Luxury travel: packaged or custom tour – what to choose?
Is it better to join one of the small group tours to Malaysia or arrange a custom tour to take you around the places you want to go? Everyone is different and has different expectations. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.
- Easier to budget. A pre-arranged package tour often includes all expenses including transportation, meals and the recently introduced tourist tax.
- Convenient. Tourists fly into Malaysia, and the tour covers the rest. You won’t need to worry about arranging transport or booking hotels.
- Expect a high level of service. Package tours, in general, strive for customer satisfaction, which means you’re going to get an exceptional level of service.
- Lack of flexibility. As with all group tours, the itinerary, departure times and destinations are often fixed. You can’t spend more time somewhere that’s particularly interesting. And likewise, you can’t skip the less appealing spots.
- You share with other tourists. Typical tour packages may have up to 40 people, and you won’t get as much one on one time with the guide.
- Problems have to go through a third party. Any issues need to go via the travel agent or tour guide rather than resolving things yourself, which can be time-consuming and frustrating.
- Flexibility. Custom tours give you the choice of where you want to go, for how long and to what destinations and attractions.
- Individuality. Guides are more tuned to dealing with your needs rather than the needs of the many.
- A more comprehensive selection of food and drink. You choose the restaurants and what time you want to eat rather than going to the tour’s commissioned stops.
- The cost. A custom tour can be expensive if a guide needs to plan and prepare the trip.
- Not everyone is an expert on everything. The guide may not be suitable in the destinations they’re unfamiliar with.
- Time constraints. You might not be able to visit everywhere you want to and need to be more aware of time restrictions.
- Planning. The tourist needs to be more active in planning and organising the trip.
Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands and Penang tour
A ten-day tour exists that starts in Kuala Lumpur and takes tourists north to the Cameroon Highlands in the central mountains before Penang. Cameron Highlands is a favourite spot for locals because the air is cooler, the hiking and spa treatment. You can find lots of five-star resorts popular with those on a health retreat, which are often included in the tour packages. Penang is an economic and cultural centre and has several boutique hotels to match.
Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan tour in Sabah
The eight-day eco-tour begins in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s capital, for two nights before heading to Sandakan for three nights to experience the rainforests and wildlife. Finally, you return to Kota Kinabalu for a further three nights at the Gayana Eco Resort. Anyone who wants to experience Malaysia luxury travel while seeing and enjoying the jungles and wildlife should follow this itinerary.
Best luxury hotels in Malaysia
St. Regis Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
Prices start from $360 per night for a deluxe room with breakfast. Located close to KL Sentral, the central hub for public transport in Kuala Lumpur.
DoubleTree by Hilton KL
From $100 to $125 per night for a double room with breakfast included. Spa services and an on-site sauna are available at the hotel. The Hilton is just over 1 kilometre from Petronas Twin Towers.
Grand Hyatt Hotel
The Grand Hyatt is one of the best luxury hotels in Malaysia with the Grand King Room providing the highest level of quality at $240 in a prime location near KLCC.
The best place to stay in Penang for high-quality hotels and resorts is in Batu Ferringhi on Penang Island.
DoubleTree Hilton Resort, Penang Island
The resort in Batu Feringghi has a deluxe king room with a balcony and breakfast from $120 per night.
Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa
Deluxe twin rooms with a garden view start at $200 per night at this resort in Batu Ferringhi, Penang Island.
Eastern & Oriental Hotel
The Eastern & Oriental may not be an international chain hotel, but it’s one of the best in Penang’s capital, Georgetown. Rooms have a distinct colonial atmosphere and you can expect to pay $170 per night for a studio suite. Spa and massage services are available on demand.
Four Seasons Resort Langkawi
Tourists have the choice between garden-view suites (from $630) to a beach villa (from $1880). The resort, about 18 kilometres from Langkawi Airport in Tanjung Rhu, is one the best in Malaysia.
The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa
The resort has spacious one-bedroom villas overlooking the sea for $940 per night in Kuah. Expect world-class service and the very highest level of luxury at the Westin Langkawi Resort. The adjoining spa is also one of the best on Langkawi Island.
The Ritz, in Pantai Kok, has large deluxe rooms with garden views and suites for $600 and $790 per night respectively. Tourists often like the location, which is close to the Seven Wells Waterfalls and the Langkawi Cable Car.
Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort & Spa
You can find Sabah’s best spa treatment at this retreat that’s 30 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu. A night in one of the deluxe rooms starts at $200.
The centrally located Hyatt Regency in Kota Kinabalu is within walking distance of the malls, Jesselton Point jetty and waterfront restaurants. Rooms are spacious and have a view of the sea. Expect to pay around $200 a night with a buffet breakfast included.
Gayana Eco Resort
Gayana isn’t a world-famous chain resort, but it’s one of Sabah’s best accommodation. The resort itself is on Gaya Island, which is accessible from Jesselton Point by speedboat. Beachside villas start at $240 per night with direct access to the beach. The resort has pick up and drop off services to and from the ferry terminal for guests.
Malaysia luxury travel cost per day / how much to budget
A double room in a five-star hotel often costs in the price range of $100 to $250 depending on the destination. Some cities, such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang have a large number of high-end hotels to cater for the Middle Eastern tourists and diplomats.
Food and drink
Eating out in Malaysia is affordable compared to other destinations around the world. You can buy delicious street food and get a local experience in one of the roadside restaurants. Alternatively, fine-dining options are available in most towns and cities. If you chose the first, which comes highly recommended regardless of your budget, expect to pay less than $20 (RM 83) in total for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meals in the top restaurants often hover around $50 per person, and you have the choice between Asian, European and Fusion styles.
Alcohol is expensive in Malaysia if you drink in a bar, nightclub or restaurant. A glass of beer in a bar in Kuala Lumpur can cost anything from $5 (RM 20) and higher for 330 ml. You’ll also tend to see a price with ‘++’ following the number. This refers to the fact tax isn’t included. Fine dining with a glass of beer or wine can turn out to be a costly experience in Malaysia. Expect to pay anywhere up to $100 or more (RM 450) for a night of drinks.
Day trips and tours
The next expense to consider is taking day trip and tours. Knowing how much to budget in Malaysia for a day trip is tricky depending on where you are and the chosen tour company. Average prices tend to be around $50 (RM 208) per person, and you’ll often find them quoted in USD. A selection of half and full day tours are available as well as private excursions in Kuala Lumpur and other cities. Expect to pay around $100 to $150 (RM 416 to 623) for a private guide in Kuala Lumpur including all transport, refreshments and meals.
Souvenirs and other expenses
The daily budget for souvenirs in Malaysia shouldn’t be higher than RM 100 ($24). A range of items are available from handicraft and artwork to unique trinkets from regional ethnic groups. You’re not expected to tip in most places, but some do appreciate a few ringgits.
Malaysia offers affordable luxury travel and you could stay in very high-quality accommodation without spending more than $200 per night. If you want to splurge, magnificent resorts in Langkawi will provide the ultimate luxury. Packaged and guided tours tend to cost more but still work out to be relatively inexpensive. In short, you can have Malaysia luxury travel at very affordable prices.