After one year, I finally made it to Langkawi to show the island to my family coming to visit from Italy. Langkawi to me was the idea of a tourist trap, the kind of place I always try to avoid. Partially my idea was true: Langkawi boosts all the kind of infrastructure you would expect from a super developed tourist destination. The good side is, among the hotels, resorts and parks scattered along its coasts, Langkawi still has a very wild, lush nature, and a predominantly Malay Muslim population making its more secluded corners look like some part of Malaysian East Coast. The fact this place has been declared as a tax-free zone and alcohol is finally readily and cheaply available is definitely a plus for tourists and drunks alike, making it look more like a verdant mix of Bali and some Thai island rather than an outpost of backward Muslim Malaysia.
This said, I’ve never been to Langkawi before because I thought it wasn’t cheap: on the surface, it is not, but as always, I can manage to find my places and this is why I am writing this article: The internet has a dreary shortage of cheap ass information about Langkawi, and this is exactly why I decided to give my two cents on the matter.
It is not possible to walk a long way in Langkawi: you gotta have wheels. And taxis ain’t metered nor cheap. A ride from Kuah Town, where the tourist jetty is located, to any of the beaches, will cost you from 20 to 30 rm (5 to 7 euros). If you think this is cheap, good. But consider: you probably won’t like to stay on those beaches for more than a full day, since the island has more to offer. The best way, especially when travelling in a group, is renting a car. You can get a pretty decent automatic car for RM 60 per day on off-peak period, and around RM 80 during holidays. This means 12 to 20 euros per day. If you travel in a group of 5, this makes your transport option incredibly cheap.
Hotels are expensive, with rooms from RM 100 onwards. Definitely not my type of budget. But after a bit of exploring, we found some good options. We first stayed at Zackry’s Guesthouse in Pantai Tengah, which is the place you will mostly find if digging for information online. But we thought it was a bit far off the action and the cheapest food choices, and overall, location is what you want to pay for. It is possible to find a single room with shared toilet for RM 35 overthere. My choice tough is another one, in Pantai Cenang, and very close to the action, the beach and a very cheap and tasty Thai Restaurant called JJ Helang (but you’ll soon nickname it “The Ladyboys” because of the gracious waiters J). There is a concoction of cheap accommodation options off Lorong Surau Kampung Haji Maidin. To get there, when you see the restaurant Rasa, turn left and walk inside following Gecko Guesthouse directions, but don’t go there, as it looks quite niggerish in my opinion. You can start looking around the area and find what you are looking for, double rooms starting at RM 60, some dorms etc. My pick is anyways the last of the bunch, the one at the end of the road, called Rainbow Lodge. At RM 35 for a double room with fan set in a picturesque paddy field cum water buffalos and herons background, it wins my pick. Very fast free wi fi connection, cheap breakfast, and the chance to rent a full single storey villa for RM 150 per night (bring your 5 friends, it is RM 30 per head per night and extremely beautiful and quiet).
It is beautiful and it has to be done on the cheap driving to the Northern jetty, and asking the boatmen there. You can charter a whole boat for a 3 hour trip for around RM 300 (RM 60 per head for a group of 5 people, against the dreary RM 200 per head you’ll get asked anywhere in Pantai Cenang) to have a great mangrove experience, eagle sighting and boating offshore almost up to the Thai seawaters where you will pass by the flanks of Koh Tarutao Marine National Park. This is what I call a great deal for a mere 12 euros per head.
And this is it!! My two cents for the road, which I hope will help you enjoying your stay in Langkawi. A last suggestion is, take your ferry from Kuala Kedah where a roundtrip ticket will cost you only RM 46 against the RM 120 you’d pay from Penang island. An extra RM 10 will take you down by bus to Penang, from where go onto your onward connections. Now with the RM you saved, buy me a drink next time you see me!!