This Malaysia itinerary is the perfect introduction to the beautiful Southeast Asian country for first-timers. Though Southeast Asia is a popular travel destination for many, Malaysia is often overlooked which is a shame because it is one of the most culturally rich and diverse nations in the region. This travel itinerary demonstrates how to spend two weeks in Malaysia, and takes you to the cultural, historical, and natural highlights.
- 1 Malaysia Itinerary Highlights
- 2 About This Malaysia Itinerary
- 3 Malaysia Itinerary Days 1-3: Kuala Lumpur
- 4 Malaysia Itinerary Day 4: Malacca/Melaka
- 5 Malaysia Itinerary Days 5-6:Ipoh
- 6 Malaysia Itinerary Days 7-8:Cameron Highlands
- 7 Malaysia Itinerary Days 9-10: Penang
- 8 Possible Itinerary Extensions
- 9 Malaysia Travel Budget
- 10 When to Travel to Malaysia
- 11 Getting Around Malaysia
Malaysia Itinerary Highlights
- Falling in love with the eclectic coffee stores and beautiful street art in Ipoh
- Navigating the bustling streets of downtown Kuala Lumpur
- Wading through translucent azure waters in Langkawi
- Sampling beloved Malay delicacies in the foodie capital of Penang
- Trekking through incredible nature and jungles in the Cameron Highlands
- Taking a lesson into Malaysia’s history in Malacca
- Discovering quirky speakeasy bars in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown district.
- Exploring eerie, “haunted” castles in Perak
About This Malaysia Itinerary
I spent a month in Malaysia from December – January (my second time in this beautiful country!). I hung around a little longer in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh because I had to work as I was travelling, however two weeks in Malaysia is ample time for a first trip. If you are short on time, you can also “cherry pick” and condense this Malaysia itinerary down to seven days. Additional suggestions for extending your time in Malaysia are provided at the end of the article.
This Malaysia itinerary encompasses a range of different activities to help you get a well-rounded feel of the country. It covers both urban cityscapes, beautiful rural areas, and tranquil beach destinations.
Malaysia Itinerary Days 1-3:
The Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur makes a wonderful first introduction to this vibrant country. The population of Malaysia is incredibly diverse, and a Kuala Lumpur highlight is simply taking the time to meander the streets and passageways of the city’s various neighbourhoods. Sample fresh roti and chapatis prepared at roadside stalls in colourful Little India, experience eclectic coffee shops and themed bars in Chinatown, and enjoy the vibrant nightlife and glitzy shopping in trendy Bukit Bintang.
Too often people only spend a short amount of time in the Malay capital and presume that there is not a lot to do there. That could not be farther from the truth. I have written a fairly comprehensive Kuala Lumpur itinerary, though I have also summarised some of the city’s highlights below.
Kuala Lumpur Highlights
- Take a Day Trip to Putrajaya
- Enjoy the Views from the Petronas Towers
- Explore Ancient Temples and Bustling Markets in Chinatown
- Have a Picnic and Watch the Water Fountains at KLCC Park
- Learn About Indian Culture at Brickfields
- Wander Through the KL Botanical Gardens
Malaysia Itinerary Day 4:
With pastel-coloured colonial buildings, beautiful river walks, and vibrant trishaws, Melaka is one of the most picturesque stopping points on this Malaysia itinerary. Melaka has a rich history and cultural heritage. Once a tiny fishing village, Melaka expanded and passed hands numerous times over the centuries, operating as a Portuguese, Dutch, and British port town.
Countless museums, ruined churches and crumbling fortresses are scattered around Melaka centre, telling the tales of its heritage. For incredible panoramas over the city and all the way out to the coast, ascend to the top of the Taming Sari Revolving Tower. Don’t miss the lively Jonker Street night market that takes place on Jalan Hang Jebat.
Malaysia Itinerary Days 5-6:
The charming city of Ipoh was recently named by Lonely Planet as being one of the best weekend travel destinations in Asia. That said, it is still largely overlooked by the majority of travellers who often skip right past Ipoh and head straight to Penang. Once a tin mining town, the Perak capital boasts a charming old town where exquisite British colonial structures stand beside rickety white coffee stores and traditional manufacturing workshops.
As the birthplace of numerous Malay delicacies, Ipoh is a great foodie travel destination. The narrow, ramshackle streets of the city’s old town boast colourful murals and some of the best street art in Malaysia. Though Ipoh is Malaysia’s third largest city, it is relatively compact and you can explore its old and new towns in a day. Spend one day of your Malaysia itinerary exploring Ipoh city, and the second day exploring wider Perak.
- Sample the “best Nasi Ganja in Malaysia” at Yong Suan
- Search for Ernest Zacharevic street art
- Drink white coffee at the place that invented it
- Visit dramatic temples carved into cliffs
- Explore the “haunted” Kellie’s Castle
For more advice on planning the Ipoh leg of your Malaysia travel itinerary, I’ve written this comprehensive Ipoh Travel Guide
Malaysia Itinerary Days 7-8:
With rolling green hills and fragrant tea plantations that extend for as far as the eye can see, Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands is a vision in emerald. Home to the indigenous Orang Asli people and some of the best hiking routes in the Malaysian peninsular, the Cameron Highlands is a Malaysia travel itinerary highlight, especially for those who enjoy getting back to nature.
Wander through the tea fields of the famous BOH tea plantation and sample the local produce, before venturing on to the mossy forest. The Cameron Highlands boast numerous hiking trails that lead through jungles and rainforests and end up at hidden waterfalls or breathtaking peaks.
Cameron Highland Highlights:
- Witness a unique ecosystem at the mossy forest
- Wander through tea plantations and try the local brews
- Explore Orang Asli village settlements
- Ascend to the peak of Mount Brinchang
- Go hiking and seek out hidden waterfalls
- Enjoy an afternoon tea with fresh strawberries and cream
This Cameron Highlands Travel Guide provides further inspiration and assistance in planning the Cameron Highlands leg of your Malaysia itinerary.
Malaysia Itinerary Days 9-10:
One of the major rewards of travelling in Penang is simply allowing yourself time to get lost in the various neighbourhoods, and their labyrinth-like circuit of narrow streets and passageways. Penang is also renowned as the food and art capital of Malaysia, so sampling the local street food eats (head to Chulia Street for the best of the best) and admiring the street art work of world-famous graffiti artists is a must while in town.
Where grand British colonial buildings stand beside rickety wooden Chinese clan jetties and brightly painted Hindu temples, Penang is a delightful mishmash of cultural influences. As you wander through the capital of Georgetown, it’s not uncommon to see the glistening minarets of mosques in the middle of Chinatown, Chinese pagodas in Little India, and towering ultra-modern skyscrapers standing beside ramshackle old houses. Its eccentric layout and eclectic mix of restaurants and stores is all part of the charm.
- Explore the UNESCO protected streets of quaint George Town
- Wander along the floating wooden clan jetties
- Sample some of Malaysia’s best street food on Chulia Street, George Town
- Admire Kek Lok Si temple and the pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas
- Relax on the beaches of Batu Ferringhi
- Hike through Taman Negara, Penang’s stunning national park
Possible Itinerary Extensions
The above Malaysia itinerary provides a nice introduction to Malaysia in a short space of time. If you have a little longer to spare, you may want to consider extending your trip to include the below.
Sail out to the Perhentian Islands
Most travellers to Malaysia seeking laid back beach vibes and relaxation venture out to touristy Langkawi. The Perhentian Islands (there’s two of them – Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar) are a nice alternative. Though the islands are not completely off the beaten path, they are not all that well-known among tourists just yet.
With dense, lush green jungles, secluded beach coves, and translucent azure waters, the Perhentian islands are the ultimate tropical island getaway. One of the major draws of the islands is that there are no roads on that whatsoever, adding to the “remote desert island feel”. It can feel a little isolating here, but if you’re looking to get away from it all, that may be just what you’re after! The smaller island (Perhentian Kecil) houses more rustic, budget accommodation choices and the larger island (Perhentian Besar) is where you can expect to find upscale luxury resorts.
Laze on the Shores of Langkawi
If you are hoping for a slice of beach paradise in your Malaysia itinerary without the seclusion of the Perhentian islands then Langkawi may well be the best choice for you. Famed for its pristine sandy beaches and clear waters, Langkawi is the perfect place to kick back and relax. Though admittedly Langkawi is more popular with tourists than the Perhentians, it is not hard to escape the crowds and find your little corner of secluded paradise.
Amongst the beaches and the sunsets, Langkawi also offers its fair share of culture and outdoor activities – with plenty of hiking trails, craft villages, museums, and spiritual sites. Gunung Raya, Langkawi’s tallest peak is a wonderful excursion for those who enjoy hiking, while the hot springs of Air Hangat village are a perfect place to relax.
Venture into the Rainforests of Borneo
Where fragrant mangroves grow among the rainforests, and majestic endangered primates swing between tree branches, Borneo is the ultimate Malaysia travel destination for nature lovers.
From Mount Kinabalu to Sarawak, Borneo is packed with national parks that were seemingly designed specifically for hiking. The eastern area of Malaysia is also a great spot for those interested in participating in conservation work during their extended travels.
Malaysia Travel Budget
Malaysia is definitely a budget travel destination and this Malaysia itinerary can certainly be done without breaking the bank. If you consider yourself a backpacker or an extreme budget traveller, you will not struggle to keep your daily spending budget under around $15 per day. If you want to stay in budget hotels, a daily budget of $30 per day is more realistic, and $100 per day for more luxurious accommodation options.
For your reference in planning your Malaysia budget, the average prices of a few different items are summarised below:
- Light street food meal/snack – 3 RM
- Meal at a budget restaurant – 8 RM
- Dorm bed at a KL hostel – 30-35 RM
- Dorm bed at a hostel elsewhere in Malaysia – 20-25 RM
- Budget hotel room in KL – 70-75 RM
- Budget hotel room elsewhere in Malaysia – 50 RM
- Bus from KL to Ipoh – 20-25 RM
- Bus from Cameron Highlands to Penang – 30-35 RM
The other thing to take into consideration when establishing your Malaysia travel budget is the matter of where exactly you will be travelling in Malaysia. The above cost breakdowns are averages based on travelling in mainland/peninsular Malaysia. If you venture out to Borneo and Eastern Malaysia, it’s a different matter.
Although eastern Malaysia is less developed and food/accommodation costs may be cheaper, keep in mind that there is less tourism infrastructure and public transport, so costs of getting from A to B are often higher.
When to Travel to Malaysia
Malaysia has a generally hot, humid tropical climate. While it is technically possible to plan your Malaysia itinerary all year round, some periods are better than others for travel. It should also be noted that Malaysia as a country is relatively large, and climates/temperatures can vary between the mainland and the Eastern part of the country (Borneo).
The spring and summer months (from March to early October) are considered as being the best time to travel to Malaysia. During this time, the rainfall is at its lowest and conditions are not quite so humid.
Owing to its tropical climate, heavy rains are possible at any time in Malaysia. The monsoon season hits different parts of Malaysia at different times. In October and November, Borneo and Sabah experience their highest rainfall, whereas the highest rainfall in peninsular Malaysia occurs between December and February. That said, I spent a month in Malaysia in the middle of monsoon season and found it quite pleasant. The rain does not last for the entire day, and it actually helps in cooling down the temperatures and humidity a little bit.
Getting Around Malaysia
Malaysia’s tourism infrastructure and public transport are both excellent. Buses and trains run between major towns at numerous intervals throughout the day. It is important to note, however, that the latter often have to be booked in advance, particularly during weekends and public holidays.
Travel through Malaysia by Train
Trains are a great way to get around during your Malaysia itinerary and the state-operated services are pretty safe and comfortable. There are express trains and “local” trains. The former are more comfortable and offer various classes (economy, premium, superior), whereas the latter is simple economy seating. It should also be noted that the “local” trains incorporate more stops into their route, and can take almost twice as long to reach their final destination.
Travel through Malaysia by Bus
I did most of my Malaysia travel by bus. This is a super affordable and convenient way to get around during your Malaysia itinerary. I would still advise you to try and book your bus tickets at least a day or so before your intended departure, if you can, though buses in Malaysia run much more regularly than the trains.
At many Malaysian bus stations you will see numerous bus operators that offer services to the same destinations. It is advisable to conduct a little background research on the operator prior to buying a ticket as some have terrible track records for accidents. (Not trying to scare you, but better to be safe than sorry during your Malaysia itinerary).
Malaysian bus operators with “good” reputations include Super Nice, Nice Executive Coach, First Coach, and Aeroline. These are the more upscale providers. Plusliner, Transnational, and Cityliner are all pretty decent, though the buses are less luxurious and may not be air conditioned.
Domestic Flights in Malaysia
The best way to reach Borneo from the Malaysian Peninsular is by a domestic flight. Domestic flights are also a fast and convenient way of hopping between Kuala Lumpur and Penang/Langkawi. Budget airlines such as Air Asia offer frequent services between destinations, and it’s possible to buy one-way tickets for less than $20, provided you book a week or two in advance.
Have any questions about this Malaysia itinerary or Malaysia travel in general? I have travelled to Malaysia several times and most recently spent a month there this past December. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.
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