Malaysia vs Singapore: Which Country Should You Visit First?

Malaysia vs Singapore: Which Southeast Asian Country Should You Visit First?

Deciding between the two? We can help!

Malaysia and Singapore are often the centre for comparisons. Not only are these two countries culturally similar, but they’re also situated just right next to each other. Fun fact — they were even a single nation once! Despite their proximity, each of these Southeast Asian countries offers unique experiences worth exploring. Read on and find out which country suits you best for your upcoming trip, and resolve your Malaysia vs Singapore dilemma! 

Also read: Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur: Which Southeast Asian Capital Should You See First?

1. Attractions

Whether it’s Malaysia or Singapore, both cities boast charms and attractions worth visiting. If you’re looking for somewhere more diverse and relaxing, then Malaysia is the place for you. Singapore, on the other hand, is more suitable for travellers who enjoy spending time in the urban areas.


malaysia vs singapore

Malaysia vs Singapore | Image credit: SeanPavonePhoto via CanvaPro

When speaking of Malaysia, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably its capital city, Kuala Lumpur. This city is home to numerous world-famous skyscrapers, including the Petronas Twin Towers, KL Tower, The Exchange TRX, and Merdeka 118, the tallest building in Southeast Asia. 

Beyond these architectural marvels, Kuala Lumpur offers a diverse array of attractions catering to various interests. For cultural immersion, explore Petaling Street, known as the “Chinatown” of KL, where you can browse local goods, sample street food, and relax in trendy cafes. Another must-visit destination is Dataran Merdeka, also known as Independence Square, a historic landmark where Malaysia’s Independence Day parade is held annually. 

malaysia vs singapore

Image credit(L-R): Izuddin Helmi Adnan | Unsplash; Jeremy tan | Unsplash

If you’re a fan of the urban scene, don’t miss the bustling Bukit Bintang area. Here, you’ll find an abundance of shopping malls, local eateries, and a vibrant cityscape to explore. While KL is a popular destination for travellers, it is just the gateway to Malaysia’s breathtaking islands. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or an adventurer who enjoys snorkelling, diving, and surfing, Malaysia’s islands have something for everyone.

Image credit: Alan_Tow via CanvaPro

Some of the most popular islands in the country include Kedah’s Langkawi Island, Terengganu’s Redang Island and Lang Tengah Island, Pahang’s Tioman Island, and Semporna island in Sabah

Speaking of Sabah, the East Malaysia region is another destination travellers shouldn’t overlook when exploring Malaysia. Sabah is home to the renowned Mount Kinabalu, a 4,095-metre-tall mountain that’s ranked as the 20th most prominent mountain in the world. Another East Malaysian state, Sarawak, on the other hand, is the largest state in the country and is well-known for its rainforests, national parks, and indigenous culture. 

Also read: 14 Top Islands in Malaysia for the Perfect Beach Getaway


malaysia vs singapore

Malaysia vs Singapore | Image credit: Hu Chen | Unsplash

While Malaysia boasts vast landscapes and rich cultural heritage, its neighbouring country Singapore, shines in a different light. This tiny nation, despite its compact area, boasts impressive development, offering a sophisticated and luxurious travel experience. One of the most futuristic attractions in Singapore is the Marina Bay Sands. More than a hotel, Marina Bay Sands is home to a casino, a vast luxury mall, world-class dining options, the ArtScience Museum, and a theatre. 

Image credit: Netfalls via CanvaPro

Another iconic attraction in the Lion City is none other than the Merlion statue. Standing eight metres tall, this unique statue features the head of a lion and the body of a fish, symbolising the nation’s transformation. Visitors can find it at the Merlion Park.

malaysia vs singapore

Image credit: Jegathisan Manoharan via CanvaPro

Gardens by the Bay is undoubtedly one of the most captivating attractions in the country. Spanning 101 hectares, it’s a garden that seamlessly combines visionary architecture with stunning botanical displays. Visitors can marvel at the colourful supertrees, and wander through the many themed gardens, greenhouses, and exhibitions. It’s an essential stop for anyone visiting Singapore!

2. Food and dining

Both Malaysia and Singapore are foodie paradises. Keep reading for our side-by-side comparison. 


malaysia or singapore

Nasi Lemak | Image credit: dolphfyn via CanvaPro

Malaysia is likely the best country to visit in Southeast Asia if you enjoy trying multicultural cuisines. A melting pot of cultures, Malaysia boasts a cuisine as diverse as its people. Malay, Chinese, Indian, and indigenous influences weave a tapestry of flavours, offering an exciting adventure for your taste buds. 

Speaking of must-try local food, nasi lemak often ranks as the top one. It is Malaysia’s national dish that features fragrant coconut milk rice served with sambal, anchovies, peanuts, egg, and cucumber. 

malaysia vs singapore

Satay | Image credit: ibnjaafar via CanvaPro

Other iconic local dishes include satay (skewered and grilled meat served with peanut sauce, cucumbers, onions, and ketupat.), roti canai  (flatbread that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, typically served with curries or sugar), char kuey teow (stir-fry flat rice noodles), and laksa (a spicy and flavourful noodle soup with a coconut milk or tamarind base). And believe it or not, these are just a few examples of the diverse cuisine found in Malaysia!

Also read: A Foodie’s Guide to Malaysia: Where and What to Eat in Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, and Melaka


Laksa | Image credit: Watieks via CanvaPro

Likewise, Singapore shares some culinary gems with Malaysia, like the flavorful laksa and char kuey teow. However, the Lion City boasts its own iconic dishes that have become synonymous with Singaporean cuisine.

malaysia or singapore

Chilli crab, Hainanese chicken rice | Image credit(L-R): Ika Rahma via CanvaPro; bonchan via CanvaPro

For instance, chilli crabs are one of the must-tries when in Singapore. It’s a messy yet satisfying dish featuring mud crabs cooked in a savoury, slightly spicy tomato-based sauce. The tender Hainanese chicken rice with its poached chicken served with fragrant rice, accompanied by chilli sauce and ginger paste, is another national treasure for your taste buds.

3. Shopping


malaysia or singapore

Image credit: Cecelia Chang | Unsplash

In Malaysia, shopping malls are almost everywhere, especially in the capital city and the Klang Valley. Malaysians often enjoy going to the malls on weekends or public holidays to dine and seek respite from the heat. 

Each state has its own popular shopping malls, like Penang’s Gurney Plaza and Queensbay Mall, Johor’s Paradigm Mall Johor Bahru and The Mall, Mid Valley Southkey, as well as Selangor’s Mid Valley Megamall and IOI City Mall,

For a more luxurious shopping experience, we recommend checking out malls like Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Suria KLCC, and the recently opened The Exchange TRX mall in Kuala Lumpur. 

Also read: 20 Best Malls in Kuala Lumpur & Klang Valley for Avid Shopaholics


malaysia or singapore

Image credit (L-R): Tobi | Unsplash; Pang Yuhao | Unsplash

Similar to Malaysia, Singapore boasts a vibrant shopping scene with numerous malls conveniently located throughout the city. In fact, its extensive MRT network connects you not just to different parts of the city, but also to a multitude of shopping malls. 

Apart from the aforementioned Marina Bay Sands, another shopping haven is Orchard Road, a shopping district over two kilometres long and lined with numerous shopping malls, flagship stores, department stores, and designer boutiques. Among them, Ion Orchard shines as one of the premier shopping destinations, renowned not only for its curated selection of high-end goods but also for its magnificent architectural design.

What’s more, the popular Jewel Changi Airport is also a shopping paradise. In addition to its wide array of stores, Jewel Changi Airport offers a plethora of entertainment options, making it a true paradise for shoppers and leisure seekers alike. For instance, its Canopy Park features attractions like the Sky Nets, Hedge Maze, and Mirror Maze, providing excitement for visitors of all ages. Other iconic malls include VivoCity, Paragon Shopping Centre, and Raffles City.

4. Public and private transport


malaysia or singapore

Image credit: Hongwei FAN | Unsplash

In Malaysia, the most popular way of getting around between states is via driving, flying, or the ETS. The ETS is a type of train service under Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), mainly used for inter-city travelling. Its prices vary based on destination and service type, averaging around RM60 (~US$13.10 or S$17.50) for a one-way ticket. Nevertheless, if budget permits, we recommend driving as it offers the most convenience for getting around.

In Kuala Lumpur itself, the public transportation is more well-developed. There are various options like MRT, buses, car rentals, and e-hailing services for tourists to get around. Read more about our KL public transport guide here.


Image credit: Euan Cameron | Unsplash

Unlike in Malaysia, where most people prefer driving, getting around in Singapore is the most convenient via the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). The backbone of Singapore’s public transportation network, the MRT extends over 230 kilometres and serves 134 stations, covering nearly every corner of Singapore. 

The MRT is also cleanly maintained, air-conditioned, and the best part — it’s budget-friendly. If you’re mostly relying on the MRT for your trip in Singapore, it would be handy to get a Singapore Tourist Pass. Alternatively, the EZ-Link card is also a common payment method used for the buses and MRT. Generally, fares range from S$0.83 to S$2.30 (~US$0.61 to US$1.69) for adult passengers using the card.

5. Day Trips


Batu Caves | Image credit: Martina Birnbaum via Canva Pro

KL is just the beginning of your Malaysian adventures. Just a short distance from Kuala Lumpur lies a captivating spiritual landmark: Batu Caves. This is a sacred temple nestled within grand limestone caverns, featuring 272 vibrant steps leading to its entrance, accompanied by the towering statue of Lord Murugan.

Consider extending your trip to discover hidden gems throughout the country, too! Melaka‘s historical streets, Pahang’s natural beauty, and Penang, a cultural and culinary haven, are just a taste of the diverse experiences that await in Malaysia.

Also read: 12 Best Day Trips From Kuala Lumpur & How to Get There


Pulau Ubin | Image credit: Aleksandra Tokarz via CanvaPro

When it comes to day trips from Singapore, Pulau Ubin is a favourite destination for tourists and locals alike, especially since it’s one of the country’s very last villages. Escape the urban buzz and visit this rustic island that provides a glimpse into simpler times! Unlike the metropolis, here, you can explore lush greenery, encounter thriving wildlife, savour seafood and other traditional delicacies, and cycle around the island for a truly immersive experience.

Also read: Pulau Ubin Travel Guide: What to See, Eat, & Do on Your Next Day Trip!

6. Nightlife

Forget the Malaysia vs Singapore dilemma when it comes to nightlife, as both countries offer electrifying nightlife scenes that cater to all preferences.


Spark KL | Image credit: Spark KL | Official Facebook Page

Malaysia is a great destination for partygoers. From pulsating cityscapes to laid-back beach bars, the country’s nightlife caters to all party styles. Bustle through the vibrant clubs of Kuala Lumpur, dance the night away at rooftop bars overlooking Penang’s vibrant streets, or unwind with live music and cocktails at beach bars in Langkawi.

In KL itself, there are tons of activities that await travellers after dark. Check out our curated list of the best bars and clubs to visit after dinner that ensures an unforgettable night out!


Zouk Singapore | Image credit: Zouk Singapore | Official Facebook Page

Likewise, Singapore is a paradise for night owls and travellers looking to spend a splendid evening. From Michelin-starred rooftop bars with breathtaking views to underground speakeasies with handcrafted cocktails, Singapore’s nightlife caters to every taste. 

For first-time visitors to Singapore, visiting Clarke Quay is a must. This vibrant riverside district offers an array of bars and restaurants, from lively dance floors to laid-back pubs with local brews. What’s more, immerse yourself in the pulsating energy of Zouk Singapore, a legendary club known for international DJs, or unwind with live music and craft beers at trendy bars in Tiong Bahru. Read more places to experience nightlife in Singapore here.

7. Budget


Image credit: Ash Edmonds | Unsplash

The cost of travelling in Malaysia is cheaper compared to Singapore. You can easily find affordable accommodations in Malaysia, while dining and transportation are not expensive, too. 

The average daily budget for a person should be around RM387 (~US$80 or S$110), including local transportation, food, sightseeing, as well as a decent stay. But of course, you can expect to spend even less if you’re staying in a cheaper hotel and limiting your activities, or vice versa if you’re seeking a more pleasurable experience.


malaysia vs singapore

Image credit: Bna Ignacio via Unsplash

Singapore generally leans towards the more expensive side compared to Malaysia. This is reflected in dining options, local transportation, and accommodation costs. The stronger Singaporean currency (SGD) also contributes to a higher overall budget. You should plan on spending around S$210 (~USS155) on average per day, which is about double the budget for Malaysia. This includes meals, transportation, and hotels.

The TZ Verdict on Malaysia vs Singapore

malaysia vs singapore

Malaysia vs Singapore | Image credit (L-R): Anne Nicole | Unsplash ; SCREEN POST | Unsplash

So, Malaysia or Singapore, which is better? At the end of the day, there is no right answer for which of these countries in Southeast Asia is better for first-timers. It really depends on what you want out of your trip. 

Both Malaysia and Singapore offer similar cuisines that are delicious and of diverse cultures. Kuala Lumpur offers a fascinating blend of colonial architecture and vibrant skyscrapers, while Singapore boasts futuristic gardens and meticulously planned cityscapes. However, Malaysia generally has a more laid-back, relaxing vibe, while Singapore is known for its more fast-paced and efficient environment.

Malaysia offers a more budget-friendly travel experience, while Singapore is generally considered more expensive than Malaysia. Regardless, Malaysia and Singapore are equally fantastic destinations that are worth visiting at least once in a lifetime!

Also read: Changi Airport Guide: Where to Eat, Shop, Play & More Before Your Flight in Singapore

There you have it, a list of information that hopefully can resolve your Malaysia vs Singapore dilemma. If you haven’t been to either destination, which one do you think is better suited for you? If you have been to both Malaysia and Singapore, share your verdict with us on our Facebook page!

About Author

Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.