What can I expect from Malaysia?
Malaysia is one of Kirstie’s favorite countries. It has everything you need in one: cities, landscapes, beaches, wildlife, and more! Traveling throughout SE Asia we knew we wanted to go to Singapore but we had to make our way through Malaysia first. We didn’t know much about it, but thought we could at least stop through Kuala Lumpur along the way. Little did we know Christine had run out of page in her passport which stranded in Malaysia for 4 weeks until we could get her a new passport. At first we thought this was an extremely burdening and a worrisome situation, however unexpected situations like this happen sometimes when traveling and you have to make the best of it. We decided to spend our 4 weeks by traveling all throughout Malaysia even having no real idea what the country had to offer. This was one of the best decisions we could have made!
In our opinion, Malaysia is extremely underrated within the world of tourism. Most people skip it completely or don’t even consider traveling here as they go to Thailand or Singapore instead. In the larger cities like Kuala Lumpur it felt like the melting pot of SE Asia with all different cultures and religions yet everyone living together peacefully. One thing to note however, is that if you are looking for a party vacation, Malaysia is not for you. Malaysia is a Muslim country which means alcohol is frowned upon country wide. In order to deter people from drinking here they have raised the prices of any alcoholic beverage extremely high. If you are looking for a more adventurous and sight seeing trip then it more the place for you. We felt very safe and welcomed traveling here and we would recommend it to add it to your list!
Top Things to do in Malaysia:
1. Explore the city of Kuala Lumpur
2. Scuba Diving in Semporna
3. Island Hopping
4. Graffiti scavenging in George Town
5. Wildlife encounters in Borneo
6. Batu Caves
Typical costs for Malaysia:
Visa. You do not need a visa as a US citizen if you are visiting under 90 days. To enter Malaysia you will need at least one blank page for your stamp in your passport though.
Accommodation. Accomodation in Malaysia was slightly more pricey than other places we visited and the standards were pretty slim. If you are looking at a hostel you will pay up $8-$13 a night and for a hotel expect to pay more than $25-$20
Food. Food is one of the best things Malaysia has to offer. You can find street food for extremely cheap and even find most restaurants or food markets to be very affordable as well. On a budget you can pay as little as $6 per day in meals.
Transportation. In the more popular areas such as Kuala Lumpur you can find grab just about anywhere for a fair price. The buses are also a very cheap and quick way to go here. When traveling throughout the country you can find very fair local prices with the buses and they are typically in decent conditions comparably to other transportation options in SE Asia. On average you can pay $3 for local transportation and $13-$15 in between cities.
Excursions. We found that the excursions in Malaysia were a little more expensive. Being that Malaysia was more developed than we expected it means there is more tourism from neighboring countries. This makes the excursions slightly more expensive.
Cleanliness. Wow! Kuala Lumpur ended up being a favorite city for us as it reminded us of New York City only MUCH cleaner. Comparable to other countries in SE Asia, Malaysia is known for its excellent hygiene, good medical care, and sanitary food.
Suggested daily budget- On Average $ 25-30 per day.
Money Saving Tips
1. Eat at the Food Hawker Stands. The local food/restaurants in Malaysia is mind blowingly cheap and DELICIOUS.
2. Take public transportation… its clean and efficient and way cheaper!
3. Avoid Alcohol. Malaysia is a Muslim country therefore alcohol is widely frowned upon. Drinking in Malaysia will be extremely expensive in order to deter you from it.
Guide to Traveling Malaysia
Our route: There are quite a few ways you can get to Malaysia. The easiest and most frequent route is to fly in to Kuala Lumpur. It is an aiport hub with many flights coming in/out daily from all over the world. From here we took a bus all the way north to Penang and the Langkawi Islands. Once back to Kuala Lumpur we took a day trip to Putrajaya (you don’t need much more time there than that) and then down to Melaka. From Melaka it is easy to get to Singapore by bus.
Currency: MYR or Malaysian Ringgit (~1 Ringgit = 0.23 USD)
Religion and Culture: Malaysia is extremely multicultural, but predominately Islam. Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and traditional Chinese religions are a huge factor influence here as well.
Language: Malay is the national language in Malaysia. Most people also speak English here.
What to Wear: Being a Muslim country, the fashion is typically more conservative. For both men and women exposing a lot of skin is frowned upon. However, in the more populous and diverse cities or on the beach you will find more liberal and laid back attire.
Seasonality: Malaysia is typically has tropical weather with high and humid temperatures year round. You can expect weather to be anywhere from 21-32 Degrees Celsius. The beaches are in season nearly year round. There are two monsoon seasons though that last from May-September and October- March. Dry season is from December to February.
About the food: Try it all you will not be disappointed. The food here is a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian ingredients and dishes all equally delicious. Christine and I think Malaysian food is in the top if not the very best of any country we have been to.
The Uncomfortable Side: LGBT lifetsyle is still widely frowned upon. Please see more in Purple Book section below.
1. Kuala Lumpur- the melting pot of SE Asia. Don't forget to check out the massive mall.
2.Penang/ George Town- do a scavenger hunt of the graffiti through town.
3. Perhentian Islands/ Lankawi Islands- some of the top islands in all of SE Asia.
4. Batu Caves- rainbow stairs, a large golden statue, monkeys, and a cave...what else do you need?
The Purple Diaries
Malaysia ticked off many boxes of perfection for us during our time there. The only issue was that it isn’t exactly LGBT friendly. LGBT lifestyle is still very frowned upon and completely dismissed by the government. Even Malaysia’s tourism minister says there are absolutely no gay people in Malaysia. Which, of course, we all know is false but it shows the lack of acceptance. Many people within the LGBT community in Malaysia have expressed their fear of coming out or their negative experiences from their peers. From our personal perspective we fortunately never had an issue as a lesbian couple. If there were nasty looks we didn’t see them, but you feel that the energy is different here and we were less obvious about being a couple when in public. This is a religious country so we wanted to be as respectful and non offensive as possible. With this said we think LGBT members can and should travel in Malaysia just stay aware.