Malaysia is a Southeast Asian country located partly on the Malay peninsula of the Asian mainland and partly on the island of Borneo. Malays make up half of the population but about 30% of the people here are Chinese and 10% are Indian. Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, is home to the iconic skyscraper Petronas Twin Towers and has great shopping districts such as Bukit Bintang. In Malaysia, developing nation meets modern world. With oil wealth and many high technology industries it is now one of the richest nations in southeast Asia. Travelers to Malaysia appreciate the high-tech infrastructure, the first world efficiency of services and the more affordable prices compared to neighboring Singapore.
MALAYSIA TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Climb Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Southeast Asia at 4095 meters and is one of the most popular ‘bucket list’ destinations in the world. No visit to Borneo, Malaysia, is complete without a trek to the summit of Mount Kinabalu to admire the breathtaking view. A World Heritage Site, Mount Kinabalu is well-known worldwide for it’s beautiful flora. So get a workout in while traveling!
The Petronas Towers
When in KL you must visit the world’s tallest twin towers, The Petronas Towers, which stand 1,483 ft (452 meters) high. Open from Tuesday to Sunday and tickets are released at 8:30am on a first-come, first-serve basis. To avoid disappointment you can always purchase your ticket in advance online or at the Ticketing Counter (Concourse Level). The blend of Islamic and modern art and the architecture such as the bridge that joins the two towers make this well worth a visit. Not to mention the spectacular view of the city when you get to the top.
Batu Caves in Selangor
The Batu Caves are a cave temple and a limestone hill that has a series of caves in Gombak, Selangor, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu river that flows past the hill. Get to see a never ending trail of devotees carrying offerings to the temple. The 272 steps you will have to climb up to the temple are well worth the effort for the view alone.
Explore the historic city of Melaka
The historical city of Melaka is a UNESCO world heritage site in Malaysia. Malacca was once one of the greatest trading ports in Southeast Asia however its popularity dwindled with tourists due to the rise of many other more impressive tourist hot spots developing all around it. However in recent years, Malacca has been revived as a great vacation destination due to its abundance of historical attractions. For that reason, it makes our list of top things to do in Malaysia.
Done with the busy Penang streets or crazy KL city life? It’s time to relax and unwind amongst the swaying coconut trees surrounded by the turquoise Andaman sea. Langkawi is an archipelago made up of 99 islands on Malaysia’s west coast and is known as the Jewel of Kedah. A special bonus to a trip here is that it’s a great place for diving and you can also pick up duty-free alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate.
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Meet Komodo Dragons, camp at the Gates of Hell or do a Silk Road overland tour. Enjoy browsing our top 25 Asia Travel Adventures and be inspired to tick off a few yourself.
MALAYSIA TOP 3 FESTIVALS
Malaysia is an ethnic and cultural melting pot and travelers here can experience a wide variety of festivals, cultural events and ceremonies throughout the year.
See first-hand how the people of Malaysia come together to celebrate and honor century old beliefs and traditions. Thaipusam (pronounced “Thaipoosam”) is a festival celebrated by the Hindi Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (nothing to do with Thailand). Thaipusam celebrates Lord Murugan’s gift of a (spear) from his mother, Parvati, the Hindu goddess of love and fertility. Participants shout “vel! vel! vel!” above the drumming in the procession and some Hindu devotees pierce their faces or drag sleds attached to their bodies with hooks which is quite a sight to see.
The majority of the population in Malaysia comprises of Malays, who follow the religion of Islam. This makes Eid al-Fitr one of the main annual festivals. Eid al-Fitr marks the beginning of the New Year in the Islamic calendar. When the nine months come to an end Hari Raya Aidil Fitri is celebrated to welcome Ramadan. Amidst fasting from dawn to sunset, people celebrate it for two whole days with their families and friends.
Chinese New Year
A great time to plan a visit to Malaysia is around the Chinese New Year which is celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar (on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month). Discover the traditions, dishes and drinks that are part of China’s most important holiday, the Chinese New Year also known as Spring Festival Lunar New Year.
Language: The official language of Malaysia is Malay (also known as Bahasa Malaysia). Aside from Malay, English is commonly spoken and Chinese dialects such as Mandarin and Hokkien. Tamil is a popular language spoken in the country by people from India.
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit.
Visa: US and Europe passport holders can get a 90 day visa upon arrival at the airport in Malaysia. So there’s no need to apply for a visa beforehand which makes traveling to Malaysia easy. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your entry date though. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Malaysia is required (which depends on the country you’re from) and if so, how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
Electricity: In Malaysia the standard voltage is 240 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. So you can use your electric appliances when in Malaysia if the standard voltage in your country is between 220 – 240 V (for example in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Malaysia: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN MALAYSIA
Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in Malaysia are listed below. Don’t drool!
Assam Laksa: Rice noodles with fish soup and the tanginess of tamarind. Assam Laksa is garnished with ginger flowers, chilies and julienne cucumber.
Ikan bakar: Popular Maritime Southeast Asian dishes, prepared with charcoal-grilled fish or other seafood. Ikan bakar literally means “burned fish” in Malay. The barbecued fish is a classic Indonesian dish.
Nasi Dagang: Roll up your sleeves because it’s time to dig into some flavorful fish curry and rice. The rice has the sweet and rich taste of the coconut milk that it’s prepared in along with lemongrass, chilies and other spices. Prawns, salmon or tuna are used to prepare the fish curry.
Hokkien Mee: You got all excited just hearing the name, didn’t you? Ok maybe not if you don’t speak Malay. This delicacy is made by braising typically yellow-colored noodles which are found in Malaysia. Let your taste buds party as you slurp on the saucy taste of the Hokkien Mee that has got pork, fish cake, squid, cabbage and is garnished with fried strips of pork.
Mee Goreng Mamak: This dish brings together the taste of different countries on one plate. Chicken or beef along with shrimps, veggies, eggs, sauce and yellow noodles make up this simple yet heavenly dish.
WHERE TO STAY IN MALAYSIA
Malaysia is an affordable place to visit and caters to all budgets. Finding excellent accommodation in Malaysia is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Malaysia affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Malaysia will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Malaysia can cost less than $30 dollars. If you’re looking for accommodation that includes western amenities and comforts then there will be more options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Kuala Lumpur. If you’re traveling to Malaysia during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. Malaysia is a very popular year-round destination for business travelers and tourists you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Malaysia. However, if you are backpacking in Malaysia or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Southeast Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
When visiting Malaysia it’s important to realize that different parts of Malaysia will be experiencing different weather because the East coast works on a different timeline to the West coast. So it’s not recommended to visit the East coast from November to mid February due to the rainy season which will really interfere with your daily travel plans.
The West coast’s rainy season is from April until October and although it’s slightly longer, the rain won’t be heavy enough to put a dampener on your trip. With the high heat and humidity throughout the year and the alternating wet seasons, you can really visit Malaysia at any time of the year especially if you’re willing and able to be flexible with your plans.
MALAYSIA TRAVEL BUDGET
Malaysia is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Malaysia really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $30 to $50 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $50 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget about $100 to $200 plus a day.
IS MALAYSIA SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to Malaysia. Pick-pocketing, bag-snatching and other scams to take advantage of tourists are common in some areas such as Kuala Lumpur. Female travelers should be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Some parts of Malaysia are dangerous so do your research before you go and avoid these places. Based on many years of solo travel in Southeast Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance. I would never leave home without insurance and I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Malaysia trip.
MALAYSIA VISA CHECKER
MALAYSIA FLIGHT DEALS
MALAYSIA TOURS & ACTIVITIES
MALAYSIA PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Malaysia, like most other places in Southeast Asia, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Malaysia and it’s always best to travel light whenever possible.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our fabulous finds with you.
It’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates just remember to pack lightweight and breathable lose-fitting clothing. Be prepared for the occasional chilly morning and evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater or coat.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Malaysia include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
So if you’ve found your travel inspiration, figured out the practicalities and got the travel gear it’s time to stuff it all in a bag and go right? Well, no, hold your horses, you see there’s an art to packing which we have (almost) perfected. Hop to our Travel Packing Tips for all of the latest on this topic.