Monday, July 13, 2009

budget trip to langkawi

Langkawi is a popular destination for people coming from Europe or other Asian countries, but it is often overlooked by North American travelers. Perhaps the distance is too far, or perhaps people just don’t know about this wonderful place but to me, it’s more fun and cheaper than Hawaii.

First of all, for the shopping mavens, the entire island is duty-free; add in the already-low cost of shopping in Malaysia, and you have a real winner. For example, downtown Langkawi has several shops offering large, hard luggage starting at around USD. Alcohol in Langkawi is the cheapest of any place in Malaysia. There are shops offering basically anything you could want or need. Expect to pay around for souvenir T-shirts for friends.

You can make a trip to Pulau Payar Marine Park for around RM 100 (). If you are good at bargaining you can get them down to around RM 80. That includes the boat ride there, all park fees, all snorkel gear, a sack lunch, and a ride back. This is an all-day experience.

There is a great night market, "Pasar Malam", in Langkawi that takes place on weekends. It is right in central Kuah town and had just about everything a person could want and lots of stuff no one would want.

Langkawi has resorts and hotels for all tastes and travel budgets. Expect to pay anywhere from RM 60 for a decent city hotel all the way up to thousands of RM for a place like the Datai (five-star). You can get a really nice beachfront resort for around RM 140 easily.

The food in north Malaysia all tends to be very spicy. If you don’t like spicy food or chilies, then try and hunt out a Chinese eatery. They tend to be far less spicy than their Malay counterparts but still aren’t too touristy. There are also several Western places for those who don’t like to eat local foods. Food, if you stay at a locally owned place, also tends to be very cheap. Figure under RM 8 per person, and you will have more food than you can eat.

Quick Tips:

Bargain for everything: price of hotel, car, price of things in stores. Bargaining is really a way of life, perhaps even an art form in S.E. Asia. It may seem very cheap to you even at sticker price, but usually you can get the items at least 50% off. Never pay cost for a rental car; both the airport and the pier carry them. It’s often best to approach two rental car agents at a time, and then they will undercut each other on price. It’s best to act as disinterested as possible. Bargain for the price of any dive trip or excursion; these, too, can be had very cheaply.

Don’t book through a Western site like Travelocity, as the rates in Malaysia are much cheaper. USD may seem like an awesome deal for a beachfront resort, but the rate in Malaysia would be closer to . It’s best to call the hotel, and once again, don’t act too interested. Ask them for the best deal, and even if it sounds good, ask if they can do any better. They almost always quote Westerners a very high price because they know it's good for us with the exchange rate.

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