In a nutshell
The diverse and astoundingly picturesque Langkawi is somewhat of a secret in a world of postcard beach islands.
Why go to Langkawi
The surreal composition of beaches, verdant mangrove forests and expansive views makes this the ideal destination for the view admiring, photo snapping busy-boots traveller.
If you’ve scanned through but a few travel pages, you’ll have deduced, we’m sure, that the island of Langkawi needs very little promotion. The island’s natural diversity borders on the surreal with outdoor activities, adventures, beaches, caves, peaks, and forests abounding.
One of the top attractions of the island would definitely be the majestic cable car and skybridge. The ride up toward the peak of Gunung Mat Cincang is truly remarkable. Feel small in the world as you admire the expansive verdant forests below, the peaks and shadows of nearby islands, and the bluey greens of the Andaman all stretching out before you.
In a similar vein of natural beauty, Langkawi is lucky enough to be home to a Unesco Geopark, a site of immense geological significance. It is bursting at the seams with sights, animals and encounters to behold - mangrove forests, secret lagoons, limestone caves, and majestic eagles casually flying overhead as you float down a river.
Still not impressed? Why not go for a snorkel or dive and share the water with blacktip reef sharks.
When to go to Langkawi
As with most places in South East Asia, it’s always warm or hot but official dry season begins in mid-November and stretches through to April. Rainy season will bring with it but a couple of hours of rain, a near identical temperature, off-season prices and an according drop in tourists.
Where to stay on Langkawi
Ah, location, location, location. Langkawi has a pillow and place for every traveller’s head. The contents of the room around that pillow, and the places around that room, differ as much as those who seek the refuge. Honeymooners, backpackers, families and nature-folk, there is something for you!
You’ll have a choice between a notable list of options. The hub of Pantai Cenang, packed with duty free shops, bars and activities for every minute of the day. Or maybe Patai Kok, shrouded in limestone hills and lush rainforests, just a few minutes from the natural wonders of the island. Pantai Tengah – for the moderately wealthy family desiring a quieter feel and activities for the kids. Lastly, Datai Bay, for the affluent and indulgent.
No matter what you decide on, the islands array of choices all come at very reasonable prices with all the expected amenities. Wi-fi is standard in every room above MYR50, and is available in the lobby of anything cheaper.
Where to eat in Langkawi
Being an island, there is no shortage of fresh seafood, crab, and lobster. More important and pleasing than its availability however, is how wonderfully flavoursome the local sea dishes are. The island’s inhabitants are renowned for their skilled preparation of seafood, regardless of your decision between the impressive selection of restaurants.
The island boasts an array of cuisines, so much so in fact, that even your fussy 10 year old available. You could liken it to a more attractive and less compacted food court at your local mall. Whether you’re in the mood for Italian, Turkish, Indian, or French, you’re bound to be satisfied. The influence of nearby Asian cultures can be felt around dinner time, too – Thai, Japanese, and Chinese options are in good supply. Lastly, but most certainly not least, there are many cheap and culturally fascinating Malay restaurants serving spicy, flavourful and healthy options at a very low cost.
How to get around Langkawi
Getting around the island poses for very little problem for travellers and locals alike. Just arriving in Kuah, or landing at the airport? The minibus taxis are your best bet. In fact, they are a great choice for the cautious, uninsured, or financially unencumbered. The taxis run through a multitude of set stops on routes all over the island and are price regulated – a haggle-free dream.
A great option for families on the island is to rent a car for MYR100 a day - a rare service in South East Asia, and even more so at this price. You can pick your car at the airport, at the port in Kuah, or have it delivered to your hotel.
Rent a motorbike – a South East Asian classic. It’s very affordable at a mere MYR30 a day. Fill up your tank with the change in your pocket and explore the island with the wind in your hair. Enjoy the freedom to stop for a quick snap, drink or a broken conversation with a local. Enjoy the freedom to leave just as easily.
Should you care for a leisurely ride around your area, you can also rent bicycles from many a shop in the various areas of Langkawi. Good clean fun, really.
Lastly, if you happen to be in a bit of sticky spot, there are a sufficient amount of metered taxis around that can get you where you’re going. However, except to pay more for the individually tailored service.
How to get to and from Langkawi
The island is well equipped with methods of transport for eager tourists. For the very eager, there is an international airport, allowing for a brief one hour flight from the capital, Kuala Lumpur. You can easily connect via Kuala Lumpur of you are heading to Langkawi from anywhere else in the region like Bangkok or, say, Phnom Penh and actually pretty much from anywhere in the world.
From within Malaysia, options include busses, trains and ferries.
From Penang, a short three hour ferry from the pier that leaves twice a day (08.30am and 2pm) will set you back MYR 60 for an adult ticket and MYR 45 for any little dependents. We took the ferry to get to Penang from Langkawi some years ago and would definitely recommend it at least for a change. Again, if money is no issue, you can be at Langkawi International Airport in under 40 minutes.
Coming from Kuala Besut – if you are visiting Langkawi after the Perhentians, things are still simple, albeit a little tiring. An 8 hour, MYR 52 bus from Jerteh to Alor Setar is your first leg – you will arrive at Shahab Perdana bus terminal. From here, you need to get another bus to Kuala Perlis – this shouldn’t cost more than MYR 8. Hop off here and make your way to their pier. Once you’ve made it this far, it is only an MYR 18, one hour ferry to Langkawi that leaves every 45 minutes. Happy days!
Langkawi is a convenient spot to enter Malaysia after you’ve finished with the Thai islands in the Andaman. During high season, there is a daily ferry to/from Koh Lipe from where you can continue to other Trang or Satun islands or head elsewhere north the continent. The immigration office on Koh Lipe opens only when the ferry from/to Langkawi arrives/departs. Tickets cost around MMK125.
Is Langkawi a safe place to visit?
While the island is in no way a hot spot, petty theft does occur as a result of the economic disparity between locals, businesses and tourists. It is wise to not leave irreplaceable items in your accommodation unsecured, to leave your possessions unattended on a beach, or to attract unnecessary attention to yourself with flashy jewellery.