In the Malaysia travel guide I’ll share the details you and your family need to know. From the best places to visit, typical accommodation, food and transport costs, to money saving tips and the best times to travel.
Malaysia is the perfect family holiday destination, especially for those who have not visited South East Asia before. English is widely spoken and understood, road rules are (almost always) followed, and it is very child friendly!
Kuala Lumpur is a family favourite. The KLCC playground and waterpark near the Petronas Towers will keep the kids happily playing for hours. A visit to the Batu Caves is an absolute must. The Cameron Highlands offer a chance to see the stunning Malaysian jungle. From there you can trek through Taman Negara National Park, and if you’re lucky catch a glimpse of a wild tiger.
If you want to introduce your little ones to the delicious street food head to Penang. You’ll find hawker stalls all over the place, selling what’s said to be the best food in Malaysia. If your kids love the beach you’ll be spoilt for choice, Langkawi (west coast), Tioman, Perhentian or Redang (east coast) Islands are all stunning white sand, clear water beaches, ideal for children. If you’re a family after an adventure Borneo will blow you away. With an abundant amount of wildlife and adventure activities your kids will be on an adrenaline high for days.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Build sandcastles on the beautiful beaches of Langkawi
Fall in love with the Orang-utans in Sabah or Sarawak
Sample delicious Nasi Kandar
Surprise the kids with a day out at LEGOLAND Malaysia
Chase butterflies at Entopia in Penang
Climb the rainbow stairs at the Batu Caves
Hike jungle tracks to see monkeys swinging from the treetops
Visit Kek Lok Si the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia
TYPICAL COSTS WHEN TRAVELLING
Malaysia is a very affordable country and has many lower cost options when it comes to family accommodation. We choose to stay in Airbnb’s as we like to have two bedrooms and a full kitchen, something that would not only be difficult to find if looking at hotels, but also very expensive. We spend between $500-$1000NZD per month (1370-2740RM/$335-$670USD). In places like Kuala Lumpur and Penang will easily get you an apartment with a pool and even a view!
Street food is cheap and yummy, most meals are between $1.80-$5.50NZD (5-15RM/$1.20-$3.70USD). Restaurants and cafes will be a lot more, usually over $7NZD (20RM/$4.80USD). Coffee is the same price as back home at around $5NZD (13RM/$3.30USD) and as alcohol is heavily taxed, a bottle of beer is almost double the cost of coffee. If you have a kitchen and decide to cook, you’ll find grocery prices all over the show. Some things are so much cheaper than at home like raw chicken breast for $1.50NZD (4RM/$1USD) instead of the $17NZD (46.5RM/$11.35USD) we were paying in Auckland! Others are much more expensive. Dairy products are double the price, if not more, we paid $5.50NZD/15RM/$3.70USD for 250g of cheese. However at home we can get 1kg, which is four times as much, for $10NZD (27.30RM/$670USD). It’s crazy.
Once you’re in South East Asia travel to and from Malaysia is cheap using AirAsia, as their head quarters are in Kuala Lumpur. Our flight from Penang to Singapore cost us less than $100NZD (274RM/$67USD) for all four of us. This included three lots of 20kg checked luggage. Once you’re on the ground you’ll find most cities have excellent public transport (we used PenangRapid bus almost every day) which is cheap and easy. We use the app Moovit to check routes and times. If you’re wanting to travel between locations, or get to/from the airports etc. 12GoAsia is the best site out. You can search and book busses, taxis, trains and boats directly and it’s very user friendly. Grab (the Asian Uber) is another quick and cheap option.
MONEY SAVING TIPS
1. Eat at hawker stalls – In Malaysia you’ll find hawker stalls/centres all over, they’re cheap and delicious.
2. Stay at an Airbnb – A lot of hosts offer discounted rates of 5-10% for weekly stays. You can even get up to 60% less when you book for a month or more.
3. Ride the local busses – Malaysia has excellent public transport, it’s cheap (and there are usually free inner city routes), safe and easy to navigate. We use the Moovit app, it’s been brilliant.
4. Free attractions – There are so many things to do for free in Malaysia. Playgrounds, waterparks, temples, jungle walks, wildlife spotting and beaches, to name a few!
WHEN TO VISIT MALAYSIA
Malaysia has a tropical climate so temperatures sit between 29-33 degrees Celsius and don’t fluctuate too much. However the humidity does! The monsoon season on the East coast is between November and February, with heavy rainfall closing many resorts/islands. They usually re-open in March, so aim for April to October to make the most of the Islands. The West coast’s best weather is November to March, with the rainy season bringing thunderstorms in the afternoon with short downpours.