Bike Touring Malaysia: Everything you Need to Know for an Amazing Adventure

Is bicycle touring Malaysia right for you? Find out below!

bike touring malaysia

If you’re thinking of bike touring Malaysia, we say, get ready for an adventure! From remote islands with sandy beaches, to captivating colonial towns, and high mountain passes, Malaysia never gets boring. Read on to find out if cycle touring Malaysia is right for you.

Also don’t miss these posts:

Get ready with our bike tour packing list

Enjoy our Malaysia cycle touring blog from day 1 →

Explore our other cycle touring destinations

Our 22 country, 16,000 km bike tour around the world, included three weeks in Malaysia. We started at the northern border with Thailand and cycled down the west coast, stopping off on the island of Langkawi before visiting charming George Town.

We then headed inland through Ipoh, up up up into the Cameron Highlands, down to Taman Negara, and finally to Kuala Lumpur.

(Related: If you’re headed to Borneo, don’t miss this cycling guide to Borneo by our friends at Cycloscope)

We love the variety in the country, couldn’t get enough of George Town, and were pushed to our limits climbing to the Cameron Highlands.

If you’re coming to Malaysia from the neighbouring countries, you’ll notice a marked difference. Malaysia is richer than Thailand or Indonesia, so you’ll see fewer signs of poverty and experience modern infrastructure and better roads!

(Related: Read this post by Bookmundi if you’re wondering what to do in Malaysia)

If you can’t wait to experience all of this on your own Malaysian cycle tour, here’s…

Everything you Need to Know Before Bike Touring Malaysia

If you're thinking of bike touring Malaysia, we say, get ready for an adventure! From remote islands with sandy beaches, to captivating colonial towns, and high mountain passes, Malaysia never gets boring. Read on to find out if cycle touring Malaysia is right for you.

Save this pin for your bike tour in Malaysia.

Food & Drink in Malaysia

Because of the multicultural make-up of Malaysia, the food is a delicious combination of cuisines from around the world. Inexpensive south Indian food is everywhere and very similar to the food we ate on our trip to Tamil Nadu. There is lots of traditional Chinese food too, plus an exotic and flavourful cuisine that is particular to Malaysia.

Food courts (AKA hawker courts) are everywhere, offering an excellent selection of authentic local food at budget prices. In the cities, you can splash out on all kinds of Western foods too. We promise, there is so much variety here that you will never get sick of Malaysian food.

bike touring Malaysia

We found this vegan bowl of hokkien mee in a small village outside of Penang. Delicious!

Malaysia is amazing for vegans and vegetarians, too!

It is much easier to find veggie food than in Thailand, which is funny because Buddhism is traditionally a vegan religion, whereas Islam is not. In the cities, there are almost always a few vegetarian restaurants (usually of the Chinese Buddhist variety) and always Indian restaurants that have a vegetarian menu.

(Don’t miss: Our guide to vegetarian food in Kuala Lumpur)

The only place it was hard for us to eat was the famous Hawker courts of Penang. Then again, in the hawker court in Taiping, there were five vegetarian stalls!

bike touring malaysia

Our veggie stall in the Taiping Hawker Court.

Accommodation & Camping in Malaysia

We didn’t camp in Malaysia because we sent our tent home before we got to Asia. There are some campgrounds in Malaysia and you can fairly easily get away with wild camping, especially on beaches or tucked away at the end of dirt roads. Most people speak some English, so at least you’ll easily be able to explain what you’re doing!

Overall, hotels in Malaysia are more expensive than in the neighboring countries. In general, quality of accommodation was poor; our rooms were often dirty and disappointing compared to those we’d enjoyed in southeast Asia.

It was in Malaysia that we got our one and only case of bedbugs, too. Yuck!

The big exceptions are the hostels we stayed in in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. They were both fantastic!

bike touring Malaysia

The rooms at BackHome are very nice and reasonably priced. Stay there!

If you’re going to George Town, we highly recommend Old Penang Guesthouse, which is spotless, comfortable, and quiet, with friendly staff and excellent amenities.

In Kuala Lumpur, we can’t say enough good things about BackHome, where we’ve stayed about five times now. It has great dorm rooms (including rooms with huge double beds for couples) and lovely private rooms too. The location is perfect and the staff are wonderful, too.

Roads & Traffic in Malaysia

We had heard nightmare tales of the traffic in Malaysia before we got there. And in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, those reports were true. People drive aggressively, but not well, which is always a terrible combination.

To make matters worse, the roads are narrow, winding, and not equipped for two-wheeled vehicles – most people drive cars, not motorbikes.

When we were on our way to Kuala Lumpur, we learned that a bike tourist had been killed riding into the city a few weeks before.

We opted to take a bus from a town on the outskirts into the centre. We did ride around the city though, and with no infrastructure for cyclists, it was pretty hair-raising experience!

bike touring Malaysia

Malaysian roads, like this one in the Cameron Highlands, are usually quiet and well paved. Hooray.

Outside of the cities, the roads were a pleasant surprise. We encountered very little traffic and when we did, there was usually enough room for drivers to give us a wide birth. Road cycling is pretty big pastime for middle-class Malaysians, so I think drivers are used to navigating around the odd cyclist on the road.

Aside from climbing to the Cameron Highlands (a ride which has broken many a cycle tourist), the landscape is relatively flat, too.

Need some new bike touring gear? We use (and love!) these:

Dogs & Other Dangers in Malaysia

Great news! I don’t have anything to write in this section. Well, not much of significance anyway.

We didn’t have any bad dog encounters in Malaysia and most of the ones we met were pets.

bike touring Malaysia

I think we saw more monkeys than dogs on our Malaysian cycle tour.

As for personal safety, we always felt welcomed and never once felt unease. At the time we were there, the people we encountered seemed to be practicing a liberal form of Islam, with Muslim women happily approaching us for a chat and many not wearing headscarves.

The biggest danger might come from the weather. When we were there it was almost unbearably hot and we had a tough time staying hydrated. We countered that by drinking lots of electrolyte drinks from the frequent 7-11s.

bike touring Malaysia

Instead of helmets, we often wore damp scarves around our heads to keep cool in Malaysia.

I also had our first experience of “cyclist butt” in Malaysia — painful red welts appeared on my butt and thighs from rubbing inside my cycle shorts. Not fun. I managed to deal with it by stopping wearing my padded shorts and just wearing a thin loose pair of moisture wicking shorts instead.

Since this was near the end of our tour, my glutes were hard as rock and could handle the direct contact with my saddle.

Malaysian Culture

In Malaysia, were greeted warmly and with smiles everywhere we went, and received lots of waves and thumbs-up from passing cars. People spoke English almost everywhere, making it very easy for us to get around and find things.

We had lots of interactions with Malaysian people, especially women who were apt to stop and ask us about our trip. This surprised us a lot, since in our previous forays into Muslim countries (Syria and Jordan in 2006), we very rarely encountered women and only ever got a chance to talk to men.

bike touring in Malaysia

A few minutes after we crossed the border, these friendly Malaysian road cyclists came up for a chat.

At the time of our visit in Malaysia, the culture seemed quite liberal and accepting — which makes sense for a country that has a huge percentage of immigrants who come from different religious backgrounds. Aside from Muslims, there are Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians living in Malaysia.

Now, after decades of one-party rule, the opposition have recently united and come to power – bringing a new possibility for a real democracy to the people of Malaysia.

Cycle Touring Budget for Malaysia

Unfortunately for budget travellers, Malaysia is one of the more expensive countries in this part of the world. Everything just costs a little more, especially accommodation.

You can budget about $50/day for a couple if you’re eating at street stalls and small restaurants and staying in decent but not fancy guest houses. If you decide to camp in Malaysia, you can get that down to around $30/day!

bike touring Malaysia

Malaysia is full of stunning mountains (that you can bike up).

Supported Bike Tours in Malaysia

If you prefer to go on a supported bicycle tour of Malaysia, we recommend checking out these tours.

Intrepid 9-Day Hike, Bike, & Kayak in Borneo

How does adventuring from sandy beaches, to soaring mountain-tops, and steamy jungles sound to you? If you love wildlife, being active, and becoming part of the local culture, check out this Borneo adventure. It sounds like the perfect way to make the most of a short time in Malaysia.

Get details of the Intrepid adventure tour in Malaysia →

Spice Roads 15-Day Thailand to Singapore by Road Bike

If you want to explore the Malaysian peninsula by road bike, this tour looks pretty great. Especially since you get to work in some of Thailand’s most beautiful areas and end your trip in one of the world’s most fascinating cities. In between, you’ll stop in Malaysia’s most charming small cities — like George Town, Ipoh, and Malacca. Of course, you’ll spend plenty of time in the beautiful Malaysian countryside, too.

Get details of the Spice Roads bike tour in Malaysia →

So, is bike touring Malaysia right for you? Are you planning a trip soon or just dreaming? Have you cycle toured in Malaysia before? Let us know in the comments!

  Happy mindful adventures, Jane & Stephen

It’s easy to help us keep this blog going! Some of the links in this post are our personal affiliate links. If you book or buy something using one of the links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J

If you're thinking of bike touring Malaysia, we say, get ready for an adventure! From remote islands with sandy beaches, to captivating colonial towns, and high mountain passes, Malaysia never gets boring. Read on to find out if cycle touring Malaysia is right for you.

Pin this for your Malaysian cycling adventure!

Hi, I’m Jane, founder and chief blogger on My Five Acres. I’ve lived in six countries and have camped, biked, trekked, kayaked, and explored in 50! At My Five Acres, our mission is to inspire you to live your most adventurous life and help you to travel more and more mindfully.

11 comments

  1. Comment by Jane Mountain

    Jane Mountain Reply September 13, 2018 at 2:22 am

    Hi Suzanne,
    Clearly I’m going to have to update this post with answers to all your questions.

    Warmshowers is great. We used it in Europe and know a lot of other cyclists who use it. As far as I know it’s very active in Malaysia, so will be a great way for you to meet local cyclists. As with any online service, use your wits to make safe decisions. Choose hosts with good ratings and who you think you will be comfortable staying with, let someone know where you’ll be etc.

    Malaysia is a bit less conservative than many muslim countries, and as a foreigner, you will be given allowances that local women might not. But, especially as a single women, I would stick with loose more modest clothing. I always wore a skirt over my bike shorts in Malaysia or you could wear loose pants instead. I don’t think long sleeves are necessary and a head scarf certainly isn’t, as many Malaysian muslim women don’t even wear them – even in the countryside.

    J

    • Comment by Suzanne

      Suzanne September 13, 2018 at 6:09 pm

      Thank you so much, this information is so usefull to me, and it answers so many questions that I just couldn’t find on the internet.

      I forgot one small detail to mention here by the way. “As a foreigner, you will be given allowances that local women might not.” Well that’s the thing, because of my looks and skin colour (I have Indonesian roots) people always confuse me for a local haha, basically in every country I go in S.E. Asia. So that’s always a thing I need to keep in mind as well.. ;)
      I’m still not sure if my looks work in my advantage or disadvantage for most of the time haha!

      Thanks again for your kind help and I will keep you posted on what my final decision is gonna be!

      By the way, where are you guys located at the moment?

    • Comment by Jane Mountain

      Jane Mountain September 14, 2018 at 4:26 am

      Hey Suzanne,

      My bad for assuming you had European heritage / roots. I guess your name made me think that! Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how you’re treated and if it’s different from my experience.

      For me, when travelling, there are advantages and disadvantages to blending in. Right now we are in Germany, so I can walk around and everyone thinks I’m a local but then they all expect me to know the customs and the language too! Which leads to its own kind of challenges.

    • Comment by Suzanne

      Suzanne September 23, 2018 at 5:42 am

      Hiya! I Just wanted to let you know that I decided to go through with my whole cycling-in-Malaysia plan!

      In a week time I managed to find myself a decent 2nd hand bike (I don’t know if I said this, but I was already traveling in Thailand at the moment of writing you) and now I’m waiting on some stuff that I ordered online which I couldn’t find in the stores here.

      So when that gets delivered I’m all ready to go! I’m really so excited and can’t wait to start with this new adventure… Thanks again for all your usefull help and tips!

  2. Comment by Jane Mountain

    Jane Mountain Reply September 11, 2018 at 3:01 am

    Hey Suzanne,

    All great questions!

    Since we’ve never sold or bought bikes in Malaysia, I don’t have a lot of expert info for you. I know there will be touring bikes available in the major bike shops there, though. But, I’d recommend you join this group on Facebook that is a touring bike buy/sell group for Malaysia. The people in the group should be able to help you with lots more info!

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/462620157243642/forsaleposts/

    If you want to send and store luggage, your best bet would be to choose a hotel / hostel in the south where you plan to do your final days and then contact them. They will help you find out advice on shipping and will let you know if you can ship to them. I don’t think there is any dedicated service such as this, but you would need to use the Malaysian postal service or a courier service. It’s a great idea to get rid of the extra weight if you can.

    Another option for you would to do a loop instead of going North to South. That way you could fly into KL, easily find a bike there, and store your stuff there while you are away. From KL, it would be possible to do a northern loop or a southern loop, or do a mega loop all the way around the coast.

    Let us know how you get on! It would be great to hear what you end up doing.

    J

    • Comment by Suzanne

      Suzanne September 12, 2018 at 3:25 am

      Thank you so much for all your tips and great help! I really appreciate it :)
      I will definitely check out that FB page too!

      And what about this website/community called something like “warmshower”, do you have any experience with that? I haven’t had a chance to have a proper look at it yet, but is sounds kind of interesting… Some sort of couchsurfing, particularly for cyclist? Was wondering how that works and how safe that would be for a woman alone.

      And what is your opinion about clothing? I never dress myself in too revealing clothes anyway, but I heard somewhere that as a female cyclist in Muslim countries, it is sometimes recommended to not only wear long pants and sleeves, but also to wear something “loose” and not too tight (like most cycle clothes do tend to be)

      Many thanks again!

  3. Comment by Suzanne

    Suzanne Reply August 3, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    Hi there, great website! Can you recommend bike touring trough Malaysia as a female solo traveler!?

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane August 3, 2018 at 7:11 pm

      Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks for the question. I only bike toured with my husband in Malaysia, so I can’t answer this question from personal experience. However, I would think that you would be fine cycle touring Malaysia by yourself. Malaysia is a very safe country to travel in, quite cosmopolitan compared to its neighbours, and has three major religions, so they tend to be more exposed to and aware of cultural differences. We found that many women approached us and wanted to chat about what we were doing, so I suspect you’ll get to meet a lot of people too.

      Of course, you’ll want to take the same precautions as you would travelling alone in any country!

      Let me know if you have more questions, J

    • Comment by Suzanne

      Suzanne September 11, 2018 at 2:07 am

      Sounds good! I have a few more questions:
      – do you have any tips about buying a bike in Malaysia? Where? The costs?
      – would you think it’s easy to sell the bike again afterwards?
      – I’m thinking of traveling from north to south, have you ever heard of a possibility to get some luggage already send and storaged somewhere in the south (KL?) so I won’t have to take everything with me during the bike trip? (I am traveling atm with a 12kilo backpack and don’t think I will need a lot of the items I already brought with me😅)
      Thanks for your kind help!

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