Are you planning and/or dreaming a travel to Malaysia, but you are lost between blogs, forums, and Instagram pics, trying to squeeze as many destinations as possible in your travel itinerary? I know your pain and this post can help you out!
First of all: congrats for your choice, don’t have any doubts because Malaysia well deserves two (and more if you can) weeks of your life! This is a recap of my 17-day travel, I tried to include everything you need to know to plan your trip, in a small printable vademecum that you can bring with you.
Have a good plan and let’s start!^_-
1.My Malaysia travel itinerary
- Days: 17/16 nights, April
- Travelers: 2 (couple)
- Destinations: Kuala Lumpur > Cameron Highlands (Tanah Rata)> Georgetown (Penang) > Perhentian Islands (Besar) > Kuching (Sarawak, Borneo) > Kuala Lumpur
- Transport: buses, Uber/Grab, boats, internal flights
Arrival at Kuala Lumpur/ 3 nights
Kuala Lumpur International Airport > KL by Uber/Grab/taxi (50 km, 1h)
Kuala Lumpur is a contemporary city with a recent history, but with a good sightseeing. And yes: KL is not just Petronas Towers! ^_-
What to see in KL: Petronas Towers and KLCC Park, Petaling Street and China town, Merdeka Square, Menara KL at the sunset (around 19:00; if it doesn’t rain, buy the ticket for the sky deck!), Bukit Bintang (chic shopping district, luxury brands and mainly foreigners, I was not really impressed, but it is ok for an evening), Chow Kit Market, Little India.
Batu Caves: train from KL Sentral or “Kuala Lumpur” to “Batu Caves”, 30 min.
The huge golden statue is a recent addition, but it is already a landmark! Climb to the stairs, take photos to the small monkeys and pay attention: they are very quick and experienced thieves!
On the way back stop to “Kuala Lumpur“, visit the Islamic Arts Museum and the National Mosque.
Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands)/ 2 nights
By public transport: KL>TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan) by Uber/Grab (20 min) and TBS>Tanah Rata by bus (3,5h)
Green lush hills, mossy forest, strawberries fields and, of course, delicious tea! Cameron Highlands are popular, especially among Malaysians and for valid reasons: read about our experience!
What to visit: Bharat tea shop and plantation, Strawberry fields in Brinchang, Boh plantation, Mossy Forest.
Super active travelers (my initial plan): trail n.1 from Brinchang (forest and tea plantation in 6h, intermediate level)
Lazy tourists (what we did): half day tour with guide including the Mossy Forest, view on the tea plantation, Boh tea shop, and museum, strawberry field.
If I knew before. Except for the above activities, there is nothing else to do. Believe me: nothing. We went to the playground for kids on the swing, just to spend the afternoon! Some fellow travelers had booked and paid for 2 nights and they decided to leave anyway…so I suggest to book only 1 night (eventually you can add a second if you want to hike) and take the bus in the afternoon to Penang.
Georgetown (Penang)/3 nights
In the bus station verify with all the companies if the bus stops to Georgetown Komtar: if yes, buy the ticket. If no, buy anyway and ask the driver to stop on the highway nearby the ferryboat for Georgetown.
Ah, sad news: be prepared for a long travel with 2h of crazy mountain roads. I still remember the faces of the passengers when we stopped for a break!
Georgetown is lovely with a past as a British colony and an interesting mix of cultures. Young nightlife, great food (have breakfast with Laksa), a pleasant beach of Batu Ferringhi with boat parachuting opportunities!
Extra nights. Cooking class, National Park (Bus routes 101 and 102 to Teluk Bahang)
Perhentian Islands – Besar/ 4 nights
Penang Airport > Kota Bharu Airport (morning flight by Firefly airline)
Kota Bharu Airport > Kota Bharu Harbour by taxi (1h, booked by the resort)
Kota Bharu > Perhentian Islands, Besar by private boat of the resort (at the same price of the public ferry!)
I know, it is tiring just to read, BUT it is a small price to reach the Paradise!
Crystal clear water, white and soft sand, palms, corals and sea turtles, fresh food, an eco-resort and no cars, no scooters, no roads. What else?
Besar is a bit more expensive than other destinations, but you can still find very good food options, both in the resort (we stayed at Tuna Bay) or directly on the beach. Just be sure to book ahead, for the high season even months before!
If Besar is out of budget or if you prefer an island with nightlife (in Besar there is nothing to do after the sunset!), then check an accommodation in Kecil (that means “Small Island”). There are frequent taxi boats, you can reach easily all the beaches.
Kuching (Sarawak-Borneo)/ 4 nights
Kota Bharu Harbour > Airport by taxi (1h, booked by the resort)
Kota Bharu > Kuching Airport (2h, late morning flight by Airasia airline)
Kuching Airport > Kuching by Uber
Kuching Airport > KL International Airport (2h, late morning flight by Airasia airline)
Intercontinental flight in the evening
When I had to exclude Singapore from my itinerary (due to Visa of my fellow traveler), I said: “Ok, but at least Borneo!” (don’t find the logic… there is no).
I tried hard to include the beachside, but Sarawak doesn’t offer anything comparable to the Perhentians’ beauty and the islands of Sabah (in the North) are crazy expensive and not even super safe. So we ended up with 3 internal flights, at least short and efficient.
Alternative: if you want to avoid at least 2 extra flights and you are not enthusiast to see Orang Utan in the wild nature, then consider Taman Negara Park. It is an ancient tropical rainforest in the middle of the peninsula, connected by private shuttles or public buses (+boat) to Kuala Lumpur or Cameron Highlands via Jerantut.
But let’s go back to Borneo now: Kuching is a layback city with incredible National Parks just a few steps away. We did not regret the choice, it has been the perfect conclusion of the travel!
What to see/visit: the riverside (day and night time), Carpenter Street, Sarawak museum, Sarawak Parliament (take a small boat to cross the river), Fort Margherita.
Outside the city: Semenggoh Nature Reserve (if you lucky enough to admire Orang Utan in the wild nature), Bako National Park, Sarawak Cultural Village
Extra nights. 1-2 nights for Iban longhouse (headhunters) tour
2. How much does Malaysia cost?
Currency: Ringgit (MYR)
1 MYR = 0,210 Eur/0,250 USD
For a 16 nights/17 days trip we spent 3000 Eur/3500 USD as a couple (April 2017), including 3 internal flights, taxi, shopping (clothes and souvenirs) and an industrial bulk of roti and tea tarik! We saw, ate, experienced and bought everything we could, no stop. Here you can find a cost breakdown:
This is an average cost overview per destination (hotels are not included):
- Kuala Lumpur: 95 MYR/person per day
- Georgetown: 87 MYR/person per day
- Perenthian: 100 MYR/person per day
- Kuching: 74 MYR/person per day
|Soft drink||3 MYR|
|Roti + Tea Tarik||5-8 MYR|
|Cheap meal for 2 with main dish and drink||20-30 MYR|
|Meal for 2 in a trendy restaurant||50-80 MYR|
|Uber/Grab/Mytaxi short distances||5-10 MYR|
|Bus Cameron Highlands>Penang||32 MYR|
|Ferry to Georgetown||1,20 MYR|
|Boat Parachuting Georgetown||110 MYR|
|Private Transfer Kota Bharu Airport> Perenthian||150 MYR|
|Taxi boat in Besar||5-10 MYR|
|Bako National Park entrance fee+boat (per person)||60 MYR|
When to go to Malaysia: we went in April and we were super lucky: sun for the entire trip, except for the first cloudy day in KL and one rainy day in Penang (that was actually a relief!). Malaysia has different micro-climates and I got crazy to understand when to go. BUT I have a surprise for you: a simple table with cute icons and the average weather, month by month. Yes, I ♥ icons!
is Malaysia safe? Ee felt very safe everywhere, the Country is modern and people are genuine and friendly. Like any other large cities, take usual precautions against micro criminality, but we did not experience or see any bad episodes (except for the monkeys in Batu Caves and some small biter fish in Perenthians!).
Languages: Bahasa Melayu is the official language, but English is widespread and well-spoken, especially in Borneo (ex British Colony).
What to bring: summer and light clothes for the hot and humid climate. Beach clothes, snorkeling equipment (especially t-shirt anti-UV!), sunscreen, hat, scarf/foulard for temples, good mosquito repellent, light hiking clothes for Bako National Park. Anyway, don’t fill up your suitcase and leave space for (a lot of) shopping!
What to eat in Malaysia: amazing food is often the result of a cool mix of different cultures. Malaysia is the perfect example! Except for most popular dishes (like noodles, beef, and sweet and sour chicken), try murtabak, roti (salty or sweet with fruits and chocolate), Laksa and Sarawak Laksa in Kuching (my favorite soup!), prawns with ginger sauce, fish in general in the islands. And then, of course, fruits: eat and taste all the fruits you can! And bring back some at home, if they allow you at the airport: we saw a Russian couple with a least 10 kg of mangoes each 😀
That’s all for my practical Malaysia, did you like this itinerary? Was it anyhow helpful? Do you want to hear stories? Leave me a comment below: I am curious to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and questions! ^_^/