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Backpacking in Langkawi, Malaysia

Is Langkawi too touristy for backpackers these days? Rest assured that the two busiest tourist districts of Kuah and Cenang/Tengah still have that backpacker vibe aplenty. There are more than 60 hotels in those two areas offering rooms under $35 a night click here. One third of those offer rooms under $20 a night and there are at least six backpacker dormitories in Cenang going for $5-7 a night.

In recent years, the Langkawi tourism industry has definitely been targeting affluent travellers with more swanky resorts, restaurants and high-ticket tours, to the extent that some backpacker blogs are starting to encourage their readers to give this fabulous island a miss on their travels through Southeast Asia.

Here are more perks:

Langkawi has the cheapest booze and cigarette prices in the region (possibly in all of Southeast Asia).

Scooter rentals can go as low as $9 per day during off season

If you don’t mind living on local street food, you can eat for as low as $2 per meal (with a drink yet).

Most of the artificial tourist attractions are between $3-7 to get in. A couple of them are free.

For backpackers to avoid Langkawi in favour of truly over-developed holiday destinations like Phuket and Bali is to be sadly misinformed. When you ask seasoned backpackers who have travelled through India and Southeast Asia what they thought about Langkawi at the end of their visit, they will invariably express some shock that they were never swarmed by aggressive tour agents, souvenir sellers and starving street urchins, nor were they ever accosted by prostitutes and drug dealers.

The town of Kuah has several new motels offering clean rooms and makes a splendid base camp for backpackers.

If you love virgin jungles, scenic beaches, stunning geological formations, rustic villages and fascinating local culture, you’ll find these in abundance in Langkawi. Despite recent modernization, it’s still a land where buffalo, cows and goats still roam freely through the streets, often in front of a thoroughly modern hotel.

If you rent a car or bike, fuel is just under 65 cents a litre.

Langkawi has not one but three stunning multi-level waterfalls where you can swim and hike with no entrance fee to pay.

Take a drive around the island and you’ll see that Langkawi is still unapologetically and charmingly rural. The main town of Kuah looks like a Malaysian city from the 70s. There are big crowds of tourists during Malaysian long weekends, but they will be concentrated around the main artificial tourist attractions like the Cable Car or Underwater World, or perhaps at the Kuah Town shopping malls. The rest of the island will still be secluded and restful.