Are you planning two weeks in Malaysia? If so, this guide packed with travel tips and including a Malaysia itinerary will help you put together the perfect trip.
Before I visited Malaysia as a solo traveller, I had zero expectations. But I discovered a criminally underrated jewel of a country that offers a diversity of cultures and landscapes and has a rich historical heritage.
To help you see the best of Malaysia in two weeks, here’s a tried and tested itinerary that will showcase a small part of this diverse & distinctive country. This article is also packed with useful practical information, including how to get around Malaysia, where to stay, what to eat and solo travel safety tips.
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What is the Best Month to Visit Malaysia?
There best time of the year to visit Malaysia will depend on where you are in the country.
The best time of year to visit Western (Peninsular) Malaysia is in the dry season between November and February.
Peninsular Malaysia can get busy during the dry season, and especially around the Chinese New Year (usually late January to mid-February).
Prices are lower and crowds are fewer between March and June, although you are likely to see some rain.
To escape the monsoon season, you should travel to Eastern Malaysia between March and September
What Should You Include in Your 2-Week Malaysia Itinerary?
Broadly speaking, if you only have two weeks to spare, you will need to make the choice between Eastern or Western (Peninsular) Malaysia.
Bearing in mind the size of the country, you won’t want to spread yourself too thin, pinging from one place to the next. Also, the weather patterns favour east and west at different times of the year.
So what floats your boat holiday-wise?
Peninsular Malaysia is more developed, and more touristed, and boasts the capital, Kuala Lumpur, along with other popular destinations, including Melaka and Penang.
By contrast, Eastern Malaysia is quieter and may appeal to your more adventurous nature. This side of the country features white sand-fringed islands that offer sensational diving off their shores, and the jungles of Borneo.
How to Get to Malaysia
Most travellers arrive in Malaysia by air.
Its main international gateway is Kuala Lumpur (KUL), which is also a major regional hub. In addition, Penang and Langkawi have domestic and international airports. To the east, the main hubs are Kuching, Miri and Kota Kinabalu.
You can cross into Malaysia by land from Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Indonesia. Kuala Lumpur is connected by rail to Singapore and Bangkok (via Butterworth).
By sea, boats and ferries connect Malaysia with Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Indonesia and The Philippines.
Cruise ships also visit Malaysia’s ports.
Getting Around Malaysia
Travelling around Malaysia is easy; public transport is inexpensive and reliable.
Although the most commonly used options for getting around Peninsular Malaysia are bus, minivan and budget flights, there is also a limited railway network.
Popular routes are served by multiple bus companies. This plethora of operators means that fares are cheap and departures are frequent.
You can usually just turn up and buy a ticket for the next departure. Each company in a Malaysia bus station will have its own booth.
I love train travel and recommend the train journey from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth (for George Town, Penanag). Western Malaysia’s intercity train service is operated by KTM.
A 2-Week Malaysia Itinerary
This 2-week Malaysia itinerary starts and ends in the capital city Kuala Lumpur and also includes three of the most popular west coast destinations: Melaka, George Town on Penang Island and Langkawi Island. For each destination, I have included the best places to visit, how to get there and where to stay.
Day 1: Kuala Lumpur (overnight stay)
Many overnight flights from Europe land in Kuala Lumpur in the evening. If Melaka, which is south of the airport, is the first stop on your itinerary, it makes sense to travel to stay near Kuala Lumpur International Airport rather than in the city centre.
The restorative power of a good kip and a hot shower after a long flight is not to be underestimated!
Where to stay near Kuala Lumpur Airport
There are slim pickings of standard hotels close to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The only hotel that is walkable from the airport terminal is the Sama Sama Hotel.
An alternative option is one of the transit hotels at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The cost will depend on the number of hours that you will be occupying a room, and many offer rates up to 12 hours, which is enough for an overnight stay.
Before booking a transit hotel check at which terminal your plane arrives.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport has two terminals: KLIA which serves most international flights from full-service carriers and KLIA2 which serves low-cost carriers.
Day 2 & 3: Melaka
Why visit Melaka?
Visit Melaka for its beautifully preserved historic centre, with its kaleidoscope of architectural styles, the lively Jonker Walk weekend night market and psychedelic trishaws.
What we see today is thanks to Melaka’s rich history. One of the oldest cities on the Straits of Malacca, the city started life as a fishing village founded by a Sumatran Hindu prince in the 14th Century. Over the subsequent six centuries, it passed through the hands of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British before gaining independence in 1946.
Awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008, Melaka’s historic centre is a jumble of restored Chinese shophouses cradled between Portuguese, British and Dutch buildings. Be warned; it can be ridiculously busy, particularly at weekends.
How to get to Melaka
- There is a direct bus from Kuala Lumpur airport. The journey takes around three hours. Buses also depart from Kuala Lumpur’s chaotic central bus station.
- Although not necessary, you can book your bus ticket in advance here.
What to see in Melaka
Once renowned for its antique shops, Jonker Street today is home to restaurants, clothing and craft shops. It comes alive at the weekend when it is the scene for a hugely popular night market, selling all manner of things that you need, and things that you didn’t realise you needed until you strolled amongst its stalls.
Aside from its retail and culinary opportunities, this is a fascinating area to wander through
Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum
The Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum was one of my Melaka highlights.
A guided tour of this wonderfully restored townhouse takes you back to 19th Century Melaka. The museum houses an exquisite collection of traditional furniture and is arranged to resemble a typical Baba-Nonya residence.
Christ Church Melaka
Built by the Dutch to commemorate the capture of Melaka from the Portuguese, this 18th Century Melaka landmark is one of the most photographed sites in the city.
Avoid the crowds by visiting Christ Church early in the day.
You can visit Christ Church Melaka from Monday to Saturday.
Adjacent to Christ Church is the cerise town hall and governor’s residence.
Today, this houses the History & Ethnography Museum, exploring the history of Melaka through the lives of the ethnic groups living in the city.
How to get around Melaka
- Melaka’s compact size makes it easily walkable. However, if you are feeling weary why not take a ride on one of the city’s psychedelic trishaws? Agree on a price before setting off.
- You can also hire a bike to get around.
Where to stay in Melaka
As Melaka is awash with accommodation choices, you are unlikely to struggle to find somewhere to rest your head.
If you want to be in the thick of things, concentrate your search around Jonker Street. Prices are generally good here – there are really nice hotels at an affordable rate – so you can splash out.
Day 4 & 5: Kuala Lumpur
Head back to Kuala Lumpur on day four of your 2-week Malaysia itinerary.
Why visit Kuala Lumpur?
Initially, Kulala Lumpur’s scale and its frantic pace can be overwhelming. However, give it a day or so and this vibrant metropolis will win you over.
The cultural diversity of Kuala Lumpur is striking. Ethnic Malays, Chinese prospectors, British colonial rulers and Indian immigrants have all left their mark on Malaysia’s capital city.
KL is all about contrast. Hindu temples and mosques rub shoulders with gleaming shopping malls, the 21st-century cathedrals of consumerism. Cafes offering foam-topped lattés and wi-fi sit cheek-to-jowl with streetside hawker stalls.
How to get to from Melaka to Kuala Lumpur
From Melaka, catch the bus to Kuala Lumpur’s central bus station (KL Central) and then connect to the metro to complete your journey.
Places to visit in Kuala Lumpur
The iconic Petronas Twin Towers are a must-see in Kuala Lumpur. Once the world’s tallest buildings – they lost that crown to Taipei 101 in Taiwan 2004 – I recommend visiting them inside and out.
As visiting the Petronas Towers is very popular, buy tickets online in advance if possible. Note that they are closed to visitors on Mondays.
Try to visit the Petronas Towers late afternoon to watch the sunset, and to witness Kulala Lumpur light up below you. A magical experience.
To admire them from the outside, head to the KLCC Park, right behind the towers. or enjoy the view over a cocktail at the Traders Hotel Skybar.
KL Bird Park
Home to over 200 species of birds, swooping beneath a massive canopy, KL Bird Park was an unexpected delight. Watch out for the peacocks strutting their stuff.
Islamic Arts Museum
After visiting KL Bird Park, stop by Kuala Lumpur’s outstanding Islamic Arts Museum. As well as housing an astonishing collection of Islamic decorative arts, its gift shop is also a good place to pick up tasteful gifts.
The colonial heart of Kuala Lumpur, Merdeka Square is is fringed by handsome heritage buildings. Back in the British era, the square was used as a cricket pitch (the Padang), and it is also where independence was declared in 1957.
Fill your face with tasty rice and noodles and then go temple-hopping in Chinatown. For its vibrancy, and for timing my visit with a wedding celebration, my favourite was the Hindu temple of Sri Mahamariamman.
But a close second was Sin Sze Si Ya, the oldest Chinese temple in Kuala Lumpur, with its serene atmosphere.
The Batu Caves is the most popular day trip from Kuala Lumpur.
This complex of limestone caves 13 km north of Kuala Lumpur, houses Hindu temples that have been a pilgrimage site for more than 120 years. Joyously colourful!
Batu Caves are free to visit.
How to get around Kuala Lumpur
- Thanks to its integrated transport system, it is easy to get around Kuala Lumpur. The city’s trains and buses connect through the central station, KL Sentral.
- Although you can buy single tickets at machines and counters, if you are in the city for a few days it is worth your while getting a Touch & Go card. Similar to London’s Oyster Card, this allows you to travel around Kuala Lumpur with ease and you also benefit from lower prices.
- Here’s further information on using Kuala Lumpur’s public transport.
- Taxis are also a good option and are plentiful and relatively cheap
Organised day tours in Kuala Lumpur
Alternatively, why not consider joining an organised day trip? If you are pressed for time or need to gain confidence in navigating a city, they can be an excellent option. As a solo traveller, this is also an excellent way to meet people whilst away.
Here are a few from GetYourGuide, my go-to platform that offers a wide choice of affordable excursions with extremely generous cancellation terms:
- Kuala Lumpur: Half-Day City Tour – get the lay of the land with this 3-hour tour
- Cameron Highlands: Full-Day Tour from Kuala Lumpur – this Malaysia does not include the Cameron Highlands (more about that later). But if you would like to visit the popular tea-growing area of the country, this day trip from KL is an excellent option.
- Kuala Lumpur: Local Street Food Night Tour – one for the foodies. This private tour includes tastings, a local guide and a visit to a night market
Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur
As Kuala Lumpur is an enormous city, and each of its districts has its distinct identity and its pros and cons, choosing where to stay can feel like a Herculean task.
On balance, Bukit Bitang and KLCC, in the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers, are good bets. Both districts are centrally located and have good transport links and dining options.
I chose to stay in KLCC, which is the least busy of the two and close to the city’s landmarks. As a solo traveller, safety is important to me and walking around KLCC at night always felt safe. However, as home to many of Kuala Lumpur’s luxury hotels, sleeping in KLCC is not cheap.
Bukit Bitang offers accommodation options to suit all budgets and is home to Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur’s hawker stall heaven.
If you are looking for budget accommodation in Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown is brimming with cheap hotels and hostels.
Day 6 – 9: George Town, Penang
You are almost at the halfway point of your two weeks in Malaysia and the next stop on your itinerary is gorgeous George Town in Penang.
Why visit George Town, Penang?
Cultural diversity is Penang’s calling card. Visit George Town, Penang’s main city, for this cultural mix, a vibrant street art scene and fantastic food.
How to get to Penang
- For a chance to ride on part of the iconic route from Singapore to Bangkok, take the train from KL to Butterworth station. It’s cheap, relaxing and takes around five hours. From Butterworth station, it’s a short and scenic ferry ride to Penang.
- A non-stop bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang will take around the same time and is also inexpensive.
- Penang is also served by domestic flights which land at its airport, 18km south of George Town.
The best things to do in George Town, Penang
Explore George Town’s architecture
The UNESCO World Heritage site of George Town has unparalleled architecture. Romantically dilapidated Chinese shopfronts rub shoulders with British colonial buildings, Hindu temples and mosques.
The best way to explore the historic heart of George Town is to simply stroll along its streets.
Visit The Blue Mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze)
This striking mansion, built in the 1880s, is one of the few surviving examples of the architectural style favoured by the wealthy Straits Chinese. East meets West with art nouveau stained glass, elaborate floor tiles and louvred windows.
Visit the Blue Mansion on one of their daily 45-minute guided tours.
Visit George Town’s clan houses and clan jetties
Clan houses, known locally as kongsi, grace George Town’s streets and jetties.
Explore George Town’s street art
Today’s George Town is all about street art. Take a self-guided walking tour of the city’s vibrant street art scene to hunt down work by the renowned Lithuanian artist, Zacharevic.
Eat some of the best food in Asia
George Town is hawker stall heaven. Malaysians take their food very seriously, and the stalls in George Town serve some of the best street food that you will eat in Asia. The sheer variety and quality of food attract visitors from home and abroad.
Mee goreng mamak anyone?
How to get around George Town, Penang
As Penang’s sights are close together, it is easy to get around on foot.
Organised excursions from George Town, Penang
If you are looking to something that is more structured or a little bit different, check out these organised excursions from George Town.
- George Town: Half-Day UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tour
- Penang: 3-Hour Heritage Tour with Trishaw Ride
- George Town: 4-Hour Scenic Night Tour with Dinner & Ferry
Where to stay in George Town, Penang
George Town is awash with accommodation options to suit all budgets, from backpacker joints to luxury hotels. Some of these choices, even those in the lower price brackets, are in characterful heritage buildings in the heart of George Town.
Day 10 – 13: Langkawi
Ten days into your 2-week Malaysia itinerary and it’s time for a little R&R. Welcome to the paradise island of Langkawi.
Why visit Langkawi?
To kick-back on a perfect white sand beach. After travelling around Malaysia for nearly two weeks you deserve some relaxation.
How to get to Langkawi
You can get to Langkawi by ferry or plane.
I reached Langkawi by ferry from Penang. This journey takes around three hours.
Flights between Penang and Langkawi take 35 minutes.
What to do on Langkawi
Relax on one of Langkawi’s spectacular beaches
Let’s face it. This is the primary reason to include Langkawi in a 2-week Malaysia itinerary.
Just relax on a blindingly white sand beach, under the shade of a palm tree. With a cocktail in hand, of course.
Walk across the Langkawi Sky Bridge
Spoiler alert. You do need a head for heights to walk across the Langkawi Sky Bridge. I don’t and made it only 20 meters across the bridge before having to turn back.
To reach the Langkawi Sky Bridge, take the cable car to the top of Gunung Mat Chinchang. But even if you are not able to pluck up the courage to step onto this 125-metre-long pedestrian suspension bridge, you will still be treated to sweeping views of Langkawi’s rainforests and islets.
The Langkawi cable car operates daily except for public holidays. The entrance is in the Oriental Village near Pantai Kok.
How to get around Langkawi
- As Langkawi does not have public transport, a taxi is your best bet.
- Hiring a motorcycle is another option.
Organised day tours on Langkawi
Given the lack of public transport on Langkawi, an organised day trip is worth considering. Here are a few that are worth checking out.
- Langkawi: Island Hopping Tour – this half-day tour takes you to three of Langkawi’s most beautiful islands: Dayang Bunting, Singa Besar, and Beras Basah
- Langkawi: Mangrove Kilim UNESCO Geopark & Cave Tour – another half-day tour, this time sailing through the mangroves and includes the Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark
- Langkawi Rainforest Day-Tour: Malaysian Jungle Trekking – discover one of the most ancient rainforests on the island with a 3-mile trek
Where to stay on Langkawi
Popular Pantai Cenang beach has a wide range of Langkawi hotels to suit most budgets, and is livelier compared with other areas of the island. I chose a hotel in the quieter spot of Pantai Kok, 15 minutes from Langkawi Airport and close to the Langkawi Cable Car.
If you want to splash the cash on super-luxury hotels, head to Datai Bay.
Day 14: Kuala Lumpur
Your two weeks in Malaysia finish where it began, in Kuala Lumpur.
Why visit Kuala Lumpur (again)?
A pre return flight stay and to take in the sights you may have missed at the start of your 2 weeks in Malaysia.
Getting from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur
The best way of getting from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur is by plane. I flew with Malaysian Airlines.
Check air schedules and fares here.
Money in Malaysia
Malaysia’s currency is the Malaysian ringgit (MYR). The brightly coloured notes make each denomination a breeze to identify.
Although the Malaysian ringgit is divided into 100 sen (cents) with coins in 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 sen denominations, prices are often rounded to the nearest ringgit. Instead of coins you might get a sweet as change!
You can withdraw money from Malaysian ATMs. Unlike Thailand, there is no local charge for doing this or, at most, the transaction is subject to a modest fee.
Although credit cards are accepted in more upscale restaurants and hotels, don’t rely on them as your sole source of payment.
Tipping is not expected in Malaysia. However, this may be expected at more upscale establishments and service charge may be levied on bills at luxury hotels and smart restaurants.
What to Eat in Malaysia
Welcome to foodie heaven! See how many different dishes you can try during your two weeks in Malaysia.
Here are a few to whet your appetite.
- Mee goreng mamak – An irresistible marriage of yellow noodles, beef or chicken, prawns and vegetables tossed in soy sauce with a hint of chilli.
- Nasi lemak – rice cooked in coconut milk with variations on a side order of egg, peanuts, vegetables, cucumber, meat curry, seafood and sambal (chilli-based sauce).
- Nasi kerabu – Blue rice anyone? Served with fried chicken, egg, and fried keropok (crackers).
- Rendang – Beef, chicken or lamb slowly simmered in coconut milk and spices.
- Laksa – This spicy noodle soup is one of Malaysia’s greatest exports.
- Roti canai – A Malaysian street food staple of light flatbread served with three different dipping sauces.
Is Malaysia Safe for Solo Travellers?
Malaysia is not only one of the best destinations in Asia for solo travellers, but also one of the best countries in the world to travel alone. This is even the case if you are travelling alone for the first time.
Like any major city, petty theft, and especially bag-snatching, can be an issue in KL. Take the same precautions as you would in your home city.
Don’t make yourself a target. Walk confidently and with purpose, be careful with your belongings, especially smartphones and laptops, and leave your diamond necklace at home. Watch your bag and your belongings and be street smart.
Trust your instincts. Take a taxi when this is a safer option. Seek local knowledge on the safety of areas.
However, like many other countries in the world, there is a threat of terrorism in Malaysia. Be vigilant and monitor local media.
Due to militant activity by Islamic group Abu Sayyaf, who operate from the southern Philippines, there is a threat to foreigners of kidnapping and criminality on the eastern coast of Sabah, and in particular the islands close to the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines.
To seek further information on safe travelling in Malaysia, check out the advice issued by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Visiting Malaysia on an Organised Tour
Malaysia is a relatively easy country to explore independently. However, if you want to fit in a lot in a short space of time or are nervous about going it alone, why not consider joining a group tour?
As well as being a relatively hassle-free way of travelling, there are many other benefits of a group tour as a solo traveller. You’ll have an expertly curated itinerary and you often gain valuable insights into the country, the people and culture.
Generally, there’s safety in numbers. Finally, if you fear solo travel loneliness, there’s the reassurance of ready-made travel companions.
Malaysia: Suggested Reading
Finally, do you want to learn a little bit more about the country? Here’s my pick of books to read either before your 2 weeks in Malaysia or whilst you are there.
The Ghost Bride (Yangsze Choo)
A great introduction to the city of Melaka, this is a historical novel with a supernatural twist. Set in the dying years of the 19th Century, this chronicles the central character’s experience as a ‘ghost bride’ to the recently deceased son of a rich family.
The Gift of Rain (Tan Twan Eng)
A companion to your few days in Penang, this 2009 novel is set in George Town before and during the Second World War. It’s a tale of the conflicting loyalties of the central character, Phillip Hutton, an Anglo-Chinese member of a powerful trading family.
The Concubine’s Child (Carol Jones)
This interesting dual timeline, multi-generational novel set in Kuala Lumpur tells the stories of Yu Lan, a 16-year old concubine, and her great-grandson.
Two-Week Malaysia Itinerary: Final Thoughts
This was a relaxed 2-week Malaysia itinerary and I could have squeezed more in.
An obvious addition would have been the Cameron Highlands, the inland region of Malaysia known for its tea plantations, hiking trails and strawberry farms. For me, this was one stop too many, but adding to this itinerary is entirely feasible, albeit resulting in a faster-paced two weeks.
My view is that Malaysia is often wrongly overlooked.
Although it lacks the big-hitting tourist attractions of other South-East Asian countries, such as Thailand, it does have an enticing mix of city life, colonial towns and beach bliss. Add to this an intriguing cultural diversity, welcoming people and fantastic food and you have the perfect recipe for a great trip.