Beyond The Backpacker Hostel: Where Should You Stay In Malaysia?

After being largely ignored for a long time in favour of its more popular neighbours, Malaysia is slowly being discovered by intrepid backpackers looking for something that is a little same same, but different. The big question is, where do you stay when you are exploring this inspirational and majestic country? Are backpacker hostels really all there is? Let this article introduce you to the wide range of accommodation options there are to check out in Malaysia.

One of the biggest questions most first time travellers have is where they will stay during their big trip and the truth is they are spoilt for choice! Most of the time many backpackers tend to limit themselves to hostels or the cheaper accomodation options as they discover an area, which there is absolutely nothing wrong with, but many don’t realise the vast choice of accomodation options they actually have! With a little bit of creative budgeting and an open mind, backpackers can stay in a wide range of accomodation options!

The good news is you will never have a lack of choice of places to stay in Malaysia, with so many different accommodation options  ranging from hostels to high end hotels and everything in between, nothing is beyond your reach. So even if you are a budget backpacker, don’t limit your options and look beyond the simple hostel to the wide range of options available to you.

Beach Huts.

Juara Beach Tioman Island Malaysia

An island hoppers perennial favourite option, the simple beach hut has been a staple of many backpackers accommodation options for a long time. The good news is, even though Malaysia isn’t as well known for its beaches and islands as say Thailand or the Philippines, there are still a lot of stunning beaches available with some basic but perfect beach huts on them, like this one on Juara beach on Tioman island. They aren’t luxury, they often don’t have man amenities, but you really cannot beat waking up right on the beach and being able to walk straight out into that beautiful clear water.


hostel-room gap year accommodation

The basic backpacker staple will never go out of fashion for travellers on a budget looking for a cheap place to stay. Hostels are great, basic and cheap ways to find somewhere to sleep as you explore an area and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them, but unless you are on an ultra tight budget or you fancy a little bit of company and socialisation with other backpackers, there is so much choice at every budget level there is no real need to limit yourself to this option at all.

Guesthouses And Family Homestays.

These are perhaps one of my favourite options as they are often very cheap, not much more than a hostel in fact, with your own private room with decent standards. you get a great, unique private room in a locals home, and you often get a fantastic local experience with some good home cooked meals to boot!

This type of accommodation option often gives you a more unique, personal experience than a hostel or a hotel, and often helps with cultural understanding and immersion too.

Boutique Hotels.

Sri Ratih Cottages Bali Bedroom

Boutique hotels are really plentiful all through Malaysia and aside from guesthouses are quite often my absolute go to option whenever I am in the country.

Boutique hotels are essentially the halfway house between a guest house and a hotel, a small independent place that has all of – if not more – perks and mod cons of a larger hotel, yet still retains the unique style and personal touch of a smaller family run guesthouse. Quite often they have genuinely unique styles as well, and because of the competition more often than not they are more luxurious than their more expensive chain counterparts at a fraction of the price.


Lime Tree Hotel Kuching

Many backpackers dismiss hotels as too expensive or as too far out from the whole ‘backpacker experience’, but they are really missing out. Part of being a backpacker is to experience as much as possible, and as much of a range of experiences as possible during your trip, and a part of that is not limiting yourself to one accommodation option. Hotels really are great places to stay for backpackers on certain occassions, especially when practicality has to come before anything else such as when you are arriving into a new place late at night and need somewhere to get to and get your bearings, or those times where you feel under the weather and need some creature comforts, or even if you have been on the road for a while and just want to decompress. There are even a lot of independent, unique hotel options in Malaysia that offer a far different experience than the cookie cutter chain hotels, and are often worth considering for that reason alone. Hotels can be an amazing option if you look around and get a good deal, and outside of the cities and major tourist hubs often don’t cost that much more than other options, so don’t dismiss them.

Luxury hotels and spas. 

Luxury flashpacking bemused backpacker (2)

That’s right, you didn’t hear me wrong, you did just hear me as a self confessed backpacker recommend a little bit of expensive luxury, but hear me out.

Just as with staying in hotels, travelling the world is about experiencing a whole range of options, and part of that is pampering yourself from time to time too. I do it all the time, and have no qualms at all switching between a budget backpacker and a flashpacker. And neither should you. By all means stay in cheap hostels and beach huts most of the time, they are amazing and worth the experience, but after a few months of that you may be feeling the need to just spoil yourself a little, kick back and relax, and that is where these accommodation options come in.

There is another reason though. Provided that you have budgeted well and not overspent, staying for any length of time in cheap accommodation options will give you a build up of accounted for funds that will allow you to splurge a little and enjoy yourself, and since Malaysia is in general a very inexpensive country by Western standards you can really get great value for money here, and a relatively small amount of money will get you a lot of luxury.

To give you an idea of what I mean, I splurged on the presidential suite pictured above for a few nights, three huge rooms, gold plated taps, a private pool and a butler on call for less than half I would pay per night for a basic chain B&B back home in the UK. Yes the rate was more than my usual budget but the experience was worth the splurge, because when else would I be able to experience this level of luxury?

Don’t deny yourself!

The Unique Options.

Malaysia is littered with such unique accommodation options that they are literally impossible to categorise individually. From jungle hides and luxury treehouses in the national parks of Malaysian Borneo to liveaboard diving boats off Sipadan and traditional native longhouses, and many of them xoting no more than the average guesthouse per night, Malaysia has a lot to offer the intrepid traveller.

So if you are a backpacker heading to Malaysia, even if you are on a tight budget, don’t limit yourself to just the basic hostel. Malaysia has a whole host of fantastic accomodation options to unique longhouses to amazing hotels. Get out there, explore this truly wonderful country and take advantage of as many different types of nights sleep as you can!

Did you like this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

 10 Travel Hotspots That Prove You Shouldn’t Miss Malaysia On Your Gap Year.

Hotel Review: Berjaya Times Square Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.

Hotel Review: The Lime Tree Hotel, Kuching, Sarawak.

How To Travel Overland From Singapor To Malaysia.

Juara Beach, A Jewel In Malaysia’s Crown.


The 7 Best Day Trips From Kuala Lumpur.

Three Days In Kuala Lumpur.

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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12 comments on “Beyond The Backpacker Hostel: Where Should You Stay In Malaysia?
  1. Hani says:

    Oh wow, I’ve never even really thought of staying in anywhere but hostels, I’ve tried a few guesthouses from time to time but that is it. You are an absolute legend! Xo

  2. Alison says:

    If you don’t mind me asking how exactly did you afford to stay in nice hotels like that when you are on a budget? I’m travelling SEAsia at the moment and I know I couldn’t.

    • I don’t mind at all, it’s quite straightforward, I just budget well. That’s it. If I’m travelling long term I will budget a certain amount for my accommodation per night (say for example £8 -10 GBP) and will stay in budget places most of the time (say around £5 per night), so after a few weeks or months I have a surplus that I can spoil myself with and upgrade to flashpacker status for a bit. Plus hotels can always be bartered down on walk in rack rates just like anywhere else, and there are great deals to be had online if you look out for them.

  3. I don’t know what looks more enticing! That luxury balcony or that hammock! ;D Where was the pic with the hammock taken?

    • Haha I know what you mean. That picture was taken on Tioman Island, on Juara beach. They were some of the garden huts, behind me were a few beach huts and then the open beach! Beautiful place. 🙂

  4. Laura Vitty says:

    Yes! This! I’ve never understood why so many backpackers have such a limited mindset and think you aren’t a ‘real’ backpacker if you don’t stay in ultra budget places all the time! If I’m travelling long term I like to have a bit of privacy every few weeks or so and like to get a comfy room with a private bathroom, that doesn’t mean I’m not a backpacker!

  5. thanks for the tips. been to malaysia but i am planning to go back with my family. 🙂

  6. Liam says:

    I love homestays, definitely the best type of accommodation!

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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