Malaysia is one of those countries you don’t hear a lot about, but that really surprised us with its diversity. Since it’s a central hub in Asia you have a mix of cultures and there are a lot of Western influences as well.
Malaysia has beautiful beaches and amazing diving sites, but don’t forget about the rainforest either!
It’s a great country for spotting different kinds of animals. We did a firefly tour, saw proboscis monkeys and our highlight was definitely a visit to the orang-utan.
Before you go
One of the great things about Malaysia is that you don’t need to apply for a visa beforehand. When you arrive you get an entry stamp that allows you to stay in Malaysia for up to 90 days. This entry stamp is also known as a social visit pass.
Things to keep in mind
The currency of Malaysia is the Ringgit (RM). The Ringgit has coins and banknotes. The coins are 5, 10, 20, and 50 sen and the banknotes are RM1, RM5, RM10, RM20, RM50, RM100
There are ATMs throughout the country but sometimes you’re limited to a certain amount because some ATMs only offer banknotes up to 50RM.
A little bit about getting around in Malaysia. Public transport is available in a lot of places, KL had the MRT but in other regions there are buses.
You could use Grab to get a driver to bring you from A to B as well. On Borneo, this is a bit trickier. Try Uber here as well.
It’s also possible to rent a car and drive around yourself. Just remember they drive on the left side of the road in Malaysia.
Our route through Malaysia - 5 months
Kuala Lumpur is our base to explore Malaysia. After we’ve settled in, we take the bus to Melaka where you will find a lot of Dutch history. We want to go to Legoland and so we go to Johor Bahru, on the border with Singapore. Because Malaysia does end here a bit, we board a plane to Borneo.
Our first stop in Borneo is Kuching, also known as cat paradise. But we go hiking in Kubah National Park. Due to the long distances, we get back on the plane to Miri, our base to go to Mulu National Park. Allow at least 3 full days for the park, it is really worth it! We fly on to Kota Kinabalu for a river cruise where we see proboscis monkeys and fireflies. The last stop in Borneo is Sandakan, to visit the orangutans in Sepilok.
Back to the peninsula for a month-long road trip. In Cameron Highland, we can finally say after all this time that we are cold! We stay one night in Ipoh to explore this city full of history. Then it is time for a few days of sun, sea, and beach on Penang Island. The crossing to the east coast really shows a completely different side of Malaysia. From Kota Bharu, we descend to Kuala Besut for a day trip to the Perhentian Islands. In Kuala Terengganu, we see many mosques in addition to a lot of street art. Although we have never heard of Cherating, it is one of the most surprising small towns we have seen. In Genting Highlands, we stay in a part of France, Colmar Tropicale, which is a very bizarre experience. All that remains for us is the return trip to Kuala Lumpur, our base of operations.
You would think that three months in Malaysia would be enough for us, but unfortunately due to medical problems, we are forced to stay here a little longer. We stay in Kuala Lumpur for two months and visit the Butterfly Park, the Batu Caves, and the opening of the SEA Games.
Our 3 favorites things to do
Mulu National Park
This national park in the heart of Borneo is one of the highlights of our visit. Getting there by plane is an adventure in itself. Prepare to be hot and wet in this rainforest. But if you want to see the flight of the bats or walk among the tree over the longest canopy or learn more about all the bugs in a rainforest, you’re in the right place!
All the way on the edge of Borneo you will find the orangutans’ rehabilitation center. To preserve this beautiful animal here they try to expand the population. If you don’t pay attention one will be walking right beside you or fly over your head. There are care keepers to make sure nobody harms the animals and they can roam free and do their thing.
If you’re looking for a place to go diving or snorkeling definitely check out the Perhentians Islands. We took a boat for a day trip from Kuala Besut, but you’re also able to stay on the islands. The water is very clear and there is a lot of coral. We loved the laidback vibe of the islands, no rush, nothing else to do than just hang out at the beach or in the water.
Where to stay
If you travel to Malaysia you have a lot of options of where to stay. We love Airbnb for Kuala Lumpur, but we’ve stayed in hotels and apartments as well. It really depends on where you’re going.
Some of our favorites:
Situated 550 meters from Petronas Twin Towers, so right in the city center.
Perfect if you want to visit Legoland Malaysia or want to transfer to Singapore.
Perfect spot if you’re visiting Penang and like to go to the beach.