Malaysia

The airport tax is usually included in the flight ticket. In view of continuous updates of surcharges by international airlines for security, insurance and fuel, all international airport check-in counters in Malaysia may be charging international passengers at departure when applicable.

The climate in Malaysia is hot and humid all year round, with some rain in the afternoons. The average temperature ranges from 24°C to 30°C in the lowlands. The days are generally sunny and warm and the nights are cool. On the east coast the rainy season is from early November to the middle of February.

We recommend wearing loose-fitting ‘summer’ clothing. Consider layering your outfits if you are travelling to higher altitudes like Cameron Highlands and the mountain ranges of central Malaysia (Peninsular) and Borneo.

Formal clothing is not required for everyday outings. However, dress respectfully in long trousers and long sleeves when visiting various sights, especially religious sights. Laundry facilities are widely available and quick.

Currency
The unit of currency is the Malaysian ringgit. Notes in circulation are RM 100, RM 50, RM 20, RM 10, RM 5 and RM 1. Coins in circulation are 50 sen, 20 sen, 10 sen, 5 sen and 1 sen.

Money Exchange
Money and traveller's cheques of all major currencies can be exchanged at hotels, banks, and licenced money changer in tourist areas. Banks and money changers usually offer the best rates.

Credit Cards
International credit cards are widely accepted in department stores, major hotels and up-market shops and restaurant. Make sure that you have enough cash in local currency before you leave for smaller towns or remote areas.

Please take note: All arriving and departing travellers (including children) must fill in a Travellers Declaration Form (TDF) regardless of the amount of currency carried. The TDF is available in all inbound Malaysia Airlines' flights and at check-in counters. It should be handed over to the Immigration Officer together with the traveller's Disembarkation Card and Passport.

Effective from 1 October 1998, please take note of the following currency regulations for travellers to Malaysia:

Local currency
Residents and non-resident travellers are not allowed to bring in or take out more than RM 1,000 per person.

Foreign Currency
Resident travellers are not allowed to take out more than the equivalent of RM 10,000 worth of any foreign currency from Malaysia (i.e. maximum RM 10,000 worth of foreign currencies). Non-resident travellers are allowed to take out no more than the amount of foreign currencies, which they had brought in at the time of their arrival.

Effective from 1 January 2010, please take note of the following addition to the currency regulations for travellers to Malaysia:

Travellers entering or leaving Malaysia and carrying more than USD 10,000 (RM 34,000) must make a declaration to the Customs Department.

Definitions
Resident: a citizen of Malaysia residing in Malaysia or a non-citizen of Malaysia who is residing permanently in Malaysia
Non-resident: any person not residing in Malaysia, whether the person is a citizen or not

All visitors to Malaysia must fill in declaration forms and show their luggage to customs officials on request.

Import/exports of the following goods are strictly prohibited:
•Trafficking of illegal drugs carries the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.
•A special permit is required for the carriage of firearms and ammunition. Other prohibited items include flick knives, daggers and pornographic material.
•Taped videocassettes should be submitted for clearance by customs.
•Export of antiquities and historical objects are not allowed unless an export license has been obtained from the Director General of Museums, Malaysia, or if the antiquity was originally imported and declared to customs.
•All passengers must declare the following items to the Plant Quarantine Office upon arrival: plants and plant parts (including fresh plant produce and processed products), insects and other organisms, microorganisms, herbarium, dried flowers, soil and growth or rooting media. Penalty for failure to do so is liable to a fine of up to RM 1,000 or up to six months imprisonment, or both. Penalty for maliciously introducing a pest or a plant into Malaysia is liable to a fine not exceeding RM 10,000 or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both.
Passengers from South and Central America and Central Africa are required to report to the Plant Quarantine Office.

Visitors entering Malaysia for a period of not less than 72 hours, except from Labuan (24 hours) enjoy customs exemption on the following purchases:

  • Wines, spirits/malt liquor not exceeding one litre
  • Tobacco not exceeding 225 g or 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars
  • Footwear not exceeding one pair
  • Apparel not exceeding one pair
  • One unit each of portable electrical and/or battery-operated appliance for personal hygiene
  • Food preparations of a total value not exceeding RM 75
  • Cosmetics, soaps and dentifrice to a total value not exceeding RM 200
  • Souvenirs and gifts not exceeding RM 200, except for Labuan and Langkawi where the total value shall not exceed RM 500

Except for the last item, all duty free items must be for personal use only. A 30% tax will be levied on items that exceed the above limits.

Malaysia is generally a laid back and relaxed country. However, it has its own customs and visitors should try to observe these practices when they arrive for a smooth and pleasant stay in Malaysia. The following guidelines will help visitors understand the country and its people better.

Although handshakes are generally acceptable for both men and women, some Muslim women may acknowledge introductions to gentlemen by merely nodding and smiling. A handshake should only be initiated by women when greeting someone of the opposite gender. The traditional greeting or salam resembles a handshake with both hands but without the grasp. The man offers both hands, lightly touches his friend's outstretched hands and then brings his hands to his chest to mean, ‘I greet you from my heart’. The visitor should reciprocate the salam.

The right hand is always used when eating or giving and receiving objects. The right forefinger is not used to point at places, objects or persons. Instead, the thumb of the right hand with four fingers folded under is the preferred usage.

Shoes must always be removed when entering a Malaysian home. Shoes must be removed when entering places of worship such as mosques and temples. Some mosques provide robes and scarves for female visitors. Taking photographs at places of worship is usually permitted but always ask for permission beforehand.

Public behaviour is important in Malaysian culture. Most Malaysians refrain from displaying affection (i.e. embracing or kissing) in public. It would be appropriate for visitors to do the same.

Drinks are generally offered to guests. It is polite to accept. Toasting is not a common practise in Malaysia. The country's large Muslim population does not drink alcohol.

All major cities and towns have government hospitals for accident and emergency treatment. Patients are treated according to medical priority and not order of arrival. In most major cities and towns there are private clinics and private hospitals, which are generally of international standards. Private dental clinics are also abundant in major cities and towns and are of generally good standard. Most pharmacies can be found at major shopping complexes.

Boiled tap water is safe to drink but not recommended. Bottled mineral water can be found in supermarkets and local coffee shops at relatively cheap prices. To avoid an upset stomach, avoid consuming beverages with ice cubes during hot weather.

The electricity current in Malaysia is 220 or 250 V, 50 Hz. A three-pin British plug is generally used but adaptors can be used for other types of plugs.

Malaysian cuisine is influenced by various cultures from all around the world. Malaysia's population consists mostly of three ethnic groups: Malays, Chinese and Indians. As a result of historical migrations and Malaysia's geographical advantage, Malaysia's culinary style is a mixture of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Portuguese, Thai and Arabian cuisines making Malaysian cuisine a symphony of flavours.

Official Name
Malaysia

Population
30 million

States
13 (11 on Peninsular Malaysia and 2 on Borneo) and three federal territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan, which is an island off the coast to Sabah)

Country
Federation of Malaysia comprises Peninsular Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo

Location
Between 2 - 7 degrees north of the Equator with Peninsular Malaysia separated from the states of Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea.

Neighbours of Peninsular Malaysia are Thailand to the north and Singapore to the south. Sabah and Sarawak are bordered by Indonesia. Sarawak also shares a border with Brunei.

Area: 329,758 square kilometres (130,808 square kilometres in Peninsular Malaysia and 198,950 square kilometres in Sarawak and Sabah)

Ethnic groups: Malay 50%, Chinese 24%, indigenous 11%, Indian 7%, other races 8%

Religion: Islam is the official religion with other religions being practised freely

Language: Bahasa Melayu is the national language but English is widely spoken and is the business language. Cantonese, Hokkien and Hakka are spoken by Malaysia's Chinese population, and Tamil and Hindi among the Indian population.

By Air

  • There are five international airports in Malaysia including the KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport), Langkawi, Penang, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

Overland
The country can be entered or exited overland at the following immigration checkpoints:

Malaysia-Thailand

  • Rantau Panjang, Kelantan to/from Golok, Thailand (6.00 am to 10.00 pm)
  • Pengkalan Hulu town, Perak to/from Betong, Thailand (6.00 am to 7.00 pm)
  • Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah to/from Dannok, Thailand (6.00 am to 12.00 am)
  • Padang Besar, Perlis to/from Sadao, Thailand (6.00 am to 10.00 pm)

Malaysia-Singapore

  • Johore Bahru to/from Woodlands checkpoint (Singapore) crossing the Selat Teberau by Train (from 06.00 am to 10.00 pm)
  • Johore - Singapore Causeway and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link (as known in Malaysia), or the Tuas Second Link (as known in Singapore). (24 hours)

Malaysia-Indonesia

  • Tebedu, Sarawak to/from Entikong, Kalimantan Indonesia (6.00 am to 6.00 pm)

Malaysia-Brunei

  • Miri, Sarawak to/from Bandar Seri Bagawan, Brunei through Sungai Tujuh Immigration checkpoint (6.30 am to 10.00 pm)

No vaccinations are required. However visitors arriving from Yellow Fever and Endemic Zones and other affected areas are required to present International Health Certificates showing Yellow Fever vaccination. This regulation does not apply to children below the age of one. Malaria prophylaxis is recommended in Sabah and for jungle tours. Visitors are advised to check with their doctor or travel immunisation clinic for further details. Medication may be obtained at licenced clinics and pharmacies.

You can access the internet through hotels, cyber cafés and computer/internet service centres. The following websites offer relevant information on Malaysia:

  • Diethelm Travel: www.diethelmtravel.com
  • The Star Newspaper: www.thestar.com.my
  • Railway Station: www.ktmb.com.my/route.htm
  • Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board: www.tourism.gov.my
  • Sarawak Tourism Board: www.sarawaktourism.com
  • Malaysian Meteorological Office: www.kjc.gov.my
  • Sabah Tourism Board: www.sabahtourism.com

The indigenous languages of Malaysia belong to the Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian families. The national language is Malay, which is the mother tongue of the majority Malay ethnic group. The main ethnic groups within Malaysia comprise the Malays, Chinese and Indians, with many other ethnic groups represented in smaller numbers, each with its own languages. The largest native languages spoken in East Malaysia are the Iban language and the Kadazan language. English is widely understood in service industries and is a compulsory subject in primary and secondary school. It is also the main language spoken in most private colleges and universities. Malaysia contains speakers of 137 living languages, 41 of which are found in Peninsular Malaysia. The government provides schooling at the primary level in each of the three major languages: Malay, Chinese (Mandarin) and Tamil. Within these three, there are a number of dialectal differences.

Malaysia runs at GMT + 8 hours and is in the same time zone as Singapore, Hong Kong and Perth.

Governmental agencies work Monday through Friday from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm, excluding a one-hour lunch, and are closed Saturday and Sunday.

Banking hours in most states of Malaysia are normally from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm Monday through Friday. Banks are closed Saturday and Sunday.

Governmental agencies and banks in Johor, Kelantan and Terengganu are closed on Friday and Saturday and open as usual from Sunday through Thursday.

Private shops are open from 8:00 am or 8:30 am to 9.00 pm to 11.00 pm. During the Chinese New Year and Hari Raya, shops may be closed several days before, during and after the festive holidays.

After the sun goes down, the main cities in Malaysia take on a different shade of brilliance. Fashionable restaurants, cosy cafés and the ever-popular 24-hour mamak draw in the crowds with promises of a good night out. Many urban areas, especially around Kuala Lumpur, have venues open until dawn to cater to city folks who prefer jumping into the thick of action at night.

A popular night-time activity for Malaysians is eating. Whether you’re hungry after a heavy clubbing session or just peckish after a midnight movie, street food is available everywhere, catering to every single palate, and hawkers stay open until the wee hours of the morning.

Other than eating, there are a lot of amazing clubs and cafés where you can spend your night. Kuala Lumpur is the best city in Malaysia to go out. From trendy lounges to cool clubs, you won't get bored here! In Kuala Lumpur, the partying is centred along Changkat Bukit Bintang, with other social hubs being Asian Heritage Row and Jalan P. Ramlee. In these streets you can find bars, clubs and restaurant. Both locals and tourists like to spend their time here. If you want to get a good view over Kuala Lumpur, you should definitely visit the SkyBar. Located on the 33rd floor, this is the best place to both party and enjoy an amazing view!

Visitors must possess a national passport or another internationally recognised travel document that have been endorsed for travelling in Malaysia and with a validity period of at least 6 months beyond the time of stay allowed in Malaysia.

Malaysia Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah) has its own Immigration Department and when one enters Malaysia Borneo through mainland Malaysia, one has to go through an immigration check again and a new stay permit is issued, often for 30 days.

All visitors are required to complete a Disembarkation Card, which has to be shown to the Immigration Control upon arrival and departure from the country. This card can be obtained on all inbound Malaysia Airlines' flights.

Visitors on social and business visit purposes are to be guided by the following visa requirements:

Visa Exemption
No visas are required for citizens of Commonwealth countries (except Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), British Protected Persons or citizens of the Republic of Ireland and the United States of America.

3-Month Visa-Free Visit
Citizens of Albania, Austria, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Norway, Netherlands, Oman, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Yemen are eligible for 3-month visas.

1-Month Visa-Free Visit
Applicable to citizens of ASEAN countries (except Myanmar).

14-Day Visa-Free Visit
Citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Macao, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Yemen and Syria are eligible for 14-day visas.

Social or Tourist Visit Pass
A Social or Tourist Visit Pass does not permit the holder to take up employment, business of professional work in Malaysia.

The Business Visit Pass allows foreign visitors to enter Malaysia for business negotiations or inspection of business houses but cannot be used for employment purposes or for supervisory work or construction of a factory. No fee is charged for a Business Visit Pass issued for a period of up to 3 months. A nominal fee is imposed for each month beyond this. Foreign visitors, except from the Republic of Singapore, who have entered Malaysia on Social Visit Passes, may contact the Immigration Department to convert their passes to Business Visit Passes.

As regulations may change from time to time, it is advisable to check with the nearest Malaysian Embassy before departure or check the Tourism Malaysia website.

Most post offices are open Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 8.00 pm and Saturday from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm. They are closed on public holidays and the first Saturday of every month.

International calls can be made from most public card phones. Major hotels all have quiet and convenient card phone booths. In smaller towns, these card phone booths can mostly be found at the Telecom Office. Telephone cards are also sold in sundry shops and hotel lobbies. The International Country Code is +60.

Malaysia is multicultural and multiconfessional. The dominant religion in Malaysia is Islam, whose followers make up 61% of the population. Islam is recognised as the state religion of Malaysia, although the country has a secular constitution. The large Chinese population in Malaysia practises a mix of beliefs with influences from traditional Chinese religions such as Buddhism and Daoism. Hinduism is practised by the majority of Malaysian Indians. Christianity has established itself in some communities, especially in East Malaysia, although is not tied to any specific ethnic group. Other religions, such as the Baha'i Faith and Sikhism also have adherents in Malaysia.

Tourist destinations are open for everyone, but for certain areas (e.g. Belum Rainforest, Sipadan) you need a permission in advance.

Malaysia is a safe country but, like anywhere in the world, it is wise to be a little cautious. Simple safety precautions such as ignoring touts, keeping away from trouble areas, not wearing excessive jewellery, being careful when crossing roads (remember: left-hand traffic!) and taking care of valuables will keep you out of trouble. Valuables such as money, traveller's cheques, passports and flight tickets are best kept in the safety box of your hotel.

Explore Malaysia's Exotic Handicrafts

Shopping in Malaysia is a colourful affair. Browsing markets, malls, and boutiques can be enjoyed nearly all the time: the majority of stores are open 7 days per week, starting at 10.00 am and closing at 9.00 pm. Strolling through the local markets provides a great alternative to exploring the sky-high shopping malls. No matter if you’re here for business or pleasure, Malaysia’s offerings will please all types of visitors.

Local Styles
As in Indonesia, Batik is a Malaysian staple — you can’t go home without at least eyeing their beautiful sarongs and hand-dyed fabrics. Both pewter and silver are also Malaysian specialities, so check out the jewellery available here before you leave. Weaving is another strong tradition in the country: bags, baskets, and a range of accessories can be seen that are made from simple straw.

Special Tricks
It’s imperative that you bargain in Malaysia. If you don’t, it can even be seen as insulting to local vendors as they’ll fear their initial prices are too low. A general rule of thumb is to aim for a discount between 10% - 30%. Note that if a shop does have fixed prices, it should have a clear sign stating such. The exception is shopping malls, which will usually feature fixed prices without telling you. But at markets, all bets are off — so be on your game!

The majority of the indigenous population in Peninsular Malaysia does not mix with tourists, the exception being those who are involved with tourism. The indigenous population not involved in the tourist trade lives in virgin rainforest communities maintaining almost total privacy.

Dress is informal, but locals who are Muslim will be offended by nudity or scanty clothing in public places and the government rigidly enforces these standards. Bikinis and other scanty beachwear are acceptable in Malaysia but should be restricted to beach resorts only.

When entering a mosque, women’sbodies should be completely covered. Handshaking is the most common form of greeting.

A large number of locals smoke, but smoking and eating in front of Muslim during Ramadan are discouraged.

Malaysia is renowned historically as ‘The British Indies’ and ‘The Fabled Spice Islands of the East’. It is made up of two regions: Peninsular Malaysia that is comprised of eleven states and East Malaysia that is comprised of the two states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Before independence in 1957, the Portuguese, Dutch and the British colonised the country, which was formerly known as Malaya. Relics of her colonial past have left behind a legacy that has lured many visitors to its shores for many decades.

The country's urban areas still retain the sentiment of a bygone era, where modern buildings and businesses flourished side by side with historical structures and small traders. Malaysia's unspoiled tropical forest, magnificent mountains, and rich flora and fauna are pronounced among the best in this part of the world.

Malaysia has a moderately wet season and a moderately dry season. During the wet season, thunderstorms are very frequent in the afternoons because of the high humidity but they are brief and seldom dampen the mood for outdoor activities. The East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia however tends to have a heavier wet season and is best avoided during the rainy period (November to February). During these months, most beach resorts take a break and receive visitors again in March.

Malaysia has a cosmopolitan population comprising mainly Malays, Chinese, Indians and numerous indigenous people with everybody living in peace and harmony. Mutual respect of each others' cultures, traditions, religious beliefs and way of life offer a potpourri of colourful festivals.

In relation to its racial diversity, Malaysia is also a gourmet's paradise and offers all sorts of cuisine. Bargain hunters are also in for a good time as Malaysia is a shopper's dream. You can experience shopping in night markets, side street stalls and many shopping complexes.

Malaysia's abundance of sun, sea and sand offers great opportunities for diving enthusiasts and idyllic holidaymakers. From marine parks to white sandy beaches, visitors are treated to explore, relax and seek peaceful refuge in some of the best resorts in Asia.

Tipping is not common in Malaysia, especially in the more rural areas. In most hotels and large restaurants, a 10% service charge is added to the bill along with 6% government tax.

For tours and sightseeing we recommend a small tip for the driver and guide, depending on the quality of the service. Porters and bellboys are usually tipped depending on the weight and size of the bags.