How we traveled Malaysia on a budget…and still had an amazing time!

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Wow!

It’s been quite the week as all of my kiddos returned to school for the second semester. I have been running around like a mad woman trying to get used to my busy busy schedule of teaching again. The kids will go from September to December before they take 2 1/2 months off, and start a new school year in March. I really wanted to blog this week, but it got pushed back as lesson planning took the front seat. Have I mentioned before that time flies here?!? The weeks turn into days and then months. It’s crazy to think we have been here 5 months already.

I wanted to share a bit more on our trip to Malaysia and how we kept it relatively low cost while still doing everything we wanted to do while there (Kuala Lumpur, Climbing Mt. Kinabalu, River safaris, orangutan sanctuary, and kota kinabalu island exploration!)

1. The biggest cost of savings for our trip was simply (or not so simply): AVOIDING tour companies like the plague.

Tom and I soon discovered the things we wanted to do were about 3x the price if we went with a tour company rather then doing it ourselves. I strongly feel as if the money would not stay in the local economy if we had booked with a large tour group (although that is not always the case!) Yes, the convenience is there if you want to have your trips all planned out. There were more downsides for us to go with a tour company such as: being on a time crunch & a bit over priced. We found that we could see sights ourselves while being much more cost effective. There are (I am sure) tour groups that are awesome. My point is that this trip they weren’t right for us. For example: A trip to the pouring hot springs was MUCH cheaper if we found a way to the place, and paid a small fee to get in. Ok, yeah. So we had to hitch a few rides (don’t tell our moms! hehe) which brings me to my next point.

2. Hitchhiking!

We had NO idea if it was common in Malaysia. BUT when the bus dropped us off 15km from where we needed to be with not a taxi, car, or phone in sight -hitch hiking was our only option. We met two awesome Malaysian fellas who picked us up and took us the almost 9 miles we needed to go. They wouldn’t take our money, but offered up some great conversation, and tips on how to get back to our lodge for cheap. Let’s just say it ended with more hitch hiking where an awesome Chinese family and a retired American couple picked us up and took us where we needed to be. I don’t recommend always hitch hiking, and I sure wouldn’t do it in the USA, but man it was pretty awesome AND we met some crazy cool people along the way.

Just a hitch hikin' ;)

Just a hitch hikin’ 😉

and lots of this...

and lots of this…

and more walkin... :)

and more walkin… 🙂

3. Unique places to stay.

We stayed in some incredible places. I wish I could tell you that it was my awesome planning that lead us to these incredible places we stayed at BUT that is not  the case. We used hostelworld.com quite a bit to book cheap/safe places that we could get our own room, borrowed a lonely planet book from a guy on a bus, and sometimes just searching around online . Another way we cut cost even further when it came to lodging was booking private rooms with a shared bathroom.

Lavender Lodge in Kota Kinabalu. We used the hostel world app to find this gem! AND only a 15 min walk to the ocean :)

Lavender Lodge in Kota Kinabalu. We used the hostel world app to find this gem! AND only a 15 min walk to the ocean 🙂

Eco friendly and 20 min walk from Mt. Kinabalu's headquarters- Mt. Kinabalu Lodge!

Eco friendly and 20 min walk from Mt. Kinabalu’s headquarters- Mt. Kinabalu Lodge!

My favorite place we stayed at- Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort. (found this gem in the lonely planet book we borrowed from a random guy on a bus!)

My favorite place we stayed at- Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort. (found this gem in the lonely planet book we borrowed from a random guy on a bus.) Made from recycled materials. We learned if they don’t have available rooms (during busy season) you can camp here for FREE!

Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort

Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort

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Enjoying our morning tea.

Enjoying our morning tea. Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort.

Hangin in the main lodge area. Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort,

Hangin in the main lodge area. Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort,

Sukau Greenview B&B- our last night in the rainforest!

Sukau Greenview B&B- our last night in the rainforest!

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Sukau Greenview B&B

Morning breakfast view! Sukau Greenview B&B

Morning breakfast view! Sukau Greenview B&B

4. Eating as the locals. Enough said!

Chinese for lunch! Porridge with chicken :)

Chinese for lunch! Porridge with chicken 🙂

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5. Keepin’ it local.

We shopped at markets and when we DID do a “safari tour” we decided to go with a local guy where we knew the money would go right into the local economy.

Exploring Central market in Kuala Lumpur and the market in Kota Kinabalu

Exploring Central market in Kuala Lumpur and the market in Kota Kinabalu

Do you have any tips on how to keep a budget while still doing all the things you want to see/do while traveling?

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