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Malaysia Is Set For A Historical Rise In Visitors – Here’s Why It’s So Popular

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Following two and a half years of self-imposed seclusion, Malaysia is back with a bang. Having reopened for tourism following two years of self-imposed seclusion, it is set for a historical rise in visitors in 2023, and a fourfold increase from earlier, much more modest predictions – but what is it about Malaysia that makes it so popular among Westerners?

Petronas Twin Towers In Kuala Lampur, Capital City Of Malaysia, Southeast Asia

9.6 Million Visitors Expected In 2023

The country will host up to 9.6 million guests in 2023, as opposed to the original estimate of 2.5 million, released a year ago, while most of Southeast Asia (SEA), Malaysia included, were off-limits to tourists. At the time, stricter health checks applying to all passengers were carried out at the border:

For instance, all air and sea arrivals were required to both complete the Digital Pre-Departure Form, shortened to DPDF, and download the MySejahtera app prior to boarding their mode of transport. Vaccine discrimination was also practiced: only fully-vaccinated travelers were issued a Digital Traveler Card.

American Citizen Holding A U.S. Passport American Passport As They Wait In A Queue At The Airport

The partially-vaccinated or non-vaccinated, on the other hand, were required to isolate for 5 days upon landing, on top of being subject to a testing regime. Luckily, Malaysia revoked all of its health mandates on August 1, 2022, allowing for the return of normality. The border reopening was a major contributor to the tourism rebound.

Other research published last year also supports the claim that frictionless travel leads to economic growth in the post-pandemic era. Notably, Malaysia has been no exception, with projections for the calendar year of 2023 pointing to a record increase in arrivals now that COVID restrictions have been dropped.

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A Fishing Boat In A Lake In Malaysia, Southeast Asia

What Makes Malaysia So Irresistible To Westerners?

There is still some strong competition to face up to: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Singapore have all reinstated normality – some a lot sooner than Malaysia – and they're all eyeing the title of Southeast Asia's top destination moving forward, though the country in question may have the upper hand when it comes to tourist attractions and affordable holiday activities:

  • Unparalleled city breaks
  • Colonial architecture
  • Gorgeous nature
  • Pristine beaches
The Batu Caves Lord Murugan Statue and entrance near Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. A limestone outcrop located just north of Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves has three main caves featuring temples and Hindu shrines.

Malaysia's main point of entry is Kuala Lumpur, a capital city home to 1.8 million people whose skyline is dominated by the iconic steel-clad Petronas twin towers. Exploring the chaotic cluster of skyscrapers and British-era monuments, tourists will be met with a lively nightlife, futuristic mosques, and Instagram-worthy street art.

George Town may be Malaysia's second-largest hub, but it is arguably its best tourist offer: the UNESCO-listed historical core is embellished with colorful facades and colonial-style buildings reminiscent of the imperial years, and local restaurants are famous for their varied selection of traditional Malay dishes.

Kek Lok Si Temple on Penang island, Georgetown, Malaysia

Outside the hustle and bustle of the city centers, visitors will find the tranquil Gunung Mulu National Park, a jaw-dropping rain-forested landscape speckled with karsts and comprising the world's largest cave passage – the Sarawak Chamber – at 115 meters high and 600 meters long.

Looking for some sun and sand instead? Malaysia has beautiful beaches lining its 2,905 miles of coastline, rivaling those of neighboring Thailand and Vietnam: Kuantan is one of many swimming spots with turquoise waters within driving distance of Kuala Lumpur, home to a turtle sanctuary and a quaint craft village where local produce is sold.

Young Female Tourist Seen From Behind As She Stares At The Chinatown Of Kuala Lampur In Malaysia, Southeast Asia

Malaysia Is Both Affordable And Safe

Additionally, it is incredibly affordable for most Westerners to visit, especially those traveling in the long-term, despite being considerably more developed than other SEA nations: digital nomads hailing from the States should expect to pay, on average, 78.3% less on rent living in Malaysia, while saving up to 50.5% more on daily expenses.

Lastly, Malaysia is considered a low-risk destination compared to others in SEA, having been awarded a ‘blue badge'/Level 1 classification by the U.S. Department of State. In other words, American travelers do not face any heightened safety threats traveling in the region, and they are merely advised to exercise ‘normal precautions'.

temple in malaysia

According to the research firm Kenanga, air traffic should grow substantially in the months to come ‘as airlines continue to reactivate more aircraft to match increasing demand‘ for travel. After all, Malaysia is packed with landmarks, unique city breaks, stunning nature, and paradisaical beaches, not to mention it is affordable and safe.

Have we already mentioned Americans can now use the fast-track e-Gate lanes arriving in Kuala Lumpur? What's not to like?

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Sunday 5th of February 2023

Propaganda crap

Matt Gibson

Sunday 5th of February 2023

You write of Georgetown: 'and local restaurants are famous for their varied selection of traditional Malay dishes.' please be aware that 'Malay' refers to only the Muslim Malay population, not the roughly 30-5% Malaysians of Indian, Chinese, Orang Asli, tribal and Eurasian descent. Georgetown is much more famous for its Malaysian Chinese, Indian and Eurasian dishes than it is for purely Malay dishes. Use of the word Malay refers only to a specific part of the population and culture and heritage. Use the word 'Malaysian' to refer to the population, food and heritage as a whole. A small but very important distinction. I.e. All Malays are Malaysian, but not all Malaysians are Malay. Malay is a specific ethno-religious designation.

Zain Addin

Thursday 9th of February 2023

@Matt Gibson, Have you tried the Penang Malay dishes?The author is talking about food not demographic ..