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Malaysia is a haven of beautiful beaches, rainforests teeming with wildlife, and vibrant cities. I hadn’t been planning to visit Malaysia during my solo trip to Asia, but ended up finding a cheap ticket from Canada to Kuala Lumpur so off I went! I’m so glad it worked out like this because Malaysia ended up being one of my favorite countries in Asia. There are a number of places and islands perfect for solo travel in Malaysia that I’m going to share with you in this post.
The Best Cities for Solo Travel in Malaysia
Solo Travel in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur, or commonly known as KL, is the capital city of Malaysia. If you are flying into Malaysia internationally, this is likely where you will start your trip and it’s well worth spending a few days here. The city offers incredible skylines, endless shopping, and some of the tastiest food you can find in Asia. Be sure to grab a drink at the Heli Lounge Bar for the most incredible views of the city.
If you happen to get bored of the city, there are a number of day trips you can easily take from Kuala Lumpur. One that you don’t want to miss is the colorful Batu Caves, which is a Hindu place of worship. It gets very busy here during the day, so get here early in the morning for the best photos.
I started my trip in Kuala Lumpur at mingle hostel which is a great place to meet other travelers. They have a social atmosphere, communal dinners, and offer daily activities from the hostel. If you want something more private, check out Regalia Suites. This apartment complex has an amazing rooftop pool, and affordable units to rent.
If you are looking for somewhere away from the big cityscapes of Kuala Lumpur, Penang is one of the most popular travel destinations in Malaysia that is very safe for solo travelers. There’s a wide variety of accommodation available and this UNESCO site is full of restaurants and hotels meaning that you are in a populated area rather than feeling isolated.
There is plenty of property for rent here that you can use as a base to explore George Town in all its glory. There is plenty to choose from, and with plenty of beautiful sites at the top of the island, such as Penang Hill and the Penang National Park, as well as some beautiful beaches, you can feel safe and secluded without feeling alone.
Best Places for Solo Travel in Borneo
If you want to see amazing wildlife while traveling solo in Malaysia, then head to Borneo.
Sandakan is worth spending a day in just to visit the Sepilok Orangutang Rehabilitation Center and Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Center. Both organizations are doing amazing work in the conservation efforts of wildlife in Borneo, and offer visitors a unique experience to see these amazing creatures up close. This is a great place for solo travel, as the Orangutangs and sun bears will keep you entertained!
Both of these centers are located next to each other and can be easily visited in one day. While in Sandakan, I stayed at the Sepilok Nature Lodge which was the perfect base as the lodge is within walking distance to the centers. It’s also a great place to meet other travelers as they have shared dorm rooms. If you want to visit the Kinabatangan River, you can also organize tours directly from here which is what I did. More on that below!
The wildlife on the Kinabatangan River is incredible. It’s home to over ten different primate species, including orangutans and the silly looking proboscis monkeys. There are more than 50 mammals you can see in this area including the Borneo pygmy elephant (if you’re lucky)!
I booked a 3D/2N tour from the Sepilok Nature Lodge which was a wonderful experience. We stayed at the Sepilok Jungle Resort. It’s great for solo travel because everything is organized and they even have dorm rooms at the lodge which makes it affordable. I was the only one who booked a dorm room so I ended up having it to myself! Always a win.
The tour included four river cruises and two nature walks, as well as accommodation and food. It’s the perfect place to travel solo in Malaysia as it is so calm and relaxing at the lodge, but there are other people there if you want to be social!
Best Islands for Solo Travel in Malaysia
The Perhentian Islands
Not just one of the most beautiful islands in Malaysia but one of the most best tropical escapes in the whole world. The Perhentian Islands are full of beautiful white-sand beaches and tropical blue waters that will make you feel like you’ve entered a postcard. If you’re craving a solo beach getaway, the Perhentian Islands are the perfect place to visit.
If you are keen on relaxing on the beach, there are many helpful locals that will make you feel safe. But if you are looking to explore, you can go scuba diving or snorkeling. There’s also plenty of opportunities to indulge in food at the fine restaurant located at the Ombak Resort, which also has a beautiful outdoor cinema.
Easy to access from Kota Kinabalu in Borneo, this is the biggest island in Sabah. With those that are concerned about keeping their stuff safe when walking around the beach, there is a locker that you can rent. Perfect if you want to go exploring the island without all your stuff and feeling exposed.
If you want to relax and have a picnic on the beach you can do this, or there are plenty of water sports to do including snorkeling, parasailing, and jet skiing. An ideal way for you to get some adventure around the beach. If you want to go island hopping, start early in the morning so you can take in Gaya and Sapi Island too.
If you’re a solo traveler looking to go diving in Malaysia, then you need to visit Sipadan Island. It’s regularly ranked as one of the best dive destinations in the world! This small island, formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct undersea volcano, is one of the richest marine habitats in the world.
While diving Sipadan Island, you can see giant green sea turtles and hawksbills, tornadoes of barracudas, parrotfish, sharks, and morays – all in one dive. There are twelve dive sites around Sipadan Island and each has its own distinctive views of coral and aquatic life, but Barracuda point is the highlight.
Sipadan island is located in the state of Sabah, in the northern part of Borneo. It is not possible to stay on the island overnight. You can either stay in the town of Semporna, or on the nearby islands of Mabul and Kapalai. From Semporna, you can arrange dive trips to the island through any dive shop which is what I did. Be sure to book in advance, as dive permits are limited to 120 a day and space can fill up quickly. I got lucky and got one last-minute!
Arguably, the most picture-perfect part of Malaysia. It’s everything that you see in the books. White sandy beaches and coconuts make it the ideal place to relax. But if you’re craving adventure, there’s also plenty of opportunities to go snorkeling and other water-based activities such as stand-up paddleboarding.
What makes Dinawan Island so great for solo female travel in Malaysia is that the island is private. The only way to access it is by getting an organized visit. But while there’s a lot of preparation to get onto this island, this means it’s as safe as it can get. You don’t have to be worried about leaving your stuff lying around while going for a dip in the sea, as there is no one else around. To reach Dinawan Island, you take an organized day trip from Kota Kinabalu.
Safety for Solo Female Travel in Malaysia
Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country so always be respectful of what you are wearing and take dress cues from the locals to be sure to not offend anyone. If you plan to visit any temples, dress conservatively and cover your knees and shoulders. When visiting a mosque, cover your head and limbs with a headscarf’s and sarong (many mosques will lend you these at the entrance).
Always be proactive about your safety. Don’t flash any valuable belongings or leave your drink alone. Don’t walk back to your accommodation alone at night while traveling solo in Malaysia – instead, take a grab (an app similar to Uber). They are very cheap and safe to use.
If you feel more comfortable in a group, G Adventures offers amazing tours of Malaysia. If I am really nervous about traveling somewhere solo, in the past I have started my trip with a group tour and then continued on traveling solo. This is a great way to get introduced to a country, get oriented, and meet other travelers that you may be able to keep traveling with afterward.
Solo traveling is an adventure unlike any other. If you are looking for the perfect opportunity to unwind but the idea of traveling by yourself can make you feel a little anxious, especially when venturing Far East, there are plenty of opportunities in Malaysia for you to explore and feel safe.
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