Cameron Highlands. Head there for tea time! Immense tea plantations and a cooler climate make it a nice getaway destination. Yes, it’s not perfect and you will have to close your eyes on some of the towns you see there but still there are enough great things that make it worth a trip. To be honest, we were a bit reluctant going there. We were not sure it would be our “cup of tea” (…). However, now that we have been we would recommend it as a nice destination (not a 3 star but not a 1 star either).

How accessible is it from Singapore?

If you think Malaysia = close, you are wrong. From Singapore, the total journey door to door will take you 6 hours if you fly to Kuala Lumpur and rent a car from the airport (it’s a 3-hour drive from the airport to the Cameron Highlands). If you drive all the way from Singapore, you can count 7 to 8 hours (that’s without a massive jam at the border). It’s even longer by bus (more details in the “getting there” tab).

Singapore to Cameron Highlands  journey details

Considering the journey from and back to Singapore, you would need 3 days to visit the Cameron Highlands but could rush it in 2 days if you are ready to spend a night or 2 in the bus or take a flight on the Friday evening and drive by night to get there.

One thing, you will need a car to explore the Cameron Highlands. Part of the interest of the region is to drive around in the valley and go visit the tea plantations. The roads (especially the last sections to the plantation) are very narrow, steep and damaged. If you are not comfortable driving in the mountain, then find a friend who is and ask him or her to join you for the trip. And if you get really scared, then park your car (but don’t block the way!) and walk the last few hundred meters.

If you don’t have a car or don’t want to rent one, you can always arrange a tour or book excursions with your hotel.

What about the kids?

Cameron Highlands are baby and kid friendly. The only concern may be the curvy roads if your kids get motion sickness. Apart from that, it’s a very safe environment and you can let them play in the tea plantation. Bring a baby carrier as your stroller will be pretty useless in the tea plantations or the mossy forest. By the way, you will need to take the carrier off your shoulders for a few passages in the mossy forest but nothing to be worried about.

How much is this going to cost us?

About SGD 650 return for 2 persons. This estimate is based on the assumptions that:
1. you find decent flights to KL, which should not be a problem as there are many! and
2. rent a good car from KL- you can rent a Proton for less). The car rental will eat a large part of your budget. If you drive your own car, you may have to add a hotel night in KL if you want to break the 8 hours drive over 2 days.

Once there, most (interesting) activities are free (tea plantation visits). Accommodation wise, you can find a wide range of options including budget but also a few high end hotels.

How remote and risky is it?

Roads are in good condition (with the exceptions of the last few kilometers before the plantations where they are very narrow). The plantations are super safe. There is limited medical infrastructure in the Cameron Highlands themselves but you should be able to reach KL in 2 hours in case something serious happens…

When should we go?

The best period to visit Cameron Highlands and avoid the rain season are the months of February, March, April, May, June, July and August. Refer to the chart in the sidebar for details about the monthly average rain volumes and rainy days.. Cameron Highlands are popular for their cooler climate (thanks to the “high – lands”. It’s very green and there is a good reason for that… It rains quite a bit over there. But it’s cool and makes it a good break from the heat of the sea level.

Did you know?

Jim Tomson, the famous American silk business man (you probably visited his house or shops in Bangkok) mysteriously disappeared in the Cameron Highlands in 1967. His body was never found. Will you solve the mystery of this disapperance?

Connections from Cameron Highlands

The most natural combination would be with Kuala Lumpur but if you don’t mind driving and have time, you can always go to Mersing to explore its surrounding islands or drive all the way up to the Perhentians.

Getting from Singapore to Cameron Highlands

3 options, from the fastest to the cheapest:

  1. Fly to Kuala Lumpur + drive (6 hours door to door)
  2. Drive all the way (8 hours or more depending on the waiting time at the border and traffic)
  3. Take public buses

As an alternative to option 1, note that you could also fly to Ipoh (1h40 from Singapore) and then drive to Cameron (about 2 hours). It’s about the same total journey as through Kuala Lumpur but direct flights to Ipoh are less frequent than to KL.

Getting to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore by plane

Step 1. Fly from Singapore Changi Airport to Kuala Lumpur (KUL)

Getting there: AirAsia: 7:45 AM – 8:55 AM (1h10 flight)
Coming back: Jetstar : 9:25 PM – 10:25 PM (1h flight)
Return ticket from SGD 100

This is just an example as many companies operate this route (Air Asia, Tiger Airways, Jetstar…), with flights almost every hour all companies considered.

Get your ticket NOW to enjoy the best fares. Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flight.

Step 2. From Kuala Lumpur Airport to Cameron Highlands

You can rent a car from the airport terminal. If you arrive at the low cost terminal, make sure that you ask for your car to be delivered upon your arrival. The car rental agencies are all in the regular terminal (20km away).

You will have to drive about 260km from the airport to Cameron Highlands (Brinchang). You will spend 2 hours on the first 200km on a very good highway. The last 60km are on a curvy mountain road and will take you about one hour (or more if some heavy traffic slow you down).

Getting to Cameron Highlands from Singapore by the road

You have 2 options:

Option A: Drive your own car (or rent one) – 560 km and 6h30 drive if there is no traffic at the border. To rent a car check out Avis Singapore or Hertz, you can rent it from the city centre on Havelock Road & Marina Square Mall). It will cost you from SGD 100 per day rental. You’ll be driving on a highway (in good condition) most of the way, except the last 100 km where the road is very curvy. Check the traffic webcam at the border on the Onemotoring website. Going to Cameron Highlands, using the Tuas checkpoint can be a good option as there is usually less traffic.

Option BTake a direct bus. Several companies provide this service: StarMart Express, Golden Coach Express, StarQistna Express, etc. Travel time: 9h drive – booking: www.busonlineticket.com – from SGD 56 / one way / pax. The One Travel Fivestar Express coaches are departing from Golden Mile Complex at Beach Road daily at 10:30pm and are terminating at Copthorne Hotel (Cameron Highlands).

Note that getting through immigration and customs at the border can significantly delay your journey. Take a look at About Malaysia tab above.

Where to stay in Cameron Highlands?

There is a wide range of accommodation in Cameron Highlands. We would recommend that you stay somewhere near Brinchang as most tea plantations are around there.

If you don’t have a car, you will need to arrange excursions with your hotel so make sure they offer such service (directly or through an agency)

We stayed at the recently renovated (2014) Strawberry Park Resort. It’s on the higher end and the rooms are nice with a small balcony. It’s not perfect (food and service were average) but probably one of the best options in the region and above the average local standards.

As always, we recommend you book early to enjoy the best rates

or, if you prefer, with

To see & to do in Cameron Highlands

Tea plantations are the main interest of the Cameron Highlands. However, not all of them are beautiful and well maintained so it’s a good idea to pick only a few that are really good (namely Sungai Palas Boh Tea Estate & Boh Tea Estate). See the map below to see the points of interest.

Sungai Palas Boh Tea Estate

Sungai Palas Boh Tea Estate is one of them. It’s a huge plantation and is very tourist friendly. There is a café with a panorama over the plantations. Do take the small paths that go into the plantation and visit it. You can also visit the tea factory (tour every hour or so) to better understand the process. This site is relatively new and very popular with tourists. Interestingly though, you will see many people around the café and entrance but very few once you go deeper into the plantation. Open daily from 9am to 4.30pm, closed on Mondays. Free admission

It’s located in the northern part, on the way to the Gunung Brinchang. The access road is very narrow at the end and you could get stuck on the road if there are a lot of cars. But don’t worry,  the surrounding scenery is great so these mini traffic jams may actually be a good experience.

Mossy forest

Not too far from the Sungai Palas Boh Tea Estate is the Mossy Forest. It’s a pleasant walk in the cloud forest. Nothing extraordinary but pleasant.  Can be slippery if wet. Good wooden path. If you carry a baby on a carrier, you will have to take it off a few times but no major issue.

Gunung Brinchang (summit)

At the top of the hill, 2 km after the Mossy forest is the Guning Brinchang (summit) and its weather station. You can skip this. Not much to see and pretty ugly with the buildings at the top. There is a tower to get a view but it’s usually packed with tourists. Free admission

Boh Tea Estate Habu, Ringlet

From the same Boh group as the previous one, this plantation is a bit older and simpler in terms of tourist infrastructure. However, the landscape is great. It’s much hillier and has a more authentic touch. You can wonder in the tea plantation for hours. The main entrance and café are located at the top of the hill. The plantation covers both sides of the hills and there are small roads and paths going from there. A great experience. You can also visit the factory tour (every hour or so). Food and drinks at the café are basic so don’t count on it if you want a solid lunch. It’s OK for a quick bite.

It is also less crowded than the Sungai Palas estate.

Bharat Tea Plantation, Tanah Rata

This plantation is not as impressive as the Boh plantations but still worth a visit if you have time. It’s also located in the South so it can be a nice break before you take the road back to Kuala Lumpur.

For more information about the tea plantations, you can take a look at this website

Trekking

There is a number (11 actually) of trekking itineraries. You can have a broad idea from the map below. However, you will probably have to ask around as they are not easy to find (some say some guides erased the marks so that tourists have to use a guide). To be honest, we would recommend you only do this once you’ve visited the 2 Boh plantations as walking in the tea plantations is a very nice walk.

Get stuck in a traffic jam

Ok, this one is more of a joke but it did happen to us during our trip! It took us 2 hours to cover 2 kilometers on the Saturday night. It was to a point where Valentine took Oscar (our then 1 year old) and walked back to the hotel while I was driving the car (well, driving = waiting in the car). She arrived in Brinchang before me! It’s only when we reached Brinchang that we realized the cause of this massive traffic jam in the middle of nowhere… The culprit was the Saturday night market. It’s very popular and attracts people from the surrounding towns. The issue is that there is no traffic management so cars, people get stuck on the road. But hey, you’re on holidays, right?

cameron_highlands_map

Map from cameron.com.my

More info to prepare your trip

Wifi is available in most of the hotels or guesthouses.

What to pack for Cameron Highlands

Your main bag

That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.

  • Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
  • Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
  • Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which  you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
  • Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
  • Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
  • Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
  • Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
  • Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
  • Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
  • Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
  • Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
  • Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
  • Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
  • Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.

Your small bag

That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.

  • Your passportcashcredit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag  in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
  • Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
  • Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
  • Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
  • Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
  • Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit  and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
  • Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
  • Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
  • Camera and its protection.

Malaysia

Malaysia

  • Language: Bahasa Malaysia
  • Time zone:   Kuala Lumpur GMT +8 hours, no time difference between Malaysia and Singapore
  • Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
  • Phone: + 60
  • Electricity: 220V 50 Hz

Immigration and airport taxes on arrival

A lot of nationalities are exempt of visa to enter Malaysia. You can check on the Malaysia Immigration website. If you are arriving by:

  • By air: On busy weekends, expect to wait for quite a while at the immigration counter
  • By land: If you are driving from Singapore remember to have your fuel tank full to 3/4 when crossing the border. Buy a Touch & Go card (to pay for taxes, tolls and fees) and remember to take it with you when going to Malaysia. More details on the card on the Touch and Go website.

National Public Holidays in Malaysia

2015

Day Date Holiday Comments
Wednesday January 01 New Years Day All regions except Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis, Terengganu
Tuesday January 14 Mawlid Birthday of Prophet Muhammad
Tuesday January 14 Birthday of The Sultan of Negeri Sembilan Negeri Sembilan only. Always celebrated on 14 January
Friday January 17 Thaipusam Hindu festival. Kedah, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Penang, Selangor only
Sunday January 19 Sultan of Kedahs Birthday Kedah only. Always celebrated on 19 January
Friday January 31 Chinese New Year 1st day of 1st lunar month
Saturday February 01 Chinese New Year 2nd day of 1st lunar month
Monday February 03 Federal Territory Day (observed) Kuala Lumpur, Labuan, Putrajaya only. Anniversary of the formation of the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory in 1974
Tuesday March 04 Anniversary of Installation of the Sultan of Terengganu Terengganu only. Always celebrated on 4 March
Tuesday April 15 Declaration of Malacca as a Historical City Malacca only. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 7 July 2008
Friday April 18 Good Friday Friday before Easter Sunday. Sabah, Sarawak only
Saturday April 26 Birthday of the Sultan of Terengganu Terengganu only. Always celebrated on 26 April
Thursday May 01 Labour Day International Workers Day
Wednesday May 07 The Sultan of Pahang Hol Pahang only. Marks the death of a state Sultan
Sunday May 11 Mothers Day 2nd Sunday in May. Not a public holiday.
Tuesday May 13 Wesak Day Birth of Buddha. Observed on the day of the full moon in May
Saturday May 17 Birthday of the Raja of Perlis Perlis only. Always celebrated on 17 May
Tuesday May 27 Isra and Miraj Kedah, Perlis and Negeri Sembilan only
Thursday May 29 Public Holiday Perak only. Mark the passing of the Sultan of Perak
Friday May 30 Harvest Festival Sabah and Labuan only
Saturday May 31 Harvest Festival Sabah and Labuan only
Sunday June 01 Harvest Festival Sarawak only
Monday June 02 Harvest Festival Sarawak only
Saturday June 07 Birthday of SPB Yang di Pertuan Agong Kings Birthday. 1st Saturday in June
Sunday June 29 Beginning of Ramadan Johor, Kedah and Johor, Kedah, Malacca only
Monday July 07 Georgetown Heritage Day Penang only. Georgetown was given Unesco World Heritage Site status in 2009
Saturday July 12 Birthday of the Governor of Penang Penang only. 2nd Saturday in July
Tuesday July 15 Nuzul Quran All regions except Johor, Kedah, Malacca, Sabah, Sarawak
Monday July 28 Hari Raya Aidilfitri Eid Al-Fitr
Tuesday July 29 Hari Raya Puasa Holiday Second day of holiday for Eid Al-Fitr
Sunday August 31 National Day Independence Day
Saturday September 13 Birthday of the Governor of Sarawak Sarawak only
Tuesday September 16 Malaysia Day Became a Federal Holiday in 2010
Thursday September 25 State Holiday Kelantan only. Allow voting in by-election
Saturday October 04 Birthday of the Governor of Sabah Sabah only. 1st Saturday in October
Sunday October 05 Hari Raya Haji Festival of Sacrifice
Monday October 06 Hari Raya Haji Holiday Holiday in lieu. Second day of Festival of Sacrifice
Friday October 10 Malacca Governors Birthday Malacca only.
Wednesday October 22 Diwali The festival of lights. Except Labuan, Sarawak
Friday October 24 Birthday of The Sultan of Pahang Pahang only. Always celebrated on 24 October
Saturday October 25 Awal Muharram Islamic New Year
Sunday October 26 Awal Muharram (in lieu) Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu only.
Monday November 03 Public Holiday Pahang only. Marks football team winning the Malaysia Cup final
Tuesday November 11 Birthday of the Sultan of Kelantan Kelantan only. Always celebrated on 11 November
Wednesday November 12 Birthday of the Sultan of Kelantan Kelantan only. Always celebrated on 11 November
Saturday November 22 Birthday of the Sultan of Johor Johor only. Always celebrated on 22 November
Thursday November 27 Birthday of the Sultan of Perak Perak only. Always celebrated on 27 November
Saturday November 29 The Sultan of Johor Hol Johor only. Marks the death of a state Sultan
Thursday December 11 Birthday of The Sultan of Selangor Selangor only. Always celebrated on 11 December
Thursday December 25 Christmas Holiday Internationally observed Christian holiday

* check the exact date as it varies from one year to another. When a public holidays falls on a Sunday, the following day will be Public Holiday. There might be some special public holidays in some states. Please refer to this website.