Malaysia is a great budget destination, you can easily get by on $50 a day…
What? That ain’t budget mate, that’s pretty flash to me. If you’re like us you’ll be sick and tired of ‘budget’ travel tips and guides from people who have never travelled on a budget in their life. After wondering the world without a penny in our back pockets we’ve learnt that the best things in life come free. So, to keep your adventure going without needing to take out your wallets, here is a whole bunch of free things to do in Melaka, Malaysia. Not cheap. Free. Completely free. Melaka is a small town that really packs a punch. It’s hard to believe there’s so much culture and history in such a tiny place. Have fun exploring… for free.
Explore the river day and night
Okay, we’ll be honest, the Melaka River is a bit stinky but it’s still beautiful. This 10 km long river is steeped in history as it was a crucial trade route in the 16th century and you can still see traditional Malay villages on it’s banks. Nowadays a walk along the river, crossing the famous bridges and admiring the art along the way is a must for all Melaka vistors. Plus, it’s 100% free and you can wander for hours along the boardwalks (just take a peg for your nose).
Visit the temples and meet the monks
With such diverse culture in such a small town, Melaka has an incredible variety of fascinating temples. These temples truly are spectacular and to witness locals worshipping and paying tribute is priceless. Many locals give offerings but there is no expectation on visitors, making this another great free experience. With so many unique temples in the area you could easily spend a whole day just temple hopping.
Taking your empty wallet to Vietnam anytime soon? Here’s a whole bunch of free things to do in Hanoi!
Find all of the street art
It’s real cool when an area so packed full of culture and tradition mixes it up with street art. We’re not talking tags along street corners, we’re talking about professional government funded works of art. There are creative spots all around Melaka so you can walk around free of charge and see how many you can find. Along the water front has some particularly good pieces ranging from contemporary graffiti style to traditional art!
Discover the beauty of Harmony Street
Why is it called Harmony Street? Because it showcases Melaka’s harmonious multiculturalism with a Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim temples all on one short street. Of these spiritual places the Masjid Kumpung Kling is particularly impressive. They welcome in visitors to show what goes on behind the scenes in the mosque. It’s also amazing to talk to the local imam and learn about his ways of life.
Experience the night market on Jonker Street
No trip to Melaka would be complete without experiencing the night market on Jonker Street. This market runs straight through the heart of Chinatown on Friday and Saturday nights and offers some crazy traditional foods and crafts. It also has the usual counterfeit goods you would expect from most tourist markets in Asia. None the less, it’s a top free experience and is also the perfect place to people watch.
Wander the Dutch Square and the Stadthuys
This hard to miss spot in town showcases the dutch influence in Melaka with the terracotta buildings built between 1660 & 1700. This is also the administrative capital of Melaka, originally used by the Dutch and the English and now used by Malaysians. Here you’ll find the Stadthuy (town hall) which is believed to be the oldest Dutch building in Asia. The area is filled with distinctive architecture, beautiful gardens and lots and lots of neon rickshaws blaring music. This all works together making a really unique part of town, perfect for wandering for free.
Watch some of the street perfomances
From religious reenactments and story telling to karaoke, Melaka is filled with free street performances of varying quality. A good spot to watch this is at the top of Jonker Street on a huge stage that is sure to be crowded on weekends. Expect some really heartfelt karaoke renditions from the elderly Chinese community. If you’re lucky you might even get a bit of Celine Dion. Prepare to be blown away!
Explore Chinatown and forget you’re in Malaysia
You’ve got to try that fish head soup!The winding streets of Chinatown are filled with temples, small tea shops and dusty handicraft shops covered with blessings on the walls. With one of the largest overseas Chinese communities it’s quite easy to wander the streets and forget where you are. It’s also home to a wicked vegan restaurant (Shu Xian) which is worth the trip on it’s own. After staying in Melaka for over a month we became regulars and tried everything on the menu (we’re not joking). Their vegan fish head mee hoon is innnnnnnncredible!
Walk to the Portuguese fortress; A Famosa
Originally constructed by Alfonso de Albuquerque in 1511, this ancient fort is all that remains from the Portuguese settlers which controlled Melaka. Hundreds of years ago this area sprawled across the whole region but today only these crumbling buildings remain. It’s amazing to walk through and imagine how different things would have been in centuries gone by. If you want some extra information follow closely behind tour groups and catch on to some of the history tour!
Get an aerial view
In the ancient town of Melaka, the Sky Tower sticks out like a sore thumb. As the name suggests, this is a super high, super modern building 43 storeys high with 50 km views from the top. Although you have to pay to go on the official viewing deck, you can get the elevator up to the bar on the top floor for free. The results are really spectacular and you can relax and enjoy the view until the waiters ask you to buy a drink!
Learn about local culture and beliefs
With so many cultures, ethnicites and traditions there are constantly new things to learn or experience. Try and plan your trip around one of the religious festivals and you’ll be in for a treat. Although not the most famous, the Nine Emperor God festival is amazing celebration for you vegan travellers. This week long celebration has devotees adopting vegan diets and following strict religious guidelines. Throughout town the Buddhist temples have free vegetarian food and you can watch firewalking and other breathtaking ceremonies!
Watch the sun set from behind Melaka Straits Mosque
Watching the sun go down behind the Melaka Straits Mosque is an we experience we can guarantee you will love. What we can’t guarantee is that there will be a sunset. Fortunately in the Spring and Summer months these beautiful orange and red sunset views are quiet common. The Mosque was built in 2006 and although the surrounding area is almost apocalyptic, watching the sunset behind is without a doubt completely worth it. Even if zombies are involved.
Discover Little India in Melaka
Did you know that Malaysia has one of the largest populations of overseas Indians in the world? In Melaka you can find Little India and this really is a very little India. Actually it’s just a few streets but it’s filled with Indian culture and friendly faces. Being only a few hundred metres away from Chinatown and the Dutch square makes it fascinating to walk from culture to culture. This is the place to come if you’re looking for great Indian buffets, perfect for ethical eaters. It’s also ideal for Indian crafts and traders, and cheap as chips hair cuts (they massage your head too!).
Meet St. Paul (he has a pretty old church!)
Although Paul is still looking pretty fresh it’s easier to tell that this church is over 500 years old. It was originally built by a Portuguese captain in gratitude to the Virgin Mary for saving his life during a storm at sea. Nowadays the remains of this church are incredibly peaceful and the perfect place to take a book and relax at quiet times.
A Whole Bunch of Free Things to Do in Melaka, Malaysia
Do you know anymore free things to do in Melaka or have any money saving tips? Tell us in the comments box 🙂