Whenever I suddenly crave chicken rice, I dream of chicken rice balls in Malacca. Sorry Singapore, this Malaysian city just 3.5 hours away is the real foodie's paradise.
If you're not one of those Singaporeans with relatives in Malacca, the thought of the city probably does not conjure up painful memories of boring family gatherings. Which means it's fair game for a quick 3D2N getaway. Here's how to do so it on the cheap.
All prices in this article are in SGD, unless otherwise stated.
BUDGET FOR A 3D2N WEEKEND GETAWAY TO MALACCA
COACH FROM SINGAPORE TO MALACCA AND BACK
Sorry, frequent flyers, but the most sensible way to get to Malacca is by coach, seeing as there are no direct flights.
Don't just march down to Golden Mile Complex and book tickets from the first company you see. For some reason, ticket prices for Malacca can vary wildly, so you definitely want to do your research online on sites like Busonlineticket or redBus before booking.
The cheapest company tends to be Starmart Express or 707 Inc, and you can get tickets for as little as $15 or $16 each way. The return trip can be as cheap as $8.50 if you book early, but otherwise it won't more expensive than $13. Try not to pay more than $28 for a return ticket. The ride should take three to four hours, maybe a little more if you go during public holidays and the causeway is jammed.
Cost of bus fare: $28
ACCOMODATION IN MALACCA
Malacca is a backpacker's paradise, and even if you're on a very tight budget you should be able to find stylish hostels, guesthouses and boutique hotels to stay at in the historic centre near Jonker Walk. Tourist infrastructure is very good and much better value for money than, say, KL.
For $15, you should be able to stay in a very basic guesthouse room to be shared with a friend. For $38 to $45 per night, you can get a 3-star hotel room with private bathrooms and aircon.
There are very good deals on Agoda. For instance, a room at Timez Hotel Malacca costs $45 a night on Agoda right now, down from their walk-in price of $194. Check out Agoda's 2019 promotions before you book!
Travel with a friend and you can stay in comfortable lodgings in the heritage area for $10 to $20 per person per night.
Cost of accommodation: $19 per night / $38 for two nights for a 3-star hotel.
TRANSPORTATION WITHIN MALACCA
You can easily navigate most of the main tourist sites in the historic centre on foot, which are enough to keep you occupied on a weekend getaway. Many people spend their entire trip in the area in and around Jonker Walk. You can easily walk all the way out to the river from Jonker Walk.
If you have to take a taxi, don't forget to get the driver to use the meter. Prices are about half of what you pay in Singapore without as many crazy surcharges.
To get from Melaka Sentral, where most buses from Singapore will drop you off, take a 15 minute bus ride for RM1.50 (S$0.50). Look for the domestic bus terminal and go to Gate 17. If you see other tourists around chances are they're waiting for that bus too. Look out for Christ Church, the distinctive brick red building (in our main image), which will be across the road from where you should alight.
If you insist on taking a cab, expect to be charged at least RM10 (S$3.32) to RM15 (S$4.98) for a 10 minute ride, and that's if you manage to get the driver to use the meter or are very good at bargaining.
Or, use Grab taxi, which saves you the trouble of wondering if the driver is out to cheat you because you can easily see where you are.
Transportation cost in Malacca: RM30 (S$10)
SIGHTSEEING AND SHOPPING IN MALACCA
While the main attraction for most Singaporean visitors to Malacca is the food, the town itself is quite charming, and the historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Most of the historic sites are free to visit.
- Jonker Walk Night Market - Free
- Cheng Hoon Teng Temple - Free
- Christ Church and Dutch Square - Free
- Porta de Santiago - Free
- Melaka River - Free
Of course, if your idea of sightseeing is going shopping, you can hit up the 2 major malls in Malacca: Mahkota Parade and Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall. You don't have to spend to enjoy some air-con as you window shop, but if you do, prepare your shopping budget. We're not gonna add that in the cost in our trip tally as it varies from person to person, and let's face it, shopping is not really a necessity.
FOOD IN MALACCA
No matter how low your budget is, you'll eat well in Malacca. Meals at local stalls and family restaurants can cost as little as RM4 (S$1.30) to RM8 (S$2.65), although you might have to pay a premium if the stall is a "famous" one. If you have a big appetite or want to order more expensive items on the menu, you'll pay up to RM20 (S$6.64) per person.
Beware of the fact that some of the more touristy restaurants will set you back significantly more, although you should still be able to keep your meal to below RM30 (S$9.95) per person. Just for the record, the famous durian chendol at Jonker 88 is RM5 (S$1.70).
For many Singaporeans, the temptation to hang out at some of the new hipster cafes in the historic centre will be too strong to resist. Be prepared to spend about RM12 (S$3.99) for a cafe latte, and up to RM18 (S$6) for an all-day breakfast main.
A food budget of S$20 per person per day should be more than comfortable.
Cost: $20 x 3 = $60
TOTAL COST OF A 3D2N TRIP TO MALACCA: $136
As you can see, the biggest cost in Malacca is probably food. We've provided a pretty comfortable food budget for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 3 days. If you are a small eater and don't care much for cafe food, you can probably spend under $100 for the entire trip. On the other hand, if you have spare cash to blow, go ahead and knock yourself out at high-end restaurants.
This article was first published in MoneySmart.