Budget Travel

Malaysia on a budget: all the adventures with no cost

Malaysia should really be better referred to as a budget travel destination. Entire generations have cut their backpacking teeth in famously cheap countries such as Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, but Malaysia includes a reputation as the expensive a part of Southeast Asia.

The the fact is rather different. Even when compared with its Southeast Asian neighbors, the expense of travel in Malaysia are hardly exorbitant, and also the slight increase in prices here when compared with Thailand or Indonesia comes hand in hand with high standards of infrastructure, even in rural areas.

Malaysia represents fantastic good value at just about all levels. Costs for food, lodging, fuel and internal transportation are extremely reasonable, and alcohol is one of the rare goods that can make a hefty dent in your wallet.

For Malaysian adventures without the cost, here's how you can visit on a budget.

Budget airlines offer travel savings, but watch out for airport extras

While short hop flights have sustainability issues, they're currently the only way of crossing between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Borneo), that are separated by countless miles of sea. Budget carriers such as Air Asia, Malindo Air and Firefly offer cheap flights throughout Malaysia, as well as international hops to other hubs in Southeast Asia, but watch out for hidden extras.

Fares are advertised with rock bottom prices on the internet – if you book well ahead of time, a domestic flight may cost less than US$30 – but remember that these prices don't include taxes or airport fees. This tends to be considered a bigger problem for international routes; airport fees for domestic flights are usually fairly modest – for example, RM11 (US$2) for flights leaving from Kuala Lumpur.

Travel by bus whenever you can

If you're remaining in either Peninsular Malaysia or East Malaysia and don't intend to go to the partner of the country, you will get almost anywhere you need to go by bus. There are dozens of operators, making for competitive pricing along with a good chance of having a seat, even though you only be there in the station. English is widely spoken in Malaysia, and Bahasa Melayu (Malaysian) is designed in the Roman alphabet, there should be few difficulties with navigating timetables.

Get to Malaysia's islands by ferry

Sure, you can fly to Malaysia's tropical islands, but there's still a little romance in taking a ferry to destinations for example Langkawi and Penang. And when the nostalgia of traveling by sea isn't enough, it is also cheaper and for the planet. The ferry to Langkawi costs RM60 (US$14) – a small fraction of the price of arriving by air – while the old-fashioned car ferry to Penang costs just RM1.20 (US$0.30). Actually, Penang offers savings all-round as it's nearer to the mainland and less oriented towards beach tourism.

Cheap transfers to and in the airport

If someone flies into Kl, the fastest way into town is the zippy KLIA Ekspres, an air-conditioned train with onboard wi-fi which makes the run between Kuala Lumpur International Airport and KL Sentral station in only 30 minutes. A ticket will cost RM55 (US$13), a big saving on the price by taxi. The cheapest choice is the air-con Express Coach bus, which takes Forty-five minutes to an hour to reach the center of KL (sometimes longer, based on traffic), and charges just RM10 (US$2.40).

In other cities, your choices may be restricted to taxis (faster, more costly) or buses (cheaper, but invariably slower, so there is the inconvenience factor). Summoning a rideshare may get a cheaper fare heading out towards the airport.

Get around cheaply in town

Rates for a metered taxi ride in Malaysia are very reasonable, though drivers have a track record of being reluctant to use the meter. However, even those prices are undercut by utilizing Grab, the Southeast Asian do-everything app that also provides Malaysia's most popular rideshare service. With reliable access to the internet across Malaysia, Grab functions in all major cities, and lots of smaller hubs.

Alternatively, stay with local buses and urban mass transit networks. Kuala Lumpur's LRT and MRT urban rail services are air-conditioned and may allow you to most sights in the center for just a few ringgit – see their websites for route maps, prices and timings.

Visit Malaysia at the proper time of year

The low season in Malaysia comes with a precipitous drop in travel costs, though sometimes also with a fair amount of rain. The trick is determining the low season for that part of the country you're visiting. Peninsular Malaysia sees a stop by visitor numbers from March to June, while Malaysian Borneo's low season lasts from October through to March.

However, note that you will find small spikes in tourism during Singapore's summer break starting in May or June, and also the Malaysian school breaks in March, May, August, and late November through early December. Some beach and island resorts shut down completely down during the rainy season; check situations are open before heading to the coast in November and December and from March to May.

Explore by walking for free

There's a great deal to be said for just walking in historic areas for example Chinatown in Kl, Jonker Walk in Melaka, George Town in Penang and also the city center of Kota Kinabal. A walk is really a chance to admire historic architecture, sip coffee in Chinese-run kopitiam cafes, visit colorful temples, clan-houses and mosques, and drift around streets lined with nostalgic Malay shophouses. It's a great way to get a sense of the impressive diversity that's Malaysia's most engaging asset.

Eat cheaply and be merry-

Malaysian food is cheap, plentiful and delicious. Eating out in Malaysia isn't just fiscally prudent, it's the the easy way dive into the history and culture of a nation that stands at the crossroads of China, India, and dozens of Southeast Asian maritime kingdoms. By eating at establishments targeting locals instead of tourists, you'll be hard-pressed to pay for a lot more than RM70 (about US$17) for three meals a day.

Go teetotal to save money in Malaysia

In this majority Muslim nation, the sale of alcohol is definitely a political issue. Although non-Muslims are able to buy alcohol, high excise taxes would be the price of having the ability to drink in Malaysia. With these taxes included, beer, wine, and spirits may cost around they do in america and The european union. To keep your costs down, stay with juices, soft drinks, fresh coconut water, coffee or teh tarik (sweet tea with condensed milk).

Eat like a local at hawker stalls and kopitiam

Outside of some high-end places in cities for example Kl and George Town, restaurants in Malaysia are not particularly expensive. However, you will find much cheaper food, and often better gastronomic quality, if you eat at hawker centers and kopitiam (Malay-style cafes).

Government-licensed conglomerations of street food stalls can be found throughout Kl, Melaka, Penang, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching along with other major (and minor) cities. They're particularly common at transport hubs as well as in shopping areas. Old school kopitiam serve small cheap eats in addition to Malay-style coffee, and lots of focus on just one dish; if uncertain, just order what other people are having.

Be a night market diner

Major international fast food chains are available throughout Malaysia, even though they are a little cheaper than home, they're more expensive than eating local Malaysian food. Instead, go to the nearest pasar malam, or night market, for an evening meal. These nighttime streetside hawker markets include drink stands too, and family-friendly entertainment in the form of karaoke.

The point for many visitors though may be the food, which is invariably cheap and delicious. The night market in Kota Bharu, way from the tourist track in Kelantan, is a standout example of the genre, but the better-known night markets in Kuala Lumpur and Penang will also be justifiably famous.

Festivals offer a number of Malaysia's best free entertainment

With multiple religions feeding into Malaysia's rich cultural melting pot, festivals start in Malaysia each month of the year, plus they provide a fascinating window in to the culture of the nation. January is an especially good month for celebrations – some time, the month sees both Chinese Year (which could also exist in early February) and Thaipusam, a massive Hindu celebration that's very important to Malaysia's largely Tamil Indian population.

August is yet another great festival month, using the George Town Festival celebrating Penang's diversity, arts, and culture, and the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival bringing color to Chinese communities across Malaysia.

Daily costs in Malaysia

  • Hostel room RM40 -80 (US$9.50 -20)
  • Basic room for two RM60 -200 (US$14 -48)
  • Vacation rentals RM150 -300 (US$36 -72)
  • City bus or train ticket RM2 -6 (US$0.45 -2)
  • Long-distance bus ticket RM40 -140 (US$9.50 -35)
  • Noodles at a hawker stall RM5 -30 (US$1.20 -7.20)
  • Bottle of beer in a bar or restaurant RM 6 -20 (US$1.40 -12)

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