Family Vacations to Malaysia

Beach at Langkawi, Malaysia
Langkawi, Malaysia (Gemma Longman/Flickr)

Malaysia Family Travel Tips

  • Standards at the street food stalls in Kuala Lumpur tend to be much higher than in many other Asian cities. Chinese, Thai, and traditional Malay cuisines are all on hand to tingle young taste buds.
  • Peninsular Malaysia is by far the most family-friendly part of the country. Investigate all of the practicalities before taking children on a wilderness escape in Sabah or Sarawak.
  • If possible, avoid overnight bus journeys. Frequent stops, sometimes-patchy driving standards, and loud TVs do not make them family friendly. Consider taking the country's trains, which are more comfortable, or flying domestically, which is easy and cheap.

Most visitors limit their travels to Peninsular Malaysia, which boasts the most interesting cities, the main tourist resorts, and the most alluring islands for families. The "Mother City" of Kuala Lumpur (KL, as it is known locally) is a great place to start. It's a metropolis that boasts the raffish, frenetic appeal of Bangkok, but also has a slice of Singaporean calm. KL is a bustling cocktail of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and European culture where exotic spices and rich languages fill the tropical air. It boasts one of the world's tallest buildings—the Petronas Twin Towers, where youngsters can enjoy sweeping views of the city—as well as a swathe of colonial architecture and character-laden ethnic districts that are safe and easy for families to walk around.

Other Peninsular Malaysian cities worth visiting include the colonial gem of Georgetown, on the island of Penang, and the charmingly ramshackle Malaka, in the south. Both cities offer a taste of old Malaysia with graceful colonial buildings, Chinese merchant houses, romantic temples, and authentic restaurants. For families looking to escape the urban heat, there are several hill resorts that offer cooling breezes and appealing colonial architecture. Fraser's Hill is ideal for families, with its resort hotels, family attractions, and wide range of sporting options. The Cameron Highlands, meanwhile, offer a trio of resort towns—Brinchang, Tanah Rata, and Ringlet.

The country's myriad islands, however, draw the most interest. Pangkor is one of the most popular, with direct domestic air links opening up its excellent beaches. Then there is the aforementioned Penang, a resort island that appeals to families with first-rate hotels, sweeping beaches, and loads of family activities. With the government's help, Langkawi has established itself as the number one family island in recent years. The country's newest tourist hot spot now receives both domestic flights and direct flights from abroad.

Pulau Langkawi, the biggest of the 104 Langkawi islands—most of which are mainly just outcrops of coral—is Malaysia's current tourism star and a perfect destination for families. Langkawi boasts an array of tourist facilities and has been declared a duty free island, bringing prices down for parental shopping trips. Leisure options are as eclectic as they are appealing, with the opportunity for adventurous families to try out sailing, horseback riding, snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing. Those with younger kids may opt to just enjoy the beaches and well-equipped hotels.


Published: 7 Sep 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Malaysia

$100
Average/night*
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Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel
$98
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Fraser Place Kuala Lumpur
$135-$181
Average/night*
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Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur, by Shangri-La
$118-$144
Average/night*
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Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur

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