Malaysia Backpacking Budget – How much money do you need per day?

Malaysia temple

This post details the estimated cost of travel in Malaysia. Read on for a suggested shoestring and more comfortable Malaysia backpacking budget. We also have information about the local currency and sample prices. Note that the figures on this page are primarily designed for the peninsular part of Malaysia (mainland Southeast Asia). If you want to visit Malaysian Borneo, you will need more.

Malaysia cost of travel - backpacking budget
Map of Malaysia from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Malaysia Cost of Travel in 2023

Shoestring Backpacker Budget

  • US$30/day | 130 Malaysian Ringgit

As is the case across the sea with our Indonesia backpacking budget, there is a considerable amount of regional variation in Malaysia when it comes to prices. However it is in the opposite way to what you might think in that the wealthier part of the country is cheaper to travel in than the less developed part.

Malaysia to all intents and purposes is like two countries. Peninsular Malaysia (the bit connected to Thailand and Singapore) is considerably more developed but relatively cheap and hassle-free to travel in. It is perhaps slightly more expensive than most Southeast Asian countries overall but given there isn’t as much in the way of a party culture here, most travellers often end up spending a similar amount. $30/day is therefore a realistic Peninsular Malaysia backpacking budget, although Kuala Lumpur is slightly more expensive so you may want to allow for slightly more each day in the capital.

The other part of the country is Malaysian Borneo. It is considerably less developed but the difficulties of getting around an island that is essentially a jungle tends to lead to mounting travel costs. Food and accommodation is all very cheap but to really get out and explore the incredible nature you are almost certainly going to need to join some guided tours or trips. Diving expeditions, river cruises and jungle trips can all cost a lot of money, so costs in Borneo will run well above $30/day if you really want to experience it.

More Comfortable Malaysia Backpacking Budget

  • US$40/day | 175 Malaysian Ringgit

You can travel pretty comfortably on the shoestring budget in peninsular Malaysia. The standard of accommodation and transport is mostly good and typically a bit better than you get north of the border in Thailand. In terms of transport, it is only really a fraction more expensive than its neighbour. Adding $10 to your budget isn’t going to radically change the trip you have but on $40/day perhaps you can afford to spend a few relaxing days unwinding in a hotel with a pool or something of that ilk, which is welcome if you’re coming from roughing it in other parts of the region.

However to really make the most of Malaysian Borneo, you are still most likely going to need more than $40/day. It is a fantastic place to visit but exact costs there will depend on the kind of trip you want. If you are a nature lover on a big trip in Asia then this is one place where you should certainly consider allowing to spend a little bit more as it is a very rewarding and memorable destination. However in truth, most Southeast Asian backpackers stick to the peninsular part of Malaysia where the vast majority of Malaysians live.

train in Malaysia
The train from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur costs around $15 for the cheapest tickets.

Malaysia Trip Costs

Approximate Price in USD
Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching (1 hour 45 mins) From $25 (plus baggage fees)
Train from Butterworth (Penang) to Kuala Lumpur (4 hours)$15-20
Meal in a local restaurant$2-4
Local beer in bar/restaurant$2.50-4
Dorm bed in a hostelFrom $6
Budget private roomFrom $12
Entrance Fee for National Museum, KL$1.15
Travel insurance for backpacking MalaysiaDepends on age, length of trip & other factors – Get a quote from Heymondo in less than a minute!

Overall Malaysia remains good value in 2023. Accommodation and particularly food costs compare well to travel expenses across Southeast Asia, however this is primarily a muslim country and you will pay more for alcohol than in most Southeast Asian countries. The only exception is Malaysia’s small southern neighbour with the cost of travel in Singapore considerably higher than this.


Currency – Malaysian Ringgit

£1 = 5.28 MYR

€1 = 4.69 MYR

US$1 = 4.39 MYR

These exchange rates are correct as of February 2023. You can find currency exchange places all over Malaysia with US Dollars or British Pounds, the most useful foreign currencies to bring, although you will need to pay for things in Ringgit or by using a travel-friendly debit card.

This Malaysia backpacking budget was last updated in February 2023.

Malaysia Backpacking Budget – How much money do you need per day?

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