Malaysia is one of my favourite destinations in Southeast Asia. Compared to its neighbouring countries, Malaysia is less crowded and offers very different features. In this country, you will be stunned by the massive skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur. Then you can also hike the highlands of Cameron, where the weather is simply fantastic. Lastly, there are many areas where you can enjoy the beach.
3 weeks in Malaysia is plenty. Since some many domestic flights and buses will connect the popular destinations to one another, you don’t have to waste too much time travelling from place to place. Malaysian also speaks incredible English, hence communicating with the locals will not be a problem.
In this itinerary for Malaysia, I will show you how you can spend 20 days here covering popular destinations without making your itinerary too busy. You will have plenty of time to explore each location and visit many must-see attractions in Malaysia.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO MALAYSIA
Before we dive into the day-to-day things to do, let’s first discuss basic things you should remember before booking your flight. If it’s your first time here, these travel tips will help you prepare and learn about your next holiday destination.
When is the best time to go to
Malaysia’s seasons are pretty similar to the Philippines‘. This means that the best time to visit Malaysia is from December to March, when there’s little chance of rain, and the weather is much cooler. To avoid the crowd, go to Malaysia from the end of January until the mid of March.
Although Malaysia’s population of 60% is practising Islam, the Christmas season is still the busiest time of the year. First, due to its amazing weather but also because the country observes this time of the year as a public holiday. In comparison, Ramadan is celebrated sometime from March to April.
You want to avoid the typhoon season from June until October. Not only will visiting beaches not be so fun, but domestic flights are often delayed or cancelled.
Are 3 weeks enough for Malaysia
Spending 20 days in Malaysia is an ideal amount of time. Of course, it won’t be sufficient if you want to visit every city and every island. But it’s enough to start with. With three weeks in Malaysia, you can visit 3-4 major cities, go hiking, explore the beaches, and discover cultural sites.
With this much time, you can travel both on mainland Malaysia and the Borneo side of Malaysia. Make sure you have some sort of travel itinerary though, so you can visualise how much time to spend in each place and how to get from point A to point B and not waste your time with unnecessary hassle.
Average cost of 3 weeks in Malaysia
Malaysia is an affordable destination to explore. a budget of $1,200 for 20 days in Malaysia is a good one which will allow you to stay in private rooms, eat out, and travel mostly by air. This is around a $60 per day budget. Most accommodations will cost you $25-$35, and eating out is about $5-$10. The rest will cover transportation and tours.
You can do Malaysia on a $700 to $900 budget for a 20-day trip if you’re on a tight budget. You will stay in hostel dorms, consume affordable but tasty street food, and book a more budget-friendly tour. For those who want to treat themselves, plan to spend around $2,500, which will house you in luxury hotels and dine you at more excellent restaurants.
All these budget are calculated per person and doesn’t include your flight to and from Malaysia.
What to pack
It is advised to dress moderately while travelling around Malaysia. Of course, you wear swimsuits at the beach, but remember that you must not go in total nudity.
Make sure to pack a long and lightweight skits cardigan or jacket to cover your legs and shoulders, especially when visiting religious or sacred places. Some areas will also require women to cover their heads. Hence a lightweight scarf is something you should pack.
How to get around
Getting around Malaysia is relatively easy. Kuala Lumpur has buses and metro rails that go around the city. There are also ride-hailing apps that you can download and use. In contrast, many bus companies can take you from one city to another.
Flying domestically is also easy. It’s affordable, and pretty much all tourist destinations have an airport.
Unlike other parts of Southeast Asia, you can use your IDP (International Driver’s Permit) in Malaysia or your international driver’s license without converting it to a local one. You can rent a car here and drive on your own, but remember that Malaysian drives on the left side (just like the UK, AU, and NZ).
Visa and COVID-19 protocol
Malaysia offers free visas to nearly everyone for 12-90 days except for some countries in Africa, South Asia, and China. Travellers with a passport from China and most of South Asia will have to apply for an evisa valid for three months for a maximum stay of 30 days.
Other travel tips
One last thing you should remember, alcoholic drinks are legal and can be obtained anywhere in the country. However, it’s costly. Here is a list of websites and tools I use when travelling to book accommodations, tours, and more.
MUST-SEE PLACES IN MALAYSIA (pinned map)
Click the enlarge button on the top right corner. Credit: map data: Google
3 WEEKS IN MALAYSIA ITINERARY
You can spend 21 days in Malaysia and be able to visit Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, Penang, Langkawi, and Perhentian Islands. You might have to track back in some areas to get to the next destination, but that’s fine, I will walk you through it.
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Kuala Lumpur for 4 days
Kuala Lumpur is most likely where you will land. Some people love this city, some don’t, and I totally understand. The bustling city, skyscrapers, and hot and humid weather are not a great combination. However, there are many things to see and explore in Kuala Lumpur. Besides, while you are here, you can gather yourself, buy items you might need, and do some final planning for your next destination.
From the airport, the best way to get to the city is by taxi or booking a car. If you are on a budget, you may also use the airport shuttle bus, which you should be able to book at the arrival area. You can skip Cameron Highlands and simply book a day trip from Kuala Lumpur.
Things to see in Kuala Lumpur
- Petronas Twin Towers
- Ilham Gallery
- KLCC Park
- Malacca/Melaka – you can enjoy a full-day trip from KL
- Menara Kuala Lumpur
- Genting Highlands – get on a day tour from KL that includes Batu Caves
- Dataran Merdeka
- KL Tower – buy your admission ticket to skip the line
- Central Market
- Try local street food – book a night tour
- Thean Hou Temple
- Batu Caves – you can book a half-day tour or combine Batu Caves with the National Mosque tour
- Kuala Selangor
- Buffet Dinner at Atmosphere 360
Accommodations in Kuala Lumpur
- Affordable: Space Hotel in Chinatown or Amethyst Dorm in KLCC
- Mid-range: Ceylonz Suites by Five Senses or Queens Service Suites at Times Square
- Luxury: The Kuala Lumpur Journal Hotel or Eastern Suites at Platinum KLCC
Cameron Highlands for 3 days
You can drive your own car or take the bus from Kuala Lumpur. It’s about a 3-hour drive to Cameron Highlands from Kuala Lumpur. This region is famous for its cooler weather, massive green areas, and lots of outdoor activities you can do, such as hiking.
Simply put, Cameron Highlands is the opposite of Kuala Lumpur. A visit here will give you a glimpse of Malaysia’s tropical forest.
Things to see in Cameron Highlands for 3 days
- Jungle Trail 1 (Gunung Brinchang)
- Mossy Forest
- Tringkap Hiking Trail
- Lavender Farm
- Strawberry picking at Kampung Taman Sedia
- Boh Tea Estate Habu
- Day trip to Taman Negara
- Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge No. 5
- Lata Merkor or Geruntum Falls
Accommodations in Cameron Highlands for 3 days
- Hostel: Traveller Bunker Hostel 1 or Bricks Backpackers Sleeper Box
- Apartment-style: Peony Square Residences or TR Homestay
Penang for 4 days
You can reach Penang by bus from Cameron Highlands which is about 250 km (155 mi) or a 3.5-hour drive. Penang is an island west of Malaysia connected by the Jambatan Pulau Pinang and the Second Penang Bridge. You can also get to the island by taking a short ferry ride from Butterworth.
3 weeks in Malaysia is incomplete without visiting this island. Penang is well-liked for its unique 3D street art, delicious food scene, diverse culture, and incredible place for a dip. Although an island, Penang has low-rise buildings and a lot of greenery and hiking trails.
Things to see in Penang
- Walk around and find Penang Street Art
- Fort Cornwallis
- Dark Mansion Museum – book a tour
- Hawker Centres – to try local street food
- Penang Hill – combine this with Temple Tour
- Masjid Terpung Tanjung Bungah
- Kek Lok Si Temple
- George Town Street Food – enjoy a 4-hour tour
- Penang Little India
- Penang National Park
- Explore the colonial architecture of Penang: Queen Victoria Tower, City Hall, and St. George’s Church
- Upside Down Museum
- Escape Penang Water Park
- Cycle the Countryside
- Wonderfood Museum
- Explore George Town with a local guide visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Accommodations in Penang
- Affordable: Cocoa Mews Cafe and Homestay or Tony’s Guesthouse
- Mid-range: Modern Hotel or Gallivant Hotel
- Luxury: Eastern & Oriental Hotel or Maritime Suites by Comfy
Langkawi for 4 days
Langkawi is an island north of Penang, right at the border of Thailand. Getting to Langkawi is quite fun, well, unless you get seasick. You will arrive on a duty-free island by taking a 3-hour ferry or a 35-minute flight. This means that compared to other places in Langkawi is a little cheaper.
You can make your transportation from the airport to your accommodation if you book a private airport transfer or use ride-hailing apps. There will also be taxis if you prefer that.
Things to see in Langkawi
- Langkawi Skybridge Cable Car – get on a private tour
- Pulau Payar
- Pulau Lembu
- Kilim Geopark Mangrove – check this tour or this Mangrove Safari boat tour, you can also do a Kayak tour
- Eagle Square
- Mahsuri Tomb and Museum / Kota Mahsuri
- Galeria Perdana
- Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls
- Gunung Raya
- Langkawi Wildlife Park & Bird Paradise
- Parasailing on Langkawi Beach
- Private island tour – visit all must-see attractions and will save you time as well
Accommodations in Langkawi
- Affordable: Motordorm Backpackers Hostel or Dar Yasmine Motel
- Mid-range: Cloud9 Holiday Cottages or Chill Suites
- Luxury: Villa Molek or Ombar Villa
Perhentian Islands for 5 days
A great way to end your 3 weeks in Malaysia vacation is to relax on Malaysia’s most beautiful beach. Perhentian Islands are located on the west-east side of Malaysia near Kelantan. It’s your dream crystal clear water, fine white sand beaches, and serenity. Even though these groups of islands are undeniably stunning, not many tourists get to reach this area.
To reach this magnificent location, you will have to travel back to Penang (or Kuala Lumpur), where you can take a direct flight to Kota Bharu (which is Kelantan). From the airport, take a taxi that will take you to Kuala Besut. From here, you will take a ferry to the islands.
You can also fly to Kuala Terengganu, taxi to Kuala Besut, and then ferry to the islands.
Things to see in Perhentian Islands
- Scuba Diving
- Jungle Trekking
- Turtle Beach – you can simply take a look or volunteer at the sanctuary
- PIR Beach
- Adam and Eve Beach
- Terengganu Marine Park
- Tupai Beach Bar
Accommodations in Perhentian Islands
- Affordable/Mid-range: Samudra Beach Chalet or Perhentian Chomel Chalet
- Luxury: Bubu Resort or Aluna Resort
SUMMARY OF 3 WEEKS IN MALAYSIA
There are many reasons why you should spend your 3-week holiday in Malaysia, but what makes it worth the visit is how welcoming the locals are and how easy it is to travel around. You can easily hop from one place to another.
Whether you like cities with high-speed trains and tall buildings or are looking into spending time on the beach and hiking, Malaysia has something to offer you.
I hope that you found this itinerary for 3 weeks in Malaysia helpful. Enjoy your trip, and don’t forget to pack some sunscreen!