Malaysia on a Budget: Travel Cost Breakdown, Prices & Savings Tips – It’s so easy to make your trip significantly cheaper

Affiliate links
This post might contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through this link I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. But I will only recommend products and services I believe are of value for you. Thank you so much for your support.

Many perceive traveling to Malaysia, a land rich in cultural diversity and culinary marvels, as costly. This is where traveling to Malaysia on a budget comes into play, debunking the myth of high expenses. Our own journey made Malaysia a favorite, revealing its vibrant cultural mosaic, accessible even with modest finances.

In this article, I’ll provide a detailed cost breakdown for traveling in Malaysia (and Brunei), proving that experiencing its wonders doesn’t have to drain your wallet. I’ll guide you through managing your budget effectively, sharing practical tips and personal insights.

Join me as we explore how to affordably enjoy Malaysia’s best, showing that a memorable adventure in this magnificent country can be achieved without breaking the bank.

What does it cost to travel to Malaysia?

Malaysia Travel Cost Calculator

Malaysia Travel Cost Calculator

*excluding flight costs

Average cost per day

The average traveler spends around $72/€ 65 per day in Malaysia. Of course, it all depends on how you travel and where you stay. On the other hand, backpackers spend an average of around $27/€25 per day. Luxury travelers, on the other hand, can spend up to $275/€250 per day.

We traveled in Malaysia (1 ½ months) with average travel costs of around $18/€15 per day. In the following part, you can find out exactly how we managed this.

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

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

Total: 638,68€/$788,436 per Person (Please note that our trip was a while ago. You should expect inflation of around +2.5%).

Transport164.60 €/ $.203.20
Accommodation183.49 €/ $ 226.51
Breakfast18.88 €/ $ 23.31
Lunch63.99 €/ $ 78.99
Dinner54.71 €/ $ 67.54
Water 9.17 € /$ 11.32
Entrance Fee & Activities94.61 €/ $ 116.79
Other Costs40.70 €/ $ 50.24

Expenses in Malaysia per Day (43 Days)

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

Transport3.38 €/ $ 4.17
Accommodation4.27 €/ $ 5.27
Breakfast0.44 €/ $ 0.54
Lunch1.49 €/ $ 1.81
Dinner 1.27 €/ $ 1.57
Water0.21 €/ $ 0.56
Entrance Fee & Activities2.20 €/ $ 2.71
Other Costs0.95 €/ $ 1.17

Malaysia Prices – What costs how much?

  • Budget-Accommodation (Private Doubleroom) per Night: from 10 €/$12
  • Budget-Accommodation (Dorm-Bed) per night: from 9 €/$10
  • Middle-Class Accommodation (Private Doubleroom) per night: from 20 €/$22
  • Lunch Street food or local Restaurant: ca. 1.50 – 2.50 €/$1.6 – 2.7
  • Dinner Street food or local Restaurant: ca. 1.50 – 2.50 €/$1.6 – 2.7
  • Dinner in a good restaurant for 2 People: ca. 15 €/$16.5
  • 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 Supermarket: ca. R 10 (2 €/$2.5)
  • Portion of Nasi Goreng: ca. R 5-7 (1-1,50 €/$1.2 – 1.7)
  • Scooter Rental per day: ca. R 25-40 (5-8,50 €/$5.5 – 9.5)

How to save money while traveling to Malaysia on a budget?

Malaysia was far cheaper than we thought, and there are many easy ways to save money. Apart from that, many areas of Malaysia are far less touristy than neighboring Thailand. That’s why there are far fewer tourist scams here.

Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation, green, mountains, out of focus, Malaysia 2 week itinerary
View over the beautiful Cameron Highlands

Money and currency in Malaysia

The Malaysian ringgit is the currency used in Malaysia. One euro is currently equivalent to around 5 Ringgit and one US dollar to 4,6 Ringgit. You will find a similar or worse exchange value depending on where you exchange your money in the local currency.

You should, therefore, always check the current exchange rate before deciding on an exchange office. It is best only to exchange as much money as you really need. This will help you avoid excessive losses due to currency exchange.

A good option is to withdraw the money directly from your credit card on-site. It’s best to find out BEFORE you travel which credit card is best for you and which has no foreign currency fees or withdrawal fees abroad.

Extra tip: We recommend always having at least two credit cards with you when traveling and keeping them in different places. This way, if one of the cards is lost, stolen, or blocked, you still have the option of accessing your money. It is also advisable to always have a few dollars (or your own currency) in cash with you.

Malaysia Visa Cost

EU and US citizens can enter Malaysia for tourism purposes for up to three months without a visa. Therefore, you will not have to pay any entry or visa fees if you are an EU or US citizen. If unsure, you can always check the current entry restrictions with your embassy.



When traveling through Malaysia, finding cheap bus tickets is usually relatively easy. Anyway, there is no bus for every route. So, if you do not find one, you will probably find Mini Vans. When buying your ticket, compare prices, but mainly, the prices between different companies don’t differ much. Anyway, comparing prices might help.

If you travel to or from islands, it can be cheaper to do as much of your way as possible 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 not paying anything for your bus ride? Yes, you’ve read correctly. In Kuala Lumpur, there are several bus lines that you can take for free. Just watch out for these pink buses.


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 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 friendly drivers. Since the App fixes the prices, 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, taking an airplane might be an option. After only traveling Southeast Asia by land, we also took two flights in Malaysia. (We just didn’t feel like taking a boat to Borneo, and neither did we like having another 15-hour bus trip from Kuching to Miri)

In Malaysia, you can find pretty cheap flights. Another significant 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


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

Traveling by hitchhiking not only saves you some money but 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, your trip’s impressions, experiences, and acquaintances will change drastically this way.

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

Malaysia Money Saving Tips for Food

Nasi Goreng, Malaysia, fried rice, plate on a wooden table with a fork on top of it
Just thinking about the delicious nasi goreng in Malaysia makes my mouth water

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 excellent Malaysian food. It is a great option, especially when traveling with a group, as you can find something for everyone. And the best part is that the food is usually cheaper than in restaurants nearby.

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 local Malaysian 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, which is typical of Malaysia? Te Tarik is available in many local coffee shops and tastes excellent.

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.

Have breakfast in your accommodation

If you’re wondering how we managed to spend an average of only around 44 cents a day on our breakfast, there’s a simple answer: most days, we had breakfast included in the room rate.

Hostels and other backpacker locations, in particular, offer a simple breakfast in the morning, which is often included in the overnight stay. This is usually a simple breakfast with toast, jam, and peanut butter. However, the exact offer differs from accommodation to accommodation.

So check when booking whether breakfast is included in the room price. This saves you money and time, as you don’t have to search for a place to have breakfast.


In many accommodations in Malaysia, you can refill your water bottle free of charge. This way, you save money and do something good for the environment.

If you have to buy water, it might be worth taking 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 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 to make it drinkable. Therefore, you can save much 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 entrance fees in Malaysia usually aren’t that overpriced.

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

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.


The accommodations in Malaysia are, in general, a little bit pricier than in Thailand and Cambodia. Significantly, in Brunei, the costs of 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. There are many more hosts in Malaysia and Brunei than in Thailand, for example.

But please only use Couchsurfing if you plan to interact with your hosts. Keep in mind that it’s not a hotel. But you will get an even deeper insight into the country’s culture and people, which you would probably not be able to gain 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?

In our travels across Malaysia, we often decided to pick our stays locally instead of pre-booking them online. Looking back, though, this wasn’t always the best move. Picture this: You’ve just stepped off a long bus ride, your backpack in tow, and you’re wandering around trying to find a decent place to crash. Not exactly the relaxing part of travel, right?

It turns out that hunting for a place on arrival to save a few Ringgits often doesn’t outweigh the convenience of having everything sorted beforehand. The difference in price between on-the-spot decisions and online bookings? It’s usually pretty slim. And let’s be honest, your time in Malaysia is precious – why waste it on accommodation hunting?

Here’s what I recommend: Lean on platforms like The real gold here is the traveler reviews – they’re like your personal scouts, giving you the inside scoop on where to stay.

Check accommodation in Malaysia on

Other expenses in Malaysia

When traveling, you sometimes just need some refreshments.

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

Even though those things are not pricey in Malaysia, they added up during the 1 1/2 months we spent there.

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


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%. 

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

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. 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 with Thailand, you can buy alcohol here without taxes, making beer even cheaper than water.

Sim Cards

We had a good Wi-Fi connection in our accommodations (Besides on the Perhentian Islands). Therefore, we didn’t buy a SIM card while 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, you can easily buy a sim card in Malaysia without breaking the bank.

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


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.

More about us
5/5 - (3 votes)

10 thoughts on Malaysia on a Budget: Travel Cost Breakdown, Prices & Savings Tips – It’s so easy to make your trip significantly cheaper

  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.

  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.

    • 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 🙂

      • 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!

  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!

    • 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 🙂


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.