- Travel Topics
We spent an average of $34 each per day in Malaysia over the course of 45 days. Here is a collection of our impressions, travel tips, and the cost break down.
We were pretty disappointed with Kuala Lumpur. Expectations were high and we just found ourselves in a hot muggy, un-walkable city that seemed to be under construction. We didn’t find the city center to be that appealing and weren’t really impressed by the sites. The food is delicious though, so I can’t complain about that. If you’re heading to KL focus more of your efforts on finding the local food spots and this could make your time there more enjoyable.
We rented an apartment in Penang to get some work done and start some projects, so that’s why we spent so long there. The island itself is fairly nice, but the beaches don’t have those alluring tropical paradise look. The sand isn’t that nice and the water isn’t clear. This isn’t the perfect island for a dream beach getaway. The food here is incredible though. Penang is listed as one of the top street food cities in the world and the UNESCO heritage area of Georgetown is filled to the brim with delicious cafes, street stalls, restaurants and hawker center.
Would we do it the same way?
Our main reason for going to Malaysia was to lay low and get some work done and that’s exactly what we did. We didn’t do much sightseeing and that was just fine for us. If we were here as tourists we would have spent a few days in Kuala Lumpur and a few in Penang before heading elsewhere to explore the rest of the country.
Before getting to Malaysia our impression from other travelers is that Malaysia is not a top travel destination, isn’t that nice and that the people aren’t friendly. I’m not sure why it’s gotten this reputation but many travelers rated it as the country they liked the least out of all the ones in South East Asia. I’m not really sure why.
Sure Kuala Lumpur isn’t my favorite city, but there’s way more to the country than that. We barely saw what Malaysia has to offer but the two best parts of it for us were the people and the food. We were so pleasantly surprised with how friendly and chatty the locals were. It seemed like everyone we interacted with was smiling at us and ready to get to know us. Every taxi we got into, the driver was chatting up a storm, asking us questions, pointing out his favorite restaurant on the way. I don’t know if we just got lucky with the people we ran into or what, but I feel that the Malaysians are incredibly friendly. Their level of English seems to be very good compared with some of the other South East Asian countries and they’re not too shy to practice. When we were lost locals would come up to us to point us in the right direction and help us on our way. Really really nice.
The second best part of Malaysia – the glorious delicious food. The food is so good here and there are so many different types of dishes it’s amazing. From traditional Malaysian, to Indian to Chinese you’ll never run out of new dishes to sample. Every dish is brimming with flavors and truly magic in your mouth. I’d come back to Malaysia just to eat my way through all the traditional dishes alone.
Overall I was pleased with Malaysia and the people we interacted with.
Malaysian food is simply incredible. With elements of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian cuisine all meshed together there is a huge variety of dishes to try all with a different flair. You could spend months just sampling all the traditional dishes.
My favorite dish was the Char Koay Teow – a fried rice noodle dish with shrimp, cockles, bean sprouts and chives. I love the taste of tender wok stir fried rice noodles and the addition of the spices is just incredible. I loved this dish at the stall with the lady in the red hat on Lorong Selamat in Georgetown Penang and at the Kafe Ping Hooi on Lebuh Carnarvon alsoin Geogretown. I dedicated a whole post to a day long eating tour in Penang so head over there if you’re interested in learning more about the local food.
We didn’t do too much in Malaysia so there aren’t many experiences to choose from, but one of the best was the cooking class we took with Pearly. We spent the afternoon learning all about Nyonya cuisine and preparing 3 dishes. It was a pleasure to learn from Pearly and the food was wonderful.
We took a few local buses in Penang and found them to be a/c and comfortable. They run fairly frequently and only cost a couple RM (depending on how far you are going). Route maps can be found online.
We didn’t take trains in Malaysia.
We took a few taxis in Kuala Lumpur and Penang and though they are legally supposed to turn on the meter you will find that many want to negotiate a fare. Negotiate hard as many will drastically inflate the prices, we’ve been quoted up to triple what we knew was the going rate.
We took a long distance bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang and it took way longer than expected. The bus didn’t leave on top, stopped for a break mid way and then when we were getting close it would drop off passengers wherever they requested it to stop. It was a long ride, but the bus was comfortable and air conditioned.
We didn’t use our student ids in Malaysia.
Didn’t see too many public restrooms in the cities.
We felt very safe in Malaysia.
Malaysia is simple a foodies paradise and there is no shortage of dining establishments to choose from. From street carts to hawker centers to fine dining you can get it all here. The best options for meals though are definitely the hawker centers where there are tons of different stands each with their own specialty, set up around the perimeter of a large seating area so you can go up and choose which type of dish you want to try.
Credit Cards And Money We were able to use our credit cards at major grocery stores but used cash at markets, food stalls, small local restaurants, etc
Internet in Malaysia isn’t super fast but we were able to make it work.
We stayed in hotels in Kuala Lumpur and an apartment in Penang.
We did not couchsurf in Malaysia
We kept track of every cost we had down to the purchase level and categorized it into 5 groupings:
So where did we end up? $34 per person, per day.
Would we go back to? Not immediately. Though we spent 45 days in Malaysia we barely did any sightseeing since we mostly used the time to catch up on some work and start some new projects. We would definitely have to come back to see the country as a whole but I can’t say it’s at the top of my list right now.