Malaysia Travel Tips for a Budget Adventure!

Despite being a celebrated, exotic, and altogether awesome travel destination, Malaysia can still be successfully travelled on even a broke backpackers budget. With some thrifty planning and the right travel tips for Malaysia, travelling it on a budget isn’t too difficult. 

Malaysia is often compared to its famous neighbour Thailand and whilst there are some similarities, Malaysia is far more chilled out. There are no crazy full moon parties here and Malaysia attracts a more mature backpacking crowd. 

However, despite the lack of crazy parties, Malaysia still has plenty to offer both in terms of natural beauty and the exciting things to do. If you want to travel this awesome country whilst successfully managing your cash, then read on to discover our top Malaysia travel tips for discovering this beautiful and varied country on the cheap!

A woman travelling malaysia on a budget

Is that an… actual map? Girl, where’s your smartphone? Nice.

 

Ten Malaysia Budget Travel Tips for the Crusty and Wonderful People

Coming in hot and fast from my brain to your plate! Tips to keep your Malaysia budget low so you got more cash to spend on Krispy Kreme Donuts and 7/11 slushies in KL.

What? Culture and breathtaking natural splendour? Oh yeah, I guess Malaysia has that too…

 

1. Travel During Monsoon 

While the regular traveller might be intimidated by travelling Southeast Asia during the monsoon season, true budget conscious adventurers visit during this season by choice. Why? Well, because of the seasonal nature of the travel industry, prices will decrease significantly and you will manage to save money on flights, accommodation, and activities. 

The greens of travelling Malaysia in monsoon season

Lush greens of the Malaysian rainforest.

If you really don’t want to get wet, then make sure to avoid travelling Malaysia’s east coast as this is where the monsoon rains hit hardest. Even if you are on the east coast, the abundant rainfall turns the landscapes a lush green so the stunning scenery will take your breath away.

During monsoon, the waterfalls are gushing, the green of the forests becomes incredibly deep and the crowds are much thinner.  It’s a win-win, right? The Monsoon season lasts between November and March and this is very much the country’s quiet period.

 

2. Use local transport

If you arrive in Malaysia by plane, you will most likely land in Kuala Lumpur at one of the two airport terminals. If you’ve booked accommodation in KL, then you have quite a few options for getting around depending on how much you want to spend.

Kuala Lumpur - starting point for most Malaysia travel

Kuala Lumpur at dusk.

Many backpackers will choose cabs or tuk-tuks which can be found lined up outside the airport buildings and these are fine if you are feeling flush or are just desperate to get to your accommodation for a shower and a jetlagged nap. Personally, we recommend you use Grab instead – it’s cheaper and more reliable than taxis. 

The KLIA Express train is perhaps the fastest, but not the cheapest option to reach the city centre so our recommendation is to take the bus. It will only cost you 10 Ringgit (approximately $2.5 USD) and although travelling during peak hours might cause you some delays, this option is better if you are travelling on a tight budget. We advise you to pay with your credit card at the kiosk – don’t pay cash at the counter, as the prices per ticket will be 50 Ringgit higher!

Tip: Visa requirements differ on a country by country basis. You may need a visa before you arrive, do some research online and investigate with a reliable Malaysia Visa operator before you land.   

 

3. Pick your accommodation wisely

The top budget tip for travelling Malaysia is the same as anywhere: hostels should be your go-to accommodation option. While the quality of the rooms may vary drastically from hostel to hostel, they are generally decent throughout Malaysia.

Hostel in Kuala Lumpur - important for a Malaysia travel budget

Hostel vibes in Kuala Lumpur: same as anywhere.

In Kuala Lumpur, backpackers have two preferred spots: the Changkat in Bukit Bintang and the Chinatown near the Pasar Seni LRT station. The former is located near some of the hottest and trendiest clubs, while the latter offers easy access to the public transportation system. You can generally pick up a bed for between 20 and 50 ringgit. 

 

4. Eat like the locals

Every foodie’s delight, Petaling Street in Chinatown is filled with hungry tourists at any hour of any given day. Due to this, you may find inflated prices which the locals would never stomach (pun intended). However, if you travel during the monsoon season, the merchants here will most likely implement friendlier prices and maybe even spoon you larger portions.

Street food in Malaysia for the budget conscious

Street food!

The Malaysian street cuisine is an extraordinary culinary blend; the intricate spices and flavours make the food that you’ll find here utterly unique. The street is crammed with both street food kiosks and also nice restaurants for the backpacker that has some extra cash to spare.

 

Want to save the world? Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle.

The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.

5. Avoid The Beaten Track

Within Kuala Lumpur, our advice is to avoid areas specifically developed for tourists, (especially those developed for family tourists) as these are by far the most expensive places to hang out. Instead, suggest you take a day trip to visit the Petaling Jaya area. Petaling Jaya is a large satellite city of Kuala Lumpur and the area is far less busy with tourists.

Petaling Jaya - a budget alternative to Kuala Lumpur

Petaling Jaya

Visiting Petaling Jaya can offer you quite some unique experiences without the bustling hordes and tacky entertainments commonplace in the more mainstream neighbourhoods. With a hip, established youth culture, this area will offer the perfect opportunity to hang with the locals and learn about the local scene all whilst spending significantly less money than you would back in Kuala Lumpur!

You will find better and far cheaper food here than you would have in the big city, and the delicacies and fresh produce that you can find at the Pasar Malam night market are infinitely more authentic than the food in the city. 

You’ll also find plenty of movie theatres, and if you pick your day carefully, you will spend no more than 12 Ringgit for a ticket (Wednesdays are the cheapest).

 

6. Escape to Nature

If you want to enjoy some of the natural beauty of Malaysia, then be sure to visit the Broga Hill and Chilling Falls; these two spots are very popular amongst the natives with good reason.

orangutans in Malaysia

Wish I could eat with my feet… Or shave with my feet for that matter.

Around Kuala Lumpur city, there are plenty of spots that are perfect for climbing and hiking all within a very short distance from the city sprawl. Of course, because fresh air is free, this will make for a very cheap day out!

 

The Best Travel Backpack?!

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite carry on backpack is the Nomatic Travel Backpack.

Check out this post to read our full review!

7. Free Festivals

Owing to Malaysia’s rich religious, ethnic and cultural diversity, there are also plenty of local celebrations that you can attend and have a bit of good old fun with the natives.

Diwali - festivals to see while travelling in Malaysia

Little India during Diwali.

These include Chinese New Year and Deepawali (the Malaysian answer to Diwali) amongst too many others to even mention here. Then of course, as with all of Asia, there are countless temples and mosques that are amazing to visit and can usually be entered for free. 

 

8. Scope the Architecture

Kuala Lumpur’s architecture is quite a sight in itself. It’s an intriguing blend of Islamic, Asian and modern influences which juxtapose against one another magnificently.

Exploring Colonial-era architecture while travelling Malaysia on a budget

Colonial-era buildings can be found throughout Malaysia.

These styles collide to create a multicultural cityscape which whispers tales of the countless empires, dynasties, and peoples who have resided here over the millennia. The best bit is that you get to enjoy and take in the architecture for free!

 

9. Stay Dry

Our last little bit of advice is to avoid drinking as much as possible!

Craft beers in KL - Malaysia travel tips: avoid drinking

But they look so tasty…

Why? Well, whilst Malaysia is on the whole affordable, the prices for a bottle of beer are similar to those in Europe and the US. Therefore, avoiding drinking will spare both your liver and your wallet!

 

10. Use Your Tricks-of-the-Trade Broke Backpacker Secrets

The last Malaysia travel tip for serious budget reduction is to utilise the one-size-fits-all patented dirtbag secrets.

budgset backpacking in Mlaysia - sleep outside

Saving on hostel prices! | Photo: @themanwiththetinyguitar

Check the above-linked post if you’re new to the game, but there are some good options for saving some dough in Malaysia:

  • Sleep out – Maybe you’re a tough nut to crack, but generally having a backpacking tent and a sleeping bag is as good as getting woken up at 3 A.M. by dorm-room douche-canoes. Oh, a sleeping pad is a nice bonus too!
  • Dumpster Diving – Ewwww! Shut yo face, lemon-head!
    Malaysia not the cleanest country on the planet but I do consider it on the cleaner end of the spectrum by Asia standards. I’ve tablesurfed and dumpster dived to great avail here.
  • Hitchhiking – Yep, it’s known here and doable. Hitchhiking is an excellent way to save on transport costs and you won’t have to deal with as much crap as in India (figuratively and literally).

 

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.

GET IT HERE

 

Bonus Malaysia Travel Tip: Get Insured!

The intial cost of travel insurance can’t exactly be considered ‘budget’ but when both your legs have been broken by the orangutan mafia (watch those craft devils), you’ll see the pay off.

Shoutout from Will – The OG Broke Backpacker: Have fun on your backpacking adventure, but please do get insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.

As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be travelling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! Travelling without insurance would be fucking stupid. We – at The Broke Backpacker – highly recommend World Nomads.

 

Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.

 

Summing Up the Ten Best Malaysia Travel Tips

Go forth, my vagrants! Go explore Malaysia with your cunning and frugal ways!

Yeah, Malaysia travel is not so expensive but it’s also not strictly cheap either… depending on how you play it. It’s definitely a country where you need to play your cards right to save dough.

That said, it is highly developed in terms of infrastructure, used to tourists (and ex-pats), and clean! It’s a good trade – the cost of entry for what you’re getting.

Either way, who cares! I just loaded you up with the best Malaysia travel tips for exploring the country on the cheap. You’re gonna be just fine. Go do your thang and go see something pretty!

And don’t forget to food coma on cheap donuts and slushies!

Street art in Malaysia

Cool art on the streets of Melaka

 

Support the site and learn how to travel the world on $10 a day – check out The Broke Backpacker’s bible!

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, we’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only link to stuff We’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps keep the site going… and us employed… thank you!”


Need more inspiration?