Selamat datang! How to plan your trip to Malaysia

Selamat datang! How to plan your trip to Malaysia

Malaysia is a fascinating country with plenty to offer visitors. Its tropical climate makes it an ideal beach destination (if that’s your thing). It also has a rich cultural heritage that attracts visitors. Its cities are modern but with a hint of history that makes them noteworthy destinations (think Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Melaka). This country is also accessible from other countries within Southeast Asia, with AirAsia serving as a low-cost option for travelers who want to visit different places in the region. Most of all, it’s an affordable destination for Filipinos who want to add a stamp on their passport.

Getting a visa

Filipinos can enter Malaysia visa-free. We can stay in the country for up to 30 days. 

Get into Malaysia

Your gateway to Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur. Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, and Philippine Airlines all have direct flights from Manila to Kuala Lumpur. Book your flights months in advance to get the lowest possible fares.

Getting around 

It’s convenient to get around Malaysia by bus or train. Buses are usually cheaper compared to taking the train. 

Itinerary

*This itinerary assumes you start with one full day.

Day 1

After eating breakfast, start your first full day by exploring Merdeka Square. The latter is a favorite destination of both locals and visitors. This is where the National Day Parade is often held and is also a top choice for public events and rallies. Here you’ll find many of the city’s historic buildings. Structures of note include the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, the Victorian-epoch fountain, and St. Mary’s Cathedral. One of the most touristy things you can do here is take a photo (or selfie) with the “I Love KL” statue. If you are interested in learning a bit more about the city, check out the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery.

City, Metropolis, Urban
KASTURI WALK. Visit the markets to score cheap finds and souvenirs. Joshua Berida/Rappler

Kuala Lumpur is (in my opinion) a better version of Metro Manila with their free buses (some of the routes), skyscrapers, malls, markets, and let’s not forget their efficient city rail network. Grab a bite of local cuisine or buy souvenirs at Petaling Street, Central Market, or Kasturi Walk. If you want a mall-like destination, head on over to Bukit Bintang or KLCC. You can spend an entire afternoon window-shopping and food-tripping. While in Petaling Street, visit the Sri Mahamariamman Temple and the Guan Di Temple. 

End your day at one of the most iconic buildings in Malaysia, the Petronas Towers. The latter used to be the tallest buildings in the world until many others surpassed it over the years. The best time to see the towers is at night. 

If you want to go up the towers, you can book online.

Day 2

On your second day, make your way to one of Kuala Lumpur’s most popular attractions, the Batu Caves. Other than a tourist attraction, Tamil Hindus visit the temple complex during Murugan’s festival. The first celebration took place in 1892, a year after a temple was built inside the caves. As soon as you enter the temple, you’ll see a giant gold statue of Murugan. Climb a colorful flight of stairs (more than 200 steps) to get inside the temple. You can spend half a day exploring the Batu Caves before heading back to Kuala Lumpur.

How to get to the Batu Caves: You can board a direct train from KL Sentral. The caves are a short walk from the station.

After your day trip to the caves, you can spend the rest of the day hanging out somewhere in Bukit Bintang, KLCC, Chinatown, or your favorite part of the city.

Day 3

On the third day of your trip, take either the train or bus to Penang. The station you’re looking for is Butterworth. The train is faster and is more expensive than the bus. From Butterworth, you can take the ferry to George Town, Penang. The ferry is within walking distance of the bus and train station, look for the signs or ask for directions.

You can book online and check schedules here:

Train

Bus

Depending on the schedule you booked, you’ll most likely have half a day. Spend this time relaxing and resting.

Day 4

Hit the ground running after you eat breakfast at your accommodation or places near it. Georgetown is one of those walkable destinations where most of the attractions are near each other. If you’re adding UNESCO World Heritage Sites to your itinerary, a section of George Town is on the list. Head on over to the historic Clan Jetties along the dock. Chinese immigrants built the water settlements way back in the 19th century. As their trade grew, the bigger their establishments became. Some of the descendants of those early immigrants still live in the area.

Architecture, Building, Wall
STREET ART. The famous artwork in Penang called the ‘Boy on a Bike.’ Joshua Berida/Rappler

One of the main tourist draws of Penang is the vibrant and creative street art scattered in different parts of the city. Ernest Zacharevic created some of the most famous art you’ll find in the city. His works include Boy on a Bike, Little Children on a Bicycle, The Trishaw, and Kungfu Girl, just to name a few. His art combines murals and paintings with objects around them. He has inspired other artists to make their own works in various parts of George Town. 

The neighborhood is lined with many heritage houses, shops, and old colonial mansions built by the Peranakans and the Brits. These vestiges of the past highlight Penang’s rich cultural and historical heritage. Notable spots include Fort Cornwallis, Khoo Kongsi Temple, Pinang Peranakan Mansion, and St. George’s Anglican Church, just to name a few.

There are numerous cafes, restaurants, and roadside eateries in town where you can eat lunch, snacks, or dinner.

Day 5

After exploring George Town, make your way to Air Itam to visit popular spots like Kek Lok Si Temple and Penang Hill. Take the bus to Kek Lok Si Temple first. This complex is more than a century old and the biggest Buddhist temple in the country. It has thousands of Buddha statues, an attention-grabbing pagoda, and a giant Kuan Yin statue. It has the usual gardens, ponds, pavilions, and fish you’d find in temples all over Asia. Other than a tourist destination, it’s a pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Have lunch at one of the small restaurants or stalls after exploring the temple. Nasi kandar and laksa are two of the local favorites in Air Itam. 

After lunch, make your way to Penang Hill. A two-way standard ticket for adults is around MYR30 while a fast lane ticket costs MYR80. Children and senior citizens can get a discounted price. Penang Hill is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that nature lovers will enjoy exploring. You can get overlooking views of the city from different vantage points. You can also go hiking on some of the open trails. Hang out in one of the cafes, visit a museum or two, and see some historic structures. 

Read more about Penang Hill here.

Architecture, Building, Temple
SPIRE. Kek Lok Si Temple. Joshua Berida/Rappler

How to get to Kek Lok Si Temple: Take bus 204 or 203. Tell the driver you’ll alight at the temple. From Kek Lok Si, you can either walk to the lower station of Penang Hill or board bus 204. 

After exploring the hill and Kek Lok Si Temple, make your way back to George Town for dinner.

Day 6

Make your way back to Kuala Lumpur via bus or train.

You can book online and check schedules here:

Train

Bus

Upon arrival in KL, check in and spend the rest of the day resting and/or dining out at your favorite restaurant in the city.

Day 7

Garden, Nature, Outdoors
RED. Melaka’s popular tourist spot, Dutch Square. Joshua Berida/Rappler

After breakfast, try to leave as early as possible for Melaka. After arriving, check in at your accommodation. You’ll most likely have at least half a day to explore the city upon arrival. Like Penang, Melaka’s old town is on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list. Melaka is characterized by its distinct red buildings, some of which date to colonial times. Dutch Square is where you’ll find vestiges of the former imperialist’s influence such as the clock tower, Christ Church, and Stadthuys.

Head on over to A’Famosa to see more relics of the past. The Portuguese had this ancient fort built after they defeated the Sultanate of Malacca in the 1500s. A century later, the Dutch overthrew the Portuguese. The surviving gate is a popular photo spot. Not too far from the fort is the Ruins of St. Paul’s Church. The structure dates to the early 1520s.

Path, Walkway, Flagstone
RUINS. St. Paul’s Ruins in Melaka. Joshua Berida/Rappler

End your day in Jonker Street. Here you’ll find many restaurants, cafes, and street food. If ever you’re in Melaka on Friday and/or Saturday, you’ll get to see the night market. Make sure to try chicken rice balls, cendol, satay celup, and asam laksa during your visit.

How to get to Melaka: There are direct buses from TBS Kuala Lumpur to Melaka Sentral. The bus is a convenient option because the train station is too far away from the city center. You can buy a ticket on the same day at the station.

Day 8

Art, Painting, Mural
REFLECTION. Walk along the Melaka River to see murals painted on the walls of houses and establishments. Joshua Berida/Rappler

Check out of your accommodation and explore the historic center of Melaka a bit more before departing for Kuala Lumpur. Take a leisurely stroll along the Melaka River to see some of the city’s street art. The murals depict different aspects of life and culture in Malaysia. The historic center is quite atmospheric if you’re not in a rush. Grab a bite or get something to drink at one of the cafes and restaurants. You can leave for Kuala Lumpur late in the afternoon.

Day 9

Depending on the time of your flight, you can do some last-minute souvenir shopping and/or sightseeing before departing for the airport. You can either take the train or the bus to the airport from KL Sentral Station. The bus is always the cheapest option.

How much will you spend?

A budget of P22,000 covers the 9-day itinerary mentioned above. This doesn’t include flights and shopping. For this amount, you’ll be staying in a hostel dorm or a budget room (shared with at least one other person), a few paid attractions, budget meals or street food, and public transportation to get around. You can always spend more or less, depending on your travel style. Malaysia is a budget-friendly destination for all sorts of travelers. You can find luxurious hotels or backpacker options, high-end restaurants or family-owned establishments, and various brands or markets during your visit. – Rappler.com

Joshua Berida is a writer that loves to travel. He blogs at www.thewanderingjuan.net.

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Malaysia is a fascinating country with plenty to offer visitors. Its tropical climate makes it an ideal beach destination (if that’s your thing). It also has a rich cultural heritage that attracts visitors. Its cities are modern but with a hint of history that makes them noteworthy destinations (think Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Melaka). This…

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