Amazing Indian Malay meal at Bike & Tours

Our Malaysia Travel Costs For Three Weeks

After our flight from Indonesia to the Philippines got cancelled, a two-hour stopover in Malaysia became a 23-day jungle adventure and we’re so glad that it did. We were given a free 90 day visa on arrival and we really wish we could have used it; we could have slowed down and been able to see much more of this beautiful country. After struggling with budgets in Indonesia, we figured that we needed to relax our spending in Malaysia instead of plucking a daily budget out of thin air and wildly sticking to it no matter what; with that in mind, here’s what we spent during three weeks in Malaysia.

Activity Costs in Malaysia

This could have easily been our biggest expense if we had gone on organised tours to see Orangutans in Borneo; instead we decided to travel independently and as a result, we had some amazing adventures and cut our costs in the process. Although we didn’t manage to see any wild orangutans (not for lack of trying) we did take a trip to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary near Sandakan to see some come down for feeding. We also felt at home in Kuala Lumpur and so decided to do what we would back in London and go to the cinema (this was much cheaper in Malaysia though).

ActivityCostPer Person
Trip to Batang Ai National ParkGuides, boat and overnight stay in Batang Ai National Park: £81£40.50
Danum Valley Field CentreTwo days’ National Park fees: £20.20£10.10
Lower Kinabatangan river cruisesThree Boat cruises: £48.50£24.25
Sepilok Orangutan SanctuaryEntrance fee: £14.20£7.10
Two trips to the cinema£11.80£5.90


Seeing Batang Ai by Longboat

Malaysia Accommodation Costs

Overall, we found that Malaysia hotels, hostels and guesthouses cost slightly more than Indonesian accommodation. You also get slightly less for your money in Malaysia; rooms don’t usually come with a private bathroom and the free breakfasts are pretty measly, consisting of bread and jam, compared to banana pancakes and fruit in Indonesia. We did notice that the hospitality was incredible though; everyone we met was so kind and helpful.

In Danum Valley, we stayed in the most costly accommodation of our trip, £58 per night at the field centre. There is a hostel there with dorm beds but these were full when we wanted to visit so we stayed in a private room with en-suite bathroom and cold water. Excluding Danum Valley, on average we found that hotel prices in Malaysia cost under £12 per room per night. One of our cheaper stays was at an Iban longhouse in Batang Ai National Park, which cost just £10 but was one of the most amazing experiences of our time in Malaysia.

ExpenseTotal     Per Person  Per Day

Food Prices in Malaysia

This is one area where we did pretty well as we only spent £5.05 each per day on food; this was even less than we spent in Indonesia yet we ate more healthily and didn’t skip meals. We even found some home comforts like marmite and (good) cheddar cheese to have on wholemeal bread. We could have reduced our food costs even more if we wanted to eat from the street food stalls in the markets or in the food courts, which we didn’t like the look of. We did try a few traditional Malaysian dishes; some frogspawn-esque dessert given to us by a local in Sri Aman (surprisingly not as bad as it sounds!) and the most delicious Indian Malaysian meal prepared by Simon and Tisha at Bike & Tours guesthouse.

To keep costs down we were often able to cook or prepare our own food in hostels and use the fridges there to store any cold food we had. Breakfast was usually included in our accommodation costs but mostly consisted of sweet bread, jam and tea/coffee.

ExpenseTotal     Per Person  Per Day


Amazing Indian Malay meal at Bike & Tours

Transport Costs in Malaysia

We spent quite a lot of time moving around in Malaysia and this is really reflected in our transport costs, which make up more than a third of our total outgoings. We took a few domestic Malaysia flights since that’s the only way to get over to Borneo. We did manage to save £100 on these though by booking separate flights from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu and Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu, rather than one flight from Kuching to Lahad Datu.

One great thing about Kuala Lumpur is that you can save money by catching the free buses which follow a couple of different routes around the city – you just hop on and off whenever you like. The only problem was that we visited during Ramadan and had to wait for some of the drivers to break their fast before they would start their buses. We took a few Malaysia buses to get around Borneo and they were reasonably priced but you had to put up with Videoke music videos blaring out of the speakers for the whole journey.

The taxis in Malaysia were a bit more expensive than in Indonesia, but still cheap by western standards. There seemed to be a lot of difficulty getting the drivers to use the meters too, so we had to pay more expensive fixed prices a lot of the time. The trains in Kuala Lumpur were really cheap, incredibly clean and efficient too. We went to the Batu Caves which was about 30 minutes north of the centre and it cost £0.80 return – bargain!

ExpenseTotal     Per Person 
FlightsKuala Lumpur to Kuching: £65.66£32.83
Kuching to Lahad Datu (via Kota Kinabalu): £84.94£42.47
Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur: £40.50£20.25
BusesAirport shuttle to/from Kuala Lumpur International Airport: £13.76 (four trips)£6.88
Bus from Kuching to Sri Aman (return): £20.20£10.10
Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu: £17.40£8.70
Shuttle bus from Danum Valley to Lahad Datu: £26.30£13.15
Bus from Lahad Datu to Sukau: £14.16£7.08
Bus from Sukau to Sandakan: £16.18£8.09
Bus from Sandakan to Sepilok (return): £4£2
TrainsFrom Pasar Seni to Batu Caves (return): £1.60£0.80
From Pasar Seni to Thai Embassy twice (return): £2.60£1.30
TaxisSeven taxis in total: £32£16
Private carsCar from Sri Aman to Batang Ai Jetty (return): £60.70£30.35
Transport to Danum Valley with Bike & Tours: £70.80£35.40
BoatLongboat from the Hilton to the Longhouse: £20£10


Frequent Flyers

Miscellaneous Costs

We managed to sort out our 60 day visas for Thailand while in Kuala Lumpur, this made up nearly half of our miscellaneous costs. We also had the usual laundry and toiletry costs along with buying a new phone and SIM card since we needed a local number and it was really expensive to unlock our iPhones.

ExpenseTotal     Per Person 
New Phone & Sim card£17£8.50
60 day Thai Visa£44.50£22.25

Total Malaysia Travel Costs for 23 days

We loved Malaysia and we will most certainly go back again: it’s one of the most accessible and welcoming countries we have ever visited. The overall cost of travelling there was slightly higher than we would have liked but that’s mostly because we packed everything into three weeks and didn’t compromise on our activity costs – as a result we had an amazing time.

ExpenseTotalPer PersonPer Day

We used Trail Wallet as usual to keep track of our costs. We think we did pretty well spending only £59 per day; after all that’s just half the price of what we spent in New Zealand!

How much does it cost to travel in Malaysia-

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  • Alyson
    Posted at 10:33h, 01 September Reply

    Yep, Malaysian accommodation is expensive. We had some excellent Indian food there, dirt cheap, and buses were really good value. We didn’t think much of Malaysian food generally. Overall it’s certainly the most expensive country in SE Asia that we’ve visited.

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:54h, 01 September Reply

      Yes, it’s definitely the most expensive Asian country we’ve visited too. Saying that, Southern Thailand is proving a bit pricey too. I agree that buses were good value and I think that if we’d covered less ground or moved slower over a longer period of time our costs would have leveled out. We’ll have to budget more for a second trip to Malaysia I think.

  • Carmel
    Posted at 19:51h, 01 September Reply

    Thanks for this detailed breakdown. Will definitely reference back to it if we end up in Malaysia (which I really hope we do). Nice when things just work out…

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:19h, 02 September Reply

      Glad you found it interesting Carmel. Malaysia is a great, accessible country and I wish we’d started our Asia travels there rather than in Indonesia.

  • nafeel rahuman
    Posted at 10:28h, 23 January Reply

    how much is a room per day in malasiya

    • Andrew
      Posted at 11:13h, 23 January Reply

      Hi Nafeel, when we visited in June/July last year we paid on average £15.66 per night, about 75 Malaysian Ringgit. I hope that helps. 🙂

  • Joey Ng
    Posted at 02:50h, 07 February Reply

    It is very cheap for people to travel to Malaysia. You can definitely save a lot of money compared to travel to other countries like Singapore or Australia.

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