If you’re looking for the best budget friendly destination for families, you absolutely cannot beat Malaysia. Asia was our perfect destination, it’s cheap, friendly and easy to travel around. We didn’t want to pay for visas, and we wanted to stay in one place for as long as possible. Slow travel is easier on the kids, and it gives me more time to work on bringing in an income. Most Asian countries, especially those in South East Asia, allow you a 1 month/30 day visa free stay. Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong as well as Taiwan, all offer 3 months/90 days visa free, and of those four, Malaysia has the cheapest living costs.
It was slightly more difficult though, to chose where in Malaysia. We had to rule out the North-East as it’s Monsoon season between November and February, which is right over our travel dates of December to March! I was gutted, as I’d fallen in love with Redang Island, though it’s definitely not a budget friendly option! We narrowed it down to five cities we thought could be the best budget destination in Malaysia for families – Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Ipoh, Langkawi and Penang.
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, and reminded us a lot of Auckland. It’s a popular city with expats, and I’m dying to visit the Batu Caves but as Matt pointed out we were trying to get out of ‘the city’.
Ipoh is the gateway to the Cameron Highlands, a stunning section of the Malaysian landscape. There’s caves, berry farms, castles and hikes which the kids would love exploring. However there’s no access to the beach, which we realised was a non-negotiable for our sand loving family.
Langkawi, an island close to the Thailand border, seemed like the perfect choice and was my favourite. It’s small, tropical and simply stunning. Unfortunately because it’s such a popular island destination the accommodation and food costs are higher. Budget is a huge factor for us (the less we spend, the longer we travel), so Langkawi was crossed off the list.
Malacca, is not only a sweet seaside town with a river running through but is also said to have one of the best night markets in Malaysia. There are stunning Churches, Temples and Mosques to see, as well as beaches, which made it a serious contender.
Penang, has two parts, the Mainland, and Pulau Pinang (Penang Island). The most popular part of Penang Island is Georgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage site, full of street art and hawker stalls. There are national parks, lots of outdoor play areas and most importantly, beaches!
After we crossed off Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Langkawi, we had to decide if Malacca or Penang was the best budget destination in Malaysia for families. Ultimately Matts love of cheap food made the choice for us, as Penang is ‘the street food capital of Malaysia’. And obviously there’s no use arguing with my husbands stomach.