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Backpacking in Malaysia

If a country can be described as a backpacker entry-level country in Southeast Asia, it is certainly Malaysia. Simply because the tourist infrastructure and transportation are the best in the region. Not to mention that you are on safe ground during your backpacking trip – provided you follow some rules (drugs, clothes etc.) yourself. You’ll also meet a country that is mostly Muslim, but has many Buddhist and Chinese roots. On your tour through Malaysia you’ll discover modern, clean megacities that you’ll otherwise only find in Europe or North America.

You can also experience wild orangutans in the rainforest of Borneo or hang out in the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands. Get excited about old colonial cities or hang out on dreamy beaches on the F.E.L. or on different islands. In Melaka and Georgetown you can take a look around the UNESCO World Heritage listed old towns or climb the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, the Kota Kinabalu. But beware! Underestimate the 4000er! Don’t underestimate the 4000m. It has already claimed the lives of many gullible backpackers who tried to defeat it with flip-flops.

Backpacking in Malaysia - Landschaft und Natur

Backpacking in Malaysia – Landscape and Nature

You fly to Malaysia from Frankfurt. After 12 hours you will land in the capital Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Airlines flies non-stop to Kuala Lumpur. The best way to travel in the country is by train, or by bus. In Malaysia there is also a cheap airline that you can use to cover longer distances. Or even if you have less time. You always fly to East Malaysia, Borneo, anyway. Buddhism and Christianity means celebrating until Reiern. For the Muslims it’s something different. You know for sure. In Kuala Lumpur you can give yourself a good one in Sultan Ismail district, otherwise there is less going on. At the tourist beaches there are alternatives again.

Concerning the budget that you need for a backpacker trip through Malaysia, calculate between 30-50 percent more than in Thailand and Indonesia. But with 20 to 30 Euros you should come around. It’s also cheaper. Be prepared for the heat and extreme humidity that can be felt all year round. If you only want to leave the highlights, then 2 to 3 weeks are surely enough. If you take Borneo with you on your itinerary, you’ll be able to spend months on end in the bushes. But you won’t meet any humans there. Almost all of them live in Western Malaysia, which stretches between Thailand and Singapore.

Culture in Malaysia

You are on Muslim territory, which means in your backpacking travel experience, if it is to become one, to respect the local traditions. A Muslim is Muslim by birth and may not marry any other believer, etc.. So be careful! The family clan can be very vindictive. Otherwise also the Chinese are dominant in the country. Above all their economic power makes them indispensable for the Malays. And there are still numerous indigenous people like the Orang Asli and the Dayak living in the country, who despite the fact that most of them are converted, often still adhere to their natural religions. In addition there are Indians and others. A multi-facetted mishmash that brings with it a lot of exciting cultural heritage.

By the way, the Europeans also had their say. Since tea can be cultivated well in the high altitudes of the country, everyone knows immediately which European people trumped up here big. Besides the English, however, the Dutch were also here for a while. You can still see this from the well preserved colonial cities. You should also know that homosexuality in Malaysia is basically punishable. So you don’t enjoy any protection from the law. Independent media are not known in the country either. Did you know that the hibiscus flower is the national flower of Malaysia?

Backpacking in Malaysia - Kultur

Backpacking in Malaysia – Kultur

Backpacker Route in Malaysia

You should plan exactly what you want to do on your Malaysia backpacker trip. It does matter if you want to discover the country completely or just the eastern or western part. Both parts are as different as black and white. That’s right at the front. Jungle here – dream beaches and high-tech there. Orangutans in the east – people in the west. What the more interesting part is, you have to find out for yourself. Orang-Utan also means forest man, by the way. Let’s take a look at what you can experience on a Malaysia backpacker adventure.

Route 1: The classic (15-20 days)

  • 2 – 3 days exploring Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia
  • 3 days diving in Sipadan
  • 2 days to the highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu in Borneo – 4.095 m
  • 3 days hanging out at South Beach, Perhentian Besar
  • 2 days in the Camaron Highlands to the tea plantations
  • 2 days exploring Georgetown Old Town
  • 2 days Taman Negara National Park with jungle, suspension bridges and waterfalls
  • 3 days to hang out on one of the most beautiful islands in the world in Tioman
  • 1 day let your gaze wander from the Petronas Twin Towers

Route 2: Backpacker Intensive Trip (up to 40 days and more)

  • 2 – 3 days exploring Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia
  • 3 days diving in Sipadan
  • 2 days to the highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu in Borneo – 4.095 m
  • 3 days hanging out at South Beach, Perhentian Besar
  • 2 days in the Camaron Highlands to the tea plantations
  • 2 days exploring Georgetown Old Town
  • 2 days Taman Negara National Park with jungle, suspension bridges and waterfalls
  • 3 days to hang out on one of the most beautiful islands in the world in Tioman
  • 1 day let your gaze wander from the Petronas Twin Towers
  • 3-4 days to explore 99 islands in the Langkawi Archipelago
  • 3 days backpacker feeling in Perhentian Islands with Perhentian Besar (“Big Perhentian”) and Perhentian Kecil (“Small Perhentian”) enjoying
  • 2 Days Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre – Orang-Utans live
  • 2 days Mulu Caves in Gunung Mulu National Park
  • 4 days in Sarawak visiting jungle, national parks and traditional longhouses
  • 2 days Ipoh capital city of Perak with colonial old town
  • 2 days Johor Bahru – Gate to Singapore
  • 2 Days Kuantan – Capital of Pahang
  • 2 days Kota Kinabalu – City on Borneo
  • 3 days Penang
  • 1 day white water rafting Jeram Besu – Grade I-III – Pahang
  • 1 day white water rafting Telom River – Grad V – Pahang

Travel Times in Malaysia

It’s cold in Malaysia only on the summit of Mount Kinabalu at over 4,000 m, otherwise you can prepare for a hot, humid, tropical climate on your backpacker tour through the country. And that applies for 365 days a year. It’s still quite pleasant in the Camaron Highlands. Set your sights on day temperatures between 31 and 35 degrees in the afternoon and just under 30 degrees at night. So the nights don’t offer any cooling either. Those who like it warm will be thrilled.

Backpacker Budget in Malaysia

In Malaysia you don’t pay with dollars or euros, but with the “Malaysian Ringgit” (RM). The coal is best drawn to the ATMs, which can be found all over the country in the city and tourist centers. The big question is: how much does it cost to travel in Malaysia in backpacker style? As always, that depends on the requirements. But assume a budget between 20 and 30 Euro per day – even better 10 more.

Then you can be sure that you sleep in a decent bed and travel comfortably from A to B. And here and there not only the quite tasty kitchen on the streets enjoys A room in a dorm costs depending on the equipment and place between 10 euros. You pay three times as much for a simple hotel room in which you can sleep with 2 people. In Kuala Lumpur you pay for the night in a 4-5 star hotel, as much as in a 1 star hotel in London.

A tasty and nutritious snack or a small meal in a simple restaurant costs a handful of Euros. With 1-2 Euro you can fill your belly at the street stand. If you want to go up to the Petronas Towers Skybridge & Observation Deck in Kuala Lumpur, it will cost you about 17 dollars. The view from the KL Tower observation deck is much cheaper with 8 Euro.

The classic city tour in KL in a double-decker bus will cost you around 8 euros. A taxi ride will cost you 1.2 euros per three kilometres. For the distance from the airport to the city you have to pay around 15 to 18 Euro. Relatively cheap are the transport options and that with a quite good service.

Bus travel in Malaysia

The best way to cover long distances on your backpacker tour is by bus or train. But the train doesn’t go everywhere. If you take the bus, it will cost you no more than 5-6 euros for 200-300 kilometres. Even the really long distances rarely cost more than 15 euros. Check the bus prices on the pages of the bus companies Transnasional and NICE/Plusliner

Domestic fares in Malaysia

Long distances are best for you. Especially if you want to fly from East Malaysia on Borneo to West Malaysia on the mainland. You can find the best deals on the website of Air Asia – This is a real low-cost airline, as you know it from Europe. Flights to neighbouring countries or within the country do not cost more than 50-100 Euro. Have a look at the websites of the airlines Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, Berjaya Air and MASWings. The latter is also stationed on Borneo.

Boating in Malaysia

By boat you can enter Malaysia from all neighbouring countries.

Rail travel in Malaysia

If you want to take the train on your backpacking adventure, which is always a good and comfortable alternative, get the information and prices at the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) train. This will take you to the most important corners of the country – with the exception of Sarawak on Borneo. You can go from the border to Thailand in Butterworth to Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur. On the so-called Jungle Railway you go from Gua Musang and into the Taman Negara National Park to Kota Bharu. One line runs on the mainland, the other on Borneo. Get ready for a very slow ride through the jungle.

Backpacker accommodations in Malaysia

Staying overnight in Malaysia is possible almost everywhere – and it’s also quite inexpensive. In every touristically developed place you will find a large selection of accommodations for every budget on your backpacking tour. If you have more at your disposal, you can stay in a nice hotel room. With 20 – 30 Euro you’ll get something decent. The advantage: you have your peace and quiet and your own bathroom. The disadvantage – everything impersonal and less contact possibilities.

Have a look at the rooms you can find in the hotel chain Tune Hotels. Inexpensive and reasonable. So you better go to hostels, guesthouses or guesthouses. Provided you want to make contacts quickly. But as a rule you profit from the good price-performance ratio that awaits you in the many small guesthouses. How much does it cost to stay in a dorm in a hostel?

According to the average prices on hostelworld these are for:

  • 6-8 Euro Kuala Lumpur
  • 6-8 Euro Penang
  • 4 Euro Melaka
  • 6-8 Euro Kota Kinabalu
  • 4 Euro Langkawi
  • 5 Euro Kuching
  • 6-10 Euro Sandakan
  • 6-8 Euro Cameron Highlands
  • 6-8 Euro Miri
  • 6-8 Euro Ipoh

For the overnight stay in Bed and Breakfast accommodation you pay slightly more, but usually get a much better service. Accommodation in a guesthouse in Kuala Lumpur usually costs less than 8 Euro.

Backpacking in Malaysia - Doerfer

Backpacking in Malaysia – Sea Village

Camping in Malaysia

Camping is not unknown in Malaysia. For example you can pitch your tent in the Taman Alam Kuala Selangor (Kuala Selangor Nature Park) National Park at the designated places. In the Cameron Highlands you can camp quite nicely. Further camping possibilities await you in Kenong Rimba State Park also in Pahang. Or you can camp in Endau Rompin National Park, where you can also rent equipment.

A real camping highlight awaits you when you camp in Pulau Gaya, Sapi and Mamutik, Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park in Sabah on the island of Borneo. You can also camp at the Poring Hot Springs. You don’t have to be afraid of big costs, no matter where you camp. But the standards of the campsites are often basic. Well, but you also camp partially on Borneo. Who is camping there?

Backpacker Trips, Tips & Highlights in Malaysia

Traveling to Malaysia means entering an exotic and wild world. During your backpacking experience in Malaysia you will not only get to know foreign cultures, but you will also discover the traces of the former European colonial masters. Unfortunately, they did not perform very well here, but were only exploited.

Nevertheless some architectural relics are worth to be visited. Also penetrates into the jungle of the fifth largest island in the world on Borneo or climbs up to the highest southeast Asian peak at over 4,000 m. The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpu are not quite as high, but you can also enjoy a fantastic view over the city and the country from them.

Backpacking in Malaysia - Staedte

Backpacking in Malaysia – City

Backpacker Highlights in Malaysia

Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur and get excited about the variety of products and the exotic flair. According to CNNgo, the BBKLCC in Kuala Lumpur is the fourth best shopping center in the world. In Petaling Street in KL you’ll find yourself in the middle of Chinatown. A must do is diving in front of Sipadan – snorkelling is a must too.

The Cameron Highlands are also a backpacker must. Rafting is one of the most spectacular adventures you can experience in Malaysia. As a beginner you might want to try a white water rafting trip on the Sungai Selangor in Selangor. The rapids range from grade I – III. If you can do a little bit better in this respect, then take the rapids on the Sedim River in Kedah.

You can expect category III-IV obstacles. There are so many more scattered across the land. You can eat the Malay dishes with your fingers wherever you go. This is not a taboo break, but culture. Why don’t you write at a university like Tunku Abdul Rahman University and study Chinese medicine? Oh yes! From the drugs should! You should stay away from drugs. Drug smuggling is punishable by death.

Backpacker Insider Tips in Malaysia

Backpacking in Malaysia - Twin Tower

Backpacking in Malaysia – Twin Tower

Although not a secret tip, it is still worth visiting the Orang Utan breeding station in Sepilok. You can also make a detour to the Orou (‘sun’ in Murut) Sapulot Ecological Lodge. There are also the gigantic Murut Caves. Swim under the crystal clear Kabulungou waterfalls or take a boat trip in the deepest jungle across the brown river to Batu Pungull. You can also swim in the river. If you do, you can boast of having swum in the middle of a virgin jungle.

Sometimes the good is close at hand. For example in the case of Changi Village on the island Pulau Ubin, which you can reach from Changi Point Ferry Terminal in a few minutes. Lives the original jungle at the Kinabatangan River from a real jungle lodge. An amazing diving and snorkelling experience awaits you in the waters off Perhentian Island, Terengganu. The rafting adventure has already been mentioned. Here is another tip: Sungai Kampar in Perak. You want more jungle adventures? Then off to the Bako National Park in Sarawak.

If that’s still not enough for you, then you should live with the locals in the bush of the Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak for a few months. It can’t get any harder. Another great trip is to explore the island world in Kenyir Lake with a boat. Meanwhile you can also rent bicycles on Borneo to explore the region. Another great adventure is a kayak tour through the mangrove forests of Langkawi, Kedah.

Food & Drinks in Malaysia

Eating in Malaysia is like feeding your mother. Happy to be invited to visit a Malaysian family. The first thing he will hear: “Sudah makan?” means something like: “Have you eaten yet?” Sure, no! The housewife will then spoil you with the tastiest delicacies, which you can get partly at the street stalls, but not so good and prepared with so much love.

At every street corner you get for the equivalent of 1 Euro a delicious food. If you put 3-5 Euro on it, you can eat almost princely in a restaurant – including the drinks mind you. Malays eat with their right hand – but cutlery is everywhere. You’ll enjoy a real fusion cuisine made from Chinese, Thai and Indian ingredients.

Food in Malaysia

Rice (nasi) and noodles (mee) are the basis of most Malay dishes. In addition there is the Sambalpaste which partly takes your breath away. This is a reddish-brown paste made of crushed chilli, garlic and shrimp paste. You’d better use it sparingly until you’ve got used to it. Otherwise everything will be on the table just like in other Asian countries. Beef, chicken, goat, fish or lamb are prepared in curry pastes.

These, in turn, are enriched with delicious sauces made up of coconut, ginger, garlic and some more. You don’t always want to know everything. Each region has its own specialities. Of course, the jungle in Borneo produces different products than the mainland. Wild boars and fish or crabs are already on the table there in many variations. Try the fresh fruits you get for a button and an egg at the markets.

You can fill your belly with watermelons, starfruit, papaya, mangoes, guavas, rambutan, lychees and many more for a few cents. Culinary highlights are Ikan panggang river fish wrapped in banana leaves and grilled or Rendang daging beef cooked in coconut cream. The grilled meat skewers served with a peanut sauce Satay can be found on every street corner.

Drinking in Malaysia

Although Malaysia is a Muslim influenced country, this does not prevent the Malays from indulging in alcohol. In all bigger cities and especially in the tourist centres there are pubs, pubs and bars where beer, wine and sometimes hard spirits are offered. Not even the local beers Tiger and Anchor taste bad.

You can also enjoy a Singapore Sling Cocktail on your backpacker trip through Malaysia. The original Tuak (rice wine) has it also in itself. One more thing. The alcohol may be sold however only to persons starting from 18 years. Muslims are not allowed to buy and drink alcohol at all. You don’t have to go to the coffee shop chains like Starbucks or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Better you enjoy the local flair in the small cafes.

Backpacker Visa und Vaccinations in Malaysia

Malaysia is a relatively safe country, but beware! Also here there are crazy extremists. If you enter from Thailand, then pay attention to your luggage when travelling by bus. Otherwise you need valid papers for your backpacker trip.

  • Passport: Yes
  • Provisional passport: No
  • Identity card: No
  • Temporary identity card: No
  • Children’s passport: Yes
  • Still valid child ID according to the old model: No

Your documents must be valid for six months after the trip. Free pages should also still be available in your passport.

Medical information

Make sure you have the basic vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, mumps, measles, rubella and flu. However, they will not help you against malaria, which is well known in Malaysia. This also applies to dengue, diarrhoea/cholera, chikkungunya fever, sarcocystosis, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, bird flu and haze.

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