From Halal Food & Travel
Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah (Malay: Langkawi Permata Kedah) is an archipelago of 99 islands (an extra 5 temporary islands are revealed at low tide) in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. The islands are a part of the state of Kedah, which is adjacent to the Thai border. In 2008, Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah consented to the change of name to Langkawi Permata Kedah in conjunction with his Golden Jubilee Celebration. By far the largest of the islands is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi with a population of some 65,000, the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba. Langkawi is also an administrative district with the town of Kuah as the capital and largest town. Langkawi is a duty-free island.
An introduction to Langkawi
Langkawi's most prominent mountains, Gunung Macinchang and Gunung Raya, and a whole series of towns and villages are said to be named after a local legend. The story tells the tale of a wedding between two families of giants, with Mat Raya's son wanting to marry Mat Cincang's daughter. During the wedding feast, a fight broke out between the two wedding parties, reputedly because the son was caught flirting with another woman.
During the fight, pots and pans were thrown, and a large pot of gravy (kuah) was broken and the contents flowed onto the ground. The place where the gravy was spilled became known as Kuah (the largest town on Langkawi island) and where the crockery (belanga) was broken (pecah) was location of the village Kampung Belanga Pecah. The gravy seeped into (kisap) the earth at the village named Kisap. And the hot water pot crashed where there are now hot springs at Air Hangat.
The name "Langkawi" has two possible origins. First, it is believed to be related to the kingdom of Langkasuka, itself a version of the Malay negari alang-kah suka ("the land of all one's wishes"), centered in modern-day Kedah. The historical record is sparse, but a Chinese Liang Dynasty record (c. 500 AD) refers to the kingdom of "Langgasu" as being founded in the 1st century AD. Second, it could be a combination of the Malay words 'helang', meaning "eagle" and 'kawi', meaning "reddish-brown" or "strong", in old Malay.
Langkawi eventually came under the influence of the Sultanate of Kedah, but Kedah was conquered in 1821 by Siam and Langkawi along with it. The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 transferred power to the British, which held the state until independence, except for a brief period of Thai rule under the Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II. Thai influences remain visible in the culture and food of Langkawi.
Langkawi remained a sleepy backwater until 1987, when the island was granted tax-free status with the intention of promoting tourism and improving the lives of the islanders. The following boom was spectacular and now Langkawi figures on most every European travel agency's radar.
This spectacular boom was also due to the fact that Mahsuri's curse was lifted with the birth of her 7th generation descendant.
Sheltered by the mountainous backbone of Peninsular Malaysia, Langkawi escapes the northeastern winter monsoon entirely and enjoys sunny skies in winter when the eastern provinces are flooded. Coupled with natural white sand beaches, lush jungle foliage and craggy mountain peaks - but hampered by inaccessibility - the island was at one time touted as "Malaysia's best-kept secret".
The 10,000 hectares of Langkawi and its 99 islands were declared a geopark by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2007.
Langkawi International Airport (IATA Code: LGK) is located at Padang Matsirat, on the northwestern part of the island. Over a million passengers pass through annually.
The following airlines offer service to/from Langkawi: Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, Silk Air and Rayani Air.
Direct flights are available to Langkawi from Penang, Singapore, Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Bharu.
Book a Halal Cruise or Boat Tour in Langkawi
- Langkawi Ferry operates fast air-con boats from Kuala Perlis (RM18, 75 min), Kuala Kedah (RM23, 105 min), Penang (RM60, 165 min) (the ferry is freezing cold, so bring warm clothes), and Satun (RM30 or THB300, 75 min), (Satun ferry to Langkawi: last boat departs Satun at 16:00.
- Tropical Charters operates ferries from Kuah Jetty to Koh Lipe twice per day during the high season (October-late April) at 09:30 and 14:30 from Langkawi and 11:00 and 16:00 from Koh Lipe. During the low season, from late April to late May, the company only has morning trips. From late May, the ferry stops running until October. Price is RM118 one way (RM100 if you book online), including the longtail boat transfer and Thai custom fee. Check in is at the inner entrance of the Jetty Point Food Court. Registration closes 30 minutes before departure. The trip takes 90 minutes. Arrival in Lipe is at the Bundhaya Resort.
- Telaga Harbour operates speedboats from Ko Lipe, Thailand twice per day during the high season, at 09:30 and 14:30 (RM128 1-way, RM248 return, 75min). These boats dock at the south end of Pattaya Beach. Bookings can be made online.
How to get around in Langkawi
There is effectively no public transport on the island, so your choices are to use taxis or to rent a car, motorbike/scooter, or bicycle.
Best way to travel in Langkawi by a Taxi
A taxi from the airport to Pantai Cenang costs RM20 or less with Grab. You can buy a coupon at the taxi desk in the airport. From the ferry terminal to Pantai Cenang the price is RM24. For those arriving at the Kuah Jetty and going into Kuah Town, the price is RM8.
By car or motorbike/scooter
Renting a car or motorbike/scooter is highly recommended due to lack of public transport. This can be done at the airport, the port complex, or from shops on Pantai Cenang. Refrain yourself from renting from touts, as many are operating illegally without permits and usually without insurance. Remember that accidents happen to tourists on motorbikes/scooters every day, so be careful although the traffic is not as chaotic as in Penang and other areas.
Renting an air-conditioned mid-sized sedan costs RM70-RM150 per day (depending on model, condition and length of stay) and a 150cc motorbike/scooter costs RM40-45 per day. Cheaper but usually very used and older are the semi-automatic 115cc bikes for RM25 a day. A tired Proton with in Pantai Cenang maybe around RM60-90/day.
Check your fuel level regularly because petrol pump stations (gas stations) are far from one another. However, rental agencies do not care how much fuel is in the tank when the vehicle is returned so do not spend more on fuel than you have to. Fuel costs about RM1.90 a litre and you should return the bikes with the same filling level as you picked it up. Some rentals do check the level and mark it when you sign the slip.
At the petrol station for the first time will confuse you. You will need to guess how much fuel you need and pay first. Most saloon cars if empty are RM50 to fill up and motorbikes are approximately RM5. Sometimes you fill up your car/bike and you haven't used what you have paid for not to worry you can claim this back at the counter.
Remember to drive safely and slowly on the island and on the left side of the road. There are tourists, children and animals like chickens, cows and even buffaloes crossing. Take care not to run over the beautiful snakes or monitors. Cattle and snakes like to lie on the road at night; the blacktop radiates heat.
Laws you need to know.
- You must carry your driver's licence at all times.
- Seat belts are mandatory in all vehicles. Fines are given ranging from RM50 plus if not wearing.
- Helmets are mandatory. Fines are same as above but more importantly the hospital does not have facilities to treat head injuries, so you will have to get a medivac out to Penang, which takes 45 minutes or more — if the helicopter is available.
- An international driver's licence is not necessary but licences must have text in English.
Road blocks are commonplace in Langkawi; they are mainly interested in locals with no licence/tax disc. Make sure you have the above items and your seat belt fastened, and you will have no problems.
Travel by bicycle in Langkawi
There are not much opportunities to rent bicycles here. If you do find somewhere, then expect to pay RM10-30 per day.
What to see in Langkawi
- Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls aka Seven Wells This waterfall is named after the seven natural pools along its path. Legend has it that fairies used to come down to the pools to bathe and frolic. There are 2 viewing areas at Telaga Tujuh. The lower area is at the base of the waterfall and the higher area is where the 7 pools are. You can bathe in the pools and even slide down the slick rock between them. Be warned, to get to the 7 pools, you have to climb 638 steps which can get quite slippery when wet. As with most Malaysian tourist sites, the toilet facilities are not maintained and rubbish is strewn everywhere.
There is also a jungle trekking course available at the site which will lead you through a trail of about 2,500 m, up 2 mountains. This trail is achievable with slippers, but it is best to wear comfortable hiking shoes or boots as some segments of the trail are nearly vertical. These trails are not recommended for family trips.
- Gunung Raya The tallest mountain on the island, at 881 m. Spectacular views from the lookout point on the top. There is a resort hotel serving meals and indifferent coffee at the summit. There is a lookout tower which one may climb for RM10. There is also a possibility to climb the mountain which requires good health as there are 4287 steps in the stairs.
- Crocodile Adventureland - Over 1,000 crocodiles and alligators. Witness a boxing match of man vs crocodile, or take a ride in a rickshaw drawn by a crocodile. This "attraction" is not for everyone as the crocodiles are inbred and deformed.
- Laman Padi Rice Garden Rice fields and nice landscaping. Museum in English details process of cultivating rice.
- Taman Lagenda - Legenda Park - Beautiful garden located on acres 50, designed based on Langkawi heritage.
- Underwater World - An indoor aquarium. Try to catch the feeding times (see website for details).
- Eagle Square - The square, featuring a giant eagle statue, is beautifully landscaped with scenic ponds, bridges and coverd terraces, and is especially beautiful when illuminated at night
- Oriental Village - Asian-themed village featuring restaurants, an exotic snake charmer, jugglers, silat displays, traditional music, kite flying demonstrations, palmistry, portrait painting. A miserable elephant is forced to offer rides to tourists. In the future, a tiger may be added into the collection of their non-native wildlife. Rent a segway to scoot around Oriental Village.
- Galeria Perdana - Museum featuring gifts Malaysia has received from foreign countries.
- Wild Life Park - Taman Hidupan Liar - A zoo with many wild animals.
Top Muslim Travel Tips for Langkawi
- Cable Car Ride & Sky Bridge - Ride the cable car to the top of Gunung Mat chinchang and walk across the 700-m high Sky Bridge for a spectacular view of the islands and Thailand. Includes a very steep section which is spectacular both going up and coming down. Doesn't operate in bad weather. Also it doesn't run during the regular maintenance days, check before you go. Officially you are not allowed to take food and drink on the cable car, but they seem not to be checking backpacks (when unlucky and all your water is taken by the security, you can buy one at the top). If they are not operating, or you are really into hiking, you can trek partway up the mountain through the jungle. To do this, from the parking lot at Telagah Tujuh Waterfalls go left just before the road goes really uphill and then turn left again at the water reservoir. The trek is very steep most of the way and in a pretty bad condition because the contractors laying down the piping for cables littered garbage all the way to the top. Only attempt this if you are fit and have good hiking boots. Temperatures at the top of the mountain are 4-5⁰C lower than at sea level
- Rent a scooter Maybe the best way to discover the island. Plenty of rental shops along Jalan Pantai Cenang.
- Go-Karting Morac International Karting features a 1,000-m track.
- Langkawi Cineplex - Only movie theatre in Langkawi. Current Hollywood and local films.
- Golf - There is a world-class, 18-hole golf course located near the Datai resort.
- Yoga Now - Traditional Hatha Yoga classes in English (also French, Dutch and Chinese). Run by an Irish/Malaysian couple. Yoga retreats and workshops are also available.
- Jungle trekking Follow any of the numerous jungle trek routes available throughout Langkawi. The vegetation is not dense. It will be a memorable experience.
- Pantai Cenang The most popular beach in Langkawi, features fine powdery sand and many beachfront restaurants. Located at the south-western tip of the island, 2 km long.
- Pantai Tengah Located just south of and contiguously with Pantai Cenang. 1 km long. Means ‘Middle Beach’. Peaceful and tranquil alternative to the hustle and bustle of Pantai Cenang. All inclusive resorts popular with families.
- Pantai Kok Isolated, relatively undisturbed stretch of beach in the western part of Langkawi Island, 12 km north of Pantai Cenang. Telaga Harbour, and the cable-car ride to the peak of Mat Cincang Mountain and the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls are located here.
- Tanjung Rhu Northernmost tip of the island. Centuries-old limestone caves, mangroves, waterways, limestone crags and sandy beaches make it a nature lover's paradise. This beach is made up of 2 long stretches that include Tanjong Rhu Resort and Four Seasons, half of the Tanjung Rhu beach belongs to these resorts, guards don't allow you trespass the limits of their beach.
- Datai Bay Beach - The most expensive resorts are located here.
- Burau Bay Beach lined with rocky outcrops located at the West Coast of Langkawi. Nearby Burau island is also a roosting place for migratory birds.
- Pantai Pasir Hitam - Black Sand Beach - The sand is mixed in white and black shades, due to rich tin and iron ore deposits.
- Pasir Tengkorak - Skull Beach - Very beautiful small beach in the north of the island.
Tours can be arranged via any hotel or a multitude of online agencies. Prices vary; the ones given here are averages.
- Blue Water Star Sailing - Private & sharing yacht charter cruises; cruise packages for sunset, full day or overnight cruises around Langkawi and in the Andaman Sea.
- Mangrove Tour Langkawi - Educational and recreational tour. The tour slowly cruises the river and you will able to watch animals like birds, monkeys and eagles actively searching for food. You can experience for yourself the mangrove trees on your left and right banks of the river.
- Stardust Sailing Yacht - Combined mangrove and sailing yacht tour incorporating eagle watching, sting ray feeding, a traditional fish farm excursion and a mangrove speedboat safari for 1 hour plus a 6-hour sailing yacht cruise to the Langun Island Sand Spit Beach and incorporating the Pirate Lagoon as well as fishing, salt water jacuzzi, join in sailing, dolphin spotting, tunnel cave.
- Island Hopping Tours | You will be brought to several islands around Langkawi, usually the Pregnant Maiden Island and Pulau Beras Basah. A dive into the cool deep Pregnant Maiden Lake is a must. The tours take 4 hours. They have pick-up service and can be booked from any hostel/motel at lower rates.
- Jet Ski Island Tours or Jet Ski Safari - Breathtaking view touring the islands of Langkawi on a jet ski. You will be given a choice of three different tours. Private tours can be arranged. The tours take approximately 4 hours and leave at 09:00 ending 13:00. They have pick up service and can depart from Pantai Cenang or Sheraton Langkawi Beach Resort.
- Birdwatching Tours - There are over 200 species of birds on the islands. The best times to watch them are the early mornings or early evenings.
- Marinas - Four first-class marinas provide berths for many international yachts.
- Kayaking & Swimming Adventure - 4-hour tour. Paddle along the mangrove forest. Opportunities to see kingfishers, sea eagles, kites, plovers, herons, fiddler crabs and mud skippers.
- Jungle Trekking in the Rainforest 4-hour tour. Pick up from your hotel. Lots of monkeys and birds. Junglewalla also offers tours suitable for families or advanced hikers.
- Mangrove & Limestone Cruise 4-hour tour. Explore the mangroves forest and the ancient limestone outcrops and rock formations and possibly walking fish, Kingfishers, and Eagles. Prices vary, depending on the quality of the guide as well as the package components. It can range anywhere from RM70-200 for adults. Alternately, you can charter the boat for RM300 if you are more than 2 people.
- Nature Walk - 2-hour tour. At sunrise or at dusk. See monkeys, insects, and flying squirrels.
- Scuba Diving & Snorkelling Only around Pulau Payar Marine Park (20 km south of Langkawi). There is a viewing platform for relaxation between underwater adventures. While Pulau Payar Marine Park does boast healthy coral and a good variety of fish, you will not be issued fins with your snorkel and the lunch the various tour operators supply is well below par.
- Eagle Feeding - While you are on one of the various boat tours, the tour operators will toss pieces of chicken to the eagles. This is a wonderful display, but encourages the eagles to rely on tourists for food, and not to hunt on their own. As a result, it is very destructive to the eagle population. Please do not support eagle feeding. Tell the boatman to keep the chicken for himself.
- Helicopter Joyrides - See Langkawi from aerial view at a very afforable price.
Muslim Friendly Shopping in Langkawi
ATMs and money exchange booths are available at the Langkawi Airport, at Langkawi Parade Shopping Complex, next to Underwater World at Pantai Cenang and at Cenang Mall.
Langkawi is a duty-free island, and alcohol is significantly cheaper here than in the rest of Malaysia.
Hotel tariffs and retail goods are exempt from government duty. Visitors with more than 48 hr stay in Langkawi are exempt on items like wines and liquor (1 liter), tobacco (200 cigarettes), apparel, cosmetics, souvenirs and gifts, food and food preparations and portable electronic items (one item).
Shop around before buying: the airport is probably the most expensive place to buy anything. Shop in Kuah town for batik, tobacco products and chocolate confectioneries.
- Langkawi Parade Megamall - One of the largest duty-free shopping complexes in Langkawi. A one-stop shopping location for wines & liquors, chocolates, local souvenirs, clothing & beachwear, luggage, home decor, electronics and other products. Grocery store on bottom level offering fresh and frozen foods.
- The Zon Duty-Free Shopping Complex - Cheap place to buy cigars, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, clothing, electronics, chocolates, and biscuits.
- Kompleks Budaya Kraf - Enormous handicrafts centre built in neo-Islamic style.
- KV Tobacco - Well-stocked tobacco and cigar shop. Easily recognisable by a big orange signboard, and door painting by the left. Has a variety of Cuban cigars, rare European smoking pipes and packed tobaccos. Knowledgeable and friendly shop owner.
Practically all resorts have their own restaurants and many visitors choose to eat in, but there are lots of other options as well. Be adventurous and strike out on your own to savour the numerous foods at the stalls and restaurants all over Langkawi.
Generally, restaurants are expensive and the portions are smaller there than at stalls, so you may want to order more than just a main dish at a restaurant. Also, if you don't like spicy food, watch out: Langkawi people like their food hot, and even if they tone things down at your request, you may still find your food challenging to eat. Try one of the many seafood restaurants, but beware of certain restaurants advertised in the brochures targeting tourists. An example of such restaurant is the 'Coco Beach Restaurant', close to the airport.
If you choose to order seafood or fish, take note if the price is by weight or by a set price for the dish. The unwary can be hit with a much larger bill than expected. Also, beware of restaurants telling you that they only have the bigger size lobsters available, as that is what they tell everyone (a common practice at Coco Beach Restaurant and Palm View Restaurant, at Pantai Cenang). When your lobster or crab is served, you will discover that you will definitely be paying for 900g of shell instead of meat! To counter this, order fish, squid and prawns, to be safe.
For a taste of simple Malay-style breakfast, just walk up to a small stall opposite the Underwater World in the mornings and feast on the famous freshly-prepared banana leaf-wrapped nasi lemak (steamed rice in coconut milk). The price is most affordable at less than RM 2 for a pack. Go local and enjoy this with a glass of hot teh tarik or really good local coffee. This very unassuming stall is just simple and great (clean too!) The nasi lemak comes with curried beef, squid in chili, friend salted fish or chicken.
- AddaMaya Café - Small, cosy place for meals and coffee. The chef can whip up great meals - from local dishes to western fast food easily (and in that little cabin of his). It can get a bit dusty as it is located fronting the main road. Locals like to come here for good food at reasonable prices.
- Rafi's Place - Rustic shack. No visible signboard either but ask around and you will find Rafi's. Rafi is a Penangite but has been on the island since 1988 so he considers himself very much local. Ask him for recommendations and he'll happily tell you. Ample parking space in front of his 'shack'. Good ambiance especially early mornings.
- Tomato Nasi Kandar - Typical budget Indian food establishment with patrons all day (and night!) long. Very crowded even in the wee hours of the morning. They serve an enormous variety of dishes, from the flavoured roti varieties to naan, briyani and kebabs. The standard is quite high - to an extent where the meal is extremely value-for-money. The only problem is that their waiters are exceedingly bad at taking orders.
- Restoran Fatimah - Try this for really authentic Malay food. Their lunch spread is amazing - so amazing that they attract bus loads of Malaysian visitors. Just enjoy the food and leave your cultural baggage and complaints behind as you will be in a totally different ambiance but friendly, nevertheless.
- Restoran Almaz - A really nice small restaurant with Roti and Indian food that is very tasty and affordable.
Muslim Friendly Hotels in Langkawi
If you are looking for good accommodation, your best option would be to walk along the beach and adjacent road at Pantai Cenang. It is hard to find good accommodation in other beaches in Langkawi, except Pantai Cenang and Kuah town. Prices there normally range from RM100 to RM550 per room per night, on or next to the beach.
Please visit our full list of all hotels and resorts in Langkawi.
Telecommunications in Langkawi
Mobile phone coverage is very good in all built up areas of Langkawi. Many affordable pre-paid phone and data plans are available. Recharge cards are readily available except for the very affordable TuneTalk which is harder to find and SIM cards almost non existent. It is best to buy this back in LLCT where no commission is charged on the SIM. Full reception and reasonable data speeds can be achieved on the beach and inside the resorts on Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah.
The main post office in located in Kuah Town. Mini postal offices can be found in Padang Mat Sirat. There is no post office in Pantai Cenang, but you can buy stamps and send postcards in T Shoppe on the main road. Courier service, Poslaju shop can be found at Taman Berlian, Kuah.
Broadband is available and some Internet cafés can be found along Pantai Tengah, Pantai Cenang and Kuah. In addition, many of the upscale hotels, resorts, and restaurants provide free WiFi.
The biggest health risk on Langkawi is from jellyfish stings, especially during January - June season. Uninformed visitors are stung every day and the lifeguards on Pantai Cenang and the hospital treat more or less severe cases of jellyfish stings most days. There are several species of jellyfish in Langkawi's waters, while most will give you a nasty sting or a burn, there are some that will cause partial paralysis or even kill, in case of the lethal box jellyfish. If you have been stung badly, don't exert yourself physically as this will pump the toxins around the bloodstream and aggravate the symptoms. Vinegar is the only scientifically proven treatment for tropical jellyfish stings, apply it for 30 seconds to block toxin which has not yet been absorbed into the blood.
Langkawi can have a lot of mosquitoes depending on the time of year and location (i.e. Mangrove areas), so don't forget to use mosquito repellent. "Off" spray and various citronella or DEET based products are available in most supermarkets.
Average temperatures are hot or hotter; it's the tropics. Be sure to stay hydrated. You will need to drink about 3 litres a day and don't wait till you are thirsty to drink. Room temperature water preferably. De-hydration accounts for a large percentage of dodgy tummy holiday illnesses.
Stay safe as a Muslim in Langkawi
Speedboats can often bounce off the waves at very high speeds and passengers can get quite strong jolts into the non-sprung seats, so persons with back or neck problems should not travel on the speedboats, but on the ferry. There have been reports of serious back injuries happening on the speedboats. They are also known as 'vomit comets' due to the number of people succumbing to sea sickness. Bring lots of water and be prepared for a bumpy ride! Also be very careful while swimming. At times, tides and currents can be very aggressive and not easy to spot.
Be careful driving around Langkawi at night. Although main roads are well-lit, some of the more minor roads are not very well lit and may pass through Kampungs (traditional Malay villages) or rural areas where the locals seem to take a very casual approach to road safety. Drive slow and watch out for erratically piloted motorbikes, pedestrians and livestock. Inside Kuah Town, watch out for errors in the road arrows - they may lead you into wrong lanes or into barricades. at night, watch out for water buffalo sleeping in the road.
Crime is generally not a problem on Langkawi, especially compared to the larger cities in Malaysia. In theory, you don't even have to lock your car, because it cannot get off the island without customs knowing about it!
Beware of smart wild monkeys. Those at Tengkorak beach attack humans who have food. If attacked, pick up stones (or just pretend to do so) and throw them at the monkeys, this will scare them away. Also, do not carry plastic bags as the monkeys associate these with food. Don't let them get too close to you or they will steal your glasses.
Please read up on rip tides before you go; learn to recognise and to avoid them.
Explore more Halal Friendly Destinations from Langkawi
- Ko Lipe — Great diving and snorkeling at the only inhabited island in Tarutao National Marine Park, a short speedboat ride (1½ hr) away on the Thai side of the border.
- Ko Tarutao — Another island in Tarutao National Marine Park, however does not suffer from the rapid development issues faced by Ko Lipe.
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