains and tea plantation, here is a complete travel guide on things to do in Cameron Highlands.
- Cameron Highlands is high up in the mountains with the cool breeze making it the perfect place to go hiking and there are over 14 trails to pick. Check out my ultimate hiking guide to Cameron Highlands.
- Penang is the food heaven of Malaysia and it is a must-stop on your way to/from Thailand. Here are 7 delicious things to do in Penang.
- Want to go off the beaten path in Malaysia? Let’s head over to Borneo with a complete travel guide and a 2 weeks itinerary for Borneo and Brunei.
- Want to know where to go after Malaysia? How about spending 3 days in Singapore or go snorkeling on Koh Lipe, Thailand?.
- For all articles about Malaysia, visit Malaysia Travel Guide page.
- Looking for more travel guides for Southeast Asia? You can find more on my Southeast Asia Travel Guide page.
- I have also compiled all of my favorite photos I took in Southeast Asia into one post. Check out 64 photos of Southeast Asia that will inspire you to travel.
- For more of my travel guides, visit All Destination Travel Guide page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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