In this Malaysia travel guide, we explore where to go in Malaysia and the best travel destinations. We’ll take you to the towering skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur, the lush green tea fields of the Cameron Highlands and the bustling art-laden cultural city of George Town.
We loved Malaysia. But I should say up-front that we’re the kind of people that easily fall in love with lesser known and under-the-radar countries – just like Macedonia, Bulgaria and Guatemala. Malaysia hadn’t been on our travel itinerary, but we found ourselves needing to leave Indonesia so we could renew our 1-month VISA. Malaysia was right next door and flights were cheap.
But where should you go in Malaysia? Because Malaysia is not so well known as the other countries in South East Asia and certainly not part of the usual backpacker route, it can be hard to decide where to go in Malaysia. In this travel guide to Malaysia, we share our simple travel route from south to north of the country.
Where To Go in Malaysia
Are you ready to travel Malaysia? Good, let’s go.
We spent three weeks travelling in Malaysia, though the route we took could be done in under two weeks if you’re tight on time. On reflection, we actually wished we’d spent even longer in Malaysia so that we could enjoy local life even more. We’ll get to that later though.
If you’re puzzled about where to go in Malaysia, we recommend this travel route:
While Singapore is not part of Malaysia, it was once a state in Malaysia and is a very good next stop before or after Kuala Lumpur. We flew into Singapore from the UK because flights were reasonable at the time. If you can, have a weekend stopover in Singapore. Singapore is incredible. The city is super modern, clean and green. The Gardens by the Bay feature the famous supertrees which are out of this world. The supertrees are 22-metre high structures are covered in more than 160,000 plants of over 200 species. Other amazing sights in Singapore include the Windsor Nature Park with the treetop walk, the botanical gardens and Chinatown.
Where to Stay: 5footway.inn (Project Ann Siang)
Excellent budget hostel next to Chinatown. Near to cheap food courts and hipster cafes. Dorms from $30, privates from $50.
Kuala Lumpur was our first stop in Malaysia, though if you’re travelling from south to north consider starting in Singapore. The city was a melting pot of cultures and styles. Modern skyscrapers with infinity pools tower above traditional villages. Chinatown and Little India sit side-by-side, each with restaurants frequented by locals of all backgrounds. Expect to visit fascinating museums and traditional temples, get lost in shiny new shopping malls and gorge yourself on Indian food in KL. Check out our top ten attractions in Kuala Lumpur.
Where to Stay: Airbnb apartment
Airbnbs are a good shout in Kuala Lumpur. You can grab your own private apartment in an apartment complex with an infinity pool and gym for under £25 per night.
Our second stop in this Malaysia travel route is the Cameron Highlands. Once you’ve had enough of the heat in Kuala Lumpur or Penang, head up to the cool climate in the highlands. We based ourselves in Tanah Rata, the biggest town up in the highlands. Rent a scooter and drive out through the lush green teafields. Breath in the fresh mountain air and stop for a mug of green tea at the Boh Teafields. You can also pick your own strawberries (though it’s cheaper to buy a punnet rather than pick them).
Where to Stay: Gerard’s Place
This sweet guesthouse is located on the edge of Tanah Rata in a charming black and white building. The hostess is the loveliest lady you will meet and very helpful to all of her guests. When we arrived, she helped us to plan our weekend and explained where the best tea fields were. £17 per night for a double room with a shared bathroom.
George Town / Penang
George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage city and the largest city on Penang Island. The town was established by the British East India Company in 1786. It’s a historic city with a mix of colonial and Asian architectural styles that make it a special place. Popular sights we loved include the famous street art by Ernest Zacharevic, the Khoo Kongsi clanhouse and Kek Lok Si temple. Street food is a big deal in George Town. If you’re vegetarian like us, the Chinese fare here is the best, though also look out for half-boiled eggs for breakfast and the tangy local coffee. We dug the vibe in George Town and felt like we could really live here. Who knows if we’ll go back.
Where to Stay: Room at Jern’s House
We loved staying at Jern’s home. The house had four guestrooms and we stayed in the front one. High ceilings and large windows opening onto the street made the room feel spacious. Only £11 per night (£25 off Airbnb with this link).
When we saw photos of Langkawi on other travel blogs, we were mesmerised. With its skybridge and dark green rainforest, we thought it would be an unmissable destination and couldn’t believe it was only a 3-hour ferry ride from Penang. We visited in October when the weather was rainy and cloudy. Unfortunately, the island is not well maintained, the cable car and skybridge – though they do have amazing views – have been set up like a kind of theme park and the beach was full of washed up dead starfish. The standard of food was poor and more expensive than Penang. Many of the photos you see online have been misleadingly photoshopped, although if you can get an apartment that’s high up, the views of the little islands across from Kuah are beautiful.
Where to Stay: Airbnb apartment with sea views
If you are coming to Langkawi, we can recommend a good Airbnb! Our Airbnb apartment in Kuah with great ocean views was our favourite thing about our visit to Langkawi! The apartment is immaculate and has a panoramic view from the kitchen and living space. £20 per night (£25 off Airbnb with this link). If you’re travelling on a tight budget in Langkawi, you can find cheap homestays and guesthouses along the roadsides.
Where is Malaysia?
Malaysia is a country in Asia. Malaysia sits to the south of Thailand and Indonesia to the west and the south. To the very south is Singapore, which shares the same land mass as Malaysia. To the east is Borneo, which is partially owned by Malaysia and partially by Indonesia. Malaysia is in the Indian ocean but sits very close to the Gulf of Thailand.
Do I need a VISA for Malaysia?
Citizens from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and many European countries do not require a VISA to enter Malaysia. A tourist VISA will be given on arrival at the airport to citizens of qualifying countries. This tourist VISA lasts for 3 months. Check with the government website for your country to see if you require a VISA to enter Malaysia.
Where to Go After Malaysia?
Now that you’ve figured out where to go in Malaysia, where should you go next? Here are some countries to consider:
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