Malaysia 2015: The Plans are complete!

After scoring the deal of the century on flights and the Formula1 dates being announced I’d waited for Sepang Circuit to put them on-sale and taken the time to plan some Side Trips.

This left me with one last accommodation puzzle to complete.  Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur for the 4 nights over the F1, and how to ensure the total expenditure fell in under AUD1500.

About the planning Process

Trip Advisor Badges
Trip Advisor Badges

As a reasonably active member of the TripAdvisor community I have started taking a few steps to post things actually related to Bargain Travel in the Bargain Travel forum.  So to open with I created a thread that largely talked about the planning for this years F1 trip and some of the methods I’ve used.

It’s spread over a few posts in a single thread

Back to my accommodation choice

I switched back to using because there was simply no difference in price using any other site, and this way with the exception of the Tune Hotel at Danga Bay I’ve got all my bookings in one place.   So we shall see how the oddly named 12fly works out.

Build Your Own Formula1 Trip!

Formula1 is Expensive

No, it’s not, if you’ve followed a few of these posts you’ll have seen that I managed to get to the Formula1 in Malaysia for a very small cost, and am repeating again in 2015.

To highlight the low cost I’ve shamelessly “stolen”  one of the Trip-Ideas from TheBookingSpots Reservation Destination suggestions.  While the site is still under development the links do work and provide easy access to price quotes for airfares and accommodation ex-Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra & Darwin).  You’ll still need to add in some tickets which are cheap when bought through Sepang Circuit direct.

If Malaysia isn’t your speed you can check out the costs for the first 6 races of the 2015 Season with the rest to come soon!

Malaysian Formula1 – Sepang International Circuit

27th-29th March 2015

The second race of the 2015 Formula1 season will challenge the durability of the cars in the Malaysian climate.  From searing heat to tropical rains the F1 circus faces it all!

Kuala Lumpur represents one of the most cost-effective races to attend with tickets available directly from Sepang Circuit at great prices, accommodation is plentiful and available to suit every budget.

Our quick search links below will help you find flights and accommodation for the Race, we’ve aimed to have you arrive a day or two before the F1 Friday practice sessions and fly out on the Monday after the race.  Naturally you can adjust these dates to add on some extra time for sightseeing!

Find a Flight

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Malaysia 2015: Formula1 Tickets Onsale Now

After scoring the deal of the century on flights and the Formula1 dates being announced I’ve been waiting for Sepang Circuit to put them on-sale.


 So how are those Formula1 plans?

When Sepang Circuit slipped the tickets on-sale last Monday I quickly secured some Topaz (Upper level, back straight) Grandstand tickets at an exceptionally good value 50% discount.  For me this was an essential part of the trip plan as my travel insurance includes event cancellation and changes in its cover.  Now if the Formula1 race is cancelled, postponed or moved I have some insurance to deal with it.

This has also meant that I’ve started feeling more comfortable about locking in the side-trips to LegoLand (yes I know I’ve been before) and for something different a couple of nights in Penang.

LegoLand Side Trip

LegoLand is located down in Southern Peninsular Malaysia and a short distance from Singapore.  So after a few days in Kuala Lumpur I’ll board my flight to Johor Bahru and spend 4-nights checking things out in a bit more detail.  Flights were cheap, I initially tried searching using a few different engines like Zuji, Bravofly, Expedia and the trusty Skyscanner only to realise that sometimes making an effort to check directly with airlines pays off.  Onto the Malaysia Airlines website I went!

So for 120RM I had return flights from KUL to JHB, including checked and carry on luggage.  Even the normally competitive AirAsia couldn’t match that!

Welcome to LegoLand
Welcome to LegoLand

I’ve yet to book the accommodation for this side-trip.  Naturally I’ll be resorting to my favoured standby of but this time will also add LastMinute, Expedia and a few others into the mix.  Heck it may be time to forget my aversion to bad spelling at check out!

Penang Side Trip

The planning for my trip to Penang was a little different.  With only a couple of nights “spare” in the itinerary and a desire to go somewhere different I hit up the usual suspects (ZujiBravoflyExpediaSkyscanner)  and once again settled on going direct with a twist.

Yes readers, I booked a flight on a smart phone via an airlines app!  It was with Malaysia Airline again, and amazingly for the same 120RM Return that I was already paying to fly KUL to JHB.  The MHMobile App worked very well right down to scanning my Credit Card!

MHMobile App
Flights to Penang via MHMobile App

A small “glitch” was having to populate all of my details into the App, I would have thought these would be imported from the profile I have with Malaysia Airlines Enrich Frequent Flyer Program.  Still it’s not too hard to set put details in and make bookings.

To push the boat out in experience even further I used the App to book corresponding accommodation in Penang!

All done while enjoying a coffee with a work colleague!

Where or rather what next?

The world of travel has come a long way in just a few short years and as I’ve now locked in some 6 nights outside of Kuala Lumpur it’s time to hit TripAdvisor and start to get some more ideas on what to do with the remaining 4 nights in KL.





Malaysia 2015: Dates for Formula1 Set

Since taking the time to book my ticket through I’ve been watching for further deals and trying to get ideas together for what to do when I’m not at the Formula1.  It’s been a while so I figure it’s time for an update on where my plans are at.

Caterham Formula1 2014 Malaysia
Formula1 2014 – Malaysia Caterham

Formula1 Race Dates Announced:

The sticking point to further plans was the lack of a set date for the Malaysian Formula1 race.  Yesterday this was finally listed on as being the 27th to 29th of March 2015!

Other News:

What else has happened?  Well One of my flights has been changed by the airline, resulting in re-issuing of my ticket.  A process that’s gone smoothly enough, and I’m reasonably certain it won’t be the last change.

Next Steps:

I’ve yet to book accommodation, the next step is really for Tickets to go on sale!  I’ll book my tickets with Sepang Circuit directly when they’re released.  For the 2014 Formula1 Race this occurred in late October and an excellent early-bird discount was offered.

In 2014 I missed out on the super early bird and instead bought at a 25% discount in January.  I only bought an single ticket, but for 2015 I’ll use the higher discount and get two tickets giving me more flexibility to move around during the race.  (although I may have managed to occupy some other zones during the 2014 race I don’t want to “risk” it again).

Making some other plans!

Legoland Malaysia has opened the Star Wars exhibit and the Kampung Mini-Land so I’m going to have to head back to Johor Bahru for these, but that still leaves me with the need to find other things to do.  Please leave me some suggestions!

Malaysia 2015: Commitment Made!

After having a great time in Malaysia for the Formula1 in 2014 I was immediately keen to consider doing the same in 2015.  It’s no secret I like the country and find it pretty easy to get about.

So when cheap flights started appearing on Skyscanner I was starting to get a twitchy desire to book early and hope to the heck that the Formula1 calendar would stick to the “normal” late March date for the Malaysia F1 race and Sepang International Circuit.

In 2014 I spent about AUD720 on flights from my home-base in Australia to Kuala Lumpur using a combination of AirAsiaX and Virgin Australia.  The price crept up thanks to the me adding the Plaza Premium Lounge at the LCCT Terminal on departure from KL.  I also had to add in the shuttle between Sydney International and Domestic terminals.   I also up-specced my AirAsiaX ticket into the “Quiet Zone”.

So when flights started coming available via SkyScanners network of suppliers for around AUD630 including luggage, meals and all connections in Australia lets just say “Woohoo”.

Flying Malaysia Airline System (MAS)?

You bet, after air disasters there’s traditionally a massive cut in the cost of ticket prices as the airline affected struggles to attract customers back.  We’ve flown with Malaysia Airline before in 2012 on one of the their older Boeing 747s and survived.  I’m confident in 2015 the Boeing 777-200 will be an equally safe option.

Aren’t you taking a risk with the F1 dates?

Life without risk isn’t living.  Well not quite but when just about every Formula1 race held in Malaysia has been on either of the last two weekends in March, two weeks after the Australian F1 race it’s hard to not see a pattern.  I’ll be there for both those weekends but am confident the race will be on the 29th of March 2015.

Some reassurance comes when many of the ticket and event tour companies agree with my “guess”.

So there we have it, now to wait for the F1 calendar to be confirmed (probably December), then snap up some tickets for the Race via Sepang Circuit while they’re fresh (and discounted).

Last step organise the accommodation and a side trip or two.  I’d love to spend more time down in Johor and as my only trip towards northern Malaysia was to Bota Kanan Terrapin Center I would like to go up to Ipoh and spend a few days exploring.

We shall see how things go!

Panasonic DMC-TZ40 Mini Review

I’d only had the Panasonic DMC-TZ40 for a couple of weeks before leaving for my Malaysia trip and in that time had played around enough to learn where the basic settings were and understand how the WiFi function could be used.

As the camera itself is an “old” and now discontinued model there’s not much point in a full review, so consider this as a way of me reminding myself just how little I paid and and just how good it was on the trip.

F1 Overtaking

One of the big reasons I bought the TZ40 was the Zoom, at 20x optical it was going to bring the action closer.  Now in practice that zoom works well on a clear sunny day when the shutter speeds can be drop to deal with the camera shake.  In practice newer generations of this camera and its competitors are going out to 30x zooms.  I’m not entirely convinced that this is a good thing given the difficultly holding the camera steady enough.


The best zoom point for the camera is in the middle of the range though, the above shots were “easy” grabs and most from this position in the stands to the corner (a few hundred metres) were sharp and clear considering the hazy conditions.


When working with closer faster moving subjects the same middle of the range zoom point coupled with the burst mode on the shutter got me what I really enjoy – closeup clear sharp pictures.  The success factors were again influenced by the ability to aim and stead the camera.  So much so that I feel investing in, or making a “grenade grip” or large handle grip is going to be on the cards.  That way the weight of the camera is better supported by the left hand while the right hand can guide the shots while triggering the shutter.

In short there’s not enough camera to hang onto solidly if you have larger hands, the same reason that makes the TZ40 a great travel companion is its downfall in these scenarios.


The huge amount of indirect light thanks to heavy cloud and haze cover did cause all of the automated functions some grief, the chrome finish of the Mclaren cars flaring out in most shots and confusing everything from shutter setting to focus points.  I think had I not been relying on so much Automation I would have tweaked the Aperture and Shutter settings to specifically suit, however while the high-resolution screen nthe rear of the camera is bright and very sharp the lack f size still makes discerning these sorts of issues impossible in the field.


More conventional livery wasn’t a problem though with the mix of colours and contrasts being well picked up.



There’s really no true substitute for a DSLR at capturing super detailed pictures, but to be very honest I travelled to Malaysia with under 6kg of clothes, electronics and camera, I certainly didn’t have the space (or will) to wrangle more stuff.

The Panasonic TZ40 bridges the chasm between “good” mobile phone cameras with all their foibles and the new-generation of mirror less interchangeable lens cameras.  The small external size packs a lot of useable features into a very pocket friendly package.

Overall I found the battery life to be very good, using a “power bank” to top-up the battery when walking around, having lunch and so forth extended the life and the change to the spare (at 199RM for a genuine battery)  was completed quickly and barely interrupted use.

I had initially been using a Patriot Class10 32GB SD card which was “fast” enough for our DMC-TS3 indestructible camera but when filled I went out and splurged on a 64Gb Sandisk Extreme in MicroSD form (with adapter) to allow sharing with the GoPro.  While on paper the specification difference between the two cards is not extreme it does play out in practice with the Sandisk card giving a faster save-time and consequently better burst mode performance.


At night the automatic Nightshot mode rarely faltered with the superbright lights and a colours captured clearly with minimal user effort.    Motion blur in stills as expected but very little evidence of shake.

Petronas Towers

In bright light colour and detail are good, again this is a point and shoot (and the images are resized) but the level of detail captured is more than adequate for decent prints.

Overall I quickly became comfortable with carrying and using the TZ40 – I got good results most of the times I pulled it from the pocket and by contributing more effort on my part even better results would have been attained.

For the price of these super-zoom compact cameras I have no idea why some people travel relying upon mobile phone cameras to capture memories.

F1 on a Shoestring – What Went Down!

We are heading for a month since I wrote my last entry, at the time I was just 7 days away from departing for Malaysia onboard AirAsias A330 for the 2014 Malaysian GP.

Well considering part of the goal was to travel light I ended up taking   just an iPhone 4S, a Kindle and the Panasonic TZ40 to capture the moments of the trip.

So first lets answer the question of accommodation; I stayed at The Victory Exclusive in Bukit Bintang.  Rather than write yet another review here’s what I said on TripAdvisor.  In summary though – the room had no windows a comfortable bed and was generally clean and functional and for the price I’m not complaining.

As with my previous visits Malaysia had me captivated with the pace of development and the friendliness of the people.  In Australia we often like to think of our country as being “multicultural” – and for a anglo-dominated 1st world country that may be the case – but Malaysia seems to incorporate a greater mix of cultures, languages and lifestyles with a ease that I don’t feel back home.

For me this trip was all about trying to have a good time without simply throwing money at the experience.  So I grabbed a Touch’n’Go MyPass and got around like a local on the Trains, Buses and Monorail.  The added advantage was the massive cost saving compared to taxis, in 10 days I went through about 70RM (about AUD25) on the card and was on some form of mass-transit at least once!   I can’t speak highly enough of the convenience of the system and wholeheartedly recommend any traveller to Malaysia pick one up as soon as they can.



F1 on a Shoestring – A bed for the (10) nights

With my budget drained by picking up options on airfares and the travel insurance I was now in the difficult position of trying to make the accommodation fit.

As I knew I’d be travelling with minimal luggage and only staying a short time I wouldn’t need the largest room, but I did want my own room, and own bathroom.  At 39 years of age I don’t think I need to do hostel style anymore.

So I hit – we’ve been using it with moderate success to get good deals and to be honest the aggregators always have some sting in their tail – whether it is pricing only the cheapest night in the date range, forgetting about the taxes and fees or worst still having the links swapped in bait & switch fashion.

I’m familiar the “Golden Triangle” and Bit Bintang so that’s where I focussed attention.

My Search was delivering a good mix of results, and in the end after a lot of reading I settled on a choice between 3 places, chosen for their price, the reviews on and on TripAdvisor and the pictures.

The finalists were;

  • Hotel Al Jafs which offers a great price and fair reviews.  The advantage here was being basically a hundred or so metres from where we’d stayed previously in Kuala Lumpur, within stumbling distance of Paper + Toast for the morning brew and great light meals.
  • Sky Hotel Bukit Bintang, again the price was great, moreso for the stated size of the rooms and there were some stunning discounts on offer.  Location wise it’s basically on the same block as the Low Yat Plaza of electronics and gadgets – a plus – but also a wallet risking minus.
  • Victory Exclusive, buried in the Fahrenheit88 complex the key attributes are location nestled amongst malls and food courts and price that approached the upper end of my budget (I needed a good discount to get over the line).

I’ve made my booking – missing out on some of the deeper discounting – and choosing a room spec which will hopefully offer a little more comfort than the base level.

I killed my budget though.  AUD652.50 spent.

For now I won’t say where – you can do the reading about each of the three candidates and when I check-in I’ll put up some reviews of the space then.

In my next post I’ll write a bit about all the things I’m going to do in the 7 days I won’t be at Sepang Circuit!

F1 on a Shoestring – Making it happen

In my last post I outlined the plan – attend the 2014 Malaysian Formula1 for an all-in cost of AUD 1500 from my home in Canberra Australia.

Key to this was getting some killer airfares – I needed to book 4 legs at least, either in a single booking or a cluster of bookings linked together by myself.

Turning to any of the regular travel aggregators gets some decent joined rates; Helloworld (formerly Bestflights) shows pricing of around AUD1000 and that’s pretty good, but I knew I could do better.

In the end I settled on using AirAsia and making a booking with my choice of service level, carry-on luggage only to KL, 20kg Return luggage, a seat in the Quiet Zone of my choice and so on.  Total spent including all fees – AUD425.  The problem is this flight left from Sydney meaning either two 3 hour drives from Canberra or a linking flight.

Turning to Virgin Australia and lining up matching flight times put me a further AUD247.70 down but I now had dates of travel locked in.

Its all getting very real now

With flights locked in on the cheapest virtually non-refundable, non-changeable fares this trip was going to happen.  I’d previously sketched out a rough budget while looking at airfares and now it was getting tight…

Description Estimate
Flights (SYD – KUL) $ 368.00
Flights (CBR – SYD) $ 240.00
Accomodation $ 650.00
Travel Insurance $ 90.00
F1 Ticket $ 250.00
Totals: $ 1,598.00

OK in reality the budget crept a bit when I added in the base cost of the AirAsia flights and the real (no discount) internal flights.  But at this point I was still allowing myself a generous 3 star accommodation budget and a pretty good range of ticket options for the F1.

Working a bit backwards I contacted our usual travel insurer for a quote – it came back a bit higher than expected, but not much, and a chunk of the increase was selecting the “no excess” option.  Always worthwhile when travelling and while my Credit Card offers complimentary insurance a dedicated policy is always much more generous.

Time to get serious and book some more stuff, with the flights already over budget I was hoping to downgrade costs a bit, so hitting the Sepang Circuit website I started the arduous choice of selecting my F1 tickets.

Sepang Circuit ticket prices are some of the better prices – and buying direct from the circuit online cut out some of the costs that other ticket sellers impose including mandatory postage of tickets.  Not to mention it’s not like the racetrack is a fraudulent operator!

In the end I’ve settled for a covered grandstand on the back straight – it was basically the best combination of allocated seat – I’ve grabbed one right on the railing so should have a great clear view.  It was cheap, at a smidge over AUD195 for the three days.

There is a bonus with booking through Sepang Circuit – that is the inclusion of tickets to the post-race party (Calvin Harris in 2014) and other things.

So now I had flights, insurance, and an F1 ticket and nowhere to sleep!

There’s about AUD600 to spend

F1 on a shoestring – Planning

This year I’m attending the Formula1 at Malaysia, and I’m doing it “cheap”.

I’ve never been to an F1 race before and despite being in Malaysia at the same time as the 2012 race I never quite made it down to Sepang Circuit to have a look.  This year I’m making a dedicated trip, on a budget.

The Budget:

The budget was “open” to interpretation as I’m always a sucker for toxic option syndrome, but to meet all the initial costs upfront from cash reserves and limit myself from up-speccing accommodation etc I elected to cap fixed costs of airfares, accommodation and F1 ticket at AUD1500.


I started out in January with a very simple plan, book some fares on the worlds best low-cost carrier and use the dates of the cheapest fares to determine the duration of the trip.  I wanted some time on the ground to visit some attractions as well as relax and generally “have a break”.

Canberra is not an international travel hub so my flight costs had to get blown out by the duopoly that is the Australian domestic airline industry.

F1 tickets for Malaysia are cheap, there’s no other way to put it and this was the most flexible part of my budget, I could spend next to nothing for a walking paddock pass or extend into Grandstand seats from around AUD100.

Accommodation was going to be part of the make-or-break equation, I knew spending AUD100-AUD150 a night would deliver a good room in a international hotel chain, but it would also significantly dent my meagre budget.  Thankfully Kuala Lumpur has a myriad of options and really the trick was seeing how much was left after the airlines took their share.

So the plan was:

1. Book flights to Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) – ensure domestic flights could be matched up and book those too.

2. Lock in F1 ticket booking.

3. Decide on any side-trips, book Kuala Lumpur accommodation.

4. Do stuff I forgot to do first… (Like Travel Insurance)