Looking for authentic information about Malaysia, I realized it’s easy to find details on Attractions or places to visit, but very difficult to find info on critical travel requirements. Plus very few sites put everything together at one place. Even fewer talk about travel costs.
This article includes that, plus new visa norms, issues on the way, booking strategy, hotels, travel tips, calling to India and much more. So if you see, this article is more focused on providing information than be an expression of my own beautiful experience. It’s relevant to all Indian travelers, especially those with kids / family. Don’t worry if you are not flying from Bhubaneswar. You will still find the information relevant because except for the flight, everything else is the same.
I covered three places in a 5 day trip, which was comfortable and not rushed. They were Langkawi Island, Genting Highlands and the Kuala Lumpur City itself. I strongly suggest at least 5 days for a maiden trip to Malaysia. If your travel places are same as mine, great!. If not, you would still find a lot of the content below useful.
Read on to find out practical information and suggestions for a smooth and enjoyable trip.
Planning the trip to Malaysia
You can skip only this first paragraph if you not flying from Bhubaneswar. Air Asia flight leaves Bhubaneswar for Kuala Lumpur (KL) at 11:55 pm and reaches KL, at the terminal called KLIA2 the next day, at 6.20 am. So if you book a flight from Bhubaneswar on 10th of July, your hotel in Malaysia needs to be booked from 11th of July. As of today, the flight operates on 4 days a week, on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. So you can leave on Sunday and come back next Sunday for an 7 day trip. Or leave on Wednesday and comeback on Monday, like I did, for a 5 day trip.
I spent 2.5 days in Langkawi island and 2.5 days in KL and covered both the places reasonably well. I skipped few things like Underwater World Aquarium because I had seen similar things elsewhere. If you want to enjoy everything Malaysia has to offer, 5 days might be a little too short. Malaysia is a large country unlike Singapore and hence it’s unreasonable to want to cover the whole country in just a single trip. Max you can visit an island, and the areas around KL city.
I suggest you keep you return journey simpler and faster. Which means, immediately after landing in Malaysia, travel to your onward destination like Langkawi and keep KL as the last city. This would ensure that while coming back to India, you don’t have to take too many flights or wait at the airport. Plus hotel check-in time is usually after 2 pm (important!) and without an onward travel, you will have nowhere to go after landing at 6 am.
While KL city is a megalopolis like any other, famous for its towering Petronas towers, once the tallest in the world (and still the tallest twin-towers in the world), Langkawi is a beautiful island in the Malacca strait adjoining Andaman sea, not too far from Thailand. There is another place called Genting Highlands, about an hour’s drive from KL city. It’s basically a hill station, taken over almost entirely by the Resorts World group which operates hotels, casinos and a few indoor/outdoor theme parks there. Given its height, Genting, surrounded by cool, misty clouds, is a wonderful respite from the occasionally hot KL weather.
Visa for Malaysia: Visa, E-visa or eNTRI?
Not willing to take chances, I had a tough time figuring out which is the best document to enter Malaysia. If you are a tourist going for a couple of days, you don’t need Visa or E-Visa. eNTRI is the best option. eNTRI is relatively new on the scene and the cheapest too, costing about Rs. 1300/- per person, to be paid through credit card. Without going to any travel agent, you should process your eNTRI yourself at http://www.windowmalaysia.com, the official Malaysian e-Visa and eNTRI site.
Travel agents can’t process eNTRI for you (one login account is for one eNTRI only, so you need to make as many login accounts as there are travellers, including infants and kids) and would ordinarily ask you to pay more than Rs. 3000/- per head to process your e-Visa. Keep multiple email ids ready, one for each traveler.
If you wondering what eNTRI is and how that is different from e-Visa, both are very similar and processed in the same website. However, unlike e-Visa, eNTRI doesn’t need any approval from Malaysian authorities and hence allows you less days of stay in Malaysia (both are single-entry documents). It’s merely a registration document where you upload your information and print the receipt. That’s enough to enter the country, along with supporting documents such as proof of money, passport, hotel and airline booking.
Processing of eNTRI is immediate with an internet connection and can be done at any time of the day, any day. However, e-Visa can take 2/3 days and won’t be processed on Malaysian holidays published on their consulate’s website. Keep that in mind if you are short on time. All info you need regarding processing eNTRI is available at the above website.
NB: Diplomatic passport holders should apply for e-Visa. Also carry your old passport with you. These aren’t explicitly mentioned anywhere, but I realized these little things as I traveled.
What to do at the KL Airport, KLIA 2 terminal
Your first main activity will be immigration. Once you arrive, I suggest you proceed immediately towards the immigration without stopping for water or nature breaks, because sometimes there is quite a rush. Also it is not the most efficient immigration desk around. The queue can be long and the place congested and confusing. Don’t always join the outermost queue. Others queues at the back might have less people. I spent more than an hour to finish immigration for seven people, infant included. Mothers with infants and old citizens who might have difficulty standing for long might be given preference. Ask for it; it’s not prominently written anywhere.
If you found that your baby’s stroll, walker or pram, or your parents’ wheel chair is missing on the arrival belt, don’t panic. It isn’t lost. Such items are typically sent to the “oversized luggage” area. Look for signs near the arrival belt.
After finishing immigration and collecting baggage, you can have your morning routine at the restrooms and have breakfast. There are restaurants on the upper floor. Else you can carry cakes, banana etc. in your check-in baggage and have them there.
On-ward Flight to Langkawi from KL (or any other destination)
At the KL airport, a 3-hour gap between arrival and next flight is a minimum. Anything less might land you in trouble. We had a six hour gap and we didn’t feel the waiting at all, roaming around duty-free shops and generally checking it out.
Bhubaneswar to Malaysia Air Asia flight: What you should know
While Air Asia claims low fares (I read Rs. 5499 or so in advertisements), most people I know have paid double the amount for various reasons such as limited seats, or the flights to avail such fares never suit their need. Realistically, you should expect a fare of Rs. 10,000/- to Rs. 12,000/- (return fare per person to KL only, onward travel within Malaysia would be extra) if you book well in advance.
Also keep in mind that this fare doesn’t include any check-in baggage, which means you can only travel with a cabin baggage with this fare. Because it’s highly unlikely for a traveler to not have checked-in baggage, be ready to shell out an amount of around Rs. 1200/- per 20 kg of baggage. You can buy this allowance while booking the ticket either from Air Asia site, or through any travel agent sites such as MakeMyTrip. Else you can also pay at the airport.
I had a party of 6 people and one infant. I booked 60 kg for the onward journey and accounting for shopping in Malaysia, and 120 kg in return. This no-free-baggage applies to all Air Asia flights, even within Malaysia. So if you going to Langkawi island like I did, buy these extra baggage allowances for that leg of journey too.
I had to pay around Rs. 22,000/- extra only for the baggage. Kid’s pram and wheel chair etc. can be taken for free, and are not counted as extra check-in baggage.
Flights within Malaysia
Air Asia flights within Malaysia can be surprisingly cheap if you book in advance. I got KL-Langkawi ticket for only MYR 59, which is a paltry Rs. 900/- for a one-hour flight! The only catch is you should plan your travel accordingly. For example, I waited at KL Airport for two extra hours (and it was spent well!) to catch the lowest fare flight to Langkawi.
I suggest you create an Air Asia account and book these flights. Often I didn’t see the low fares on travel agent sites such as MakeMyTrip.
Should I take food on board Air Asia flight?
Everything, except for the air you breathe, is chargeable inside the Air Asia flight, including water. Be prepared to shell out Rs. 45 for a 200 ml bottle of water if you get thirsty (obviously you can’t take your own water bottle on board). However, surprisingly, the food served isn’t too costly and is decent too with a choice of Indian and other cuisines (veggies might have to eat non-Indian food due to lack of choice). We had timed out flight to have our lunches on board. This not only helped save costly airport/restaurant lunches, it also got us ready access to Indian food.
However, make sure you buy the meal beforehand at Air Asia site and not inside the flight. You not only get the food faster, you get your choice too. If you decide to buy inside the plane, you often get what’s left over after serving all booked meals. Not a recommended choice.
Hotels in Malaysia
We stayed at two places, Langkawi and KL. Malaysia isn’t as costly as, say, Singapore and you can get very good properties at reasonable price, if you know what to look for.
You can easily get a four-star accommodation in Langkawi for around Rs. 5000/- per day for a double-room. Don’t get too worried about which location to stay at, as long as you love the property. Kuah and Pantai Cenang are the two most obvious choices for families and budget travelers, Kuah being the biggest town there, and Pentai Cenang being the place where most tourists go to, to visit the beach. The island itself isn’t very big (it’s about 30 km from east to west and 20 km from north to south) and no matter where you stay, something or other should be within easy reach. Local travel is not too costly either, e.g. a 10-seater van from Kuah to Pentai Cenang cost me MYR 45 and took 20 minutes. Running taxis are even cheaper.
It won’t take you more than an hour from one end of the island to the other end.
I stayed at this hotel in Kuah town, a four-star property, which turned out to be quite good, with great view of the sea from balcony, clean rooms, great front office staff, an infinity pool and good buffet spread for breakfast. I think you can rent or take for free (I am not sure) a cycle from the hotel and explore the town on your own. Check out and book other great hotels here.
In Kuala Lumpur
Many people prefer staying in Bukit Bintang area of KL city, which is where several shopping malls are. I didn’t see a lot of restaurants nearby (I should mention here that I didn’t explore a lot though; I just walked in just one direction for about a mile and covered the other areas in a cab and didn’t see many restaurants). The Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC), KL Suria Mall, Aquaria KLCC and Petronas towers etc. are all not very far from here.
I stayed in this hotel in Kuala Lumpur, which, though not comparable to my hotel at Langkawi, is still decent and is quite cheap considering it’s in a metropolis. Check out and book other great hotels here.
Rooms are small and you can’t expect any bells and whistles. However, Breakfast was not bad, though the spread was limited. Also, there is a great, reasonably priced restaurant next door which served delectable Malay and other cuisines. So for us, the stay turned out to be great.
Local Travel and Airport Transfers
Within KL City
Malaysia has a very effective public transport system and if you are not travelling with a lot of people in your troupe, taking the bus or the train, at least in KL city, is more economical. KL Sentral is the nodal point in the city and from this place, you can take buses and trains to almost anywhere. You could also hail metered taxis on the road.
Those of you who use UBER in India, can install GRAB App from the Google Playstore or Apple Store and use both these services. Your UBER app in India will work just fine there. GRAB is just like UBER that operates taxis in KL and other cities. We mostly used these two to move around in KL without any issues.
For Airport Transfer, because I had a large number of people travelling with me, and had plenty of luggage and a pram that required at least a 10-seater vehicle, I booked one from India from SKYBUS.com.my . I didn’t have to pay any advance. The booking was done merely through email and the vehicle was ready at the airport. These were professional people who contacted me often and made sure everything was taken care of.
I used the same 10-seater vehicle (and the same driver) for both side transfer and a trip to the Genting Highlands. The total cost came to 800 MYR which I admit looks steep. But considering the amount of travel and the size of the vehicle, I felt it was reasonable.
But you really don’t have to arrange for any airport transfers from India. Because once you reach the airport, you could always take the taxis, buses available or even the subway train, if you are not seeking too much comfort (of someone already standing with a placard for you outside the airport!)
There are pre-paid taxi counters at the Arrival lounge of Langkawi from which you can book cabs to drop you at the hotel. Often the same driver will ask you about your airport drop dates and travel plans and might just end up becoming your driver for the rest of the stay. I found them very friendly and professional.
Our travel within Langkawi was super smooth because the driver of the first metered taxi that we took became our tour guide and driver for the entire trip. We neither hailed any metered taxis nor used OLA or UBER.
They have price charts for various locations and if you have custom travel schedule, you can discuss with them regarding pickup timings, route, wait and drop etc. and arrive at a per day hiring cost. We found that the easiest because unless there is a cab at your beck and call, travelling to multiple locations throughout the day is a pain.
Local SIM card and Calling
Calling India from Malaysia is cheap and you should never take the Matrix or other calling SIMs from India. They are a waste of money. Plenty of shops outside the Airport sell cheap Data+Call plans which you can buy after showing your passport. Only issue is when you are travelling in a large group. You must always stay together until you get the cards. Else it’s a nightmare to locate your members in the maze of KLIA2.
Other Practical Tips
- If several of you are travelling together and wish to sit together inside the flight, be sure to Web Check-in in Air Asia as soon as it opens (I think 15 days in advance). Else you will have to pay extra money to choose your preferred seats. This is true for international flights. For domestic flights, Air Asia always charges for choosing a seat. Be ready to sit separately if you wish to save money on domestic flights.
- For those of you who love shopping, staying in Bukit Bintag makes sense because China Town is only walk-able distance from there (may not really be walk-able for aged people though!). China Town is full of cheap clothes, watches, shoes, bags, souvenirs and other stuff. For Indians, not everything might seem cheap unless you are used to shopping from high-end malls only. We found luxury bag rip-offs to be really cool and of very good quality.
- Typically Malay people are friendly with negotiations. Chinese are not. But negotiate you must, unless it’s a fixed-price shop.
- Hotels in Malaysia keep security deposit which is returned to you when you check out. It’s around MYR 200, which I paid both at Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur.
- You should try Dragon Fruit which is available in all busy shopping areas like China Town. I think it’s quite unique and tasty. Durian, which looks somewhat like our jackfruit, is another popular fruit there. But I found it to be terrible! Malaysian mangoes are fabulous and if the season is right, you must sample some of those as well.
Okay folks that all for now. Ask any questions that you might have in the comments section; I will try my best to answer. Also I will try to update the ‘Tips’ section if I come out with more.
Happy traveling! 🙂