Solo Travel in Malaysia
Types of Girl about the Globes – Cultural GatG, Cuisine GatG, Wildlife GatG
As a woman travelling solo in Malaysia you shouldn't have any problems travelling to Malaysia. That's why we've given the country 4 out of 5 stars. The only trouble you may encounter are the beggars who are known to come onto buses or approach you outside the restaurants. Malaysia is safe for female travellers but as with anywhere be careful at night and also with your belongings in the capital as bag snatching on motorbikes has been known.
Being a country with three religions and races it’s very cosmopolitan and although you may still be in the minority, the race difference isn’t so obvious so you can mingle in and not feel like an outsider.
Mainland Malaysia is on the backpacker route from Thailand to Singapore. If you want to avoid the travelling route, head for the hills or the jungle to avoid the other travellers. But you may prefer the comfort of the cities and villages rather than remote places like Borneo when travelling solo in Malaysia. Although the locals in Kuching even stop you in the street to say “Hello.”
Below is our guide to how to travel solo in Malaysia as well as lots of practical information such as where to stay, which tour company to use and how to get around. Find out how to get from the airports and what to do in each place. All companies included have been recommended by solo female travellers and come with our Solo Female Friendly endorsement. Just choose the relevant section or read the full article.
- Places To Visit in Malaysia
- Where To Stay in Malaysia
- Tours in Malaysia
- Things To Do in Malaysia Solo
- How To Travel in Malaysia
- Malaysia Itinerary
- Best Time To Go To Malaysia
- Travel Insurance For Malaysia
- Airports in Malaysia
- Travelling Onwards
- Frequently Asked Questions About Malaysia
- Map of Malaysia
- Plan a Trip to Malaysia
- Related Posts
Places To Visit in Malaysia
Malaysia is a land of sweeping coastlines and coral-fringed islands where mountains meet dense rainforests and unspoiled wilderness. It may not have the exhilarating nightlife of Thailand or be as cheap but it is more laid back and less crowded and is bursting with heritage, culture, islands, beaches and Highlands.
Kuala Lumpur is a top Malaysia holiday destination. It is a beautiful city with a mix of architecture from the Victorian old train station to a mini Opera House. Spending time in the capital is a must if not just for the sparkling Petronas Towers, which were once the tallest towers in the world at 452 metres high.
The atmosphere in China Town is electric, especially at the night markets. The restaurants are some of the cheapest places to eat rice and noodles but you may want to escape the heat and head to one of the shopping centres. Pavilion is an award-winning shopping centre with plenty of indoor entertainment and its newest addition, the Crystal Fountain at its entrance.
The observation deck at the Kuala Lumpur Tower has a better view than the Petronas Towers. As well as the city you can also see the Klang Valley and the Genting Highlands. If you need an activity for the evening you may prefer to see the skyline from one of the city's rooftop bars instead. Marini's On 57, or Skybar in the Trader's Hotel are two of our favourites.
If you love temples, southwest of the city is Thean Hou Temple. Known as the Temple of the Goddess of Heaven it has six tiers and is one of the oldest and largest temples in Southeast Asia. The Sez Ya Temple is the oldest Taoist temple in the city and is reachable by the LRT, the rail system which runs frequently throughout the city.
Arty and Museum GatGs may like the House Gallery Museum of Ethnic Arts which is located in Central Market. It's a private museum with ethnic artwork and artefacts from Borneo and beyond. The Central Market is designed in a 1930's Art Deco style and is a great place to buy any arty souvenirs with prices usually cheaper than Downtown. The National Museum isn't that big but it does give you a good insight into the country's history.
Day trips from Kuala Lumpur
From Kuala Lumpur you can take various day trips to places such as the Batu Caves, an important place of worship for Hindus. The limestone cave temples and tallest statue of a Hindu god in Malaysia is only a short train ride away.
If you’re a wildlife GatG, Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary is the perfect place to see Asian elephants and learn how rangers rehabilitate and relocate wild elephants. This shelter raises mainly orphaned elephants and you can watch them being fed and bathed whilst learning more about their survival.
A short train ride from KL is the city of Putrajaya known for its 20th century architecture and mosque. The Putra Mosque is a stunning pink mosque as it's made from rose-coloured granite with a pink dome.
Visit the East and you’ll see that Malaysia is no stranger to eco-tourism. The country has been practicing the principles for over two decades and the rugged region of Sarawak in Borneo is one of the world’s most bio-diverse areas. Sarawak has more than 600 species of trees including the beautiful orchids known to Asia. Head to Mulu National Park for the largest limestone caves in the world.
Borneo is the world's third largest island and is known for jungle experiences and rugged wilderness. This is the also the destination for wildlife and orangutan lovers. Sarawak has nearly 30 species of large mammals including the proboscis monkey which you can see at Bako National Park or Tunjung Puting National Park (on the Indonesian side of Borneo).
The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is the largest Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sarawak. Here you can see orangutans in their natural rainforest habitat. For amphibians, the frog pond at Kubah National Park is famed as “the most beautiful sound in the world.”
For active GatGs, Gunung Mulu National Park is ideal for hiking and caving. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its limestone cliffs and dramatic peaks. Located in the jungle there are various day or multi-day hikes you can do here. Walk along the Canopy Skywalk or step inside Deer Cave, a huge cave full of bats which dramatically fly from the cave at sunset.
Visit the capital Kuching for colourful cultural performances, stroll along the esplanade or haggle for crafts and souvenirs from the main bazaar. Sarawak Culture Village provides an insight into the Sarawak tribal life or if you prefer to stay overnight with the locals, try a cultural homestay with the local longhouse tribe – known for their welcoming hospitality.
Sabah is home to Mount Kinabalu, the highest point in Southeast Asia at 4000 metres above sea level. If you're feeling really adventurous climb Mount Kinabalu or just watch the sunset over the Kota Kinabalu waterfront instead.
Islands in Malaysia
The coral reefs of the coast of Kota Kinabalu are a magnet for snorkelers. Turtle Island is a breeding ground where you can accompany rangers on their daily turtle routine and swim with the turtles. Swim with reef sharks off the Perhentian Islands, an idyllic backpacker hang out or just relax on the paradise island of Pankor Laut. Redang is a secret island ideal for divers and snorkelers which is reachable by boat from Kuala Terengganu.
Head North to the Cameron Highlands, five hours North of KL for a cooler climate and tours around tea plantations, honey and strawberry farms and drop in on the giant insects at the Butterfly farm. If you suffer from travel sickness, beware as half of the journey is uphill with many windy turns.
The Northern region is more developed than other places in the country. Penang is an island linked to the mainland with a China Town, Little India, temples and a water village all within walking distance. Penang has some of the best street food in Malaysia but if you prefer to dine with a 360 degree view, book a table at the Three Sixty Revolving Restaurant and Rooftop Bar. Chulia Street is one of the liveliest streets in Penang where you will find budget accommodation and Malay cuisine.
If you prefer somewhere with a little more history try Perlis, the northern gateway to Malaysia with history dating back to 1800. Kedah is the most ancient state in Malaysia with history that dates back even further to the 5th century AD. If you just want to lay on a beach, Langkawi is your island. This tropical gem of coconut trees and powder-fine sand is the ideal place to just lay back and chill. You can easily reach Langkawi by boat from Perlis or Penang.
On the east coast you’ll find an atmosphere that is so laidback it’s practically horizontal. It's an oasis of serenity where time virtually stands still.
Taman Negara is the world's oldest tropical rainforest at 130 million years old. This national park is home to a 510 meters long suspension bridge and has plenty of activities such as night walks, fishing and river trips. If you don't make it to Borneo, then this national park on the peninsula is ideal for a jungle experience with both budget and luxury accommodation.
If you prefer somewhere a little more lively, Cherating Beach is Asia’s first Club Med and is lined with hotels and resorts catering for every budget. Terengganu has a sweeping coastline and many homestay villages to sample rural life in Malaysia. Kelantan is more rustic and is known as the ‘Cradle of Malay Culture,’ for its quaint villages and houses on stilts.
The southern region is more for heritage and history lovers. Melaka is a UNESCO World Heritage City with 600 years of history. Take a river cruise or visit the museum. Avoid the light and sound show which is overpriced. Visit Negeri Sembilan for unique unswept roof designs synonymous with the Minangkabau culture, or Johor for historical architecture which is linked by expressway to Singapore.
Other places to visit in Malaysia are: Lata Iskandar for waterfalls, Kuala Kangsar for natural rubber trees, Sam Poh Tong for Buddhist and Chinese cave temples, or Kuantan the capital of Pahang with a bustling township with interesting sites. Tribes GatGs will like Orang Asli where you can visit the indigenous inhabitants who still hunt with a blow tube.
From gentle walks and snorkeling to the hair-raising thrills of roller-coaster rides, Malaysia has no shortage of adventures. Go whitewater rafting, fishing, sailing or birdwatching, or choose a four-wheel drive expedition to see why Malaysia is truly Asia.
Where To Stay in Malaysia
There are plenty of places to stay in Malaysia including home stays, cheap hotels and luxury accommodation.
If you are backpacking Malaysia there are hostels throughout the country for the more budget-conscious solo. But with accommodation being great value here you could treat yourself to a 5 star luxury resort in Langkawi. You'll also find plenty of local places to stay with Airbnb. Save $20 off your first stay with this Airbnb link.
Homestay is an alternative to Airbnb. They offer stays in accommodation such as a stay in a food tourism house in Malacca, a suite in Kuala Lumpur or an eco house in Langkawi. You can video call your host family before you go. Check homestays and prices here
All of the accommodation below have been recommended by solo female travellers from our Girls about the Globe community and come with a Solo Female Friendly endorsement
For a hostel with a relaxed vibe the Paper Plane Hostel is ideal. It has a really cool design and a great atmosphere if you are solo. The dorms are clean and spacious with comfortable beds and there is a female-only dorm room. You can enjoy city views from the rooftop or just relax in the garden after a long day’s sightseeing.
The staff are really helpful and friendly and will make you feel at home. Choose from a bed in a 6 or 8 bed mixed dormitory room or a 4 or 6 bed female-only dorm. You can also opt for your own private queen bed room if you don’t want to share.
- Prices from £10/$13 US per night for a bed in an 8 bed mixed dormitory
- To book, check prices or availability for Paper Plane Hostel
Close to China Town this boutique hostel is only a 15 minute walk away. You can also walk to the Petronas Towers from here. There is a common room with a TV and the rooms have air-conditioning. The beds are comfortable and have their own personal shelves, bedside lights and lockers. What’s great about this hostel is that they have a female-only dormitory and include a basic breakfast in the rate.
Choose from a bed in a 4 or 6 bed dormitory room, or 4-bed female-only dorm. There are also double rooms with a shared bathroom.
- Prices from £9/$12 US for a bed in a 6-bed mixed dormitory
- To book, check prices or availability for BackHome Kuala Lumpur
This friendly guest house in Penang is located in the centre of Georgetown. The staff are really helpful and there is a girls-only room for those of us who prefer to share a room with the same gender. There is a restaurant onsite so you don’t have to go far to enjoy some local cuisine. The beach is only a few minutes away too.
The 24 hour front desk is ideal if you are arriving at night. All rooms have their own private bathrooms and come with mini toiletries. Choose from a 4 bedroom female-only dorm, a 6 bed mixed dorm or a double room.
- Prices from £6/$8 US for a bed in a 6-bed mixed dormitory
- To book, check prices or availability for Dou Houz Guest House
If you love shopping, this boutique hotel is only 5 minutes from the shopping area of Penang. It’s near to the bus station if you are arriving to or from Penang by bus. Cafes are also nearby so you can enjoy local food on your doorstop or just have a drink at the hotel bar.
This historical building is a peaceful haven from the city of George Town. It has a nice ambience and is the perfect place to unwind with an outdoor pool to cool off from the heat. The rooms have nice decor and come with a TV and a fan or air con. There is also luggage storage if you decide to take a trip outside of Penang. Choose from a double room or a suite.
- Prices from £63/$83 US for a Mews double room per night
- To book, check prices or availability for Noordin Mews
This simple but friendly hostel is the perfect place for those who want to meet others in Langkawi. They have a communal lounge and darts room and the hostel seems to attract sociable travellers. The beach is only a 5 minute walk and the town takes approximately 20 minutes or you can rent one of the hostel bikes. It is quirky but it’s great value for money. Choose from a bed in a 4 bed mixed dorm or a double or twin room with shared bathroom.
- Prices from £7/$9 US for a bed in a 4 bed mixed dormitory room p/n
- To book, check prices or availability for Box2packers Langkawi
If you are searching for a peaceful haven in the middle of nature then this getaway is a fabulous choice. The location is beautiful and if you decide to hire a scooter or a car then it is perfect for your Langkawi base otherwise you may choose to just relax surrounded by mountains and rice paddies instead. The property can help you with hiring a car.
You don’t have to be a fitness freak to stay here but there is a gym and Muay Thai boxing if you get the urge to exercise. Breakfast isn’t included but it’s worth paying for. Choose from a cabin room with a patio, a superior queen room or a holiday home.
- Prices from £30/$40 for a cabin room per night
- To book, check availability or prices for CampValley Fitness
Tours in Malaysia
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your Malaysia trip or for your entire trip to Malaysia G Adventures is a responsible tour company which mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
Adventures start from 5 days and include activities such as trekking Mount Kinabalu up to an epic 41 day trip from Bangkok to Kuta. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people using their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear a bit more costly than G Adventures. They organise trips in Malaysia such as a 9 day Borneo hike, bike and kayak, or a 21 day journey through the best of Borneo.
With both tour companies you share a room with someone of the same gender or you can pay extra for your own room.
If you are looking for local Malaysia tours, the following tour companies have been recommended by solo females:
- Borneo Eco Tours – A responsible travel company with community based tourism and tours.
- Picnic With The Penan – An authentic jungle experience venturing into the Penan jungle and villages.
Things To Do in Malaysia Solo
If you are wondering what to do in Malaysia alone, we've picked our top 5 experiences that you shouldn't miss if you visit the country:
1. Petronas Towers – See the skyline of Kuala Lumpur from the Petronas Towers which offer a breathtaking view of the capital city.
2. Kuala Lumpur: Private night tour with buffet meal – Instead of wandering the city at night by yourself experience Kuala Lumpur after dark with a tour guide. You also get a buffet meal too.
3. Private tour to the Batu Caves – Leave Kuala Lumpur and head north to follow in the footsteps of Hindu pilgrims on a 3.5-hour tour to the Batu Caves. Don’t forget to say hello to the monkeys too.
4. Snorkeling day trip to Sapi & Manukan Island – Spend a day snorkelling around two of the five islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Get picked up from your accommodation and taken back at the end of the day. There’s also the optional extra to parasail, jet ski or scuba dive.
5. Langkawi: Geopark eco zipline adventure – This is such a unique way to see the oldest rainforest in the world. Zip line your way above the treetops past the waterfall on a Malay adrenalin rush.
How To Travel in Malaysia
If you are travelling Malaysia solo at night in a taxi be prepared to pay 50% on top of the meter price. Yellow or blue taxis are more expensive but will save you having to barter for your fare during the day. You may prefer to download an app such as Uber or Grab than take a cab from the street.
Buses are comfortable and very cheap and operate all over Malaysia but they do operate on a more relaxed ‘Asia time.’ Be prepared that some bus journeys can take hours so you may prefer to take one of the night buses to save time (they’re good). Book your ticket at one of the many local tour companies or download the redBus app.
If you are staying for a week in Penang and are planning to travel by bus, you can buy a Rapid Penang Tourist Passport which gives you unlimited travel and costs approximately RM20.
Ferries operate between Langkawi and Penang but avoid using them in the rainy season if you can as the journey can be rough. Air Asia has cheap internal flights and are ideal if you don’t have much time. Click here for domestic airlines.
If you choose to drive, the West coast is accessible by the north-south Expressway which links the coast roads and all signs are in English. To hire a car we recommend pre-booking car hire with Avis so you can collect your car when you arrive at the airport.
There are so many areas of Malaysia that to visit all of them would take over a month. Two to three weeks is a good amount of time. Here are our recommended itineraries for a one to three weeks Malaysia trip plan:
One week’s itinerary:
Kuala Lumpur (3 nights), Cameron Highlands (2 nights), Ipoh (2 nights)
Kuala Lumpur (3 nights), Penang (4 nights)
Ten day’s itinerary:
Kuala Lumpur (4 nights), Cameron Highlands (3 nights), Ipoh (3 nights)
Kuala Lumpur (3 nights), Penang (3 nights), Langkawi (4 nights)
Kuala Lumpur (3 nights), Penang (3 nights), Cameron Highlands (2 nights), Melaka (2 nights). Travel onto Singapore from Melaka.
Two week’s itinerary:
Kuala Lumpur (3 nights), Ipoh (2 night), Cameron Highlands (2 nights), Penang (3 nights), Langkawi (4 nights).
Three week’s itinerary:
Borneo – Sabah or Sarawak (7 nights), Fly to Kuala Lumpur to begin the two itinerary as above.
Best Time To Go To Malaysia
The country can get really hot and humid so you may prefer to travel Malaysia in the driest season which is January and February. These are also some of the busiest months due to the Chinese New Year. Visit Turtle Islands park between March to September for turtle hatchings.
Rainy season is between September to November which can make any ferry crossings not that enjoyable as the seas can be rougher. If you are travelling to the east coast of the peninsula avoid the monsoon season from November to February for the beaches. The best time to go to Malaysia are March to June. There is less rain during this time and you avoid the crowds.
This chart shows the average maximum day temperatures for Kuala Lumpur (from January to December).
Travel Insurance For Malaysia
Malaysia is a great destination to visit but it is always recommended to take out travel insurance before you go, especially if you are planning to trek or dive.
I recommend True Traveller for UK and European residents, and World Nomads for U.S. and worldwide citizens. Both companies allow you to buy insurance when you are already on the road, and offer different plans depending on your needs including additional adventure packs.
Airports in Malaysia
Malaysia has many airports including 6 international airports. Kuala Lumpur airport is the capital’s airport. Below is information on how to get to and from the international airports. For any other airports use Rome2Rio to plan your journey.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport
There are several options to get from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL). The cheapest is the bus which costs £2 and takes an hour. Airport coaches depart every 30 minutes into the city centre. Click here for more details.
A train operates from the airport to Kuala Lumpur city in 30 minutes and costs approximately £11. The train leaves every 20 minutes and you can find the schedules here. Taxis cost up to £22 depending on where you are going in the city. It takes approx 45 minutes from the airport.
Langkawi International Airport – From Langkawi Airport (LGK) the only options are to walk or take a taxi. A taxi will cost you approx £6 for the 8 minute journey.
Kota Kinabalu International Airport – Taxis from Kota Kinabalu Airport (BKI) cost £3 and take 6 minutes.
Kuching International Airport – From Kuching Airport in Sarawak (KCH) a taxi will cost £4 for the 10 minute journey.
Penang International Airport – Buses operate from Penang Airport (PEN) into George Town and leave the airport every 30 minutes. Go to the ground floor of arrivals to the Rapid Penang bus counter to buy a ticket for bus line U401 which costs 3 Malaysian Ringgit. Buy a Rapid Penang Tourist Passport if you will be taking more bus journeys. Check bus times here. Taxis cost £10 and take 15 minutes.
Senai International Airport – Taxis cost £7 for the 10 minute journey from Senai International Airport (JHB).
Feel more confident with someone waiting for you at the airport when you pre-book a transfer with Hoppa, a reliable and safe service for solo females.
Travelling Onwards (check for visas before you travel)
To Thailand – It takes 12 hours from Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai by coach, changing in Butterworth and again at the border. There are also trains from Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar which take 5.5 hours. From here you can take one of the twice-daily trains to Hat Tai which is just an hour away.
To Singapore – Buses leave Kuala Lumpur to the border of Singapore (you may have to hand your passport in before you reach the border). Aeroline departs Corus Hotel Kuala Lumpur and arrives at HarbourFront in Singapore 6 hours later. Check here for timetables. Grassland Express and KKKL Travel & Tours also operate buses along the route. Prices are approximately £18 for the bus. There is also a train but you do need to keep changing stations.
To Brunei – From Sabah you can reach Brunei within 6 hours. The Bus Bintang Jaya Express operates once daily to Limbang then you need to take a taxi or hire a car to Badar Seri Begawan.
Check Rome2Rio for your onward journey.
Where can I go from here?
Jakarta – 2 hrs
Philippines – 3.5 hrs
Cambodia – 2 hrs
FAQs about Malaysia
- Can I drink the water? Yes but many places offer filtered drinking water.
- Is tipping expected? No but 10% can be offered in restaurants.
- Fixed price or barter? Both, some places are fixed price.
- Any ATMs? In the main cities and towns yes. Not many in Borneo.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Left.
- Good for vegetarians? Yes.
- Any seven wonders of the world? No.
Map of Malaysia
Plan a Trip to Malaysia
If you are ready to plan a trip to Malaysia here are some useful links to help you plan your trip including airlines which fly there, where you can volunteer and eco accommodation.
Budget – £25 a day
Capital – Kuala Lumpur
Population – 28.3 million
Language spoken – Malay, Bahasa Melayu, English
Flying time to Malaysia from the UK – 13.5 hrs
The Best Time to Go – Feb, May, June & July.
Did you know? The Eastern-Oriental Express runs from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
The Guyana Marine Resort is an eco resort off the coast of Borneo. Treat yourself to an overwater tropical villa where you can hear the sounds of the surf beneath your villa. Find out about the endangered coral reefs and clams on the island at the on-site Marine Ecology Research Centre. Choose from a rainforest, ocean, palm villa or breeze villa.
Sukau Rainforest Lodge is an award winning eco-lodge on the banks of the Kinabatangan River in Borneo. By staying in the lodge you are helping to contribute to Conservation Contribution. There’s a reason that it has been described by National Geographic as one of the unique lodge of the world.
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation – Help out by getting involved in the community, recycling, or even photography. Visit the local Tzu Chi office of which there are several in Malaysia.
If you love the sea and want to help with coral conservation or turtles, Globalteer recommends two projects with placements from 1 to 12 weeks. Carry out sea turtle conservation through beach patrols, surveys and tagging or scuba dive and help with marine species identification.
Social Impact Projects
Take a 3 day, 2 night Malaysia Farm Tour in Kiulu Valley and learn traditional rice processes and rubber tapping whist staying in a rustic ecolodge. This off the beaten track experience helps to improve the economy and livelihood of the villages in Kiulu Farmstead.
Adopt an orangutan at Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, one of only four orangutan rehabilitation centres in the world.
Mind Body & Soul
Take part in a yoga retreat in Langkawi. Retreats are usually 4 days, 3 nights and range from a relaxed yoga retreat to an intensive or nature discovery retreat. You can also do a one day yoga workshop. Click here for details
Vipassana Malaysia holds ten day silent meditation retreats near the east coast of Malaysia. The retreat is surrounded by a plantation and is free to attend. Donations are welcome.
Treat yourself at Spa Village Tanjong Jara, an award-winning spa village which has programs for relaxation and stress relief based on traditional healing methods. Choose from various Malay massages such as a scented body steaming or a traditional Malay dry massage. The resort is located in Terengganu.