Travel to Malaysia

Malaysia is a small Southeast Asian country subdivided between a mainland peninsula region, referred to as West Malaysia and an Eastern part, forming the northern crest of the island of Borneo. Malaysia shares borders with Brunei and Indonesia on Borneo. The mainland shares borders with Thailand and has causeway links with Singapore. The Malacca Straits and the South China Sea above the coastline of peninsula Malaysia.

Malaysia is close to the equator and hence enjoys a warm climate. Temperatures are cooler in the elevations, namely the Genting Highlands, Cameron Highlands and Fraser’s Hill.

Malaysia benefits from investment in high tech industries. It also has oil wealth and so it is one of the more prosperous Asian countries.

Kuala Lumpur, the capital, has a glittering array of modern skyscrapers, including the Petronas Towers.

George Town is a charming cultural location with traces of its British colonial history. A number of national parks provide opportunities for hiking and wildlife spotting. The beach resorts of Langkawi have scuba diving sport activities on offer.

The culture, food, history, wildlife and sporting activities on offer in Malaysia, make it a wonderful vacation destination in Southeast Asia.

Travel tips for Malaysia

Visa Requirements for Malaysia

Citizens of many countries can enter Malaysia without a visa.

However, depending on the country, the visa is issued for a 14, 30 or 90 day period. During the Malaysia visa check, admission to the country is refused to Israeli nationals. No visa is required for a stay of one month to all ASEAN countries except Myanmar. Sarawak has independent immigration laws to the rest of the country.

Please check the current guidelines in advance, of the visa requirements for your country and ways to get a Malaysia visa online.

Important Cultural Information

The customs of Malaysia are similar to some other Asian countries.

It is wise to dress conservatively, avoiding shorts and shoulder exposing clothes, particularly in rural areas. The urban areas of Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Ipoh and Johor Bahru have a more liberal atmosphere.

It is advisable to remove your shoes before stepping in to a residence in Malaysia.

The left hand is to be avoided while handing things over to another person. Similarly, avoid pointing with the finger or feet.

Read about how to experience a new year celebration in Malaysia.

Banking & Money in Malaysia

The currency of Malaysia is the ringgit (RM or MYR). Informally it is also referred to as the dollar. 100 sen make one ringgit.

The common circulating bill denominations are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 ringgit. Coins are 5,10,20 and 50 sen.

Foreign currency is not readily convertible to ringgit. Money changers with a license, are the best places to convert money and get the most competitive rates. Usually they offer better rates than the banks and airports.

ATMs are present in all major cities and accept Visa and Mastercard. Credit cards are accepted for purchase in larger establishments. Cash is used in rural areas.

Major international banks in Malaysia are Citibank and HSBC and local banks include Maybank, CIMB, RHB Bank and Bank Islam Malaysia.

Medical Emergency Information

The central emergency number to call the police or an ambulance is 999.
To call the fire brigade call: 994
Civil defense: 991

A number of private institutions run their own ambulatory services – these include The Civil Defence 3, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society and St John Ambulance of Malaysia.

Some names of major hospitals in Kuala Lumpur are Gleneagles Hospital, ParkCity Medical Centre, University Malay Medical Centre and General Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

Make sure to get good travel insurance before you go. Compare options with both World Nomads and SafetyWing.

Wi-Fi and Internet in Malaysia

The country code for Malaysia is 60.

There are 4 major cell phone operators: Maxis, DiGi, Celcom and U Mobile. Mobile networks use the GSM 900 and 1800 systems and they are excellent.

Consider getting a prepaid SIM Card.

Free Wi-Fi is available at most restaurants, malls and coffee shops in Malaysia and even at some hawker stalls. In addition you can find a number of cyber cafes. Make sure to use a VPN while traveling and using public Wi-Fi – we recommend ExpressVPN.

Malaysia was one of the first countries to have 4G connectivity.

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Arrival in Malaysia

The forms of arrival into Malaysia are by plane, train, bus, road, boat and on foot.

The major mode of arrival in Malaysia is by plane. Most international flights arrive in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL). Other airports like Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Penang, Langkawi and Johor Bahru service regional locations.

Search for flights to Malaysia on Expedia.

Malayan Railways operate from Peninsula Malaysia to Thailand and Singapore.

Long distance buses run from Indonesia (Borneo), Brunei, Singapore and Thailand into Malaysia.

Road crossings are possible from Brunei and Indonesian Borneo into East Malaysia. Crossings are also permitted from Thailand and Singapore into peninsula Malaysia.

Ferry service connect peninsular Malaysia with Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei and the Philippines.

Walking into Malaysia is permitted from certain points in Thailand but not from Singapore.

Areas of Malaysia

Western Peninsula Malaysia

This is the most developed part of mainland Malaysia and contains the capital city of Kuala Lumpur (KL) along with Putrajaya- a major administrative center. The states of Malacca, Kedah, Nigeria, Penang, Sembilan, Pearl, Perlis and Selangor form part of western peninsula Malaysia. This area is dominated by a large Chinese population.

Eastern Peninsula Malaysia

The eastern peninsula consists of Kelantan, Pahang and Terengganu with a dominant Muslim population.

Southern Peninsula Malaysia

Consists of the single state of Johor that borders Singapore.

Sabah (East Malaysia)

Sipadan Island in Sabah includes some of the best dive spots for scouting sea turtles, reef sharks, hammerhead sharks and manta rays. It is also home to Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia.

Sarawak (East Malaysia)

Home to impenetrable jungle in parts, national parks and longhouses. Sarawak has 12 national parks. Special attractions of the national parks include the proboscis monkey, the world’s largest flower- Rafflesia, the world’s largest cave system, marine turtles, tropical rainforests and archaeological remains.

Major Cities of Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur in Western Peninsula Malaysia is the capital. Georgetown is a cultural gem on the island of Penang. Johor Bahru is the point of entry to Singapore.

Transportation in Malaysia

Given that Malaysia is spread out between mainland and Bornean Malaysia, the most convenient way to travel about the country is by flying. Do consider acquiring travel insurance Malaysia when in the country.

The most widely used budget airlines in Malaysia is AirAsia. Malaysia Airlines is another competitor. In certain areas, other carriers operate, like Firefly, Berjaya Air and MASWings.

Train travel, though by no means a fast method of travel, exists on peninsula Malaysia. It is operated by state operator Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB).

The main line, which is the western line, runs from Butterworth (near Penang) to Woodlands (Singapore) via Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru. The eastern line runs through Taman Negara National Park and the Perhentian Islands. A fillet of modern electric trains ETS (electric train service) provides faster service on a limited stretch.

The North-South Expressway provides excellent land access from Singapore all the way up to the Thai border along the west coast of Malaysia. A Malaysia train map should be consulted for planning Malaysia sightseeing trips.

Cars and taxis are widely used in the cities. Negotiate taxi fares in advance. Be aware of the metre rate. The metro Kuala Lumpur is also a means of travel. Do carry a Kuala Lumpur metro map.

It is possible to travel within Malaysia by bus and is by far the cheapest way to travel. Traveling by bus Malaysia is relatively slow. Luxury buses with air conditioning are advisable for long distance travel.

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Accommodation in Malaysia

Malaysia has a wide range of accommodation choices for all budgets.

Starting in the budget category, there are a number of budget hotels and hostel options in the large cities. The YMCAs are a safe bet in this category, when it comes to cleanliness and reliability. Tune Hotels is a budget hotel chain that is expanding to an increasing number of locations around the country.

Mid-range hotels in Malaysia run to the RM 100 mark.

Luxury hotels and resorts have surprisingly reasonable prices, compared to other 5 star hotels around the world. You’ll also find some great spa resorts in Malaysia.

Accommodations in Malaysia

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Food & Dining Guide for Malaysia

Malaysia has its fair share of lip smacking delicious cuisine. Food varies from region to region and is divided into Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine.

 

Some specialty dishes from Malay cuisine include:

  • Nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk, with anchovies, peanuts and chilli, often with chicken or fish)
  • Mee rebus (egg noodles with a sweet potato gravy, sometimes with a slice of hard boiled egg)
  • Satay (barbecued meat on skewers)

 

Some specialty dishes from Indian cuisine include:

  • Nasi biryani (flavorful rice with lamb, mutton or chicken)
  • Roti canai (an adaptation of Indian flatbreads eaten with a side of gravy)
  • Putu mayam (vermicelli rice noodles, with coconut and jaggery)

 

Some specialty dishes from Chinese cuisine include:

  • Bak chor mee (noodles with minced pork)
  • Fish ball noodles
  • Hainanese chicken rice

 

Pernakan/Nonya cuisine is a mix of Malay and Chinese cooking. Chilli Crab and Laksa lemak (noodles in coconut broth with cockles or shrimp) are special dishes to try.

Read more about the signature Malaysian dishes.

Foodie tips for Malaysia

Traditional Malaysian dishes to try

Signature Malaysian Dishes to Try

Malaysian cuisine is heavily influenced by Chinese and Indian flavours, along with the local Malay ones, creating unique Malaysian dishes.
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Malaysia’s Attractions

These Malaysia holiday attractions, featuring some of the best places in Malaysia, should definitely be added to your Malaysia itinerary.

The capital of Kuala Lumpur is definitely the quickening pulse of the country with skyscrapers galore (the Petronas Towers), a vibrant nightlife and plenty of shopping at markets and malls.

George town in Penang is a historic, cultural city. The town has a British colonial history, although later settled by Malay, Chinese, Indian and Thai people, which is evident in its multicultural character. Georgetown is renowned for its street food and historical buildings.

Ipoh is another historic, colonial town and the capital of Perak.

Langkawi is a duty-free archipelago of 99 Malaysia islands. Plenty of mangrove forest, beaches, rainforests and mountains abound in this destination. This is also one of the most popular Malaysia beach resorts.

Check out some of the other islands in Malaysia.

If you are a tea lover, definitely head to the Cameron Highlands for the tea plantations (you can take a tour from Kuala Lampur – like this one).

Scuba diving enthusiasts will delight in the excellent diving, in spots around Redang, Tioman and Perhentian.

Malaysia has plenty of hiking opportunities in the national parks like the Danum Valley (home to orangutans), Gunung Mulu National Park and Kinabalu National Park (home to Mt. Kinabalu).

If you love adrenaline activities, then make sure to visit a few of the theme parks in Malaysia.

Things to Do & See in Malaysia

George Town, Penang

Reasons to Visit George Town in Penang

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Theme Parks in Malaysia to Explore

There are many theme parks in Malaysia. Here are some of the best theme parks to visit if you're traveling with the kids.
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Shopping in Malaysia

The best place to shop in Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur. The most desirable items for purchase are clothes and electronic goods-including watches and computers. Purchasing the traditional batik fabric is a popular souvenir item.

Kuala Lumpur has a variety of very plush high-end shopping malls. These include the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur Shopping Mall, Berjaya Times Square, and the Starhill Gallery Kuala Lumpur – all in Bukit Bintang (while you’re in the area, check out the other Bukit Bintang attractions). Others are Sunway Pyramid and The Garden.

If you are searching for a more down to earth shopping experience visit KL’s street markets, like the popular street market on Petaling Street, with vendors selling everything from counterfeit handbags, watches and clothes. There are lots of fragrant food stalls as well. Kasturi Walk and Chow Kit Market (KL’s largest wet market selling produce) are also worth a visit. Taman Connaught Night Market is open every Wednesday night with 700 stalls selling books, clothes, accessories, handicrafts and food.

Nightlife

The nightlife of Malaysia is not as upbeat as Thailand or Bali. However, there are excellent bars (with stellar skyline views), laid back lounges, clubs and night markets, to keep you occupied. Without doubt Kuala Lumpur and Penang and Langkawi are the best places to go for the nightlife.

In Kuala Lumpur visit Changkat Bukit Bintang, which has its fair share of bars, pubs and restaurants. Some names to keep in mind are The Rabbit Hole and the Havana Bar and Grill.

Some of the most lovely rooftop bars in KL include the Sky Bar and Troika Sky Dining.

Petaling Street has a happening night market but these exist all over the country. Jalan Batu Ferringhi is such a place in Penang.

Beach bars in Penang and Langkawi are quite the thing. In Langkawi live fire shows overlooking the Andaman Sea are spectacular.

Safety Tips for Malaysia

Violent crimes are restricted to gangs. Petty theft, pickpocketing and bag snatching are the more common forms of crime in Malaysia. Keep to well lighted, busy pockets of the city at night. It is advisable for women, to not travel alone late at night.

A common scam in Malaysia is the Scratch and Win Scam. Victims are informed of winning a prize, are asked to withdraw sums of money to advance payment for claiming the prize, only to realize they are non-existent or not of the expected value.

Certain crimes (include rape, illegal entry, bribery, overstaying visa) in Malaysia are punishable with severe caning. Possession of recreational drugs can result in the death sentence. Drunk driving is a severely punishable offence.

Conclusion

A fusion of the modern and the historical, Malaysia has something to offer for every kind of traveler. Most visitors will arrive in the country through Kuala Lumpur and will certainly be impressed with the capital city’s infrastructure. Kuala Lumpur has grown from a humble tin mining village into a buzzing metropolis- home to 7 million people. The city is home to the Petronas Towers and quite excitingly, has some of the most affordable 5-star hotels.

George Town abounds with food and a colonial cultural history. It is a charming place to visit and should be added to every Malaysian trip itinerary.

Langkawi is a duty-free haven and archipelago of 99 islands. Nature in the form of mangroves, rainforests and mountains abound. It is also a popular beach resort.

When you visit Malaysia, you will feel inspired by the country’s rich history. The history of the Srivijaya and Majapahit empires, the British colonial history, Malaysian history during WW2 and its post-independence history. There is a lot to learn about the country and a lot to appreciate in the current dazzling infrastructure of this modern, prospering country.

Travel tips for Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur at night, Malaysia

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