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Visiting Malaysia - A Practical Guide - What, where and how

Are you going to Malaysia to see the beautiful nature, great culture and taste delicious Asian food? You can be very surprised, because if you do not plan this trip well, you may be in for a big disappointment. But in turn, not everything is lost, in Malaysia you can fall in love you just need to know how to approach it. So what to do to make sightseeing in Malaysia a pleasure?

The most important thing to know is that this country consists of two parts, East Malaysia, located on the island of Borneo and Malaysia, western, continental. They differ quite significantly from each other, especially in terms of the dominant attractions. If your destination is Malaysia, then what to visit can be a key question, but immediately after "which part of Malaysia to visit." And that's because jumping between the two parts may not be so easy.

West Malaysia

West Malaysia is the one where Kuala Lumpur is located, the capital, and two other major cities, George Town and Ipoh. We can also divide the continental area into two parts, the western one, the more developed one, where we should focus on visiting the urban centers, the nature is quite worn out. And the eastern part, where the main advantage are beaches and tropical islands, which almost do not differ from what we can see in Thailand (but about that in a moment).

East Malaysia

East Malaysia is located on the third largest island of the world full of tropical rainforests which is one of the most abundant in fauna and flora places on earth. Here, therefore, we can focus completely on discovering nature, and let go of urban centers. This is the only place on earth where you can see the nasal sunday (Monkey Janusz) one of the few where there are orangutans and the highest peak of Malaysia Kota Kinabalu.

So how do we reconcile two such completely separate worlds? If you intend to devote all your holiday to discovering Malaysia, you will certainly be able to fill two to three weeks for a peaceful exploration of the charms of this country. To better imagine the distance and the vastness of this country, look at the map below. On the left, West Malaysia, on the right East Malaysia.

How to move around Malaysia?

After Malaysia, you can travel by bus, rail or airplanes. You must get by air between the two parts of the country. In Malaysia you can choose a land road, in the form of trains, buses or hitchhiking. Malaysia is not completely safe, however, and you have to pay attention to yourself, especially from close to major cities.

Railway in Malaysia

The rail network is poorly developed, only occurs in the north-south axis in Western Malaysia. So you can take the train between Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Johor Bahru and Singapore. However, railways are quite slow and not very competitive with buses. The only advantage of the railways is the moment of crossing the border with Singapore, because it will save you a lot of time. There is only one KTM railway operator in Malaysia. Its timetable can be found at but you can also buy tickets through many intermediaries (which the carrier advises against)

Buses in Malaysia

Buses are the main transport method in Malaysia and are available in every possible variant, from super basic to VIP versions with a massage built into the seats. Even the better buses are relatively cheap. Malaysia also has a fairly well-developed network of highways, so buses are fast ... theoretically, practically Malaysians poorly comply with the regulations which ends with accidents on motorways almost every day. Often traffic jams add up to two or three hours to travel time.

Almost all interurban buses can be booked online, in larger cities there are usually collective stations, but otherwise buses stop in many places, so you can choose the one that stops closest to your hotel. Actually, every single bus that travels around Malaysia (but also other countries in the region) can be booked through . I did not have any problems with the reservations made by this site, and I did a lot of them.

Airplanes in Malaysia

Malaysia is the base country for the largest Asian low-cost carrier AirAsia, Kuala Lumpur is therefore one of the cheapest airports in Asia. You can easily fly from point to point (also saving the dubious charm of traveling by coach). The only problem with the airport in Kuala Lumpur can be the distance from the city center, which is up to 50 kilometers, the journey is also unfortunately not cheap - if we choose the railway, about 70 zlotys in two directions. If we choose a bus, we can have problems with punctuality, the latter like to be in traffic jams. AirAsia has an interesting offer under the title AirAsia Pass where for a fixed amount we get up to 10 flights .

What to see in Malaysia?

West Malaysia

1. Kuala Lumpur

This is, in my opinion, an obligatory point on the visiting list in Malaysia. The capital has undoubtedly its charm, it is not perhaps the largest city of Asia, or the most hit, but it gradually allows you to get used to Asian chaos, because it is a little more enveloped than the rest of the continent. In Kuala Lumpur I recommend to see Petronas Towers, Batu Caves, and buildings around Independence Square (Merdeka Square) - More about what to see in Kuala Lumpur you can read in the entry One day in Kuala Lumpur

2. George Town

Beautifully situated on the island of Penang, the city is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, with well-preserved colonial architecture dating back to the British occupation. The city is known for its excellent cuisine, street art, festivals and architecture. However, do not be afraid of tropical beaches, the water is extremely ugly on the entire west coast of Malaysia. You can read more about how the jellyfish used to go there in the post about the expedition to western Malaysia

3. Melaka

The town, much smaller than Georgetown, is characterized by architecture from the Dutch and Portuguese colonies, so it has a slightly different atmosphere than the larger brother in the north. However, it is still a city worth visiting to see monuments and try the local cuisine.

4. Langkawi / Perhentian islands

Islands on the border between Malaysia and Thailand could be considered. Langkawi is a fairly artificial tourist creation, created to increase the tourist attractiveness of Malaysia. The entire island is a duty-free zone, so you can for a really small amount of money drink drinks on the beach and eat chocolate. Perhentian Island are beautiful but unfortunately expensive. Especially compared to islands in Thailand.

5. Tioman (and Rawa, Pulau Babi Besar and many smaller islands)

The islands on the east coast of Western Malaysia are a nice escape from the city life, the water is quite read, the nature of beauty, prices not so high, so it is the perfect place to relax a few days before we go to conquer East Malaysia.

East Malaysia

1. Kota Kinabalu

It is primarily a starting point for climbing to the peak of Kinabalu which is the highest peak of Southeast Asia and Malaysia. The city itself, however, does not stand out with anything special. If you plan to add a Mount Kinabalu to the list of points to visit, do not forget about the winter clothing, the top of the mountain is at an altitude of 4,095 meters. At the moment when he writes this post the temperature at the top is -1 degree Celsius.

2. Kuching

The name of the city in Malay means a cat, the city itself is filled to the brim with their figurines, but what's interesting is that the cats themselves do not have so much here. This is a great place to explore the surrounding national parks that are full of sundayers, and above all the Orangutan reserve, where the primate ones can be seen literally at your fingertips. If it caught you in the eye of Kuching, read everything you need to see about the sunday and Borneo

Is it worth visiting Malaysia?

I am slightly offended to Malaysia, there are definitely more interesting countries to see in the region, so if you have not been to Thailand or Vietnam, for example, I recommend stress free holidays there. Malaysia can be nice but unfortunately can also be extremely nasty. As a country, Malaysia can create attractions, the problem is only that it is not always able to maintain them properly. If you are planning your trip budget, I recommend a handful of advice on how to squeeze every penny and cheaply travel around Asia.