Asia on the cheap: Malaysia edition

Asia on the cheap: Malaysia edition

December 14, 2018 0 By Mindy

Hello and welcome to the penultimate edition of Asia on the Cheap! Yes, our backpacking adventure is soon coming to a close, and I’ll be back home eating mince pies in front of Eastenders before you know it.

We’re slowing making our way back up to Bangkok overland, so that we can catch our flight back home before Christmas. From Singapore, we crossed into Malaysia, taking in the cities of Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh,and Georgetown.

Malaysia is one of my favourite countries to travel. It’s easy to get around, incredibly good value for money (perhaps even beating Thailand in that regard), and the people are warm and welcoming.

I feel like I talk about how great the food is in each travel post I write, but I genuinely think that Malaysia has the best food in Asia. It has the same food in Singapore, but at a fraction of the price, and somehow just better.

Malaysia Highlights

We spent just over a week in Malaysia, but to be very honest, we didn’t do much sightseeing. Travel fatigue was starting to creep in, rainy season was starting to ramp up, and we’ve already seen much of Malaysia before. We were therefore quite happy to just spend time in cafes, or work on our side projects in the hotel. But here’s a little bit about our travel up the country via its cities:

Johor Bahru

This is the city across the Causeway from Singapore. Coming from Singapore, making comparisons is inevitable, and unfortunately JB doesn’t seem to have much going for it except cheaper food and shopping, and good connections out to other cities. We didn’t see much in JB except the malls, our hotel, and the train station because of constant rain however, so maybe I’m not best placed to comment!

Roti – our first meal in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur

KL is the vibrant capital of Malaysia- well worth a few days of proper exploration and sightseeing. We spent a long weekend here last year, so our trip this time was just a night stopover so that we could travel up to Ipoh early on the train the next day.

We arrived on the train from JB in the late afternoon, and expected to have some dinner and a quiet night in at the hotel. But in the five minute walk from the station to our hotel, I got a tap on the shoulder. My friend from Singapore was staying on the same street! I had missed him during our stay in Singapore, because he happened to be in Thailand at the time.

He knows KL like the back of his hand, so he took us to his favourite Indian restaurant in Brickfields (Little India), and showed us where to buy the cheapest beers.


We had heard about the charming city of Ipoh a number of times, so we decided to make a stop there on the way to Penang. It’s a quiet city, with a great deal of colonial heritage, and well-known for its food. Its streets are dotted with murals, and there are lots of cute cafes and restaurants. There are caves nearby, but we didn’t have the time to go out and explore unfortunately. We did meet with my friend’s relatives, who kindly took us out for a Chinese feast at Kok Thai Restaurant.


The capital city of Penang, Georgetown, is bursting with charm: lots of restored shophouses, grand colonial buildings, and quiet little alleyways with street-art.

On our previous trips to Georgetown, we’ve taken free tours that start from the Tourist Information Centre, hunted out all of the street art, and eaten all around the city. This time, we spent a lot of time in our gorgeous heritage hotel, and sought out the best nasi lemak. There is lots more to do however, and I’d recommend a trip to Georgetown to everyone!

Best nasi lemak in Georgetown
A very colourful nasi lemak at Spicy Lemak

How much we spent


£20.65 per person

The bulk of this cost was for the buses and trains we took from Singapore up through Malaysia to the Thai border. It’s obviously a much cheaper, and much more environmentally friendly way to travel the region!


Total: £84.73 per person

Hotel in JB per person: £25 (2 nights)

Hotel in KL per person: £7.97 (1 night)

Hostel in Ipoh per person: £14.53 (2nights)

Hotel in Georgetown per person: £37.23 (3 nights) – our favourite!!


£30.74 per person

How we only spent £30 eating our way through the country, I don’t know, but that’s the beauty of Malaysia.

This cost 75p


No sights were sought!!



Yep, laundry again.

Total trip cost

In total, that brings our rather lacklustre travel though Malaysia to £138.03. If you go to Malaysia, please make a better effort to see and do stuff than we did – I swear it’s well worth it!