Southeast Asia is back to being on everyone’s radar now that the region is not only fully open but eager to welcome tourists following three years of self-imposed imposed isolation.
Throughout the course of 2023, we have seen numerous exciting developments coming from Southeast Asian (SEA) countries, including a new three-month tourist visa for Vietnam and a boost in frequency on some Transpacific routes.
Still, one country in particular continues to post big numbers, even challenging the mighty Thailand for the number one spot in the subcontinent, as it is considered more developed and generally tourist-friendly. This year, it is expected to host as many as 18 million tourists.
Here are 7 reasons why you should trendy, incredibly safe Malaysia this winter:
It Has Beautiful Paradisaical Nature
When visiting Southeast Asia, a majority of travelers have one thing in mind: braving the wild nature, taking boat rides around archipelagic territories, jumping into the turquoise-colored seas, and escaping their chaotic big city life.
Luckily for them, Malaysia has its own – dare we say, impressive – collection of natural landmarks to keep them busy for weeks on end.
Divided between a ‘peninsular’ territory and the Northern section of the island of Borneo, which it shares with Indonesia and the small country of Brunei, it has no shortage of beautiful natural sites, sandy beaches bounded by warm waters, and tropical jungles.
Malaysian nature is deserving of a story of its own, as there are far too many points of interest to be condensed into a single section in a wider article, but some of the ‘unmissable’ gems include:
- Gunung Mulu, a national park in Borneo known for its jagged rock formations
- Taman Negara, an undisturbed rainforest dotted with Malay villages
- The Danum Valley, traversed by jungle pathways and hiking trails
- Ipoh, both a small, traditional city and protected reserve surrounded by dense foliage
Vibrant City Breaks
Malaysia is one of the largest sovereign states in Southeast Asia and other than its geographical features and natural wealth, one of the main reasons why it makes for such an incredible destination is its host of world-class cities.
The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is currently one of the top digital nomad hotspots, drawing in millions of young, sociable remote workers and entrepreneurs due to its eclectic, multicultural scene, amazing infrastructure, incredible nightlife, and futuristic cityscape.
George Town, in the state of Penang, is not to be missed, either, boasting well-preserved British colonial structures and an up-and-coming resort belt.
Elsewhere, Johor Bahru is a famous port city linked by a bridge to the small city-state of Singapore, highly sought-after for its coastal atmosphere and sandy beaches.
A Unique, Fascinating Culture
Malaysian culture is yet another attraction for Westerners – in particular Americans – visiting the country.
In a way, Malaysians can be more collectivistic than people born and raised in the U.S. They usually are more prone to identify as being part of a wider group, be it their relatives or ethnicity, and their life decisions very much take into account the community-wide impact.
Needless to say, Malaysians are more family-centered, and while this is not exactly evident in major cities like Kuala Lumpur, it only takes a day visit to a tiny hinterland village yet to be engulfed by globalization for you to come into contact with their kindness.
Naturally, food is a part of the culture, too, and Malaysian cuisine is a unique blend of indigenous cooking practices, Chinese influences, European due to colonization, and even Middle Eastern – in case you were not aware, over 60% of the population adheres to Islam.
Better Infrastructure Than Most Southeast Asian Countries
A little-known fact among most Westerners is that not all Southeast Asian countries are in development, or underdeveloped. For instance, Singapore, a neighbor of Malaysia, is one of the richest states in the world by GDP per capita.
Malaysia is not as wealthy, and it certainly has classic ‘Global South’ problems, but it is surprisingly developed by any Southeast Asian standard, and in a far better standing internationally than Thailand, Indonesia, or Vietnam.
It is a newly industrialized economy quickly approaching high-income status.
For tourists, this means the infrastructure is better, including the state of the roads and public transport, the market is open and prosperous, especially if you’re a nomad looking to settle in Malaysia, and the locals’ quality of life is higher.
From the public service down to food standards and ultimately food poisoning rates, which are much lower in Malaysia than in other SEA countries with more lax regulations, it is essentially Southeast Asia for beginners – which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Malaysia Is Affordable
Malaysia may be the second-most developed country in Southeast Asia after Singapore, but this does not mean it shares its partner nation’s high cost of living.
It is one of the cheapest tropical destinations globally, with travelers expected to spend, on average, US$61 per day on vacation in Kuala Lumpur, yet this is only an estimation, and the actual cost can be even lower if you’re on a budget.
There are many youth hostels on Booking.com with overnight rates of US$15 and cheaper, and food is pretty affordable as well. On average, a hearty meal in a mid-range restaurant for two people will cost you a mere US$16, according to Numbeo.
High Safety Levels
Another misconception surrounding Southeast Asian countries is that they are unsafe. Granted, food poisoning is a pressing concern, and some of them do have unstable politics, with the occasional military coup, but Malaysia is not one of them.
As stated above, it is quite developed and well-equipped, and safety levels are abnormally high. You are unlikely to get mugged walking the streets in Kuala Lumpur, face regular scamming, whether it’s in the capital or the countryside, or be a victim of violence.
That’s not to say it will not happen – like anywhere, there are exceptions to the rule – but crime is definitely not widespread in Malaysia, and you are not required to maintain a high level of situational awareness when visiting.
Malaysia is listed as a Level 1 destination by the U.S. itself, meaning it has attained the best possible security level a country can aim for, and it’s up there with Iceland, Finland, Croatia, and other popular, perceived-as-safe European countries.
Easy One-Stop Flight Connections
The seventh and last reason why Malaysia is so trendy right now is the fact that it is not exactly difficult to get to, despite lacking a nonstop flight route with the United States and most European countries.
When traveling to Malaysia, most travelers from the Northern Hemisphere will be required to make a stopover in a third country, either on connecting flights or switching to a different airline completely, but the good news is:
Most major airlines will sell ‘full tickets’ to Kuala Lumpur, which means you pay for the whole of your trip, including the stopover and the final leg, and they use major international airports like neighboring Singapore, Doha, or Dubai-International as transit hubs.
This means you get to enjoy all the amazing facilities in the world’s most luxurious airports on a stopover flight, and depending on the carrier you choose to fly with, you may even be eligible for free hotel stays when staying a day or two in the intermediate stop, or free tours if you opt for the shortest transfer.
We don’t know about you, but we love stopovers.
They’re a great opportunity for exploring two destinations for the price of one ticket, and who wouldn’t love to couple a trip to Malaysia with the equally fascinating Singapore?
Start planning your trip to Malaysia – and the wider Southeast Asia – by reading further.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com