Full Itinerary – Malaysia

Malaysia is such a wonderful country, it has everything you could ever wish for. From the cosmopolitan capital of Kuala Lumpur, to the charming old towns of Penang and Malacca. Rolling country side in the Cameron Highlands to pristine beaches in Langkawi, and nature at its absolute best in Kuching and Damai.

We spent 45 night in Malaysia, we traveled slow and tried to see and do everything. Our itinerary could easily be shortened to 30 days if you don’t have as long to explore this amazing country.

We spent 7 nights in Kuala Lumpur then traveled by bus for 4 hours to the Cameron Highlands where we spent 6 nights. From there it was another 4 hours by bus to Penang for 5 nights.

From Penang we had a quick 30 minute flight to Langkawi where we ended up staying 10 nights. We flew to Kuching and spend 5 nights then took a 1 hour shuttle bus to Damai where we spent 3 nights.

We drove back to Kuching and flew to Kuala Lumpur, we had a late night flight so ended up staying in KL for a night before catching an early morning bus to Malacca.

We spent 8 nights in Malacca because we couldn’t enter Indonesia until a certain date so that we would still have time left on our visa there to see my parents at the end of the month. Ideally we would have only spent 3 or 4 days in Malacca.

I’ve also wrote a post with all the essential info needed for planning a trip to Malaysia, costs, visas, vaccinations etc. Click HERE to read.

Costs and Useful Info – Malaysia

Malaysia literally has it all, from the bustling cities to quaint old towns, rolling country side and golden beaches. We spent 45 nights in this amazing, diverse country and we are already talking about going back.

Our daily costs worked out at £66 between both of us, that includes local flights and buses as well as accommodation.

Getting Around: Malaysia is the most organised place we’ve been so far, getting around is very easy and very cheap. See out “Getting Around Malaysia” by clicking HERE.

Accommodation: We were in the Malaysia for 45 nights and spent an average of £25.70/night staying in a mixture of basic B&B’s, hotels and apartments. I booked everything on AirBnB.com and Hotels.com.

Visa: UK Passport holders do not currently need a visa to enter Malaysia providing that your visit is less than 90 days. Your airline may ask if you have onward travel booked, we didn’t but explained that we were traveling to Singapore by bus afterwards and they let us straight through.

Vaccinations: At the time of writing (October 2017) there are no vaccinations required. Anti-malaria medication will be needed for certain areas. See fitfortravel.nhs for a malaria high risk area map.

Dress Code: There isn’t really one unless you are visiting a religious site, then shoulders and knees are expected to be covered by both men and women.

Money: The currency in the Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit. ATM’s we’re very easy to find, even in smaller towns and villages. Exchange rates in September 2017 below:

£1 (GBP) = RM5.66

$1 (USD) = RM4.99

€1 (EUR) = RM4.22

Malacca – Malaysia (Things to do)

There was so much to write about Malacca that I’ve separated it out into two posts, this one is a full list of all the fun things to see and do in Malacca, the other half is everything else you need to know to plan a great trip, if you haven’t already read it click HERE for some good tips.

There are my favourite things to do in Malacca:

1. Get a Good View:

When it comes to getting a great view of Malacca you have 3 options:

The Sky Tower – RM25

The Menara Taming Sari – RM23

St Paul’s Church – FREE

You can actually get as far as the 41st floor at the sky tower before you need to pay on the 42nd floor. The view isn’t 360 degrees but we saved RM50!

St Paul’s is the remains of a 1521 church built at the top of a hill. It gives great views of the city and the ocean beyond. The church itself is also a stunning piece of history.

2. Visit a Museum:

If you only visit one museum in Malacca, make it the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum. It’s a traditional house which as been converted into a museum and the RM16 entrance fee includes a 1 hour guided tour. Tours start each hour on the hour except 12:00 and 13:00 when the museum is closed for lunch.

The old palace next to A’Famosa is another really good museum, the exterior of the building is an attraction in itself. Entrance is only RM5.

3. Pretend You’re In Europe:

Malacca is sometimes referred to as the Amsterdam of Asia, the central river with its cobbled stone walkways and ornate bridges certainly feel like Amsterdam. Enjoy the view at one of the many outdoor coffee shops or take a 45 minute cruise from the jetty at Taman Rempah. Tickets are RM15 during the week and RM21 on a weekend, boats leave every 20 minutes.

Dutch Square built in 1640 is a major tourist hotspot, (which unfortunately means that it’s busy all day long). The square is home to the oldest Catholic Church outside of Europe, the Christ Church. The whole area has a distinct European feel, there is even a windmill and a water fountain.

4. Relax (Or Not):

The 1956 Mr Universe champion was born in Malacca. There are statues of Mr Gan Boon Leong dotted about the city, the most famous one being on Jonker Walk. At the end of the road there is a gym named after him with another 4 statues outside, you can’t miss it. Entrance is RM5 per day, go in a lift a weight just to say that you have trained in the same gym as Mr Universe.

After all that weight lifting, (or even if you just sat and watched like I did), a massage is the perfect way to recharge your batteries. Wang Yan is just off Jonker Walk and offers the most amazing foot reflexology for just RM26.

5. Eat A Lot:

The weekend market runs every Fri/Sat/Sun from 18:00 till late. It takes up the whole length of Jonker walk and the road is completely closed to traffic. It gets super busy and the market is one of Malacca’s main attractions. You can buy anything from clothes to souvenirs and lots of food. The oyster stand is one of the busiest in the market, 4 huge oysters for just RM16, definitely worth standing in line for.

For the most amazing homemade ice cream go to Shong Fa’s, it’s a tiny little place that’s not even on Google maps, it’s on Jalan Hang Kasturi (just off Jonker walk). It’s certainly worth hunting out, the taste is amazing and it’s only RM1.

There are lists of small cafes dotted all around Malacca serving cheap local food, most meals start at RM6 and they are all amazing, stay away from KFC and try some proper Malaysian dishes while your here.

6. Anything Else I’ve Missed:

The floating Mosque is about a 45 minute walk from the city centre, it’s not actually floating but appears to be at high tide. It’s located on an island which is currently nothing but a massive building site (I would love to come back in 5 years to see how it all turned out). There are no shops on the way so make sure you have a bottle of water with you, there is a drinks stall in the Mosque car park once you get there.

A’Famosa is all that remains of of the 1511 built Portuguese fortress, it was mainly destroyed by the British in 1807.

Hope you found this useful.

Malacca – Malaysia (Planning a Trip)

There was so much to write about Malacca that I’ve separated it out into two posts, this one is all about planning your trip and everything you need to know, the other half is what to do once you get there, click HERE to read.

Malacca (also known as Melaka) was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2008, its old buildings, winding river and Catholic Churches give it a very European feel, they even have a windmill at Dutch Square.

How Long To Stay:

Malacca has a lot to offer, I would recommend spending 3 to 5 nights there, or longer if you plan on relaxing a bit while your there.

If you’re short on time then there are various tour companies in KL offering day trips, you won’t see everything in one day but it’s enough to glimpse the “main” attractions.

We talked to one girl in Borneo who only had time for a day trip and she only paid half the price advertised online by just showing up at the ticket counter the same morning. (But you won’t be guaranteed a seat so this may be a risky option during peak times e.g., Saturday/Sunday.)

Getting There:

Buses from Kuala Lumpur leave about 15 times per day and only take about 2 hours. We pre-booked seats on busonlineticket.com for just RM10 each. (Buses also run directly to and from Singapore, travel time is 5 hours and costs about RM35.)

Once your at the main bus station in Malacca a taxi to the centre will cost between RM20 to RM25.

You can fly to Malacca from Langkawi or Penang but only on certain days of the week, check skyscanner.net for latest prices and times.

Where To Stay:

We stayed just outside the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Hotel Sentral Melaka, rooms were decent and there was a rooftop pool (which was always empty – perfect). It was about a 15 minute walk to the main tourist centre.

Sarawak (Borneo) – Malaysia

The worlds biggest island and the land of the jungle man (the Orangutan), is shared between Malaysia and Indonesia, we only visited Sarawak which is within the Malaysian region.

I’ve included Kuching and Damai into one blog post because they are only 40 minutes apart and if your short on time, Damai can be done in one day.

Things To Do In Kuching:

Our main reason for visiting Borneo was to see the wild Orangutan’s at Semenggoh, I’ve done a separate post because there’s to much information to fit on this page, click HERE to read.

The waterfront is lit up at night and it’s the centre of evening activity in Kuching. There are daily river cruises and the government building is stunning, unfortunately it’s closed to the public.

The national museum is free to enter and really worth spending an hour of your time in. You will learn all about the history of Kuching, village life, the headhunter traditions and the Brooke era.

The textile museum is also free and even the outside is impressive. Unfortunately we arrived 10 minutes before closing so we didn’t get an in depth look at the exhibits but they looked pretty interesting.

We also have it on good authority that the Bako National Park is a “must visit”, unfortunately the day that we planned to visit, Kuching suffered from flash floods and apparently the park can be quite dangerous in heavy rain, we spent the day hiding in malls instead.

I downloaded a self guided walking tour from Malaysia-Traveler.com which as a 47 stop route which includes plenty of cat statues. It was good fun and took us about 5 hours including museum stops and a lunch stop.

The Sunday morning market at Medan Niaga Satok is about a 40 minute walk from the Kuching waterfront, or take the K7 bus. It’s massive and not touristy at all, it’s a great place to stretch your legs and watch the locals going about daily life. There are a handful of snack stalls at the back.

Things To Do In Damai:

The Sarawak Cultural Village is the main reason people visit Damai, (it can easily be done in a day trip if you don’t want to stay overnight). Entrance costs RM60/pp which I thought was quite expensive considering we’re still in Malaysia, but after seeing how amazing the place was I changed my mind, it’s actually really good value for money. The village is huge and very well maintained, there are lots of staff doing regular demonstrations. Make sure you hang around for the daily show (11:00 and 16:00). You can leave the park then re-enter with the same ticket all day.

The mountains that surround Damai are beautiful, if you have enough time to stay longer than a day, then make sure to schedule in some pool/beach time and really admire the scenery.

Cost Of Borneo:

Borneo has a really bad reputation with backpacks as being really expensive, but honestly we didn’t think it was any more expensive than the peninsula. As long as you stick to public transport and avoid the pre-organised tours you can easily do Sarawak on a shoestring budget.

Where To Eat:

Kuching – Your absolutely spoiled for choice in Kuching. For sea food lovers, the Top Spot food court is a must. It’s on top of a boring looking office block so be careful not to walk past it. It opens at 6pm and is very popular with locals and tourists. There’s also a few dozen other places along Jalan Padungan Road, all selling similar food for similar prices, a good place to go for breakfast or lunch.

Damai – There really isn’t a lot of choice here, besides eating in the hotel (expensive!), there was one small food court with about 8 different vendors, located just opposite the entrance to the cultural village. We ate at 3 different places, they were all good, and super cheap.

Getting There:

The only way to get to Malaysian Borneo from the peninsula is to fly, AirAsia offer regular and cheap flights. We paid £16 to get to Kuching from Langkawi then £29 to get back to Kuala Lumpur, both booked very last minute. Prices can be much cheaper if you plan a little further in advance.

Taxis to the city centre of Kuching from the airport are fixed at RM30 each way.

A shuttle bus leaves from the Grand Margarita to go to Damai (the cultural village) a few times per day, It was RM20 each way when we visited and left at 9:15, 10:15 and 12:15, return times are 13:15, 15:15 and 17:15. Check their website for latest prices and times.

Where To Stay:

Kuching – We stayed at the Petanak Lodge for just £15 per night. It was slightly out the way but was clean and we don’t mind a walk. There were lots of cafes locally and a laundry service about a 10 minute walk away.

Damai – The Damai Beach Resort was a welcome little bit of luxury during our time in Malaysia. The breakfast was amazing and I’m sure we both put weight on while staying here. Definitely went over budget though at £38 per night. (There is one hostel in Damai, close to the cultural village if you don’t want to blow all your budget on a hotel.)

Wild Orangutans in Kuching – Malaysia

Most tourists visit Borneo in the hope of seeing at least 1 wild Orangutan. But Borneo has a bad reputation with backpackers as being really expensive compared to the rest of Malaysia.

But as long as you avoid the pre organised day trips and use public transport, Borneo can be done on a very tight budget. We didn’t spend any more in Borneo than we did in the peninsula.

The average day trip to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre costs around RM100 to RM120, but using public transport we did it for just RM18!

Getting There:

The K6 departs from Masjid Street in Kuching twice per day, 07:20 and 13:00 to coincide with feeding times at the centre. It waits outside then travels back to Kuching at 11:05 and 16:05. It takes about an hour and costs RM4 each way.

The Centre:

Feeding times are at 09:00 and 15:00. Tickets cost RM10 and can be used for the morning and afternoon feeding times if you decide to stay for both.

The park will close in between feedings so you will need to entertain yourself from 10:00 to 14:00. There is a small village where you can get some lunch a short walk away.

From the main entrance to the feeling area is about a 20 minute walk. Staff will remind you 30 minutes before the bus leaves for Kuching.

The Animals:

And now for the important bit, the monkeys! There are currently 22 orangutans living in the jungle surrounding the centre.

They are wild animals so their behaviour cannot be predicted, your not guaranteed to see anything at the wildlife centre. They will only come if there hungry and can’t find food in the jungle. It’s kind of like a soup kitchen for orangutan’s.

We visited during fruiting season when chances to see the animals were even more slim, however I vowed to visit the centre every single day until I saw at least one in its natural habitat.

We were really lucky and saw 5 during our very first visit, including a baby!

Seeing how effortlessly they move through the trees took my breath away, one minute they were there and the next minute they were gone. Our day at Semenggoh will stay with me forever.

Langkawi – Malaysia

Malaysian nationals flock to the island of Langkawi for their summer holidays, the island is duty free making it a cheap destination.

Things To Do:

Langkawi is famous for its long perfect beaches and calm warm waters. The beach at Pantai Cenang is lively both day and night. Water sports during the day and beach bars with fire dancers at night. The beach does get busy but if you head to the north end close to the Meritus Resort it’s practically empty.

When it’s raining (which it did a lot during our stay) the aquarium is a really good place to spend a few hours. It’s massive and tickets cost RM46.

The Cable Car is the steepest in the world and is Langkawi’s number one attraction, it’s easy to see why. The views from the top are beautiful, especially on a clear day (it’s a bit of a waste if it’s a really cloudy day). Tickets cost RM55 and include entry to the 3D museum while your waiting for your time slot. The museum was actually really good fun. Once your at the top you can pay an extra RM5 to walk to the sky bridge.

500m from the cable car taxi stand is a massive waterfall, ask your driver to point you in the right direction. You will know your going the right way because there are a few shops at the bottom of the stairs. Half way up is a turnoff for the bottom of the waterfall, and if you walk all the way to the top of the stairs you will reach the top of the waterfall, there are 7 pools at the top where swimmers can relax and take in the breathtaking view.

If you come to Langkawi by boat you will arrive at the Kuah Jetty where a massive eagle greets passengers. If you come by plane then you will need to take a taxi to Kuah. The eagle is the national bird of Langkawi, except to see quite a few flying about during your visit. After taking plenty of selfies you can relax in the shade at the fairytale park next door. There are sculptures throughout the park that represent local legends, and they have plaques next to them so that visitors can read the whole story.

On a Thursday night there is a street market (close to the rainbow lodge), we always eat at local markets, they are the best and cheapest place to try local food, there also really good for people watching.

Day Trips To Take:

The cheapest and most popular day trip is a 4 hour island hopping cruise, there are so many different companies offering the same thing that I lost count. You can go morning or afternoon and it costs RM30 including hotel pick up. The first stop is the island of the pregnant maiden, it’s rumoured that any female who swims in the lake will be pregnant within 1 year. The second stop is to feed the eagles, fish are thrown from the boat to attract hundreds of the magnificent creatures. The third and final stop is on a tropical beach.

The second tour I would recommend is the Mangrove Tour, again, there are various stalls along the main road where you can book your tour the night before. We booked with Baron for RM90 including hotel pick up. It’s a full day tour with 9 different stops, including the famous Kilim Geopark sign and lunch at a floating restaurant. This was my favourite of our 10 days in Langkawi.

Getting Around:

There aren’t any buses on Langkawi but all the taxis are fixed price and are displayed on a board at the taxi stand. Example prices (one way) from Pantai Cenang are:

Cable Car – RM35

Airport – RM25

Kuah – RM30

Getting There:

We flew to Langkawi from Penang, the flight was only 35 minutes and cost £20 each. The ferry from George Town is quite a bit cheaper but takes longer and I’d heard that it can be a very rough crossing on a bad day. I’d been really sea sick in the Maldives and wasn’t ready to brave another long boat journey.

Where To Stay:

The majority of activity is located in the Pantai Cenang area, we stayed in a bungalow at the rainbow lodge, a 5 minute walk behind the main strip and 10 minutes to the beach. The bungalow had everything we needed to feel like home and we would certainly stay there again. We paid £28/night on Hotels.com.

Anything Else:

The whole island is duty free which means that you can pick up some great bargains. There are lots of blogs that mention the duty free stores in the “top things to do in Langkawi”. But really, they all sell exactly the same thing and are very similar in price, don’t waste time going from shop to shop. The island is just too beautiful to waste your time here shopping. (But that’s just my opinion 😀.)

George Town (Penang) – Malaysia

Officially an UNESCO world heritage site, the area of George Town in Penang is a tourist paradise. It still holds all the charm that most Town start to loose as the tourists flock in.

Things To Do:

The old town is full of history and culture, make sure you pick up a leaflet from your hotels reception (or pop into another hotel) that lists all the free walking tours, they change every month. There a great way to learn about the city, we really enjoyed the night time Little India tour.

Penang Hill can be easily accessed by taking the 204 bus, get off at the very last stop. A return ticket to the top of the hill costs RM60, or you can travel 1 way for RM30 then walk back down, although the stairs are on the other side of the hill, you will need to take a different bus back to George Town. On a clear day the views are amazing, you can see the whole island and all the way to Butterworth.

Fort Cornwallis is a traditional British Fort, it has good views over the sea. It costs RM20 and you only need about an hour there to really appreciate it.

The reclining Buddha at Wat Chaiyamangalarom is supposedly the biggest in the world. The Buddha itself is very impressive but so is the outside of the temple. On a sunny day the light reflects beautifully off the mirrored dragons that guard the entrance.

Penang was a really good place to relax after weeks of traveling. The massages were cheaper than anywhere else in Malaysia and Sean got a wet shave for just RM5 (quoted RM25 in Langkawi). After our pampering we spent an evening ten pin bowling at the Praning Mall, was RM4 per game during happy hour.

The street art around George Town is insta-famous, wondering down all the narrow alleys counting the paintings can be great fun, especially with kids. (We don’t have kids but still had a great time seeing who could spot the most.)

Where To Eat:

As well as street art, Penang is also famous for its food, these were our favourites:

Chinese – Tai Tong

You won’t find this on TripAdvisor but it is on Google maps, located in the heart of China town. We passed this everyday and it was always full with locals, we took this a good sign and decided to try it. The prawn curry was amazing, as I’m writing this we have been traveling for 11 weeks and Sean still insists that this is in his top 3 meals so far. Prices were very reasonable.

Indian – Thali NR Sweets Cafe

We passed this during our Little India tour and decided to go back for dinner. It’s a completely vegetarian restaurant and their combo meals are perfect for trying a little bit of everything. They also sell hand made India sweets. It was really cheap, meals started at about RM7 to about RM15.

Western – Safe Rooms

This was a bit on the pricey side especially on a backpacking budget but the cream of mushroom soup was to die for and exactly what you need when craving a little taste of home.

Getting Around:

Foreigners can buy a 7 day, unlimited bus pas for RM30 (you need to present your passport) at any of the information stands at the main bus stations. Buses are regular and go to all the main tourists stops, there are also regular buses to and from the airport.

Getting There:

From the Cameron Highlands we took a bus to Butterworth Ferry terminal for RM35, from there the ferry takes you direct to George Town, it costs RM1.20. The bus makes one stop at Ipoh along the way, we took the 9am bus and got to our hotel around 3pm.

Where To Stay:

We stayed at the Apollo Inn which was perfectly located on the edge of the UNESCO world heritage site of George Town and is minutes away from the Komter bus station for easy access to the rest of Penang. Free breakfast and free afternoon tea was included daily, and the rooftop terrace was a pretty place to relax and take some photos. (£18/night on Hotels.com)

Cameron Highlands – Malaysia

The Cameron Highlands is the highest point above sea level in mainland Malaysia, the area is know for farming and it’s the only place in Malaysia where strawberries can be grown, the climate is perfect for all year round picking.

What To Do:

Obviously you can’t visit the Cameron Highlands without stopping at one (or ten) of the many many strawberry farms that make the area so famous. Apart from picking your own strawberries, the farm shops and cafes also sell strawberry flavoured treats like muffins, pancakes, milkshakes and even the Great British classic, the cream scone.

The area is also popular with hikers and walkers, the many trails around Tanah Rata offer walks of various difficulties and length, with a few waterfalls scattered along the way. Just remember to have plenty of bug repellent with you.

The night market on the Golden Hills (Sat/Sun) is the perfect place to people watch. It’s also a chance to try some amazing street food including chocolate dipped strawberries and locally produced honey. We were here 2 nights running.

The BOH tea farm and factory is one of the biggest in the world and it’s completely free to enter, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the rolling tea fields from the glass viewing deck outside the factories cafe.

The butterfly and insect farm just past Brinchang was a lot more interesting than I expected. Tickets are only RM7 and a guide will place butterflies all over you while providing interesting and entertaining facts.

Just down the road to the butterfly farm is a bee farm. It’s free to enter although you will spend a few Ringgits on honey in the gift shop on the way out. I’ve never tasted honey so good, we ate it straight from the tube!

A little further away is the Rose Garden, entry is RM4 which basically covers the upkeep of the massive garden. The smell was like nothing I’ve ever smelled before. If your passing and have 20 minutes to “stop and smell the roses” then I certainly recommend it.

It’s worth booking at least one day trip while your in the Cameron Highlands, the farm country is very spread out and the price of taxis can soon add up. A day trip can start at as little as RM25 where your guide is a glorified taxi driver and they will take you to up to 8 places per day. We used C&S Travel, the driver was great and told us lots of interesting facts while driving from one place to the next.

Getting There:

Getting to the Cameron Highlands from Kuala Lumpur couldn’t be easier, there is a direct bus 10+ times per day to Tanah Rata (the main tourist town in the Cameron highlands). Bus tickets are RM35 each way and can be pre-booked online at busonlinetickets.com. The journey takes 4 and a half hours including a 30 minute break.

Where To Stay:

We rented an apartment in the Golden Hills area, which is in between two main towns (Tanah Rata and Brinchang). The whole golden hills area is a fairly new development with lots of building work still going on. It’s a bit out the way but the whole reason for visiting the Cameron highlands is to go walking after all.

What Else You Need To Know:

Unlike the rest of Malaysia, the Cameron highlands gets really cold, especially at night. We are from the north of England and still thought our apartment was uncomfortably cold. Make sure to pack some warm clothes.

Also, it rains almost every single day. Pack waterproof clothes and an umbrella. The highlands are still just as pretty in the rain.