Ask GoMad Nomad: India vs. Malaysia

Dear GoMad Nomad,

My wife and I have been retired for a few years and have done a bit of traveling in Europe and South America. Our sights have now turned towards Asia and thinking about places where healthy retirees could go far on savings.  My wife has always been interested in India, but from what I’ve heard, that just sounds like a difficult place to travel.

little india penang malaysia georgetown
Serving up snacks at a street stall in Little India in Penang, Malaysia

I’ve read your article on Malaysia and have been advocating this destination as an alternative. We’re now at a bit of an impasse, and I’d like to hear your ideas about the pros and cons of both countries.

-Baxter from Oak Ridge, TN


Dear Baxter,

Malaysia and India are both very worthy travel destinations that meet your lower-budget requirements, but they are very different beasts.

You’re right, India can be a difficult place to travel: physically taxing for travelers of any age. But it can also afford plenty of luxuries, it all depends on your travel style and budget. But more noteworthy, India can be mentally exhausting. India rearranges everything you thought was normal in our world. You will witness the extremes of humanity. It requires a very open mind and non-judgmental attitude.

There really is no place like India. Its diversity of peoples, languages, cultures is unparalleled. It is intensely spiritual: the birthplace of four of the world’s great religions.

If you are mentally and physically prepared and open to the challenges that India presents, it can be a very worthwhile and rewarding destination to travel.

After a recent to Malaysia, I left the country pleasantly surprised. I liked Malaysia because of its fusion of Asian cultures: Malay, Chinese, and Indian, as well as the distinct and very delicious cuisines that come from each of those cultures.

Malaysia is a rapidly modernizing country, and transportation is quite comfortable and easy to get around with air-conditioned coaches zipping from city to city.

Similar to India, Malaysians speak English well enough to facilitate everyday necessities and allow for conversations with locals to make your trip more meaningful.

Prices do vary, from region to region, but overall Malaysia is very affordable and what I call a good-value destination, meaning it’s not super cheap, but you get good quality service and products for inexpensive prices. Read my post on Malaysia: What it Costs.

Plus, there are some great things to see in Malaysia: world-class beaches, jungle trekking, wildlife viewing, diving/snorkeling, hill-stations, and the rich history and architecture of colonial settlements.

I really don’t have any negatives to tell you about Malaysia, except that the rapid modernization might leave you feeling that it’s not as exotic as you expected.

Hope this helps in your decision making process.


Have any retirees traveled to either India or Malaysia?  Leave your comments below…

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