A Day of travel costs in Malaysia

I want to give independent travelers an idea of costs for traveling in Malaysia because it can be really helpful when planning your budget. I hear a lot of travelers complain that Malaysia is more expensive than Thailand. That may be true in some cases, but I noticed that very touristic places in Thailand, such as beach resorts like Ko Phi Phi, can be more expensive than the average place in Malaysia.

Typically, prices in West Malaysia (peninsular Malaysia) are a bit cheaper than Borneo. Additionally, with the abundance of adventure tourism in Borneo, greater expenses can add up quite quickly. Especially when you factor in flying to and from Mulu National Park, which can easily add an extra $150 US to your trip.

Here is an example of the cost of an average day traveling in Malaysia.

A day’s travel costs in Malaysia


Approximately 4 Malaysian Ringget = 1 US dollar.

  • Breakfast: dim sum, kaya bun (baked), and tea at a Chinese bakery:  5 RM
  • Local bus to bus station: 1.50 RM
  • Bus from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan (about 6 ½ hours): 25 RM (bargained down from 30)
  • Lunch: Beef rendang with veggies, rice and tea at rest area:  6.50 RM
  • Local bus into city:  .90 RM
  • Hotel (shared double room at 38 RM): 19 RM
  • Afternoon tea with banana fritters: 2 RM
  • Dinner on the waterfront: 7 RM
  • Lime juice on ice at bar (for free wifi): 2 RM

Total:  68.9 RM = $17.06 US

A Day of travel costs in Malaysia

A fishmonger in Kota Kinabalu’s might market


Meals, accommodation, and transport

When I did multi-day treks in the National Park or wildlife sightseeing tours, expenses averaged  $40-50 US per day. Most travelers in Borneo do one or more of these trips, so factor that into your budget.

Prepared meals, transportation, and accommodation are quite inexpensive in Malaysia, although maybe not as cheap as in neighboring countries like Indonesia and Thailand. But if you are careful about spending and stay at the simplest guesthouses or hostels, eat at local kopitiam (“coffee shop” hawker stalls), and use public transportation, you could budget between $20-30 per day. Add additional for above mentioned tours.

–Find great deals on accommodation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia–

travel costs in Malaysia

Air Asia, Malaysia’s budget airline


In my experience, dorm beds have run from 15–40 RM and basic doubles with shared bath from 35-70 RM. Meals at street stalls and hawker centers range from about 1.50 RM for “economy” noodles to 6 RM for a nice bowl of laksa. Long distance buses are a good value as well. The 5 ½ hour trip from Penang to Kuala Lumpur is about 30 RM on a spacious, air-conditioned bus.

Malaysia is NOT one of the world’s great beer drinking nations, so I have almost eliminated beer out of my routine. The cheapest you can find beer is 5 or 6 RM per 330ml can. In bars it is much more expensive (8-20 RM). Being a Muslim-majority nation, you’ll have to search out bars or Chinese owned eating establishments to get a drink. My advice is to save your beer drinking for Vietnam!


–Find great deals on accommodation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia–