Last updated: 06:00 PM ET, Mon December 14 2015

Why Malaysia Earned Its Spot As The Best Asia Pacific Destination

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | December 14, 2015

Why Malaysia Earned Its Spot As The Best Asia Pacific Destination

Malaysia flies under the radar, especially for Western travelers. Some people might have been surprised to see that it beat out Thailand, Singapore and China for the title of Leading Travel Destination in the Asia Pacific at the 2015 World Travel Awards.

Malaysia jostles with neighboring Thailand for third position on the list of most visited Asia Pacific destinations (China and Hong Kong occupy the top 2 spots). 2014 brought around 27 million international arrivals to the country.
Malaysia has a lot going for it as a travel destination, though perhaps the image of its capital, Kuala Lumpur, as a modernized, Westernized city can't compete with exotic Thailand or Vietnam.

A very practical destination

Malaysia's capital deserves a bit more attention than it gets from travelers from the West. On a practical level, it is arguably one of the world's cheapest modern cities. There are budget guesthouses and hostels, of course. However, Malaysia also has some of the lowest hotel rates overall in the region. This makes it accessible to novice travelers or people who are just introducing themselves to Asia (who aren't ready to go "full backpacker mode"). They can stay in a four-star or five-star for the same price as much lower quality hotel elsewhere. Average nightly rates are around $50, even in Kuala Lumpur. 

Another practical trait: AirAsia, one of the world's biggest low cost carriers, is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur. This makes it a good base for exploring the region via cheap flights.

English is widely spoken throughout Malaysia. Not quite to the level of neighboring Singapore, but there will be no language barrier to speak of unless you find yourself in the deep jungle. Many urban dwellers, especially those of Chinese and South Asia descent, actually speak English as a first language. 

The public transit system in KL is fairly useful, though perhaps a bit more confusing than that of neighboring Singapore. Taxis are cheap and plentiful and the lack of a language barrier makes them easy to use (albeit a little bit frightening during rush hour).

Microcosm of the region

The country's ethnic makeup also provides a glimpse of Asia's major cultures. South Asians, people of Chinese descent and Malays (not to mention a huge expat community) create a mixture of cultures and cuisines that it quite rare. Yes, ethnic tensions sometimes pop up amongst Malaysia's different groups, but all things considered, everyone gets along reasonably well.

An accessible place

You could argue endlessly about the nuances of what makes a good destination or what variables should be considered when comparing the qualities of different destinations. But, from a purely touristic standpoint, Malaysia is arguably one of the world's most practical destinations. Yes, you will probably find more excitement and exoticism elsewhere, unless you are a food lover, in which case you will never need to travel anywhere besides Malaysia and neighboring Singapore.

The World Travel Awards was right to recognize Malaysia this year. It provides the perfect user-friendly, introductory experience to travels new to the region (or new to international travel in general).

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