With its bustling cities, culinary experiences, beautiful pristine beaches, idyllic islands, national parks and rain-forests teeming with wildlife, the catchy tourism slogan “Malaysia, Truly Asia” rings true as this country is a melting pot of diverse Asian cultures. Malaysia has a multitude of experiences to offer to the travelers who often visit this country. Malaysia is the neighbour of Thailand and Vietnam which are known for their cheap thrills. Despite that, the currency of Malaysia, Ringgit, does not stretch as much as it would in terms of Thai Baht or Vietnamese Dong. But with some careful and thrifty planning, travelling around Malaysia can be quite cost effective.
Here is how you can make the most of your budget travel in Malaysia-
First and foremost, the necessity which costs the most in any country is accommodation and Malaysia is no different. Staying in the central areas of the country such as Kuala Lumpur Central Station or the KLCC mall in KL can be quite expensive. Travelers on a budget could opt for hostels and guesthouses around the cheaper localities such as Bulkit Bintang, Chow Kit or Chinatown. Here, they can find a bed for as low as $4 per night. The prices are quite similar in other parts of the country and in the non-touristy destinations.
The next big necessity, which eats up a lot of the budget, is food. The places usually recommended on tourist sites are quite overpriced. For instance, Jalan Alor, a street lined with street hawkers selling local Malaysian fare tend to be 50% costlier than anywhere else and hence, seldom frequented by the locals.
To reduce the amount spent on food without compromising on the unique Malaysian culinary experience, the food courts should be frequented, especially those which are off the regularly trodden paths. Also, budget travellers should always make a mental note of what they ordered form the menu and how much it costs. Some restaurants do overcharge tourists, either intentionally or not.
Travellers can definitely try some of the self-service Indian restaurants around Malaysia. But they should be wary of mistakes made by the waiters as they usually work by memory, and therefore should always double check their bills.
In the food courts, you can expect to have a meal, plus dessert and a drink for under 15 Ringgit (about $3.75). This gets much cheaper if you leave the capital and venture to Ipoh or Penang. Here you can have a mini feast for the same amount, but do not expect any luxurious fine dining.
The next question that usually arises in the mind of travelers is whether it is expensive to drink alcohol in Malaysia. Alcohol is not as readily available in Malaysia as compared to its South East Asian neighbours. This is mainly because a majority of its population practices Islam and therefore, the rates of alcohol are quite high as compared to its neighbours.
Also, the halal restaurants such as the Indian Muslim restaurants or the Malay ones do not sell alcohol. Budget travelers can find reasonably priced beer in some of the Chinese restaurants and at the aforementioned food courts. They range to around 12 Ringgit (around $3) for three cans of beer or higher depending on the brand. Larger bottles are also sometimes sold here for a higher price. Travelers should expect to pay a much higher price for a can or a bottle of beer in bars.
Best Time to Visit
For budget travel in Malaysia, the best time to visit is definitely during the monsoons. The Northeast monsoon hits the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia during the months of November to March. Thus, there is a drop in the hotel and flight prices leading up to, or directly following these months.
Besides the east coast, the rest of the country is good to visit throughout the year. But to make the most of your budget, try and avoid the major holidays like Diwali, Hari Raya, Christmas and the Chinese New Year. This is the time when the locals flock to their native villages. This increases the demand for bus tickets and therefore the price and also, the traffic.
Coming to the mode of transport, travelers do not have to worry much about inter-state transportation. All the three modes – train, bus or flight – cost roughly the same (the flight prices are around $20 to be exact). When it comes to intra-state transport, they have to pay some extra attention as taxis are notorious for being overpriced.
Public transport, the LRT in Kuala Lumpur or the buses in other states, are good value for money. They are the most frequented by the locals. To save a bit more, travelers can either opt for an Uber or Grab (the South East Asian version of Uber). Both these service providers have almost the same rates.
Last but not the least, budget travel in Malaysia is also quite a headache if not given proper attention. Travellers should not opt for pre-planned packages. They are usually expensive and have limited time. They also offer minimal to no flexibility to the customers. Travellers should stick to independent travelling, without the aid of any travel company.
Also, more importantly, it is not necessary to pay an exorbitant amount to discover the culture of a country. There are loads of free attractions that one can indulge in. For example, temples, local markets and hiking. Most of the religious sites in Malaysia are under 30 Ringgit (around $7.50), if not altogether free. Also, Penang’s famous street art is always available for the budget traveler to indulge in some local culture and graffiti.
In conclusion, Malaysia is quite an affordable travel destination if the trip is planned carefully. Though it is not as pocket friendly as its neighbours , the food and the accommodation is inexpensive if you just spend a little bit research time.
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