Not sure where to go? Try one of these common itineraries to take on your own, or mix and match destinations to plan your own independent trip.
1. Cultural Malaysia
Approximate Time: 2 Weeks
Penang - Ipoh - Taman Negara - Kuala Lumpur - Melaka - Singapore
Malaysia is often included in Southeast Asia itineraries. It's a fascinating country that is a melting pot of cultures. It's relatively easy to enter Malaysia overland from Thailand. A convenient first destination is the city of George Town on the island of Penang. This city offers cultural and culinary delights that will keep you entertained for several days. From Penang, make your way to Ipoh, which serves as the gateway to the Cameron Highlands. You can spend several days in the highlands enjoying the cooler temperature and eclectic atmosphere. There are a variety of day tours available that allow you to visit the local villages and beautiful tea plantations.
From there, head into Taman Negara, which is the largest national park on Peninsular Malaysia. It's a great place to experience the rainforest and do some wildlife spotting and birdwatching. From Taman Negara, you can make your way to the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. This city warrants at least a few days to experience its culture, history, and dining opportunities. The city lights up at night and there are plenty of night markets worth wandering through. Definitely allow yourself enough time to fully appreciate the area. From Kuala Lumpur you can head south to the historic city of Melaka. This city has a fascinating past and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Melaka, many people continue on to Singapore, which is a great place to spend a few days before catching a flight home.
2. Malaysian Beaches
Approximate Time: 2 Weeks
Kuala Lumpur - Kota Baharu - Pulau Perhentian Besar - Pulau Redang - Kuala Terengganu - Kuala Lumpur
Flights into Kuala Lumpur are often convenient and cheap, particularly if you're flying in from elsewhere in Asia. You can begin your tour of Malaysia's beautiful beaches by traveling from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu. Many visitors just pass through this city on their way to the Perhentian Islands, but it does offer some interesting museums and dining opportunities for those who decide to linger for a day. From there, head to the famous Perhentian Islands.
The Perhentian Islands are a small group of coral-fringed islands that are just off the northeastern coast of Malaysia. The area's climate can vary dramatically with the seasons so it is important to know when to visit. Because of the monsoon, the area can really only be visited between the months of March or April until late October. Outside of this time period the weather can be poor, the seas can be rough, and the towns essentially shut down.
After relaxing for an appropriate amount of time in the Perhentian Islands, if you can muster enough motivation to move on, head to Redang. Redang Island is a great place to visit with crystal clear waters and it offers plenty of snorkeling opportunities. It's more upmarket in nature than the nearby Perhentian Islands, and most of the accommodation is in the form of resorts. It does not have the backpacker vibe that is most often associated with the Perhentian Islands.
If you've had your fill of beaches then Kuala Terengganu is an interesting city to spend a couple days. It has museums, markets, and restaurants that are all worth trying. From there you can make your way back to Kuala Lumpur before you catch your flight home.
3. Borneo Itinerary
Approximate Time: 3 to 4 Weeks
Kuching - Gunung Mulu National Park - Limbang - Pulau Labuan - Kota Kinabalu - Mount Kinabalu
As the capital and largest city in Borneo, Kuching makes an obvious starting point for your trip. Bako and Kubah National Parks both make interesting day trips from the city. From there you take a flight on to Mulu National Park. Gunung Mulu National Park is Sarawak's largest park. It is also listed as a World Heritage Site. You can spend days hiking through this area, but be prepared for basic accommodation and rough conditions. From there, make your way to the town of Limbang for some much deserved relaxation. From there you can take a ferry to Palau Labuan and explore the nearby beaches. After some relaxation, you can take a ferry and bus combination to the capital city of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu. There are some interesting museums and neighborhoods worth exploring. From there, take a bus to Mt Kinabalu and spend the night at the base of the mountain. You can spend the next couple of days climbing this beautiful mountain. From there head back to Kota Kinabalu where you can catch a flight back to the mainland.