As an eager and curious 18 year old, my first travel destination post high school did not disappoint. Malaysia was definitely a fascinating place to kick-start my travels – its capital city Kuala Lumpur filled with vibrancy, culture and friendly people.
Getting there: The Road to Kuala Lumpur
Being students on a budget, we decided that a cheaper (however longer) alternative to flying to KL would be to get a bus from Singapore. For around $35 AUD, the coach took about 5-6 hours. I was quite surprised at how enjoyable it was. Staring out the window I remember thinking the streets were such a beautiful hybrid of natural and commercial. Trees and plants intertwined with small stores and coca-cola signs in a language we couldn’t read, but could very well understand. I highly recommend catching a coach or bus across borders, it may take longer but it definitely feels like you’re still experiencing the country, and not just burning time in transit.
KL: The Culture
The moment you arrive in Kuala Lumpur, you are immediately met with its vibrance and culture. Our hotel was situated right next to a newly built Mosque. As we were visiting during the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, our alarm each morning was the sound of people and prayers. It was quite incredible being able to roll out of bed, look out the window and see thousands of people entering and existing the mosque (even if it was at 6am). We met a lot of taxi drivers and hotel staff that further explained what Ramadan was like for them and their families – a really great experience learning about a religion we didn’t know much about.
Day trips in KL: Monkeys by day, Fireflies by night.
Our first day tour ran from 3:30pm – 10pm. We were picked up in a mini bus, with a wonderfully friendly driver and 4 other tour tourists. Our first stop was visiting a monkey farm. Driving up a winding road, we finally reached the top. Our driver parked the car while it was surrounded with monkeys. He instructed us that we could get out of the car, and we stepped into a swarm of monkeys, jumping about. A bit of a shock to the system at first, however we eventually became accustomed to the cheeky animals running about and attempting to steal food out of our hands (most of the time they were successful – cunning little creatures they are). We met a man who had trained one of them to kiss visitors on the cheek! Very sweet. Never thought I’d say I’d been kissed by a monkey before. A very memorable experience, I was a little saddened when we had to leave. Having monkeys climbing up my side and sitting on my shoulders had made for a pretty funny day – a South East Asia must for those who haven’t already.
Fireflies up close:
We continued our day stopping at a fish market and eating dinner on the water while the sun went down. Chatting with other travellers in our group about their travels, it was a lovely evening. We were then taken to see the fireflies. Once we’d regrouped and put our life vests on, we sat in canoes and sailed around the night, fire flies lighting up the scenery around us. This is definitely an enjoyable experience if you’re looking for something relaxing and low-key.
Overall the tour was $59 AUD per person (about 180MYR), a reasonable price for a 6.5 hour tour, with transport and food included.
Day trip two: Genting highlands and Batu Caves
Our second trip ran from 9am-5pm, with a private bus and personal driver. Our driver was lovely and catered to us well, taking us to a McDonald’s when we’d told him we’d slept through breakfast, answering each and any question we had, and making sure we’d seen everything we wanted to before leaving. He drove us to Genting highlands, a famous theme park/casino.
Genting Cable Car: South East Asia’s longest and fastest cable car
To get to the top of the highlands, you need to take the cable car. Don’t get me wrong – my fear of heights didn’t make taking Genting’s cable car the easiest thing in the world. However, even I couldn’t help but be amazed as we travelled through the hundred year old tropical rainforest. A sea of green, it was a beautiful experience to say the least.
After a few hours of exploring the highlands, we then went on to visit the very popular Batu caves. Passing the tallest statue of Hindu deity in Malaysia (Lord Murugan Statue), we climbed almost 300 steps. A somewhat tiring experience, yet very well worth it once you reach the incredible views from the top, and the tropical caves.
The tour was $58AUD per person (about 157MYR), a very decent price for a 9-5 tour, with private transport (pick up and drop off) included.
For our biggest night out, we went to SkyBar – an incredibly groovy bar with lounge booths, a pool (in the middle of the bar!) and views of the entire city, including the Petronas towers. If you’re looking for a bar thats a cheaper alternative to Sydney – this is probably not your best option. With cocktails coming in at $18 AUD, prices were very similar. In saying that, we were happy to splurge and pay these prices considering the location and ambience were amazing, and entry was free.
Food: Food is extremely cheap in KL, and there is definitely a wide range of choices. You could easily survive on 30-40MYR a day (about 10-15AUD) on food.
Transport: For us, taxis were always split four ways. On average we paid about 5 Ringgit each per trip!
Overall expenses: During our 2 week long trip, we stopped at 3 destinations – Singapore, KL, and Langkawi. In total, my trip cost me just under $2,000 AUD. This includes flights, accommodation, transport, and all spending money. It is very easy to get by in KL if you’re on a budget. An excellent travel destination for any student looking to save money. With culture, nature, night life and amazing food, I would highly recommend a trip to KL – and will most definitely go back one day.