Malaysia on a Budget – One Month for less than 550USD (Brunei Included)

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Malaysia is a wonderful country that could be a role model for many Western countries due to its cultural diversity. Not only the amazing food there makes you want to stay longer but also its natural beauty. Malaysia was surely a positive surprise on our trip through Southeast Asia and we are absolutely planning to go back one day.

Brunei Darussalam is a small country in the Malaysian part of Borneo. It’s rather unknown but said to be one of the richest countries in the world. Anyway, since the country has quite few tourism yet, a trip here, especially the accommodation can be more expensive than in other countries in Southeast Asia.

However, you can surely have a great holiday in Malaysia and Brunei without breaking the bank. We collected our travel costs for Malaysia for you so you can travel Malaysia on a Budget easily as well.

As always, we want to save money without missing experiences. And actually, it is quite simple. In this post, you can learn where and how you can easily save some $$ and why Malaysia Prices don’t necessarily have to be high. But first, let’s have a look at our Malaysia Travel Cost. 

What does it cost to travel in Malaysia?

The average traveler spends about 50-60 €/$ 60-72 per day while traveling in Malaysia. Of course, it depends on how you travel and where you stay. As a backpacker, you spend on average about 20 €/$ 25 per day. We traveled in Malaysia (1 ½ month) with average travel costs of about 15 €/$ 18 per day.

Expenses Malaysia (2 Days Brunei included) (43 Days)

Author’s note:
All the given prices below have been paid in the main currency of the given country (Ringgit & Brunei-Dollar). The prices only have been converted into Euro and US-Dollar for better understanding. Any discrepancies may result from rounding and converting.

Total expenses in Malaysia in 43 Days

Total: 638,68€/$788,436 per Person

Transport: 164,60€/ $203,20
Breakfast: 18,88€/ $23,31
Lunch: 63,99€/ $78,99
Dinner: 54,71€/ $67,54
Water: 9,17€ /$11,32
Entries & Activities: 94,61€/ $116,79
Random: 40,70€/ $50,24
Accommodation: 183,49€/ $226,51

Expenses in Malaysia per Day (43 Days)

Total per Day:14,85€/ $18,33 per Person

Transport: 3,38€/ $4,17
Breakfast: 0,44€/ $0,54
Lunch: 1,49€/ $1,81
Dinner: 1,27€/ $1,57
Water: 0,21€/ $0,56
Entries & Activities: 2,20€/ $2,71
Random: 0,95€/ $1,17
Accommodation: 4,27€/ $5,27

Malaysia Prices – What costs how much?

  • Budget-Accommodation (Private Doubleroom) per Night: ca. 10 €/$12
  • Lunch Street food or local Restaurant: ca. 1,50 – 2,50 €/
  • Dinner Street food or local Restaurant: ca. 1,50 – 2,50 €
  • Dinner in good restaurant for 2 People: ca. 13 €/$16
  • 1,5 Liter Water: ca. R 2,20 (ca. 0.5 €/$0.6)
  • 0,5 l Beer in Restaurant: ca. R 15 (3 €/$3.5)
  • 0,5 l Beer in Supermarked: ca. R 10 (2 €/$2.5)

How to save money while traveling Malaysia on a budget?

Malaysia was much more affordable than we thought before and there are many ways to save some money. Moreover, Malaysia is not as overcrowded by tourists as e.g. Thailand. Therefore, people here are not trying scams on you as often as you might be used to from other places in Southeast Asia.

Transport

Bus

When traveling through Malaysia it is usually quite easy to find cheap bus tickets. Anyway, there is not a bus for every route but you if not you will most probably find Mini Vans as well. When buying your ticket make sure to compare prices, but mostly the prices between different companies don’t differ much. Anyway, comparing prices might help.

If you are traveling to or from islands, it can be cheaper to do as much as possible of your way on land and only take small trips by boat. (e.g. Between Langkawi and Penang, Georgetown)

However, sometimes it is actually the other way around and the ferry is cheaper than going by bus. (e.g. Between Brunei Darussalam and Kota Kinabalu)

Riding a free bus in Kuala Lumpur, Pink bus

If you want to save even more money, how about just not paying anything for your bus ride? Yes, you’ve read correctly. In Kuala Lumpur, there are several bus lines which you can take for free. Just watch out for these pink busses.

Taxi

We realized that you can pretty much rely on Malaysian taxis. We didn’t have any problems with bargains, being overcharged or scams as we had in other countries before. One taxi driver even showed us from where we could take the free bus.

Use Grab

Just to be sure, you can always use Grab. It worked perfectly fine for us in Malaysia and we met nice drivers. Since the prices are fixed by the App, drivers can’t overcharge you.

The only drawback is that you need a working internet connection to look for a driver.

Cheap Flying in Malaysia

Malaysia is pretty big and sometimes it can take a lot of time to get from A to B. So if you don’t have much time it might be an option to take an airplane. After only traveling Southeast Asia by land, we also took 2 flights in Malaysia. (We just didn’t feel like taking a boat to Borneo and neither like having another 15-hour bus trip from Kuching to Miri)

In Malaysia, you can find pretty cheap flights. And another big benefit is that your luggage is included with many Low-Cost-Airlines (not Air Asia though) without paying extra.

Check flight deals to Malaysia with Skyscanner

Hitchhiking

Another mode of transportation that is especially popular among backpackers in Malaysia is hitchhiking. Since Malaysia is considered a safe travel destination, it is quite possible to find nice drivers who will give you a ride. You can also find helpful info about traveling by hitchhiking in Malaysia at HitchWiki.

Traveling by hitchhiking not only saves you some money, but it also allows you to get in touch with locals.

The most affordable time to travel in Malaysia

Travel during low-season

The best tip to save on increased prices, especially for your accommodation in Malaysia, is to travel outside the peak travel season. The advantage of Malaysia is that the peak travel seasons vary across the country, so there is always a low season somewhere.

Avoid local holidays

On national holidays, it feels like the whole country is on its feet. Locals also want to enjoy their days off with a city break or a short trip. However, due to the increased demand, accommodation prices also rise. Those who plan cleverly try to avoid such holidays to avoid high prices.

Take your times

Sure, you probably want to see as much as possible during your trip. But it may pay off to see fewer places. This will reduce your transportation costs since you can focus on local transportation. But also the impressions, experiences, and acquaintances of your trip will change drastically this way.

Because by spending more time in one place, you also have more time to dive deeper into the culture of the destination, get to know locals, and discover places off the beaten path.

Affordable Food in Malaysia

Nasi Goreng, Malaysia, fried rice
Nasi Goreng

Malls & Food Courts

In Malaysia, many cities have malls with food courts inside. Here, you can usually find many different restaurants offering their food. Usually, you will also find amazing Malaysian food. Especially when you are traveling with a group it is a great option as you can find something for everyone. And the best is that the food usually is cheaper than in restaurants around.

Our favorite Food-Court was in Kuching, by the way. Every single stand that we tried offered super delicious food.

Warungs and Kopi tiams

If you don’t necessarily want to eat in food courts or just enjoy a freshly brewed coffee, you can eat in a so-called warung or Kopi tiam. While warungs are typical Malaysian local inexpensive restaurants, kopi tiams are Asian coffee houses especially suitable for breakfast.

Extra tip: Instead of coffee, why don’t you try a delicious Indian tea, typical for Malaysia: Te Tarik is available in many local coffee shops and tastes great.

Local specialties

While Malaysian specialties are usually quite affordable, Western foods, on the other hand, can be pretty expensive. Such foods can be e.g. yogurt, cheese, alcohol (more on that later) or similar. So if you focus on local food during your trip, you can really save money and get to know some of the best dishes in the world.

Water

In many accommodations in Malaysia, you can refill your water bottle free of charge. This way, you not only save money but also do something for the environment.

If you have to buy water it might be worth it to take a big bottle instead of several small ones during the day.

Or maybe just not spending money on the water at all?

Yes, you have read correctly. You can actually travel through Malaysia without spending money on drinking water. Of course, I don’t want you to die of thirst.

The trick? Tap water! But please don’t drink water directly from the tap! There is a way to make this tap water drinkable. It’s called Lifestraw! (Click here for the latest prices) This super practical device disinfects and filters tap water in order to make it drinkable. Therefore, you can save a lot of money and do something good by not producing more plastic waste. 

Entries & Activities

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at night

Malaysia was a really positive surprise regarding entree fees.

Unlike in many other countries in Southeast Asia (e.g. Thailand, Kambodscha, Indonesia), the entree fees in Malaysia usually aren’t that overpriced.

On the contrary, especially in Kuala Lumpur, many attractions are even free of charge.

The only way to save money on entrance fees in Malaysia is to find out beforehand whether the attraction is worth the price of admission. Travel blogs (like this one) or review portals like TripAdvisor are good places to get reviews of other travelers.

Accommodation

The accommodations in Malaysia are in general a little bit pricier than in Thailand and Cambodia. Especially in Brunei, the costs for accommodation are much higher.

Here, you can save some money by staying in dorms instead of private rooms.

An even cheaper option (Free to be exact) is to use Couchsurfing to find a host. In Malaysia and Brunei, there are much more hosts than e.g. in Thailand.

But please only use Couchsurfing if you are planning to interact with your hosts. Keep in mind that it’s not a hotel. But you will get an even deeper insight into the culture and the people of the country which you would probably not be able to get when staying in a hotel. That’s why we love Couchsurfing.

Also, a look at Airbnb can be helpful to find accommodation. As always, compare prices.

Booking in advance?

Usually, it is not necessary to book your accommodation in advance. In some places, like in the Perhentian Islands, most accommodation is not even listed on the usual booking engines.

Anyway, the prices are usually the same whether you book via booking portals or on-site. So, if you don’t feel like walking around looking for a place to stay you can as well book your accommodation before arriving. Click here to see the latest deals on booking.

If you are traveling on weekends or local holidays, you might want to reserve your accommodation before arrival just to be sure.

Check accommodation in Malaysia on Booking.com

Other expenses in Malaysia

When traveling you sometimes just need some refreshments.

And that’s why most of our expenses in Malaysia that don’t belong to any other of the categories were spent on fruits, fresh fruit juices, and ice cream.

Even though those things are not pricey in Malaysia it adds up during the 1 1/2 months we spent in the country.

Moreover, we bought sunscreen that was surprisingly way cheaper than in Thailand. (Considering the number of Tourists in Thailand, maybe not that surprising, though)

Alcohol

Since the state religion of Malaysia and Brunei is Islam, Alcohol is forbidden in many places and Muslims are often forbidden to purchase any. In Brunei alcohol is even forbidden. (There are exemption limits for foreigners I think, but you don’t take any risk by not bringing or purchasing any)

In Malaysia, you can buy alcohol in many stores, bars, and restaurants but often it is even more expensive than in many Western countries. This is because Malaysia imposes one of the highest alcohol taxes in the world on alcohol: around 15%. 

So think carefully about whether you can do without that glass of beer at the end of the day. This way you will save a lot of money. Especially the one or two glasses of wine with dinner or a refreshing beer after a long day on the road will quickly show in your overall expenses for Malaysia.

If you are looking for affordable alcohol, you can find it e.g. in Langkawi. Since this island is at the border to Thailand, you can buy the alcohol here without taxes, which can make beer even cheaper than water.

Sim Cards

We had a good wifi-connection in all of our accommodations (Besides on the Perhentian Islands). Therefore, we didn’t buy a sim card while being in Malaysia. Anyway, sim cards can be purchased all around Malaysia for little money. Therefore, if you can’t go without being mobile all day long, you can easily buy a sim card in Malaysia without breaking the bank.

The most popular providers for sim cards in Malaysia are Maxis, Cellcom, Digi, and U Mobile. Especially Maxis (Hotlink) is recommended for visitors because they usually have an affordable tourist bundle on offer. All other providers apart from those mentioned are known for poor connections or run through the service of the just mentioned providers.


about-the-author

About the AuthorVicki

Hi, we are Vicki & Eduardo, an international travel couple on a mission to help you save money for priceless travel experience. Follow us through the miracles of this world and you will be rewarded with a bunch of practical travel tips.

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10 thoughts on Malaysia on a Budget – One Month for less than 550USD (Brunei Included)

  1. I can’t believe how little you ended up spending! Especially how cheap the food is. I love your tip of eating at food courts, I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of that before.

    Reply
  2. Hi, Malaysian here. I’m echoing your advice: PLEASE NEVER DRINK THE TAP WATER! You don’t have to use Lifestraw, you can just boil the tap water and it’s safe to drink.

    Reply
    • Hi Mei Mei Chu,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, boiling the water is the easiest, but often, when you stay in a hostel you don’t have a chance to boil it. Or you have to wait for it to cool down before you can carry it 🙂

      Reply
      • I drink my tap water (KLCC resident and environmental engineer here). If in outlying areas, it’s the old pipes that might leach stuff into the supply. In present day, there wouldn’t be biological reasons to worry about water unless the place you’re staying has something die in its water tank or something, or you are in an area drawing water from the ground.

        LifeStraw or Sawyer is a good piece of equipment for travel anyway though! And thanks for promoting the no-plastic bottle message!

        And seriously impressed with your budgeting!

        Reply
  3. I had no idea you could live off of that little in Malaysia! We had only been to Penang but since it was a short trip we didn’t pay too close attention to our budget. We will have to consider going back but for longer since it’s a great place to stretch your dollar!

    Reply
    • Hi Megan,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, I think Malaysia is a wonderful country to visit, so it’s nice to know that you can stay longer and therefore discover more of it 🙂 If you liked Penang I am sure you will also love Melaka 🙂

      Reply

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