Travel to Malaysia

Batu Caves, Malaysia

While I was living in Vietnam, I had the opportunity to travel to Malaysia several times. I’ve spent most of the time in Kuala Lumpur or KL, as the locals call it. In order to get to other destinations in Malaysia, flying through KL is usually the easiest way. KL is a large buzzing city. It’s an interesting mix of older and religious buildings, and then very modern skyscrapers such as the Petronas Towers. In addition, there is a lot of green space, both parks and forest.

On one of the trips, I visited Alor Setar to see my Malaysian friend who was over from London visiting her family. They welcomed me warmly in their family home and had made me amazing home-cooked food. They also showed me around the area, and I really got the local experience. We had fun with my friend’s circle of friends. Lots of iced drinks and going out to eat, even to a fancy Pizza Hut. Also, since it was during the Lunar New Year there were some cultural events like the lion dance visiting the house.

Another time, I spent a few days in Malaysian Borneo and it was an unforgettable experience. The Malaysian part is most of the northern third of the island except, of course, for the country of Brunei. The southern part of Borneo is Indonesian. Although many people think of orangutans as the main wildlife to see in Borneo, there is a huge diversity of animals. If you are lucky you can see turtles, birds, snakes, monkeys, elephants, crocodiles and more. On the other hand, you may want to avoid the leeches!

Finally, another reason to travel to Malaysia is for the food! There are endless choices, and the food is naturally a fusion. The main cuisines are Malay, Chinese and Indian, with all combinations. Food is colourful and flavourful. And you don’t need to go anywhere fancy. Some of the best foods I had were from food courts, and small stands.

Kinabatangan river, Sukau, Borneo
Kinabatangan river, Sukau, Borneo
KL Lake garden
KL Lake garden
Hanging around at Sepilok Sanctuary
Hanging around at Sepilok Sanctuary


  • Kuala Lumpur, the capital
  • KL Tower
  • Petronas Towers
  • Merdeka Square
  • KL Forest Eco Park
  • China Town
  • Petaling Street Market
  • KL Lake Garden – pedal boats, butterfly park, orchid garden, bird park, deer park
  • National Museum
  • Day out to Batu caves
  • Alor Setar
  • Hindu Temples
  • Buddhist Temples
  • Royal Kedah Club swimming pool
  • Borneo – wildlife and natural beauty; separate post to share the highlights!

Before you go

  • US and UK citizens do not need a visa to visit as a tourist for up to 90 days
  • Almost everyone refers to Kuala Lumpur as “KL”
  • The weather is hot and humid throughout the year. Although it can rain at any time, there are particular monsoon seasons. It’s best to carry a raincoat
  • Mosquitoes are present, so bring water-proof repellent
  • The “c” is often pronounced as “ch” like in roti canai and ice kacang
  • Electric plugs are the same as the UK, Type G (3 pin), though the voltage can vary slightly
  • Most people speak English, and the official language is Malay
Petronas Towers, KL
Petronas Towers, KL
New Year's Lion Dance in Alor Setar
New Year’s Lion Dance in Alor Setar
Gomantong cave- largest bird's nest for bird's nest soup. And lots of bat poo, centipedes, cockroaches etc....
Gomantong cave- largest bird’s nest for bird’s nest soup. And lots of bat poo, centipedes, cockroaches etc….


  • Air Asia has very budget-friendly flights internally and also internationally. I flew from Hanoi to KL on Air Asia. They are friendly and efficient. I was able to choose my seat in advance for a fee. It seems a lot less chaotic than a certain Irish budget airline.
  • There are two main airports in KL so ensure that you go to the correct one. The larger one is Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) and the smaller one is Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (SZB).
  • Malaysia Airlines has quite a few internal flights including to the Sultan Abdul Halim Airport in Alor Setar
  • For Borneo, there are a number of flights to Kota Kinabalu International Airport. Once on the island, I used a tour company called Wildlife Expeditions to get around


  • For those on a budget, the YMCA in Kuala Lumpur is a great place to say. It is in a central location, budget-friendly, clean and safe. I had my own room and enjoyed the stay.
  • In 2010, to catch an early flight from KL, I stayed at the Concorde Inn KLIA right at the airport. This is now permanently closed. However, there are other hotels located at the airport. Since the city is a bit far, these can be useful for early flights.
  • In Alor Setar, my friend’s family hosted me so I was lucky to stay in their home.
  • And for Borneo, I stayed at various lodges and hotels depending on what was available in each area.
Royal Kedah Club swimming pool
Royal Kedah Club swimming pool, Alor Setar
Sukau lodge, Borneo
Sukau lodge, Borneo
Me and the fluffy silver langur at Labuk Bay Sanctuary
Me and the fluffy silver langur at Labuk Bay Sanctuary


As of October 2022, one British pound is equal to 5.14 Malaysian Ringgit.

I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates

Malaysia 50 Ringgit
Malaysia 50 Ringgit
Dinner at KL Sentral food court
Dinner at KL Sentral food court
Ice Kachang, Malaysian dessert
Ice Kachang, Malaysian dessert
Nasi Lemak
Nasi Lemak in KL
Duck pancakes in Borneo
Duck pancakes in Borneo


Nasi Lemak is often cited as the national dish of Malaysia, but my Malaysian friends have said that this is not official. In any case, it is popular and a must-try dish. The base is a very flavourful rice topped with a varying combination of peanuts, chili, anchovies, boiled egg, chicken and more. As with most Malaysian dishes, there are chilies!

Because of the diverse mix of cultures, the food is often a fusion. Many of the flavours remind me of Indian and Chinese foods, but the Malaysian foods have their own character.

Another favourite dish is roti canai, which can often be found as a street food. It is a flat bread served with curry and dal. Simple and delicious! Of course there are also endless curries, noodle and rice dishes.

For dessert, I did not find a favourite as many of them contain beans. Beans in dessert are definitely not my preferred ingredient. However, the shaved ice and syrup in ice kachang is very tasty! There are also many desserts with coconut, pandan (fragrant green leaves), rice, tapioca, nuts, and tropical fruits.

More on some specific places to eat in the Kuala Lumpur post. Interestingly, some of the best food I had was in food courts!

During my time in Borneo, I had simple and tasty foods including fried noodles and stir fry with rice. We also had many fresh fruits.

Kuala Lumpur Tower
Kuala Lumpur Tower
Hindu temple in Alor Setar
Hindu temple in Alor Setar
View from Kuala Lumpur Tower
View from Kuala Lumpur Tower


Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: For the capital, Kuala Lumpur, it is not necessary. However, for Borneo, it is necessary to be able to see the wildlife areas.

Q: Do people speak English?

A: Yes, almost everyone speaks English

Q: Can I travel solo?

A: Yes, generally it is very safe to travel to Malaysia. As usual, beware of pickpockets, especially in the larger cities.

Q: How easy is it to send postcards?

A: It is easy to find postcards and post offices in the cities, but not in Borneo. See Sending Postcards from Abroad for details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA.

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