Is Malaysia on your travel list? If not, it probably should be. Cool architecture, tons of street art, sprawling green highlands with tea plantations and plenty of great beaches and islands for swimming, diving, and sunbathing. Malaysia is a great choice for a warm-destination getaway. But, just how much does it cost to go to Malaysia? Read on to find out.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to suggest spending 2 weeks, 14 days and 14 nights, in Malaysia so you can get in a good mix of beach and city. Please note that this guide is based on the costs for a single person. If you are travelling as a couple, make sure to double these estimates (except for hotels).
|Food and drink
The above estimate is in American dollars, so please use XE.com to find out the average costs in your home country.
If you’re Canadian, you may want to consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada to help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the American Express Platinum Card gives you a generous welcome bonus that’s often worth more than $900 (potentially more if you transfer your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy). There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card that has no foreign transaction fees, and it comes with airport lounge access.
Flights to Malaysia from North America are long and often involve a couple of connections, especially if you are flying from the East Coast. Malaysia is also a year-round destination so while you can occasionally find seat sales, there aren’t really any off-season deals to take advantage of. For a roundtrip flight from North America to Malaysia, expect to pay about $1,000.
Insider tip: Southeast Asia has several major airport hubs that are more popular than Kuala Lumpur and, therefore, may be cheaper to fly into and then find a connecting flight. If you are finding flights to Kuala Lumpur pricey, take a look at Bangkok or Singapore as well. From either of those airports, you can easily find a fast and cheap flight to Malaysia.
As with all destinations, accommodation is an area in which you can really splurge, or really save. If you are a budget backpacker, you’ll have no problem finding some great hostels offering a bed in a dorm for $10 or less. Of course, Malaysia also has some stunning five-star hotels and resorts as well if you are looking to spoil yourself.
For the purpose of this article, I’ve budgeted accommodation costs to match up with mid-range hotels. Just know that you can lower (or raise) it significantly.
For those looking for some recommendations, consider the following:
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. Americans should strongly consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card since you can earn up to 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and $300 back at U.S. restaurants as a welcome bonus.
Canadians should consider the Marriott Bonvoy American Express, which gives you up to 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. That’s enough points for a few free nights at some hotels, which could easily have a value of over $500.
When it comes to local transportation there’s a difference between the cheapest option and the fastest option, especially when it comes to travelling around the country.
Within the cities themselves, it’s easy enough to make use of local transit. Kuala Lumpur has an excellent rail system and George Town has a free bus that makes the tourist circuit. Taxis and tricycles are other popular methods of transit within cities, but they are more expensive and do require haggling (or in the case of taxis, enforcing meter use) ahead of time.
Getting around the country is where you probably want to plan ahead. The fastest way to get around Malaysia is by flying, but it’s also the most expensive. That being said, if you book in advance you can typically get some pretty cheap flights; as low as $15 per person (not including luggage). Even if you don’t book in advance, it might still be worth a look. Southeast Asia is known for its cheap airfare, especially when it comes to domestic flights.
If time isn’t a concern or if you are more interested in the experience of actually travelling around the country, then you can rely on local trains and buses. These journeys can be quite lengthy, but you may enjoy the journey, the scenery, and the ability to mix more with the locals. These journeys usually cost around $10 for the longer routes.
Attractions are one of the categories where you can really cut down your budget, or, bump it up. If you are an adventure seeker looking to do lots of scuba diving, then you’re going to need to allocate significantly more to your budget than you would if you just prefer to sight-see.
However, even if you’re more into sunbathing than scuba diving you’ll probably still want to do visit some attractions in Malaysia. I recommend booking your tickets in advance via Klook as you can sometimes get a discount and skip the lines when you arrive. Here are some of the most popular attractions:
- PETRONAS Twin Towers
- Aquaria KLCC
- Sunway Lagoon
- Lost World of Tambun
- Langkawi island hopping boat tour
- Genting Highlands and Batu Caves day tour
For non-adventure enthusiasts, I recommend budgeting about $150 for attractions and activities. If you do plan on doing some diving, you’ll probably need to add a couple hundred more.
Food and drink
Buying local food and drink is one of the easiest ways to keep costs low in Malaysia. Don’t worry though, Malaysian food is pretty good too. As with other destinations across SE Asia, the best food is often the street food. Conveniently, this is also normally the cheapest option as well. Just be smart about it; if you see a bunch of meat sitting out in the heat, don’t go there. Stick with the spots that you see the locals going to. Western food can be found pretty easily as well, but will often cost at least double (usually more) than what you would pay for the local fare.
In terms of drinks, you will need to buy drinking water. Tap water in Malaysia is not safe to drink. Be sure to also try the fresh fruit juices (significantly cheaper than what you would pay at home). Do be cautious of the ice, however, as it can be contaminated.
On average, you can expect to spend the following on food:
- Breakfast – $5
- Lunch – $10
- Dinner – $15
That’s $30 a day, but it’s easy to spend less if you stick to just local food. Another thing to keep in mind is where you eat. If you are staying at a resort on the beach or dining in a hotel rooftop, what you order (local fare or not) will be more expensive. I’m not saying don’t eat at these places, just be aware that you will be paying more than you have to.
Whether you plan on doing a lot of shopping in Malaysia or not, it’s always a good idea to have a little extra room in your budget for random spending. You may get overcharged at some point, need a little extra cash for a tip, have to buy a ticket that you weren’t expecting, etc. You also may find that you spend more on drinking water- Malaysia gets really hot. Little costs like these always seem to pop up while travelling through this part of the world, so I recommend allocating at least an extra $100 for these types of things.
So, how much does it cost to go to Malaysia? For 2 weeks I estimate that you will need to budget about $2,520 per person. While Malaysia isn’t quite as cheap as Vietnam, Thailand or other parts of Southeast Asia, you’ll find that a vacation here can be very affordable and, if you follow some of the tips I’ve listed in this article, you can cut down my estimates even more.