This trip was a little laid back compared to my Turkey Trip where I stayed in a hostel and had the trip under Rs. 75,000. For this trip to Malaysia, I had set the cap to Rs. 100,000.
I had mixed feelings for Malaysia when my friend and I were deciding on where to go. The major reason to pick Malaysia was online processing of visa because for almost every other country it would take a minimum of 2 weeks of processing and we really wanted to avoid all the paperwork and processing.
Okay, so here are a few pointers before I start off:
- Luxury was not on my list, so I did not stay at any fancy hotels;
- We did a lot of walking and avoided Uber/Grab/Taxi as much as we could;
- My trip was 8 days in 3 cities; Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Langkawi
Now, let’s get planning the trip:
Getting the visa processing done
The best thing about Malaysia is its online visa processing for Pakistani Passport holders which, I think, is a blessing. All you have to do is head to their Immigration website and select ‘Apply‘ to create a new account on the website. Once you have created a website you can create multiple applications under the same account for the people traveling with you.
This means you do not need ANY travel agent to apply for a visa to Malaysia. You will, however, need a credit/debit card to pay the visa processing fee.
Once you have created the account, click on ‘Apply Now‘ and select the relevant visa type. Then you are in! Make sure to read the processing guidelines. They are VERY particular about the sizing and background colors of the picture while uploading, you might need some editing help to get the face properly centered in the frame and the background needs to be white. They reject the picture upload if the image background is not white.
For visa processing you will need flight bookings so you can engage a travel agent for this process and get a printout and tell them that you’re going to book the ticket from them and that you just need a booking printout for now. If you have a strong travel history, you can even purchase the ticket (more details later) beforehand and use a legit booking to show.
You will also need signed and stamped bank statement, passport scan, and hotel bookings (we’ll discuss how to do this below). Attach any other supporting documents you think will help like your tax returns, current employment letter or any assets you own in your name.
If you are not paying for your trip, get an affidavit made and attach that. Once you complete the form, you will be asked to enter the payment of USD 30 per person.
My visa processing took 2 hours and I received an email that my visa has been approved. You can go back to the same portal and login and you will see an option to print your eVisa. Just download the PDF eVisa and keep multiple copies while traveling. They ask a for copy when you check-in at the airport so make sure to keep it handy.
Hunting for good flight ticket deals
The best resource to find cheap tickets is online, I always use SkyScanner, Google Flights or Hopper to find tickets. I would recommend going for Malindo Air, It cost me Rs. 45,000 for a return ticket from Lahore to Kuala Lumpur. PIA offers a cheaper alternative at Rs. 41,500 but there’s a 11-hour layover in Karachi if you’re flying from Lahore.
If you’re flying from Karachi, I think PIA is the best option.
My experience with Malindo Air was pretty bad while departing. They canceled the flight in the morning for that day and rescheduled us for the next day which left us with 8 days (instead of my previously intended 9), so we had to reschedule our bookings in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Apart from that, the plane was a modern A320 and the service was good with a decent meal. Check-in was pretty smooth, they stamped ‘OK to board’ stamp on the eVISA and kept a copy on the counter.
Again, make sure to carry a copy of your eVISA otherwise the airport will charge your Rs. 200 for a single copy.
Things to know before landing in Kuala Lumpur
There are two major airports in Kuala Lumpur, one is called KLIA and the other is KLIA2. Both the terminals are 1.5 hours out of the city, so you will have to plan your commute. Make sure to remember what airport you will be landing and departing from because not knowing this can waste a lot of time and make you miss your flight.
Malindo Air uses KLIA which is the older terminal and does not have the a metro connection to the city. Malindo Air usually lands at odd hours in Kuala Lumpur (usually, 12 AM) and the metro operation closes at 12AM so by the time you get your luggage, you will not be able to catch the last train to the city so a taxi will become your savior in that case. If you are not using Malindo Air and are landing on KLIA2, you can use the Sky Bus option to get to KL Sentral – which is their city center. All major buses go to KL Sentral and is a major hub for transportation to go anywhere in the city.
I originally booked from Sky Bus and paid online for their last 2 AM bus but later realized that Sky Bus isn’t available on KLIA and metro connection to switch airport is not available past 12 AM. It took us an odd 45 minutes to realize that we couldn’t switch airports and time was running out since the last bus went out at 2 AM and we’d have to pay a hefty fee on taxi which we wanted to avoid at all cost. So we crossed the airport from the ground floor and got to the bus station (which looks a little shady, jbtw) but we bought 2 tickets to KL Sentral for 10 Ringgit each and got to the city.
The Taxi/Uber/Grab would have cost us a minimum 50 Ringgit.
Regarding accommodation, I would recommend the Bukit Bintang area. This is the most happening area in Kuala Lumpur. The rest of the neighborhoods close down fairly early, like around 9 PM. You will find tons of food option in the Bukit Bintang where you can walk around and explore street markets.
I stayed at the Big M hotel which cost me Rs. 11,000 for 5 nights. You can hunt more hotel options on Booking.com.
Getting around Kuala Lumpur
The best and the cheapest method to get around Kuala Lumpur was to use Uber/Grab! Even the metros were hectic to get on and off compared to the pricing for Uber/Grab. There is no minimum charge on Uber/Grab in Malaysia so you can pay 3-4 Ringgit for a small hop and get around the city fairly quickly. Do make sure you get your hands dirty on Uber so you’re super comfortable when using the app in another country.
The drivers in Kuala Lumpur are very speedy to arrive at your location and I had attached my credit card with Uber so I just used to get off where ever and not care to pay in cash and waiting for change, and that was the smoothest experience ever!
I wouldn’t recommend Grab (which is the local version of Uber) because the app is a little confusing for the first time to use. It can assign you a pick up where you have to walk to and causes confusion about where to go in an unknown city. Uber picks you up at your exact assigned location. Random tidbit: I had an interesting conversation with an Uber driver when I told him I’m from Pakistan and he told me how his school teacher helped him learn Algebra and was from Pakistan and how much he appreciated his teacher for teaching him Algebra.
The hub of the city is called the KLCC where you will find the famous Petronas Towers and all the major shopping malls and attractions. I wasn’t interested in shopping and all so I walked around the city and explored the area. KLCC has many other shopping malls as well in the same area. While walking up to the Petronas Towers I was surprised to spot our very own Pakistan Embassy tucked just behind the Petronas Towers at such a posh location.
To explore, I would recommend going to the popular Batu Caves which is a hidden Hindu template in a cave. For this, you will have to use Google Maps and navigate to the nearest metro line that goes straight to Batu Caves. You can purchase the ticket to Batu Cave from the counter on cash and use the same metro line to come back to the station.
Genting Highlands is also an attractive spot to check out. It is 1 and a half hour up north from Kuala Lumpur. I would recommend keeping a day trip for this place. Use the Sky Bus from KL Sentral basement to Genting Highlands. I think it cost me 20 Ringgit to get there; taking a taxi would cost you a fortune. The bus would drop you at the location where you will take the cable car to get to Genting Highlands.
I was a little sad to find huge malls and hotels when I got to Genting Highlands. I was expecting a more open valley view from the mountains and a place to sit and have a nice cup of tea. I had to sit at a Starbucks which had a small open sitting area to enjoy the coffee. Still, worth the trip!
Missing the flight and falling in love with George Town
After Kuala Lumpur, we went to our next destination in Malaysia: Penang. You can hunt for multiple options for domestic flights on Skyscanner and book them online before you’re even in Malaysia. I booked Kuala Lumpur to Penang with AirAsia which was Rs. 3,800 one way which is a 1-hour flight. We got a little lazy when checking out of our hotel in Kuala Lumpur and totally forgot about the rush hour in the city which ended up in us missing our flight and having to reschedule it over the counter which cost us Rs. 4200 more than we had planned to use.
AirAsia flies from KLIA2 which is a bigger terminal and takes longer to get to your boarding gate so make sure to leave the hotel around 3 hours before your flight.
By the time we got to Penang it was 10 PM and getting to our hotel was another 1 hour Uber ride since there was no metro in the city. Our stay was at George Town with tiny streets and the old architectural building filled with street art. I wandered the whole day going around China Town, India Town and floating market with beautiful street art at random streets. Penang was easily the most beautiful city in Malaysia for me! Our stay was at Rs. 2,000 for 1 night.
Onwards to Langkawi
We booked a ferry ride from Penang to Langkawi which was a 4 hour journey and was cheaper than a flight for the same journey. I stayed at the Chenang Beach which, as I had researched earlier, was the most happening beach with plenty of food options and flea markets. Langkawi is the only island in Malaysia where there is no tax, so Langkawi is the shopping haven for most tourists coming in.
You will find almost all the luxury brands and huge shopping malls in Langkawi. Also, make sure to visit Sky Bridge at Langkawi. You will get to enjoy a ride in the highest elevated cable car in the world with super majestic views!
Our stay at Langkawi was the most expensive of our trip, at Rs. 9,000 for 3 days at a guest house. The hotel options were really expensive across Langkawi since it’s a popular resort for tourists. The food options were also expensive compared to Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
On our way back home, we booked a flight from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur and had to switch the terminals from KLIA2 to KLIA for our Malindo Air flight back home.
For me, Malaysia was an “alright” experience. I was hoping for better food options and culture but it was more about shopping and high life. If you’re a family, planning a vacation in Malaysia would be a good option but if you’re an adventurer and aiming for exploring, you might be a little disappointed with all the “comforts” of the modern world that it has to offer. Nonetheless, it’s s till worth a shot in under 1 lakh rupees, as I managed.
Cover image via: theculturetrip.com