A favorite with backpackers, Malaysia is a bucket-list travel destination, offering everything from stunning views to unique culture and of course, a warm climate. Whether you’re just visiting Malaysia or you’re taking a trip to explore multiple destinations in Southeast Asia, you’ll want to make the most of every second that you’re there.
Here are some travel tips to help you make the most out of your trip to Malaysia!
1. Plan your timing carefully
Malaysia is an equatorial country, and experiences hot and humid weather throughout the year. However, there are two different climates in Malaysia that you need to be aware of that will help you plan the time of year you make your visit. The Southwest experiences a monsoon season from April – September, while the Northeast’s monsoon season comes between October and March. The difference in these climates means you can enjoy great weather at any time of year – provided you stick to the coast that is out of monsoon season.
2. Be prepared to haggle with taxi drivers
Taxi drivers have a notorious reputation in Malaysia, and while cabs will come with meters installed, they might not necessarily use them – something that could end up costing you much more than you bargained for. Insist on drivers using the meter so that you pay a fair price for your journey. Alternatively, there are some fantastic public transport options in Malaysia including buses and trains, which make it easy and affordable to get around.
3. Enjoy luxury accommodation for less
Malaysia offers many fantastic accommodation options, from high-rise luxury hotels in Kuala Lumpur to beachfront resorts and spas along the coastal areas. It’s possible to find some good deals on this type of accommodation, especially if you book well in advance. However, if you plan on spending a significant amount of time in Malaysia, then a longer term stay in a luxury apartment is in order. You can rent house shares or apartments depending on how many of you are traveling. Choose somewhere with some great views so that you can enjoy that beautiful Malaysian sunset.
4. Embrace Malaysian street food
Street food is easy to come by in Malaysia, and if you’re looking to cut your spending costs while you’re there, then street food is the way forward. Malaysia is known for its tasty street food dishes, especially in Penang. Some of the top Malaysian street food dishes you have to try include Batu Maung Satay (delicious meat skewers flavoured with a peanut sauce), wonton soups and the popular drink Milo, which is a malted chocolate/coffee drink that is served both hot and cold. Of course, there are also some amazing restaurants to try in Malaysia that are excellent for dining in, particularly in Kuala Lumpur which boasts a fantastic list of restaurants.
5. Pack appropriately
Make sure you consider the climate when heading to Malaysia. The days are often hot and humid, but there can be a lot of rainfall too. You’ll need clothes that are lightweight and offer plenty of protection from the sun during the days, while you’ll also need a light raincoat (and probably an umbrella) for days where it’s likely to rain. Remember that the residents of Malaysia are predominantly Muslim, so you should wear more conservative clothing when you’re out and about. Be warned – the hotels and restaurants crank up the air conditioning, so it doesn’t hurt to bring some light knitwear with you to put on when you’re indoors! You might find this Southeast Asia packing list helpful for your travels.
6. Enjoy the views from the Petronas Twin Towers
Known for being the tallest twin towers in the world, a visit to the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur is a must. The beautiful architecture is worth taking the time to admire, and you can’t beat the incredible city views the towers offer. Evenings are a quieter time to visit during the daytime. Shopping enthusiasts will also enjoy a trip to the Petronas Towers – it’s the location of the Suria KLCC mall, which is packed full of designer stores like Gucci, Dior and Chanel while internationally popular brands like Topshop, Uniqlo and Zara are also present.
7. It’s the second best place to enjoy a Guinness
Guinness is, of course, Ireland’s most famous export, and it’s a particularly popular drink in Europe. However, Malaysia has a long history of serving Guinness, celebrating their 50th anniversary back in 2015. The country has topped the ‘Guinness League of Excellence) several times over the years, and is even home to its own special variety – Guinness Bright, which is a variety which is considered lighter and easier to drink than the classic Guinness stout.
8. Make sure you visit Sarawak’s orangutan sanctuary
If you want to witness the majestic and fascinating orangutans in the flesh, then a visit to the Semenggoh nature reserve is a must. The sanctuary has been working for decades to rehabilitate orangutans who have either been rescued or orphaned and help teach them to survive in the wild. The area has a rich population of wild orangutans that you might be able to spot during your visit. If you come to the sanctuary during feeding time (9-10am or 3-4pm), then you’ll have a good chance of spotting some of the wild orangutans who occasionally return to the sanctuary to feed.
9. Enjoy Malaysia’s diverse nightlife
While Malaysia isn’t known for its wild nightlife like nearby destinations Thailand or Bali – it does have plenty to offer those who enjoy to let their hair down at night. You’ll find various clubs and bars that are popular with both tourists and with locals, with rooftop locations being a great option to enjoy Malaysia’s incredible cityscape views. Meanwhile, beach bars are also a popular, laid-back option that is worth exploring for when you want to enjoy a drink and the sunset.
10. See Penang on the water
There are plenty of different ways to get around in Malaysia, but one of the most pleasant ways to experience it is by boat. In Penang, you can enjoy the George Town-Butterworth, which offers some incredible views of the island – it’s also incredibly affordable. If you ever want a break from busy city living, then this is the way to do it.
11. Check out Malaysia’s up and coming diving scene
Malaysia isn’t likely to feature at the top of the world’s most popular diving destinations, but it’s certainly up and coming and a great place to learn to dive. Pulau Langkawi is a great location to enjoy scuba diving, with the waters featuring various species of coral, as well as seahorses and clownfish (hi Nemo!). Make sure you book your trip with a reputable diving company and take some lessons if you want to make the most out of your experience.
12. Enjoy a fun day out at Legoland
Malaysia is home to its own Legoland theme park, which makes a great day out and the chance to have some fun. It’s located near the border from Singapore, making it a popular destination with visitors to both countries, and is also a great option for something to do if you’re traveling with children. The park opened in 2012, but it’s already home to more than 40 rides and attractions that will give you plenty to do during your time there.
13. Take a photography tour to get the best photos
Whether you’re a photography expert or you love to dabble with your iPhone camera, there is no shortage of things to photograph in Malaysia. One of the best ways to capture some standout moments is to take a photography tour, which you can George Town under the guidance of some local photography experts. If you’re putting together a travel blog or diary, then this is a fantastic idea as you’ll learn a lot about the best places to get great shots as well as how to capture more of the local flavor.
14. Spend time at the beach
While there’s a lot to see and do in Malaysia, you should make sure that you spend time enjoying the local beaches. Some of Malaysia’s best beaches include quieter, less-tourist packed beaches that are ideal for enjoying some peace and relaxation, and are a great way to compliment the rest of your visit. Malaysia has plenty to offer visitors, which makes it an amazing destination for both short and long-haul stays. Whether you take the time to island hop or you focus your efforts on the capital Kuala Lumpur, you’ll be enamoured with the range of things to do and the incredible local culture.
Want to make the most of your time in Southeast Asia? Why not head to Singapore next where you’ll find some great things to do and encounter a whole new pace of life. Check out this guide to the most Instagrammable places in Singapore that are a must during your visit.
With so many fantastic destinations to enjoy in Southeast Asia, it’s the ideal location if you’re looking to enjoy a longer break and get a real slice of that traveller lifestyle.