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Day 146: Thrifty Thursday Recommendations for Keeping It Cheap in Malaysia

Day 146:  Keep the change, and buy cool earrings.

Day 146: Keep the change, and buy cool earrings.

If you travel Malaysia, you can expect cheap, and cheap is what we love as backpackers! One of my favorite parts of my trip was converting the price tag to a dollar equivalent and relishing the ability to get so much for so little.

But, you can do Malaysia in two ways: ultimate budget or ultimate value for your money. I would say the family trip was on the ultimate value for your money side, and what I mean is that they saw this as an opportunity to spend rates close to an Australian holiday, but get heaps more luxury than they would if still in their home country. It’s not a bad way to go, but I have a feeling that many of the people reading this are the type that wants to get travel for as cheap as possible, right?!

If you’re looking for ultimate budget, here are my [very obvious] tips:

First off, stay in a hostel instead of in a hotel. I know that flashy resorts are more affordable over there, but you will save sooooo much money by choosing a hostel, which comes in around $10 for a bed. In Penang, there are plenty on Love Lane — they’re not bad either! You just have to question how much splurges and luxury will impact your trip, and if that’s worth it.

Don’t drink beer! Seriously, beer is just not a budget item in Malaysia. You will easily double or triple the cost of your dinner out if you put beer in the mix.

Get your food from a market instead of a restaurant. I could get a cendol on the street for a mere 3 ringgit, but a restaurant may sell the exact same product for double (or triple in a nice one) the price!

keep the changeKeep the change. Some people find it absolutely annoying to carry around change — I know because I am one of those people. But, we saved some change during our time in Malaysia and came up with $13.70 ringgit that we got to spend on our final day. We took it as a challenge to see what we could get: two cendols and two pairs of earrings (I’m wearing a pair in the daily photo!). Keeping the change is totally worth it in Malaysia.

Ditch the taxis and shuttles and hit up the public transport. This is yet another d’uh point on this post, but it is valid in my opinion. You can get taxis all over Malaysia and fares might run 10 to 40 ringgit depending on where you go, and really, those are cheap when you consider the convenience, splitting the cost and the price conversion. A 20 ringgit fare will run you about $6, so that’s a bargain in Sydney terms. When Anna, Pat and I took a taxi to the Tropical Spice Garden, it cost us 40 ringgit — 40 ringgit that really is only $12 total for 3 people (no sweat!). When we took the bus back, it cost us each 3 ringgit, or 9 ringgit in total. Uhm, major price difference!

And there you have my [totally obvious] tips for keeping it cheap in Malaysia. Have any tips to add to this list?

Thrifty Thursday is now happening each week (when I’m not on the road), so if you have a post or a tip to share, please drop me a line. It can cover DIY tours, making your own gear or just plain old “pulling one over on THE MAN”. Looking forward to all you have to share!


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3 Responses to Day 146: Thrifty Thursday Recommendations for Keeping It Cheap in Malaysia

  1. Adam @ SitDownDisco May 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    No recommendations above and beyond yours except to say that sim cards for mobiles are cheap, so don’t bother to roam with your home country’s mobile company… Also, I hate cabs in Malaysia. Absolute rip off merchants that 90% of the time refuse to use the meter despite it being the law.

  2. BLuegreen Kirk June 1, 2011 at 12:24 am #

    Some very nice tips! I knew that in the States when you add a drink or two to your meal its can easily add an extra $24. And keeping the change and staying in a hostel are definitely some money savings tips. Cheap is a great word and it doesn’t mean you have to have a horrible time.

  3. Steve June 25, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    Brooke, I totally agree with your point about always taking public transportation. In some developing countries like China, taking taxis or going with tour groups can work to your disadvantage not only because they’re more expensive, but they often take you to places you would rather not visit (i.e. tourist trap stores with overpriced items). One downside is that you often have to speak the language–in China, bus schedules and stop names are written in Chinese only, and no one on the buses, including the drivers (unless you’re lucky enough to come across a foreigner), speak any amount of English. With that said, that’s also an incentive to learn the local language, which is fun and rewarding in itself!

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