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Budget guide: Week-long solo trip to Malaysia for P10,000

At the Batu Caves.

Photo by Jona Branzuela Bering

A longer version of this post appeared on Jona’s blog Backpacking with a Book. It is reposted here with the blogger’s permission. 

I do not know if I should be proud of only spending P8,000.00 or $168.00) for a week in Malaysia. I should be, right? Or maybe not. Some travelers have not spent any money at all and solely relied on the kindness of strangers. But this was my first trip abroad, and I went solo despite the nervousness and sleeplessness I had experienced. 

[NOTE: My trip to Malaysia was a part of my five-week trip across five ASEAN countries. I know, it was crazy, so do not follow it. How did I pack without checking my wheeled back in? My route was two nights in Kuala Lumpur – two nights in Taiping – two nights in Cameron Highlands – one night in Kuala Lumpur, because I did not take the chance of missing my flight to Bangkok] 

I was supposed to squeeze Sekinchan before heading to Taiping, but I decided to drop it. My so-called itinerary was already too cramped for a week-long trip.

Kuala Lumpur: Why I did not see the Petronas Towers

I stayed in a guesthouse, which was a short train ride away from KLCC, where the Petronas Towers were located. But despite that, I did not even pay them a visit: it was a kind of rebellion against travel guides.

I wanted to have a different image of Kuala Lumpur, so I avoided the landmark of this city. Instead, I walked around with no fixed destinations in mind. Kuala Lumpur’s architectures draw inspiration from its mixed cultures: Indian, Malay, and Chinese; so walking around downtown did not disappoint. 

I did not do much in KL except walking. Walking to Chinatowns. Walking in and out to different Hindu temples and Buddhist Temples and listened to the chants and rituals outside the mosques.

I did not really starve myself. I even splurged 30RM for a half-hour massage, and I bought a pair of sunglasses. 

Quick tips:

2D/3N Kuala Lumpur Expenses: 245.80RM ; P2800 ; $59.00 [For more tips and expense breakdown, read here.]

Taiping: For the love of gardens and trees

In a world of independent travel itineraries provided by travel bloggers – which were helpful in many ways – I wanted to do something random, going somewhere that does not appeal to many travelers. 

After checking Malaysia’s map, I found several places that I have not heard of much: Ipoh, Sekinchan, and Taiping. These are places that can be considered the spaces between the popular Point A and the equally touristy B. At Pudung Sentral, the old terminal, (the new terminal is now Terminal Bersepadu Selatan or TBS), a 30-minute train ride away, the bus that would leave the earliest was that of Taiping. So off to Taiping I went.

Taiping is quaint and charming. I spent most of my time, pedaling around the lake garden. 

I stayed in a budget accommodation that has the air and feel of a boutique hotel. 

Quick tips:

2N/3D Expenses in Taiping: 169.7RM : P1,920: $40 [Read here for more tips and expense breakdown

Cameron Highlands: Seeing the rolling hills of a tea plantation 

Cameron Highlands draws a lot of travelers, mostly westerners. The place has Starbucks already, and I would not be surprised in the coming years, McDonalds would stand proud and mighty somewhere. But knowing us, Filipinos – the most western-culture-loving Asians, most of us would love seeing Starbucks and McDonalds everywhere. But I do not. 

The main reason I visited this place is to see the centuries-old tea plantation. Seeing the rolling hills of tea plantation was utterly magical.  This place is meant for nature lovers.

Quick tips: 

2N/3D Expenses in Cameron Highlands:  219.8RM – P2,490 : $53 [Read here for more tips and expense breakdown.] 

How about the flights?

I was traveling for 5 weeks straight, so I used Air Asia’s ASEAN Pass. I bought the 10 flight credits for P6,200.00, which is valid for 30 days after the first booked flight. With the 10 flight credits, I was able to buy Cebu-Kuala Lumpur round trip ticket (6 points), Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok (1 way –  3 points), and Bangkok – Yangon ( 1 way – 1 point). I ditched my Bangkok – Yangon flight and just crossed the Maesot/Mwaddy border. You must book your flights 15 days before your trip. Again, the 10-flight credits is valid for 30 days upon booking your first flight. Know your math.

For more information on ASEAN Pass, check Air Asia’s site. Take note though, not all flights are available through ASEAN Pass, so if your travel dates are inflexible, this program is not for you. 

If you are flying from one ASEAN country to the next, ASEAN Pass is a practical way, especially if your trip is nearing, and you have not booked your flights yet.

Book through Air Asia Malaysia, it is a bit cheaper. It is P6,200 in RM while it is P7, 000 on their Philippine site.

If you just have Malaysia in mind, always check for promo fares. Take tabs of Cebu Pacific Air’s promo fares as well. 

Traveling abroad is a dream for most Filipinos. It does not have to break your bank account. Take baby steps. Be frugal. It is more practical and more enlightening that way. – Rappler.com

Jona Branzuela Bering is a writer and photographer from Cebu, Philippines. When she is not traveling, she gardens, teaches, and becomes the slave of four cats. Follow her travels on Instagram @backpackingwithabook or on her blog Backpacking with a Book.