Malaysia is a country located in Southeast Asia with a population of about 30 million people. Malay is the official language of this mainly Islamic country.
The Malaysian ringgit (MYR) is the official currency (1€=4,83 MYR as of January 23rd 2018).
For a stay up to 30 days, Portuguese citizens do not need a visa to enter in Malaysia. For longer stays, the visa should be applied in the Malaysia Embassy in Portugal.
Weather conditions may vary significantly by region. The wet season on the east coast (places like Kuantan, Tioman Island or Perhentian Islands) is from November to February, while the dry season occurs from April to October. The opposite occurs to the west coast.
A SIM card may be easily obtained while arriving in Malaysia. There are several companies providing telecommunication services, such as Xpax, Hotlink, DiGi and U Mobile. We opted for a DiGi pre paid SIM card with 1,5Gb data for 7 days and 1Gb extra everyday for the period between 1pm-7pm. We paid 25 MYR/5,18€.
Regarding transportation, it will depend on the places you are visiting in Malaysia. In Kuala Lumpur, both the bus and the metro are safe and cheap options. Actually, there are free buses in the capital city, the pink buses called “Go KL”. The city coverage and frequency are quite good taking into consideration this is a free service. In Penang, the main mean of transport is the bus.
From our experience, people from Malaysia are kind and friendly. Both cities we visited seemed to be safe, even at night time. Of course you should always take care of your belongings, especially in transports and in more crowded places.
We only spent 7 days in Malaysia. It was a quick visit focused on two main cities:
(B) Kuala Lumpur
Detail city by city
Penang (4 days)
Penang is a state located in northwest Malaysia comprising mainland Seberang Perai and Penang Island. On the island, the state capital is George Town and it was the place we explored. The oldest portion of the city centre has been designated by Unesco as a World Heritage Site since 2008. Apart from that, the street-art scenery, the modern cafes and the fancy bars make George Town a special place. We called it the "vintage city".
Arriving time: we come arrived in Penang by airplane. We came from the Philippines to Kuala Lumpur and then we caught another flight to Penang (less that a hour).
Sleeping time: we chose to stay in Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel, located in the center of George Town. We highly recommend this place. Nice staff, perfect location, good breakfast included and chilling environment. It is a good value for money very close to the city center and you can also chill at the hostel facilities.
Eating time: in George Town we had some nice food experiences. The Love Lane street is the perfect spot to have dinner and a drink at night time. We tried different restaurants in this street and we recommend a Mexican restaurant called “Holy Guacamole” and an international restaurant called “Wheelers Coffee” (one of the best bolognese we had). There are also some cheap food courts around the city where the food is diverse and tasty.
Visiting time: Penang, in particular George Town, is known for the urban art. The walls have paintings everywhere. So, get lost along the streets and discover the city. There are plenty of vintage bars and restaurants with nice decorations and good environment. The Upside Down Museum is another famous attraction. The entrance fee is of 27 MYR/5,59€. We really enjoyed this different experience. It is funny and the pictures the staff takes are always very nice! The jetties, water villages with over a century old, are also worth a visit. The Chew Jetty is the most famous one, with a long walkway and a temple. It was a nice spot for sunset.
Kuala Lumpur (3 days)
Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia and also its largest city. The city of the famous Petronas Twin Towers is also known for the historic monuments, the megasized shopping malls, the street markets and the lively nightspots.
Arriving time: we arrive in Kuala Lumpur by bus from Penang. Apart from the plane, the train might also be an option, but we chose the bus since the departure point was in George Town and not outside the city. The bus was extremely comfortable, one of the best we have travelled in some far. The ticket costs 38 MYR/7,87€ per person, but we paid 3 MYR/0,62€ extra for a pick up from the Hostel to the bus station. The drive takes about 5 hours and it stops in KL Sentral.
Sleeping time: we stayed in Mercu Summer Suite Hostel. It is located in a private Condominium with nice facilities, like a supermarket, convenience store, a pool and a gym (that you can use for free). We found its location very good, about 10 minutes walking to the famous Petronas Twin Towers.
Eating time: in terms of restaurants, we did not experience so many traditional places as we wished, since we used the kitchen of our Hostel to prepare some meals and save some money. However, we had the chance to have a drink in Heli Lounge Bar at sunset time. The view from the top is just amazing! It was a bit pricey but we highly recommended!
Visiting time: Petronas Twin Towers are the world’s largest twin structures, with 452 meters tall and a double-decker skybridge on the floor 41. On level 86 there is an observation deck. The entrance fee is of 85 MYR/17,60€. The Batu Caves are located north to city center and the best way to get there is the train. In our case, we went to the nearest train station from our Hotel, in Bank Negara, we caught the train directly to the Batu Caves train station. The entrance is free of charge, although some places (Art Gallery Cave and Dark Cave) require a paid ticket. We went on a sunday and it was full of Indians. It was super nice to be back in India for 3 hours! For a shopping experience, we suggest a visit to the Pavillion mall, with over 550 outlets.
Best of Malaysia
Based on our experiences in the two cities, our top 3 is as follows:
The urban art and general environment of George Town - it was, for sure, the highlight of our short stay in Malaysia. We loved to walk around the streets with no particular destination;
The Jetties of Penang - a beautiful and serene place with a mandatory visit at sunset time;
The Batu Caves - for the spiritual environment. Please try to visit on a festive day to make it a more intense experience!
What we will not miss next time
We only spent a week in Malaysia, so for sure we need to come back in the future to explore more this country. The main places we will focus next time are the following:
Langkawi island - the main island of a group of 99 on Malaysia’s west coast, which offers breathtaking scenery with its beautiful beaches, fine sand, and crystal-clear water;
Malacca - the historical state of Malaysia on the southwest coast, known for the heritage buildings, ancient landmarks and colonial structures showing the British, Dutch and Portuguese influence;
Perhentian islands - a small archipelago at the east coast with two main islands: Besar and Kecil. An unexplored place to disconnect and take a break from modern life.
Hope you enjoy this guide we created based on our experience in Malaysia. In case you have any questions, please contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).