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Backpacking in Malaysia: All tips, information and costs

Your next travel destination should be Malaysia? Here you can find out everything about planning, visas, hotels, flights, vaccinations, travel duration, security, costs and more.

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Backpacking in Malaysia

Malaysia is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in Southeast Asia. Before you go there for the first time, you are guaranteed to have a few questions. I have compiled the most important answers below. They will help you prepare.

Your first thoughts on the Malaysia trip

Before the start:

Is Malaysia the right travel destination?

You can't go wrong with Malaysia. The country offers everything you need for a great vacation or an unforgettable backpacking tour. I've been there several times and will be back.

Beach lovers get their money's worth on the coasts and when visiting the islands. The underwater world is one of the top 3 in Southeast Asia and there are also numerous options for active holidays. Whether jungle, national park or the highest mountain in the region. If you want to take your hiking boots with you, you are guaranteed to find the right place.

In addition, the multi-ethnic state offers some cultural highlights, as well as the city of Kuala Lumpur and practically integrated the mini-states Singapore and Brunei.

Malaysia is a safe travel destination (except for one region), medical care is good and the country is easy to travel to. The price level is low and is therefore also suitable for backpackers with a small budget.

Only if partying and alcohol are one of the main concerns during your trip should you consider another destination in the neighboring countries. Because Malaysia is usually a little quieter. However, you can get a sunset beer practically anywhere.

All tips for your trip to Malaysia

Inspiration: Most beautiful destinations ✭ Pictures ✭ Backpacking in Malaysia ✭ Book a round trip ✭ Flights: Cheap plane tickets, domestic flights ✭ Travel planning: Malaysia packing list, best travel time, visa & immigration, money & finances, best travel credit card, travel guide ✭ Traveling with children ✭ Health : Vaccinations, first-aid kit, travel health insurance ✭ On site: Find hotels, excursions & tours, transport, train tickets, bus tickets, ferry tickets ✭ Our Malaysia Facebook group

To the Malaysia blog

When should i travel? (Climate and best travel time to Malaysia)

In Malaysia, monsoon winds determine the seasons. The weather varies from place to place. On the west coast of the peninsula, the area between Thailand and Singapore, the best travel time is from December to February. On the east coast from March to October.

On the island of Borneo in East Malaysia, the optimal travel time is from October to February or from December to May, depending on the region.

Basically, the country can be visited all year round. Here you will find detailed information about the climate and the best time to travel to Malaysia. Also note the most important bank holidays and school vacations in Malaysia. During this time, the most popular places can get quite crowded.

How long should i travel?

It doesn't really make much sense to fly to Southeast Asia for less than two weeks. Of course, you may only be in the country for a few days because, for example, you combine your visit with backpacking in Thailand.

Itineraryapproximate time
The most beautiful places on the west coast including Kuala Lumpur and Cameron Highlands10-16 days
The most beautiful places on the east coast including Taman Negara10-14 days
Malaysia peninsula completely3-4 weeks (without stress)
Singapore3 additional days
East Malaysia (Borneo)1-3 weeks (depending on your interests)
Brunei3 additional days
Total MalaysiaSix to eight weeks

Where should i go

The choice of travel destinations depends primarily on your interests. The most popular islands are Langkawi, Penang, the Perhentians, Redang and Tioman. In addition, there are beautiful islands off the coasts of the state of Sabah (see safety notice Malaysia).

In addition, you have a large selection of national parks from "easy to travel" (for example Taman Negara) to "only for experts" (for example Maliau Basin Conservation Area).

It goes high up in the Cameron Highlands or to the 4,000-meter peak of Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia. If you are interested in cities and culture, in addition to Kuala Lumpur, Melaka or Kuching are certainly of interest.

In another article I have summarized the most beautiful destinations and routes in Malaysia. There you will also find many further links.

If you are particularly interested in the underwater world, great experiences off the east coast of the peninsula and on the reefs around Sabah are guaranteed. Here you can find out everything about diving and snorkeling in Malaysia.

During the trip there is the possibility to collect further stamps in the passport without much effort. At the southern tip of the peninsula, the modern metropolis of Singapore is waiting for your visit. The Sultanate of Brunei is located in the middle of East Malaysia on the island of Borneo. A few days in its capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, gave me a lot of pleasure.

Malaysia: general or individual?

All well-known tour operators have Malaysia in their program. Whether three weeks all inclusive or travel modules with different destinations, the offer is wide. However, since I am always on my own in Southeast Asia, I cannot give any well-founded tips for package tours.

In any case, the country is very suitable for individual travel. When you finally want to go alone, whether as a classic backpacker or with suitcases, you will succeed in both in Malaysia.

The specific travel planning for Malayisa

How do I best plan? What do I start with?

Once you have made the decision that you want to go to Malaysia, you should first determine the travel period. The following factors are decisive for this:

  • When and how long can you take your vacation?
  • What goals do you want to see? You can create the places of interest for you in a Google Map, for example, or write on a large piece of paper first.
  • When is the best travel time for which region?

The first problems may arise and you may have to make compromises. However, once the time frame has been determined, you should quickly sketch out the rough route and then book your flight. The prices are particularly high around the Christmas holidays. So don't wait too long if you want to go to Malaysia in December or January.

After the main flight has been booked, you can then start with the detailed planning and, if necessary, book further Malaysia domestic flights. You should also create a schedule of what needs to be done before you start your journey. Pay attention to where deadlines may have to be observed (for example when vaccinating).

In my text "Everything you need to travel" I introduce you to some useful tools for travel planning.

Which books / eBooks will help me plan?

The basic information for your trip to Malaysia can be found here on the page. Nevertheless, it makes sense to find out more if you are visiting a country for the first time. I always take a travel guide with me.

Here you can find all information about the best travel guides and books for Malaysia.

The very good book “No Worries. Backpacking for Beginners ”.

How do i get there? How do I find cheap flights to Malaysia?

With a little luck, flights to Malaysia are available for as little as 500 euros (there and back). There are currently no direct flights from Austria or Switzerland offered. Lufthansa and Malaysia Airlines fly non-stop from Germany (both from Frankfurt).

Often cheaper are the flights with the Arab airlines that fly to their hubs in Abu Dhabi or Dubai from Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Munich, Berlin, Zurich or Vienna, for example. From there it goes on to Kuala Lumpur.

You can also check whether there are possibly cheaper connections to Bangkok or Singapore. From there you can get to Malaysia cheaply by low-cost airlines, trains and buses.

Flights outside the high season are generally cheaper. It can also be an advantage to check the days in addition to the actual flight date you want.

I almost exclusively book flight tickets via the Skyscanner search engine (-> test report). So far I've usually found the cheapest flight there. For fork flights (for example Frankfurt - Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok - Frankfurt) I use Momondo (-> test report).

Here I have summarized all the tips on how to find the cheapest flight and save money when booking.

How do I apply for a Visa to Malaysia?

A passport that is valid for at least six months is sufficient to enter Malaysia. Then you will receive a stamp and can stay in the country for up to three months. In the state of Sarawak you need your own visa. You can get this just as easily, but it is only valid for 30 days.

Here you can find all information about visas and entry to Malaysia.

Where can i enter?

Again, it's relatively easy. For example, you can enter via all international airports. It also goes overland from Singapore and Thailand. Coming from Indonesia only one border crossing is open.

Entry by boat from the Thai island of Koh Lipe is also possible. The same applies to a crossing from Indonesia to the east of the state of Sabah.

Note on crossing the Indonesia / Malaysia border: In the opposite direction, i.e. from Malaysia to Indonesia, no visa is available at the border. The permit for Indonesia must be applied for in advance. In any case, please inform again on the official website and observe the safety instructions.

What do I take with me (packing list Malaysia)?

You are probably thinking about what to pack for the Malaysia trip. There are a thousand answers to this simple question. After all, it ultimately depends on what your needs are, how you travel and when and where you want to go.

Based on my experience from four trips to Malaysia and more than two years in Southeast Asia, a packing list has been created that takes all eventualities into account. There you can simply delete the things that do not seem important to you. It is also available for download as a practical PDF.

Here you can find my packing list for Malaysia to print out and tick off.

Budget: What will the Malaysia trip cost me?

If you are not booking business class, the costs for the journey are initially the same for everyone. They are between 500 and 1000 euros, depending on when you are flying and, above all, when you buy the ticket. Once in Malaysia, the prices vary widely depending on the destination and the standard you want.

Accommodation is available from 2 euros per night (bed in dormitory). There are hardly any upper limits. A decent room with air conditioning costs around 20 euros. You can book a domestic flight for 30 to 100 euros or take the train for 6 euros. There is food from 50 cents at the street stall. In restaurants you can buy it for 5-10 euros. In any case, Malaysia is suitable for both a luxury vacation and a backpacker tour with little money.

Here you can find everything you need to know about budget for your trip to Malaysia.

Money in Malaysia: how does it work with paying?

For one euro you get a little more than 4 ringgits. This is the name of the currency with which you pay during your trip to Malaysia. There are both notes and coins. Here you can find the current exchange rate.

To buy from street stalls or to pay the taxi driver, you should always try to have some change in your wallet. In upscale restaurants as well as many hotels, shops and shopping malls it is possible to pay by credit card (up to three percent fees are then due).

You can also book bus, plane and train tickets as well as overnight stays online and also pay with your credit card. I explain under 10.) which card is useful.

You can dive foreign currencies such as euros, Swiss francs or US dollars in banks and exchange offices. Compare the rate for this and avoid exchanging too bad rates at the airport.

Where and how can I get money in Malaysia?

There are plenty of ATMs in Malaysia. With the Maestro / Cirrus card or your credit card (e.g. Visa or Mastercard) you can withdraw money there. V-Pay cards do not work in Malaysia.

Before you travel, find out if you have a daily or weekly limit for withdrawals outside of Europe. It doesn't hurt to inform the bank before going abroad so that your card isn't blocked due to suspicious account movements.

Note that almost all banks charge fees for withdrawals outside of Europe. You can find out how to prevent this in the next point.

Don't forget that some islands and some rural areas do not have vending machines. Find out more before you go there and in this case bring enough cash with you.

Which credit card makes sense in Malaysia?

In my experience, Visa and Mastercard have the best coverage in Malaysia.

When choosing the provider, make sure that you can withdraw cash free of charge worldwide with your credit card. Because many banks charge hefty fees for this. It is also an advantage if you can pay in local currency free of charge.

We recommend the Visa cards from DKB and Barclaycard. More on this in my detailed test report on the best travel credit card.

Incidentally, I always take two credit cards with me in case one fails or is damaged.

The best travel credit card for Malaysia

You can save a lot of money on your travels with the right credit card. Here you can find out which cards you can use to withdraw cash free of charge worldwide and pay in local currency at no additional cost. And who is currently the only provider who reimburses you for third-party fees at the machine, for example in Thailand or Vietnam.

Here is the credit card comparison

C: Health / Prevention Malaysia

Which vaccinations are necessary for Malaysia?

Nowadays, vaccinations against polio, tetanus, measles, diphtheria and pertussis are generally considered useful. And that regardless of whether you are traveling or not. Hepatitis A is recommended as a travel vaccination for Malaysia. Depending on the type and duration of the trip, additional protection against cholera, rabies, hepatitis B, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis and meningococci may be recommended. I have summarized everything you need to know in an article about vaccinations for Malaysia.

Before you travel, you should seek advice from a doctor specializing in travel medicine. Corresponding doctors can be found here in this list.

You should take care of the vaccinations, which are paid for by your health insurance company in most cases, as several appointments are sometimes necessary (for example for the rabies vaccination). In addition, not all vaccines are always available.

Are there any other annoying diseases?

Yes, unfortunately. Malaysia currently has a major problem with dengue fever. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes that are diurnal. Therefore, you should protect yourself against stings accordingly. The north and west of the peninsula are particularly affected. However, the risk also exists in other areas.

There are also some regions with a minimal to moderate risk of malaria. This is most likely to be the case in the states of Sabah and Sarawak. There, however, mainly in the interior of the country. In Western Malaysia, coasts and cities are considered malaria-free.

Do I need overseas health insurance for Malaysia?

Based on my own experience, I recommend that you take out an appropriate protection package before your trip. Something can always happen. Bent over on a rocky path, cut on a sharp stone in the water, otitis media from germs in the pool - the list of possibilities is long. Visits to the doctor in Asia are comparatively inexpensive, but expenses can rise quickly if something is serious.

The classic foreign health insurance for travel is cheap. Maybe it is already included in one of your insurance packages. Just take a look at the documents.

Important: These insurances are usually only valid for six weeks. If you are going on a long trip, you should therefore take out "long-term travel insurance". The costs for this vary. A basis for calculation is the age of the policyholder.

If you - I know from my own experience - can no longer look through the tariff jungle of supplementary travel insurance, I recommend this practical comparison calculator, which contains what I believe to be the best travel insurance. Simply enter your age and the duration of the trip in the form, and with the next click you will receive a clear list of the tariffs.In addition to travel health insurance, you can also find out about the costs of travel cancellation, travel interruption or luggage insurance there.

In a separate article I have put together useful tips on travel insurance for Southeast Asia.

What belongs in the first-aid kit for Malaysia?

Medical care in Malaysia is quite good. In order to avoid having to go to a doctor or pharmacy directly with small things, you should have basic equipment with you. Here you will find everything you need to know and my tips on the first-aid kit for Malaysia.

Don't forget to take enough medicine with you that you need to take regularly at home. Pay attention to storage at high temperatures!

Tip: I always save a lot of money because I buy over-the-counter medication and mosquito repellent from an internet pharmacy. Even compared to Amazon, it has usually been significantly cheaper there so far.

How To Avoid Stomach Problems In Malaysia?

The rule of thumb is basically pretty simple. Avoid buffets and unpeeled fruit, be careful with salads and ice cream.

On my previous trips to Malaysia, I have never had any serious problems. I regularly ate at street stalls and ordered drinks with ice cubes. Do not drive yourself crazy and pay attention to your intuition when you are in a bar or restaurant.

Also, be careful with cut fruit if you don't know how long it has been there (for example melons).

Out and about in Malaysia

Is Malaysia a Safe Travel Destination?

Without a doubt, Malaysia is one of those countries where you don't have to worry. Because the security situation there is basically stable. People are friendly and very open to strangers. However, there is a rice warning for the east of the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. Terrorist groups from the Philippines were active here for a number of years. The last incident was a while ago, but caution is advised.

Apart from that, you should of course always be careful of your valuables, especially on travel days and in crowds.

Here you can find detailed information about security in Malaysia. In addition, I refer to the safety information from the German Foreign Office, the Austrian Foreign Ministry and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (Switzerland).

How do I get from A to B?

Malaysia is quite easy to travel to. This is because the infrastructure is good and all conceivable means of transport are available to you. The two parts of West and East Malaysia are only connected by plane.

The country has a good flight network. Here I have put together an overview of the domestic flights in Malaysia.

You can also take the train in West Malaysia. There is a route from Singapore via Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth up to Bangkok. Another connection leads from the capital in the east to Kota Bharu.

The bus network is significantly larger than the train. Both state and private companies roll here. In addition, minibuses run to the smallest of villages. In a separate article I have put together all information about means of transport in Malaysia with many useful links.

Further links on the topic:

Domestic flights in Malaysia: how do I get cheap tickets and what should I look out for?

Malaysia has one of the best flight networks in Southeast Asia. Thanks to low-cost airlines such as Air Asia, Fire Fly or Malindo Air, there is a wide range of inexpensive flights. Tickets are available for as little as 30 euros.

When searching for flight tickets, I usually use Skyscanner. I have put together all sorts of interesting facts in the article on domestic flights in Malaysia. And here I give tips on how to find cheap flights and save money in the process.

Can I rent a car or motorcycle in Malaysia?

Yes, that is possible. Your passport is enough for a small moped. For a large motorcycle or car, you need a credit card and an international driver's license.

In Malaysia there is left-hand traffic!

How do I find hotels & accommodations in Malaysia?

There is a wide range of accommodation in all price ranges in Kuala Lumpur and in the tourist areas. In a separate article I have summarized all information about hotels in Malaysia in detail.

The classic Malaysia travel guides continue to offer good tips on where to stay the night. In addition, the reviews on booking platforms give you a very reliable impression of the quality.

After long comparisons, I usually achieved the cheapest prices via the Agoda platform (-> Agoda review). Booking (-> Booking test report) and AirBnB at (register here and receive up to EUR 34.00 starting credit) are also good.

Do I have to book hotels & accommodations in Malaysia in advance?

It all depends. In principle, you can simply go to many places, choose the most beautiful hotel on site and then check in. However, on some islands, such as the Perhentians, accommodation is chronically scarce - especially on weekends. It is generally difficult around school holidays and public holidays in Malaysia.

How can I book tours in Malaysia?

There are numerous travel agencies in tourist resorts that will sell you tickets for flights and buses. In addition, they usually have city tours, snorkeling tours and day trips in their program. Many hotels also offer this service. Just ask at reception. In any case, it is worthwhile to compare the prices.

You can now book a growing number of tours online. The prices are a little higher there, but you can compare providers, read reviews, you know who you're booking with - and you have planning security.

On my info page “Tours & Excursions in Southeast Asia” I give tips and name the best portals.

Eating and drinking in Malaysia - what can I expect?

The multiethnic state of Malaysia also presents itself in a culinary way. In addition to the Malaysian dishes, the country's cuisine is particularly influenced by Chinese and Indian influences.

Here I dedicate myself in detail to the topic of eating and drinking in Malaysia.

How about the internet in Malaysia? Is there free Wi-Fi?

On my last trips I haven't actually come across any accommodations that didn't have free Wi-Fi. It was only sometimes limited to common rooms or the associated restaurant. The connection is often slow on islands.

Calling in Malaysia

Of course, you can use a mobile phone with your SIM card that you brought with you in Malaysia. However, high roaming charges are then due. If you have a good internet connection, it's better to make calls via Skype.

Buying a Malaysian SIM card is ideal for making calls and using the Internet while on the move. Possible providers are, for example, Maxis, Celcom, Telekom Malaysia or Digi Malaysia.

Traveling alone as a backpacker in Malaysia - is that possible?

Similar to the neighboring countries, you also have the opportunity to travel alone here. Especially in popular places you quickly get to know other backpackers with whom you can spend a nice evening or travel a bit further. You may even find someone to share a room with you in case you want to save money.

However, you have to find out for yourself whether traveling solo is right for you. Sure, traveling alone is a great freedom. You can stay anywhere and for as long as you want without worrying about anyone. But you have no one to share what you have experienced or who is by your side if you are homesick.

Traveling alone in Malaysia as a woman - should I?

Malaysia is one of those countries that are well suited for women traveling alone. Of course, you should also listen to your inner voice in unknown situations.

Malaysia is a Muslim state. Accordingly, do not dress too revealingly away from the tourist centers.

As a man, however, I cannot refer to any personal experience, so I recommend you at this point the very good book Women Travel Solo the travel blogger Carina Herrmann.

What are your Malaysia tips?

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About the author

Stefan has been traveling to the countries of Southeast Asia since 2006 and often spends several months there. In 2013 he founded Fascination Southeast Asia and has since written several eBooks and books on the subject (including the insider travel guide “555 Tips for Bangkok”). Between his travels he lives and works in Düsseldorf.

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