How To Choose Between Visiting Indonesia Or Malaysia

Indonesia or Malaysia?

Southeast Asia is one of the most exotic destinations in the world. It’s no wonder why backpackers flock to the ‘Hippy Trail’ and ‘Silk Road’ routes. This part of the world is alive with vibrant cultures, tasty food , insane landscapes that will leave you breathless, and fantastic Asian nature for adventures in the great outdoors. Both Indonesia and Malaysia are no exception; they each offer an adventure of a lifetime in their own unique ways.

But how do you choose between Indonesia or Malaysia?

There are many crossovers and similarities between the two, but there are plenty of differences as well. We’ve spent many a sunset in each of these incredible destinations, discovering the quirks and smirks behind them both. Here is your ultimate comparison guide between Indonesia and Malaysia, dedicated to helping you choose between these two Southeast Asia gems. So which is it for you? Indonesia or Malaysia?

Table of Contents

Indonesia or Malaysia: The Overall Vibe

man surfing in Lombok

Southeast Asia shares a laid-back and easy-going overall vibe across most of the region. Both Indonesia and Malaysia have a slower pace to life when compared to the Western world, with the iconic “island time” depending on where you end up in each country. So it is safe to say, both are worth visiting for the cultural experiences and (hopefully) relaxing vibes.

Bali is ranked the number 1 tourist destination in 2021, above the likes of Phuket, Amsterdam, and London. This small island in Indonesia is one of the biggest attractions for tourists, however, it does have a unique vibe to other Indonesian destinations. That being said, Indo is generally extremely welcoming to tourists and the friendly locals are more than willing to share their beautiful country.

Malaysians are equally welcoming in tourist hubs, but they don’t quite match the unique charm and warmth of the Indonesians.

Both countries are predominantly Muslim, though Indonesia does have a variety of religions across individual islands. The Malay’s tend to be stricter in their beliefs and social expectations. That being said, you should always be respectful of the nation’s cultures and customs that you are visiting.

Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital city and has a whole ream of things to offer. Jakarta is the Indonesian counterpart and has slightly fewer things to do for the average tourist.

Winner: Indonesia – the welcoming nature and overall vibe of the Indonesian people is difficult to beat

Indonesia or Malaysia: Nature and Landscapes

pink beach in Komodo island

Indonesia and Malaysia are both hot, tropical countries with a similar humid climate. Both have a diverse nature and landscape consisting of coastal regions, islands, mountainous interiors, rice terraces, and jungles. However, Indonesia takes the title of the most amount of islands with over 17,000 – Malaysia only has 878 islands. So as you can imagine, the coastal landscape in Indonesia is incredible.

Both have more to offer than coastal paradises with swaying palm trees and warm waters. The landscapes of Malaysia and Indonesia have similarities, in the fact they have tropical rainforests, but are also vastly different.

The Indonesian landscape has been carved out by volcanoes, both active and dormant. Jungles dominate many of the islands and are teeming with weird and wonderful animals . But it is here that Malaysia steals the show. The mountainous rainforests offer world-class trekking and incredible wildlife spotting.

Borneo is an interesting part of the world. It is split between 3 countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, and the small sultanate of Brunei. The Gunung Mulu National Park is home to several rare species, packed full of fascinating flora and fauna. On the Malaysian side, you can catch a glimpse of the rare and endangered pygmy elephant. Go to the Indonesian part of Borneo and discover the majestic orangutan in the wild.

Winner: Malaysia – it is a hard call to make, but Malaysia’s diversity of the landscape just takes the win

Indonesia or Malaysia: Food

Famous Malaysian food

Food is one of the most important aspects of vacation destination decision-making. Malaysian food culture and Indonesian cuisine have plenty of crossovers with some key differences to put them against each other.

Both places use full-flavor spices, rice as a staple, and fresh fish among other meats. Expect to find satay, rendang, and the controversial durian across both countries. Indonesia and Malaysia share a community-style of cooking in either street food or local warungs; you can go to local eateries that serve in a buffet style and charge low prices.

Tourist hotspots across the two countries have an incredible range of restaurants and cuisines. Canggu in Bali is full of vegan-friendly and trendy gastronomies. Kuala Lumpur likewise has a lot to offer, being the capital of Malaysia, serving delicious food on every corner. Malaysia’s cuisine is more diverse and influenced by the multicultural population; you’ll notice elements of Chinese, Indian, and Thai cooking throughout.

So, what are the differences between the two cuisines?

  • Malaysia has more Indian influence throughout the local dishes, more Indian restaurants in the main cities, and they often eat roti canai (an Indian fried bread).
  • Indonesian sambal is more hardcore than the sweeter Malaysian version. Indo’s like their spice to be fiery and bold. However, there is plenty of variety of sambal available in Indonesia to suit everyone’s taste.
  • There are more soups in Indonesia. Think soto ayam and bakso .

Winner: Malaysia – it’s a hard decision, but Malaysia wins because of the diversity. That doesn’t mean we don’t love a post-surf Nasi Goreng in Bali!

Indonesia or Malaysia: Beaches

Beach in Indonesia

It’s no secret that Indonesia’s coast is incredible. There are sandy beaches ranging in color, from volcanic black to white gold and dusty pink paradises. Around the islands are rich and vibrant coral reefs teeming with life; the Komodo National Park just off Flores has some of the most diverse and healthy reefs on the planet, as well as the famous Komodo dragons on the land.

Indonesia’s beaches are also world-famous within the surf community. Swell wraps around the archipelago and blesses the shorelines with some of the best waves in the world. From Bali’s playground to the Nias monster waves, Indo is a surfers paradise as well, as a divers dream.

Malaysia also has incredible beaches and coastlines, and most of them are remote, creating that picturesque image we all have of the tropics of swaying palm trees. Surf is a no-go, but diving and snorkeling on the Malay reefs is an experience of a lifetime.

Here are some of the most noteworthy beaches you have to visit:

Winner: Indonesia – there are just so many beaches across the thousands of Indonesian islands

Indonesia or Malaysia: Things To Do

Nusa Penida island

Besides surfing and scuba diving, a trip to Southeast Asia has a lot to offer. If you love experiencing the great outdoors then you’re in the right place. From jungle trekking to volcano hiking, iconic skyscrapers to sprawling cities, Malaysia and Indonesia have it all.

Move away from Bali and you will discover a raw and untainted side to Indonesia. Discovering the natural beauty of surrounding islands is mainly what Indonesia has to offer. Exploring exotic jungles, finding hidden waterfalls, and haggling at local markets are some of the most popular things to do in Indo. You can also learn about the religion by paying respect to temples or visit turtle rehabilitation centers.

Volcano hikes are super cool things to do when visiting Indonesia. There is the ever popular Mt. Batur in Bali that is relatively easy to climb. For more of a challenge, head to either Mt. Ijen in East Java or Mt. Rinjani in Lombok .

Most tourists travel from island to island, experiencing the diverse cultures and flavors when visiting Indonesia. Malaysia is much the same but is often underrated when compared to Indo. Kuala Lumpur is a popular tourist destination in its own right. There is loads to do here, including: the Petronas Towers, the Batu Caves, and the botanical gardens. Head to the more rural areas of Malayasia to visit National Parks, orangutan sancutaries, and colonial architecture.

Winner: Indonesia – the Indonesian volcanoes and waterfalls steal the show

Indonesia or Malaysia: Hotels

Private villa in Bali

One of the main highlights of traveling through Southeast Asia is being able to afford to stay like royalty while you’re out there. From high-rise city hotels to beachfront resorts, private villas to boutique hostels, Indonesia and Malaysia offer a fantastic range of hotels and accommodations for travelers. Standards across both countries are high and you can expect daily housekeeping in most places.

Generally speaking, Indonesia is cheaper for accommodation than Malaysia. Whether you are after luxurious hotels or are traveling more on a budget, you will be able to find somewhere to suit your needs in Indonesia. Many of the guesthouses and hotels include breakfast in the room rate which adds more value to your stay. Just be warned, many islands use saltwater for amenity facilities.

Hotels are beginning to appear in Malaysia’s rural areas, making trips out here more feasible. Within the cities, you can expect higher prices for a fairly good standard of accommodation.

Overall, there are twice the amount of hotel choices for Indonesia on as there are for Malaysia. This is for a simple reason that Indonesia receives a greater number of tourists.

Winner: Indonesia – across the Indonesian islands there is so much choice for where to stay, all at a good price

Indonesia or Malaysia: Getting Around

Ferry from Bali to Lombok

The lack of transport and infrastructure only adds to the charm of traveling through Southeast Asia. However, that being said, getting around Malaysia is significantly easier than around Indonesia. There is far less water to navigate for starters.

To hop from island to island in Indo is an adventure, but boats and ferries can be unreliable with last-minute cancellations and delays, not to mention the motion sickness aspect. Buses across Indonesia do exist but are notorious for their difficulty in use. And again, you can expect delays, cancellations, and even seat-sharing with chickens.

Whereas, Malaysia offers more reliable bus services and even a train to get across the country. The airports are larger with more options and routes. Generally speaking, traveling around Malaysia is just easier and a whole lot less stressful than in Indonesia.

Winner: Malaysia – for ease of getting around the country, Malaysia takes this one

Indonesia or Malaysia: Price

Indonesian Rupiah

Traveling through Asia on a shoestring budget is a rite of passage for travelers and backpackers. You can stay and eat like a king or queen, without breaking the bank, or completely slum it and extend your travels to months if wanted. Both Indonesia and Malaysia are considered cheap places to visit.

The main cities are slightly more expensive, like Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, but are still cheap in the grand scheme of things. So, which is the cheapest destination?

Winner: Indonesia – overall Indonesia is the most budget-friendly destination

Decision Making: Malaysia vs. Indonesia

It is safe to assume that you will have a fantastic time in both Malaysia and Indonesia, regardless of which destination you choose. Yet, if we were pushed to make a decision, we would have to say that Indonesia takes the mantel of the better place to visit. With budget-friendly prices, an abundance of hotel choices, and breathtaking beaches and landscapes, Indonesia is sure to steal a piece of your heart.

If you are wanting the best beaches and good-time vibes, then Indonesia has to be your choice. However, this vast country can be challenging to travel around and see all of the sights. If you are looking for an easier place to see more attractions then perhaps Malaysia is more for you.

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For more than 11 years, Joe has worked as a freelance travel writer. His writing and explorations have brought him to various locations, including the colonial towns of Mexico, the bustling chowks of Mumbai, and the majestic Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not crafting his next epic blog post on the top Greek islands or French ski resorts, he can often be found engaging in his top two hobbies of surfing and hiking.

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Malaysia or Indonesia? Your next Asian adventure awaits…

Bright green rice terraces with the rising figure of Mt. Algung in the distance.

Picking a country out of a hat was sooo last year.

So, you’ve picked the continent ( Asia ) but can’t settle on the country you want to explore. Don’t be alarmed, it’s an incredibly common problem. Like how are you supposed to decide between the diverse landscapes of Malaysia or Indonesia ’s paradise-like island of Bali ?

That’s where we come in. To help you on your way to decision-making success, we’ve put together a guide comparing these two spectacular countries, so you don’t have to spend all your free time googling. You’re welcome.

Whether you’re more interested in customs and culture or your tastebuds are already salivating at the thought of traditional cuisine, this blog will determine which country you should visit next. Fingers crossed.

A collection of red candles being lit.

You don’t just get one culture when you travel to Malaysia, you get several. With Indian, Chinese, Malay, and Eurasian influences, Malaysia is truly a melting pot of cultural diversity and with that comes plenty of traditions, religions, foods, languages, and customs.

However, regardless of your ethnic background, there are some things in Malaysian culture that all groups embrace. The elderly demographic is respected and well looked after, as are those who rank higher in society (large economic wealth, government officials etc), and food is often used in religious ceremonies and celebrations.

The religions found in Malaysia vary from Buddhism and Hinduism to Christianity and Islam with most displays of faith widely accepted among the wider population, even if they’re not part of that religion.


Local dancers in traditional dress.

If you thought Malaysia’s culture was diverse then times that by 10 and you’ve got the culture of Indonesia. With people heralding from all over the world including India, Portugal, China, and Malaysia, Indonesia is influenced by its neighbours when it comes to religion, cuisine, and way of life.

But despite the vast difference in language groups (there are over 300) and ethnic groups among the population, this country’s bond is strengthened against a common concept with its national slogan – Unity in Diversity. This core value is filtered through local communities with ideas of gotong royong (mutual assistance) and mufakat (consensus) dictating everyday life.

Religion plays a bigger and stricter part in society for the majority of Indonesians as everyone needs to choose a religion which is then listed on their national identification card. The majority of Indonesians practice Islam (around 88%) but Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Confucianism are all prevalent as well.


The skyscraper filled skyline of Kuala Lumpur against a blue sky.

The landscapes of Malaysia are like something out of this world – think golden sandy beaches, reefs bursting with marine life, flourishing highlands, and cities full of life and colour. Thanks to its environmental diversity, you’ll never run out of fascinating things to do and extraordinary places to see.

If you’re after ‘busy city’ vibes, heading to Kuala Lumpur will satisfy you with its skyscraper-filled skyline, trendy cocktail scene, and shopping malls packed with every boutique under the sun. If greenery is more your thing, then you’ll instantly fall in love with the rocky spectacles and ancient forests of Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak. If you just want a beach getaway, the islands of Pulau Perhentian offer that and more with exotic marine life under the water’s surface and enough ocean activities to fill your afternoons.


Aerial view of some of Indonesia's luscious islands, surrounded by blue water.

Indonesia’s landscapes are guaranteed to leave you awestruck with dense tropical forests, never-ending rice fields, volcanic mountain ranges, and pristine coastlines among the natural wonders you won’t be able to get out of your mind. With over 17,000 islands including Bali, Sumatra, and Java to explore, Indonesia promises landscapes that have a little something for everyone.

From the breathtaking form of Mount Bromo in the Tengger-Semeru National Park (Java) to Komodo National Park (part of the new seven wonders of the world) with its rich marine ecosystems and the imposing komodo dragon, this diverse archipelago will never stop amazing you. And that’s a promise.  


Ingredients being cooked in a wok in Malaysia.

There are few countries that can compete with the likes of Malaysian cuisine, or with the passion of Malaysian people when it comes to food, and with good reason.

Due to its diverse population, Malaysian cuisine draws heavily on its Asian neighbours with favourite dishes such as murtabak (fried bread stuffed with meat and onion), roti canai (a flaky flatbread that’s often served with a savoury dipping sauce), and ayam madu (honey fried chicken) all originally from a different country.

But that’s not all. After a full day spent exploring, sit down to a meal of nasi lemak (considered to be the national dish of Malaysia), a bowl of laksa or a plate of mee siam if you’re after something a little sweet and spicy.

And wash it down with a glass of air bandung – a condensed milk and rose syrup concoction – that’s enjoyed all over the Asian continent.  


A group of travellers gathered around a local food stall in Indonesia.

Indonesian food is a treat for the tastebuds with traditional dishes full of rice, meat, and vegetables – a winning combination. You’re probably already familiar with some of the most popular foods to try in Indonesia (like satay and beef rendang) but sitting down to eat them in the country of their origin hits different.

Rice is a staple food for most Indonesian families, so you’ll find it on every restaurant or café menu across the country. But if steamed rice isn’t your thing, why not try Indonesia’s famous nasi goreng? Boasting the title of Indonesia’s national dish, nasi goreng is essentially this country’s version of fried rice but what sets it apart from the versions of its Asian neighbours is the sticky, sweet sauce that it gets cooked with.

If you’re thirsty (as well as hungry), a cup of tea or coffee should do the trick when it comes to raising those hydration levels. While they might not sound super refreshing after a long day spent exploring, Indonesia’s versions are sweeter than you might be used to, making them the perfect accompaniment to any meal.


The verdict

Both Malaysia and Indonesia are similar in so many ways, and while it can be hard to separate them, they do have their own distinct feel. Indonesia probably takes out the top spot when it comes to landscapes but both countries are pretty much tied in terms of cuisine and culture.

This one’s tough but Indonesia, take your crown.  


Feeling inspired?

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

Kate Gazzard

When I was 11, my parents asked me whether I wanted a pool for the house or a trip to Fiji. I chose Fiji, and I've made travelling as much as I can a priority ever since.

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15 things to know before you travel malaysia.

15 Things To Know Before You Travel Malaysia

Planning to head to Malaysia soon? Then here’s the 15 things to know ahead of your trip there…

One of my favourite countries to travel in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is a treat you shouldn’t keep waiting on your bucket list for too long.

Thanks to its wonderfully unique culture, staggering natural diversity and some of the most kickass food in the world, this country gets the full thumbs up from me.

But there’s a few things you should probably know before you travel Malaysia to ensure you get the best out of your time there.

From culture to geography, this is a diverse country and one where it really does pay off to do a bit of research in advance, especially if you’re travelling independently.

So here goes…

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#1 A County of 2 Halves

Malaysia, Perhentian, Island

One of the most important things to know about travelling Malaysia is that there are 2 geographical parts to the country – Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo.

The Malaysian Peninsula is what I would describe as the mainland and is connected via land borders with Thailand and Singapore.

Kuala Lumpur is situated on the Malaysian Peninsula and, for this reason, most travellers spend the majority of their time there.

Malaysian Borneo is more remote and is generally only accessed via flights from Peninsular Malaysia.

Most travellers head here to see the orangutans, visit some of the country’s top national parks and get off the beaten track.

If you only have a short amount of time to travel Malaysia (like 2 weeks or less) then I would stick to the Peninsula – there’s a ton of stuff to do there and it will prove more cost-effective without the need for additional flights.

With longer than 2 weeks, there’s definitely time to get away from the crowds and explore a bit of Malaysian Borneo.

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#2 How to Get to Malaysia?

Malaysia, Georgetown, Clan Jettie

Arriving By Air

Most international tourists will arrive into Malaysia’s bustling capital – Kuala Lumpur.

The city’s airport is a major international hub, with flights arriving from across Southeast Asia and around the world.

You can also use the airport to grab domestic flights to other destinations within Malaysia – just be warned that the distance between the international and domestic terminals is massive so allow plenty of time for connections.

It literally took me half an hour at my fastest pace to dash between them and I walk fast!

If you are looking to get the best flight prices for Malaysia, I always recommend checking out Skyscanner who advertise deals for international, as well as domestic flights, including those operated by low-cost carriers.

Arriving By Land & Sea

Otherwise, if you’re arriving from other parts of Southeast Asia, it’s useful to know that Malaysia shares land borders with both Thailand and Singapore.

It’s an easy process to cross to Singapore by bus from the cities of either Kuala Lumpur or Malacca – just be aware of the strict border restrictions if you are entering Singapore.

Arriving from Thailand is possible into the north of Malaysia via bus from cities such as Krabi and Trang.

When it comes to booking any international buses in the Southeast Asia region, I always use 12Go – a great website that provides secure booking for hundreds of bus journeys across the region.

Otherwise, you can also enter Malaysia via boat from the Thai island of Koh Lipe, which will get you to the Malaysian island of Langkawi in around 90 minutes.

From Langkawi, you can then travel on to the island of Penang and, from there, across to Peninsular Malaysia.

#3 How to Get Around?

Malaysia, Penang, Buidings

And when it comes to getting around Malaysia, you have a few options too.

Travelling by Bus

Domestic buses are the cheapest way to get around Malaysia, with regular connections running between all cities.

Buses in Malaysia are very comfortable, clean and well organised.

Usually leaving from centralised bus stations, they run on time and you can book tickets in advance with 12Go .

With distances often large between cities, night buses are common in Malaysia and a good way to save money on a night’s accommodation.

Comfortable and clean, I travelled as a solo female on night buses in Malaysia and always found them very safe… if not a little cold.

Yup they crank the aircon on these guys, so always remember to bring a travel blanket to keep warm.

If you want to get a good night’s sleep, I also advise taking a travel pillow and decent eye mask .

Travelling By Air

You can also use domestic flights to get between destinations within Malaysia.

While I wouldn’t advise them for your budget or your carbon footprint within Peninsular Malaysia, they will be a necessary evil if you want hope across the sea to Malaysian Borneo.

Use Skyscanner to find the best deals.

Travelling Short Distances

And within cities and towns in Malaysia, it’s all about either walking around or using the great ride-sharing app Grab to get about.

You can learn more about why I love ridesharing apps as a traveller here .

Grab works brilliantly across many countries in Southeast Asia and you can use it for vehicle transport, motorbike transport or food delivery.

Definitely download this app one before you travel Malaysia!

Within Kuala Lumpur, there’s also a great metro system you can use to get around, which is cheap and easy.

English-speaking staff can be found at all stations and there’s helpful signs, as well as ticket machines instructions in English too – winning!

Kuala Lumpur also has a free shuttle bus that runs around the capital on a 4-coloured loop system and operates on a hop-on hop-off basis.

#4 When to Visit & How Long For?

Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Temples

With a large country separated into 2 main parts, there’s a lot of travel time to be accounted for when moving around Malaysia.

Add into this mix, the amount of things there are to do in the country and there’s no question it’s easy to spend 2-4 weeks here… and still not see everything.

For backpackers who are adventuring the Southeast Asia region, I’d advise a least of fortnight to enjoy Malaysia, which will allow you to get the most out of the Peninsular attractions.

However for those who also want to enjoy jungle trekking, volcano climbing, multiple island hopping or seeing the orangutans, I’d allow at least 3 weeks, or better 4!

This will, of course, be dependent on the total length of your trip, as well as the time of your visit, which in Malaysia is never straightforward!

The best months to visit the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia are from November to February, when it’s slightly less hot and humid.

Read. slightly!

However, when it comes seeing the orangutans and visiting Malaysian Borneo, the best time to visit is between the months of March and October i.e. the opposite time of year to the beaches of Langkawi and foodie hotspot of Penang!

And within this March to October window, it’s the months of June and July that are best for visiting the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia i.e. the Perhentian and Tioman islands.

Confusing or what!

#5 Where to Go in Malaysia?

Malaysia, Perhentian, Island Sunset

Of course, where to go in Malaysia will definitely depend on how long you have to travel this country.

As I’ve said before, I recommend sticking to Peninsular Malaysia if you are short on time, and here’s the stand-out destinations you shouldn’t miss in that part of the country:

Kuala Lumpur: A highly underrated capital, I really enjoyed this city and recommend a stay of at least 2 days here. Check out this list of the 21 best things to do in Kuala Lumpur for more info.

Malacca: A lovely colonial port city full of historic attractions and chilled vibes. Stay here 1-2 nights and use this list I wrote about the best things to do in Malacca to plan your time there.

Cameron Highlands : A beautiful, lush hilltop area famous for its tea plantations and strawberry-growing. The climate is wonderfully cool up here and there’s some great day hikes to enjoy. Learn more about this region in my ultimate guide .

Penang: Famous for its great street art and delicious food, the island of Penang is a must for those who travel Malaysia – with its capital, Georgetown, being the centre of the action. Check out my list of the top things to do in Penang to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the top spots.

Perhentian Islands: Tiny tropical islands off Malaysia’s east coast that are known for their great diving and snorkelling opportunities. I visited the smallest island – Perhentian Kecil – and cover my trip there in detail in this travel guide .

For more ideas about things to do in Malaysia and places to visit, check out my list of the 21 best things to do in this country .

Malaysia, Building, Tree

Most travellers from the EU, UK, North America, Australia and New Zealand do not require visas to enter Malaysia either via air or land.

This is also true of many other Southeast Asian passport holders.

As always however, do ensure you check entry requirements for Malaysia well in advance of your trip there.

As a British passport holder travelling to Malaysia in 2019, I received a free 90 day tourist stamp on entry.

#7 Currency

Malaysia, Penang, Me Jumping

The currency in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM).

It is divided into 100 sen.

Roughly speaking, $1 USD = 4-5 RM and £1 GBP = 5-6 RM.

This means the numbers you are dealing with when converting in Malaysia aren’t huge, which is great for people poor at maths like me!

I also like that the Malaysian notes are very brightly coloured!

And when it comes to paying for things in Malaysia, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise card away with me wherever I travel.

The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card here… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Grab yours here .

Malaysia, Temple, Blue,

One of the most fascinating things about travelling in Malaysia is the diverse culture this country houses.

Home to multiple waves of immigration and colonisation over hundreds of years, Malaysia feels like one of the most diverse places in the world to me, with many different religious and ethnic groups peacefully cohabiting together.

It’s great!

As a traveller, this makes Malaysia an amazing destination with religious ceremonies and buildings, as well as loads of different cuisines and cultural practices going on all the time.

It’s fascinating to see and experience.

#9 Language

Malaysia, Penang, Buiding

And, inline with this cultural diversity, many different languages can also be heard on the streets of Malaysia.

Malay is the official language of the country, but Mandarin, Tamil, Hokkien and Punjabi, among many other languages, are also widely spoken.

English is also widely spoken, which is great news for many travellers.

In most parts of the country, you’ll be understood perfectly in English.

#10 Travel Costs

Malaysia, Malacca, Shop

Malaysia is a fairly developed country and many of the cities are modern, efficient, clean and industrial.

Despite this, travelling in Malaysia (like many countries in Southeast Asia) is very reasonable.

In general, as a budget traveller, I got by on less than $50 USD per day in Malaysia, which included eating out twice a day and staying in private rooms in hostels or small guesthouses.

Accommodation made up by far the greatest chunk of my budget in this country – almost 45% (and yes I use a geeky app called TravelSpend to track this stuff!)

After that, food and transport came in at 17% and 12% of my budget respectively.

The smallest portion of my budget was spent on tours and guides, because in Malaysia there really isn’t any need to take them.

Outside of a few diving and snorkelling experiences and the occasional day trip, I didn’t use these services at all.

All of this makes Malaysia a very affordable destination if you want it to be.

#11 Safety & Independent Travel

Malaysia, Perhentian, Me on Rock

Which leads me nicely on to my next point about independent travel and travel safety in Malaysia.

This country is incredibly easy to travel independently – either on a budget as a backpacker or as part of a higher-end experience.

There really is no need to take tours here, with English-widely understood, tourist-infrastructure organised and efficient, and the country easy to navigate and accessible.

I never encountered any trouble adventuring here as a solo female and found Malaysia an incredibly safe country to travel, especially if you employ common sense rules including not walking alone at night.

That said, accidents do happen and I wouldn’t dream of travelling anywhere in Southeast Asia without coverage.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

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Malaysia, Malacca, Coffee

Another area of safety to consider when travelling in Malaysia is drinking.

Malaysia is a hot and humid country, so as well as using sun protection measures, ensuring you drink enough water here is crucial.

In general, tap water outside of Kuala Lumpur is potable from the tap, but rather than buying plastic bottles and creating more waste, I highly suggest travelling with a Life Straw Go Water Filter Bottle .

Allowing you to safely drink water straight from the tap, the inbuilt filters in this bottle remove 99.9% of bacteria, meaning you don’t have to spend money on plastic bottles and you won’t contribute as much to the world’s plastic problem either.

I have a Life Straw Go Water Filter Bottle and never travel without it now.

I also thought I’d address the alcohol issue under this drinks section, for while Malaysian is a predominantly Muslim country, it is not strict.

Alcohol is readily available to buy at bars and restaurants everywhere.

#13 What To Wear in Malaysia?

Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves, Me on Steps

In discussing the religion of Malaysia, I thought it might be useful to include a section here about what to wear when you travel this country, particularly for female travellers.

As I mentioned Malaysia is not a conservative country and women will be fine to wear shorts and sleeveless tops.

I won’t recommend wearing anything too tight, short and revealing (especially in the cities) but this is more about being respectful and feeling comfortable rather than anything else.

Malaysia is hot and humid, so thin clothes are key and t-shirts that protect shoulders from the sun (as well as a hat) are a must.

When travelling on buses, comfy thin trousers or pairs of leggings are great options, as they are when sightseeing in temples or enjoy some outdoor activities like hiking.

In the cities in Malaysia, I tended to wear thin knee-length dresses with a thin scarf and sandals to mix keeping cool with looking presentable.

If you are visiting any of Malaysia’s islands, such as the Perhentian Islands, then sarongs and swimwear are the order of the day.

Learn here why I always recommend you take at least 1 sarong travelling no matter where you are going.

Here’s 5 other packing essentials I recommend for your travels in Malaysia:

#1 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The Malaysia Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful for any trip to this part of the world with lots of top tips and useful information, including great eating recommendations.

#2 Birkenstocks – A good pair of sandals are king in Malaysia and I love my Arizona Birkenstocks which are perfect for keeping my feet cool, supported and for kicking on and off easily when you visit temples or hit the beach. Literally wore them all day every day in this country!

#3 British Power Adapters – Malaysia primarily uses the format of British power outlets, so make sure you come prepared with a suitable Skross adapter .

#4 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless , which was ideal for capturing this diverse and delightful country. My GoPro also came in very handy for snapping during those more active and water-based activities!

#5 Day Pack – My Bobby Anti Theft Backpack was ideal for travelling in Malaysia, especially when I wanted to keep my belongings close to me and secure on night bus rides and in hostels.

#14 Telecommunications

Malaysia, House, Aerial

Like much of Southeast Asia, internet access in Malaysia is fast, quick, cheap and easy.

All accommodation options have free wifi, as do many cafes, bars and restaurants.

Data is also incredibly cheap and I highly recommend picking up a SIM card when you arrive in Malaysia so you can access Google Maps, Grab and other useful services when you are out and about.

I got a SIM from a company called Digi.

You can pick these up in any 7Eleven Stores or similar, just ensure you have your passport on you.

I paid around 40RM for 10GB of data.

#15 Accommodation

Malaysia, Georgetown, Cafe

And finally on this list of the 15 things you need to know before you travel Malaysia, I wanted to address the issue of accommodation.

As one of the most developed countries in the region, Malaysia has a huge range of tourist accommodation from luxury hotels to budget backpackers and everything in between.

However, because this is a budget travel blog, you can guess which end of the spectrum I favoured!

Here’s my list of the top hostels in Malaysia I stayed at:

Cameron Highlands: Fathers Guesthouse

Kuala Lumpur: Birdnest

Malacca: Nomaps

Penang: Frame Guesthouse


15 Things to Know Before You Travel in Malaysia

And there you have it, my top 15 tips to know before you travel to Malaysia.

I hope they have proved useful and that you now feel ready to explore this wonderful country.

Don’t forget to check out the range of articles I have on my blog about travelling in Malaysia and any questions they don’t answer, feel free to shoot them into the comments below…

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie adventures the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile

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  • 15 Reasons Why You Should...

15 Amazing Reasons To Visit Malaysia

Old and New KL meet

Travelling to Malaysia should be on your bucket list for many reasons. A melting pot of most of the world, this beautiful country has much to offer that sets it apart from the rest of Southeast Asia. Here are 15 reasons to convince you to plan a trip here (and possibly help with some can’t-miss sights).

Cultural diversity.

Multitudes of Asian ethnicities have settled in Malaysia over centuries, forming their own special blends distinct from their original cultures. And with the increasing globalization, imports from all around the world have continued to diversifying thecountry. Each culture is expressed and celebrated harmoniously, creating a beautiful living atlas.

Native Malaysian

Religious variety

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Malacca

Continental food

With the many cultures that have found a home in Malaysia, food showcasing their uniqueness and specialties has become one of, if not the , highlight of a trip here. Even in ancient times, Malaysia was a designated stop on the world’s spice trade route. As a result, local foods bring together flavors from all over the known world to create a special flavor only found here. Cuisines from all over still continue to flow through this meeting point of the world, so an Indian breakfast followed by a Nyonya lunch and a Korean dinner is totally doable.

Georgetown, Penang Satay

Continuous development

While Kuala Lumpur has been hailed as a first-class city, its surrounding areas are still pretty traditional, creating a mixed landscape of old and new. Its newer and more prominent buildings still derive their design from traditional Malay architecture, thus creating monuments with eclectic flair . Much of the Malaysian landscape is similar and still transitioning from antique to modern.

Old and New KL meet

Long-standing tradition

While Malaysia’s people are quite urbanized and modern, most still adhere to some traditions passed down through their families and communities. Observe carefully, and you might witness some of these traditions still in practice, such as praying before meals or younger generations serving their elders before partaking in meals.

Rain forest trekking

Believe it or not, Malaysia is a part of some of the oldest tropical jungles in the world, more ancient than even the Amazon jungles. The majestic island of Borneo is also a part of Malaysia, containing Sabah and Sarawak. Peninsular Malaysia also preserves some of the ancient natural world and has areas open for trekking for those wanting to explore.

Gunung Mulu, Borneo

Automatic multilingualism

Listening to Malaysians having a conversation is possibly one of the most interesting to do, as most locals have a habit of alternating between all the languages they know as they speak (known as code-switching). This often involves their mother tongue combined with English and Malay terms . Pay attention – you might catch words from other dialects that have made their way into the local vernacular.

Cheap goods galore

One of the attractions of Malaysia is the low cost of goods, be it of the edible, wearable or simply displayable variety. The distinctive day and night food markets , frequented by everyone regardless of income and class, provide great insight into the everyday life of Southeast Asian locals. Discover everything at a deliriously cheap price, but beware of knockoffs .

Pasar Malam

Tropical climate

Malaysian weather is truly an experience. Since it’s right on the equator, the country’s tropical humidity – a mixture of both high heat and sudden rains – is like no other. While this almost unpredictable weather pattern may seem daunting to some, it’s all part of the charm. Explore the many landscapes of Malaysian climate: from sweltering heat in the urban jungle, to perfect strawberry-growing climate in the Cameron Highlands , to absolutely gorgeous beach-lounging weather.

Tropical sun

Natural monuments

Some of the world’s most fascinating natural sculptures are found within Malaysian borders, namely the Kinabalu mountain in Sabah and the Quartz Ridge in Klang. Both are extremely popular venues for hikers and mountain climbers from all over the world, so get ready to cross hiking the most amazing limestone crags off that bucket list.

Kinabalu Mountain

One-of-a-kind wildlife

Malaysian jungles are home to some of the most bizarre and interesting wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else. Relive an evening of watching Borneo -set nature documentaries by exploring the rain forests and seeking out strange animals you’ve only ever seen on screen: the tapir, the binturong and the elusive pangolin. For simpler alternative, drop by the National Zoo or some of the animal reserves to learn more about the local flora and fauna from the experts and the conservationists.

Malayan Tapir

UNESCO Heritage sites

Since much of Malaysia has been inhabited by traders and job-seeking immigrants from many parts of the world since the 1800s, it is no wonder that many towns still bear the cultural remnants in their architecture. States such as Penang and Malacca are particularly famous for maintaining these historical towns buildings and have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites to protect these relics of eras past for future generations.

Penang’s Blue Mansion

Multicultural art

The diversity of Malaysia’s population has brought together the many art styles and techniques from all over Asia, producing a distinct design in architecture , fashion and food . The best of these fusions is seen in the Peranakan, or Baba-Nyonyan, tradition, which combines beautiful Indonesian and Balinese batik print patterns with oriental embroidery and beading, creating one of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful styles. The architecture is unique , as well, and mixes Chinese designs with Malay motifs.

Malaysian embroiderer

Festivals for every season

With a multitude of cultures and religions come the celebrations for every special occasion. Malaysia’s many races come together to celebrate each other’s festivals of in perfect harmony. A Ramadan evening market will be filled with representatives of all races eager to feast on the many Malay Muslim delicacies. Chinese New Year will be lively with Indian and Malay friends visiting their Chinese peers’ open houses to collect ang pau packets and join in on the tossing of y ee sang salad to bring in prosperity and well wishes. It is truly a sight to see, so do not fret about planning to visit during the hectic holiday seasons.

Thaipusam Festival

The beautiful archipelago that spans all of lower Southeast Asia is a destination adventure all by itself, but Malaysia has its own islands worth making a little trip up north. The west coast islands of Penang and Langkawi are exceptionally famed for being among the top must-visit spots in lower Asia, and east coast islands such as Redang and Perhentian are popular among backpackers and snorkelers for their beautiful beaches and clear, reef-filled waters.

Redang coral

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A Travel Price Comparison for Families, Couples, and Backpackers Jakarta vs. Kuala Lumpur for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons


  • Which is Cheaper, Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur? (Travel Cost Comparison)

Which is Bigger, Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur?

Should you visit jakarta or kuala lumpur, which is cheaper to visit which is more expensive for vacation.

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the activities as well as the prices of travel for Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. We'll break down costs for accommodation, food, transportation and more to help you learn more about these two destinations. Then, you can figure out if either of these two places are accessible based on your travel budget, schedule, and interests. So, let's dig into it.

Where Should I go: Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur?

As Indonesia's capital and largest city, Jakarta rests on the northwest coast of the island of Java. It is the country's economic, cultural, and political center with plenty of opportunities for sightseeing, nightlife, shopping, and entertainment.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, often referred to as KL, is the cosmopolitan capital of Malaysia. It is also the largest city in the country, having grown out of a small Chinese mining village. Today Kuala Lumpur is a microcosm of the country of Malaysia. The population is split between the Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures which you can see reflected in the city's neighborhoods, cuisine, and entertainment. It's also an incredibly affordable city, even if you're looking for the comforts of a five star hotel or a luxury restaurant. Prices are almost always a fraction of what you would pay in Europe or the United States.

For some great organized tour ideas, see Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in Indonesia , The Best Adventure Tours to Indonesia , The Best Tours for Seniors to Malaysia , and The Best G Adventures Tours to Malaysia .

Which place is cheaper, Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

  • Jakarta Prices Indonesia Prices Kuala Lumpur Prices Malaysia Prices
  • Average Daily Cost Per person, per day Jakarta $ 64 Kuala Lumpur $ 62

The average daily cost (per person) in Jakarta is $64, while the average daily cost in Kuala Lumpur is $62. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur in more detail.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person Jakarta $ 33 Kuala Lumpur $ 36
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room Jakarta $ 66 Kuala Lumpur $ 72

Compare Hotels in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur

Looking for a hotel in Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.


Hotels in Jakarta

Hotels in Kuala Lumpur

Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.

Local Transportation

  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc. Jakarta $ 20 Kuala Lumpur $ 6.41

Typical Local Transportation Prices in Jakarta

Some typical examples of transportation costs in Jakarta are as follows:

  • Taxi to Station $ 1.09

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Jakarta

Also for Jakarta, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Try find your better than us ! Airport transfer service in Jakarta APT-HTL (CGK): $21
  • Soekarno‑Hatta International Airport: Transfer to Jakarta: $29
  • Private Transfer from West Jakarta to Jakarta Halim Airport (HLP): $32
  • Private Transfer from Tebet to Jakarta Halim Airport (HLP): $32
  • Private Transfer from Tanah Abang to Jakarta Halim Airport (HLP): $32
  • Private Transfer from Tanah Abang to Jakarta Airport (CGK): $32
  • Private Transfer from Taman Sari to Jakarta Halim Airport (HLP): $32
  • Private Transfer from Sumur Batu to Jakarta Halim Airport (HLP): $32
  • Private Transfer from Sukarasa Tangerang to Jakarta Halim Airport (HLP): $68
  • Private Transfer from South Jakarta to Jakarta Airport (CGK): $32
  • Private Transfer from Soekarno Hatta Airport to Jakarta Hotels: $22
  • Private Transfer from Slipi to Jakarta Halim Airport (HLP): $32

Typical Local Transportation Prices in Kuala Lumpur

Some typical examples of transportation costs in Kuala Lumpur are as follows:

  • Taxi Ride $ 3.14
  • Metro Ride (for Two) $ 0.67
  • Short Taxi Ride $ 3.14
  • Taxi From Airport $ 19
  • Bus from Airport $ 1.68
  • Train & Boat to Pulau Ketam $ 2.52

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Kuala Lumpur

Also for Kuala Lumpur, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Legoland Transfer Private (per Vehichle) : $270
  • Arrival Transfer from KLIA/KLIA2 to Penang: $270
  • *Chauffeur: Kuala Lumpur to Singapore Car Transfer: $268
  • Cameron Highlands One Way Transfer: $259
  • Chauffeur: Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut Transfer [Car]: $251
  • KUL Hotel to Johor Bharu(One Way Transfer): $237
  • Kuala Lumpur City Hotels to Singapore City Hotels 1-way Transfer: $230
  • Chauffeur: Kuala Lumpur to Desaru Transfer [Car]: $226
  • Chauffeur: Kuala Lumpur to Mersing Transfer [Car]: $225
  • Chauffeur: Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands Transfer [Car]: $220
  • Airport Arrival Transfer-VIP Class: $200
  • VIP Arrival Transfer : Kuala Lumpur Airport: $196

Is it cheaper to fly into Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur?

Prices for flights to both Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.

  • Food Meals for one day Jakarta $ 17 Kuala Lumpur $ 15

Typical Food Prices in Jakarta

Here are some examples of typical meal expenses from previous travelers to Jakarta:

  • Dinner $ 2.73
  • Dinner $ 0.74

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Jakarta

For Jakarta, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Fun Food Tour Jakarta: $30
  • Mangga Besar Food Tour: $49
  • Cikini Heritage Food Tour: $49
  • Jakarta Night Life Tour with highlight and food tour: $55
  • Jakarta Night Tour: Guided Sightseeing & Street food tour: $57
  • Melawai Night Street Food Tour: $67
  • 10-Tasting Private Food Tour with a Local Host: $98

Typical Food Prices in Kuala Lumpur

For Kuala Lumpur, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:

  • Dinner at Ding Tai Fung $ 8.39
  • Roti Bread $ 0.21
  • Food Court Lunch $ 3.02
  • Dinner at Indian Restaurant (for Two) $ 4.51

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Kuala Lumpur

For Kuala Lumpur, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • ARAS Restaurant at KL Tower Buffet Dinner: $29
  • Nightlife Street Food Tour with 6 Tastings: $43
  • Street Food Tour with 15+ Tastings: $49
  • Sambal Streets Kuala Lumpur Food Tour with 15+ Tastings: $49
  • Kuala Lumpur Malaysian Cultural Night Experience with Buffet Dinner : $53
  • From Kuala Selangor Fireflies Tour with Dinner: $53
  • Cultural Night Tour with Dinner: $55
  • Malaysia Cooking Classes: $60
  • Kuala Lumpur by Night and Malaysian Food Tour: $61
  • Petaling Street Heritage Food Tour: $63
  • Private Food Tour – 10 Tastings with Locals: $64
  • Kuala Selangor Fireflies Tour Include Seafood Dinner (Free Boat Ride): $65


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc. Jakarta $ 13 Kuala Lumpur $ 13

Tours and Activities in Jakarta

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Jakarta.

  • 3 Hours Jakarta City Tour (Jakarta's Iconic Places): $45
  • 4 Hours Jakarta Private City Tour - (Most Tourist Attractions): $55
  • 5 Hours Jakarta Private City Tour - (Most Highlights): $65
  • 6 Hours Jakarta Private City Tour - (Must Visit Places): $75
  • 8 Hours Jakarta Private City Tour - (All Tourist Attractions): $109
  • Afternoon Guided Chinatown Tour in Jakarta : $53
  • Baduy Tribal Tracker and Village in Private Tour Full Day & Lunch: $130
  • Bandung City Tour Mountain Volcano and Hotspring ( Start From Jakarta): $154
  • Bandung Private Tour Mountain Volcano and Hotspring ( Overland ): $175
  • Bandung Tour : Volcano, Coffee Fields, Hot Springs Water: $121
  • Batik Course & City Tour Jakarta: $60
  • Best Jakarta Tours, your best friend in travelling.: $48

Typical Entertainment Prices in Kuala Lumpur

Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for Kuala Lumpur's activities, tours, and tickets:

  • KL Tower Admission (for Two) $ 9.43
  • Canopy Walk at FRIM Forest Reserve $ 1.05

Tours and Activities in Kuala Lumpur

For Kuala Lumpur, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Adventure Sports & Thrilling White-water Rafting in Kampar River: $241
  • Batu Caves And Countryside Tour: $24
  • Full Day Kuala Lumpur City Tour with Petronas Twin Tower Tickets: $95
  • Full Day Melaka Tour with The Shore Sky Tower 43rd Floor - Unesco Heritage: $188
  • Historic And Heritage Melaka Tour: $55
  • History, Heritage & Culture Of Malaysia Tour: $62
  • Ipoh "The Land Of Grace" + Orang Utan Island +Lunch(Guided Tour): $241
  • Kuala Lumpur (Genting Highlands 7.5 hours Private Tour): $65
  • Kuala Lumpur Full Day City & Shopping Tour with Lunch (PRIVATE TOUR): $77
  • Malacca Instagram Tour: Most Famous Spots (Private & All-Inclusive): $184
  • Malaysia: Aquaria KLCC Entry Ticket: $13
  • *13 Hrs Kuala Lumpur & Melaka Van Tour from Bentong w' Tour Guide: $108
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day Jakarta $ 4.23 Kuala Lumpur $ 6.21

Typical Alcohol Prices in Kuala Lumpur

Some typical examples of the costs for nightlife and alcohol in Kuala Lumpur are as follows:

  • Bottle of Wine $ 9.43

When comparing the travel costs between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, we can see that Jakarta is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in Asia, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Jakarta Expensive? and Is Kuala Lumpur Expensive? .

Jakarta has a larger population, and is about 6 times larger than the population of Kuala Lumpur. When comparing the sizes of Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.

Related Articles for Jakarta

Related articles for kuala lumpur.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

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places to visit in Indonesia

10 Best Places to Visit in Indonesia

By Mike Kaplan · Last updated on April 27, 2024

With 18,330 islands, 6,000 of them inhabited, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. The island nation is home to 167 active volcanoes, far more than any other country and has some of the largest remaining tracts of tropical forest anywhere in the world.

Indonesia is both a leisure seeker’s dream and an adventurer’s playground. Whether you’re looking to bronze on beautiful beaches, hike in search of endangered orangutan, or snorkel amongst some of the most beautiful coral reefs on Earth, Indonesia has something for everyone.

Explore the last Indonesian city still ruled by an ancient monarchy, follow in the literal footsteps of rare Komodo dragons, and soak in steamy hot springs surrounded by nothing but wild, raw jungle. If you’re looking for magic hidden in the everyday, you’ve found it. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Indonesia.

10. Raja Ampat Islands [SEE MAP]

Raja Ampat Islands

An island cluster on the northwestern tip of Papua New Guinea, Raja Ampat is one of the most sensational diving destinations in Indonesia. Raja Ampat – which means ‘Four Kings’ – is made up of four major jungle-clad islands surrounded by turquoise lagoons and pearly-white palm-fringed beaches – Waigeo, Salawati, Misool, and Batanta – along with thousands of smaller islands.

The archipelago is celebrated for its rich marine life and underwater coral reefs – home to as many as 75% of all known coral species! With everything from underwater photography to wreck diving, it’s so beautiful, you should definitely invest in an underwater camera.

But the fun isn’t limited to offshore. The islands are also a fantastic bird-watching destination. Pack your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled for eagles swooping overhead and birds of paradise such as the Wilson’s and Cendrawash chirping in the treetops while you trek to waterfalls and mysterious age-old caves.

9. Tanjung Puting National Park [SEE MAP]

Tanjung Puting National Park

Tanjung Puting National Park is one of the world’s natural wonders celebrated for its endangered orangutans – some of the last of these orange, long-haired primates on Earth.

Located in the jungles of Borneo – the third-largest island in the world that’s part of Indonesia, Malaysia and the sultanate of Brunei – the park is home to a variety of wild lowland habitats on a peninsula overlooking the Java Sea. Habitats range from swamp forests to alluvial plains and ocean coastline that provides a home to a diverse array of wildlife – so diverse that it was declared a game reserve before being deemed a national park in 1982.

While orangutans are the obvious draw, you’ll also be able to spot the odd-nosed proboscis monkey, the vulnerable clouded leopard, and over 200 species of birds in the park. Couple these rare animal sightings with fresh jungle air and no light pollution making for excellent star gazing, and the park makes for the perfect adventure. Explore on foot or by klotok boat with a knowledgeable guide – it’s up to you.

8. Flores Island [SEE MAP]

Flores Island

The Indonesian island of Flores means ‘Flowers’ in Portuguese, a name that hails from the European missionaries who arrived in the 16th-century. Lying to the east of Sumbawa and to the west of Lembata in Nusa Tenggara, the long island of Flores is famous for its amazing multi-colored crater lakes around Mount Kelimutu, traditional village homestays, and endless opportunities for adventure tourism.

The lakes are truly a sight to behold in every color you can think of – from browns and greens to aqua blue; colors caused by the minerals reacting to the gas of the region’s volcanoes. The Kelimutu three-colored lake is a must-see from the top of the volcano at sunrise.

For those in search of more physical activity, Egon volcano can be reached with a self-guided or guided hike. The north coast has many offshore islands and coral reefs to explore with an exhilarating dive or snorkel. Or you can simply relax and soak your tired muscles in the enchanting hot springs hidden within the jungle – bliss!

7. Torajaland [SEE MAP]


Nicknamed ‘the Land of the Heavenly Kings,’ Torajaland (Tana Toraja) is tucked within the lush central highlands of Indonesia’s Southern Sulawesi, a region that’s dotted with rice fields, limestone peaks, and bamboo-clad hills. Home to the Toraja, a Christian and animist people, Tana Toraja has a fascinating culture that’s remained largely and surprisingly independent from western influence.

Torajans are famous for their massive peaked-roof houses known as tongkonan and spectacular but gruesome funeral rites. After a person’s death, the body is kept – often for several years – until the actual funeral ceremony, which can last for several days. The deceased is then finally buried in a small cave or in a hollow tree. The biggest funerals are usually held in the dry-season months of July and August, but there are funerals year-round.

Exploring Tana Toraja with a local guide is expensive but worth it. They’ll give you a sneaky glimpse into these interesting customs and some of the lesser-known burial sites and village compounds known for their colorful exteriors and boat-shaped rooftops. Visit by yourself, and you’ll still be able to see some of the more famous sites on a trekking trip, but you’ll lack the local insight and insider tips that these tours afford.

6. Bukit Lawang [SEE MAP]

Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang is a small village situated at the eastern side of Gunung Leuser National Park about 90 kilometers northwest of Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra. A rehabilitation center for orangutans was founded here in 1973. The main purpose is to preserve the decreasing number of orangutan population due to hunting and deforestation.

The ecotourism here provides jobs and an income for local families living in the village and is a worthy charity to support, if not for the animals alone. The chance to see orangutans in the wild is the major drawcard, but the village is also a worthy stop. It’s built in a sustainable way that takes the surrounding environment into consideration.

Bukit Lawang is a popular destination for guided jungle trekking, acting as the gateway to the Gunung Leuser National Park. Here, you can spot Thomas Leaf Monkeys with their unusual haircuts, walk in the footprints of tigers and elephants, and explore on foot with local bird and nature walks.

5. Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park [SEE MAP]

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park

Tucked within East Java, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is an ethereal yet barren wonderland of volcanic calderas seemingly continuously surrounded by smoke and clouds. The park gets its name from the merging of the Hindu Tengger people and the two mountains found in the park – Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru. The latter is the highest mountain in the Java region, and one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia.

The draw here is less about wildlife and more about the scenery, yet there are still some interesting animals to be seen, such as Java rusa deer, marbled cats, wild pigs, and the occasional leopard. The best part about a visit to this park is the chance to climb a volcano at sunrise for some of the most exceptional views across this otherworldly landscape.

For those who wish to climb this still-active volcano, a permit from the national park authority is required, and you’ll only be allowed to ascend when the mountain isn’t erupting. Mount Bromo is another prominent landmark in the park, characterized by its often-billowing collapsed crater peeking out above the lush lowland valleys.

4. Lombok [SEE MAP]


An increasingly popular alternative to overly commercial Bali, Lombok and its offshore coral-ringed Gili Islands are tropical paradises. Here, you can enjoy all the appeal of Bali before tourism took over – surfing hotspots, uncrowded beaches , and magical waterfalls tucked within steamy jungles, of which Tiu Kelep Waterfall tops the list without question.

Backpackers head to Lombok in search of adventure. This is likely because its volcano-topped jungle provides for a great trek surrounded by unforgettable scenery. If you’re planning on hiking the Gunung Rinjani volcano and its photogenic crater lake, make sure you’re fit and have booked with a reputable guide – it’s by no means a walk in the park!

There’s also a fantastic nightlife scene when the sun goes down on the satellite islands of Gili, particularly Gili Trawangan. Those in search of culture won’t be disappointed either – the markets in Mataram are a vibrant place to pick up souvenirs while mingling with the locals.

3. Komodo National Park [SEE MAP]

Komodo National Park

Located in Indonesia’s Nusa Tenggara region, Komodo National Park is famous for one thing and one thing only – its reptilian namesake, the Komodo dragon. Spread across three main islands – Komodo, Rinca, and Padar – as well as a collection of smaller islets, the park provides a sanctuary for this strange looking creature reminiscent of the dinosaurs. It’s the largest living lizard on the planet and can reach a mighty three meters in length! The reptiles roam freely over the islands, and visitors rely on experienced tour guides for sightings and to keep them safe.

Today, the park has expanded to include the conservation of the entire ecosystem both on land and in the ocean. There are several endemic species, such as Rinca rats and fruit bats, as well as wild horses, long-tailed macaques, water buffalo, and several species of dangerous snakes.

But while the terrestrial beings within the Komodo National Park are definitely worth seeing, it’s the marine life that really stands out. The park protects some of the most abundant marine landscapes in the world, part of the Coral Triangle, home to more than 250 species of coral and a plethora of sea sponges and unusual bony fish.

2. Yogyakarta [SEE MAP]


Yogyakarta is a bustling town of some 500,000 people and the most popular tourist destination on Java, due to its proximity to the famous temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. The city itself is a center of education and culture, particularly for Javanese fine arts – from theater to ballet performances, and has a wide range of tourist facilities. It is also the last Indonesian city still ruled by a monarchy.

Yogyakarta lies in one of the most seismically active parts of Java and has thus repeatedly been struck by earthquakes and volcano eruptions. In 2006 an earthquake flattened over 300,000 houses while in 2010 the nearby volcano of Mount Merapi erupted, spewing lava over nearby villages.

Apart from nearby Buddhist and Hindu temples, and the sights in the city itself – small enough that it can be explored on foot – Yogyakarta is also a great base for exploring the surrounding villages locked in time by hardened lava on a Merapi Lava Tour, an activity that’s both sobering and captivating.

1. Bali [SEE MAP]

#1 of Best Places To Visit In Indonesia

One of the most visited and dreamed-of destinations on the modern traveler bucket list, Bali is a kaleidoscope of beautiful beaches, volcanic hills, lush rice paddies, and thousands upon thousands of Indonesian temples. It’s celebrated for its laidback atmosphere that’s attracted backpackers, surfers, and yogis for years, who have come in search of finding their Zen in this tropical paradise.

Nicknamed the ‘Island of the Gods,’ Bali is deeply rooted in the spiritual, with endless Hindu temples boasting colorful architecture all of their own – particularly in Ubud , Bali’s spiritual capital. Yet all of Bali’s wonders have not gone unnoticed, and the island can get uncomfortably packed during the tourist season around August. If possible, school holidays are best avoided too.

Spend your days relaxing on some of Bali’s best beaches and diving in the Coral Triangle with its endless array of magical marine life. But the best part about Bali is just as much about doing a little as a lot. Read your book in a hammock, watch the sun go down, and feel the island’s slow, laidback vibe step up the pace at one of the many animated beachfront bars.

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should i visit malaysia or indonesia

The most popular places to visit in Malaysia are stunning — and the country's excellent infrastructure makes getting to them relatively painless.

Although Malaysia is always ranked well among the most visited countries in Asia, China usually steals the limelight and #1 spot. Long-term budget travelers often shun Malaysia as being "too expensive" (mostly because alcohol does cost more than in Thailand). Meanwhile, short-term vacationers in Southeast Asia seem to skip Malaysia for lack of time.

But Malaysia has a lot of beauty, diversity, and adventure on offer, as showcased by these tempting top destinations.

Kuala Lumpur

You'll most likely fly into Kuala Lumpur when traveling to Malaysia, so this one's a no-brainer. But unlike some other big cities in Asia where travelers arrive and get out of town as soon as possible, Kuala Lumpur is a worthwhile destination of its own.

The mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian influence means you'll have no shortage of culinary exploits in Malaysia's capital city . The cultural diversity is a big part of Kuala Lumpur's allure. Take a short walk or jump on the extensive train network and you can see the delights of numerous cultures.

Kuala Lumpur has no shortage of unique neighborhoods to explore . Interesting sights such as the Petronas Towers , the Perdana Botanical Garden, and the Menara KL Tower provide plenty of enjoyable distractions before you head farther afield in Malaysia.

TripSavvy / Jess Macdonald

Malaysians are proud of their big island on the west coast — and they should be! The colonial city of Georgetown was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has plenty to offer in the way of museums, a seaside fort, historic homes, and most importantly, a famous street-food scene.

Numerous artists have left their marks in the form of murals along the streets of Georgetown. Cafes, shops, and things to do can be found dotted throughout.

Penang is considered one of the best places in Southeast Asia to sample delicious street food of all types. The waterfront esplanade known as Gurney Drive in Penang is lined with stalls and eateries for trying local Malay, Chinese, and Indian treats , among others.

The Perhentian Islands

Backpackers and budget travelers love Malaysia's Perhentian Islands , especially Perhentian Kecil — the smaller of the two islands — where fine sand and excellent snorkeling/diving fill the day before parties start at night.

Nearby Perhentian Besar — the big island — caters more to families, couples, and travelers who are willing to spend more to enjoy the blue water and skip some of the partying. Regardless of the island you choose, getting to the Perhentians requires taking a speedboat. There are a few challenges for setting up shop on the islands .

The Perhentian Islands are very seasonal . Accommodation can be difficult to find on Perhentian Kecil in July, the peak month, but the islands are mostly empty during the winter months due to rain and stormy seas.

Malaysian Borneo

The option to exchange dirty concrete for green rainforests and abundant wildlife is only a cheap, quick flight away ! Visitors to Malaysia often stick to the mainland and forget about the natural wonders on earth's third-largest island only a short hop away.

The Malaysian part of Borneo is divided into two states: Sarawak in the south and Sabah in the north. Both have different vibes and charms . The Rainforest World Music Festival held outside of Kuching each summer is one of the most exciting music-and-culture events in Southeast Asia.

From endangered orangutans to rainforest canopy walks and some of the best diving in the world, Malaysian Borneo should definitely be a part of any trip to Malaysia.

Spelled locally as "Melaka," Malaysia's Peranakan city of Malacca is a worthwhile stop for cultural, historical, and colonial sites . UNESCO even declared Malacca a World Heritage Site in 2008.

Visitors are rarely disappointed by the old town in Malacca. If nothing else, the relaxed vibe is pleasant enough to keep people around for a few days. The close proximity to Kuala Lumpur makes getting there by bus easy. Train isn't an option in Malacca.

Tip: Many shops and museums close in Malacca on Tuesdays — plan your visit accordingly!

Taman Negara

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Taman Negara literally means "national park" in Malay, and well, that's what it is! Taman Negara is Malaysia's oldest national park and is considered to be one of the world's oldest tropical rainforests. A long canopy walkway gives visitors a chance to see life high in the trees that normally isn't visible from the ground.

You can enjoy waterfalls and beautiful trekking, bird spotting, rafting, fishing, night safaris, and there's even a chance to see wild elephants — if you're very lucky. Tourists sleep across the river in Kuala Tahan and then take cheap boats to the park entrance.

Some serious guided trekking is available in Taman Negara as is caving.

Cameron Highlands

Malaysia's green Cameron Highlands are one of the few places in Southeast Asia where you'll actually want a jacket or warm blanket at night. After sweating across tropical climates, you may appreciate the change of climate.

The Cameron Highlands are like nowhere else in Malaysia. You'll see plenty of lush scenery, tour beautiful tea plantations, and enjoy access to decent hiking trails that weave through plantations and around volcanoes.

Strawberry farms, butterfly gardens, and flower greenhouses are all enjoyable distractions to be found in the Cameron Highlands. The climate provides good conditions for growing fresh vegetables and producing delicious local honey.

Tioman Island

Located on Malaysia's east coast not too far from Singapore, Tioman Island is a different kind of island destination . Accommodation and excellent diving are surprisingly inexpensive; development is relatively minimal for such a nice island. Abundant nature and scenery make up for the island's severe shortcomings in the culinary department.

Tioman is carved into many different beaches; you'll have to choose when arriving by boat. Some beaches are secluded and surrounded by jungle. ABC Beach is arguably the most popular beach, particularly for budget travelers. Moving between beaches by boat is the regular option, unless you're up for a jungle hike through the interior.

Tioman Island enjoys duty-free status just as Langkawi does, but don't even consider taking your tax-free liquor across the border into Singapore !

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Located off the northwest corner of Malaysia, Pulau Langkawi is one of the top island destinations in Malaysia for both foreign tourists and Malaysians.

With an airport and ferries connecting it to the mainland, as well as a large tourist infrastructure, Langkawi could unfairly be called Malaysia's version of Phuket, the busiest island in Thailand.

Langkawi has many tourist attractions on offer such as Malaysia's largest indoor aquarium, a cable car, and the Sky bridge that allows views across the island. Unfortunately, the drone of jet skis cause the busiest beaches to be less serene. Duty-free status means that beer is sometimes barely more expensive than bottled water!

Flights from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi can be found for as cheap as US $20! Getting to the island is fast and inexpensive .

Selangor actually describes Malaysia's most developed and populated state that leads up to Kuala Lumpur's urban sprawl. Here you'll find a Formula One racetrack, the National Zoo of Malaysia, and enormous theme parks including an indoor snow park.

Selangor is busy and booming; shopping malls sprawl in many directions. When you can't possibly shop anymore, head to the nearby Genting Highlands — Malaysia's version of Vegas perched on top of a mountain. The First World Hotel and Plaza is the world's largest hotel with 10,500 rooms and a theme park.

But Selangor isn't just about concrete and glowing signs: The famous Batu Caves there are a Hindu shrine with the largest statue of Lord Murugan (the god of war) in the world. The Batu Caves draw large crowds, especially during the Thaipusam holiday .

When you're ready to be wooed by nature, the abundance of fireflies along the river in Kuala Selangor is a dazzling spectacle worth seeing!

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A Backpacker's World

Singapore vs Malaysia: Which is Better To Visit In 2024?

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Singapore and Malaysia are two incredible countries to visit in South East Asia.

But which one should you visit? Singapore vs Malaysia is one of the most difficult decisions to make when travelling. Choosing between the two is impossible.

Luckily for you, as a full-time traveller, I am here to provide a guide comparing these two beautiful countries to help you make your decision.

Singapore vs Malaysia: The Basics

As I said, this is a tricky decision and choosing between Singapore vs Malaysia is so tough. There is no obvious winner overall. So to help you make your decision, I have compared the two countries in a number of categories , starting with the basics which are Costs & Prices, Language & Culture, Weather and Food. 4 important things, right?

After assessing the pros and cons, I will declare a winner of each category!

Costs & prices, 🇸🇬 singapore.

Singapore is cheaper than most countries in the western world like the US and the UK, for example. But Singapore is the most expensive country to visit in Southeast Asia.

As the country and city are so modern, and a place known for their luxury lifestyle, it’s naturally more expensive than its surrounding countries.

That being said, backpacking Singapore is really popular, as it’s a common layover for those heading to Australia. So it is possible to visit Singapore on a budget.

Top Tip: Singapore uses Singapore Dollars. As of January 2024, $1 USD is equal to 1.33 SGD.

A typical daily budget in Singapore would be approximately $125 USD each day. Of course, if you are backpacking Southeast Asia , your daily budget will be a lot smaller, around $50.

🇲🇾 Malaysia

Malaysia is also a lot cheaper than most countries in the west. It’s more of a typical Southeast Asian country when it comes to your budget, and you can get things for incredibly cheap.

Although it might not be as cheap as Vietnam or Cambodia, it’s still a really cheap country to visit. You can expect prices similar to that of the Philippines.

Top Tip: Malaysia uses Malaysian Ringgit. As of January 2024, $1 USD is equal to 4.61 MYR.

You can get by in Malaysia with a daily budget of around $85 USD a day. Again, if you are backpacking, you can go as low as $35 a day. So cheap!

Below is a table comparing the prices in Singapore vs Malaysia of common expenses during a trip to either of these countries.

It’s worth noting that alcohol is heavily taxed in both of these countries, which is why it is so out of line with the rest of the prices.

But as you can see, while Singapore is definitely cheaper than most countries, Malaysia is significantly cheaper.

Winner – Costs & Prices: Malaysia 🇲🇾

Language & culture.

Singapore has a pretty unique culture as it has been influenced by Chinese, Malay, Indian and other ethnicities. But this is what makes Singapore so unique. It’s a mix of all different ethnicitie s, religions, and languages. I would compare Singapore to Dubai, to an extent.

Top Tip: The Official Language of Singapore is Malay, funnily enough.

The most popular religions in Singapore are Buddhism and atheism actually. Singapore is a really modern country with a huge mix of religions and beliefs, which has resulted in a large number of atheists compared to other Asian countries. I’m not saying atheism is correct or incorrect, but it’s definitely become a more common belief in modern years.

As shown above, the official language is Malay, but a huge percentage of the country speaks English too. Again, as the city is so modern and luxurious, English is actually the most common language in the heart of the city of Singapore.

Fun Fact: 37% of the people who live in Singapore weren’t born in Singapore.

3 fun facts about Singapore’s language and culture: –> The laws and fines are very strict. For example, you can’t chew chewing gum anywhere you want, you have to make sure you are in an appropriate area. –> Singapore is an incredibly clean and safe city. It’s one of the safest places in the world; honesty is a big part of Singaporean culture which keeps the city spotless and crime-free. –> The people of Singapore are very polite. The government actually teaches manners in the education system, making Singaporeans some of the most polite and welcoming people in the world.

A picture of Singapore Marina Bay

Similar to Singapore, Malaysia is also a multi-cultural country with large populations of native Malays, Chinese, Indians and other nationalities. This makes Malaysia fascinating to visit as all the different religious groups retain their beliefs and all practise their religion slightly differently.

Malaysia’s official religion is Islam , unlike many surrounding countries which mainly practice Buddhism. Religion plays a bigger role in Malaysia than in Singapore, with 63.5% Islam, 18.7% Buddhist and 9.1% Christian according to the 2020 census.

Top Tip: The Official Language of Malaysia is Malay.

Malaysia will provide more of a culture shock than Singapore which is more westernised as it is a modern and luxurious place, and while this is true about parts of Malaysia like Kuala Lumpur, there are more opportunities to go off the beaten path and see the real Malaysia.

English is not quite as widely spoken in Malaysia as it is in Singapore. It is still widely spoken, with about 50-60% of people speaking English , but compare this to nearly everyone in Singapore and it’s a bit less.

3 fun facts about Malaysia’s language and culture: –> Malaysians don’t consider themself to be Malaysian. Most Malaysians instead identify with their family’s origin country. Most likely China or India. –> It’s disrespectful to wear shoes indoors –> Eating with your hands is just as common as using cutlery.

A picture of the skyline of Kuala Lumpur at sunset.

Personally, I don’t think it’s right to say one country’s culture is better than another’s. So I’m calling the cultural comparison between Singapore vs Malaysia a draw, as I did between Taiwan and Thailand . Of course, you can make a personal judgement on which sounds more appealing to you.

Winner – Language & Culture: Both 🇸🇬 🇲🇾

The weather in Singapore is pretty warm all year round, and pretty consistent all year round too. With sunny days and warm weather, you can be sure to get a bit of a tan during a trip to Singapore.

As a country with a tropical climate, the summers are very warm, lasting almost all year. That being said, there are monsoon seasons in Singapore . A monsoon season is when there is great rainfall. The Northeast monsoon is from December to March and the Southwest is from June to September.

But the monsoon seasons provide more bearable temperatures, and sometimes cheaper prices too. There’s never really a “best” or “bad” time to visit Singapore, the country has pretty good weather regardless of when you visit.

A picture of the sun shining in Singapore.

Malaysia has a similar annual consistency when it comes to weather. In fact, Malaysia is almost the same temperature all year round. This is due to it’s location near the equator/

There are 2 main seasons in Malaysia: the dry and rainy seasons. But despite the change in precipitation, there is very limited variation in temperatures.

As with Singapore, the rainy season from September to February can provide cheaper prices as there will be fewer tourists in the country, but the temperatures are more or less the same.

A sunny day in Kuala Lumpur.

Below is a table showing the average temperatures for Singapore and Malaysia throughout the year.

Although the temperatures are close and Malaysia is more consistent, Singapore has higher temperatures and is known for its good weather.

Winner – Weather: Singapore 🇸🇬

As an international shipping port since the 1800s, Singapore’s cuisine has been heavily influenced by cultures from all around the worl d, on top of the countries in and around Southeast Asia.

Having a large number of ethnicities and religions in Singapore reflects the country’s cuisine too.

The cuisine is actually quite similar to that of China , meaning that most dishes aren’t as spicy as elsewhere in Asia.

Some traditional dishes you may wish to try on a trip to Singapore include:

  • Bak chor mee: Minced meat noodles with flat egg noodles with vinegar, lard, soy sauce, chilli, pork liver slices, fishcake and minced pork.
  • Nasi padang: A steamed rice dish served with meat and vegetables cooked in sauces and curries
  • Laksa: A spicy noodle dish served with seafood

A bowl of Laksa.

Malaysia’s cuisine is a lot spicier than Singapore’s. The cuisine is rich in herbs and spices, resulting in the increased spiciness.

It’s particularly similar to the cuisine of Thailand, sharing many of the key ingredients like the mentioned herbs and spices.

But despite the similarities, Malaysian cuisine is extremely unique. Street food is also a much bigger thing in Malaysia than in Singapore. So you can get some really authentic and delicious food for really cheap prices!

Some traditional dishes to try on a trip to Malaysia include:

  • Nasi Lemak: Boiled rice with coconut milk, pandan leaves, sambal, peanuts and more.
  • Assam Laksa: Very thick noodle soup with a lot of sauce
  • Curry Mee: Noodle soup with all the toppings: bean sprouts, shrimp, fish, chicken and more

A bowl of Nasi Lemak. Malaysia wins when it comes to food out of Singapore vs Malaysia.

A very close decision and completely down to personal preference, but I’m going to give this one to Malaysia as the food is more unique and traditionally spicy.

Winner – Food: Malaysia 🇲🇾

Singapore: top 5 things to do.

When choosing between Singapore vs Malaysia, you’re going to want to know what each of the countries has to offer in terms of things to see, things to do and activities. So here are 5 of the best and must-do things in Singapore. Of course, there are endless amazing things, but these are just 5.

1. Explore the Gardens by the Bay

The most iconic thing to see in Singapore is without a doubt the Gardens by the Bay. As a city filled with greenery and not only skyscrapers, there are lots of opportunities for peaceful walks. No more so than through the Gardens by the Bay where you can see the famous light show at night.

A picture of Gardens by the Bar. One of the bigget selling points for Singapore in Singapore vs Malaysia.

2. Have fun at Universal Studios Singapore

There are 6 Universal Studios theme parks around the world, probably most famously in Orlando, but there is also one in Singapore where you can have a day of fun. With rides, shows and more attraction s, you’re guaranteed to have some movie-themed excitement on your trip to Universal Studios Singapore.

A picture of the globe in Universal Studios in Singapore.

3. Attend the Singapore Grand Prix

Each September, Formula One comes to Singapore for the Singapore Grand Prix. The track is a street track which runs through the heart of Singapore and past some of the most iconic sights in the city. If you visit Singapore in September, you definitely need to head to Marina Bay Street with your ticket to watch the F1!

A picture of a Red Bull F1 car driving past during the Singapore Grand Prix.

4. Visit Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo is one of the biggest and best zoos in the world. The zoo is complimented on its spacious and open enclosures providing a good life for the animals. There are also some really unique animals to see such as white tigers. There are also excellent shows put on throughout the day by the zookeepers and some animals.

A picture of 2 white tigers in Singapore Zoo. The zoo is another thing to do in Singapore, which may make you choose the country in Singapore vs Malaysia.

5. Get a view over Singapore from the Singapore Flyer

The Singapore Flyer offers one of the best views for any observation wheel in the world. In my opinion, it’s miles better than the London Eye. Any trip to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without a trip up the wheel to get a breathtaking view over Singapore where you can see all of the most popular sights.

A picture of the Singapore Flyer.

Malaysia: Top 5 Things To Do

Continuing with our comparison of Malaysia vs Singapore, it’s time to consider what there is to do in Malaysia. Again, this can help to give you an understanding of what sort of things there are to do in each of the countries and find something that catches your eye.

1. Go up Menara Kuala Lumpur

One of the best things to do in Malaysia is to go up Menara Kuala Lumpur. It is the world’s 7th tallest tower and similar to the Singapore Flyer, offers dream-worthy views over the city of Kuala Lumpur. The prices are very reasonable, as we have learnt Malaysia is cheap, it costs about $7 for this unforgettable view.

A picture of the Menara Kuala Lumpur.

2. See the Batu Caves

If you have seen photos of Malaysia before, you have likely seen photos of the Batu Caves and the iconic rainbow steps , and of course, the giant golden statue of Murugan. It’s an absolute must-do. Entrance is also free to the main temple/cave and the price for the other caves is like $2, bargain!

A picture of the statue, stairs and greenery at Batu Caves.

✅ Interested in touring Batu Caves? It’s one of the must-do things during a trip to Malaysia! Book a tour today by clicking here!

3. Walk along the Langkawi Sky Bridge

The longest curved and free-span bridge in the world is found in Malaysia, Langkawi Sky Bridge. It’s a unique experience being suspended high above the jungle, with panoramic views miles upon miles into the Malaysian landscape. There are also parts with a glass, see-through floor which makes it a somewhat thrilling experience too.

An aerial shot of Langkawi Sky Bridge, one of the best things to do in Malaysia and another reason why someone may choose the latter of  Singapore vs Malaysia.

✅ Interested in going to the Langkawi Sky Bridge? You can get a trip in the cable car included with your tour! Book a tour today by clicking here!

4. See the Petronas Towers

Kuala Lumpur’s Twin Towers, the Petronas Towers, attract millions of visitors from all around the world to see the iconic part of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. Seeing the towers is pretty cool, but going up the towers is an unforgettable moment. You are able to buy tickets to go up the towers and get another indescribable view of the city.

A picture of the Petronas Towers.

✅ Interested in going up the Petronas Towers? You can get tickets for your trip by clicking here!

5. Get a photo with the bicycle street art in Penang

One of the most famous things to see in Penang is the “Little children on a Bicycle” mural. It’s in the Georgetown area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with lots of street art, but this is definitely one of the most famous. If anyone posts photos on Instagram from their time in Penang, I would bet that a picture of this mural is included.

A picture of the mural. It's a physical bicycle which is part of the concrete wall, and painted on the wall are two children which look like they are riding the bike.

Singapore vs Malaysia: Which Is Better For Travelling?

Choosing between Singapore vs Malaysia requires a deep dive into the nitty gritty specifics of what each country offers. 5 main things which you might consider are: hiking, beaches, nightlife, budget and popularity. So whether you arrive at Singapore or Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I’ve put Singapore and Malaysia up against each other in each category to see who comes out on top.

Which Has Better Hiking: Singapore vs Malaysia

As a city-state, Singapore doesn’t offer too many hiking opportunities. Singapore is also a very small country, it takes just over 30 minutes to drive from opposite sides.

Singapore is known as The Garden City – you will see this as soon as you arrive at the airport. So while there are lots of opportunities for walking through state-of-the-art botanical gardens in Singapore, there are few proper hiking options.

There are some though, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, for example, provides the opportunity to go for a hike during a trip to Singapore to the highest nature peak in the state (163 metres).

A picture of Bukit Timah National Reserve.

Malaysia, as a much larger country made up of cities and countryside and everything in between, offers a significantly larger number of hiking opportunities, as you might imagine.

In fact, there are over 3200 recognised hiking trails in Malaysia . So if you are an outdoor lover and an avid hiker, you’ll find lots of options on a trip to Malaysia.

Some of the most popular hikes in the country include:

  • Mt Kinabalu, Sabah
  • Gunung Tahan, Taman Negara National Park
  • Penang Hill, George Town
  • Bukit Beruang, Melaka

The view from Penang Hill. In terms of hiking, Malaysia wins out of Singapore vs Malaysia.

Comparing a city-state and a country with incredible landscapes and countryside, I think there’s only going to be one winner when it comes to hiking, so Malaysia comes out on top for this one.

Winner – Hiking: Malaysia 🇲🇾

Which has better beaches: singapore vs malaysia.

As Singapore is an island, you would imagine that there are plenty of great beaches. And you would be correct. Singapore is home to some really popular beaches.

The tropical climate creates perfect conditions for beach life , with beautiful palm trees, golden sand and peaceful blue water.

Palawan Beach is one of the most picturesque beaches I have ever seen, it’s the model beach. Take a look for yourself…

A picture of Palawan Beach.

Some other popular beaches in Singapore include:

  • Changi Beach
  • Tanjong Beach
  • Pasir Ris Beach

Malaysia has just under 4000 kilometres of coastline along with 878 islands . Of course, this results in some picture-perfect beaches.

Like Singapore, Malaysia’s tropical climate creates ideal beach conditions. Who wants to be on the beach in the rain after all?

Some of Malaysia’s most popular beaches include Kapalai Island Beach, Pantai Cahaya Bulan and Batu Ferringhi. But for me, the best beaches in Malaysia are found on the Perhentian Islands.

As a protected area for marine life, the beaches here are spotless and offer some really nice beaches to relax and unwind, as well as explore the exotic marine life by snorkelling.

A picture of a sunset at one of the Perhentian Islands' beaches. Malaysia wins in terms of beaches for Singapore vs Malaysia.

It’s really tough to choose between Singapore and Malaysia. There are some really quality beaches in each country. But there are more beaches in Malaysia as it’s a bigger country, so I guess this one goes to Malaysia once again.

Winner – Beaches: Malaysia 🇲🇾

Which has better nightlife: singapore vs malaysia.

Singapore has an extraordinary nightlife. The city never sleeps! There is an abundance of world-class bars and clubs where you can drink and dance the night away. The Singaporeans know how to party, that’s for sure.

Top Tip: The legal drinking age in Singapore is 18.

One thing that’s worth noting is the high price of alcohol as discussed earlier. Due to the high tax, your night out in Singapore can get pretty expensive quite quickly. So just remember to be sensible at all times.

Another thing worth noting is that public drinking is illegal in Singapore between 1:30 pm and 7 am. Of course, you are allowed to drink it in registered places like bars and clubs.

Singapore’s nightlife is 10/10 and up there with Bangkok and even Vegas!

A picture of the Marina Bay at nighttime with pink fireworks over the skyline.

Like most countries in Southeast Asia, the nightlife in Malaysia is also very good.

Any of the big cities or even some of the less popular places have a good number of options when it comes to clubs, bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a night out.

Top Tip: The legal drinking age in Malaysia is 21 as of 2017.

The street markets and stalls also make for a great night out where you can get really cheap food and drinks.

Again, as with Singapore, alcohol is highly taxed so make sure to keep track of how much you are spending.

A picture of Kuala Lumpur at night. Singapore wins out of Singapore vs Malaysia for nightlife.

Although nightlife in Malaysia is good, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, the nightlife in Singapore is next-level, so Singapore wins the Singapore vs Malaysia nightlife category.

Winner – Nightlife: Singapore 🇸🇬

Which destination is better on a budget.

This category is pretty similar to the costs category as it comes down to the price of things. But how easy are the two countries to do on a budget? Is it easy to find cheap accommodation, hostels etc.?

Singapore is definitely doable on a budget. You just have to be savvy about your budget throughout your trip.

It’s possible to find hostels for cheap (I recommend using Hostelworld ) and you can get them at the cheapest price if you book months in advance.

Food can be harder to find cheaply in Singapore as there aren’t as many street food markets as in Malaysia or other Asian countries.

But at the end of the day, you are only going to be spending a few days in Singapore , it’s not a place where you spend months and months, so you could “do” Singapore for a few hundred dollars, for sure.

A picture of a fountain in Marina Bay, Singapore.

Malaysia is extremely easy to visit on a tight budget. Although backpacking Malaysia isn’t as popular as backpacking Vietnam or backpacking Thailand , it’s rising in popularity and backpackers are beginning to realise how cheaply Malaysia can be explored.

Hostels are really easy to find, they’re a lot more common throughout Malaysia than in Singapore, Singapore’s hostels are also more expensive as they’re more modern and luxurious to fit in with the rest of the city.

And as stated throughout this article, street food is a big part of the culture in Malaysia so it’s super easy to find cheap but tasty food.

A picture of a woman selling food in a street market. In Singapore vs Malaysia, Malaysia win in terms of budget.

For this one, Malaysia is definitely easier to do on a budget.

Winner – Budget: Malaysia 🇲🇾

Which is better for avoiding tourists.

Personally, I would have thought that more people visit Singapore than Malaysia. Singapore is a popular layover when going from Europe to Australia, or vice versa, and many people choose to spend a few days there to adjust to the timezone.

It’s also appealing as you can see most of the main sights in just a few days.

But the statistics say otherwise. In 2019 (using stats from pre-COVID), 26.10 million people visited Malaysia . Whereas, fewer people, 19.12 million to be exact, visited Singapore in 2019.

A picture of some tourists walking down the street in Malaysia.

There’s an argument to make that the density of tourists would be higher in Singapore as everyone is visiting the city, whereas tourists are visiting a number of different places across Malaysia.

But I’ll take the statistics for face value and declare that Singapore is better for avoiding tourists as few people visit the country on a yearly basis.

Winner – Avoiding Tourists: Singapore 🇸🇬

Singapore vs malaysia: faq.

Below are a number of questions related to Singapore vs Malaysia along with my answers.

It’s not right to say one country is “better” than another country. There are so many factors that affect someone’s opinion of a country. For example, if you love a night out, Singapore is better. If you love hiking, Malaysia is better. It depends on what you are interested in.

Singapore is different from Malaysia in many ways. Firstly, it’s a state-city so there is only Singapore whereas Malaysia is a country that has cities and towns across the city. Another main difference is the landscape, Singapore is all city (though has a lot of gardens) whereas Malaysia has jungles and countryside.

Yes, the official language of both Singapore and Malaysia is Malay. Both countries also have a large majority of their population who speak English.

Singapore and Malaysia are in Southeast Asia, which on a world map is easily identifiable as the islands north of Australia. Above Indonesia are Singapore and Malaysia.

Final Thoughts: Singapore vs Malaysia

And there you have it, a complete guide and comparison of Singapore vs Malaysia.

Winner – Overall: Malaysia 🇲🇾

Overall, Malaysia “wins” 6-4, so it was a pretty close comparison.

I encourage you to take these results with a pinch of salt , though. This is based entirely on my opinion, and even though the results say so, I wouldn’t say Malaysia is “better” than Singapore.

Both countries offer something different. So use this comparison to see what you want to get from each country. Are you looking for somewhere with good weather and nightlife? Singapore is for you. Are you looking for somewhere with good hiking and is cheap? Malaysia is for you.

It’s completely personal preference and comes down to what you want from your trip.

Hopefully, this comparison has laid everything out clearly and made it easy for you to make your decision between Singapore vs Malaysia.

Whichever country you choose, you are guaranteed to have the trip of a lifetime! 🙂

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Josh Band is the founder of A Backpacker's World. He is a full-time traveller currently on a mission to visit every country in the world. As a full-time traveller, Josh knows exactly how to make the most of any trip and shares these tips with his readers. Josh mostly travels as a backpacker on a budget, so he is also an expert when it comes to getting the most of your money while travelling.

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Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia: find your dream destination

Malaisie, Indonésie ou Philippines : Où partir en croisière ?

Three destinations: something for everyone

Diverse cultures, friendly people, idyllic landscapes… Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines all have so much to offer. Check out our guide to find your perfect match!

Cultural towns

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

A two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, Malacca is a haven of multiculturalism. Located on the trade route for silk and spices, the city has attracted visitors and settlers from all over the world: Portugal, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, China and India. This rich history is reflected in the monuments and cuisine of Malacca.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

Indonesia: In the village of Pamulung on Sumbawa Island, the locals are devoted to their traditional way of life, from pounding rice to weaving. One of the most unusual activities, however, is buffalo racing. Used to work the fields since the dawn of time, buffaloes are incredibly powerful animals , ideal for riding through the rice paddies. To win the race, participants have to collect the saka , a special totem sculpted for this event, which is highly prized among the residents of Pamulung.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

The Philippines

Heavily influenced by the Spanish settlers who arrived in the 16th century, Manila is often described as a slice of Latin America in Asia. This distinctive flair can be seen in the Casa Manila, which displays furniture from the colonial era, as well as Fort Santiago and San Agustin Church. However, the history of Manila does not begin and end with the Spanish settlers . Contact with India had a major impact on Filipino society from the 10th century onwards, and the country fell under American rule in 1898. During the Second World War, it was occupied by Japan, and Manila was largely destroyed by a bloody battle that claimed 100,000 lives.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

A real melting pot, Malaysia is made up of many ethnic groups, with the majority of the population claiming Malay, Chinese or Indian descent. However, the country is also home to several ethnic minorities, including the Mah Meri , also known as the Besisi, the Cellate or the “masked men of Malaysia”. Their ceremonies in traditional costumes and masks are a unique and striking sight.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

On the pristine islands of the Alor Archipelago, the Tapkala people go about their lives much as their ancestors did before them, maintaining very little contact with the modern world. Their houses are made from bamboo and coconut leaves, while their clothes are woven by hand or crafted from bark. The Tapakala are especially famous for their mokos , the prehistoric bronze drums that they use in rituals. Many examples are on display at the Museum of a Thousand Mokos in Kalabahi, the archipelago’s main city.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

Most of the ethnic groups in the Philippines maintain a very strong, almost mystic relationship with nature . In northern Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, the Ifugao people cultivate rice terraces that cover the mountains, using ancestral traditions . The terraces are naturally irrigated by the forest springs above. Some 1,500 “anitos” or spirits play precise roles in Ifugao cosmogony with there being an anito for the rain, sun, fishing, war, peace and more. Ifugao women spend many hours weaving traditional outfits featuring specific patterns.

Idyllic beaches

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

No trip to Malaysia is complete without a visit to Sabah in the north-east of Borneo. Not far from the shore, the island of Sipadan boasts one of the best diving spots in the world. To the north of Kota Kinabalu, the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is an ideal destination for snorkelling enthusiasts, with clear waters and beautiful beaches.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

With white sand and turquoise water, Pulau Molana is a real-life picture postcard. This uninhabited island in the Maluku archipelago is protected by coral reefs, letting visitors enjoy a peaceful swim in breathtaking surroundings.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

To the south of Sibuyan , the untouched desert island of Cresta de Gallo is a tiny slice of heaven on earth. It is the perfect spot to lie back on the fine sand and take in the views, looking out over the crystal clear water to the distant horizon.

Nature at its wildest

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

Lose yourself in one of the most impressive old-growth forests in the world, with roots stretching back over 130 million years. In the heart of Taman Negara National Park , this jungle is the ideal place for a tropical hike under the shelter of the treetops some 20–40 metres overhead. It is also known for its canopy walkway, suspended 30 metres above the ground, overlooking a patchwork of a thousand shades of green, where monkeys, hornbills, buffalo and monitor lizards all coexist.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

Tanjung Puting National Park is renowned for its incredible beauty and its large orangutan population. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1977, covering 355,000 hectares, this park owes much of its success to Canadian primatologist Biruté Galdikas. She arrived in Tanjung Puting in 1971, where she was able to study the primates in situ for several years. Today, 6,000 orangutans live wild in the park, making up the largest population in the world.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

In the heart of the Philippines, Sibuyan Island is straight out of an adventure film. Lush foliage covers the landscape, from the deserted beaches to the slopes of Mount Guiting-Guiting , surrounded by forests of burbling streams and birds. Sibuyan is also known as the “Galapagos of Asia” because it is home to so many endemic species.

Incredible destinations

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

To the south of the Singapore Strait, Penyengat Island is far removed from the modernity of the nearby megalopolis. The seat of the ancient kingdom of Malaysia, this small and peaceful island bears many traces of its glorious past. Penyengat is also famous for its fishing villages on stilts , which represent the heart and soul of the place.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

Located in the centre of the Indonesian archipelago, Komodo National Park was added to the UNESCO list of biosphere reserves in 1991. Made up of several volcanic islands, the park was founded to protect its population of around 5,700 Komodo dragons . These giant monitor lizards, which can grow up two to three meters long, are not found anywhere else in the world. This species is a popular area of study for scientists, described by UNESCO as the “last representative of a relic population of large lizards that once lived across Indonesia and Australia”.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

To the west of the immense island of Leyte, the “Cuatro Islas” are four tiny patches of paradise in a brilliant blue sea. One of these islands, Himokilan, is known as the jewel of the Philippines thanks to its pale sand and clear water, which forms several natural swimming pools. The rest of the island is covered with dense vegetation, making it the perfect place to embrace your inner Robinson Crusoe!

Photos credit : © iStock ;  © Unspalsh ;  © Ponant

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Thailand Or Malaysia: The Honest Comparison [2023] You Need!

S outheast Asia is one of those regions of the world everyone wants to visit at some point in their lifetime. The vibrant cultures, incredible food, breathtaking landscape and exotic wildlife sum up the lure of this part of the globe – and Malaysia and Thailand are no exception.

However Thailand and Malaysia are very different, so making the right decision about which to visit for your once-in-a-lifetime holiday is important.

For example, if you’re looking for some of the region’s best beaches, lively nightlife, cheap drinks and an all-round fun vibe, Thailand may be a better holiday destination for you than Malaysia. 

But if you want a quieter vacation which divides time between the beach, cities and other activities such as wildlife watching, then Malaysia will likely be better for you, as we’ll explain more on below. 

However that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to how these two countries differ.

That’s why we’re here to help! Having visited both destinations we compare them below, showing you their differences, similarities and what to expect in each.

So let’s dive in!

  • A Quick Overview & Comparison
  • How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare
  • How Does The Culture & Vibe Compare
  • A Taste Of The East: How Does The Cuisine Compare
  • Which Is The Better Choice

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

A Quick Overview & Comparison: Thailand vs Malaysia

Both countries have beautiful landscapes, mountains, jungles and waterfalls to explore. So they’re great destinations for a sunseeker that’s also looking for some adventure.

However if beaches are your main priority, then Thailand is a better choice than Malaysia. The white sand beaches in this country are better than Malaysian ones, and the countless Thai islands are also spectacular. We recommend some of our favorite beaches later on in this article.

But Malaysia with it’s 800+ islands also has a stunning coastline, and unlike the popular spots in Thailand, beaches in Malaysia don’t tend to get as busy, making them the perfect place to unwind.

In fact Malaysia would probably be the better vacation choice if you’re looking for a laid-back, quiet holiday.

Whereas if you’re seeking a lively nightlife scene, and a fun vibe, Thailand will be the best choice – as we explain later.

A wooden boat sailing near island in Thailand

Both countries have spectacular landscapes away from the coastline as well as jaw-dropping wildlife – but Malaysia is probably the better choice for wildlife seekers. The country’s Borneo region is arguably one of the best places for wildlife in the world, with elephants, tigers, and leopards among other species.

And for Muslim tourists, it will be easier to find Halal food in Malaysia as it’s a majority Muslim nation, and sourcing Halal options in Thailand can be quite difficult.

However alcohol is also much more expensive in Malaysia, so if you love your evening drinks, then Thailand could be a better option.

Below we look at what sort of excursions are available in both countries, before comparing the culture and food in each. All so you can see which country will suit you best!

Scenic View of Bohey dulang in Tun Sakaran Marine Park tropical islands Semporna, Sabah Borneo Malaysia. Bohey dulang is an ancient volcano located in Borneo island. The surrounding area is famous for scuba diving and snorkeling. It is also close to Sipadan Island, the top 5 dive site in the world.

How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?

Thailand: the beaches & landscape.

This nation is one of those rare destinations that has it all. Beaches for relaxing, a famous nightlife and party scene, and food that’s known around the globe.

For fantastic beaches, head out into the islands. Phuket’s famous beaches include Kata Beach , which offers a busy slice of paradise with street vendors, upmarket hotels, and beach activities such as surfing and snorkeling.

Freedom Beach offers a more serene choice, whilst still providing convenient access to food vendors and beach chairs. In general, expect a livelier and busier beach experience than what you would get in Malaysia.

That said, if you travel away from Phuket there are more laid-back coastal options. One of our favorites is Sunrise Beach on Ko Lipe. This gorgeous long stretch of white sand has shallow warm water perfect for swimming. It’s laid back, quiet by Thai standards, and the perfect place to unwind.

Monkeys waiting for food in Monkey Beach, Thailand

After a day’s relaxing, head to the region of Krabi where you can go rock climbing, jungle trekking, and sea kayaking.

Krabi’s stunning natural beauty, jungle-covered interior and incredible cliffs and caves offer an array of activities for tourists who want more from their trip than just relaxing on the beach.

You’ll also find plenty of tourist excursions and activities in Krabi (and throughout Thailand) all set up and ready to go. And that’s another advantage to Thailand over Malaysia. With Thailand attracting over 20 million tourists a year, this country is well suited to tourists who want an easy holiday where there’s plenty to keep them occupied yet no hassle to sort out.

And for those looking for a more wholesome time, Koh Tao (meaning Turtle Island) on Thailand’s east coast is home to the country’s most beautiful coral reefs. Which naturally makes it the top destination for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Whilst if you want to see Thai wildlife head to Isaan . This barely visited region of Thailand – as we’ve written about before – is home to breathtaking national parks, hiking trails, elephants, and even temples built on volcanoes! It’s a region almost all tourists ignore, but it feels like Thailand before tourism took over.

elephant in thailand jungle

Malaysia: The Beaches & Landscape

For the best beaches in Malaysia, one of our favorite spots is the Perhentian Islands (photo below). Although hotels have started to spring up in this region, it remains largely unspoiled – that’s a rarity in Thailand where many of the best beaches are highly developed.

Expect soft white sand beaches, warm water for swimming, and swaying palm trees at the islands. It’s calm, quiet, and a perfect place to unwind from the stress of everyday life.

For somewhere even more remote, but with some of the best turquoise water in Malaysia, head to the little island of Rawa .

There are no roads on this island making it a real secluded paradise. Our top tip is to rent a kayak and circle the island’s coastline – it’s surrounded by coral making it a great place to spot colorful reef fish.

Sunny day on the idyllic beach. Perhentian Islands in Malaysia.

Away from the coastline Malaysia has vast regions of wild mountainous rainforest – perfect for hiking, wildlife spotting, and jungle trekking.

Adventurous travelers should have a go at climbing the nation’s highest peak, Mount Kinabalu, which stands at 4095 meters. Located in Borneo , you’ll have to pay a fee to climb the mountain (around 200 USD) but that pays for your accommodation over 2/3 nights, a guide, meals, and the permit to hike this World Heritage Site.

Staying in Borneo, a visit to Gunung Mulu National Park will expose you to some of the world’s most fascinating – but also rare – animals. This protected rainforest is packed with flora and fauna, and a trip down the jungle rivers will give you a chance to spot species like monkeys and porcupines.

A trip to northeastern Borneo and you may witness the rare endangered pygmy elephant. Whilst if you cross over into Indonesian Borneo you can visit Tanjung Puting National Park – home to majestic orangutans.

As you may have guessed by now, if you’re a wildlife lover then Malaysia is one of the best and most exciting countries in the world to visit.

Orangutan spotted in the rainforest jumping from tree to tree

How Does The Culture & Vibe Compare?

Both are culture-packed countries where you’re guaranteed to experience the incredible east.

Malaysia, whilst a majority Muslim country, is relatively liberal. Therefore bathing suits and discreet drinking may be fine at some public beaches. However drinking in front of mosques, for example, would be quite disrespectful.

In contrast, Thailand has a world-famous nightlife scene, especially in Koh Phangan (more on that below), Phuket and Bangkok. So if you’re looking for parties and fun past midnight, Thailand would be the best choice.

Although Malaysian cities like Kuala Lumpur also have decent bars and entertainment, a night out in Malaysia for the majority of people tends to involve a cup of milky tea and some sweet treats!

Below we look at some of the highlights in each country when it comes to culture and vibe, so you can see what you think you’ll like most:

Back view of woman tourist backpacker travel in Khao San road, Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand: The Culture & Vibe

Thailand is a country known for its food, culture, stunning scenery, and more recently a great party scene.

For those looking for a wild time, Bangla Road in Patong offers its own selection of bars, go-go clubs and neon-covered craziness. As well as the famous adult entertainment clubs that have become synonymous with Thailand.

Koh Phangan is most well-known for its Full Moon Parties. This small East Coast island is home to the most famous parties in Thailand and 10,000 to 30,000 people flock to them every month.

Around 90% of Thais identify as Buddhists, and there’s also a significant Hindu influence in the country too. Therefore away from the parties and beaches, Thailand is a very spiritual place filled with spectacular temples.

One of our favorites – and one of the most serene – is situated in Phanom Rung Historical Par k. A remnant of the Khmer Empire, Phanom Rung is a breathtaking temple built on the rim of an extinct volcano.

You could – and should – also have a go at Muay Thai , Thailand’s national sport. Muay Thai (or Thai Boxing) can be traced back to 18th century Thailand, and has its roots deeply ingrained in Thai culture.

Gyms up and down the country offer training sessions (from a single day, to several months!) for foreigners and it’s a fantastic way to get to know this country and culture. In fact that’s something we’ve even written about in the past.

Aerial view of Big Buddha viewpoint at sunset in Phuket province, Thailand

Malaysia: The Culture & Vibe

Malaysia is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country, although 60% of the population are practicing Muslims.

A large minority of Malaysians are Hindu, and a trip to Batu Caves combines Malaysia’s rugged beauty with its religious side. Situated just outside the capital of Kuala Lumpur, this huge network of limestone caves have been turned into Hindu temples and are now an important pilgrimage site.

For something a little more contemporary, the Genting Highlands is a hill-resort built 1,800 meters above sea level on Mount Ulu Kali .

This colorful and eccentric resort can be reached by cable car, and has several large casinos to enjoy. It seems in a strange and quirky world of its own, and is definitely worth a visit.

Another hill town – and one with a longer history – is Cameron Highlands which was formally used as a retreat for the British during the colonial period. The production of tea was a major economic factor during colonization, and Boh Plantation – which you can visit – still exists from that time.

View of people at Batu Caves Lord Murugan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

A Taste Of The East: How Does The Cuisine Compare?

Both countries will provide a treat for your tastebuds. Whilst Thai food gets all the plaudits, Malaysian cuisine is a rising star.

Thailand: The Food

Thai food is famous around the world – and no wonder – so if you’re a food lover, Thailand is going to be a dream destination and arguably better than Malaysia. We just hope you like your food hot – Thai cuisine is some of the spiciest in the region!

If visiting make sure you try the iconic Pad Thai – a stir fry dish made with thin rice noodles, meat or shrimp.

For something a little less known, Thailand’s remote and rarely visited northeast – Isaan – has a traditional dish called Laap which is delicious. It’s made up of minced meat seasoned with fresh herbs, lime juice and fish sauce, and is served with sticky rice.

You must try Thailand’s comfort food – Khao Phat – as well. This is good hearty fried rice that comes combined with a variety of ingredients. It’s perfect for a long day exploring Thailand’s sights.

Family enjoy eating food on street food restaurant with crowd of people at Yaowarat road, Bangkok

Malaysia: The Food

Malaysian food is beginning to appear around the world, with dishes like Satay now found in the US, UK, and other nations.

Satay are tasty skewers of meat are seasoned with a variety of spices and usually accompanied with a peanut sauce.

One of the most popular foods in Malaysia is Rendang . This spicy meat dish (usually beef or chicken) is made by slow-cooking the meat along with coconut milk, chilli and spices. The result is exceptionally rich and tender.

A beloved Malaysian dessert – and a great one on hot days – is Ais kacang . Made from red beans, palm seeds, sweet corn, peanuts and shaved ice (an eclectic mix!), this multi-colored treat will cool you down on a hot summer day.

beef pad thai and chicken satay dinner viewed from above

Thailand vs Malaysia: Which Is The Better Choice?

A holiday to either Thailand or Malaysia is going to be an unforgettable experience with great food, scenery and culture. But both countries provide very different vacations.

If you’re looking for the best beaches, lively nightlife, cheap drinks and an all-round fun vibe, Thailand will be a better holiday destination than Malaysia.

However if you want a quieter vacation which divides time between the beach and other activities such as wildlife watching in Borneo, then Malaysia should be your choice.

Recommended For Your Trip To Thailand Or Malaysia

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

*This article may contain affiliate links which allows Wandering our World to make a small commission on any sales made – and keep the coffee flowing! It involves no extra cost to yourself. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases, but only recommend products we believe in.

Aerial view of Big Buddha viewpoint at sunset in Phuket province, Thailand

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indonesia vs vietnam

Indonesia vs Vietnam: Your Guide to Choosing

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

Two amazing countries, both located in Southeast Asia, but oh, so different and yet equally beautiful and interesting! It is tough having to decide where to go so we decided to thoroughly compare the two.

While Indonesia is mostly a Muslim country infused with some hints of animism there are also islands and areas following Catholicism and Hinduism. It is a dynamic melting pot spread out over the 1700+ islands that Indonesia is home to. Vietnam mixes Buddhism with Confucianism and Taoism, known as Tam Giáo which translates to ‘triple religion’. Buddhism, influenced by the Chinese culture, is leading in the country.

Vietnam has over 20.000 pagodas and Indonesia has got tons of Hindu and Buddhist temples as well, dating back to ancient days, before Islam arrived at the country. When entering a pagoda or a temple, always remember to take off your shoes in order to be respectful. In Indonesia, it is also appropriate to wear a sarong covering your knees as well as something to cover your shoulders and breasts.

Where to begin describing the highlights of such massive and stunning countries? Well, I gotta start somewhere, but do realize that it is only the tip of the iceberg.

The land of rice paddies, tobacco plantations, coconut groves, active volcanoes, emerald rivers, dense tropical jungle and islands, so many islands!

Borobudur Java

This ancient temple complex, located in ‘special region of Yogyakarta’ on the island Java is probably the most famous tourist attraction in all of Indonesia. While most people go to see the sunrise at Borobudur, I enjoyed going a bit, avoiding the crowds and really allowing myself to get enchanted by the beauty of this impressive archaeological site.

Lake Toba Sumatra

This is the world’s largest crater lake and the island in the middle, Pulau Samosir, is home to the indigenous Batak Tribe. Nature is beautifully untouched, the culture and architecture of the Bataks are unique and intriguing and you can be sure to find peace of mind here at Lake Toba in the north of Sumatra.

See Also: Malaysia VS Indonesia

Orang Utans

These human-like apes are native to Indonesia and they are living in the dense tropical rainforests of Sumatra and Kalimantan. You can go on a jungle trekking to spot them in their natural habitat, alongside other monkeys and creatures of the forest. Head towards the national parks of these islands and be amazed!

Though Bali attracts millions of tourist every year, this little Hindu island doesn’t lose its magic and the advantage of being a popular tourist hub is that Bali is home to beach clubs, world-class restaurants, and boutique shops. Traveling away from the busy tourist towns brings you to beautiful beaches, holy temples, mountains and rice paddies.

Travel to: Bali

Komodo Island

During the boat trip to see the Komodo Dragon, the largest lizard in the world that only lives on Komodo Island near Flores, you will sleep on the boat deck beneath a million of stars, you will see hundreds of bats fly over during sunset and sunrise and you will get to go snorkeling with the magical manta rays. Definitely one of my traveling highlights!

Gili Islands

No traffic whatsoever! Only horse cards, bicycles, and beaches. The three Gili Islands, located just offshore at the island Lombok have something for everyone; nature and tranquility, beaches and parties and snorkeling and diving.

All the islands in Indonesia are volcanic and they feature majestic holy mountains that you can climb or admire from a distance as the sun rises. If you are up for a good hike, put Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen in Java, Mount Agung in Bali and Mount Rinjani in Lombok on your bucket list.

People mostly travel to Vietnam for the culture and the breathtaking sites of nature. Here are some of Vietnam’s highlights:


Probably one of the most beautiful sites of nature in the world, Halong Bay features tons of rocky limestone islands scattered around the emerald waters of northern Vietnam. A place where fairy tales were invented! Hop on a boat on a clear sunny day to make the most out of your trip and make sure to pinch yourself to see if you are not dreaming…

Mekong Delta Floating Market

Another thing Vietnam is famous for are the floating markets – an extraordinary way of getting your grocery shopping done. The Mekong River is home to numerous floating houses and markets, colorful, playful, scenting, and lively, surrounded by magnificent rice paddies.

Hoang Lien Son – Hmong Villages trekking

Hoang Lien is the highest mountain in Vietnam and it is home to indigenous tribes and villages that you can visit during nature treks in this area of northern Vietnam. A great way to see the raw untouched nature and get a glimpse of the local culture.

Travel to: Vietnam

Hoi An – UNESCO Town

Hoi An is an atmospheric ancient trading port town, named as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Colorful and lively, Hoi An has adapted to tourism with trendy tea houses, restaurants and lounge bars and yet the old charm still remains. Travel a bit out the center, and you will find beautiful cycling routes through the rural life and landscapes of Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh Cu Chi tunnels

Marks of the Vietnam War are visible in Ho Chi Minh where you can wander through the Cu Chi underground tunnels that lie beneath the city. A scary yet intriguing place, a former hiding place for Viet Cong soldiers and a war memorial park in these modern days.

When you are in Ho Chi Minh City, don’t miss a night in the backpackers’ area. There are plenty of pubs and bars, as well as local restaurants that offer authentic Vietnamese food. If you want to do something different, you can sign up in cooking classes or volunteer activities in villages. Carry light clothes as the weather in Vietnam is quite hot. Even though Ho Chi Minh City is the commercial hub in Vietnam, it is still an interesting place to visit because it is a good mix of history and modernization. – Claire, First-Time Travels

Yok Don National Park

The largest national park in all of Vietnam. It is a bird paradise and a sanctuary for the endangered Indian elephant, the Indochinese tiger and leopard and the red wolf.

Southern Beaches

Beaches may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Vietnam, but actually, it should! There are lots of them and they are no less beautiful than the beaches in Thailand or other popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia.

For me Sapa was my number one place we visited in Vietnam. It just seemed to have everything that makes this country so special. Amazing landscapes, unique culture and adventure around every corner. Up here it’s easy to think the town itself is a little spoilt by tourism, but head out trekking with one of the local H’Mong guides, through remote tribal villages, jaw dropping rice terraces and immerse yourself in the culture up here in one of the many homestays and you will see that there is many authentic experiences to be had up here. A little more off he beaten track and again for me the most intense experience in our 7 weeks on bikes through the country was riding the Ho Chi Minh trail along the border with Laos. This is not for the faint hearted and involved riding for 2 days through isolated mountain passes, tiny villages where the whole tribe would come to greet us and virtually no petrol station or help if needed. We had to carry our own fuel and food and ride through some challenging terrain before finally heading into the unforgettable scenery of Phong Nha Khe Bang. Tiring, mentally taxing but absolutely amazing. I also have to mention the canyoning in Da Lat, leaping 11m into a narrow waterfall was certainly a heart racing challenge in beautiful scenery. – Nic & Paul, The Roaming Renegades

Surely one of the main reasons to visit these amazing countries is to get a taste of the authentic local food. Both are delicious but very different. One thing the Indonesians and the Vietnamese share in common, and that is that they like it hot. Hot as in painfully spicy, that is…

vietnam food

The Indonesians like to eat with their hands and rice takes part of almost every meal. The rice is eaten with an array of richly flavored dishes such as fried tempeh, sambal eggs, chicken or fish curry or the famous Rendang beef stew. Chili is added on the side, in case it’s not spicy enough for you already.

Here’s a short list of the most delicious Indonesian dishes:

  • Sambal : this chili-based sauce is a staple at all Indonesian tables
  • Satay : meat skewers marinated in turmeric, barbecued and then bathed in a hearty dose of peanut sauce
  • Bakso : savory meatball noodle soup appreciated also by Barack Obama!

In Vietnam, you will learn how to eat your food with chopsticks! I don’t know about you, but I just can’t get enough of those bowls of hot steaming Pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup that comes with either chicken, beef or prawns and a whole lot of local spices and herbs. Absolutely yummy! The fresh spring rolls Goi Cuon are also not to be missed and for breakfast, you can try the bahn mi banquets or the bahn xeo pancakes.

Must try food for us is Bahn Mi. It’s like a cheese, egg and salad baguette (you can get meat but we are veggie) that you can buy on the street most notably in Hanoi and Hoi An. It’s got influence from the French era here and is made in a very Vietnamese way and is of course dirt cheap! – Nic & Paul, The Roaming Renegades

Here’s a list of the most famous Vietnamese dishes:

  • Pho : salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef
  • Cha ca : sizzling chunks of fish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric and dill on a hot pan tableside
  • Banh xeo : crispy crepe bulging with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts, plus the garnish of fresh herbs
For young people, I think the nightlife in Saigon is definitely a must. The drinks are cheap and the sitting culture is very odd but worth the experience. If you have more time, you should definitely look into staying with local host families where you will get the chance to eat, speak, live and breath a culture that is far away from yours. Most Vietnamese families don’t speak English so take this chance to be in a challenging environment. It will change your life! – Trisha, P.S. I’m On My Way

southeast asia transport

Getting Around

In Indonesia you can’t get around to making use of the planes and/or boats as the country is huge, comprising thousands of islands. Depending on which Island you are, you can use the local Ojeks or Rickshaws (bicycle and motorbike taxi’s) and Bemo’s to move around in the cities and towns. You can also drive a motorbike yourself if you can and dare. For long distance travels, take the bus, train or hire a private car with a driver.

Frequent trains and open tour buses can move you across the country affordably and comfortably. Lots of travelers choose to hire or even buy a motorbike to get around by themselves independently, selling the bike again at the end of their trip. Around the cities, you can move around easily by hopping on a Xe Om motorbike taxi or a Cyclo bicycle rickshaw.

See Also: What To Do in Vietnam and Where To Do It

Indonesia and Vietnam are comparable in price and both very affordable. You can enjoy a good meal for less than USD $2 and there are accommodations for every budget. Both countries have their own currency; the Rupiah in Indonesia and the Dong in Vietnam. Be prepared to pay more for your beers and cocktails in Indonesia because the country applies a crazy high import tax rate on alcohol.

Be prepared to be ripped off. Vietnam is one of those Southeast Asian countries who are known for heavily hustling so if you don’t have the stomach (and skills) for dealing with it, it might affect your travel mood. The trick is to be firm (sounds like a very complex word) but if they feel like you know what you are doing, they will get off your radar.  – Trisha, P.S. I’m On My Way

Phrases and Words

Here some useful words and phrases to use while in

So, which one is better?

Both countries are amazing. According to many travelers, Vietnam is more ‘off the beaten track’ than Indonesia, even though is safe to travel around. Indonesia is more developed and so more expensive, but it has definitely amazing beaches.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

Stephanie P

Stephanie went out to see the world and never came back. From the lowlands of Europe, she traveled eastwards and she is still on the way to seeing the rest of the world. She loves being out in nature, meeting people of different cultures, making music and writing blogs about her travel experiences.

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The 10 best places to visit in Indonesia

Mark Johanson

Dec 10, 2023 • 7 min read

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

Indonesia is how you've always imagined Asia – jungles, rice terraces, beaches, coral reefs and volcanoes © Martin Puddy / Getty Images

Few destinations can beat Indonesia  in terms of variety.

One day, you're strolling beneath the glistening skyscrapers of a modern city; the next, you're in a traditional hilltop village scoffing down steaming gado-gado (tofu, tempeh, vegetables slathered in a creamy peanut sauce).

From climbing the freezing-cold summit of a puffing volcano to beating through tropical rainforests in search of orangutans or tigers, Indonesia offers unparalleled opportunities for adventure. Where else can you salute the sun at sunrise and then surf a world-class barrel back to a virgin beach at sunset?

Roughly half of all international tourists land in Bali , but the nation is so much more than this one enticing island. From Java , Sumatra and Sulawesi to the frontier islands of West Papua (shared with Papua New Guinea) and Borneo (shared with Malaysia and Brunei), here are the top places to visit on a trip to Indonesia.

1. Jakarta, Java

Best city for art and history .

There’s no better place to get to grips with this vast and complex nation of 273 million people than its capital, Jakarta . Home to more than 10 million residents, it’s chaotic, traffic-clogged and sprawls over nearly 700 sq km (270 sq miles). It’s also home to the nation’s finest restaurants, wildest nightclubs and best museums.

Take time to browse the collections in the Museum Nasional (for history), Galeri Nasional (for classical art) and MACAN (for modern and contemporary art). From the Dutch colonial buildings of the Kota Tua neighborhood to the modern skyrises of the Golden Triangle, the city is both a study in contrasts and a crossroads of cultures, classes and cuisines.

An orangutan sitting on a wooden bench at Tanjung Puting National Park

2. Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Borneo

Best place to see orangutans.

If you want to see orangutans, the island of Borneo is the last place on earth (other than a few spots in neighboring Sumatra) where these great apes still thrive. Travelers looking for surefire sightings of orangutans head to Tanjung Puting National Park , a coastal tropical swamp forest that looks today like much of southern Borneo looked a few decades ago.

Most visitors hire liveaboard boats to travel up the Sekonyer River to feeding stations in the rainforest and Camp Leakey, the iconic rehabilitation center deep in the jungle where these auburn-haired 'men of the forest' live out a serene, semi-wild existence.

3. Raja Ampat, West Papua

Best place for snorkeling and diving.

Raja Ampat was once an under-the-radar destination visited only by intrepid scuba divers, but the whispers about this enticing island group have now reached a fever pitch. Off the coast of West Papua, the archipelago is a picture-perfect vision of paradise. Its lumpy green isles are blanketed in rainforests, dotted with languid lagoons and surrounded by warm turquoise seas at the vibrant heart of the Coral Triangle – an area of ocean with some of the greatest marine biodiversity on earth.

Raja Ampat's prismatic birds-of-paradise, which dance through the trees each morning at sunrise, informed the theory of evolution through natural selection, first developed by Charles Darwin’s less-appreciated contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace. The British naturalist's restored hut is a popular attraction on the island of Gam. In addition to the dive lodges on Waigeo and Misool, many visitors sleep in homestays on virgin beaches, offering a chance to learn more about West Papua's distinctive culture.

Village women carry offerings of food on their heads in a temple procession near Ubud

4. Ubud, Bali

Best city for wellness and culture.

Rice paddies tumble down palm-lined hills, gamelan music fills the air, and floral offerings fill the streets in Bali’s most alluring (and on-trend) city, Ubud . By day, you can take a motorcycle out to the Monkey Forest for simian encounters, pop into the Yoga Barn for an ashtanga session, ogle the art at the Agung Rai Museum or shop for word-class beauty products, woodcarvings and batik textiles downtown. After dark, many people attend evening performances at local temples, where visitors are hypnotized by the beauty of courtly Legong ballets or wild Kecak fire dancing. Be careful! Many foreigners come to Ubud for a few days and end up staying a few years.

5. Komodo National Park, Nusa Tenggara

Best place for surprising wildlife encounters.

Dragons really do roam the earth at this sprawling national park , covering the three arid islands – Komodo, Padar and Rinca – that provide shelter for the world’s largest lizards. Komodo dragons are ancient-looking creatures that can grow up to 3m in length and weigh up to 70kg. Sadly, there are fewer than 1400 of these fork-tongued giants left in the wild. The chance to see them lures thousands of visitors each year, many of whom arrive on a boat tour en route from Lombok to Flores , stopping along the way to snorkel or dive off the coast of Sumbawa .

View from the temple of Borobudur, Java

6. Borobudur and Yogyakarta, Java

Best place for indonesian history.

Peru has Machu Picchu, Cambodia has Angkor Wat, and Indonesia has Borobudur , a nine-tiered temple from the 9th century that clocks in as the largest Buddhist structure in the world. Emblazoned across its walls are some 2672 intricately-carved bas relief panels featuring Buddhist legends and scenes of daily life in Java, as well as 72 distinctive, perforated stupas and more than 500 Buddha statues.

This colossal World Heritage Site lies amid sprawling rice paddies near Yogyakarta , an important education center and a hub for classical Javanese art forms, including batik-making, wayang puppetry and silversmithing. Yogya, as the city is known locally, is fiercely independent and still headed by a resident sultan, whose walled palace complex is the city’s top attraction.

7. Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

Best place for cultural traditions.

The jungle-clad hills and rugged granite cliffs of Tana Toraja would be enough of a lure for most places, but the big draw of the central highlands of Sulawesi is the Torajan people themselves. The inhabitants of this fascinating region maintain traditions that mark them apart from other Indonesians, living in villages of elaborately decorated houses with intricately carved walls and boat-shaped roofs.

Many rituals here revolve around death and the afterlife. The bodies of the deceased remain in the homes (and lives) of their relatives for months or even years after they pass – for Torajans, death is viewed as a gradual and social process, and locals are generally comfortable sharing these unusual traditions with visitors.

A man waves a flag atop Gunung Kerinci, Indonesia

8. Kerinci Valley, Sumatra

Best place for hiking.

Southeast Asia’s tallest volcano, Gunung Kerinci – a 3805m (12,484ft) monster – lords over this remote highland valley on Sumatra , which has become one of Indonesia’s top spots for adventure travel. You can climb to the summit of this active volcano, swim beneath cascading waterfalls or search dense jungles for gibbons and langur monkeys.

Much of the land here is protected as Kerinci Seblat National Park, which is two times the size of Bali and protects more forest than all of Costa Rica’s national parks combined. At 13,791 sq km (5325 sq miles), Kerinci Seblat is the last large refuge for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, which survives here in greater numbers than anywhere else on the planet.

9. Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Java

Best place for beautiful indonesian views.

You don’t have to look far in Indonesia to find a volcano, but Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in East Java contains a whopping five volcanoes right next to each other. These conical peaks are dotted around a lunar landscape that has sprung from the ancient Tengger caldera.

The most striking site is smoldering Gunung Bromo, which rises 2329m (7641ft) out of a crater that is almost 10km (6 miles) across, surrounded by the nation’s only erg (dune sea). Most visitors time the trek to the summit to arrive at dawn to view the crater and volcanoes at their ethereal best.

Two ladies snorkelling near the island of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

10. The Gili Islands, Lombok

Best place for beach parties.

These tiny dollops of coral and sand off the coast of Lombok carry an outsized reputation thanks to their crystalline turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, ambitious vegan and health food restaurants, renowned freediving schools and epic beach parties. The Gilis started out as a boho backpacker destination, but the islands now cater to all types of travelers, with everything from backstreet hostels to luxurious beachfront cabanas (beach huts). 

Gili Trawangan (aka ‘Gili T’) is the largest and most developed of the islands, with a main drag that heaves with shops, massage parlors and cafes. Gili Meno is the smallest and most traditional island, while Gili Air offers the best of both worlds and is a lively hub for yoga tourism.

This article was first published Apr 21, 2022 and updated Dec 10, 2023.

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Indonesia vs. Thailand: An Honest Travel Comparison

07/12/2023 by Ashley Yap 1 Comment

This post was written by BMTM’s Malaysia-based writer, Ashley Yap.

Two beautiful tropical paradises stand before you, but you only have time for a vacation in one country… So, between Indonesia and Thailand, which should you choose?

I was born and raised in Malaysia, which is sandwiched between Indonesia and Thailand, each just a quick flight away. I’ve spent a cumulative six months in both over several dozen sojourns over the past seven years, and I am here to help you decide which country to visit if you must choose only one:

Table of Contents

Country Overview

semeti beach

Indonesia: an outdoors lover’s dream come true

One could easily travel this archipelago for years — it’s the largest in the world, after all. Some of our favorite spots in Indonesia include Lombok , Komodo National Park, the Gili Islands, the Nusa Islands , Mount Bromo, Mount Rinjani, Kawah Ijen, and of course, Raja Ampat. No matter where you end up, though, the country offers visitors stunning beaches, hiking trails, unique wildlife (both above and underwater), and friendly, genuine interactions with the locals. The national language, Bahasa, is easy to pick up, and the longer you spend learning various words from residents, the more immersed you can become in the destination.


Thailand: an enchanting country to feel right at home in

Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand carries a rich cultural history as the only nation in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized, thus retaining a strong identity that can be clearly seen — from sites related to ancient kingdoms to the street food stalls serving up authentic and delicious favorites. Tourism makes up over 65% of the country’s GDP, so whether you are planning to visit spiritual Chiang Mai and Sukhothai, buzzing Bangkok, or the gorgeous islands, or intend to experience a meditation retreat , Thailand caters to all. Thai people are used to tourists, and most speak English, which makes communication easy. Finally, we can’t talk about Thailand without mentioning that it’s a foodie paradise — I often joke that it should be nicknamed the Land of Smiling Bellies!

Weather and the Best Time to Visit

The Blue Lagoon on Nusa Ceningan

Best time to visit Indonesia

There are only two seasons in Indonesia: wet and dry. Since most of the adventures there are outdoors, your best bet is the dry season, which is from April to October. If you’d like to avoid crowds and enjoy the shoulder seasons’ low prices, you might consider visit Indonesia in May, June, and September.

koh yao noi

Best time to visit Thailand

As Thailand stretches more than a thousand miles from north to south, the best time to visit may vary, depending on where you want to go. November to March is generally good, but it’s also the busiest season, so try to book your flights and accommodations ahead of time if you plan to visit during this time.

Below, I’ll discuss which country comes out on top when considering various factors:

Budget and Value for Money: Indonesia

tiu kelep

In general, I find that Indonesia offers a better bang for your buck. Everything, from food to accommodation to activities, just seems to be slightly more affordable in Indonesia. On a shoestring budget, you can travel there for just about $30/day (or less!). This includes basic dorm accommodations, a scooter rental, and three full meals a day. Thailand, on the other hand, may cost you about $50/day to do the same.

If you are on a mid-range budget, you can stay in really nice beachfront hotels, eat at cafés with good menus, and hire a personal guide to take you around for the day for less than what you would expect to pay in Thailand.

doi luang chaing dao

Outdoor activities, including diving and hiking, also cost slightly less in Indonesia, yet offer arguably more to see and experience than Thailand. There are also far more beaches, waterfalls, and cultural sites that you can explore for free or for a small fee.

Because of the size of the country, the longer you travel in Indonesia, the cheaper your trip becomes. The only thing is that the domestic flights in Thailand are cheaper and much more widely available, but almost everything else just seems to cost a little less in Indonesia.

Accommodation Options: Indonesia

rumah pohon, nusa penida

With both countries winning the hearts of budget backpackers from all over the world, you are sure to find a well-rated hostel with good vibes and cheap prices in each. I have stayed in numerous dorms in both Indonesia and Thailand, and met so many cool people along the way. I give Indonesia the edge, however, because of the availability of unique stays.

From a treehouse overlooking the jagged islets of Nusa Penida, to live-aboard excursions across the most exquisite dive sites, Indonesia seems to have a knack for unique architecture and unusual accommodation experiences. If comfort is what you are seeking on your holiday, some of our favorite luxury lodgings in Indonesia include Komaneka in Bali , Hotel Tugu in Lombok , and Four Seasons in Jakarta , all of which are under $300/night yet offer an unforgettable stay.

It might not really matter if all you want is a place to lay your head, but if the accommodation makes up part of the experience for you, then Indonesia may have more to offer.

Transportation (getting to and around): Thailand

Indonesia vs thailand

In my opinion, the best way to get around when traveling in Southeast Asia is with a scooter rental. It gives you the ultimate freedom to roam — and renting is cheap and easy in most parts of both countries. That being said, if you do not know how to ride a scooter, Thailand’s public transportation is more reliable and widely available. In cities like Bangkok, you can order a bike from Grab (Southeast Asia’ Uber equivalent) for less than a dollar for a 5 km ride. Get a Thai SIM card to stay connected.

The same goes for long-distance travels. Domestic flights in Thailand are well connected. I could easily change my travel plans and buy a ticket to another city in Thailand, something I never really do in Indonesia. There are also plenty of overnight buses and trains that you can take in Thailand. They are mostly comfortable, have AC, and run on time.

However, you should take the length of your holiday into account when deciding whether to visit Thailand or Indonesia. The last thing you want to do on your precious holiday is to spend a chunk of your time in transit! If you only have about a week or less, I’d suggest picking Thailand.

Safety: Thailand

koh yao noi

As a solo female traveler, I find that I still stand out in a crowd in more remote places in Indonesia. The curious stares from some men have made me feel uneasy in the past, and I’ve also experienced more catcalls in Indonesia, though nothing serious has ever happened to me there.

There are just simply more tourists in Thailand, and so it’s rare to be the only one around. It’s much easier to meet other people and be in a group, which makes you less of a target for catcalling.

Also, economically, Thailand is more developed than Indonesia, which means more streets are well lit at night, and you have stabler reception, even in remote places.

I want to emphasize that I have not felt physically threatened while traveling in Indonesia, but I do feel generally safer in Thailand . If this is your first time traveling alone in this part of the world, Thailand might make you feel safer and more comfortable.


Solo Female Travel in Thailand: A Complete Guide

Food: Thailand

Indonesia vs thailand

This is a no-brainer in my opinion. I mean, out of the official Asia top 50 restaurants list , Thailand made the list 17 times and won first place.

I simply love Thai food. It’s flavorful, it’s fun, it’s simple in principle yet layered and absolutely delicious. In Bangkok, many talented local chefs have put a spin on traditional recipes and curated innovative menus that will blow your mind away. You will also find some of the best Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, and Indian restaurants in the heart of Bangkok.

But perhaps the most rewarding culinary experience awaits on the streets, and it is a true tale of Thailand. Street food is glorious there and a must-do.

This is not to say that Indonesian food is not good — it is actually great. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like satay (meat skewers) with homemade peanut sauce. But Thai food simply has a special place in my heart.

Cultural Diversity: Indonesia (but Thailand comes close!)

Indonesia vs thailand

I debated on this, because I think both countries offer a unique cultural experience to visitors.

Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that was never colonized, and the evidence is clear in its well-preserved culture. You will see many beautiful and unique Buddhist temples throughout, including the White Temple in Chiang Mai and the Wat Arun in Bangkok. I also have fond memories of watching monks collect alms on a quiet street at the crack of dawn. For people who seek spiritual experiences during their travels, Thailand is also a popular destination for silent and meditation retreats, attracting practitioners from all over the world each year.

Aside from Buddhism, Thailand is also an epic destination for cultural festivals, the most popular being the Songkran Festival, when the entire country celebrates the traditional New Year with three days of giant water fights; and the Yi Peng Festival , during which thousands of lanterns are released into the sky. As a tourist, I felt very welcomed by the locals as I tried to participate in their cultures.

Indonesia bucket list

Indonesia, while a Muslim-majority country, offers a beautiful blend of different cultures and traditions from island to island. In Bali, I love getting up and early for a walk to watch residents performing their morning religious ritual; in Borobudur, you will step on the world’s largest Buddhist structure; in South Sulawesi, death is celebrated, not mourned.

Throughout the year, there are all kinds of festivals and celebrations pertaining to different religions and cultures, and it’s wonderful to see how the locals embrace both their own and each other’s beliefs and celebrate as one.

While both countries offer amazing cultural experiences, I find Indonesia to be more diverse, and therefore more interesting for travelers, especially if it’s your first time in Southeast Asia.

Beautiful Beaches: It’s a tie!

nusa lembongan

Both countries are famous for their beautiful beaches, and it is simply too difficult to pick a winner!

Outside of Bali, the beaches in Indonesia are generally more rugged and raw, often requiring a scooter ride to get to. They are less likely to have infrastructure, like bars, cafés, washrooms, and lounge chairs — but that’s what I like about them. I remember a friend telling me that “a beach is a beach,” but I beg to differ, especially when one is in Indonesia. Some of my favorites include the black-sand beach in Bali, pink-sand beach in Komodo National Park, and numerous others with swim holes, caves, and cliffs that are incredible to explore. Do note that the waves tend to be rougher (which makes it a surfing paradise!), so make your own judgement before diving in.

koh yao noi

On the other hand, if you prefer more developed beaches with a more social atmosphere, Thailand may be a better pick for you. The beautiful tropical sands with limestone cliffs, swaying boats, and naughty monkeys are hard not to love! Those who enjoy nightlife on the shore will love the bars, fire shows, and amazing parties on most Thai beaches. It is also very easy to arrange island-hopping tours and visit several beaches in a day. The only thing I’d say is that those in Thailand tend to give off more or less the same vibe, whereas Indonesian beaches are more diverse.

21 most beautiful places in Thailand

Snorkeling and Diving: Indonesia

mutiara Laut

Diving enthusiasts might have heard of Raja Ampat , one of the most incredible such sites in the world. It’s jaw-dropping how abundant and pristine everything under the water is, and everyone I know who has been there said that nothing comes close.

But one doesn’t have to venture out all the way to Raja Ampat to enjoy snorkeling and diving in Indonesia. In the Nusa Islands , you can swim out for about 200 meters and be greeted by wild sea turtles. I also spent a part of my honeymoon trip sailing across Komodo National Park, swam with manta rays and sharks, and even spotted dolphins from our deck. If diving is a big part of your trip, then I think you’ve got your answer now.

On the other hand, if you are planning to get scuba diving certification, Thailand may be a better and cheaper place to do so.

Hiking and Other Adventures: Indonesia

Mount Rinjani

For the adrenaline-rush seekers, multiday hikes to active volcanoes like Mount Bromo , Mount Ijen , and Mount Rinjani await in Indonesia. Other adventures include the lush rainforests of Sumatra, and majestic waterfalls like Tiu Kelep in Lombok and Tompak Sewu in Java.

You can also simply rent a bike and create your own adventure for the day, exploring paddy fields and nearby villages and waterfalls. You will find that the locals are super welcoming and always happy to share their favorite spots with you.

Adventures like these are not really available in Thailand, though you may enjoy a morning hike to Doi Luang Chiang Dao in the north.

Both countries come close on many factors on the list, but when it comes to outdoor adventures, Indonesia is the clear winner.

Cities and Nightlife: Thailand

Indonesia vs thailand

I will be honest: I didn’t like Jakarta. The traffic in the capital of Indonesia is consistently horrendous, the public transportation system is lacking, and it is so, so crowded that I understand why most travelers skip it altogether, even though there are a plenty of charming restaurants and lovely hotels to stay in.

On the other hand, there are so many ways to fall in love with Bangkok ! Thailand’s buzzing capital is filled with life, day and night. Each time I visit Bangkok, I make sure to drop by the Chatuchak Weekend Market to shop for both local designer and vintage items. If that’s not enough for you, Bangkok has over 200 shopping malls so you can shop till you drop!

Besides shopping, Bangkok also houses some of the best restaurants in Asia (see above), as well as some of the most happening nightclubs and rooftop bars.

Thailand vs. indonesia

Both countries are near and dear to my heart, and both deserve to be explored, as they have so much to offer. I hope the breakdowns of different aspects of these countries help you make up your mind — though I completely understand if it’s a tough call.

Where are you exploring next?

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10/04/2023 at 1:34 am

Hi Ashley Yap… Thanks for your article quite completely. But you forgot to write some places in Indonesia Indonedia is great for Diving as well Including Derawan Islands in East Kalimantan, Bunaken North Sulawesi of course Raja Ampat, until Conde Nast Magazine write article Most Beautiful Place in the world. Because Beautiful Islands and most diversity sea world in the world. For me Indonesia not just stunning beauty from Aceh until Papua. Therea are 3 World Class Surfing Spot; Mentawai, Uluwatu & Nias . Mist unique country 8n tge world. Because spread out around 17 thousands Islands with different ethnic, culturals & languages. In Sumatra Lake Toba with Samosir Island very Beautiful. Some places in West Sumatra quite nice. Look at Orang Utan in Kalimantan. Until Papua with some most pretty birds on earth. I dont understand why Thai food more popular then Indonesia food. My opinion Indonesian Food more range from Sumatra until Papua hundred different foods. More delicious as well. Including Indonesian Rendang( Original from Indonesia , Nasi Goreng, Satay; CNN choices World’s 50 Best Food. Iam agreed Bangkok much more better then Jakarta. And Thailand more populer then Indonesia except Bali.

But My Opinion….Indonesia The Most Beautiful & Unique Country in The World. I understand everyone opinions are different and I appreciate that.

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Microsoft announces US$1.7 billion investment to advance Indonesia’s cloud and AI ambitions

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A man on stage making an investment announcement in Indonesia

Investment includes new cloud and AI infrastructure, major AI skilling initiatives , and support for Indonesia’s growing developer community  

Read this in Bahasa Indonesia .

Jakarta, April 30, 2024 – Today, Microsoft announced it will invest US$1.7 billion over the next four years in new cloud and AI infrastructure in Indonesia, as well as AI skilling opportunities for 840,000 people, and support for the nation’s growing developer community. It represents the single largest investment in Microsoft’s 29-year history in the country.     

Together, these initiatives will help achieve the Indonesian government’s Golden Indonesia 2045 Vision, which aims to transform the nation into a global economic powerhouse.  

“This new generation of AI is reshaping how people live and work everywhere, including in Indonesia,” said Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft. “The investments we are announcing today – spanning digital infrastructure, skilling, and support for developers – will help Indonesia thrive in this new era.”  

Budi Arie Setiadi, Minister of Communications and Information Technology of the Republic of Indonesia emphasized the significance of Indonesia’s partnership with Microsoft in realizing the ambitious vision of Golden Indonesia 2045. “Indonesia’s collaboration with Microsoft on AI perfectly aligns with our ambition for a future driven by digital innovation. I am confident this partnership will open up new horizons for Indonesia, positioning us not only as consumers of technology but as pivotal contributors to the global technological supply chain,” he said.

Dharma Simorangkir, President Director of Microsoft Indonesia, said: “Our investment sets a new milestone for Indonesia’s digital landscape. We aim to empower Indonesians with the infrastructure and skills needed for the AI era, aligning with our national vision for digital prowess. It’s a crucial step towards making Indonesia a hub for digital talent and innovation.”    

Two male business executives shaking hands

Building a strong foundation for AI transformation  

The digital infrastructure investment builds on Microsoft’s Berdayakan Indonesia (Empower Indonesia) initiative, announced in February 2021, to accelerate inclusive economic growth. This included plans to establish the company’s first datacenter region in the country.  

The investment announced today will enable Microsoft to meet the growing demand for cloud computing services in Indonesia. It will also allow Indonesia to capitalize on the significant economic and productivity opportunities presented by the latest AI technology.  

According to research by Kearney , AI could contribute nearly US$1 trillion to Southeast Asia’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030, of which Indonesia is poised to capture US$366 billion.   

Focusing on skills to unlock an AI-powered economy  

A man on stage making a Microsoft skilling announcement

Microsoft today also announced a broader commitment to provide AI skilling opportunities for 2.5 million people in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states by 2025. This training and support will be delivered in partnership with governments, nonprofit and corporate organizations, and communities in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.  

Microsoft’s skilling commitment is expected to benefit 840,000 people in Indonesia by providing:  

  • students with technical and vocational education and training in AI skills through the AI TEACH for Indonesia program  
  • women with opportunities and support to build careers in cybersecurity via the new Ready4AI&Security program  
  • young people with AI fluency training to enhance the employability and work readiness of those from underserved and underrepresented communities  
  • employees of nonprofit organizations with knowledge of, and skills in, AI and digital technologies.  

Enabling developers to realize Indonesia’s AI potential  

Nadella highlighted the critical role of developers in harnessing AI to fulfill Indonesia’s potential as a digital economy. Microsoft will continue to help foster the growth of the country’s developer community through new initiatives such as AI Odyssey , which is expected to help 10,000 Indonesian developers become AI subject matter experts by learning new skills and earning Microsoft credentials.   

Over 3.1 million developers in Indonesia use GitHub, the Microsoft-owned software development, collaboration, and innovation platform. This makes Indonesia home to the third-largest developer community on GitHub in the Asia-Pacific region, after India and China. It is projected to be one of the top five developer communities on GitHub globally by 2026.  

Indonesia is also one of the fastest-growing groups in the region, with a 31 percent year-on-year increase in the number of developers on GitHub in 2023. Furthermore, it witnessed 213 percent year-on-year growth in the number of public generative AI projects on the platform in 2023.  

Many organizations in Indonesia are boosting their productivity and accelerating innovation using Microsoft’s generative AI-powered solutions. These include DANA , a leading Indonesian fintech company, PT Kereta Api Indonesia , the nation’s major operator of public railways, and Telkomsel , one of Asia’s largest digital telco companies. Other notable examples include:   

  • Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) , a 128-year-old bank in Indonesia, is developing four generative AI use cases in less than a year to enhance operational efficiency and service quality. They are a work instruction search engine for faster customer service, a ’content factory’ for streamlining the creation of marketing material, a letter-creation tool to standardize administrative documents, and a digital chatbot called Sabrina to provide transparent financial product information to millions of Indonesians.  
  • BUMA , one of the largest reliable mining contractors in Indonesia, started using Copilot for Microsoft 365 in March 2024 to improve the productivity of its workforce. Around 100 employees across the company’s departments are leveraging the tool to optimize their workflows and uncover previously underused features of Microsoft 365.  
  • eFishery , the first aqua technology startup based in Asia with a mission to combat world hunger, has launched Mas Ahya (Mr. Cultivation Expert). The solution, powered by Azure OpenAI Service, is designed to provide advice and insights to Asian aqua farmers. It caters to farmers with varying levels of experience and uses everyday language. It will also support multiple local languages, starting with Bahasa Indonesia and Javanese.  
  • PT Telkom Indonesia (Persero) Tbk (Telkom) , the nation’s largest telecommunications provider in the country, has enhanced its coding efficiency since adopting GitHub Copilot in mid-2023. In its early-stage usage, developers are already accepting 20–30 percent of the code suggested by the AI-pair programmer, which leads to increased confidence, productivity, and code quality.  
  • Universitas Terbuka , Indonesia’s open and distance learning university, has created an AI Assistant with Azure OpenAI Service in 1,000 virtual classrooms across 10 subjects; empowering up to 60,000 students across provinces. By indexing the teaching materials and grading criteria provided and curated by the lecturers, AI Assistant can help online lecturers evaluate, grade, and suggest improvements to students’ written answers. This real-time feedback encourages students to pay attention to their learning tasks and motivates them to participate more actively, thereby increasing student retention rates and contributing to their overall success.  
  • Yayasan Mitra Netra (Mitra Netra Foundation) , a nonprofit organization, used Azure OpenAI Service’s GPT-4 to enable its Arabic Braille Converter to convert Arabic text with harakat in image format to Arabic Unicode. The app, created by a team including non-technical staff members and a programmer who is blind, converts Arabic text with Harakat to Indonesian braille and vice versa, potentially benefiting millions of people with vision impairment.  

Ensuring a responsible future in the AI era  

Microsoft is actively collaborating with the Indonesian government, civil society, academics, and industry peers to ensure AI serves as a force for good.  

In January 2024, Microsoft voluntarily committed to the implementation of AI ethical values highlighted in the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology’s Circular Letter No. 9/2023 .  

To learn more about Satya Nadella’s visit and how Microsoft is empowering organizations in Indonesia with AI, visit .   

About Microsoft  

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) creates platforms and tools powered by AI to deliver innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of our customers. The technology company is committed to making AI available broadly and doing so responsibly, with a mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.  

Tags: AI , Cloud , digital skills

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Why Prabowo should wrap up his East Asia tour with Seoul visit

Aside from South Korea being part of the East Asian trifecta of ASEAN's cooperation partners, Indonesia has some unresolved issues related to defense deals that Prabowo would do well to smooth out before he is inaugurated in October.

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Why Prabowo should wrap up his East Asia tour with Seoul visit

ith five months to go before his inauguration as the successor to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, president-elect Prabowo Subianto has ample time to complete his East Asia introductory tour by paying a courtesy call to South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul.

Prabowo visited China and Japan early last month, as well as Malaysia.

He obviously won strong assurances from both China and Japan that they would continue to maintain close economic and diplomatic ties with his incoming government. But equally important is South Korea’s support.

Of course, Prabowo fully realizes that all international relations should be based on the principle of mutual benefit, and that all binding bilateral and multilateral agreements should be upheld.

He also knows very well that China, Japan and South Korea became ASEAN’s dialogue partners in 1997, when the regional bloc launched the ASEAN Plus Three economic cooperation during the second informal summit in Kuala Lumpur.

East Asia has since become ASEAN’s most important partner in terms of economic, political and security cooperation, and ministerial and leaders’ meetings have been held under the ASEAN Plus Three banner.

should i visit malaysia or indonesia

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The bloc also hosts regular meetings with the region’s larger partners in the East Asia Summit (EAS), which involves all ASEAN 10 member states and Australia, India, New Zealand, Russia and the United States, as well as China, Japan and South Korea.

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