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Where to Stay in Malaysia: Lodging Tips

SmarterTravel

Malaysia offers everything from luxurious, big-city accommodations to humble village homestays. You’ll find international chains, hostels and small boutique hotels; colonial grand dames and cheap backpacker joints. But while high-end and low-end lodgings are plentiful, you might have more difficulty finding a range of choices in the mid-priced category.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind when deciding where to stay in Malaysia:

– Be prepared for touts in some areas, particularly those popular with backpackers.

– If you see “++” or “plus-plus,” that means tax and a service charge will be added to the quoted price, typically 6 percent for tax and 10 percent for service.

– During holiday periods or festivals, rates rise and availability gets tight (be sure to check for Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu celebrations, depending on where you’re going).

– Proprietors will most likely want to see your passport, and some may want to keep it until you check out — so it’s always good to have a photocopied backup to carry with you.

Take a look at the following Malaysia lodging options to get you started on your adventure.

Hotels

There’s been a hotel boom in Malaysia over the past few years, with more and more international chains staking claims — most particularly in Kuala Lumpur.

The Accor hotel group is well represented, with brands in multiple price ranges, including Pullman, Novotel and Ibis. The IHG group is represented by InterContinental and Crown Plaza properties, while Sheraton, Best Western and Marriott also have a presence. Luxury brands like Four Seasons and Shangri-La have opened resorts in Malaysia too; Langkawi is particularly popular for high-end resorts.

You’ll also find plenty of local operators, including the budget chain My Home Hotel, the mid-priced Hotel Seri Malaysia chain and the reasonable Vistana group. There are many small operators and family-run hotels as well, so you’ll have lots of choices, particularly on the budget end.

There is a country-wide hotel rating system that ranges from one to five stars, based on criteria that include facilities, cleanliness, ambience, service and safety. A one-star hotel will be very basic, without air conditioning, and may share a bathroom. Two stars get you air conditioning and Wi-Fi, but you still may have a shared bath. Three stars add a guaranteed private bath, basic cable TV, a phone and other amenities, as well as a slightly larger minimum room size. Four-star properties up the size again and add more services and amenities. Five-star hotels are as good as it gets, with more space, 24-hour room service, expanded facilities (including a spa) and perks such as limo service.

Note that standard rooms at some hotels are referred to as “superior,” so don’t be misled; this is the hotel’s basic offering.

Malaysia Hotel Resources:
AccorHotels.com
BestWestern.com
FourSeasons.com
IHG.com
Marriott.com
MyHomeHotel.com.my
Shangri-La.com
SeriMalaysia.com.my
Sheraton.com
TripAdvisor.com
www.VistanaHotels.com

Historical Lodging

From gracious old colonial hotels to boutique mansions or shophouse lodgings in George Town and Melaka, you have some interesting historical options in Malaysia. (A word about shophouses: These are older buildings that typically had storefronts on the ground floor and family quarters upstairs. They’re found in many locations around Southeast Asia, typically where Chinese traders settled. Some hotels combine multiple shophouses.)

Particularly worth noting are the lovely colonial-era Eastern & Oriental Hotel, the landmark Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (also known as the Blue Mansion), Campbell House, and the shophouse Straits Collection Residences — all in George Town, Penang. In other cities, consider KL’s beautifully refurbished 1932 Majestic Hotel (some rooms in a modern wing), as well as the Majestic Malacca, with its public spaces located in a 1920s mansion and rooms in a modern building.

Malaysia Historical Lodging Resources:
CampbellHousePenang.com
CheongFattTzeMansion.com
EOHotels.com
www.MajesticKL.com
www.MajesticMalacca.com
StraitsCollection.com.my

Vacation Rentals and Serviced Apartments

If you’re more independent or spending an extended amount of time in one location, you might decide to go with a vacation rental. TripAdvisor, Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway have listings in Malaysia, ranging from basic rooms to condos and beach villas. iBilik is a Malaysian listing service with a database of rooms and short-term rentals.

There are also local resources, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, home to the E&O Residences. But you’ll find serviced apartments in Penang, Melaka and other locations too, like those operated by Sekeping.

Be sure to check out reviews before booking — but remember, previous guests may have had different needs or expectations than you do.

Before committing, question the rental agent or host about street noise and safety. Ask about restaurants and shops in the neighborhood, transportation and where the nearest market can be found. Check availability of air conditioning, hot water, continuous electricity, Wi-Fi and phone service. If there’s no phone, consider how you will contact the agency or host, since your own cell phone may not work in Malaysia. Carry the emergency number with you at all times in case you lose your keys.

Malaysia Vacation Rental Resources:
Airbnb.com
EOResidences.com
HomeAway.com
iBilik.my
Sekeping.com
TripAdvisor.com
VRBO.com

B&Bs, Guesthouses and Homestays

The terms “B&B,” “guesthouse” and “homestay” are sometimes used interchangeably in Malaysia, so be sure to clarify what the situation is. One of the most interesting Malaysian experiences is to stay in a longhouse, a single structure that can house an entire village’s residents. You’ll find these in rural Borneo, particularly near rivers.

Accommodations in this category vary widely, so be sure to determine what type of bathroom facilities exist (they may be Asian-style squat toilets or even out back at longhouses) and what services are available.

Always get a clear idea of what your lodgings will actually be like before committing, and consider working with a tour company such as Adventure Alternative Borneo if remote trekking and homestays are on your wishlist. For other homestay options around the country, check out Cari Homestay listings and government-endorsed Go2Homestay.

Malaysia B&B and Homestay Resources:
AABorneo.com
CariHomestay.net
Go2Homestay.com
SabahTourism.com
TripAdvisor.com

Hostels and Dormitories

Malaysia offers plenty of budget accommodations, which can range from bare-bones hotels and dorms to hostels accredited by Hostelling International’s Malaysian branch. There are also hostels in some of Malaysia’s national parks.

Check for options like fans, Wi-Fi and availability of hot water if those are necessities for you. And, as always, put safety first and keep an eye on your belongings. Unless you’re staying at an accredited hostel, always check out where you’ll be sleeping before committing.

Malaysia Hostel Resources:
HI-Malaysia.org.my

Park Lodgings and Camping

Many state and national parks offer accommodations, including campsites, dorms, hostels, huts, chalets and lodges. At some, you may even be able to rent a tent. It’s generally best to reserve in advance, particularly in Kinabalu National Park. You can book lodging for Kinabalu National Park through Sutera Sanctuary Lodges, which are part of the Sutera Harbour development.

There isn’t much camping available elsewhere in Malaysia, and it’s rarely allowed on beaches.

Malaysia Park Resources:
MountKinabalu.com/stay
SarawakForestry.com
SuteraSanctuaryLodges.com.my
TamanNegara.org

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–written by Gayle Keck

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