I spent three months traveling in Southeast Asia and frequently wore the same outfits every day, namely athletic shorts, grubby t-shirts and flip flops.
But on my most recent trip to Malaysia, I wanted to pack differently. I knew I’d be visiting mosques, as the country is primarily Muslim, and wanted to be respectful.
I have a handful of things that I’m definitely glad I packed.
In much of Southeast Asia, you can get away with wearing tank tops, shorts and flip flops unless you’re in a temple. This is where Malaysia differs, as it’s a majority Muslim country.
In cities like Kuala Lumpur, the standards aren’t as strict, but further out, you may get stares if you wear the typical Southeast Asia backpacker uniform. Be sure to pack a few items that cover your shoulders and always bring a scarf for when you want to check out a mosque or go to the Batu Caves to keep you from having to buy or borrow a robe or sarong.
The humidity can be oppressive in Malaysia, so the more breathable fabrics you wear, the better. This can be tricky when you’re trying to cover up, but stick to materials that wick sweat. This will be especially beneficial if you’re going jungle trekking.
I ended up packing a lot of ExOfficio gear for this trip, particularly their Dryflylite shirts and the Go-To dress.
Apart from jungle trekking and other activities, sandals are best, especially for walking around shorter distances. They can be slipped on and off easily while entering holy sites and dressed up to go to one of Kuala Lumpur’s rooftop bars.
I got a pair made in Vietnam, pictured above, that I bring everywhere. Many travelers swear by active sandals like Chacos or Keen Whispers.
Malaysia has so many amazing animal encounters that it’s a shame to have blurry pictures. If you’re going to be spending any time at animal habitats, specifically the orangutans or Proboscis monkeys, invest in a quality lens for your camera with high zoom ability so that you can snap them even if you’re not up close.
Carry On Bag
If you’re exploring Malaysia extensively, you’ll likely be taking a regional flight between the peninsula and the island of Borneo. Packing light is the best way to avoid costly fees on budget carriers like AirAsia. You can also throw away unnecessary clothing or under pack to buy more when you get there.
If you find that you don’t have the right bag for the trip, I recommend browsing in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown for cheap luggage and bags.
If you’re traveling during November and the rest of Northern Hemisphere fall and winter, prepare yourself for the rainy season. Heavy storms come out of nowhere and you don’t want to be caught in one. Equip yourself with either a rain jacket, cheap poncho or umbrella and bring it with you even when it doesn’t look cloudy.
What are some Malaysia packing essentials you’d stress packing?
Book a Viator Tour for Your Trip to Malaysia
Private Half-Day Batu Caves and Cultural Tour in Kuala Lumpur ↗
With door-to-door transport, this tour offers the convenience of a private driver with independent time to see each destination.
Elephant Santuary with Batu Cave & Deer Land & Silverleaf Monkey and Fireflies ↗
You will hop on with our friendly driver cum guide from your hotel in Kuala Lumpur city center and start your long day tour journey to visit many places in one day tour which includes Batu Cave,Batek Gallery,Deerland,Elephant Conservation Center,Silverleaf Monkey and Fireflies.
Learn to cook authentic Malaysian dishes in a natural garden setting in Penang! Your 6-hour class takes place in the Tropical Spice Garden with expert chefs. Numbers are limited to 8 people, ensuring an intimate experience with a small group of fellow food lovers.
7-Day Best of Malaysia: Cameron Highlands, Penang, Kota Bharu and Terengganu Tour Round-Trip from Kuala Lumpur – $872.96
See the best of Malaysia on a 7-day coach tour, traveling round-trip from Kuala Lumpur. Cameron Highlands, Penang, Kota Bharu, Kuala Terengganu and Kuantan. Hotel pickup and drop-off is included, with the additional option to transfer to the Kuantan airport (if you’ve booked your own evening flight on Day 6) or transfer to the Kuala Lumpur airport on Day 7.
I lived in my 3/4 Nike Dri Fit pants while we were there. They were great as you could give them a quick wash in the hotel sink and they’d be dry by the next day, ready to go again. As a slightly larger girl, they also eliminated any ‘chub rub’ and helped me feel more covered up than shorts. Would highly recommend pants made of a wicking material such as these as on our previous trip I wore cotton 3/4 pants and felt gross and damp most of the time.
Elizabeth Smith says
I would also recommend bringing small packs of Tissue to use in the restrooms. Sometimes you’re required to pay for toilets so small change is essential when going about town. Also, frequently throughout Southeast Asia there is no tissue paper, so you may have to bring your own Kleenex Tissue Packs.
Great blog, thank you for the advises, I was hesitant if I should bring skirts when visiting mosques. I like to pack very light.