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Malaysia with kids travel guide (2024)

Malaysia with kids travel guide (2024)

Malaysia is a country that offers fantastic diversity and affordable experiences; explore cultural fusions in Penang, spot wild orangutans in Sepilok, experience the mega-city mall culture of Kuala Lumpur, go island hopping in Kota Kinabalu, and watch mother turtles lay their eggs on Selingan Island. Malaysia has to be one of the top worldschooling destinations on our planet and here we share our personal advice to that you can get the most out of visiting Malaysia with kids.

As part of our Southeast Asia backpacking adventures, we spent six weeks travelling around Malaysia, and there’s still so much we didn’t have time to explore. So if you’re only visiting for a week or two, select your destinations wisely with the belief that Malaysia is a place you will return to again (we’re already planning our next trip). There’s no way you can do it all in just the one trip, unless you plan on spending a good few months in Malaysia with kids (the standard tourist visa is for 90 days, so that is indeed an option).

Below we provide links to our individual destination guides for family travel in Malaysia, separated into Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo.

Check out our Southeast Asia packing list for families

Is Malaysia safe to travel with children?

Malaysia is a safe country to travel with children and you’ll find the vast majority of people to be friendly and welcoming. Incidences of violent crime are rare and, as a travelling family, you’re even less likely to encounter it in any case.

When you find yourself in the larger cities, it always pays to keep an eye out for pickpockets if you’re in a crowded place such as a busy market or train station.

If you’re hiring your own vehicle, or using public transport, keep in mind that car seats won’t be provided so consider bringing your own if you plan to use them (we like the mifold comfort car seats for backpacking). In general, road travel is safe, particularly on Peninsular Malaysia which has an excellent road network, especially between the major centres.

Perhaps the biggest risk you’ll encounter is the occasional health and safety ‘contravention’, with exposed wires, broken footpaths and missing railings all part of the experience. With a little care and perspective though, these won’t cause you many problems.

How to get around Malaysia with kids

Malaysia is blessed with excellent transport options including a decent train network, comprehensive bus routes, budget airlines, modern road network and e-hailing apps for taxis in towns and cities.

Bus

The main north-south expressway runs through the whole length of the country, linking the Thai border to KL, continuing all the way to the border with Singapore. This excellent road means bus services are safe, reliable and usually arrive on time.

There are several different ways to book tickets including at the station, online and from ticket agencies. We tended to use the Easybook website to book tickets, the site is easy to use, accepts international credit cards and only takes a small commission. It’s also a good resource for checking routes, timetables and seat availability.

bus from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan
taking the bus from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan

Adults and children tend to pay the same fare, under two’s don’t need a ticket if they sit on your lap. Some example fares and times are:

  • Kuala Lumpur to Penang (5 hours, RM38)
  • Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur (4 hours, RM20 – RM45)
  • Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan (7.5 hours, RM43)

Train

There are two main train lines in Malaysia, one running from the Thai border down to Johor Bahru (with a change of train in Gemas) via the west of the country and another to the east, from Johor Bahru to Tumpat.

These trains are of most use if you’re travelling between the major centres, e.g. from KL towards the Thai border, or down towards to Singapore. Expect to pay around RM50 from KL to JB, via Gemas.

Budget airlines

Malaysia is well served by budget airlines, especially by AirAsia which is based at KLIA. Malaysian Airlines also offer cheap fares between the main cities, as do Firefly.

We’d recommend sticking to trains or buses on the mainland but if you need to travel between Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia, a flight is your only option. Book as far in advance as possible as prices do increase closer to departure date. KL is the main hub but there are plenty of handy routes for travellers, including direct flights between Penang and Kota Kinabalu.

Air Asia flight over Sandakan
Air Asia flight over Sandakan

Grab taxi

For shorter trips around towns and cities, you can’t beat a Grab taxi. Cheap, safe, reliable and hassle-free, it’s become our preferred option throughout Malaysia. Make sure you download the app before first time use, you may need to enter a one-time passcode to register although this wasn’t required when we signed up.

The fares are pre-determined and you can link a credit card to make payment at the end of the trip. The main advantage we’ve found is that it avoids haggling for fares and trying to explain where you need to go.

Visas for Malaysia

Citizens of most countries (including the UK, USA, Australia, NZ, and the EU) don’t need a visa to enter Malaysia and are usually given a 90-day stamp on arrival. The entry process at immigration is usually smooth and hassle-free.

If you do need a visa, apply for an e-visa in advance, check the Malaysian government website for up-to-date information.

Immunisations for Malaysia

As always, it’s important to book an appointment with a medical professional before travelling to Malaysia to check which vaccinations and anti-malarials you may need.

In the UK, the excellent Fit For Travel website from the NHS has all the information you’ll need. Make sure you plan ahead for any vaccinations as some require a longer course of injections over a few weeks.

Tips for travelling Malaysia with kids

  • If your phone is compatible, consider using an e-SIM rather than a traditional physical SIM card. It’s a simple process and means you’ll be online within minutes without needing to visit a shop and register. We’ve used Airalo in several countries and have always found them reliable and good value.
  • Malaysia has a large supply of family-friendly apartments in cities, often offering amenities like washing machines, kitchens, gyms and rooftop pools. The prices tend to be substantially cheaper than a hotel and provide more space into the bargain.
  • Download the Grab app before you book your first taxi ride. It solves so many of the historical problems of taxis when travelling, including navigation, haggling and availability.
  • Particularly in Borneo but applicable across the whole country, don’t be afraid to book tours and activities in advance as they can get booked up a long time in advance. July and August are busy in Borneo and the whole country fills up around holidays like Chinese New Year.
  • Malaysia has specific seasons to be aware of, but don’t obsess about only visiting in the dry season, or avoiding the country during the wet season. It feels like these seasonable weather patterns are less reliable than they once were, and you’ll likely have plenty of ‘usable’ weather whenever you visit. If you arrive in the off/rainy season, you’ll have places to yourself and be able to take advantage of cheaper accommodation costs.
  • Make the most of the evenings when the streets come alive with food stalls and the air is cooler. This may mean shifting usual sleep patterns for little ones.

Top 8 things to do in Malaysia with kids

  1. be awesome at LEGOLAND Malaysia, a must for all LEGO fans
  2. watch a mother turtle lay dozens of eggs on the beaches of Selingan Turtle Island after an afternoon snorkelling
  3. giggle at the antics of orangutan orphans at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
  4. spot wild orangutans, proboscis monkeys, crocodiles and elephants on a Kinabatangan river tour
  5. swim on a rooftop overlooking the Kuala Lumpur cityscape
  6. get adventurous with different foods in Penang, or just enjoy eating coloured ice balls, after checking out the street art
  7. kayak in tropical waters around Langkawi
  8. pop over to Singapore for a day

Peninsular Malaysia destination guides for families

Here you will find the links to our focussed family destination guides on Peninsular Malaysia for deeper research.

Kuala Lumpur with kids

TOP 10 things to do in Kuala Lumpur with kids

Melaka with kids

Visiting Melaka with kids

TIPS FOR Visiting LEGOLAND MALAYSIA

Penang with kids

Visiting PENANG with kids

LEGOLAND Hotel Malaysia review

LEGOLAND Hotel Malaysia review

Borneo destination guides for families

Here you will find the links to our focussed family destination guides on Borneo for deeper research.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Borneo with kids travel guide

Your comprehensive guide to travelling Borneo with kids. Focusing on Sabah, we share advice on safety and getting around, top tips for your visit, and detail a 12 day itinerary.

Kota Kinabalu with kids

Visiting Kota kinabalu with kids

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

VISITING the SEPILOK ORANGUTANS

Island hopping Kota Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU ISLAND HOPPING

Poring Hot Springs

Poring Hot Springs

Turtle off Selingan Island

SELINGAN ISLAND

Kinabatangan River tour

Exploring the Kinabatangan River

Poring canopy walk

Poring canopy walk

bus from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan

GETTING FROM
Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan

Sandakan with kids

visiting sandakan with kids

Malaysia stories on Instagram

If you would like to get more of a visual idea of what to expect travelling Malaysia with kids, you can head over to our Instagram where in the Highlights section we have saved stories from our Malaysia travels.


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