The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Langkawi, Malaysia (Updated November 2016)

The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Langkawi, Malaysia (Updated November 2016)

To be honest with you, I had never even heard of Langkawi until a few days before I booked our tickets. Unlike Bhutan or Santorini, it wasn’t one of those bucket list destinations that I’d been dreaming about forever. It was more a spur of the moment thing, utterly spontaneous, and completely unexpected.

Hopping online to see where I could take Ren for our annual trip, I stumbled upon Langkawi when I Googled “top 10 islands asia”. Having already been to a few places on those lists, I was most intrigued with Langkawi simply because I had never heard of it. Wanting to experience something new and off the beaten path, we spent a week exploring this mysterious, alluring island known officially as “Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah.”

Here’s what we found.

GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. What’s in Langkawi?
  2. When to Go
  3. How to Get There
  4. How Long to Stay
  5. How Much Money to Bring
  6. Where to Stay
  1. Where to Go
  2. What Outdoor Activities to Do
  3. Where to Eat
  4. Travel Tips
  5. How to Get Around
  6. For Filipinos

WHAT’S IN LANGKAWI?

That’s easy, nature. If you like nature and relaxation, then Langkawi is definitely for you. An archipelago made up of 99 islands some 30 km off the coast of northwestern Malaysia, Langkawi is a nature lover’s paradise. It was awarded UNESCO World Geopark status in 2007, and is home to lush forests, white sand beaches, waterfalls, caves, limestone cliffs, and mangroves. An island steeped in folklore, many of these natural formations have legends surrounding them which add to the mystique and allure of the place.

Popular activities in Langkawi include sailing, bird watching, jungle trekking, and mangrove kayaking, though more laid back travelers would probably enjoy just laying out on a beach with a good book (and a cocktail). With rental cars being the default means of transportation here, I personally enjoyed driving around and exploring the main island which has over 65% of its forest cover still intact. ♥
Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road in Langkawi, Malaysia

WHEN TO GO

Though Langkawi officially has a dry (Dec-Feb) and rainy (Mar-Nov) season, it has one of the most stable climates among all Malaysian islands. The reason for this is that it’s shielded from major winds and storms by the mainland on one side and Sumatra on the other. Temperatures are fairly consistent as well, ranging between 30-35°C during the day and 28-29°C at night, making it suitable for tourism year-round.

We went in September which experiences some of its highest rainfall. Even then, it wasn’t bad. I remember it raining for maybe a couple hours each day (usually in the early afternoon) before becoming sunny again. Weather is pretty much a non-factor here so you can go anytime you want.

HOW TO GET THERE

You can get to Langkawi by air or by sea. If by air, then you’ll be departing from Kuala Lumpur either from KLIA or LCCT airports, depending on your airline. If by sea, then your journey starts by overnight sleeper train from KL Sentral train station. Check out my post for detailed information on how to travel between LCCT-KLIA-KL Sentral.

BY AIR

Less than an hour away, we took Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi and it cost around RM300 each roundtrip. I wasn’t a bargain hunter at the time so I didn’t bother checking, but you can take Air Asia as well. I did a dummy booking and the cost of a roundtrip ticket with a 20 kg baggage allowance would have been just RM138. DOH! 😆 Visitors from Singapore can fly directly into Langkawi via Silk Air.

BY SEA

You can take a ferry into Langkawi from Kuala Kedah, Kuala Perlis, Penang, or Satun (Thailand). Follow the link for ferry information to Langkawi.

If you’re starting from Kuala Lumpur, then you can take the new high-speed KTM ETS train from KL Sentral to Arau. It’s about a 5-hr train ride with fares starting at RM76 for adults and RM42 for kids. Follow this link for the ETS train schedule from KL Sentral to Arau. From Arau, you can then take a taxi to Kuala Perlis for around RM25. A ferry leaves Kuala Perlis for Langkawi every hour or so from 7AM-7PM. The ferry ride is slightly over an hour long and costs RM18 for adults and RM13 for kids each way. You can check this link for the Kuala Perlis – Langkawi ferry timetable.

HOW LONG TO STAY

Langkawi is all about rest and relaxation. It’s about unstrapping your watch, switching off your cellphone, and enjoying life at an islander’s pace. We stayed here for a week, which allowed us to do everything at a nice, even pace. On some days, we drove around and explored the island. On others, we sat on the beach and did nothing. It was awesome. If you have the time, then plan on spending a week here. If not, then 4-5 nights should be enough.

HOW MUCH MONEY TO BRING

Like most Southeast Asian countries, Malaysia is relatively cheap. Most of your spending in Langkawi will go to lodging, car rental, and food. If you stay at an inexpensive guesthouse, rent a compact car, and eat modestly, then you should be fine with a starting budget of around RM300-400 per day.

You can increase your daily allowance based on the number of activites and amount of shopping you want to do. Entrance fees to attractions like the wildlife park and the SkyCab aren’t that high, around RM40 each. Guided outdoor activities like sailing, jungle trekking, and mangrove kayaking are more expensive, at least RM120 per activity. Sailing tours in particular can be very pricey (more details later in this post). Langkawi is also a duty free port so you may want to bring extra cash if you intend to do some shopping.

Banks are the best place to exchange foreign currency, but rates at licensed money changers aren’t bad either. You’ll find most banks and money changers at the airport, in Kuah Town, or at Pantai Cenang. Banks are open from 10 AM to 4 PM, Mon-Fri. Many of the larger hotels will exchange your currency as well.

WHERE TO STAY: Pondok Keladi Guesthouse

With Langkawi being so much about nature, we wanted to stay in a place that reflected this. Pondok Keladi Guesthouse, with its six rooms and hippie vibe right at the mouth of the Malaysian rainforest, was the perfect place for us. A TripAdvisor favorite and repeat award winner, Pondok Keladi is a charming, rustic hideaway just a short 20-minute walk from Cenang Beach. Pantai Cenang is the island’s main beach and a major tourist hub with plenty of restaurants, hotels, and shops. Unless you prefer a more isolated location, right around here is where you want to be.

Pondok Keladi feels a lot like a bed and breakfast with its open-air lounge area and common kitchen. Stocked at all times with basics like milk, eggs, bread, jam, coffee, and instant noodles, guests are free to help themselves to as much of it as they want at no extra charge. We stayed here for six nights in September of 2013 and paid RM130 per night. Not bad at all.

Check out my post on Pondok Keladi Guesthouse in Langkawi for more pictures and information.
Pondok Keladi Guesthouse, Langkawi, Malaysia

Approximate Room Rate: RM130 per night (as of Sept 2013)

WHERE TO GO

1. Beaches

Langkawi has many pristine beaches. It’s biggest and most impressive is Pantai Cenang, which is about the same length as Boracay (Philippines) but twice as wide. Its sands aren’t quite as white but they’re just as powder fine. As previously mentioned, Pantai Cenang is one of the main tourist hubs on the island with a long stretch of hotels, restaurants, shops, and bars. Separted by a small cape, next to Pantai Cenang is Pantai Tengah. Other notable beaches on the island include Tanjung Rhu and Pantai Pasir Tengkorak.

Check out my post on Langkawi’s beaches for more pictures and information.
Langkawi, Malaysia

Suggested Length of Visit: As long as you want / Admission: FREE

2. Langkawi Cable Car & SkyBridge

The best place for a bird’s eye view of the island. Perched on Mt. Machincang roughly 650 meters above sea level, the SkyCab is a three-station cable car system covering a distance of over 1,700 meters. Observation decks with 360° panoramic vistas of the island are located at both the middle and top stations. Hanging at about 100 meters above the top of Mt. Machincang, you can also take a walk on the SkyBridge which is one of the world’s longest curved suspension bridges at 125 meters. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

Check out my post on Langkawi Cable Car for more pictures and information.
Langkawi Cable Car, Malaysia

Suggested Length of Visit: 2-3 hrs / Admission: RM45 for adults, RM32 for kids

3. Waterfalls

There are a few waterfalls on the island but Telaga Tujuh (pictured below) is arguably the most impressive. Frequently billed as the island’s most beautiful natural attraction, its name means Seven Wells Waterfalls which is in reference to its series of seven connected natural pools. Though cemented and easy to walk on, be warned that there a quite a number of steps to the top. Other notable falls in Langkawi are Temurun Waterfall and Durian Perangin Waterfall.
Telaga Tujuh

Suggested Length of Visit: 1-2 hrs / Admission: FREE

4. Kuah Town

Langkawi’s most developed area, Kuak Town is a bustling commercial area that’s home to many shops, hotels, and restaurants. It’s also where you’ll find the island’s most prominent landmark, Eagle Square. If you’re traveling to Langkawi by ferry, then you’ll be docking here.
Kuah Town, Langkawi, Malaysia

5. Zoos & Aquariums

We didn’t go to either but the island is also home to Langkawi Wildlife Park and Underwater World. Based on online reviews, both places are small compared to zoos and aquariums in bigger cities, but they may be worth a visit if you’re traveling with children. As of this writing, admission to the Wildlife Park is RM36 for adults and RM20 for children. For Underwater World, it’s RM43 and RM33 respectively.
Langkawi, Malaysia

Picture borrowed from langkawiwildlifepark.com.my

6. Duty-Free Shopping Centers

Duty-free since 1987, popular items for sale in Langkawi are wines and spirits, tobacco, apparel, cosmetics, souvenirs, food, cooking ware, and electronics. Most duty-free shopping centers on the island can be found either in Kuah Town or along Pantai Cenang.
Langkawi, Malaysia

WHAT OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES TO DO

1. Mangrove Kayaking

One of the most fun things you can do on the island. I’ve been to mangrove forests before but never like this. An alien landscape, it felt at times like you’d be completely swallowed up by the thick and flourishing mangroves. I loved it. If you were to do just one nature-oriented activity on the island, then I would strongly recommend this one. We booked our mangrove kayaking tour with Dev’s Adventure Tours. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Check out my post on Mangrove Kayaking with Dev’s Adventure Tours for more pictures and information.
Langkawi, Malaysia

The mangrove kayaking tour lasts five hours with lunch at the Hole in the Wall fish farm and restaurant. There you’ll have the oportunity to hand feed a stingray as well. Awesome!
Langkawi, Malaysia

Length of Tour: 5 hrs / Cost: RM220 for adults, RM140 for kids

2. Nature Cycling

A fun three- to four-hour biking tour through the paddy fields, river banks, and forest. This was the second of three tours that we booked with Dev’s Adventure Tours.

Check out my post on Nature Cycling with Dev’s Adventure Tours for more pictures and information.
Langkawi, Malaysia

Length of Tour: 3-4 hrs / Cost: RM120 for adults, RM100 for kids

3. Jungle Trekking

A third tour that we did with Dev’s Adventure Tours, this is a three-hour guided trek through the rain forest that you can do either in the morning or late in the afternoon. The afternoon trek gives you a chance to spot nocturnal animals like lemurs and squirrels so we went with that.

Check out my post on Jungle Trekking with Dev’s Adventure Tours for more pictures and information.
Langkawi, Malaysia

Length of Tour: 3 hrs / Cost: RM120 for adults, RM80 for kids

Again, I can’t recommend Dev’s Adventure Tours enough. An annual TripAdvisor winner, their tour guides are knowledgeable and highly professional. They make the tours a lot of fun too. It’s worth noting that booking two or more tours with them will entitle you to discounts. Follow the link for information on Dev’s Adventure Tours package rates.

4. Sailing

We didn’t do it but sailing cruises are another popular activity in Langkawi. Fast becoming a sailing destination, many believe that Langkawi’s 99 islands are best enjoyed by boat. With shared cruises starting at RM 450 and private charters at RM 2,750, Damai Indah Luxury Cruises appears to be one of the most popular cruise operators.
Langkawi, Malaysia

Picture borrowed from damaiindah.com

WHERE TO EAT

We try to eat like locals on our trips. As much as possible, we avoid any pricey, westernized restaurants that cater mainly to tourists. Most of the restaurants on this list are budget-friendly and frequented by locals.

1. Langkawi Hainanese Cafe (aka Chicken Joe’s)

The sign says it all. Chicken Joe’s is said to be the best place to get Hainanese chicken rice on the island. If you like this poached chicken dish, then I suggest enjoying a meal here. It’s delicious, and cheap too. Langkawi Hainanese Cafe is located in Kuah Town at 121 Jalan Padang Matsirat.
Hainanese Chicken Rice, Langkawi, Malaysia

Hainanese Chicken Rice, Langkawi, Malaysia

Expect to Pay: Around RM10 per person

2. Restoran Khatijah

Recommended to us by Pondok Keladi’s owner, Restoran Khatijah offers a buffet-style dining experience called nasi campur. The term nasi campur traditionally refers to a dish of rice topped with various meats, vegetables, peanuts, eggs, and fried-shrimp keropok (crackers). There are many different vegetables, meats, and side dishes that you can freely top onto your plate of rice, which is then priced based on what you get. Located along Jalan Pantai Tengah, Restoran Khatijah is very popular among locals so be sure to come early because they tend to run out of food quickly.

NOTE: This guide was originally written in 2014 and last updated in late 2016. I can’t seem to find any information online indicating that Restoran Khatijah is still open. If you plan on going, then I suggest confirming with your hotel that it’s still open.
Restoran Khatijah

Restoran Khatijah

Expect to Pay: Around RM10 per person

3. Tomato Nasi Kandar

Not to be confused with nasi campur, Tomato offers a similar dining experience called nasi kandar. Of Penang origin, the term nasi kandar traditionally refers to a meal of steamed rice served with a variety of curries and side dishes. Another cheap but delicious local favorite, Tomato is open 24 hours. Tomato is located along Jalan Pantai Cenang across the street from Langkawi Boutique Hotel.
Tomato Nasi Kandar, Langkawi, Malaysia

Tomato Nasi Kandar, Langkawi, Malaysia

Expect to Pay: Around RM10 per person

4. Restoran Mangga

Another restaurant that’s popular among the locals, Mangga serves delicious seafood at reasonable prices. They have two locations – Mangga and Mangga 2 – both of which are located along Jalan Pantai Tengah.
Mangga, Langkawi, Malaysia

Mangga, Langkawi, Malaysia

Expect to Pay: Around RM25 per person with drinks

5. Hole in the Wall

A unique, floating restaurant that doubles as a fish farm/tourist attraction, we had lunch here as part of the mangrove kayaking tour. Being a popular tourist spot (and so far-flung), the prices are a little higher than average but the seafood is undeniably fresh. The experience alone makes it worthwhile. Floating and attached to the side of a limestone cliff, Hole in the Wall is accessible only by boat which leaves from Kilim jetty. It’s best to make arrangements with your hotel before going.
Tomato

Tomato

Expect to Pay: Around RM70 per person

6. Langkawi Night Market

My only regret from our trip. We had already returned our rental car when we found out about these night markets so we weren’t able to go. Running from 7-10PM at a different location on the island every night, vendors sell all kinds of food, fresh produce, and locally made items like clothes and souvenirs. Follow the link for information on where these Langkawi night markets are held.
Malaysian Street Food

TRAVEL TIPS

1. Rent A Pocket Wifi Device

A constant wifi connection is crucial these days when traveling. It makes it easier and more fun when you have a constant wifi connection to do research, check maps, post on social media, etc. If you’d like to rent a pocket wifi device for use in Langkawi, then you can do so through Klook. They’re offering 4G pocket wifi devices for RM 23 per day. This includes 500 MB of cumulative data allowance per day, which means that a 4-day booking entitles you to 2 GB of data for the entire 4 days. Follow this link to rent a Malaysia pocket wifi device from Klook. Pick up and drop off points are at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

2. Get Travel Insurance

To be honest, it was only recently when we started buying travel insurance. Back when we traveled just once or twice a year, it felt more like an added expense, one we didn’t need. But now that we travel more, I understand how important it is to have it. Fact is, you never know what can happen. It’s one of those things that you hope you never have to use, but if you do wind up needing it, then you’ll be thanking the gods that you had it. Or cursing them if you didn’t.

Though I do find it more necessary now, it’s still up to you if you think you need it. A 3-day food trip to Penang may not really call for insurance but if you plan on doing more active things like bungee jumping, horseback riding, or even going on a city bike tour, then I’d say travel insurance is a wise investment.

We buy travel insurance from World Nomads because every long-term traveler I know recommends it. From the sound of it, they’re the best in the industry by a mile. Not only do they provide a high coverage limit for medical expenses (up to USD 5 million with the Standard package), they also cover things like trip delays, missed flight connections, theft/loss of passport and luggage, etc. Follow this link to learn more and get a free travel insurance quote from World Nomads. It’s super quick and easy.

3. Pack Well

What you should bring on trips is highly subjective, but these are some of the things we brought with us on our trip to Hong Kong. If you’d like to see what other gear we use, then you can check out our “What’s in Our Backpack?” post. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon affiliate links.)

HOW TO GET AROUND

As previously mentioned, rental cars are the most popular and convenient form of transportation on Langkawi. The island is pretty spread out so taxis can become expensive.

People in Malaysia drive on the left side of the road so I was admittedly nervous at first. But after our first day driving around the island, I realized that I had no reason to be. With the exception of maybe a couple of areas like Kuah Town and Pantai Cenang, the rest of Langkawi is pretty much deserted so you’ll find yourself driving for miles without seeing another car on the road. With the landscape being so lush and green, driving around the island was a wonderful experience. It was definitely a highlight for me.

We rented a compact car from T Shoppe which has branches in Kuah Town, Pantai Cenang, and Pantai Tengah. Rental with full coverage insurance came out to RM145 per day. There are gas stations all over the island as well. Fuel on Langkawi is cheap, at the time just RM1.90 per liter.

Check out my post on renting a car in Langkawi for more information.
T Shoppe

For Filipinos

Regarding visas, Filipinos don’t need tourist visas to visit Malaysia for stays no longer than 30 days.

HOW TO GET CHEAP AIRLINE TICKETS

Ever since I scored my first piso fare from Cebu Pacific, I’ve been hopelessly addicted to cheap airline tickets. These piso fare tickets are limited and sell fast, so you have to be quick. To give yourself an advantage, I suggest liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter to quickly find out about these seat sales. If you check off “Get notifications” on Facebook, then you’ll receive instant alerts every time they post something new.

Other airlines that have direct flights from Manila to Kuala Lumpur are Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia Zest. Follow the link for flight information from Manila to Kuala Lumpur.

Have fun!

I’m not an expert on Langkawi but I do hope that you find this post useful. I’m only sharing some of the things that I learned from our trip. If you have any suggestions or simply want to share your own experiences, then please feel free to do so in the comments section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well. We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your time in Langkawi!

Disclosure

Some of the links in this guide are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase at NO extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!

JB Macatulad

JB Macatulad

JB is one half of Will Fly for Food and its chief itinerary maker.  He's the one to blame for all the crappy photos and verbal diarrhea on this blog.  Don't listen to him.
JB Macatulad


There are 29 comments for this article
  1. Dave Cole at 6:58 pm

    With the beautiful trekking and delicious food available, this looks like an ideal destination. I have yet to explore SE Asia but hope to have the opportunity to do so in the coming years. I’ll definitely be hitting up the night market once I make it to Langkawi.

  2. JB Macatulad at 8:00 pm

    Lanhkawi is terrific destination Dave. You should definitely try and hit it up when you visit South East Asia, the Philippines too. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  3. Sab at 3:20 am

    Awesome and very detailed guide about Langkawi! I’m heading there in 2 weeks and your article just made me more excited. Will bookmark this! Thank you!!

  4. JB Macatulad at 5:40 am

    Oh wow nice to find you here Sab! We LOVE your blog! 😀 Happy that you found our Langkawi post useful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Enjoy your trip!

  5. athena at 9:15 pm

    i first learned about langkawi in a cabletv show. reading this article made me more convinced that this place is worth a trip. i’d be doing this instead of batam.

  6. Vivien at 10:35 am

    Thanks for this JB, very useful info. May I ask, do you need an international driver’s license to be able to rent a car in Langkawi?

  7. JB Macatulad at 10:37 am

    You’re welcome Vivien! I did bring an international driver’s license with me but they never asked for it. Based on what I’ve read, you don’t really need it but if you can get one easily, then I’d bring it just in case. 🙂

  8. Paz at 9:56 am

    Sushi,
    Amazing recap of Langkawi! Ahhh, take me back!! I agree with just about everything in this post, it is such a great island to chill and recharge. The sunsets at Cenang Beach are incredible. I must admit though, we definitely spent less (~$30 USD/day): http://lucidpractice.com/backpacking-tips-travel-langkawi-malaysia/ but probably because we were being ultra frugal.
    Did you end up bird watching? We saw a ton of sea eagles on a tour in Kuah Town but this was mostly due to our guides tossing out feed to them. This is a practice that we later learned is bad for the birds 🙁
    Also, the Black Sand Beach is cool to see if you’ve never seen it before.
    Awesome post, I was reminiscing about Langkawi & just happened to come across your blog so I’ll be sure to check out some other posts! One post I would love to see from you is on the same topic you Googled: top islands in Asia!
    With positive energy ~
    Paz

  9. JB Macatulad at 1:48 pm

    Thanks Paz! I enjoyed reading your guide as well. Ren and I are more middle-age… I mean middle-of-the-road travelers so we tend to stay at places that aren’t so expensive but not too cheap either. Like you pointed out in your post though, Langkawi can definitely be done for less.

    We didn’t actively go bird watching but we did see a few while biking and kayaking. I didn’t like seeing the eagles get fed with chicken skin for tourism either. Not cool at all. 😐

    Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  10. Paz at 7:20 am

    JB,
    Thanks for your response 🙂
    Langkawi is a hidden gem…. glad you enjoyed!
    Forgot to mention that our favorite food was the monster tiger prawns in Malaysian marinade.
    Peace & all good,
    Paz

  11. Maurice at 9:35 pm

    Thank you for your guide. It will help us plan our first trip to Malaysia.

  12. Pingback: Mountain Biking Adventures in Asia
  13. ema at 11:51 pm

    we ere going next month ,so looking forward…thanks for your helpful information 🙂

  14. Helen at 5:45 am

    I’m booked to go to Langkawi in mid April. This has been the best information I have found and will make the trip for our family so much easier knowing a few things about it before we go. Thank you.

  15. Stan CarVoyager at 12:53 am

    Thanks for such amazing guide!
    I’ve never thought that visiting Langkawi could be such awesome and entertaining.
    In case someone decided to visit Malaysia after reading the article, please pay special attention to transport. Don’t wait until you’re over there to rent a vehicle. It is invariably cheaper to rent a car from home.

  16. vivin geevarghese at 1:15 pm

    I am planning to go there in Jan and was planning to do some snorkelling as well. How is snorkelling there?

  17. JB Macatulad at 1:20 pm

    Hi Vivin, we didn’t go snorkeling so I can’t tell you from experience but I’ve heard that the snorkeling in Palau Payar is excellent. You can take a day trip there from Langkawi. You can check this TripAdvisor thread for more information. 🙂

  18. Nicoline Lydike at 7:12 pm

    This is perfect! And perfect timing for an update 😀 We are going in February and so excited. This is great advice.

  19. JB Macatulad at 7:46 am

    Awesome Nicoline! All prices and info are up to date. The only thing I couldn’t confirm was if Restoran Khatijah is still open but everything else is current. Enjoy Langkawi! 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *