Asia, Malaysia, Travel

Backpacking in Malaysia – Places you should visit!

temple kek lok penang george town

Index

Malaysia? Already heard of it, but going on holiday there never came to my mind. Until a rather unfortunate coincidence drove me and a friend on a backpack trip there. I did not know anything about the country and the people, and I never been on a backpack travel before. Although I already bought a backpack for the trip to Chile, we stayed there longer in one location and went out for day trips but we did not travel from place to place. Two girls far far away on the other side of planet earth – my parents were a bit skeptical and yet we booked a flight. I have to admit that I had barely informed myself in advance. But thank God my friend had all the ambitious plans and ideas. I intended to get into floating a bit for the first time in my life, because otherwise I’m the person who plans trips down to the last detail beforehand. This time it should be different, this time I wanted to give up the scepter and just look what awaits me and let me overrun by the culture shock.

Info Malaysia

Official language: Malay (Bahasa Malaysia) and English as a second language
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Area: 330,290
Inhabitants: 31,164,000 (by estimates)

Malaysia dangerous

That’s probably what most people will ask at the beginning. From our point of view, two young women in their twenties, we can not report any negative experiences. No one bothered us or made us feel threatened. On the contrary, the people were very helpful and friendly almost all the time. Only taxi drivers tried to trick us in a typical touristic way. So you necessarily will  pay one or the other euro / ringgit too much, because the authority of the men can be a bit intimidating.

tea plantation in cameron highlands
Tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands

Malaysia best time to go and climate

Depending on the destination, Malaysia has different good travel times. Since we were on the west coast, we aimed for these. For example, travel to Kuala Lumpur is best in December, January, February, June, July, August. The best time to visit Langkawi is in December, January, February, March, April. We were traveling in March and the temperatures was consistently very warm with at least 30 ° C (86°F) and a very high humidity. In Kuala Lumpur, it often rained and thundered heavily for a short time during the day, which did not change the temperature. Over Kuala Lumpur was usually a large mist cloud, through which the sun appeared only hazy. The west of Malaysia has very warm, humid temperatures almost all year round with some showers, but from May to August they decrease and bring extreme heat. So I highly recommend spring to travel to western Malaysia, as it was not too hot and the rain dried up quickly. We were even able to witness a huge thunderstorm on a skyscraper with thunder that I had never experienced before. Also on Langkawi it often rained in the morning and in the night, so that in the early morning the sand was still wet, but dried within a few hours and the hot, sunny weather stayed the day.


Malaysia Language

Malay and English are spoken in Malaysia. Whether old or young people, we got along very well with English and they always tried to help us very friendly. Although English is not common everywhere, especially in rural areas, you can make it to the destination by showing your concern with your hands and gestures. Don’t be deterred the first few times. There are often questioning faces as many words are pronounced differently than usual.

Money / Credit Card in Malaysia

The currency in Malaysia is Ringgit (MYR) and 1 EUR is worth around 4 MYR depending on the daily exchange rate.
A credit card is a must for the journey. Before we started our journey we exchanged some money. You should ask your bank in advance if it is possible to withdraw money from an ATM in Malaysia without any additional costs. For security reasons, we preferred banks primarily to make a withdrawal. However, the more rural the area, the more we became friends with simple ATMs in shops and we didn’t make any bad experiences there.

Vaccinations Malaysia

For the entry into Malaysia we have informed ourselves especially at the tropical institute about the necessary vaccinations. I would highly recommend that to anyone who’s planning to go there. We were told that since we do not travel to yellow fever areas, we do not need the appropriate vaccine. So just some of my standard vaccines needed to be refreshed again. Take the vaccination certificate with you to the tropical institute so they can check if everything is up-to-date. On the journey take the vaccination card with you so that it can be viewed on-site in an emergency. You can also bring a copy, if that makes you feel safer.

Cheap flights Malaysia

Cheap flights to Asia are usually not available on fixed dates, but often on special seasonal offers. That’s why we checked all the common flight portals from time to time. Since we had set a fixed period of time where we could travel, we had to swallow the bitter pill. We paid just over 500 Euros from Berlin to Kuala Lumpur and back. We flew with AirBerlin to Abu Dhabi and from there with Etihad to our final destination. The worst, however, was the 10-hour stay in Abu Dhabi on the return trip. I had a cold and due to the pressure in the plane I was deaf on one side. On top if this: The air condition was set to what felt like 15 degrees throughout the whole airport. Of course we already had our long pants on, but no other warm clothes at hand. We couldn’t get on our backpacks as we checked them in – so no sleep in sight.

Before you choose a flight with such a long stopover, I would recommend to spend a more money for a better connection. Believe me, it is definitely worth it!

View to the sea from the Seven Wells Waterfalls, Langkawi

Transportation in Malaysia

Within the city of Kuala Lumpur, everything is easily accessible by public transport (train, bus) or taxi. It’s just not really good designed to explore the city by foot. From our hotel there was not even a proper pedestrian walkway, which irritated us several times at the beginning.

More distant destinations can be reached by bus, which can be booked at the train station or online. Here you travel at reasonable prices and paid for example, from Kuala Lumpur to the Cameron Highlands about 7 – 8 Euros per person.

In George Town you can reach a lot by foot, by bike or just by taxi. Otherwise, buses will bring you there too.

In the Cameron Highlands it was a bit more difficult to get around, so we booked a guided tour to explore. From the bus station to the hotel we used one of the rather rare buses. A local helped us with this connection and with her instruction to the driver we only paid about one euro. On the bus other passengers informed us when we could get out. Pretty nice people 🙂

On Langkawi you particularly reached every spot by taxi or by foot. For excursions to the waterfalls I recommend a taxi, which drops you right at the entrance. Island hopping can be booked, for example, on the beach promenade.

Visa Malaysia

Travelers from the EU, Switzerland, Australia and USA do not need a visa. So you can stay in Malaysia for up to 3 months. For an extension, you have to go to the Malaysian Embassy in your home country and make an application or you leave for a few days and then come back.

Malaysia Do’s and Dont’s

  • In Malaysia many different religions meet. In addition to the state religion Islam, there is still Buddhism (20%), Daoism or Confucianism (2.6%), Christianity (9%) and Hinduism (6.5%). Since Malays are often very religious, you should dress up respectful. Which can be really hard due to the climatic conditions, but absolutely appropriate.In temples and mosques ALWAYS take off your shoes. In addition, in some of these places covering your arms and knees is required. Often cloths are given for a small fee.
  • Don’t point to things with your index finger. Use the thumb instead.
  • Burping is amusingly accepted in public – we really had to get used to this.

Our journey

We spent three weeks in Malaysia and traveled from Kuala Lumpur via the Cameron Highlands to Penang (George Town) and finally by ferry to Langkawi.

Now let’s sum up our highlights and favorite spots of the tour. All the accommodations we booked through familiar home / apartment sharing sites, which may not always be the cheapest option, but most of all very comfortable and simple.

night city view of petrona towers in kuala lumpur
Blick von der Dachterrasse (Regalia Residence) in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur:

  • At least one night in one of the skyscrapers with an infinity pool and an incredible view over the city (such as Regalia Residence)
  • Visit Batu Caves
  • Discover the mall and do some shopping
  • Marvel at Petrona Towers (since we had stayed in the high-rise, we decided against the expensive entrance)
  • A day in China Town
  • Discover the Sultan Abdul Samad building
  • Stroll through the city, discover and visit temples (for example, Guan Yu Temple or Sri Mahamariamman Temple)

Cameron Highlands:

  • Visit the BOH tea plantation
  • Buy original tea
  • Explore the woods of “Mossy Forrest” and enjoy the view
  • Meet “caterpillars with wings” at the butterfly farm 😉
  • Marvel at the cactuses in “Cactus Point”

Penang (George Town):

  • Climb the Kek Lok Temple
  • Walk around at the historic harbor (Chew Jetty)

Langkawi:

  • Collect the most beautiful shells at the Cenang Beach
  • Enjoy the tropical-warm water and just do nothing … well, maybe read a good book!
  • Book an island hopping
  • Go shopping at the seafront of Cenang Beach
  • Reach the Seven Wells Waterfall through after climbing thousand steps
  • Getting bitten by mosquitoes and melting away at 100% humidity

Short summary

Malaysia has so much to discover! I enjoyed this trip so much. Yes, the life in Malaysia is quite different from Europe and you have to get used to the standards of food and accommodation. I traveled to Asia without much expectation, so that I could absorb all the unforgettable impressions and to get carried away. For me Malaysia was a little test of courage but in the end one of the greatest experiences I could imagine.

A Secret

We only had one small “food accident” that was probably triggered by bad food at lunch. However this was not that bad so we survived our three weeks without the typical horror stories of endless toilet sessions and vomiting.

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