Malacca Tip: Weekdays vs Weekend Travel to Malacca
Visiting towns or cities is different from visiting tourist attractions on weekends. Weekends are usually the time for locals to have their breaks from work and most of them will visit places of interest without having to use their annual leaves. Simply put it, weekends are when locals and tourists crowd popular spots at the same time, resulting in long queues, traffic congestion, etc. This logic applies worldwide except if the places had fallen out of favour but still attracting misled travellers.
Malacca (or Melaka) is a state in West Malaysia. When travellers go to Malacca, they will usually visit the historical city centre of Malacca, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with rich cultures and historical buildings. It is a place of interests. So it gets congested on weekends.
Note: Although this post compares key factors when travelling to Malacca. The same reasoning applies to any places of interest around the world.
While most tourists, mostly Singaporeans and Malaysians from other states, visit Malacca's historical city on weekends, I prefer to be there on weekdays (except during school/public holidays). Less crowded and slower pace, weekdays' Malacca is more suitable for relaxation than over weekends.
1. Easier to Get Transportation
Firstly, getting transports to or from Malacca is easier on weekdays. There is no need to book coach tickets prior to the trip. Just turn up at the ticketing counter at any bus terminals and get the next available coach to Malacca. There are several coach services at any bus terminals and seats will usually be available.
On weekends, it is necessary to secure transports ahead of the trip as they usually run out fast for popular places.
I like to turn up at the bus terminal to get the next bus ticket as I will be paying in Malaysia ringgit and don't have to keep to a departure time. If I pre-book a coach online, I will have to pay using a credit card and incur exchange losses. There will also be a departure time to keep to, it's either you turn up early and wait or missed the transport completely.
2. Cheaper Accommodation
Accommodation is always cheaper and readily available on weekdays and with more choices. I can also wait until the last-minute to make reservations online with agoda.com to get better deals. Booking platforms usually give last-minute discounts to fill up hotel rooms instead of letting it go unoccupied.
3. No Queues at Eating Places
I encounter very few issues with long queues, crowded spaces, slow services and poor food quality that most people cited in food reviews. They were there on weekends with a string of frustrations and using reviews as a channel to express their unhappiness. I hardly encountered those issues on weekdays. That is how I enjoyed the food and ambience there, and sometimes, I got to chat with the owners and staff when they are not busy. This is what travelling means to me — to understand more about the locals and their cultures.
Top: Jonker 88 Restaurant on a weekend. We have to make way for others immediately after the meal. Bottom: Jonker 88 on a weekday. I can even examine the exhibits leisurely.
If you are going there on weekdays, do note that most of the outlets in the old town close on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. When opened for business, most outlets will also close for the day around 6pm or earlier. Do plan what you want to eat to skirt around their off-days. Be mindful of unscheduled off-days especially after school/public holidays in Malaysia and Singapore.
We also consolidated a list of local food outlets and included their off-days to the best of our knowledge. Check the posts below.
4. Less People at Historical Sites
The olden-day architectures in the Dutch Square, the old Chinatown, the sky tower, the museums, monuments, etc, in Malacca are always open to public. These sites are best visited on weekdays with lesser crowds then weekends.
Top: Dutch Square on a weekday. More symbolic.
Bottom: Dutch Square on a weekend. More people.
If your objective is to take photos of the historical sites, all the more you should be there on weekdays with lesser people walking around — unless you want to take photos of long queues outside restaurants, people posing in front of monuments, cars congesting the roads or the bustling night market.
On one of my trips, we were at the Upside-Down House Gallery on a Friday during a school holiday. The 2-room gallery was filled with visitors trying to take photos with the exhibits and long waiting time was needed. Everywhere we stood while waiting for our turns, others would tell us to move away so they could take photos. We were out of there in less than 20 minutes — after having paid steep entrance fees and not enjoying it.
5. No Night Market
Jonker Walk Night Market is held every Friday to Sunday night along the main street of the old town. This is probably the only event that is not available on weekdays. With cheap eats and buys, it attracts large crowds on every weekend night. The number of people peaks on Saturday nights (unless it rains), and it can be so congested that one can hardly cut through the crowds and walk down the street.
If you have not been to the night market, be there to experience it at least once but not necessary on all nights from Friday to Sunday. If you do not intend to stay in Malacca throughout the whole weekend, here are 2 suggestions:
Arrive in Malacca before Friday, visit the night market on Friday night, then leaves Malacca on Saturday before crowds assault the old town.
Arrive in Malacca on Sunday (when most people are leaving Malacca), visit the night market on Sunday night, then leaves Malacca afterwards.
Top: Crowded Jonker Walk Night Market on weekend.
Bottom: Empty Jonker street by 8pm on weekday.
If you have been to the night market several times, you probably will not be thrilled by it on future trips. If you do intend to give the night market a miss, you have all the reasons to be there on weekdays and get out before the crowds pour in on weekends.
In summary, go on weekdays for the following reasons:
Easier to get transports,
More for eats and coffees without long queues,
Less crowds around attractions, and
Not keen in night market.
Taking a break from busy work life means to enjoy and relax, not running to another busy place with long queues, traffic jams and crowds. Is saving a couple of annual leaves worth all the hassle?