Malaysia has a diverse mixture of people with a majority being ethnic Malays, Chinese, and Indian.
The country has a number of highlighting natural attractions, a host of beautiful island and beaches, one of the oldest rain forests in the world, and a friendly culture.
In comparison to much of South East Asia, the cost of travel in Malaysia is a little higher than the norm.
Malaysia uses the Ringgit (MYR or RM): $1 USD = 3.03 RM
- Dorm beds: cheapest fan rooms go for about $7 – $10 per night
- Double private rooms: can be found in the range of $10 – $20 per night and up from there, I stayed with a friend in a double room guest house on the island of Langkawi for a deal of 40 RM ($13.21) per night
- Next Step Up (Mid-range): If you are wanting to splurge on accommodating, $20 – $40 will get a very nice hotel room
Malaysian food is up there with Indian, Ethiopian, and Thai cuisine as a contender for the most delicious in the world.
Food is not just a necessity in Malaysia, it's a passion and form of art that no one should miss.
- Street Food: Nasi campur, a plate of rice covered with a selection of curries, vegetables, and fish or meat, can cost anywhere from 4 – 8 RM ($1.32 – $2.64). Cheap Indian restaurants that serve rice and daal curry on banana leaves are all over and cost less than 5 RM ($1.65). Ipoh and Georgetown are particularly known for their delicacies, but excellent food is abundant throughout the entire country.
- Fast Food Restaurants: possibly air conditioned establishments cost 5 – 15 ($1.65 – $4.96) RM per meal
- Sit Down Restaurants: Malaysia has an extensive range of restaurants, from budget sit down eateries to plush sit down restaurants. Low end sit down restaurants can cost 15 – 30 ($4.96 – $9.91) RM while high end can cost anywhere from 30 – 100 RM $9.91 – $33.04).
Nightlife / Drinking
If you are on a tight budget, you might want to think about cutting back on alcohol in Malaysia.
Malaysia is an Islamic state and charges a hefty tax on alcohol.
- Single beers at convenience stores can cost 7 RM ($2.31) or more
- Some friends I knew in Kuala Lumpur bought alcohol duty-free before getting in the country, or at duty-free ports such as Langkawi and Labuan within Malaysia
- Fancy and popular nightclubs in Kuala Lumpur sometimes charge cover of 20 – 50 RM ($6.61 – $16.51), and drink prices can range from 15 – 30 RM ($4.96 – $9.91)
Around Kuala Lumpur
- Trains: from the Monorail to the KTM Komuter to the Rapid KL, the city of Kuala Lumpur is networked with an extensive and effective system of trains and subways. The fares range by distance but start off at 1.2 RM ($0.40) and go up depending on your distance.
- Taxis: start at 3 -4 RM ($1 – $1.32) and then increase from there, I took a taxi from central Kuala Lumpur to the Batu caves for around 15 RM ($4.96)
- Bus: about a 5-hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur to Penang costs anywhere from 35 – 50 RM ($11.56 – $16.51), I also took a 2-hour bus from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka for 12 RM ($3.96)
- Plane: There are two main parts of Malaysia: the main Malay peninsula, and a section of Borneo. The best way to get to the Borneo side of Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) is by plane. Check Air Asia for budget flights.
Sample Costs of Sites and Attractions
- The viewing deck of the Petronas Towers: FREE (but you must arrive early to get tickets)
- Top of KL Tower observation deck: 38 RM ($12.55)
- Durian Buffet (my personal favorite attraction): 10 – 15 RM ($3.30 – $4.96)
- Batu Caves: the overall temple is Free, a tour of the side cave: 35 RM per person ($11.56)
- KL Bird Park entrance: 45 RM ($14.87)
- Jungle canopy trek with a guide at Taman Negara forest: 50 RM ($16.52)
- Island hopping boat tours: 25 – 40 RM ($8.26 – $13.21)
- Cable car up Penang Hill: 4 RM ($1.32)
- Climb Mount Kinabalu on the island of Borneo: In order to save a lot of money, I tried to climb Mount Kinabalu in one day. The hike cost 181 RM ($60), and unfortunately, when we were almost at the top, the weather turned bad on us and our guide told us we needed to turn around. Most people stay for a night on the mountain, but that adds on an extra 300 RM ($100) or so.
Budget for a Day in Malaysia
Depending on traveling style, a lower end daily budget should be in the range of $15 – $30, if you start eating at nicer restaurants, drinking, and doing many attractions a day can cost $30 – $50 or more.
Last Updated on June 13, 2019 by Dave Lee
Mark was raised in central Africa before migrating back to the U.S. for University. After graduating, he decided to continue traveling the world. On Migrationology, he shares the cultural side of travel from a slow-paced local perspective that often revolves around his love for eating all forms of food. Join him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @migrationology.