What do you do if you’re running low on cash, but you’ve got a thirst for exploration? Look for free things to do, of course!
Many popular attractions will cost you a pretty penny, but Malaysia’s chock full of fun, exciting activities for you to do that won’t cost you entry fees – all you have to do is look around.
Or, you know, you could simply check out this article: we’ve listed the top 5 free things to do in the country’s favorite destinations!
Explore Kuala Lumpur’s historical buildings on the Heritage Walk
Take a free guided walking tour around the heart of Kuala Lumpur and learn about the stories behind the city’s rich history. Organized by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, the 2 1/2 hour tour will take you to 11 key sites within walking distance from Merdeka Square, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Panggung Bandaraya (City Theatre Hall).
Catch a colorful dance performance at Central Market
Located right next to Pasar Seni LRT station is Central Market, which hosts a weekly cultural dance performance every Saturday at 8pm. Head to the Outdoor Stage to experience the beauty of Malaysia’s unique cultures.
Take a selfie in front of the Petronas Twin Towers
Malaysia’s iconic symbol, the Petronas Twin Towers, is one of the city’s top attractions – and for good reason. After your impromptu photoshoot, head to KLCC Park and wait for nightfall, when the Rhythmic Water Fountain will come to life in a burst of colorful lights.
Stroll around the peaceful Lake Gardens
Tucked behind the bustling KL Sentral, as you’re wandering around the Lake Gardens, it’s hard to believe that you’re in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. This is why it’s a favorite spot among locals to get away from the noise and crowds of the city.
The Gardens include the Orchid Garden and Hibiscus Garden, which are free entry from Mondays to Fridays. From here, you can easily walk to Tugu Negara (the National Monument) and the National Mosque, just opposite from the Gardens.
Conquer the 272 steps leading up to Batu Caves
Jump on a Komuter train and stop at the Batu Caves station, which is right at the foot of Batu Caves, the home of a renowned Hindu cave temple and shrine. The holy site attracts over a million worshippers and tourists from around the world every year. At the base of the stairs is an imposing golden statue of Lord Murugan, the tallest statue of his likeness.
Entrance to the main cave (known as Temple Cave) is free, so once you’ve made it to the top and taken a breath or two, you can stare in awe at the vastness of the limestone cave and its vaulted ceiling.
Admire the brightly-hued Red Square
Also known as the Dutch Square, the Red Square gets its name from its distinct brick-red color, which envelops the buildings surrounding it, such as Christ Church and Stadthuys, an administrative building built by the Dutch in 1650. It’s believed to be the oldest remaining Dutch historical building in the East, and is now home to the History and Ethnography Museum.
Get a panoramic view of the city at the top of St. Paul’s Hill
Climb up St. Paul’s Hill and you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Melaka City. At the top of the hill is also St. Paul’s Church, the oldest church building in Malaysia and the region at nearly 500 years old.
Visit the ruins of an old Portuguese fortress at A Famosa
Sitting at the base of St. Paul Hill is A Famosa, which means “The Famous” in Portuguese, the remnants of an old fortress. The only part of it left standing is a small gate house, known as Porta de Santiago. It is among the oldest surviving European architectural remains in Southeast Asia.
Soak in the lively atmosphere at Jonker Street Night Market
One of my favorite night markets, the Jonker Street Night Market is full of souvenirs and knick-knacks for you to browse, from clothes to handicrafts. Make sure to sample the scrumptious street food, such as oyster omelette and Chinese carrot cake.
Catch the sunset at the Melaka Straits Mosque
Located on the man-made island of Melaka Island just off the city’s coast, the Melaka Straits Mosque provides a magnificent view, especially around sunset. Walk along the beach to catch the right angle as the mosque lights up.
Get interactive with the George Town street murals
Urban artist Ernest Zacharevic put George Town on the map with a series of street murals that feature an element of interactivity, inviting visitors to make themselves a part of the art piece. Scattered across the city’s narrow streets, each mural is a welcome surprise for visitors exploring the area on foot.
See diversity and unity in action at the Street of Harmony
The 800-meter long street is a proud display of Malaysia’s multicultural roots and how they exist in peace together. Officially known as Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, the street has a house of worship representing the country’s major religions. Along the short stretch is St. George’s Church, the Goddess of Mercy Temple, Sri Maha Mariamman Kovil, and Kapitan Keling Mosque.
Check out the esteemed Chinese clan houses
Penang’s clan houses are among the most well-maintained in the region, in all their gilded splendor. Also known as kongsi, the intricately decorated clan houses are home to the family’s ancestral altars, where family members pay their respects to their ancestors. Cheah Kongsi is one of the five prominent clan houses and has no entrance fee, so you’re free to explore the grounds.
Appreciate the blooms at Penang Botanic Gardens
Also known as the Waterfall Gardens thanks to the nearby waterfalls, the Penang Botanic Gardens is an oasis of calm amongst lush greenery. Originally a quarry site, Gardens are now a popular recreational site for locals and a breath of fresh air for visitors. Be wary of the Gardens’ resident macaque monkeys – they won’t be shy to come right up to you if they think you’ve got any food on you.
Challenge yourself to a hike up Penang Hill
Skip the RM30 return ticket (RM10 for MyKad holders) on the funicular train up Penang Hill. Instead, take the scenic route up the trail. There are several trails you can take to get to the top, but one of the more well-known trails starts at the Moon Gate, located along Jalan Kebun Bunga near the Penang Botanic Gardens. Another trail, the Heritage Trail, starts near the funicular station.