Starting September 1st, our flight tax will be in effect. For those of you who don’t know, Malaysia imposed a departure tax for people leaving the country.
The tax ranges from RM8 to RM150 depending on where you fly to, and which class you choose: economy, business, or first-class.
In light of that, here are 4 ways you can save money on your flights.
1. Choose a destination that’s in an ASEAN country.
If you didn’t have a specific goal on your holiday destination, why not explore new cities in South-East Asia?
The flight tax is cheaper for flights departing from Malaysia to ASEAN countries at RM8, compared to RM20 for non-ASEAN destinations. (This is for economy class passengers – it’s much more expensive for the higher classes.)
To save you a Google, ASEAN countries refers to Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh’s getting popular nowadays as a tourist spot (check out its famous post office, Manila is criminally underrated (there’s the Manila cathedral), and if you can’t decide, you can always fall back on tried-and-true holiday destinations like Bangkok.
I had a friend who travelled from Bangkok to Malaysia, to Singapore and onwards to Indonesia – all without passing through an airport departure gate.
She spent three months doing all that, exploring all the little nooks and crannies of the countries she visited. It was an incredible roadtrip-like experience.
2. Take A Boat, A Bus, Or A Train.
If your plan is to visit Thailand, why not travel by land?
Back before 2016, you could use the KTM overnight sleeper train from Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai.
Nowadays you can take the high-speed Electric Train Service from KL Sentral to Padang Besar (tickets are RM100), then from there catch a Shuttle Train to Hat Yai for 50 baht (RM7).
The wait at the border station can be quite long, so you could even walk over the land border and taking a bus or minivan to Hat Yai.
Imagine walking across a stretch of land and suddenly you’re in a different country! Quite a rare experience for most peninsular Malaysians (since we’re surrounded by water).
Plus if your destination is Bangkok and you prefer the scenic route, you can take the State Railway of Thailand all the way to Bangkok.
3. Book a flight to Johor Bahru and jump the pond to Singapore
If Singapore is your holiday of choice, going by road is often be the better option. You can take the KTM or an overnight coach direct to Singapore. The journey is about 5 hours long by coach.
Or, if you don’t like waiting, you can take a local flight from your city to Johor Bahru airport, grab a 20-minute shuttle bus to JB’s immigration centre, and hop over the causeway to Woodlands, Singapore.
This saves you RM8, so you get to have another plate of nasi lemak ayam before you travel.
For international flights out of Malaysia, you can fly locally to JB, cross over to Singapore, and then fly internationally from Changi airport, saving you between RM 20 to RM150 depending on your seating arrangements.
It’s worth noting however that Singapore has its own tax for passengers flying out from Changi Airport, called the Airport Development Levy (ADL).
At S$10.80 (RM32.61) for departing passengers, it’s a hefty tax that could mean the difference between getting snacks for your relatives and coming back empty handed.
That said, if you visit Changi airport, you get to see the Jewel, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. So it might be worth the detour!
Just make sure you compare the market rate for flight ticket prices, whether departing from KLIA or from Changi.
4. Just fly locally lah.
Of course, the whole reason why the ministry came up with the tax is to encourage domestic tourism.
There are lots of local destinations to spend your two-week annual leave. Genting, Penang, Pulau Redang, Melaka.
Think about it – aren’t some of the international destinations you plan to go to functionally the same as some in our own country?
Consider the similarities between Bali and Pulau Tioman:
Tropical beach? Check.
Good local food? Check.
Good-looking locals? Check.
So if you wanted a tropical holiday, why not visit Pulau Tioman instead of Bali?
In this writer’s opinion, if you’ve seen one mountain, you’ve seen them all.
Consider the similarities between Mt. Bromo and Mt. Kinabalu:
Extreme weather conditions and high altitudes? Check.
Possibility of dying alone out in the freezing cold? Check.
Bragging rights if you actually get to the peak of the mountain? Check.
All jokes aside, there really are a lot of good destinations that Malaysia has to offer.
They’re surprisingly better than the tourist traps that more well-known destinations tend to be – there’s less of a crowd, service is often more personal, and you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy them.
After all, the point of your holiday is to relax, isn’t it?
Do you have any tips of your own to beat the flight tax? Let me know in the comments!
For more stories about travelling, read I Travelled a Lot When I Was Younger – Here’s Why It Sucks and Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo at Least Once.