Malaysia - a colorful and diverse country, combining the cosmopolitan magnet of Kuala Lumpur with its historic quarters, and busy food courts, with the tea plantations, and orchards of the Cameron Highlands, and the tropical islands of Sabah, Sarawak or Langkawi.
Penang, known as the Pearl of the Orient, attracts more and more nomads and shows a growing community, cool events, and fun festivals.
🇲🇾 Entry requirements for Malaysia
- Visa: For many European passport holders, excluding Serbia and Montenegro, you can stay in Malaysia for 90 days visa-free. 10 countries can apply for the eVisa.
🌱 Travel health insurance for Malaysia
🏡 How to find a place
- Airbnb: The go-to place to search for places in Kuala Lumpur. You can find 1-bedroom studios for around 500 Euro per month. In Penang, a similar apartment would be around 700 Euro per month.
- mybilik.com: A local website worth checking out for apartments, studios, and houses all over Malaysia.
✈️ How to get to Malaysia
- Plane: Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) and Penang International Airport (PEN) are the major airports in Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport: Located 55 km south of the city, Kuala Lumpur International Airport is a central hub for flights between Europe, Asia, and Australia. The cheapest connection between the airport and the city is KLIA transit trains. The train ride takes about 35 min and costs between 8 and 13 Euro. You can take a taxi for about 25 Euro.
Penang International Airport: The airport is a 16 km drive from George Town. The cheap way to the city is by taking the Rapid Penang Airport Transits, but the journey includes several stops and takes 45 minutes. The main station in George Town is on Victoria Street. You can also take a taxi for 9 Euro.
- Train: An authentic adventure is by taking the train from Bangkok or Singapur.
🚌 Public transport
Public transport in Kuala Lumpur is well developed and it is easy to get around with modern public transport. Heavy users of the rail system can purchase a Touch ’n Go value card at most stations to access all trains and buses.
- Train: Kuala Lumpur trains are travelers' best friends. With surprisingly cheap tickets and a rails system that is easy to navigate you can get around quick and comfy. There are several lines like MRT, BRT, and LRT. Most of them serve the big KL Sentral station, the largest train station in Southeast Asia.
- Bus: Run by Rapid KL Bus and Rapid Penang Bus Service, buses offer safe transport. Fares depend on distance, the first 7 km cost RM1.40 (0.31 Euro)
- Taxi: There are many taxis in the city and they are available 24/7. The flag-off rate is RM3 with RM0.10 charged for every 115 meters.
- Grab: Malaysia no longer has uber, but it does have Grab.
- LinkBike: Penang has a bike rental system that is payable via app and credit card.
🏘 Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- City Center: Within this bustling area the center of Kuala Lumpur is a shopping, commercial, and entertainment district all at one. You find many business centers, coworking spaces, shopping malls, and boutiques as well as sites within walking distance. This district is for everyone who wants to stay central, busy, and with quick access to things. A fully furnished 1-bedroom apartment is around 700 Euro per month.
- Bangsar: This neighborhood is very popular within the expat community because of its community-based atmosphere within the bustle of an active area. You find local mid-range to upscale restaurants here as well as some unique shopping areas such as Bangsar Village, art galleries, and museums. Bangsar is home to wealthy locals living in luxury apartments. The rent is around 900 Euro per month.
- Desa Sri Hartamas: If you are looking to escape the noise and chaos of the city center try out Desa Sri Hartamas. After undergoing significant development in the 1990s, this neighborhood has quickly become a hotspot for both Western and Eastern expats. You can find a big Japanese community here. Accommodation inside this secure district consists of low-rise condos and townhouses. Expats often rate this as one of the best neighborhoods in Kuala Lumpur for its green spaces in a dense city and its coziness. It is a great place for families. The rent is around 1,000 Euro per month.
🧑🏻💻 Where to work from in Kuala Lumpur
- Sandbox: This space is the future of work. Join for a month membership and get access to their business and social events. The space offers flexible plans and affordable prices with 24/7 access, high-speed internet, phone booths, showers, lockers, and free flow of tea and coffee. The workspace is in Sri Petaling, a 10 min drive away from the city center. Monthly memberships start at RM380 (83 Euro).
- LemonTreeHouse: An ideal coworking and serviced office space, designed to meet specific business needs. Kick back, relax and recharge in between engagements with their very own in-house pantry. Located in the Bangsar district. For monthly rates, contact them through their website.
- Dojo: Zen garden, free coffee and tea, phone booths, showers, lockers, and a pantry, Dojo offers productive and chilled workspaces right at the Golden Triangle close to the Petrona Twin Towers. Ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and a welcoming community are included in the membership which is 110 Euro per month.
- Feeka Coffee Roasters: My personal go-to coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur that serves tasty brews, and delicious breakfast, and you can choose between indoor and outdoor seating.
- VCR: Another fabulous café with two floors, a small balcony, indoor and outdoor seating, cats, coffee and tasty food. You will find many other people working here.
🏘 Where to stay in Penang
- Georgetown: You will never get bored of Georgetown. The streets are full of adventures, famous street arts, galleries, restaurants, bars, cafés, and welcoming locals. Georgetown is a great choice to stay for a few weeks. Rent is around 1,000 Euro per month.
- Tanjung Tokong: Best of both sides, Tanjung Tokong is not as quiet as Batu Feringghi but less touristy than Georgetown. This town is located 6 km north of Georgetown, popular among expats and wealthier locals. Rent is around 1,200 Euro per month.
- Batu Feringghi: Batu Feringghi is a beach town 30-min drive from Georgetown. Compared to Georgetown, this is a more quiet and relaxing area of Penang Island. If you plan to have some beach days during your work week, this is a good choice. Rent can be anything from 800 to 1,200 Euro per month.
🧑🏻💻 Where to work from in Penang
- Commonground: A modern and stylish coworking space with high-speed internet, a café, business support services, weekly workshops, and lifestyle perks, such as gym membership discounts. Monthly membership is 88 Euro.
- Settlements: Located in Georgetown, the Settlement offers 24/7 access combined with free-flow coffee and tea as well as high-speed internet. You can pop in for a hot desk for RM25 per day, or get a monthly membership for RM320 (70 Euro) for a hot desk or RM400 (90 Euro) for a fixed desk.
- The Mugshot Café: Some of the delicious variations the Mugshot is serving are roasted coffee blends, fresh fruit juices, homemade yogurt, and bagels. Located within an old townhouse in Georgetown, this café has pretty good wifi, plenty of seats, and air conditioning.
- Black Kettle: Another jewel in Georgetown where you can get your work done is Black Kettle. The bistro serves artisan bakery, French cuisine, and an Australian coffee blend. They also have high-speed broadband service to make your day even better. Opening hours are from 11 am to 8 pm.
🚊 How to travel around Malaysia
While many travelers prefer to skip internal flights for environmental reasons, there are some journeys where the only choices are either a 45-minute flight or a 12-hour dirt road jeep trip.
Also for reaching remote areas like the Kelabit Highlands or Gunung Mulu National Park, domestic flights might be the best option, depending on your time, budget, and stress level. Especially if island hopping is on your agenda, you should consider domestic flights. Domestic flight operators are Malaysia Airlines, MASwings and AirAsia.
- Train: The Peninsula’s intercity train service is operated by KTM. The network is shaped roughly like a Y, with the southern end anchored at Singapore and the intersection north inside Malaysia at the small town of Gemas. The northwest branch travels into Thailand via KL, Ipoh, and Butterworth, crossing the border at Padang Besar; the northeast unit cuts up through the interior along a stretch known as the Jungle Railway, to terminate at Tumpat, outside the port of Kota Bharu.
- Bus: Malaysia’s national bus network is comprehensive and easy to use, with regular express coaches between all major cities and towns, and much slower local services within, usually, a 100-km radius. The highways are mostly modern, which makes traveling by bus a good, fast, and cheap solution. There are several bus companies offering their service, depending on routes.
- Taxi: Most towns in Malaysia have a long-distance taxi rank, usually at or around the express bus station. Taxis run between cities and towns throughout the country, mostly on a shared basis to fill the four passenger seats. Fares usually work out at two to three times the corresponding fare in an express bus.
🎖 Must see
- Petronas Towers: The tallest twin towers of the world are located right in the city center of Kuala Lumpur. A walkable sky bridge which is connecting both towers is surely giving you an adrenal rush and a breathtaking view across Kuala Lumpur. The ticket price per adult is RM80 (17,60 Euro)
- Central Market: The Central Market in Kuala Lumpur, also known as Pasar Seni, was a former market for fruits and vegetables. Nowadays the area has been updated and presents influences and ethnic backgrounds present in Malaysia such as Malay, Indian, and Chinese products, souvenirs, crafts, and eateries. On the upper floor, there is also a food court selling local delicacies, and the area in front of the market is known for street performers and musical shows.
- Little India in Georgetown on Penang: Sounds exactly like what it is! Explore Indian culture through temples, food, and traditional wear in Little India Penang. From nail places to hairdressers, barbers, and electronic shops, this area has some great bargains.
- Tropical Spice Garden in Penang: One of the highlights of Penang, especially if you want to get out of the central areas is the Tropical Spice Garden located on Jalan Teluk Bahang. The bio-diverse living museum is an ode to all the gorgeous herbs and spices that are indigenous to this part of the world. This is an amazing place to visit for anyone interested in Malay flora and fauna and you can even book a cooking class here to learn how these herbs and spices are used to make classic dishes enjoyed across Malaysia.
- Batu Ferringhi Beach on Penang Island: Batu Ferringhi is known for being one of the best beach areas on the island of Penang. Sunsets are breathtaking and perfect for drinking a healthy and fresh coconut.
💡 Good to know
- Internet: The average speed for fixed broadband is about 82.40 Mbps download and 49.34 Mbps upload speed.
- Sim card: You can buy a sim card in Malaysia already at the airport, at sim card providers like Digi, Maxis, or Celcom, or at some kiosks. For around 9.80 Euro you can already get unlimited data for 1 month.
- Currency: The official currency is the Malaysian Ringgit, MYR. 1 Euro converts to MYR 4.57.
- Climate: Malaysia has a tropical climate. The warmer months in Penang are May to July, a perfect time to visit the beaches in Penang. The rainy season in Penang often starts in August and lasts until November.
- Crime: Malaysia generally is a safe country, but you shouldn't leave your belongings unattended and watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas.
- Digital nomad community: Kuala Lumpur and Penang are the two go-to places for expats and digital nomads.
- Ramadan: The month of Ramadan usually lasts between 29 to 30 days, depending on when the new crescent moon is sighted. During that time some shops and restaurants are closed, so make sure if you plan trips to be well-equipped independently.
🚧 What to avoid
- Shake hands with the opposite sex: In Muslim culture interaction with the other sex comes with certain restrictions. Don’t feel offended if someone of the opposite sex refuses to shake your extended hand.
- Go topless or strip naked: You will see mostly Malaysian women swim completely dress due to religious reasons. These rules don’t apply to tourists but you should act sensitively with being a tourist in a different culture.
- Giving money to beggars: This sounds hard, but most beggars are part of a bagging syndicate, and your money supports their leader. If you want to give something, choose food or water.
🚴🏻♀️ How to stay healthy
- Stay hydrated: Not only does drinking out of coconut gives some Caribbean beach vibes, but it's also a healthy drink for treating dehydration and feeding your body with natural vitamins and minerals.
- Jungle trekking: Most trekking activity is done with experienced guides and is based around national parks and forest reserves.
- Hiking: Malaysia has some popular routes for hiking, for example, the Cameron Highlands in Pahang Province, and areas between Penang and Kuala Lumpur. By car, you drive 3:30 hours from Kuala Lumpur and 3:40 hours from Penang to reach the Cameron highlands. You can follow trails up into the mountains or through tea plantations. Alternatively, you have Templer Park, which also offers some mixed trails, some of which take you past beautiful waterfalls. Templer Park is a 1-hour driving distance from Kuala Lumpur.
- Cycling: Cycling is also popular in Malaysia, and there are cycling routes across the country, including in Borneo and the Cameron Highlands, where you find a dedicated biking community. Cities like Kuala Lumpur also have dedicated cycling lanes.