Travelling to a new country is always an exciting and slightly nerve-wracking prospect, especially if it’s a country you know very little about. This was absolutely the case for us when we started planning a trip through Malaysia, in fact, the little we knew stemmed from watching Strictly Dumpling‘s excessive eating and Singapore’s The Smart Local talk about the food, seeing photos of the Petronas Towers and, embarrassingly enough, watching Zoolander. We really didn’t expect to fall in love with the country so completely and we absolutely didn’t expect this to stem from a small city we knew nothing about.
How to Get to Malacca and Transport When You Get There
The obvious route into Malaysia from pretty much anywhere would generally be flying into Kuala Lumpur. However, this part of our journey started in Singapore and flying was absolutely an option, in fact, I’d say depending on your plans it’s a pretty good one, the journey is incredibly affordable, the flying time short and the airports involved hold a good reputation for making the whole thing seamless, as usual, AirAsia and Skyscanner are your friends when it comes to getting those affordable flights. Once you arrive in KL there are plenty of affordable coach journeys that take you on a two hour trip to Malacca, there are even day trips available, although, we would personally recommend giving those a miss and spending a few days exploring the city, hopefully the rest of this article will convince you of that. Prices for a coach start at around 20RM and don’t go up much more than that, if you’re used to European travelling this obviously seems like an absolute bargain, although we’d say it’s worth spending the extra couple of RM for the best coach provider you can get, we’ve personally used KKKL on the route from Malacca to Kuala Lumpur and can vouch for the comfiness of the seats.
Odd Tip – KKKL ask that you don’t eat or drink on the coach, we didn’t prepare, hadn’t eaten any lunch and had brought snacks on board so three quarters into our journey I was starving and opted for slyly slipping some Pringles and water into my tummy (through my mouth obviously). Fortunately, the journey isn’t too long, but as usual, a little preparation and research can go a long way.
If, like us, your journey starts in Singapore, we would absolutely recommend doing what we did and catching the coach straight to Malacca instead of flying! The internet can scare you off by telling you that the border crossing is difficult, scary, impossible or just shit … all those things are filthy lies, possibly told by the devilish spawn of Donald Trump to make the travelling to an incredible country seem less appealing. We chose to ride with a company called Grasslands and our experience was amazing, the staff were friendly, the coach was comfortable and all parts of crossing the border were not just easy, but compared to going through airport security, outright enjoyable. They also offered free WiFi once you got past the Malaysian border, it worked really well and meant I could get ahead on some of my blog writing without eating up priceless sightseeing time. Our journey only cost 25 SGD each, which once again is an absolute bargain considering how expensive it is to get anywhere in Europe, although admittedly, it’s more than you will spend travelling through most of the other countries in South East Asia, that’s kind of expected when you start in Singapore, everything costs more.
Odd Tip – We have heard that some of the coach companies are aimed at locals and don’t give you as much time at border control, there are some horror stories; most of which I’m sure are horribly exaggerated, of people getting left behind after going through security and we were terrified that our bags would be left on the coach, but that’s not actually an issue as you have to scan your bags at the Malaysian border. Meaning, even if the coach did leave without you, it really wouldn’t be the end of the world, travelling this way is an adventure at the end of the day right? Still, we’d recommend Grasslands or another reputable coach company for the journey. The website Easybook.com is incredibly useful for booking these trips and has reviews of the companies involved.
Depending on the coach service you choose and where you are staying you will either be dropped off at Malacca Sentral or at a destination in town that you’ve previously pre-selected. If you’ve been dropped off in town, chances are you can just walk to where you need. Part of the reason we fell in love with this place so completely is how accessible everything is by foot, most journeys we put into Google maps were a 15 minute walk and the furthest we ever walked was an hour, which fortunately means lots of places to stop, take photos or grab snacks, it made a huge difference after having spent time in cities like Bangkok and Singapore. If, on the other hand, you end up in Malacca Sentral; the local coach station, you might want to come pre-prepared with the Grab app downloaded, it’s South East Asia’s version of Uber, works incredibly well, is super affordable and every driver we’ve had so far has been friendly and had sat-nav, which again makes a huge difference after catching taxis in Bangkok where no one had a clue where anything was, although everyone was extremely friendly regardless.
Odd Tip – You might be tempted to get a local taxi when you arrive, but we’ve been warned both by locals and the internet that it’s probably best not too. I won’t go into details on this as there’s absolutely no point in focusing on a negative aspect of this incredible place, but as with everything, a little research goes a long way.
Could have stayed in Malacca for ages, had an unforgettable time and felt like I’d just got my bearing’s, might just have to head back at some point. People were so incredibly friendly too, there’s nothing I love more than being able to smile and say hello to complete strangers as they walk past, it brightens your mood and makes you feel part of something bigger. Sights like these round every corner, I can’t get enough. Kuala Lumpur photos coming up next! . . . . . . . . . . . #getlost #explorer #optoutside #worldshotz #theworldshotz #createexplore #exploretocreate #discoverearth #travelphoto #travelworld #keepexploring #globe_travel #theglobewanderer #roamtheplanet #letsgosomewhere #exploretheglobe #nakedplanet #places_wow #instapassport #instatraveling #igtravel #travelblog #instago #mytravelgram #travelingram #sharetravelpics #worldtravelpics #stayandwander #keepitwild
The great thing about starting your Malaysian adventure in Malacca is that geographically you’re starting in the best place possible in order to visit all the main spots whilst keeping journeys affordable and short(ish). This means little dotting back and forth, little wasting time on travel and more seeing and eating the amazing things the country has to offer. Once we’ve finished our whole trip here I will upload a travel guide that covers a good route for seeing as much as possible with the least amount of hassle.
What to See and Do in Malacca, Malaysia
The whole city seems to focus around a few main areas, all extremely accessible by foot and all a short distance from each other, this means within a few days you have a great feel for the place and can easily dot back and forth between what you want to see and your favourite snack vendors or bars. So, instead of sticking to what we say below, we’d absolutely recommend you just get a bit lost and see what the town has to offer, but hopefully, this will at least help you get started.
My favourite part of town, for no other reason than waving at boats. Well, that’s an incredible understatement, but in all seriousness waving at the happy tourists on ferry rides cheered me up every single time, if you do the whole European don’t fuck with me, I’m not smiling, straight face thing … you’re not just an idiot, but you’re absolutely missing out. Other than catching a ferry ride down the river and looking at the colourful buildings and graffiti that line the sides, there’s also some great bar and food options along it. For the most affordable beer I found by the riverside, head to 90’s Bar, the staff are friendly and they also offer food that everyone else seemed to be enjoying, I was just stuffed full of yummy goodness 90% of the time so only headed there for the affordable beers and waving at boats. They also serve excellent fresh juices and Western style food if you’re nursing a cold or hangover.
Odd Tip – If you head down the river, away from the main attractions and to the connecting bridges keep your eyes peeled for some big ass lizards, they sit on the riverbank and are incredibly easy to miss, but from morning through to afternoon you can generally spot some, which is obviously incredible cool!
My second favourite area of Malacca, although I’m sure it would come first on many people’s lists. Jonker Street could be considered the high street of Malacca’s China Town, it could also be considered mainly a tourist attraction, but neither of those things really give it justice. Shrines, temples, food stalls and incredible colours that pop out at you from every corner. Smells that leave your tummy rumbling and local eateries that cost barely anything but taste like heaven. A couple of things we would recommend checking out are the mouth-watering baked Bao’s which you can get from a couple of the stalls and shops along the street, the cookies sold at The Cookie Bar, the Malaysian honey that you can sample at Melipoly and the durian that you can buy everywhere and smell even further away. We could go into extreme detail here, telling you exactly what shops we liked, what shrines we went in and what else we ate, but that would ruin what we think is the best part of the adventure. Plus we want you to go and tell us where to head to next instead 😉
Jonker Street in Melaka, Malaysia celebrating the Year of the Dog. Photo by @miztrujillo & edit by me. Follow Miz for more pics from our adventures. ? . . . . . . #travelgirl #wearetravelgirls #girlswhotravel #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #travelista #thetravelwoman #blessedgirl #adventuregirl #traveletting #wanderess #travelgirls #instawork #instamalaysia #remoteworkers #wanderlustwednesday #travelmore #flashpacking #backpacking #southeastasia #chinatown #flashpackers #backpackers #digitalnomads #digitalnomadlife
Trishaws – Malacca’s Unique & Kitsch Variation on the Rickshaw
Every place we’ve visited in South East Asia so far, has had some variation of this, but none that stand out as much or look as fun. Blasting music, rammed full of cuddly toys and ran by the friendliest looking people who are quick to pose for a photo. If you’ve been wanting to have a ride, but are intimidated by the prospect, we’d suggest this is the place to give them a go. Of course, be smart, pre-arrange a price and then have a blast whilst maybe screeching like a weasel when they go round a corner too fast.
Malacca in Malaysia has some awesome vibes and even better food, not what I expected at all but I absolutely love it! The Riverside is gorgeous and the old Portuguese quarter has some cool bits to see (amplified by tackiness that somehow manages to make it even cooler). Its super easy to get a coach from Singapore and the border crossing is stress free as long as you’ve done a bit of research, know what to expect and use the right coach company, better than flying by miles!! Definately stop off on the way to Kuala Lumpur if you ever have the chance <3 . . . . . . . . . . #top_portraits #life_portraits #postthepeople #quietthechaos #2instagood #way2ill #justgoshoot #artofvisuals #l0tsabraids #ftwotw #igPodium_portraits #ftmedd #backpacking #backpackeradventure #malacca #exploremalacca #hellokitty #imaginatones #streettogether #streetmagazine #streetmobs #peopleinsquare #moodygrams #illgrammers #instamagazine #twgrammers #shotaroundmag #illkillers #killergrams #superhubs
Odd Tip – We’ve been told 50RM for an hour is the standard price, although I’m sure some people would haggle a bit, I’d personally feel bad paying someone less than that for carting me around in the hot heat for an hour. So consider it a bargain and a great option for some speedy sight-seeing.
The Portuguese & Dutch Settlements
During the 16th and 17th Century, the Portuguese colonised Malacca and evidence of their time here is still visible today. From the mixed Malay/Portuguese heritage shown in race, food and architecture. If you’re a fan of custard tarts you’ll find a twist on them in Malacca flavoured with local pineapples. The Europeans also brought with them Christianity and a number of Portuguese and Dutch style churches still stand here today, including the famous red Christ Church. You can also explore remains of a Portuguese fort, A Famosa. Whatever you think of the raiding and invasions of the past, it’s interesting to see how it’s impacted the modern mix of culture present in Malacca that also includes Chinese, Indian, Cuban, Japanese and Indonesian. It doesn’t take long to see the sights and pose for some photos, which means more time to indulge in the mix of food these cultures have bought to the place.
Temples, Mosques and Religion
As with the rest of South East Asia, there are a number of holy sites and buildings to visit in Malacca. The main religion in Malaysia specifically is Muslim, so you’ll find the Melaka Straits Mosque on the coast, floating on a man-made island as well as many other mosques en route. Unlike visiting other types of temples, it’s worth noting that women visiting mosques are expected to wear head coverings and should be dressed extremely modestly, you may be offered a hijab to borrow and some mosques have areas that are off-limits to women or even tourists altogether. You’ll also find Buddist, Hindu, Taoist and other Chinese religious groups in Malacca with plenty of colourful and intriguing architecture and rituals to observe and less strict rules to stick to. Cheng Hoon Teng Temple and Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple are worth a visit, but you don’t need to walk far to stumble upon others.
There are some epic malls in South East Asia and the air con and mod-cons are very welcome on an extremely hot day. However, shopping centres in Malacca are a little bit unusual, sure you’ll find a handful of the expected chains like H&M, McDonalds and even a Nandos, however, we found that many of the shopping centres weren’t quite finished or were quite empty. Perhaps we didn’t visit at the right time, but in general Malacca malls aren’t that exciting. If you need to pick up some cheap clothes or enjoy 5 minutes on a massage chair for only 2RM, great, otherwise there are better things to be spending your time on, that being said, their worth popping into just so you can end up as confused as we were. One strange and bewildering shopping centre that we would recommend stepping into is called The Shore, you won’t spend long in there, there’s really not much to see, but it does boast the scariest elevator in history (or at least in our short lives so far). It goes up and up and up and… you get the idea, but it also shakes and feels like it’s going to fly off the rails. If you survive the journey all the way up, there’s a viewing platform that we guess boasts an incredible view of the city, unfortunately, it was closed on the day we visited, which in all honesty we’re kind of glad about as I was already feeling pretty dizzy from the journey up and I’m not sure how well I would of handled the extra elevator journey involved.
Where to Eat in Malacca, Malaysia
As mentioned previously, there’s a great mix of cultural heritage in Malacca which transfers over into the diverse food options and this small city is world famous for its yummy delights. There are endless options of places to eat, but to get you started here are just a few of the places we’d recommend seeking out and that we loved, plus they’re all a bargain so a great way to save some coins.
Love Satay and it’s yummy peanut-based sauce? Try Satay Celup at Ban Lee Siang Satay Celup, we were lucky enough to be served by one of the owners who kindly introduced us to all Satay Celup had to offer, whilst explaining the popularity and eating method of this delicious dish. This isn’t your ordinary satay and this place serves the sauce slightly spicy, you fill a tray of skewers and cook them in a boiling hot pot of satay sauce, fondue style! To make things even better you’re paying 0.20RM per skewer, so the whole meal is a total bargain. There are skewers of all types of meat, vegetables, fried churros and tofu, so something for everyone.
Looking for possibly the best Tandoori and curry you’ve ever tried? Make your way slightly off the beaten track to Pak Putra Tandoori & Naan Restaurant and their vast and delicious menu of curry, Tandoori and naan bread. We tried the Kashmiri and garlic naans, a load of the curries and obviously their famous tandoori, in fact, we ate here twice in two days because we were so impressed. This place is super popular but prepared with plenty of seats indoors and out. You can also enjoy watching the bread and chicken on swords cooked in front of you in huge traditional pots. Seriously excellent and easily one of the best meals we’ve had in South East Asia so far.
The best naan breads I’ve ever tasted cooked right infront of us! I’m eating so much on this trip it’s actually ridiculous, if it wasn’t for the fact we’re averaging 10 miles a day I’d definitely be coming back rather inflated. Seems crazy to think I went from hardly eating to finishing everything in sight, only to immediately start thinking about more food and snacks, it just all tastes so gooood! . . . . . . . . . . . . . #roamtheplanet #letsgosomewhere #exploretheglobe #nakedplanet #places_wow #instapassport #instatraveling #igtravel #travelblog #instago #mytravelgram #travelingram #sharetravelpics #worldtravelpics #stayandwander #keepitwild #rei1440project #earthfocus #ourplanetdaily #earthofficial #natgeo #nationalgeographic #awesome_earthpix #travelstoke #backpacking #visitmalaysia #digitalnomad #exploremalaysia #lostinmalaysia #backpackeradventure
Pin Pin Hiong is an easy one to pass by, except for noticing their accidentally Wes Anderson yellow and red shop front, situated opposite the beautiful mural and planted walls of The Orangutan House art gallery. However, if you’re looking for cosy comfort food and to breakfast like a local, this place serves up huge bowls of noodle soup and simple and delicious cups of tea and coffee on a super tiny budget. As with almost everywhere in Malacca, check the opening times before you head out, because they aren’t conventional and Mondays tend to be a bit dead.
If you love coffee and breakfast then eating with the locals is the way to go and it doesn’t get more local than Kedai Kopi Juat Lye. It’s a tad out of town, but we walked it in around 20 minutes and it takes you past lots of local and traditional houses, as well as the odd barking dog or two. Once you get there look up at the walls, there’s no menu on the tables, it’s all stuck up and postered around the place instead and it’s incredibly informal so if you don’t know what your ordering you might just get a fizzy soda pop for breakfast (this happened to Jayne), but with a bit of foresight and by keeping your cool you can have the best coffee imaginable and huge bowl of delicious noodles for mere pennies.
Odd Tip – If you’re unsure where to eat or have exhausted all of our recommendations, TripAdvisor can always throw up some useful suggestions as long as you can tell which complaints are fussy people and which are actually genuine. Alternatively, do what we do and look for where’s busy and where the locals are eating, regardless of what the place looks like, you might just find the best meal you’ve ever tried. Or in our case, the best coffee we’ve ever tried. This list by Seth Lui is a great place to look for foodie inspiration in Malacca too.
Where to Stay in Malacca, Malaysia
As mentioned already, Malacca is a small city so you won’t have to walk far to find something beautiful, interesting or delicious. With this in mind, you really are spoilt for choice for great accommodation options whatever your budget might be. There are hostels, homestays and luxury hotels aplenty as well as some quirky numbers on AirBnB too. We book most of our accommodation via Agoda and on this occasion stayed at the surprisingly affordable Ramada Plaza Hotel, which is conveniently one of the drop-off points for the coach from Singapore. It sits just on the edge of the main centre and offers 4-star luxury, a rooftop pool (which we were too busy to use), unlimited on-demand movies on the TV and huge rooms for a lot less than you’d ever pay in Europe. We didn’t pay for breakfast here, but we can’t fault what we did experience and we’d definitely recommend it. If you’re looking for something simpler or with more character, you can find it in Malacca too.
There’s always more to say on the topic of Malacca, we really wish we’d booked a longer stay and we’re going to look forward to visiting again someday in the future. If you have any tips for us for future trips, drop them in the comments or get in touch via Instagram or Twitter.
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