Exploring Malaysia: Travel Days Needed

how many days to travel malaysia

Malaysia is a melting pot of Southeast Asian cultures, with amazing wildlife, landscapes, mouth-watering cuisine, time-honoured traditions, and a long list of attractions. The duration of your stay in Malaysia depends on your interests and budget. You can visit Malaysia for as little as five days or less, but it is recommended to spend at least ten days in the country to discover both its cities and countryside at a relaxed pace. Two weeks is considered the perfect amount of time to explore the region's top wilderness venues and experience its cultural highlights.

Characteristics Values
Minimum time to travel entire Malaysia 5 days
Ideal time to travel entire Malaysia 2 weeks
Perfect time to experience the highlights of Malaysia 10 days
Time to experience the highlights of Peninsula Malaysia 7 days

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How to get around Malaysia

Malaysia is a diverse country with a great infrastructure network, making it easy to get around. Here are some tips on how to navigate the country and make the most of your trip.

By Air

Domestic flights are a good option if you're short on time or want to cover long distances quickly. Several airlines offer budget-friendly flights around the country, including Air Asia, Firefly, Malaysia Airlines, and Malindo Air. Keep in mind that many regional connections will require a change of planes in Kuala Lumpur, so factor that into your planning.

By Train

The train is a great way to travel between cities in Peninsular Malaysia. The country's railway network connects the south to the north, with the main intersection in the town of Gemas. The West Coast line runs from Padang Besar on the Thai border to Johor Bahru, while the East Coast or "Jungle" Line branches off at Gemas towards Kota Bharu in Kelantan. Trains are a calm and comfortable way to take in the lush tropical scenery, and you'll get to experience historic British-built train stations along the way.

By Bus

Bus transport is well-arranged in Peninsular Malaysia, especially on the west coast. Buses are comfortable, air-conditioned, and economical, making them a popular choice for locals and tourists alike. You can easily travel between major cities like Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Singapore, the Cameron Highlands, and Penang by bus. In Sabah and Sarawak, modern air-conditioned buses ply the long-distance routes as well. Bus stations can be a bit chaotic, with dozens of companies vying for your attention, but the atmosphere is friendly and you can usually just turn up and buy a ticket for the next bus.

By Boat

If you're heading to the small tropical islands off the coast, such as Langkawi, Penang, the Perhentians, Tioman, or Pangkor, you'll need to travel by boat. These are usually smaller boats that can get you to your island destination within 30-45 minutes. If you're visiting Taman Negara, you'll sail on a wooden jungle boat for about 2 hours.

By Taxi

Long-distance taxis or shared taxis (known as "kereta sapu") are another option for getting around Malaysia. These can be a quick way to travel between cities, but you'll need to wait for enough passengers to fill the vehicle. You also have the option to charter a taxi for your private use, which can be convenient if you're travelling in a small group or want to reach destinations that aren't directly served by buses.

By Car or Motorbike

Renting a car or motorbike is also possible in Malaysia, though driving in the major cities can be challenging due to traffic congestion and confusing road systems. Roads in Peninsular Malaysia are generally well-maintained, and road signs are clear. Driving is on the left, and wearing seatbelts is compulsory. Car rental rates start at around RM120 per day, while motorbike rental tends to be more informal and offered by local guesthouses and shops.

Local Transport

For shorter distances within cities, you can make use of local transport options such as city buses, taxis, or ridesharing services like Grab. Kuala Lumpur also has an extensive network of commuter rail, light rail, and monorail systems. Trishaws (bicycle rickshaws) can also be found in touristy areas like Melaka and Penang, offering a unique travel experience.

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How long to spend in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, commonly shortened to KL by locals and visitors, is a bustling Southeast Asian city with a diverse range of attractions. From towering skyscrapers to cultural hotspots, KL offers a unique blend of modernity and tradition. While there is no definitive answer to how long one should spend in Kuala Lumpur, a typical visit can range from 2 to 5 days, depending on your interests and travel plans. Here is a guide to help you plan your stay in Malaysia's captivating capital.

2-3 Days in Kuala Lumpur

If you're short on time or prefer a more concise itinerary, 2 to 3 days in Kuala Lumpur can be a great introduction to the city. This duration allows you to explore the city centre, including must-see attractions such as the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, Merdeka Square, and the vibrant Chinatown. A stroll through Petaling Street in Chinatown will tantalise your taste buds with its array of food vendors and market stalls. Don't forget to visit the Central Market, where you'll find local shopping opportunities and a glimpse into the city's architectural heritage.

For a break from the hustle and bustle, head to the Perdana Botanical Gardens and the Butterfly Park, or immerse yourself in history at the National Museum. To end your day, experience the lively atmosphere of the Jalan Alor night market in Bukit Bintang, where you can indulge in delicious Chinese-style street food and enjoy the vibrant nightlife.

4-5 Days in Kuala Lumpur

With an additional day or two, you can explore more of what Kuala Lumpur has to offer and even venture outside the city. Day trips to nearby destinations like Malacca or the Genting Highlands are popular choices. Malacca, a coastal city known for its historical Jonker Street, offers a glimpse into Malaysia's colonial past. Alternatively, the Genting Highlands provide a refreshing escape from the city heat, featuring attractions like the impressive Chin Swee Pagoda.

Back in Kuala Lumpur, you can dedicate a day to exploring the famous Batu Caves, located just outside the city. Climb the colourful steps to the cavernous cave complex, adorned with Hindu shrines and statues. Another day can be spent in Putrajaya, Malaysia's administrative capital, where you'll find impressive architecture blending modern and traditional Islamic designs.

Transportation and Accommodation

Kuala Lumpur has an efficient and affordable public transportation system, making it easy to get around the city. This includes bus, train, monorail, and metro lines. The city also serves as a transport hub, with convenient connections to other parts of Malaysia and neighbouring countries like Singapore and Thailand.

When it comes to accommodation, Kuala Lumpur offers a wide range of options for every budget and taste. Bukit Bintang is a popular choice for street food, night markets, and nightlife. For a more luxurious experience, consider KLCC, where you'll find upscale hotels and easy access to attractions like the Twin Towers. Chinatown offers budget-friendly options, although the quality can vary.

Final Thoughts

Whether you spend a weekend or a week in Kuala Lumpur, the city is sure to leave a lasting impression. Its diverse cultural offerings, culinary delights, and blend of modern and traditional attractions make it a memorable destination. So, plan your itinerary according to your interests and time availability, knowing that Kuala Lumpur has something for everyone.

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What to do in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's capital and largest city, known for its impressive modern architecture, cultural diversity, and vibrant food scene. Here are some must-do activities when visiting Kuala Lumpur:

  • Visit the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, the world's tallest twin towers. Take in the stunning views from the Sky Bridge and Observation Deck.
  • Explore the vibrant streets of Chinatown, including the lively Petaling Street and its surrounding temples, such as the Sri Mahamariamman Temple and the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple.
  • Discover the Batu Caves, a 400 million-year-old limestone cave complex featuring a 100-year-old temple. Climb the 272 colourful steps to the Temple Cave and witness the tallest statue of Lord Murugan in the world.
  • Stroll through the Perdana Botanical Gardens, boasting a diverse range of flower gardens, including the Orchid Garden and the Hibiscus Garden, with its colonial-era building and tea room.
  • Experience the lively atmosphere of Jalan Alor, a street renowned for its variety of local and regional cuisines. Sample everything from barbecued meats to noodles and desserts at affordable prices.
  • Take a trip to Masjid Negara, Malaysia's impressive national mosque. Marvel at its contemporary design, featuring a grand star-shaped dome and a 73-metre minaret, set within lush landscaped gardens.
  • Immerse yourself in the arts and crafts at the Central Market, a classic Art Deco building that once served as a wet market. Shop for traditional goods such as batik, embroidery, carvings, souvenirs, and sculptures.
  • Enjoy breathtaking city views from the Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower), one of the tallest freestanding towers in the world. The viewing deck offers a unique perspective of the city, over 100 meters higher than the Petronas Tower's Skybridge.
  • Wander through the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, a Moorish-style landmark that previously served as the secretariat for the colonial British administration. It is now home to the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia.
  • Indulge in some retail therapy at the Pavilion KL, a premier shopping destination located in the heart of Bukit Bintang. Explore over 700 specialty stores, offering a blend of international fashion brands and unique concept stores.

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How to get from Cameron Highlands to Penang

The number of days you should spend in Malaysia depends on what you want to do and see. Two weeks is the perfect amount of time to explore the region's top wilderness venues and experience its cultural highlights. However, you can still enjoy Malaysia in fewer days. Five days is enough for a wildlife-rich rainforest experience, including time to relax on white sand beaches and snorkel in the Sulu Sea. In a week to 10 days, you can experience multiple regions.

If you are looking to get from Cameron Highlands to Penang, the best way to travel between the two places is by bus. The bus journey takes around 4 to 5 hours and there are several agencies that provide daily services. These include Unititi Express and Newsia Express. The buses are well-equipped and air-conditioned, and the rates are affordable. The journey is also very comfortable and pleasing, with all the buses offering comfy seating arrangements and clean interiors.

There are a few boarding points in Penang, including Butterworth, Penang Komtar, Penang Sentral Terminal, Prangin Mall, and Nibong Palau. In Cameron Highlands, the buses stop at the Tanah Rata bus station, which is the most important place and connects to various parts of the highland.

You can book bus tickets online through websites such as redBus and Easybook.com, which is one of the largest online bus booking agencies in Singapore and Malaysia. Online booking saves time and effort, especially since the counters can get heavily rushed.

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Where to stay in Malaysia

Deciding where to stay in Malaysia can be overwhelming, as the country is split between the Southeast Asian peninsula and the northern half of Borneo, with each region offering a different experience. Here are some suggestions for places to stay, depending on your travel budget and style:

Kuala Lumpur

The capital and largest city in Malaysia is the most visited destination in the country, with amazing places to see, including bustling night markets, budget-friendly shopping streets, and the world-famous Petronas Towers. The city is relatively central within peninsular Malaysia, making it a great starting point for those wanting to explore further. Kuala Lumpur is easily the most convenient city for first-time visitors and backpackers. The city centre is home to most accommodation options, with bargain rates, so it's a great place to treat yourself to a luxury hotel.

Malacca

Also known as Melaka, this increasingly popular destination on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia has a fascinating history. Its colonial past has left it a melting pot of Portuguese, Dutch, British, and Malaysian culture, with an eclectic culinary scene. It's also a creative hub, with plenty of fantastic art galleries. For families, Malacca is one of the safest places in Malaysia, with one of the lowest crime rates in the country. The historic centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a fun learning opportunity.

Langkawi

Langkawi is a collection of islands just off the coast of Peninsular Malaysia, known for their sun, sand, and sea. It's a popular destination for travellers looking for some beach time, as well as shopping and dining, as it's a duty-free zone. For couples, Langkawi offers plenty of romantic retreats, as well as adventure activities. The main island is packed with some of the best beaches in Malaysia, many of them quieter and more peaceful than those in neighbouring Thailand.

Kota Kinabalu

Most visitors to Malaysia stick to the Peninsula, but Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah in Borneo, has grown in popularity in recent years. It's a buzzing city with plenty to offer backpackers who want to head off the beaten path. There are gorgeous Malaysian islands nearby, with regular cruises from the city, and verdant rainforests surround the city, giving way to some of Malaysia's unspoiled natural beauty.

Johor Bahru

Malaysia is a very budget-friendly country, but Johor Bahru, close to Singapore, is a particularly popular choice for those on a tight budget. The city is also home to multiple theme parks and watersports activities. Restaurants and bars are affordable, and shopping is surprisingly cheap, attracting locals from Singapore looking for a bargain.

Miri

Miri, in Sarawak, is the largest state in Malaysia. It was the first resort town in the state and is now one of the most popular destinations there. Home to the nation's oil industry, Miri hosts workers from across the world, resulting in a cosmopolitan atmosphere and plenty of attractions and nightlife. Miri is close to the border with Brunei and has excellent links to the Indonesian part of Borneo, making it a popular gateway for backpackers.

Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands have long been a popular getaway for locals from Kuala Lumpur, with gorgeous views and a laid-back atmosphere. It's full of mountains covered in lush forest, perfect for Instagram-worthy shots. For adventure travellers, the Cameron Highlands offers hiking, mountain climbing, and camping. The area is also known for its tea plantations, giving an insight into Malaysian culture and the local economy.

Penang

Penang is located on the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia and consists of a small mainland portion and the island of Penang. It's best known for its cuisine, with bustling night markets and locally owned restaurants serving delicious food that attract visitors from across Malaysia and even Singapore. Penang also has some of the best-preserved colonial-era architecture in the country, with a UNESCO World Heritage Site in George Town, the beating heart of Penang.

Frequently asked questions

You would need around 800 days to see everything in Malaysia. However, if you only have a week, you can still see many of the country's highlights.

Peninsula Malaysia is very well-connected, with excellent flight, train, and road connections across the country. Kuala Lumpur acts as the transport hub, with a busy international airport and a domestic network. Public transport is cheap and efficient, making it easy to navigate the country, even with limited time.

The best time to visit Malaysia depends on where you want to go. For the West Coast, the best time is from December to March, and for the East Coast, it's from April to October. Malaysia experiences warm temperatures all year round, with high levels of humidity and rainfall.

Malaysia has amazing wildlife, marvelous landscapes, mouth-watering cuisine, and a long list of attractions. You can visit the capital, Kuala Lumpur, lounge on the beaches of Turtle Island, go trekking in Kota Kinabalu, and dive and snorkel at the Perhentian Islands. You can also spot endangered orangutans and enjoy rainforest canopy walks in the Malaysian part of Borneo.

In Kuala Lumpur, you can visit the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, explore the National Museum and Chinatown, and take a train to the Batu Caves. You can also soak up the sights and sounds of the city, including Merdeka Square, KL Tower, Istana Negara, and Independence Square.

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