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Exploring Malaysia: A 5 Day Itinerary for the Kuala Lumpur to Penang

Penang and Kuala Lumpur are undoubtedly the most sought-after destinations in mainland Malaysia, captivating travelers with their rich cultural heritage, tantalizing culinary experiences, and an impressive blend of old-world charm and modernity. Boasting world-class accommodations and a well-connected road network, Malaysia remains at the forefront of my intercity road trip list. This memorable 5-day journey took place in June 2023.

How far is Penang from Kuala Lumpur?

The journey from Kuala Lumpur to Penang spans a total driving distance of 360 km, which can be easily covered in a delightful 5-hour drive. To make the most of this scenic road trip, I decided to divide the journey into 3 stops along the way, allowing me to explore a total distance of approximately 600 km.

Where is the best location to rent a car for a road trip in Malaysia?

For the best car rental experience, Klia2 is the ideal location to choose your preferred vehicle. Whether you prefer an economy or luxury car, booking online before your arrival ensures you secure the lowest rates and all necessary options, such as insurance and roadside assistance. I always book through Discover Cars and have been amazed by the incredible deals I've found for long-term rentals. On average, you can expect to pay around USD 30 per day for a mid-range car. Keep in mind that walk-in rates may be higher, especially during busy travel seasons, and availability may be limited. 

What are the suggested stops between Kuala Lumpur and Penang in a 5-7 Day Itinerary?

1. Ipoh for historical and food experiences

2. Cameron Highlands (hill station with tea plantation and strawberry farms)

3. Pangkor (island popular for resorts and beach activities)

4. Butterworth and Penang (cultural experiences, beach, hills and foodie adventures, history)

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur - The Vibrant Capital City

After driving from Klia2 to Chinatown, I checked into my hotel room in Travelodge Chinatown. The 3-star hotel is ideal for a short stay with free parking and easy access to Central Market, Chinatown, and Jamek Mosque train station. I decided to explore the area of food and get a quick lunch at one of my favorite beef noodle shops in Chinatown. 

Chinatown is my first preference because of easy access to plenty of cheap food outlets, and trendy bars on Jalan Panggong and Petaling Street. The streets are full of activity till the late hours of the night. 

Petaling Street Kuala Lumpur

Merdeka Square, Galleria KL, and Masjid Negara are within walking distance of this hotel. I decided to go down the heritage trail to take some pictures and explore the historical buildings at an easy pace. 

Chinatown Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

After taking a brief nap before dinner I hopped on the light rail and made my way to the Nasi Kandar restaurant in the neighborhood to enjoy some Biryani and curries with naan bread. Easy access to affordable and tasty food outlets is one of the reasons for staying near Central Market in Kuala Lumpur. 

Day 2: Cameron Highlands - Cool Climate and Lush Greenery

To make the most of your journey, I highly recommend checking out early and hitting the freeway before the traffic congestion builds up on the main roads of Kuala Lumpur. Traveling on weekends is particularly advantageous as the traffic is more relaxed, providing a great opportunity for a smooth and enjoyable road trip experience.

Cameron Highlands Tea Plantations

The driving distance from Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands is approximately 2.5 hours. As you exit the freeway near Ipoh, be prepared for a challenging road ahead. The route is characterized by steep and winding roads that require expert driving skills. However, the effort is well worth it, as it leads you to the captivating beauty of Cameron Highlands.

During my road trip, I made a quick stop near the enchanting Lata Iskandar Waterfall, where I couldn't resist indulging in some local fruits, including the infamous durians. This picturesque spot is a popular destination for picnics, and you can even rent small cottages to enhance your experience. However, the drive to Tanah Rata was a bit challenging due to the bustling commercial traffic along the way. To ensure a smooth journey, I recommend refueling your vehicle along the route, as the only service station available is in Tanah Rata.

Where to stay in Cameron Highlands?

Upon reaching Cameron Highlands, I happily checked into the delightful "Zetter Suites," a three-star serviced apartment that not only offers pocket-friendly rates but also boasts a central location, surrounded by a plethora of charming cafes and restaurants. The cozy ambiance and convenient proximity to dining options make it the perfect choice for a memorable stay in this picturesque destination.

Book Holiday Homes in Cameron Highlands with Stayz

Things to do in Cameron Highlands?

As part of my itinerary, I had the pleasure of booking a captivating "Mossy Forest Tour" with a local tour operator. On my return journey, I made sure to visit the enchanting Boh Tea Plantation and the delightful Strawberry Farms. To fully immerse yourself in the wonders of Cameron Highlands, I highly recommend spending 2 to 3 nights in this extraordinary destination. As a tea lover, I bought a one-kilo pack of local tea to enjoy some brewed tea along the way.

Day 3: Ipoh - Uncovering the Hidden Gems

Ipoh is an incredible gem that I discovered on my journey to Penang. This historical city holds a captivating cultural heritage that dates back to the tin mining era during the Second World War. The city's rich history is evident in its magnificent architecture, temples, and museums.

Cave temples in Ipoh Malaysia

Additionally, Ipoh has experienced a significant financial boom, which is reflected in its stunning historical buildings. For a fun-filled family experience, don't miss the popular "Lost World of Tambun" theme park, where you can enjoy the rejuvenating hot springs that are open until midnight. Ipoh truly offers a blend of history, culture, and adventure that will leave you in awe.

lost world of tambun ipoh

Ipoh is well-known for its delectable local cuisine, featuring mouthwatering dishes like salted chicken, hor fun, chee cheong fun, hakka mee, and cendol. But the culinary delights don't stop there. Don't forget to savor a cup of Ipoh's renowned local coffee, known for its rich flavor and aromatic goodness. When it comes to dining options, Greentown is the place to be, offering a vibrant night food market, a variety of bars, and even Western food outlets for those craving a taste of home. 

Book Holiday Homes in Ipoh with Stayz

I had the pleasure of staying at the Kinta Riverfront Hotel and Suites a delightful 4-star hotel that not only offered a comfortable stay but also came at a very affordable price. With its excellent amenities and attentive staff, this hotel provided an unforgettable experience that exceeded my expectations.

lost world of tambun ipoh

Day 4: Pangkor Island and Lumut

On the following day, I embarked on a short detour to Kiri Iskandar to meet up with a friend who was eager to join me on a memorable trip to Lumut and Pangkor Island. The picturesque two-way roads that connect Ipoh with Lumut offer a delightful drive through charming small towns and scenic countryside.

Beach on Pangkor Island in MalaysiaBeautiful beach on Pangkor Island

For our stay in Lumut, we opted for the luxurious Doubletree Hilton at Damai Laut  This expansive 16-acre resort boasts a magnificent golf course, a secluded private beach, and a plethora of exciting activities to indulge in. With its breathtaking surroundings and top-notch amenities, our stay at this resort was nothing short of extraordinary.

The Lumut waterfront is just a short drive from the resort. Upon arriving, we parked our car at the Lumut Marina and eagerly boarded a ferry for an exciting day trip to Pangkor Island.

pankgor island near lumutPankgor Island Jetty

If you're traveling with family, I highly recommend renting a resort on the island for a day stay. With so much to see and do, I suggest extending your stay to 1-2 nights. Pangkor Laut Resort, a luxurious 6-star destination, is a popular choice for international visitors seeking an island holiday and thrilling water sports.

Conveniently, direct airport transfers are available from KL Airport for those planning a direct visit to Pangkor Island. It's worth noting that Pangkor Island is also the nearest island destination to Kuala Lumpur city.

Useful Link: Best Experiences in Pangkor with Klook

Day 5: Georgetown, Penang - A Fusion of Cultures

On the final day of your road trip, arrive in Georgetown, Penang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its rich history and vibrant cultural scene. Explore the colorful streets of the old town and admire the well-preserved colonial buildings.

Penang Island is connected to mainland Malaysia with a 7-mile-long bridge. Butterworth is the closest city to Penang and is worth exploring for a day trip. I decided to stay at the Eastern and Oriental Hotel during my first visit to Penang. This heritage hotel has a rich history of colonial occupation in the region which can be seen in the decor and architecture of the building. 

Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang

Eastern & Oriental Hotel with a view of Gurney Drive

Explore:   Penang Experiences Pass with Klook


Just a stone's throw away from 1 Penang Road and several popular food streets, lies the captivating Pinang Peranakan Mansion. This historical treasure trove is a storehouse of amazing Nyonya culture, showcasing a vast collection of cultural artifacts, exquisite furniture, and intricate designs that beautifully capture the lifestyle of the early settlers in this region. A visit to this mansion is a journey back in time, immersing yourself in the rich heritage and traditions of the Peranakan community.

street art in penang malaysia

Visit the iconic Clan Jetties and discover the unique lifestyle of the Chinese communities living on stilts. The old part of the town can be easily explored on foot in a day. The narrow streets have several cafes, bars, and boutique hotels. 

A major highlight of visiting Penang is the incredible culinary adventures that await in this captivating part of Malaysia. Be sure to indulge in the authentic flavors of Char Koay Teow, a beloved dish that originated right here in Penang. And that's not all - the food scene in Penang offers a plethora of other delectable options to satisfy your taste buds. Treat yourself to the mouthwatering delights of otak otak, Assam Laksa, Popiah, Oyster Omelet, and Nasi Lemak, all of which are popular dishes that will leave you craving for more. I enjoyed "Little Nyonya Kitchen" in Nooruddin Alley and Sarkies at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. 

nyonya restaurant in penangLittle Kitchen a popular Nyonya Restaurant in Penang

Gurney Drive boasts a stunning waterfront lined with captivating views and a plethora of modern shopping malls, apartment complexes, and luxurious hotels. Every weekend, a vibrant night market takes place, offering a delightful opportunity to sample local delicacies and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere.


Located along the coast of the island, Batu Ferringhi is a coastal paradise known for its array of luxurious resorts, each offering private beaches for a truly exclusive experience. Accessible via a scenic 20-minute coastal drive from Gurney Drive, Batu Ferringhi is a haven for those seeking a resort-style holiday, complete with delectable seafood and bustling night markets.


Embarking on a 5-7-day self-driving adventure is the ultimate way to discover the awe-inspiring destinations of Pahang, Perak, and Penang Island. With impeccably maintained roads, a wide range of comfortable hotels, and a wide range of remarkable tourist spots, this journey promises an unforgettable experience.


Kuala lumpur to penang itinerary

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