3 Malaysian Vacation Spots That Won’t Break Your Bank

Malaysia coastline

It is that time of year again. The holiday season is around the corner and the festive spirit is in the air. After another long year of hard work. It is time to kick back, relax, do some shopping, or maybe even reward yourself with a little vacation.

While there are plenty of places to consider when planning out your dream holiday, going overseas can get a little pricey. Fortunately, Malaysia has many wonderful opportunities for you to enjoy a relaxing, fun-filled weekend with family and friends without putting too much strain on your wallet.

Here are three places to check out that promise some fun for the family without drilling a deep hole in your pocket:

Butterworth, Penang

padi fields

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When people think of Penang, the first thing that comes to mind will likely be Penang island. After all, if you are thinking of a staycation in Malaysia, you can hardly ever go wrong with the food haven that is Penang island. However, you might also want to consider a trip to Butterworth and Seberang Perai in general for a new and unique experience. While not as prominent as its island counterpart, Butterworth has plenty of coastal towns with fresh seafood, natural vistas and a wide range outdoor recreational spots. 

For nature and outdoor enthusiasts, Butterworth has plenty to offer. Besides the Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest, other nature spots to check out include Bukit Juru, Frog Hill and if you are a city dweller, visiting the paddy fields of Teluk Air Tawar may be just what you need.

Not a nature lover? Perhaps the famous seafood fare at Bukit Tambun will tempt you or if you are looking for a spot of shopping, a drive towards the second Penang Bridge will bring you to the Design Village in Bandar Cassia, an outlet mall offering discounts on big name brands. 

For those looking to take a ferry ride to Penang Island, the historic colonial-era ferries plying the Penang Straits has been replaced by a fast ferry shuttle in 2022.

How to get there

From Kuala Lumpur, getting to Penang is fairly simple and rather cheap. The most economic option would be to drive there, which will likely take you anywhere between four to five hours, depending on how fast you drive. Other than that, you have the option to take the bus, KTM train, or airplane. The prices are as follows:

Bus from TBS KL to Butterworth: Approx. RM40

KTM Train from KL to Buterworth: Approx. RM60

Flight from KL Airport to Penang Airport: Approx. RM150 (Requires taxi from airport)

Where to stay

Being one of the most popular tourist spots in Malaysia, Penang has no shortage of choices when it comes to accommodations. Butterworth is no exception, hosting many accommodations for budget travellers. For example, we have the T+ Hotel Butterworth, a two-star hotel located just 6.1 km from Sunway Carnival Mall. Rooms here will cost you around RM120 per night. It provides all the amenities you need for a short weekend trip, including free private parking. You also have easy access to the Penang bridge as well as the ferries, making this great option if you are thinking of taking a jaunt to the island.

If you are looking for a place that is a little close to the centre, you could try the Aroma Hotel. At around RM140 per night, the Aroma Hotel is situated at the heart of Butterworth Business City Centre and is just a five-minute walk from local eateries and fast food outlets. It is located approximately 3.9 km from Penang Bird Park and Butterworth Jetty, while Sunway Carnival Mall is about 4.5 km away.

Johor Bahru

Years ago, Johor Bahru used to have a reputation for being underdeveloped. However, the city has come very far over the past two decades and is now a bustling city filled with plenty of amenities and hotspots for tourism. Tourists can enjoy the colourful historical architecture that can be found throughout the city, such as the Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Street, as well as visit beautiful waterfront marinas to sample the authentic local cuisine. For those feeling a little more adventurous, there are a number of theme parks available to spend your day at with the family such as the Danga World Theme Park.

If you are up for a spot of shopping (or window shopping), a 40-min drive north from Johor Bahru will bring you to the Johor Premium Outlets with over a 100 outlet stores offering big savings on designer brands. Another option is to make a stop on route to Johor Bahru or on your way back if you are driving from the north.

How to get there

Driving to Johor from Kuala Lumpur is rather painless. The North-South Expressway can get you there within four hours, with buses taking an extra hour or so. Going by train can be a little bit tricky as there are no direct train routes to Johor Bahru from Kuala Lumpur. You will have to make a stop at Gemas station before being able to travel further south. Travel via aeroplane will only take about 30 minutes.

Bus from KL to JB: Approx. RM40

Flight from KL to JB: Approx. RM110

Where to stay

True to its nature as a fast growing city, Johor Bahru has a wide selection of accommodations to choose from. If you are looking for something more upscale, you can try looking for rooms at the SKS Pavillion Suites@UHA or the New York Hotel, both of which offer an authentic four-star hotel experience at around the RM200 price range. 

If you are more interested in budget options, there are still plenty of hotels available to you. Atelier Hotel Johor Bahru is a small but beautifully aesthetic hotel that has everything you could possibly need for a weekend getaway. Belllo Hotel JB Central is located fairly close by as well, sharing its central location in the city and offering easy access to transportation hubs. You should be able to get a room at either hotel at around the RM130 price range.

These two locations are situated fairly close to the famous LEGOLAND Malaysia, however, ticket prices for the theme park can get fairly expensive, ranging from RM190 to RM300 per person. On the other hand, places such as the aforementioned Danga World are much more affordable.

travel tips Legoland Johor

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If you are feeling a little more adventurous, there are some exotic accommodations you can try out as well. The Rainforest Treehouse nature preserve lets one become one with nature and a sustainable lifestyle. If you want some time to completely retreat from urban life for the weekend, this might be for you.

Cameron Highlands

If you are tired of the hustle and bustle of city life and want to take time off to reconnect with the beauty of nature, then you might want to consider a trip to Cameron Highlands instead. The area is known for its vast tea plantations and hilly jungles that spread as far as the eyes can see. It is a perfect destination for hiking and discovering abundant fauna and wildlife, whilst also holding significant historical and cultural significance. Expect to see plenty of British influence if you decide to travel there.

How to get there

Cameron Highlands is fairly close to the capital, so you’re only real options to get there are via car or bus. The trip by car should take no more than three hours, with buses taking an additional 30 minutes to an hour.

Bus from KL to Cameron Highlands: RM20 – RM40

Where to stay

Cameron Highlands plays host to some of the most stunning scenery in Malaysia, and many of the accommodations there grant you a front-row view of the landscape. Fortunately, there are many places where you can rent a room for fairly cheap prices. 

At just a three minute drive from the Big Red Strawberry Farm, Kavy Boutique Hotel is a simple and cosy place to call home for the weekend. The hotel caters to budget travellers in particular, so their rates are usually a steal! You can get a room there from anywhere between RM150 to as low as RM80.

travel tips cameron highlands

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Located at Brinchang, the Kea Garden Guesthouse Cameron Highlands is another option for those who are looking for a unique experience. Rather than rooms, you rent out mini chalets, making the hotel look like a mini village. The atmosphere of the hotel is both whimsical and amazing, and is definitely a place to get that picture-perfect Instagram photo. The prices are surprisingly low as well, ranging from anywhere between RM100 to RM70.

If you plan to head over to Cameron Highlands during the year-end monsoon season, you are advised to take extra precautions to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time. You can find out more here.

Kick back and relax without breaking the bank

That is the real beauty of it. A year-end holiday doesn’t have to be spent splurging on extravagant foreign tourism. As long as you can unwind, relax, and spend a great week with the family, that is all that truly matters.

Sure, the economy is pretty flaky at the moment, but with some financial finesse, you can certainly enjoy a decent vacation nearby, and it doesn’t have to be a boring one, too.

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