I have been to Malaysia twice this year, and I got a huge number of queries about where to stay, what to do, and what to eat. I am going to write a series of posts that can be of help, about stay, places to eat, and things to do in Malaysia, and hopefully that helps. Here, I should give a disclaimer: I am an Indian, and both the times I travelled from Kolkata, therefore, I will write my experience as I traveled from there. But, a lot of this information, like how to enter Malaysia, or how to get a Malaysia VISA, is applicable to many more than me, so read on.
How to Choose where to go in Malaysia
Malaysia is a huge country, divided into two islands. When I started talking about places to go in Malaysia, the two names that jumped up first were Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi. However, Malaysia is much more than those two names, and that’s what we will be looking at in this post. I wanted to visit jungles and mountains the first time I went to Malaysia, so I picked Kota Kinabalu, which is located in another island, Sabah, and is a 2.5 hour flight away from Kuala Lumpur (I am going to use the term KL after this for Kuala Lumpur). However, you can fly into Kota Kinabalu through Bangkok, and it has got a very busy airport with a huge number of international flights. It is the second most important airport in Malaysia, and the gateway to Sabah, Borneo, through which you can go to a number of locations, including Sarawak as well as the Kingdom of Brunei.
Kota Kinabalu offers you magical experiences, like trekking to Mount Kinabalu, which is the highest peak in Borneo’s Crocker Range, the highest mountain in the Malay Archipelago, as well as the highest mountain in Malaysia, and is a World Heritage Site. Apart from that, you can also go into the Borneo National Park, where you can familiarize yourself with some incredible varieties of flora and fauna, especially a number of orchids and carnivorous plants (Yes, you read that right!).
Kuala Lumpur, or KL, is the capital of Malaysia, and it is one of the major entry points into the country. Its also a great place for shopping and eating out, so you can always do that. However, local people told me that the best thing to do from KL would be to go out to different parts of Malaysia from there, since it was literally a fantastic connecting point. The KLCC Aquaria is definitely a great sight. But, From KL you can always go to Genting for gambling, Malacca for a lazy day out, or to Mersing, which is a point from which you can go to a number of islands, like Rawa or Tioman Islands for an overnight trip. There are multiple airlines which can take you to KL, but the two times I travelled it was via AirAsia, so I can only tell you about my experience, which was nice.
Penang is a fantastic state to start off your Malaysia tour, especially due to its rich heritage and great food. I haven’t yet visited Penang, but I DO HOPE I CAN SOON because its history sounds fascinating (Sir James Lancaster apparently settled here for a while and pillaged every vessel that came his way, back in 1592). The capital of Penang is George Town, and you can fly there from KL or Johor Bahru easily.
Langkawi is another place I visited, which had a number of things to do apart from lazing about the beach. However, it is actually a great place to just chill out and shop duty-free chocolates and liquor, and also a good place to get a massage. You can reach Langkawi via KL, or you can always get a ferry from Krabi or Phuket, Thailand, and enter from there. From Krabi, it would take about 6 hours to reach Langkawi, and from Phuket, it would take about 9-10 hours, so plan ahead.
Johor Bahru is a second fantastic option for those who want to enter Malaysia from India, especially who want to also go to Singapore, because Johor Bahru is literally next door. From Kolkata, AirAsia has started a flight that goes to Johor and it is quite reasonably priced, when compared to flight tickets to Singapore. You can actually stay in Johor and visit Singapore as a day tripper by getting a Singapore Visa and a multiple-entry Visa for Malaysia. Johor is also quite close to Mersing, from where you can go off to a number of islands, not to mention it’s the home of Lego Land and Hello Kitty Land, two fun-filled adventure parks.
Getting a Malaysia Visa (For Indians)
Here’s the deal: there are a HUGE NUMBER OF FAKE MALAYSIA VISA PORTALS. When I first went there, it took me a good few hours to even figure out which was authentic and what was not. I realized that the Window Malaysia Website is AUTHENTIC and it’s the OFFICIAL WEBSITE FOR MALAYSIA VISA through which you can get a Visa within a short span of time. There are multiple options to choose from, starting with e-visa, but an ENTRI note is sufficient. If you are Indian, then this FAQ sheet can be helpful for you to make up your mind. It is a good idea to get the Visa after you have bought your tickets. It takes a very little amount of time, but ideally, you should apply for your visa at least 4 business days prior to your entry into the country. The application takes no time, and it is free till 31st March 2018 (you will have to pay a convenience fee of $20 though). You would have to fill up an application and have a copy of photo ready, along with copies of first page and last page of passport, hotel booking receipt, and confirmed return tickets.
You can also choose to apply for an eVISA with Multiple Entry up to 15 days duration of stay each entry (Processing Fee is $20, not including convenience fee), or up to 30 days duration of stay for each entry (Processing Fee is $25 and Visa Fee is INR 1100, which is inclusive of convenience fee) if you are going on multiple trips. If you have been visiting another country, then your last visited country’s entry and exit stamps will be required as well for an e-visa.
So, now that you know about the major entry points and places to go to, time to plan up! Malaysia is a fantastic country to visit, especially between March and September, and 2018 is just around the corner.