The Malaysian island of Langkawi is a dream destination for many, and if you think you can’t afford it, think again.
The duo at Lights, Camera, Backpack, give their tips on seeing paradise without breaking the bank.
Langkawi’s official title is the Jewel of Kedah, and once you reach its shores, you’ll understand why. Though Flic and Nick don’t consider the island their version of paradise, they do recommend stopping off at Langkawi — if in Malaysia — especially if you’ve just left the chaotic wonder that is Georgetown.
The island’s not the kind of place you can just hop on a bus and hope for the best, simply because there are no buses. Unless your pockets are stuffed with cash, the taxis are best avoided too!
How to reach Langkawi
Langkawi is an archipelago consisting of over 99 islands, and most travellers arrive by boat, taking the 3-hour ferry from Penang. The ferry leaves at 8:30am and 2:00pm each day, and you can buy your tickets online or from the ticket office which is 2 minutes from the ferry terminal.
If you prefer to fly, you can get reasonably cheap flights within Malaysia, as well as some international flights via Air Asia. We found that flying from Penang is about the same price as taking the ferry, and only takes 20 minutes.
If you’re coming to Langkawi from Thailand, you may like to try arriving by speedboat. It’s more expensive, but only takes an hour.
Langkawi - where to stay
There are many overpriced resorts and grand hotels lining the coast, so keeping to a budget here’s not easy! Yet it’s possible to have a good night’s sleep on a tight budget by staying at one of the guesthouses.
If lucky, you’ll find one with a view of the gorgeous rice paddies, and a sandy beach within short walking distance.
Langkawi - what to eat
Unlike the larger cities around Malaysia, you won’t find many hawker stalls here. Instead, you’ll come across many restaurants, which are quite expensive, on the main Pantai Cenang strip.
If you’re on a tight budget, the seafood here may just be out of your price range, with most places charging per kilogram.
That said, there are some lovely places to eat, such as Bella Restaurant at Pantai Cenang, which serves up local food. Breakfast is good here too, especially the national dish of nasi lemak, washed down with a Malaysian kopi.
A reasonable price per dish is around 10-15 RM, although it’s not comparable to the prices elsewhere in the country.
Visiting a night market is an absolute must. Be sure to sample the satay, pancakes and a deep-fried burger! Though tese markets may not be the best for your health, they’re great for budgeting travellers, with each dish costing around 1-2RM.
Langkawi - what to do
Getting around the island and exploring Langkawi is a must. You can go for a scooter, but we chose to hire a car simply because of the constant rain. Now you can really explore the island and see Langkawi’s true beauty.
Head towards the Langkawi Sky Cab to get some breathtaking views of the island. There’s an entry fee cost as well as an extra cost if you want to walk the iconic Sky Bridge. For 50RM, you get to ride Malaysia’s longest mono-line cable car to the top of Machincang Mountain.
At 708m above sea level, you’ll get views of the entire archipelago, and even some of the Thai islands on a clear day. Walking the Sky Bridge was a fantastic experience – except for the lengthy climb back up to the cable car station!
If you visit the Sky Cab at the weekend and it’s packed with tourists, the best thing to do is to come back another day. However, don’t head home just yet.
Instead walk past the Sky Cab site and follow the signs to the Seven Wells Waterfall.
Here, you can hike up to the various stages of the waterfall and swim wherever you want. We found that it wasn’t too busy, and as most people forget to bring their swimming costume, you’re more than likely to have the pools to yourself!
There are two other notable waterfalls on the island worth mentioning. Temerun Waterfall has several rapid courses flowing over the side. You can easily climb up to the main basin, and here you’re likely to find some locals daring each other to jump from the rocks. Join them if you’re feeling brave – we weren’t!
The other attraction is the Durian Perangin Waterfall is also a majestic wonder. It’s a quiet spot to cool off after a humid day of hiking, and there’s plenty of space to have a picnic, plus even a few hawker stalls selling cheap hot corn and noodles.
If you have time, make a stop at Air Hangat Village for the salt water hot springs. The salt water is renowned for its health benefits. The locals claim it’ll ease arthritis, boost immune systems and increase general wellbeing.
Whether or not it’s medically sound didn’t bother us. Instead, we found it quite satisfying to sit knee deep in a hot spring amid the lush green plains of the island. There’s also a reflexology path made of small stones, arranged to inflict maximum pain and discomfort. Walk what may be the world’s only homeopathic gauntlet if you dare!
Other sights to see
We also recommend visiting Mount Raya (also known as Gunung Raya) in the middle of the island for a superb view of the archipelago. It takes about 30 minutes to drive all the way to the top, at which you’ll spot some cheeky monkeys and fallen trees.
At the summit, you can pay 10RM to take a lift to the viewing tower, which also includes a free drink. Be sure to go on a clear day to get the most out of the views.
If the weather’s good and you have time to spend, Langkawi’s beaches are worth visiting. Take the Teluk Ewa Jetty to Tanjung Rhu Beach by. To reach this beach, you need to drive through Tanjung Rhu Resort and agree to their terms and conditions, but entry is free.
When you reach the beach, you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful view of a few atolls rising from the water — plus it’s also remote. Another plus is that the Malaysian restaurants here offer delicious meals, and at some of the lowest prices we found on the island.
One place that we’d recommend travellers to avoid at all costs is the Langkawi Buffalo Park. It’s little more than a walk through a cow shed, and while Flic enjoyed taking photos of the photogenic buffalo, it was a very underwhelming attraction.
All photos courtesy of Lights, Camera, Backpack