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Langkawi Island Life

Langkawi Island Life 🦅 Lush, Tropical, Timeless

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It was raining when we arrived at Langkawi’s small international airport. We’d just taken 2 shuttle flights from Phuket, with a short transfer in Kuala Lumpur. These AirAsia flights only cost us €58 per person, and were the quickest, cheapest and most efficient way of travelling between the two islands.

We were now looking forward to experiencing a full week of Langkawi island life.

We had booked two accommodations on the island. The first of these in the capital – Kuah, and the second close to the popular beach areas around Pantai Cenang. Our first objective on arrival was to get some local Malaysian currency, followed by a taxi to our hotel in central Kuah.

Langkawi Island Life – Getting around with ‘Grab’

Since there are no practical bus services in Langkawi, your best bet on arrival is to hire a car. Failing that, you can always use Malaysia’s very efficient Grab independent taxi service.

This is the local version of Uber which offers a good service and mobile App. The average cost for trips around the island ranges between RM 4 (€1) to RM 20 (€5)

Of course, to use this taxi service you’ll need a smartphone and ideally a local SIM card with some internet usage. SIM cards are cheap as chips in Malaysia, and will save you a small fortune in place of your regular phone card.

Langkawi Island Life

Langkawi island life – Jetty Point, Langkawi

…or if you prefer a standard taxi

If you’re arriving at the airport and don’t want to mess around with SIM cards and phone apps, proceed to the exit. There you’ll find an official taxi counter where you can pay for a taxi at the standard rate.

This varies depending on how late you arrive. The normal fare for a taxi from the airport to Kuah (about the furthest you’re likely to travel) is RM 32 (€7). If you arrive late – 11 pm or later, this price can increase by up to 50%.

The same journey using Grab will cost around RM 20 (€5). Note however that there aren’t too many Grab cars available very late at night or very early in the mornings.

Kuah and its Surroundings

Our first taste of Langkawi was in the capital, Kuah.

For the first 2 nights we’d booked ourselves into the Langkawi Seaview Hotel not far from Jetty Point on the south-east coast of the island.

Kuah stretches out along the coast westwards for around 3 kilometers from Jetty Point. Jetty Point itself is a hub of activity featuring the popular Billion supermarket, Starbucks, and a few restaurants and cafes.

Close by, Legenda Park offers a very relaxing and peaceful oasis, with direct access to empty sandy beaches – though we wouldn’t recommend swimming there (see below).

Langkawi Island Map

Langkawi island map (click to view)

Supermarkets and Shops

Langkawi’s larger supermarkets can be found in Kuah, including Billion Supermarket (near Jetty Point) and the ambitiously-named Langkawi Parade Megamall a couple of kilometers along the coast. The Parade has over 40 duty-free retail, food and entertainment outlets. There’s also a food court offering local and international dishes.

Next door you’ll find the Teow Soon Huat Department Store & Supermarket, advertised as Langkawi’s first and foremost department store. On the basement level, the supermarket offers fresh produce, together with frozen and canned foods.

The quality and range of products in the supermarkets has improved dramatically over the past few years. You will pay a little less for your fresh meat, fish and vegetables if you shop at the wet markets that can be found dotted around the island.

Basically, in Langkawi there is no one-stop store. You can find most of what you’re looking for, but you need to shop around and discover these places for yourself.

Wet markets are associated with fresh foods, wet floors and humid temperatures. They usually have an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, sea food and poultry. The term ‘wet markets’ comes from the constant use of water to wash down foods and floors to keep them clean and humid. The humidity ensures that the food stays fresh for longer. These markets are open from sunrise to late night, with the best produce being found early in the morning or in the evening.

Langkawi Night Markets

Night markets are held every day of the week in Langkawi, close to prominent locations such as Pantai Cenang, Kuah, and Padang Matsirat. Known locally as Pasar Malam, these are lively affairs with local vendors setting up stalls along a stretch of road, selling ready-to-eat food and sundries from 17:00 until 22:00.

There are five night market locations:

  • Kuah Night Market – Every Wednesday and Saturday
  • Kedawang Market – Every Tuesday
  • Temoyong Night Market – Every Thursday
  • Air Hangat Night Market – Every Friday
  • Padang Matsirat Night Market – Every Sunday
 The Langkawi Eagle

Langkawi island life – The Langkawi Eagle

Pantai Cenang & Pantai Tengah

The most popular tourist areas in Langkawi are centered around the Pantai Cenang-Pantai Tengah stretch of coastline. Starting just south of the airport, the area extends for around 3½ kms to the southernmost tip if the island. Here you can find a good concentration of hotels and guesthouses as well as bars and restaurants.

This is the most developed area of Langkawi, and is becoming ever more so. However, its still a relaxed place to spend some time, offering great beaches, good bars and local street food.

Langkawi’s Geoparks

The mountains, islands and beaches that make up Langkawi’s archipelago comprise 99 thickly forested tropical isles dating back half a billion years. The main island itself is home to the most ancient rainforest on the planet.

There are three distinct areas that form the Langkawi Geopark, each with its own unique geological makeup.

  • The Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest park sandstone and granite mountain range in the north west of Langkawi is the oldest rock formation on the island, standing at 800 meters above sea level. It was created over half a billion years ago and was the first part of South East Asia to rise from the seabed during the Cambrian period.Gunung Raya in the center of the island is the tallest mountain range standing at 881 m.
  • The Kilim Karst Geoforest Park in the north east offers an array of winding mangrove rivers around the Kilim River. Karst is the local name for limestone. The rivers are surrounded by near vertical hills and caves formed from millions of years of erosion, containing fantastic limestone formations. There’s plenty of marine life in the waters as well as the famous Langkawi eagles up in the mountains.
  • Off the south coast of Langkawi you can find Pulau Dayang Bunting – the second largest island of the archipelago, famous for its fresh water lake known as Lake of the Pregnant Maiden. The lake originated as a massive limestone cave which collapsed. Here you can also find the finest Permian marble formations in the world.

Langkawi Cable Car

The Langkawi Cable Car, also known as Langkawi SkyCab claims to be one of the steepest cable car rides in the world. It takes you up 708 meters above sea level to Langkawi’s second highest peak  – Mount Machinchang.

From here the view of the surrounding islands is breathtaking.

There are also plenty of activities to tempt you to the top, such as the curved and precarious pedestrian SkyBridge, a variety of shows at the SkyDome, and for the more energetic the SkyTrail trek between the middle and top stations.

You can board the cable car close to the Oriental Village located on the west coast of the island. The price for a ticket to the top starts from RM 30 (€6) per per person.

Langkawi Island Life – The Beaches

In just a week we didn’t get much time to spend hanging out on the beaches. However, the following places caught our attention and would definitely bring us back for more.

Kuah Beach

Just behind the center of Legenda Park you can reach a good stretch of clean white sand beach extending northwards for around 400 meters. The water here is warm as bath water, though murky with the silt and muddy sand.

Pantai Cenang Beach

Cenang beach is a long beautiful stretch of sand, and is also probably the busiest beach in Langkawi. There are lots of restaurants and bars along the beach and it can get crowded in the high season. This area is developing fast, and long gone are the days where there were only a few hotels and resorts to choose from.

Pantai Tengah Beach

Just south of Cenang beach, Tengah Beach is another long stretch which is relatively quiet. The water is quite shallow during low tide, but great for a paddle. There are plenty of places nearby to eat, as well as restaurants and cafes on the main road.

Tanjung Rhu Beach

On the north tip of Langkawi, Tanjung Rhu beach bends along the coastline past the Four Seasons resort, and towards a backdrop of majestic rock formations and blue ocean. There are a few small shops selling clothing and batiks as well as several cheap, local restaurants offering delicious Malay dishes.

Tanjung Rhu beach cafe

Langkawi island life – Tanjung Rhu beach cafe

Although more difficult to reach, this is a much more relaxing place to spend your time, with far fewer tourists.

If you’re not keen on sandy beaches you can also try out the Water Theme park along the coast from Kuah – just before you reach Langkawi Parade.

Langkawi Island Life – Eating Out

Of course, being in Malaysia – and not far from the gastronomical island of Penang – you can expect to enjoy some really delicious food in Langkawi. We were certainly not disappointed.

The Smiling Buffalo

The Smiling Buffalo is is a small garden cafe that stays open just for breakfast and lunch. It is well worth finding, offers delicious food and drink, and even has live entertainment some days. The Smiling Buffalo is hidden away on a country road just north of Cenang, right next to the Village 19 Retreat. Its about a 20 minute walk from the north end of Pantai Cenang seafront.

The Hornbill Hut

Located at Kampung Lubok Buaya, the Hornbill Hut is a cheap and simple cafe that specializes in breakfast and Western-style light dinners at reasonable prices. It serves the usual traditional breakfast, sweetened pancakes and egg dishes of all kinds, as well as steaks and burgers with crispy fried potatoes, various salads, and sandwiches.

Wunderbar German Beiz

Also in Kampung Lubok Buaya is Wunderbar, an authentic German restaurant which serves good wholesome food and a variety of German beers.

Jakes Charbroil Steaks

Jakes Charbroil Steaks at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club is a little more upmarket, meaning it will cost considerably more than the other restaurants mentioned here. Having said that, the premium steaks are really excellent, as is the location and setting.

The Secret Recipe

At the Secret Recipe in Kuah we had a Thai seafood spaghetti and a curry, together with a couple of drinks for RM 75 (€15). Definitely a good choice of restaurant if you’re in this part of the island.

Starbucks at Jetty Point

Also in Kuah, Starbucks offers its trademark products. If you don’t mind paying a little extra, coffee and cakes for two came to RM 40 (€8).

Coco’s Bistro

Coco’s Bistro is a favorite with the expats living on the island. If you’d like to take a break from traditional Malay or Chinese food, here you can get Irish Stew, Rib Eye steak, Hungarian Goulash and Barracuda Fish n’ Chips.  Set in a calm garden area, the quality of food and drinks is both excellent and inexpensive.

Coco’s is located at Coconut Beach Villa on the coast, just adjacent to the airport.

Langkawi Island Life – It’s Duty Free!

… and of course, how could we possibly end this article without mentioning that Langkawi is a duty-free island. If booze, chocolates and tobacco is your thing, then this is one of the few places in Malaysia where you can get it at a fraction of the cost of most other places.

For us, this is just the cherry on top of the cake!

Langkawi Island Life

Langkawi island life

In Langkawi there is a good variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Although we didn’t have any major disasters with our choices, its a good idea to take a little time to review the locations in detail before making a booking.

Check out our own experiences and recommendations for guesthouses, hotels and resorts in Langkawi.

After Langkawi, we would be heading south to Penang, which like most of the rest of Malaysia isn’t duty-free. We’d just have to see how many bottles of gin we could stash away in our rucksacks…


If you enjoyed Langkawi Island Life, check out Island Hopping from Phuket to Penang. You may also like:

Langkawi Island Life

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Dubai Stopover

A Short Dubai Stopover

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Since most Emirates South-East Asian flights stop in Dubai en route, a stopover in the city seems to be a great addition to your vacation. In fact, for many travellers this is often where the holiday begins (or ends).

For us, this came at the end of our trip to the Maldives and Sri Lanka. Our Emirates return flight had a change in Dubai, so we decided to treat this as a stopover and spend a couple of days there.

Dubai Layover Visa Requirements

Note that although most nationalities are allowed to pass through Dubai in transit, some nationalities (Russians for example) require a visa to leave the airport and visit Dubai. However, this can easily be arranged online by purchasing a UAE visa online.

The cost for this service when we applied was $63 per person, although this may have changed in the meantime.

If you fly with Emirates and your flight necessitates a Dubai stopover in excess of 6 or 8 hours, then like Turkish Airlines, Emirates will provide free transfers and hotel accommodation for 1 night.

However, there really has to be no other flight options available to you for this offer to be valid. In our case, we paid a small supplement to break our journey in Dubai, and searched for our own accommodation.

Winchester Hotel Apartments, Bur Dubai

We used Hotels Combined to find and book our accommodation in Dubai. We chose an apartment hotel in Bur Dubai, close to the center, and paid €78 for a 2-person apartment for 2 nights. We also arranged an airport pick-up (Dhs 60) and drop-off (Dhs 40) from the same hotel.

The place we chose was The Winchester Hotel Apartments.

They provided us with a spacious, clean and well-equipped apartment. We had a comfortable living room with TV, and a separate bedroom and kitchen. The apartments are cleaned every day, and the towels changed unless you request otherwise.

The hotel has a large reception area on the ground floor that is staffed 24/7, and is always available for help. Not far from the hotel there is a metro stop for easy access to the city. Beyond the metro stop there is a wide boulevard with plenty of shops, supermarkets and even a few restaurants.

Although we didn’t have the time to try them, the Winchester offers complimentary use of a gym, sauna and swimming pool. They also offer a free shuttle service to and from the Dubai Mall, running 2 or 3 times a day.

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What to do with just a 3-day Dubai stopover

There’s plenty to do in Dubai, so we had to be selective on how we would use our limited time.

Take a Desert Safari

The activity that was a “must-do” for us was the evening Desert Safari. Since we had 2 nights in Dubai, we booked this for the 2nd evening.

There are a number of different companies that offer this activity, all with variable TripAdvisor reviews. After a lot of research, we chose Desert Safari Dubai. Having read the bad reviews as well as the good we decided to just take it as it comes, and do our best to enjoy whatever they had to offer.

As it turned out, we had absolutely nothing to worry about (see Dubai Desert Safari).

Dubai Stopover

A short Dubai stopover in the desert – An evening here is not to be missed

We booked our Desert Safari online several weeks in advance to ensure we’d have a place. There was no payment upfront, simply an exchange of details by email. Payment is made by cash or credit card when your Guide picks you up from your hotel.

You can book this from their website www.desertsafaridubai.com

Shop till you drop at the Dubai mall

Of course, we were understandably keen to check out the biggest and best shopping experience on the planet. The Dubai Mall is the world’s largest shopping mall based on total floor area.

The mall also includes a Gi-normous fish tank: The 10-million liter Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the ground level of the Dubai mall, is the largest suspended aquarium in the world.

It houses thousands of aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species. More than 300 sharks and rays live in this tank, including the largest collection of Sand Tiger sharks in the world. There are numerous ways you can experience the main Aquarium tank, which measures 51 meters in length and 11 meters in depth. One of these is to hire some scuba gear and take a swim with the fish.

Burj Khalifa Lake & Tower

We also had to check out the daily aquatic fountain & light show. Set on the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake, the fountain shoots water jets as high as 500 ft (150 meters), equivalent to that of a 50-storey building. The fountain is 900 ft (275 meters) long and has five circles of varying sizes and two central arcs.

The beam of light shining upward from the fountain can be seen from over 20 miles away, and is visible from space making it the brightest spot in the Middle East, and quite possibly in the entire world.

Dubai Stopover

Burj Khalifa Fountain during the day

Speaking of the largest things in the world, Dubai also boasts the highest man-made structure. Standing at 829.8 m is the iconic Burj Khalifa. The tip of the spire can be seen from 95 kilometers away.

Dubai Stopover

A short Dubai stopover – Burj Khalifa: It’s……. big

So we also arranged an appointment to travel up to the top of the world (well, the top of the tallest man-made structure in the world). For more details on this, check out Burj Khalifa.


If you enjoyed Dubai Stopover, check out our Short Breaks & City Stops. You may also like:

Dubai


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