Malaysia on a budget: prices and costs of travel and backpacking in Malaysia

Last Updated on by Charlotte van de Sande

How expensive is Malaysia and travelling in this country? Is it a budget destination and can you travel around cheaply as a backpacker or are the prices far too high? In this budget blog, we answer these questions. We give you an overview of our expenses when travelling in Malaysia, share the prices of food with you and give indications of a realistic daily budget for Malaysia.Gaya Island Sabah Malaysia


Is Malaysia a budget destination?

The answer to the question of whether Malaysia is an expensive country to visit depends on the type of traveller you are, how much money you have to spend, the activities you want to undertake and the travel time. But we can of course make a comparison with other countries we have visited, discuss the price level in Malaysia with you and show how much money we spent in Malaysia. Then you can decide for yourself whether Malaysia will be your next destination or whether you should first win the lottery!

Our verdict: Yes Malaysia is a budget destination!

Malaysia, a country in Southeast Asia that is much more modern than neighbouring countries Thailand or Indonesia, is not expensive. The price level is much lower than, for example, in Europe or America. Because hotels are not extremely cheap and activities in Malaysia are often even pricey. Although backpacking is perfectly doable, keep in mind that price levels are higher than in Thailand or Vietnam. On the other hand, travelling by public transport in Malaysia is easy and pleasant and the food can be very cheap.

Looking back on our time in Malaysia, we could have spent less money. We could have skipped a few things, especially in the area of ​​food and accommodation. But hey, we really enjoyed it and stayed almost within our daily budget, just 25 euro cents a day above!Discovering roads Sabah Malaysia

What to budget for three weeks of backpacking in Malaysia?

A realistic daily budget for backpacking through Malaysia is 40 euros per person. So if you travel through Malaysia for three weeks, keep in mind a budget of approximately €840 per person. For this you also travel through Malaysian Borneo, which is slightly more expensive than the mainland, you usually sleep in private rooms and there is room for an occasional beer or cocktail!

This is a budget based on average expenses while travelling through Malaysia, but does not include the flights towards the country. You already fly to Malaysia for €421 per person. Click here for more information about flight deals to Malaysia!Malysian ringit Money How cost traveling in Malaysia

How much money did we spend in Malaysia?

First, a disclaimer: Everyone travels in his or her own way and has other priorities. That’s completely fine, but keep this in mind when you read our costs. It can always be more expensive or cheaper.

During this trip, we had collaborations that gave us a discount on accommodation or activities. These discounts have not been included in the calculation below to provide a representative representation of the actual prices of such a trip through Malaysia.

Our costs for backpacking in Malaysia!

Number of days: 34
Total spend: RM 14,508.19 / € 3,068.56 / $ 3,355.95
Average spendings per day: RM 426.73 / € 90.25 / $ 98.70
Average spend per person per day: RM / € 45.12 / $
Our budget: RM 425.54 / € 90 / $ 98.43
Within budget: No, almost!

All expenses are for two people and are calculated based on exchange rates during the trip. This does not include our airline tickets. The currencies shown are Malaysian Ringgit (RM), Euro (€) and USA Dollar ($).View from Kek Lok Si Temple George Town Malaysia

How expensive are hotels in Malaysia? – 32.3% of total budget Malaysia

Total spend: RM 4,687.62 / € 991.43 / $ 1,084.29
Number of nights: 33
Average overnight stay for 2 people: RM 142.03 / € 30.04 / $ 32.85

Accommodation in Malaysia doesn’t have to be expensive at all. You already sleep in a dormitory from 5 euros per night per person. Something more luxurious is also possible, we generally stayed in private rooms but with a shared bathroom. For that kind of hostel rooms, you pay around 20 euros per night in Malaysia.

Only in Kuala Lumpur and Tip of Borneo did we stay in luxury hotels and boy what were they good! Especially in Tip of Borneo, we were in a very special place. Read more about that here.

Click here to read our hotel guide in Malaysia. This contains three different budget class nice hotels and accommodations!Hibiscus Tree Top in the Jungle Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia


How expensive is transportation in Malaysia? – 19.2% of total budget Malaysia

Total spend: RM 2,789.97 / € 590.08 / $ 645.33
Taxi: RM 476.55 / € 100.79 / $ 110.23
Flights: RM 1,350.78 / € 285.69 / $ 312.44
Bus rides: RM 310.77 / € 65.73 / $ 71.88
Car rental 4 days: RM 387.32 / € 81.92 / $ 89.59
Gasoline: RM 94.71 / € 20.03 / $ 21.91
Scooter rental 5 days: RM 169.84 / € 35.92 / $ 39.28

Transport in Malaysia is relatively inexpensive. Taxis, for example, are affordable. Travelling by bus is very pleasant and inexpensive and domestic flights to Borneo, for example, were not too expensive. We flew a total of four times with an average flight costing €35 per person.

Please note: almost all of our flights were booked just a few days in advance. If you book further in advance, the tickets are much cheaper!Boat to Mamutik Island and us Sabah Malaysia

On Borneo we rented a car for four days, which was also very affordable, €20 euros per day. Renting a scooter on Langkawi cost about €7.50 a day. What surprised us was the gasoline prices! With €0.25 per litre of petrol, these prices are really very low in Malaysia.

Note: this amount does not include our flights to Malaysia and back home. You already fly to Malaysia from €421 per person. Click here for the latest flight deals to Malaysia!Way to Danum Valley with Sticky Rice Travel Sabah Borneo Malaysia


Click here for the ultimate George town in Penang travel guide!


How expensive is food and eating out in Malaysia? – 19.3% of total budget Malaysia

Total spend: RM 2,806.11 / € 593.46 / $ 649.05
Of which from food and drinks: RM 1,910.53 / € 404.06 / $ 441.92
Of which groceries: RM 895.55 / € 189.4 / $ 207.15
Average expenditure per person per day on food in Malaysia: RM 41.23 / € 8.72 / $ 9.54

We found shopping in Malaysia not so cheap at all. Local fruit and vegetables, of course, but products such as yoghurt, cruesli, bread or Western products were sometimes more expensive than in Europe.

Fortunately, street food in Malaysia is very affordable and delicious! A large part of our food expenditure was therefore on lunches, dinners and snacks outside the door. With the average spend of € 8.27 per person per day on food and drink, we find prices relatively low in Malaysia.Catch of the day Kota Kinabalu Sabah Malaysia

Vegetarian food in Malaysia

I don’t eat meat myself and that was occasionally quite difficult in Malaysia. Malaysian cuisine contains a lot of meat. The solution to easy vegetarian food in Malaysia? Diverting to Indian cuisine. Since more than 7% of the population of Malaysia has Indian roots, there is an Indian restaurant in every city. Here, I could indulge myself in delicious vegetarian dishes!

What is expensive in Malaysia: Alcohol!

In Islamic Malaysia, the prices of alcohol are quite high. For a glass of wine, you easily pay between € 4.50 and € 6. However, there are exceptions: the tax-free islands. For example, the island of Langkawi is the place to find cheap beer in Malaysia. By chance we were on Langkawi at Christmas, so we could enjoy a bottle of good wine without breaking our daily budget!Indian curry Kota Kinabalu Sabah Malaysia


Is Langkawi on your itinerary? Read in this blog what you can do on Langkawi!


How expensive are activities in Malaysia? – 26.6% of total budget Malaysia

Total spend: RM 3,864.63 / € 817.29 / $ 893.90
Danum Valley (Borneo): RM 3,205.98 / € 678 / $ 741.55
Other: RM 658.61 / € 139.29 / $ 152.35

Activities in Malaysia were quite a big expense. Now many activities are free, such as the beautiful hikes in the Cameron Highlands, the beaches of Langkawi and the cool graffiti in Georgetown, Penang. But some activities do cost money in Malaysia. For example, we took part in an island hopping tour in Langkawi, visited the famous cable car of the island and visited several temples.This is us George Town Malaysia


Read all about free things to do and activities in Kuala Lumpur here!


Budget tip: do you want to save money on activities in Malaysia? Take a look at the website of Klook. Here you will find a lot of discount promotions so you sometimes get up to 70% discount on activity in Malaysia!

Danum Valley on Borneo: a great sight!

Our most expensive activity was a visit to Danum Valley. We spent three nights in the middle of the jungle, went with guides to search for orangutans and enjoyed the beautiful jungle. At 339 euros per person, this was not a cheap activity but trust me it was well worth the money! In addition, this amount also included all food, drinks and overnight stays.Wild Orangutan Danum Valley Sabah Borneo Malaysia


Read more about visiting the Danum Valley on Borneo here!


Other expenses in Malaysia – 0.25% of total budget Malaysia

Total spend: RM 360.77 / € 76.30 / $ 83.45
SIM Card: RM 102.13 / € 21.60 / $ 23.62

Our other spendings include a few gifts (Ries’s birthday in Malaysia), prepaid credit and laundry.

Especially a Malaysian SIM card with data is indispensable for me. To wish friends a happy birthday, to post photos on Instagram, to publish blogs and for Google Maps!

We bought a SIM card from Maxis (Hotlink) with a tourist bundle of data. I’m not sure anymore but I think we had 30 GB for 90 RM (€ 19). This credit was valid for 30 days, for the other days we bought a few extra GB.Melaka Dutch Square Malaysia


Food and general expenses in Malaysia

What are the prices of food, food and petrol in Malaysia? Below we show the price level of products that we used in backpacking in Malaysia.

  • Kilo of apples: RM 10 / € 2.11 / $ 2.31
  • 1000 ml olive oil: RM 22.10 / € 4.67 / $ 5.11
  • Bag of chips: RM3 / € 0.63 / $ 0.69
  • Kilos of bananas: RM 5.90 / € 1.25 / $ 1.36
  • Yoghurt (500ML): RM 7.50 / € 1.59 / $ 1.73
  • Bread: RM 5 / € 1.06 / $ 1.16
  • Avocado: RM 7.99 / € 1.69 / $ 1.85
  • Milk (1L): RM 6 / € 1.27 / $ 1.39
  • Bottle of Coke (1.5L): RM 3.97 / € 0.84 / $ 0.92

  • Water (1.5L): RM 1.8 / € 0.38 / $ 0.42
  • Wine in supermarket: RM70 / € 14.81 / $ 16.19
  • Beer in the supermarket: RM 7 / € 1.48 / $ 1.62
  • Shampoo: RM 8 / € 1.69 / $ 1.85
  • Cappuccino: RM 6 / € 1.27 / $ 1.39
  • Glass of wine in restaurant: RM 22 / € 4.65 / $ 5.09
  • Beer in a restaurant: RM 13 / € 2.75 / $ 3.01
  • Simple lunch (1 person): RM 15 / € 3.17 / $ 3.47
  • Liter of gasoline: RM 1.25 / € 0.26 / $ 0.29

Malaysia Melaka local veggie dish


What is a realistic daily budget for Malaysia?

Well, a daily budget is, of course, different for every traveler. Below are two average budgets, if you travel through Malaysia as a backpacker or flashpacker.

Daily budget for backpacking in Malaysia

As a true backpacker, a realistic daily budget for Malaysia is between € 25 and € 40. For this, you mainly travel by public transport. You stay with this daily budget in Malaysia in hostels, sometimes in a private room, then in a dormitory. You mainly eat on the street, but a beer in its time should be allowed.Pentai Kok Beach Langkawi Malaysia

Daily budget for flashpacking in Malaysia

Do you travel a bit more luxurious through Malaysia, do you find comfort in hotels important and are you not averse to a luxurious dinner and glass of wine now and then? Then take into account a daily budget of about 60 euros per person. For this, you sleep in luxury hotels, do cool activities and eat in a nice restaurant every now and then.


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