A couple of months ago when passing through Singapore, my husband noticed that they had started setting up the track for the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix. Being a fan of fast cars, he thought it would be fun to attend and looked into buying tickets for us. However, the tickets were way out of our budget, and that’s without factoring in the expensive cost of hotel rooms in Singapore anytime of the year. But then he realised the Malaysia Grand Prix was only two weeks later (on the 2nd October 2016), and with its tickets being the cheapest of the entire Grand Prix circuit, and Malaysia in general being a cheap destination (both to stay and reach), he was able to convince me to attend my first Grand Prix.
Whether you’re a fan of Formula 1 or just looking to attend a different and fun sporting event for the first time, I’ve put together these tips so you can see how affordable it is to attend the Malaysia Grand Prix.
Formula 1 racing is a luxury sport, and tickets are generally priced to match. A quick glance at tickets for the famous Monaco street circuit is enough to make your jaw drop. In contrast, the Grand Prix in Malaysia offers the cheapest tickets, with prices dropping in recent years in an effort to entice more local visitors (especially considering the huge crowd capacity of 130,000).
Tickets in 2016 start from 169.60RM ($41 USD) for 3 days, with child tickets typically 40% or 50% off. We elected for the Tower Grandstand tickets, with views of the start and finish, final straight and final corner (although not all at once), for 466.40RM ($113 USD). Tickets don’t sell out (except for some of the more expensive sections), so it’s possible to buy them at the last minute or on the door.
Getting There & Accommodation
It’s easy and cheap to get to Kuala Lumpur from all over Asia and further afield. It’s the headquarters of AirAsia, which offers cheap flights to dozens of destinations, ranging from the Middle East to Australia and New Zealand. Many other airlines also fly in and out of the 2 terminals of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA or KLIA2, for short).
Once at KLIA, it’s only a 20 minute ride to the Sepang International Circuit. There are some airport hotel options, and you could make that your base and catch a bus to-and-from. Alternatively, head into Kuala Lumpur, which offers a wider range of accommodation, including cheaper options, and more to do in your down time.
In KL, it’s best to stay close to KL Sentral train station, to make transport to and from the circuit easiest. We found a private room in a modern condo with pool and gym on AirBnb for under $50 USD per night. There’s also plenty of budget hotels around this price bracket, or else a pricier Hilton and Meridien right next to the train station.
Transport to the Race
If staying near KL Sentral, the best two options for getting to and from the race are the KL Rapid Transit Bus or the KL Transit train and shuttle package. Parking costs for most carparks are exorbitant and finding a taxi afterwards wouldn’t be fun, not to mention the traffic jam leaving the circuit.
The cheapest option is the bus, with return tickets from KL Sentral priced at 35RM ($8 USD). The bus also departs from KLCC, near Petronas Towers. However, while the bus trip is estimated at 1hr 15 mins, I’m not sure if it came close to that estimate, with traffic jams on the route to and from KL a regular occurrence. The buses run every 30-45 minutes and more often on the Sunday.
We paid for the KL Transit Transfer train and shuttle package. It’s 200RM ($48 USD) for all 3 days, or just 170RM ($41 USD) for Saturday and Sunday, and consists of a train to KLIA (guaranteed to take under 30 minutes) and then a shuttle bus. Gate to gate, this took us about 55 minutes on the Sunday, when we arrived at KL Sentral just before a train left (usually every 15-20 minutes). Returning in the evening took longer, due to the shuttle bus to the train station taking a longer route and experiencing more traffic.
At the Race
Some items for sale at the race were far from affordable, with official programmes retailing for 70RM ($17 USD) and team memorabilia being very expensive. However, while food and beverage options were more expensive than elsewhere in Malaysia, they were cheap compared to sporting events in other countries. Examples of prices included:
- Mineral water 500mL: 3RM ($0.75 USD)
- Soft drink cans: 5RM ($1.20 USD)
- Large bags of chips: 5RM ($1.20 USD)
- Lunch options (e.g. kebabs, chicken rice meals, spaghetti bolognese): 15RM to 25RM ($4-6 USD)
- Heineken cans: 16RM ($4 USD)
Just be warned that there’s only one bar in the entire main Grandstand section (although drinks were also being sold from separate eskies, but at inflated prices).
I had a great time at my first Grand Prix, and would love to return one day! In future though, I probably wouldn’t attend all three days, but just for the qualifying on Saturday afternoon and the main race day on the Sunday. That’s partially just due to the heat in Malaysia during the day. Not to mention our seats at Tower Grandstand being a long walk from many of the food and beverage outlets and over 1km from the main gate (much to my feet’s dismay!)
Oh, and if you wanted a break from the racing action? There’s also a free shuttle from Sepang to the nearby Matsui Outlet Park and its dozens of shops.