Travel Budget – Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur and Penang)

Street Art - Penang 3
Free Activities! Penang, Malaysia has some amazing cultural street art.

We spent 6 days in Malaysia and spent $84 /day or $42 per person per day. Traveling from Singapore overland, we spent most of our time in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and the northwestern island of Penang. Similar to other countries, we spent most of our money on shelter, which were mainly inexpensive hotels and food. And in Malaysia, you will spend LOTS of money on food!

All I’m saying, is that Malaysia could be one of the best places in the world to eat, so much so that even I who has been referred to as the “budget nazi,” had many, many moments of, “forget the budget, I want more of THAT delicious dish!” With that said, here is our Malaysia travel budget…

How we Budgeted for Travel in Malaysia

To be honest, we didn’t spend a ton of time thinking about how much we would budget for Malaysia. We didn’t make prior plans of where we were going to go. All we knew was that we wanted to eat! Before arriving in the Southeast Asian region we, like so many others, overgeneralized, thinking, “Southeast Asia, you can probably travel there for about $50 /day.” So when we arrived in Malaysia, we had a vague idea of what our daily budget could be, but we also had empty bellies and eager taste buds after 13 days of eating the simple but frankly, somewhat unforgettable food of Bali/Lombok, Indonesia.

Where we spent our money



Since our time in Malaysia was short and we traveled to cities, we opted to stay in inexpensive hotels which we found through resources like: TripAdvisor, and Agoda. The hotels in Malaysia are, in general, what you would expect from hotels in Southeast Asia: clean, basic, compact with touch-and-go WiFi connections.

There isn’t much else to say about the hotels in Malaysia, except that they do have food restrictions.

Hotel Rules in Penang
Ah, the infamous durian!


I’m doing my best not to make this a post about all the delicious things you will encounter in Malaysia. So with that in mind, we spent $25 per day on food for the two of us. Spending $2.5 per culinary adventure is pretty good since we were eating about 5 times a day.


We took long distance trains, buses, ferries and a taxi while we were in Malaysia and spent about $9 a day for both of us. Long distance train tickets took up most of our transportation expenses. The trains in Malaysia are nice for the region, but we did encounter some difficulties en route to Kuala Lumpur. Despite our little detour, transportation in Malaysia is straightforward. is our go-to source for information about train travel, so check out that site for train selection and booking information in Malaysia.


For us, the main activity in Malaysia was eating. Other activities were mostly free, such as strolling around Penang to see the cultural street art. But we did spend some money for the inexpensive and generally decent massages offered in Malaysia.

Personal Care & Travel Insurance

The sun is strong in Malaysia so we stocked up on sunscreen which was the bulk of these categories. Our bulk travel insurance through World Nomads stayed the same at just under $4 per day.


Budget Savers and Budget Killers

For us, this was one in the same. Food. There are so many amazing things to eat in this country it will blow your mind. And luckily, for the budget conscience, most of these foodgasmic experiences are cheap. Just make sure to pace yourself and stick to the tried-and-true carts and stalls you find along the street meaning go where there are others.

Food Carts Moving in Penang
Before food trucks, there were food carts. The life blood of Malaysia!


*All the amounts posted are for two people and in USD unless otherwise mentioned.

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