Malaysia Travel Guide & Travel Tips

posted in: Asia, Beaches, Cities, Culture, Heritage, Malaysia, Nature | 109
First Published on November 4, 2017

Selamat Datang! Meaning …Welcome in Malay.  A greeting to welcome you to a country of diverse landscapes, culture, nature and beaches. Malaysia in South East Asia, is one popular tourist destination owing to the varied choices it offers to its travelers. Every now and then, I keep getting queries to this destination and the most common ones include how to get visas, what currency to carry, which are the best flights, where should one stay and so on. I thought the best way to help everyone is to quickly address 10 of these common questions in the form of a Malaysia Travel Guide. This should help you take care of all your planning to this lovely country. So, let’s get started.

Versatile Malaysia for every traveler - Malaysia Travel Guide
Versatile Malaysia for every traveler – Malaysia Travel Guide
My Malaysia Travel Guide with 10 Travel Tips

Where are the best places to visit in Malaysia?

Malaysia is one versatile destination. From pristine beaches to lush green rainforests, from vibrant city life to stunning heritage towns, Malaysia has something for everyone. Depending on your interests, the first thing that is advised is picking destinations within Malaysia that suit your travel needs. Here are a few recommendations in Malaysia:

  • Kuala Lumpur – For its city life, shopping and of course, the famous Petronas Tower. Discover the things to do in Kuala Lumpur. With this as your base, you can do plenty of day tours from Kuala Lumpur.
  • Penang – A UNESCO heritage city full of art and culture and pristine beaches. Also, a foodie’s paradise.
  • Langkawi – An island in the North of Malaysia, this place is quite popular with honeymooners who are looking for a beach experience. From water sports to hikes, this island has it all.
  • Selangor – A cultural and city experience where you do not just get to visit historic Batu caves but also, shop till you drop. And then, of course, one cannot miss the thrilling amusement part at Genting.
  • Sabah or Sarawak – A tryst with the rainforests of the famous Borneo islands. Don’t miss meeting the Orangutans at their homes here.
  • Taman Negara – From waterfalls to wildlife, coupled with treks & other adventure activities, this national park of Malaysia is one refreshing experience
  • Melaka – Yet another UNESCO heritage city with its Peranakan roots. There is just plenty to see & experience in this historical and cultural destination
  • Perhentian Islands – A water lover’s paradise, Perhentian Islands will delight you with its beautiful beaches and amazing scuba and snorkeling spots.
Batu Ferringhi Beach in Penang, Malaysia Travel Guide
Batu Ferringhi Beach in Penang, Malaysia Travel Guide

Adding any more places here ( and there are plenty that I could add) would make this a completely different post. Hence, I will just stop here. I am sure you have got a flavor of the place now and with your own research, will be able to shortlist your favorites for your own Malaysian trip. Based on this, you should be able to get your duration of stay sorted out. Most of these places are fairly well connected by road, flights or trains. Hence, access to them would not be so much of an issue.

Malaysia Travel Guide to Booking flights

Malaysia Travel Guide to booking flights for Malaysia
Malaysia Travel Guide to booking flights for Malaysia

There are tons of flights from all the major cities of the world to Kuala Lumpur. In addition to the capital city, the other major cities like Penang are also, well connected internationally. You will find plenty of airlines when you look up the internet for your flights. Depending on your budget, you can pick the full-service ones like Malaysian Airlines or the budget ones like Air Asia. One recommended airlines that I have used is Malindo Air.

A Full Service Airline with affordable rates - Malindo Air
A Full Service Airline with affordable rates – Malindo Air

Their airfares are quite low but there is no compromise on their services which are pretty much what a full-service airline gives you. There is no extra charge for your check-in baggage, you get Free WiFi and meals on board. In addition to that, they have some good internal flights that can allow you a seamless travel within Malaysia.

As the norm goes, an early booking always helps get you better fares. So, try and do so quickly. Keep an eye out for those deals. Try and book all your internal flights too as early as you can.

Alternately, you can even do Malaysia on a cruise.

Booking your stay

The peak tourist seasons in Malaysia are during the month of Ramazan and from December to January. This is when the accommodation rates are on a high and in smaller towns, completely sold out. Even the budget accommodations will be priced higher. If you choose to travel during these months, it is best that you book well in advance.

Golden Sands Resort by the Beach in Penang
Golden Sands Resort by the Beach in Penang

Most of the key towns and cities like Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Langkawi will have a range of accommodation types for you to choose from. You can go for beach resorts or luxury hotels to budget hotels and even home stays. The smaller places like Perhentian Islands will have limited stay options. All these hotels in Malaysia can be booked online.

Malaysia Travel Guide to Hotels - Hotel Neo+
Malaysia Travel Guide to Hotels – Hotel Neo+ central to Georgetown, Penang

Remember to check the proximity of your hotel to the places of interest in your chosen destination. To give you an example – in Penang, we stayed in Hotel Neo+ which was right in the heart of George Town. This made it easier for me to explore the heritage town at my convenience without having to spend too much on internal transport. Everything was just walkable from here.

Malaysia Travel Guide to Hotels - Hotel Lexis Suites in Penang
Malaysia Travel Guide to Hotels – Hotel Lexis Suites in Penang, A Destination Hotel

On the other hand, during the same trip, I even had the pleasure of being hosted by Lexis Suites which is located at the other end of Penang Island, closer to the Airport. This seemed perfect for a family or a honeymoon traveler for it is a destination within itself. It has all the possible facilities under one roof and is right next to a beach. Why it even had a private pool in each suite 😉  However, a travel to George Town would be half an hour on the road.

Thus, depending on your purpose in each destination, remember to check the hotel and its location. It is imperative that the stay is booked before you get onto your paperwork as one of the pre-requisites for your Visas is a copy of your accommodation details,

Malaysia Travel Guide to tourist visas

The most common question that I get is “How do I get a tourist Visa for Malaysia?” The answer to this is one of my main points in this Malaysia Travel Guide for there is a lot of conflicting information on the Internet regarding it. Malaysia has been encouraging a lot of tourism and for that purpose, they have made the process of getting visas easier. Citizens of quite a few nations can avail e-visa by applying online. Malaysia visa for Indians falls in the online category. You can check your eligibility for a Malaysia Visa through the link provided.

Malaysia Travel Guide: e-Visa and e-NTRI visas for Indians in Malaysia
Malaysia Travel Guide: e-Visa and e-NTRI visas for Indians in Malaysia

There are two types of visa – one called e-visa and the other called e-NTRI visa. The first allows you multiple entries for one month for the purpose of tourism while the 2nd one allows you a single entry for a maximum period of 15 days. e-Visa takes around 48 hours to be confirmed while e-NTRI visas are instantaneous. The cost of each is different. You can even apply for your visa through the same site.

Remember that you need to upload a copy of your itinerary in the form of air-tickets to and from Malaysia as well as your hotel bookings when in Malaysia. On arrival, you may also, have to furnish proof of cash that would be required for your stay.

Malaysian Currency Tips

Malaysia Travel Guide to Currency
Malaysia Travel Guide to Currency

I would not call Malaysia inexpensive nor would I say that it is extremely costly. Most places in the big cities accept international cards. However, if you are looking at smaller towns and local street shopping or food, you will need to carry cash. Malaysian Ringgit is the official currency of the country and most people prefer to deal only with that. It is thus, advisable to carry this form as against USD or your local currency. You can exchange the same in your home country or avail services at the key airports in Malaysia. You can even try the currency changing counters in the larger cities for they are easily available.

Malaysia Travel Guide for Packing

Through the year, the weather is fairly sunny. The rainy season is different for different parts of the country. January to March it rains a lot on the East coast, while it is the same from April to May on the West Coast. Note these, especially if you are headed for water sports. As suggested by me in my Malaysia Travel Guide, you must check the climate of the place before you head there for your clothes for the country would depend on the same.

Malaysia Travel Guide - Malaysia an Ethnic Mix
Malaysia Travel Guide – Being Sensitive to the places you may visit in Malaysia

Malaysia is a mix of ethnic cultures – predominantly Chinese, Muslim and Indian Hindus. Given that, they are fairly tolerant in this part of the world as far as dressing goes. However, if you are visiting any religious temples or mosques, please ensure you are dressed modestly – no shorts, no bare shoulders etc.

Always carry the Universal charger. A bug spray or a mosquito repellent would also, be advised, especially if you are headed to the rainforests.

Getting a local SIM in Malaysia

Frankly, I really did not feel the need for a SIM in Malaysia for every place in the bigger cities like Penang and Kuala Lumpur has WiFi available for you to use. However, if you still need one, there are plenty of companies offering your voice and data plans at fairly reasonable You can pick these up at the airport itself for there are several counters as you exit the same. Or you can even pick it from the town. The rates are fairly standard. Here are the Celcom rates, who as I understand, has got the best network coverage in Malaysia.

Malaysia Travel Guide on Local SIM
Malaysia Travel Guide on Local SIM

Remember to show your passport as your documentation for your connection. The top-up for the prepaid SIMs is readily available everywhere in Malaysia.

Getting around in Malaysia

Malaysia Travel Guide to local Transport - Trishaws a convenient option
Malaysia Travel Guide to local Transport – Trishaws a convenient option

Cabs are easily available in Malaysia, including Uber services. Places like Penang also, have Trishaws that are perfect for those cultural outings in heritage towns. Alternately, hiring bikes and bicycles in these towns and beach destinations could be an economical and exciting option too. They are easily available on the Internet or you can check your hotel for the same.

Malaysia Travel Guide to local Transport - Hiring Bicycles
Malaysia Travel Guide to local Transport – Hiring Bicycles

The train and the monorail network in Kuala Lumpur is another economical and convenient option to get around the city. You can even avail of a day pass option for your sightseeing expedition. And yes, of course, the buses within the cities can definitely help.

Malaysia Travel Guide to Food

Malaysia Travel Guide to Food
Malaysia Travel Guide to Food

If you are a food, especially a sea food lover, you will love Malaysia. Places like Penang are known for its street food. You will find a beautiful fusion of Indian and Chinese flavors as well as authentic Malaysian food. Nasi Lemak and Nasi Goreng are two regular rice dishes that you can find almost everywhere. It is not surprising to find a meal laid out for you on a Banana Leaf, just the way you would find in South India.

Malaysia Travel Guide to Food: Eating on a banana leaf is common in Malaysia
Malaysia Travel Guide to Food: Eating on a banana leaf is common in Malaysia

Durian is one fruit that is very popular here. From Durian chocolates to Durian coffee, you can take a pick to try out what works for me. For me, the fruit itself was good. I did not really relish it in any other form. Also, watch out for the freshly pressed drinks – like this one that I had – Guava Dragon Fruit and Orange – Truly Yummy.

Malaysia Travel Guide to Food - Cold Pressed Fresh Juice
Malaysia Travel Guide to Food – Cold Pressed Fresh Juice

On the whole, whether you are a vegan, vegetarian or a hardcore meat lover, you are bound to find something that works for you in Malaysia. There are plenty of fast food restaurants here in case these don’t agree with you. You can always be safe with a slice of Pizza or a burger from McDonalds.

Malaysia Travel Guide for Shopping

The one thing every guide or every local will lure you to is Shopping. From clothes to electronics to cute souvenirs, you can really shop till you drop. Check out the Batik art here in case you are looking for authentic local stuff. You should also, try out the local chocolates here as well as the local coffee powders for they really have some authentic and novel flavors to offer.

Vibrant markets of Penang
Vibrant markets of Penang

There are a lot of flea markets and night markets in places like Penang that you might want to explore. If you are shopping on the streets, as the rule goes, bargain hard. For the branded stuff, it is best to stick to the reputed malls.

Ah well, that is it from me on this Malaysia Travel Guide. From the post itself, you know that this is one destination where time is going to be really short for there is just so much to do. So, plan smart and optimize it all to have a great time in Malaysia, Truly Asia as they say! 😉

Malaysia Travel Guide

 Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small   commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.

Share the Thrill of Travel

109 Responses

  1. Fly With Shaunak

    Excellent Ami. I read your previous post on Penang and was expecting this one, for a wholesome info. The cover picture is one of the best I have seen. Where next ? 🙂

  2. Rohan

    Hey! Thanks for this guide. I’m going to Malaysia soon and this has given me a really clear idea of where I should go. I’m thinking one day in Kuala Lumpur before hopping over to the beaches and islands for a week or two. Whatcha think?


  3. Adventographer

    Excellent post Ami! As someone who’s not yet been to Malaysia you’ve covered all the bases and given me tons of great info! Now if only I could win the lottery!

    • Ami

      Ah well, don’t we all wish that. Though I think you might just find Malaysia affordable. Hope you get there soon

  4. Ryan Biddulph

    Excellent guide Ami. We lived in Penang for a month and have hung out in KL for a few days 3 times or so. Lovely place. The food is amazing and the people are friendly. I dig the melting pot type nature of the land too; quite unlike any other land in SE Asia in that regard.


    • Ami

      Thanks Ryan. You got that right about the vibrant and lovely culture here. All in all, Malaysia is a delight

  5. Vibeke Johannessen

    Such a great guide. i have only been to the airport in Kuala Lumpur. Golden Sands resort looks amazing. The food looks amazing. It is so good you included transportation tips as everyone wouldn’t know that it is uber there.I hope I get to visit Malaysia soon. Thank you for this great guide 😀 Will save it for later 😀

  6. Noel Cabacungan

    Kuala Lumpur and Penang are the two cities I’ll be visiting should my travel plans proceed. I have a friend in Penang and hopefully will still be there until this trip materializes.

    Penang, I think, is the right destination should you want to do culture trips and the cultural heritage sites.

    • Ami

      You got that right Noel. Penang is perfect for those heritage and cultural experiences. Have a good time and do go soon. It’s fun!

  7. Alexander Popkov

    Good overview! Probably everything you need to know before the trip.

  8. Paige

    These are really great tips. I was in KL for a week a couple of years ago, but I’d love to go to some of the other places you mentioned, like Penang. I agree that Malaysia is sorta in the middle ground of budget. More than the rest of SE Asia but definitely cheaper than the US – I guess it also depends on how you love it up when you’re there.

    • Ami

      Thanks Paige. You should definitely try out other places in Malaysia. I am sure you will love those.

  9. Yamagishi Ann

    Me and husband are reluctant to go to Malaysia. We were once tricked by Malaysia living peeps (thank God their scheme did not went well with us, so they did not take something from us) Anyway, this post made me think twice, for travel. Thanks!

    • Ami

      Ooh I am so sorry to hear that. But this is the case anywhere in the world. Got to be aware of people around you. I would still recommend that you take a chance on Malaysia. It is beautiful

  10. neha

    Another great country guide Ami. I like the way you have recommended the places in Malaysia. That is the first thing to know when visiting a new country – places which one would like to include in their list. Often we are not aware of the geography of the place and need to know what all sites can be visited there and in what order. Post that comes the other details like visa,currency and all. Great to see you have addressed them all!

    • Ami

      Thanks Neha. Happy that the guide has been useful. And I hope it answers a lot of general queries. Cheers

  11. Tara

    Lovely! You’ve covered just about everything I would have asked. Good to know that you need an itinerary. Based on your descriptions, I think I would enjoy the Borneo Islands most – I’d love to see orangutans.

  12. Louiela

    Very concise guide… I am only familiar with Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Langkawi, but there’s still much to see…
    Hope I can tell myself son, “Selamat Datang…”

  13. Pooja Thakur

    Another great guide of a great destination. Though I have never thought about visiting Malaysia but this concise post has covered almost all the things and raised my curiosity level for Malaysia.

  14. Sandy N Vyjay

    The Malaysia Travel Guide is really exhaustive and packs in a lot of information. A veritable treasure house of information and very useful to anyone embarking on an exploration of Malaysia. I love the fact that you have covered all required facets of traveling to Malaysia.

  15. amit

    Malaysia is a part of SE. Asia that I am yet to visit which is strange as I’ve done the countries around it and even lived in Bali for a while. However I love how you have broken up the different areas and cities to what kind of places they are. You’ve really packed quite a punch through this post 😀 The Perhentian Islands would be amazing for me right now haha

    • Ami

      Thanks Amit. I also, missed Malaysia for the longest time but am glad that I finally got around to it. Perhentian Islands and Sabah are high on my list too. 🙂 Fingers crossed.

  16. Jim Jones

    Thank you for demystifying Malaysia! I’ve always heard it’s a beautiful place to visit but didn’t know anything about where to go. Your guide is filled with very useful and practical information…and you may have just convinced me to plan a trip there someday soon!

  17. Mel Butler

    I love Malaysia and I always stop their on my way to Australia to see my friends, who are like my family. You have a good list here and I am definitely going to check out few next time that I am there like hiring a bike I have not thought of doing there before. Also Buta beach looks lovely definitely adding that too.

    • Ami

      You are really lucky to be able to go again. I know I would too want to. Well, have fun and thanks for stopping by Mel.

  18. 100cobbledroads

    Hopping onto one of those neon green bikes and cycling over to a lovely local restaurant for a flavourful Nasi Goreng….that’s the vision in my mind after reading your post. Comprehensive write-up with all the tips and advice for a first trip to Malaysia.

  19. OurSweetAdventures

    This is an amazing travel guide. You have ticked everything on the list that someone could ask about. I like that the visa process seems super quick. I also like how much there is to do on all the different cities.

  20. PackYourBaguios

    What a very thorough post on Malaysia! The idea of needing a visa and the paperwork involved always stressing me out, but your information makes it seem quite doable. Pinned this for later!

  21. James

    There is so much to do in Malaysia and places to visit. It’s incredible that some of their cities are UNESCO sites. I’ve heard about the food in Malaysia, a foodie heaven!

  22. kjaroundtheworld

    This is such a well put together travel guide. You’re definitely tempting me to book a trip to Malaysia right now. The food also look amazingly delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Anushka Aggarwal

    I am reading your post while I am in Malaysia :), I am really love this country. These is so much to see and do I just reached Penang today and I am already in love with this city 🙂

  24. Johna

    Great tips! I’ve never been to Malaysia but I have a few friends that loveeee it there. Will definitely take note of your tips here.

  25. David

    What a fantastic guide! There are so many places within Malaysia that I want to visit, this is bookmarked!

  26. Malith Fernando

    I’ve been to Malaysia before, it has been another great country that I have visited in Asia. Definitely, your tips will be really helpful for a person who visits for the first time. Your blog posts shows that you have put a reasonable effort to make your photos really exciting and helpful. Ultimately, you have made a comprehensive itinerary which anyone would love to read.

    • Ami

      Thank you Malith for the kind appreciation and encouragement. I am glad that you think that the guide will be useful for that was the intent. Happy that it has worked.