2 Weeks in Malaysia: The Best Itinerary & Guide

langkawi-malaysia

Are you planning 2 weeks in Malaysia?  If so, this guide packed with travel tips and including a 2-week Malaysia itinerary will help you put together the perfect trip.

Before I visited Malaysia as a solo traveller, I had zero expectations of the country. But I discovered a criminally underrated place that offers a diversity of cultures and landscapes, and has a rich historical heritage.

To help you plan your 2 weeks in Malaysia, here’s what you need to consider and a tried and tested itinerary that will showcase a  small part of this diverse & distinctive country in 14 days.

 

 

When is the best time to visit Malaysia?

There is no one best time of the year to visit Malaysia. The optimal time will depend on where you are in the country.

  • The best time of year to visit Western (Peninsular) Malaysia is in the dry season between November and February.
  • Peninsular Malaysia can get busy during the dry season, and especially around the Chinese New Year (usually late January to mid-February).
  • Prices are lower and crowds are fewer between March and June, although you are likely to see some rain.
  • To escape the monsoon season, you should travel to Eastern Malaysia between March and September

What should you include in your 2-week Malaysia itinerary?

Broadly speaking, you will need to make the choice between Eastern or Western (Peninsular) Malaysia.

Bearing in mind the size of the country, if you only have 2 weeks in Malaysia you won’t want to spread yourself too thin, pinging from one place to the next. Also, the weather patterns favour east and west at different times of the year.

So what floats your boat holiday-wise?

Peninsular Malaysia is more developed, and more touristed, and boasts the capital, Kuala Lumpur, along with other popular destinations, including Melaka and Penang.

By contrast, Eastern Malaysia is quieter and may appeal to your more adventurous nature. This side of the country features white sand-fringed islands that offer sensational diving off their shores, and the jungles of Borneo.

Start with a scoping exercise. Take a look at a few guidebooks for inspiration, surf the web for interesting blog posts. See what takes your fancy.

This will start to shape your Malaysia itinerary.

Penang

 

How to get to Malaysia

Most travellers arrive in Malaysia by air.

Its main international gateway is Kuala Lumpur (KUL), which is also a major regional hub. In addition, Penang and Langkawi have domestic and international airports. To the east, the main hubs are Kuching, Miri and Kota Kinabalu.

You can cross into Malaysia by land from Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Indonesia. Kuala Lumpur is connected by rail to Singapore and Bangkok (via Butterworth).

By sea, boats and ferries connect Malaysia with Singapore, Thailand, Brunei  Indonesia and The Philippines.

Cruise ships also visit Malaysia’s ports.

 

How can you travel around Malaysia?

Travelling around Malaysia is easy; public transport is inexpensive and reliable.

Although the most commonly used options for getting around Peninsular Malaysia are by bus, minivan and budget flights, there is also a  limited railway network.

Popular routes are served by multiple bus companies. This plethora of operators means that fares are cheap and departures are frequent.

You can usually just turn up and buy a ticket for the next departure. Each company in a Malaysia bus station will have its own booth.

I love train travel and recommend the train journey from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth (for George Town, Penanag). Western Malaysia’s intercity train service is operated by KTM.

 

2 Weeks in Malaysia Itinerary

 

2 weeks in Malaysia itinerary infographic
2 weeks in Malaysia: Itinerary

 

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur (overnight stay)

As my overnight flight from London landed in Kuala Lumpur in the evening, day one of my 2 weeks in Malaysia was spent recovering from this journey. The restorative power of a good kip and a hot shower is not to be underestimated!

As Melaka, the first stop on this itinerary, is south of the airport, it didn’t make sense to travel into the city centre. Therefore, I spent the night at a Kuala Lumpur airport hotel.

 

Hotels near Kuala Lumpur International Airport

There are slim pickings of standard hotels close to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The only hotel that is walkable from the airport terminal is the Sama Sama Hotel.

Splurge

Sama Sama Hotel – I stayed in this modern and spacious 5-star hotel with high levels of customer service, which is joined to the main terminal building by a covered footbridge. But if you are feeling weary after your flight, an orange buggy will also drop you at the hotel’s entrance.

Highly recommended (and not just because they upgraded my room on arrival).

To save money, consider somewhere near the airport. Here are some hotels near Kuala Lumpur International Airport that I have found that might also be suitable:

Mid-range

Movenpick Hotel – Offering better value for money, this is also a 5-star hotel but is a ten-minute drive from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. However, the hotel does provide an hourly free shuttle bus.

Budget 

the youniQ Hotel – This budget option is a 15-minute drive from the airport and offers dorm beds and private rooms. It also provides an airport transfer service for a small charge.

An alternative option is one of the transit hotels at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The cost will depend on the number of hours that you will be occupying a room, and many offer rates up to 12 hours, which is enough for an overnight stay.

Before booking a transit hotel check which terminal your plane arrives at. Kuala Lumpur International Airport has two terminals: KLIA which serves most international flights from full-service carriers and kli2 which serves low-cost carriers.

 

Day 2 & 3: Melaka

How to get to Melaka

  • I travelled by bus directly from Kuala Lumpur airport. The journey took around two hours. Buses also depart from Kuala Lumpur’s chaotic central bus station.
  • Although not necessary, you can book a ticket in advance through EasyBook 

 

Why visit Melaka?

Visit Melaka for its beautifully preserved historic centre, with a kaleidoscope of architectural styles, the lively Jonker Walk weekend night market and psychedelic trishaws.

What we see today is thanks to Melaka’s rich history. One of the oldest cities on the Straits of Malacca, the city started life as a fishing village founded by a Sumatran Hindu prince in the 14th Century. Over the subsequent six centuries, it passed through the hands of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British before gaining independence in 1946.

Awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 2008, Melaka’s historic centre is a jumble of restored Chinese shophouses cradled between Portuguese, British and Dutch buildings.  Be warned that it can be ridiculously busy, particularly at weekends.

malaysia-melaka

 

What to see in Melaka

Jonker Street 

Once renowned for its antique shops, Jonker Street today is home to restaurants, clothing and craft shops. It comes alive at the weekend when it is the scene for a lively night market, selling all manner of things that you need, and things that you didn’t realise you needed until you strolled amongst its stalls.

Aside from its retail and culinary opportunities, this is a fascinating area to wander through

 

Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum

The Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum was one of my Melaka highlights.

A guided tour of this wonderfully restored townhouse takes you back to 19th Century Melaka. The museum houses an exquisite collection of traditional furniture and is arranged to resemble a typical Baba-Nonya residence.

Nyonya Baba or Peranakan people are descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to Malaysia in the 15th century. Nyona refers to the Peranakan women;  Baba refers to the Peranakan men

Hourly tours of the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum run daily.

 

Christ Church Melaka

Built by the Dutch to commemorate the capture of Melaka from the Portuguese, this 18th Century  Melaka landmark is one of the most photographed sites in the city.

christ-church-melaka
Christ Church, Melaka

Avoid the crowds by visiting Christ Church early in the day.

You can visit Christ Church Melaka from Monday to Saturday.

 

Stadthuys Melaka

Adjacent to Christ Church is the cerise town hall and governor’s residence.

Today, the  houses the History & Ethnography Museum, exploring the history of Melaka through the lives of the ethnic groups living in the city.

Melaka or Malacca?

You will sometimes see Melaka referred to as Malacca, the Anglicised spelling of the state’s, and city’s, name. Officially, it is Melaka.

How to get around Melaka

  • Melaka’s compact size makes it easily walkable. However, if you are feeling weary why not take a ride on one of the city’s psychedelic trishaws? Agree on a price before setting off.
  • You can also hire a bike to get around.

 

Where to stay in Melaka

As Melaka is awash with accommodation choices, you are unlikely to struggle to find somewhere to rest your head.

If you want to be in the thick of things, concentrate your search around Jonker Street. Prices are generally good here – you can get really nice hotels at an affordable rate –  so you can splash out.

Mid-range

Jonker Boutique Hotel –  I stayed at this 3-star hotel, in the centre of the action on Jonker Street. Don’t expect luxury, but this is a characterful property which had super-friendly staff.

Here are some other hotels in Melaka that I have found that may suit other tastes and budgets:

Alternative mid-range hotel

JonkRED Heritage Hotel – Centrally located, this looks like a terrific choice for a mid-range hotel in Melaka. All rooms feature an en-suite bathroom and online reviews are stellar.

Splurge

Casa del Rio – This 5-star hotel, a one-minute walk from Jonker Street boasts elegant rooms with a balcony, and an infinity pool to cool off in after a hard day sightseeing. From the photos posted online, this looks like a great place to stay in Melaka.

Budget

Ola Lavanderia Café – As the price of accommodation in Melaka is low, you may not have to consider cheaper options. But if you are looking for a budget choice, this has excellent online reviews and offers both dorm beds and private rooms for a pittance.

 

Day 4 & 5: Kuala Lumpur

How to get to from Melaka to Kuala Lumpur

I travelled from Melaka by bus to Kuala Lumpur’s central bus station (KL Central) and then connected to the metro to complete the journey to my hotel.

 

Why visit Kuala Lumpur?

I’m going to level with you. Initially, Kulala Lumpur’s scale and its frantic pace can be overwhelming. However, give it a day or so and this vibrant metropolis will win you over.

The cultural diversity of Kuala Lumpur is striking. Ethnic Malays, Chinese prospectors, British colonial rulers and Indian immigrants have all left their mark on Malaysia’s capital city.

KL is all about contrast. Hindu temples and mosques rub shoulders with gleaming shopping malls, the 21st-century cathedrals of consumerism. Cafes offering foam-topped lattés and wi-fi sit cheek-to-jowl with streetside hawker stalls.

 

Places to visit in Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers

The iconic Petronas Twin Towers are a must-see in Kuala Lumpur. Once the world’s tallest buildings – that crown was passed to Taipei 101 in Taiwan 2004 – I recommend visiting them inside and out.

kuala-lumpur-from-top-of-pertonas-twin-towers
Petronas Twin Towers

As visiting the Petronas Towers is very popular, buy tickets online in advance if possible. Note that they are closed to visitors on Mondays.

Try to visit the Petronas Towers late afternoon to watch the sunset, and to witness Kulala Lumpur light up below you. A magical experience.

To admire them from the outside, head to the KLCC Park, right behind the towers. or enjoy the view over a  cocktail at the Traders Hotel Skybar.

 

KL Bird Park

Home to over 200 species of birds, swooping beneath a massive canopy, KL Bird Park was an unexpected delight.

kl-bird-park-kuala-lumpur
KL Bird Park, Kuala Lumpur

Watch out for the peacocks strutting their stuff.

 

Islamic Arts Museum

After visiting KL Bird Park, stop by Kuala Lumpur’s outstanding Islamic Arts Museum.

As well as housing an astonishing collection of Islamic decorative arts, its gift shop is also a good place to pick up tasteful gifts.

Ceiling at the Islamic Arts Museum KL
Ceiling at the Islamic Arts Museum

 

Merdeka Square

The colonial heart of Kuala Lumpur, Merdeka Square is is fringed by handsome heritage buildings. Back in the British era, the square was used as a cricket pitch (the Padang), and it is also where independence was declared in 1957.

 

Chinatown

Fill your face with tasty rice and noodles and then go temple-hopping in Chinatown. For its vibrancy, and for timing my visit with a wedding celebration, my favourite was the Hindu temple of Sri Mahamariamman.

But a close second was Sin Sze Si Ya, the oldest Chinese temple in Kuala Lumpur, with its serene atmosphere.

temple-kuala-lumpur

Batu Caves

The Batu Caves is the most popular day trip from Kuala Lumpur.

This complex of limestone caves 13 km north of Kuala Lumpur, houses Hindu temples that have been a pilgrimage site for more than 120 years. Joyously colourful!

 

How to get around Kuala Lumpur

  • Thanks to its integrated transport system, it is easy to get around Kuala Lumpur. The city’s trains and buses connect through the central station, KL Sentral.
  • Although you can buy single tickets at machines and counters, if you are in the city for a few days it is worth your while getting a Touch & Go card. Similar to London’s Oyster Card, this allows you to travel around Kuala Lumpur with ease and you also benefit from lower prices.
  • Here’s further information on using Kuala Lumpur’s public transport.
  • Taxis are also a good option and are plentiful and relatively cheap

 

Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur

As Kuala Lumpur is an enormous city, and each of its districts has its distinct identity and its pros and cons, choosing where to stay can feel like a Herculean task.

On balance, Bukit Bitang and KLCC, in the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers, are good bets. Both districts are centrally located and have good transport links and dining options.

I chose to stay in KLCC, which is the least busy of the two and close to the city’s landmarks. As a solo traveller, safety is important to me and walking around KLCC at night always felt safe. However, as home to many of Kuala Lumpur’s luxury hotels, sleeping in KLCC is not cheap.

Bukit Bitang offers accommodation options to suit all budgets and is home to Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur’s hawker stall heaven.

If you are looking for budget accommodation in Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown is awash with cheap hotels and hostels.

Splurge

Shangri-La Hotel – This is possibly my favourite hotel ever! The Shangri-La’s faultless customer service sets them a notch above other 5-star hotels.

It’s worth splashing out on a Horizon Club Executive King room. This includes day-long access to the Club Lounge which offered fantastic evening cocktails with canapés and afternoon tea.

Here are some other hotels in Kuala Lumpur that I have found that may suit other budgets:

Mid-range

citizenM Kuala Lumpur Bukit Bintang –  Despite their small rooms, I’m a fan of this funky hotel chain and have had great stays in citizenM Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the past. The centrally-located, 4-star citizenM Kuala Lumpur Bukit Bintang has garnered excellent reviews from fellow travellers.

Budget

Paper Plane Hostel – Also located in Bukit Bintang, this new hostel offers dorm beds and private rooms. It gets great reviews for the friendliness of its staff, location and cleanliness.

 

Day 6 – 9: George Town, Penang

How to get to Penang

  • I caught a train from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth station. It was then a short hop across the bridge by bus
  • Penang’s airport is 18km south of George Town.
  • George Town is also served by long-distance buses.

 

Why visit George Town, Penang?

Cultural diversity is Penang’s calling card. Visit George Town, Penang’s main city, for this cultural mix, a vibrant street art scene and fantastic food.

Clan Jetty, Penang
Clan Jetty, Penang

 

The best things to do in George Town, Penang

Explore George Town’s architecture 

The UNESCO World Heritage site of George Town has unparalleled architecture. Romantically dilapidated Chinese shopfronts rub shoulders with British colonial buildings, Hindu temples and mosques.

The best way to explore the historic heart of George Town is to simply stroll along its streets.

 

Visit The Blue Mansion

This striking mansion, built in the 1880s, is one of the few surviving examples of the architectural style favoured by the wealthy Straits Chinese. East meets West with art nouveau stained glass, elaborate floor tiles and louvred windows.

 

blue-mansion-george-town-penang-malaysia
Blue Mansion, George Town, Penang

Visit the Blue Mansion on one of their daily 45-minute guided tours.

 

Visit George Town’s clan houses and clan jetties

Clan houses, known locally as kongsi, grace George Town’s streets and jetties.

 

Explore George Town’s street art

Today’s George Town is all about street art. Take a self-guided walking tour of the city’s vibrant street art scene to hunt down work by the renowned Lithuanian artist, Zacharevic.

street-art-in-george-town-penang-malaysia
George Town street art

 

Eat some of the best food in Asia

George Town is hawker stall heaven. Malaysians take their food very seriously, and the stalls in George Town serve some of the best street food that you will eat in Asia. The sheer variety and quality of food attract visitors from home and abroad.

Mee goreng mamak anyone?

 

How to get around George Town, Penang

As Penang’s sights are close together, it is easy to get around on foot.

 

Where to stay in George Town, Penang

George Town is awash with accommodation options to suit all budgets, from backpacker joints to luxury hotels. Some of these choices, even those in the lower price brackets, are in characterful heritage buildings in the heart of George Town.

Splurge

Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang –  I splurged on this all-suite, historic 5-star hotel, which is the embodiment of old-world glamour.  Since its inauguration in 1885, the Eastern & Oriental Hotel has welcomed such luminaries as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Noel Coward and  Somerset Maugham.

However, the Eastern & Oriental is not the most centrally located hotel in George Town.

Here are some other hotels in George Town that I have found that may suit other budgets.

Mid-range

Coffee AtelierHoused in five restored shophouses dating back to 1927, Coffee Atelier has stacks of charm, great reviews and a central location.

Budget

Campbell Antique Hotel – This centrally located, 3-star hotel has a touch of quirkiness and great reviews. All rooms have air-con and private bathrooms.

 

Day 10 – 13: Langkawi

How to get to Langkawi

  • I reached Langkawi by ferry from Penang. This journey took around 90 minutes.
  • Langkawi also has an international airport located in the west of the island

 

Why visit Langkawi?

To kick-back on a perfect white sand beach. After travelling around Malaysia for nearly two weeks you deserve some relaxation.

langkawi island

 

How to get around Langkawi

  • As Langkawi does not have public transport, a taxi is your best bet.
  • Hiring a motorcycle is another option.

 

What to do on Langkawi

Relax on one of Langkawi’s spectacular beaches

Let’s face it. This is the primary reason to include Langkawi in a 2-week Malaysia itinerary. Just relax on a blindingly white sand beach, under the shade of a palm tree. With a cocktail in hand, of course.

 

Walk across the Langkawi Sky Bridge

Spoiler alert.  You do need a head for heights to walk across the Langkawi Sky Bridge. I don’t and made it only 20 meters across the bridge before having to turn back.

langkawi-sky-bridge-malaysia
Langkawi Sky Bridge

To reach the Langkawi Sky Bridge, take the cable car to the top of Gunung Mat Chinchang. But even if you are not able to pluck up the courage to step onto this 125-metre-long pedestrian suspension bridge, you will still be treated to sweeping views of Langkawi’s rainforests and islets.

The Langkawi cable car operates daily except for public holidays. The entrance is in the Oriental Village near Pantai Kok.

 

Where to stay on Langkawi

Popular Pantai Cenang beach has a wide range of Langkawi hotels to suit most budgets and is livelier, compared with other areas of the island.  I chose a hotel in the quieter spot of Pantai Kok, 15 minutes from Langkawi Airport and close to the Langkawi Cable Car.

If you want to splash the cash on super-luxury hotels, head to Datai Bay.

Splurge

Berjaya Langkawi Resort –  Hotels on Langkawi can carry a hefty price tag.  To me, this hotel offered the best value for the quality of accommodation.

The price tag varies enormously with the location of the room. Whereas the rainforest rooms represent affordable luxury, albeit rather gloomy, be prepared to blow your budget on one perched over the water on stilts.

Here are some other hotels on Langkawi that I have found that may suit other budgets.

Mid-range

The Smith House– Less than a mile from Langkawi Airport, The Smith House has garnered rave reviews. This Pantai Cenang hotel features a rooftop pool and is a 20-minute walk into town.

Budget

Rembulan Langkawi – Also located in Pantai Cenang, this budget option offers dorm beds or private rooms. The beach, bars and restaurants are a 5-minute walk.

 

Day 14: Kuala Lumpur

Getting from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur

I flew from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines

 

Why visit Kuala Lumpur (again)?

A pre return flight stay and to take in the sights you may have missed at the start of your 2 weeks in Malaysia.

Petronas Towers, Kuala lumpur
Petronas Towers, KL

Money in Malaysia

Malaysia’s currency is the Malaysian ringgit (MYR). The brightly coloured notes make each denomination a breeze to identify.

Although the Malaysian ringgit is divided into 100 sen (cents) with coins in 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 sen denominations, prices are often rounded to the nearest ringgit. Instead of coins you might get a sweet as change!

You can withdraw money from Malaysian ATMs. Unlike Thailand, there is no local charge for doing this or, at most, the transaction is subject to a modest fee.

Although credit cards are accepted in more upscale restaurants and hotels, don’t rely on them as your sole source of payment.

Tipping is not expected in Malaysia. However, this may be expected at more upscale establishments and service charge may be levied on bills at luxury hotels and smart restaurants.

 

 

What to eat in Malaysia

Welcome to foodie heaven! See how many different dishes you can try during your two weeks in Malaysia.

Here are a few to whet your appetite.

hawker-stalls-melaka
Hawker stalls, Melaka
  • Mee goreng mamak – An irresistible marriage of yellow noodles, beef or chicken, prawns and vegetables tossed in soy sauce with a hint of chilli.
  • Nasi lemak – rice cooked in coconut milk with variations on a side order of egg, peanuts, vegetables, cucumber, meat curry, seafood and sambal (chilli-based sauce).
  • Nasi kerabu – Blue rice anyone? Served with fried chicken, egg, and fried keropok (crackers).
  • Rendang – Beef, chicken or lamb slowly simmered in coconut milk and spices.
  • Laksa – This spicy noodle soup is one of Malaysia’s greatest exports.
  • Roti canai – A Malaysian street food staple of light flatbread served with three different dipping sauces.

 

Is Malaysia safe for solo travellers?

As a solo female traveller, I found Peninsular Malaysia safe to travel around.

Bonus tips!

Do you want some expert tips for staying safe as a solo traveller? If so, check out these essential safety tips for travelling alone.

Like any major city, petty theft, and especially bag-snatching, can be an issue. Take the same precautions as you would in your home city.

Don’t make yourself a target. Walk confidently and with purpose, be careful with your belongings, especially smartphones and laptops, and leave your diamond necklace at home. Watch your bag and your belongings and be street smart.

Trust your instincts. Take a taxi when this is a safer option. Seek local knowledge on the safety of areas.

However, like many other countries in the world, there is a threat of terrorism in Malaysia. Be vigilant and monitor local media.

Due to militant activity by Islamic group Abu Sayyaf, who operate from the southern Philippines, there is a threat to foreigners of kidnapping and criminality on the eastern coast of Sabah, and in particular the islands close to the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines.

To seek further information on safe travelling in Malaysia, check out the advice issued by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs.

 

Malaysia: Suggested Reading

Finally, do you want to learn a little bit more about the country? Here’s my pick of books to read either before your 2 weeks in Malaysia or whilst you are there.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

A great introduction to the city of Melaka, this is a historical novel with a supernatural twist. Set in the dying years of the 19th Century, this chronicles the central character’s experience as a ‘ghost bride’ to the recently deceased son of a rich family.

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twang Eng

A companion to your few days in Penang, this 2009 novel is set in George Town before and during the Second World War. It’s a tale of the conflicting loyalties of the central character, Phillip Hutton, an Anglo-Chinese member of a powerful trading family.

The Concubine’s Child by Carol Jones

This interesting dual timeline, multi-generational novel set in Kuala Lumpur tells the stories of Yu Lan, a 16-year old concubine, and her great-grandson.

 

2 weeks in Malaysia: Final thoughts

This was a relaxed 2-week Malaysia itinerary and I could have squeezed more in.

An obvious addition would have been the Cameron Highlands, the inland region of Malaysia known for its tea plantations, hiking trails and strawberry farms. For me, this was one stop too many, but adding to this itinerary is entirely feasible, albeit resulting in a faster-paced two weeks.

My view is that Malaysia is often wrongly overlooked.

Although it lacks the big-hitting tourist attractions of other South-East Asian countries, such as Thailand, it does have an enticing mix of city life,  colonial towns and beach bliss. Add to this an intriguing cultural diversity, welcoming people and fantastic food and you have the perfect recipe for a great trip.

Happy travels!

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