Travel post-COVID is more expensive than it was before the pandemic hit, there’s just no way around it. Once you throw in the hundreds of dollars of testing costs, increased airfare, and harder to find accommodation, well the price tag adds up fast. We flew to Malaysia as soon as the borders opened to international tourists and thought it would be a cheap month. We were wrong. Malaysia is not nearly as cheap to travel in as the other countries in its region (Singapore aside), but we didn’t realise exactly how expensive it would be.
I’ve input numbers below that will be helpful to others traveling post May 2022 (aka I have removed COVID testing costs are these have significantly decreased, among other things), but before I get into that I’ll tell you the full hit to our savings – including flights from Australia, airport transfers, COVID health coverage, way too many PCR tests, and more. $7,500 AUD… that’s what it cost us to spend a month in Malaysia, traveling extensively, eating well, and doing expensive activities such as diving.
Yes, my jaw hit the floor too when I added up all expenses. In fact I might still be cringing as I write this, because, well it was not the intention to spend that much money – especially given we are living off savings right now. I hope that this little Malaysia flashpacker budget will help someone else out there avoid having to scrape their chin off the floor once they realise how much money they spent. So, take it from me, learn from my mistakes and don’t delude yourself into thinking that you will travel as cheaply at 28 as you did at 21 – hence why this is definitely a Malaysia flashpacker budget, not a backpacker budget. Here’s how I define flashpacker – someone who does not want to live solely off cheap noodles, likes to do a few key expensive activities in a location (such as diving), and is willing to spend money to get a certain level of comfort (think historic guesthouses over hostels, but not four star hotels). If this applies to you, great, the numbers will help, if not, take them as a middle range guide.
|Malaysia Flashpacker Budget 2022||MYR||AUD||Cost per day AUD, couple|
|Langkawi – Holiday Villa||2100||693||99|
|George Town – Carnarvon House||816||269||54|
|Ipoh – French Hotel||280||92||31|
|Mersing – Mersing Hotel||80||26||26|
|Tioman – ABC Beach Chalets||900||297||74|
|Malacca – Hotel Puri Melaka||715||236||59|
|Kuala Lumpur – Indie Hotel||740||244||49|
|Data (40 GB each)||90||30|
|Massages/spa in Langkawi||398||131|
|Sky Bridge in Langkawi||182||60|
|Tek Lok Si Temple donations||30||10|
|Tuk tuk in George Town||20||7|
|Fort Cornwallis in George Town||10||3|
|Clan Kongsi in George Town||10||3|
|Clan jetties donations in George Town||10||3|
|Ipoh cave temple donations||16||5|
|6 dives each with B&J Dive Centre on Tioman Island||1440||475|
|Museums in Malacca||56||18|
As you can see, I have input the numbers for a couple as accommodation doesn’t split nicely, so we should have spent about $85 AUD per day per person for our month in Malaysia; however, due to additional COVID costs and increased flights we actually spent $125 AUD per person per day. Ouch. At least you shouldn’t be in for those additional costs now that the world is normalising again post-COVID.
Notes on Cost Calculations
Other things that went into that $40 per person per day difference were things like the 400 MYR we threw away on a sad, dilapidated hostel that we originally booked in Langkawi, but decided we really did not want to stay at once we arrived, given the desertedness of the area (hostels are great for vibes, in post-COVID desertion those cool vibes quickly turn zombie apocalypse-esque). Also, there were not one, but two buses that we missed, booked, then missed again in our desperate attempt to not have to spend a whole day in Mersing between leaving Tioman and arriving in Malacca; this accounted for 140 MYR that we threw away, because Malaysian ferries are not on time and Mersing is just so bad that we’d rather throw away money than spend another day there if we could help it. Beyond that the other cost discrepancies are the fact that to get the room price at the Holiday Villa in Langkawi we had to each buy 50 MYR breakfasts ahead of time – this was not worth it at all and I would strongly advise against paying for the breakfast at the hotel – and that the Cataferry had sold out its normal priced tickets (50 MYR per person one way) for the trip to Tioman on the day we needed, so we were stuck paying for the premium seats that cost a ridiculous amount (200 MYR per person one way for some reason on the day we went, 80MYR per person normally). The standard seats on our return journey were fine on Cataferry and if we could have avoided the premium cost we would have.
Alcohol in Malaysia
While I like to drink, we don’t actually drink that much and this is reflected in our spending. We only have a drink or two each every couple of days and definitely do not drink everyday nor drink to get drunk. Alcohol is expensive in Malaysia due to heavy taxes, a beer will cost about $4-5 and a cocktail will cost about $11-12. Langkawi is a duty free island and exempt from these taxes so it is cheaper to drink there, with a beer costing about $3 and cocktails about $7-8.
Value for Money
That all being said, I struggle to see value for money in the cost we actually paid ($125 per person per day), but could see the value at what the cost should be now (and if we hadn’t made some money mistakes) at about $85 per person per day. We are definitely flashpackers these days, I enjoy a cocktail or three, had a couple of massages and spa days while on Langkawi, and dive (an expensive sport no matter where in the world you are) and for this mid-range style of travel I don’t think Malaysia is that great of value (according to the internet it is better value at the low and high ends of the cost spectrum). However, we still are glad we had our time there, loved the diving on Tioman Island, and had some great experiences made all the better by the unfailingly friendly people of Malaysia, it was just a bit more expensive than we thought it would be.