Petronas Twin Towers – Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia
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MALAYSIA

GENERAL INFORMATION

 Malaysia in the modern world is known for its political stability and economic strength.  A democratic country that is made up of 3 main ethnic groups —Malays, Chinese, and peoples of the South Asian subcontinent. Malays and other indigenous groups are known as Bumiputras (“sons of the soil”).   After gaining its independence the states of Malaysia created a constitutional monarchy that is elected on a 5-year rotating term.  They are called Yang di-Pertuan Agong (literally “He Who Is Made Lord”).  It is a unique system that incorporates modern democracy with historical governance.   Due to it being located near the equator, Malaysia’s climate is categorized as equatorial, being hot and humid throughout the year gives rise to some of the most unique flora and fauna.  It also boasts as having the oldest rainforest in the world of 130 million years at Taman Negara.

HISTORY AND CULTURE

Mainland Territory: 330,803 km²
Population: 31.62 million
National Capital: Kuala Lumpur
International Calling Code: Malaysia: +60

The area’s first human inhabitants were traced back to about 40,000 years ago in the Malay Peninsula.  It’s location as the waterway connecting east and west and middle east it quickly became a popular trading port attracting Chinese and traders from India as early as the 1st century AD.  The main presence of these two countries had a major influence on culture and religion. The Malays in the Peninsula gradually adopted the religions of Hinduism and BuddhismSanskrit inscriptions appear as early as the fourth or fifth century. The Kingdom of Langkasuka arose around the second century in the northern area of the Malay Peninsula, lasting until about the 15th century. Between the 7th and 13th centuries, much of the southern Malay Peninsula was part of the maritime Srivijayan empire. By the 13th and the 14th century, the Majapahit empire had successfully wrested control over most of the peninsula and the Malay Archipelago from Srivijaya. Islam began to spread among Malays in the 14th century. In the early 15th century, Parameswara, a runaway king of the former Kingdom of Singapura linked to the old Srivijayan court, founded the Malacca Sultanate. Melaka was an important commercial centre during this time, attracting trade from around the region.

The Dutch fleet battling with the Portuguese armada as part of the Dutch–Portuguese War in 1606 to gain control of Melaka.

In 1511, Melaka was conquered by Portugal, after which it was taken by the Dutch in 1641. In 1786, the British Empire established a presence in Malaya, when the Sultan of Kedah leased Penang Island to the British East India Company. The British obtained the town of Singapore in 1819,and in 1824 took control of Melaka following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. By 1826, the British directly controlled Penang, Melaka, Singapore, and the island of Labuan, which they established as the crown colony of the Straits Settlements. By the 20th century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States, had British residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers, to whom the rulers were bound to defer to by treaty.The remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under British rule, also accepted British advisers around the turn of the 20th century. Development on the peninsula and Borneo were generally separate until the 19th century. Under British rule the immigration of Chinese and Indians to serve as labourers was encouraged. The area that is now Sabah came under British control as North Borneo when both the Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu transferred their respective territorial rights of ownership, between 1877 and 1878. In 1842, Sarawak was ceded by the Sultan of Brunei to James Brooke, whose successors ruled as the White Rajahs over an independent kingdom until 1946, when it became a crown colony. Statue of Francis Light in the Fort Cornwallis of Penang, the first British colony in what was to become Malaysia

In the Second World War, the Japanese Army invaded and occupied Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore for over three years. During this time, ethnic tensions were raised and nationalism grew. Popular support for independence increased after Malaya was reconquered by Allied forces. Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the “Malayan Union” met with strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the weakening of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese. The Malayan Union, established in 1946, and consisting of all the British possessions in the Malay Peninsula with the exception of Singapore, was quickly dissolved and replaced on 1 February 1948 by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection.During this time, mostly Chinese rebels under the leadership of the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla operations designed to force the British out of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency lasted from 1948 to 1960, and involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops in Malaya. On 31 August 1957, Malaya became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations. After this a plan was put in place to federate Malaya with the crown colonies of North Borneo (which joined as Sabah), Sarawak, and Singapore. The date of federation was planned to be 31 August 1963 so as to coincide with the anniversary of Malayan independence; however, federation was delayed until 16 September 1963 in order for a United Nations survey of support for federation in Sabah and Sarawak, called for by parties opposed to federation including Indonesia’s Sukarno and the Sarawak United Peoples’ Party, to be completed.

Federation brought heightened tensions including a conflict with Indonesia as well continuous conflicts against the Communists in Borneo and the Malayan Peninsula which escalates to the Sarawak Communist Insurgency and Second Malayan Emergency together with several other issues such as the cross border attacks into North Borneo by Moro pirates from the southern islands of the Philippines, Singapore being expelled from the Federation in 1965, and racial strife. This strife culminated in the 13 May race riots in 1969. After the riots, the controversial New Economic Policy was launched by Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, trying to increase the share of the economy held by the bumiputera. Under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad there was a period of rapid economic growth and urbanisation beginning in the 1980s. The economy shifted from being agriculturally based to one based on manufacturing and industry. Numerous mega-projects were completed, such as the Petronas Towers, the North–South Expressway, the Multimedia Super Corridor, and the new federal administrative capital of Putrajaya. However, in the late 1990s the Asian financial crisis almost caused the collapse of the currency and the stock and property markets. (Wikipedia.org)

Topography

Four-fifths of Peninsular Malaysia is covered by rain forest and swamp. The northern regions are divided by a series of mountain ranges that rise abruptly from the wide, flat coastal plains. The highest peaks, Gunong Tahan (2,190 m/7,185 ft) and Gunong Korbu (2,183 m/7,162 ft), are in the north central region. The main watershed follows a mountain range about 80 km (50 mi) inland, roughly parallel to the west coast. The rivers flowing to the east, south, and west of this range are swift and have cut some deep gorges, but on reaching the coastal plains they become sluggish. The western coastal plain contains most of the country’s population and the main seaports, George Town (on the offshore Pulau Pinang) and Kelang (formerly Port Swettenham). The eastern coastal plain is mostly jungle and lightly settled. It is subject to heavy storms from the South China Sea and lacks natural harbors.

Sarawak consists of an alluvial and swampy coastal plain, an area of rolling country interspersed with mountain ranges, and a mountainous interior. Rain forests cover the greater part of Sarawak. Many of the rivers are navigable. Sabah is split in two by the Crocker Mountains, which extend north and south some 48 km (30 mi) inland from the west coast, rising to over 4,100 m (13,450 ft) at Mt. Kinabalu, the highest point in Malaysia. Most of the interior is covered with tropical forest, while the western coastal area consists of alluvial flats making up the main rubber and rice land.

Administrative Units

The principal administrative divisions of Malaysia. Malaysia is a federation comprising 13 states (Negeri) and three federal territories (Wilayah Persekutuan). Out of the 13 states in Malaysia, 9 are hereditary monarchies. In conjunction with the celebration of Malaysia Day in 2018 under the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has promised to restore Sabah and Sarawak status in the Malaysian federation in accordance with the Malaysia Agreement, changing “their status from merely a state to an equal partner of the Malayan states”.

Language

The Malaysian language (Malay: bahasa Malaysia; Jawi: بهاس مليسيا‎) or Malaysian Malay (Malay: bahasa Melayu Malaysia) is the name regularly applied to the Malay language used in Malaysia (as opposed to the variety used in Indonesia, which is referred to as the Indonesian language). Constitutionally, however, the official language of Malaysia is Malay, but the government from time to time refers to it as Malaysian. Standard Malaysian is a normative register of the Johore-Riau dialect of Malay. It is spoken by much of the Malaysian population, although most learn a vernacular form of Malay or other native language first. Malay is a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools.

Ethnic Groups

Malays and Bumiputeras comprised a total of 68.8% of the total population, Chinese 23.2% and Indians 7.0%.

VISA

REQUIRED:

 All passports must have at least 6 months validity.

 Malaysian tourist visa is also known as Visa without Reference (VTR).

All foreign visitors entering Malaysia through the gazetted entry points will be given social visit pass for social visit which including the following purposes:

  • Visiting Relatives
  • Tourism
  • Journalist / Reporter
  • Attending Meeting
  • Attending Business Discussion
  • Inspection of factory
  • Auditing Company’s Account
  • Signing Agreement
  • Doing survey on investment opportunities / setting up factory
  • Attending Seminars
  • On goodwill mission for students or sitting for examinations in University
  • Taking part in sports competitions
  • Other activities not mentioned above but approved by the Director General of Immigration.

 Holders of passports issued by the following 63 jurisdictions are granted visa-free entry to Malaysia for 90 days.

·          Albania

·          Algeria

·          Argentina

·          Australia

·          Bahrain

·          Bosnia and Herzegovina

·          Brazil

·          Canada

·          Cuba

·          Egypt

·          Iceland

·          Japan

·          Jordan

·          Kuwait

·          Kyrgyzstan

·          Lebanon

·          Liechtenstein

·          Maldives

·          Morocco

·          New Zealand

·          Norway

·          Oman

·          Peru

·          Qatar

·          San Marino

·          Saudi Arabia

·          South Africa

·          South Korea

·          Sudan

·          Syria

·           Switzerland

·          Tunisia

·          Turkey

·          Turkmenistan

·          United Arab Emirates

·          United States

·          Uruguay

·        

Holders of passports issued by the following 97 jurisdictions are granted visa-free entry to Malaysia for 30 days.

·          Andorra

·          Antigua and Barbuda

·          Armenia

·          Azerbaijan

·          Bahamas

·          Barbados

·          Belarus

·          Belize

·          Benin

·          Bolivia

·          Botswana

·          Brunei

·          Cambodia

·          Cape Verde

·          Chad

·          Chile

·          Comoros

·          Costa Rica

·          Dominica

·          Dominican Republic

·          Ecuador

·          El Salvador

·          Eswatini

·          Fiji

·          Gabon

·          Gambia

·          Georgia

·          Grenada

·          Guatemala

·          Guinea

·          Guyana

·          Haiti

·          Honduras

·          Hong Kong

·          Indonesia

·          Iraq

·          Jamaica

·          Kazakhstan

·          Kenya

·          Kiribati

·          Laos

·          Lesotho

·          Macau

·          Macedonia

·          Madagascar

·          Malawi

·          Marshall Islands

·          Mauritania

·          Mauritius

·          Mexico

·          Moldova

·          Monaco

·          Mongolia

·          Namibia

·          Nauru

·          Nicaragua

·          Palau

·          Palestine

·          Panama

·          Papua New Guinea

·          Paraguay

·          Philippines

·          Russia

·          Saint Kitts and Nevis

·          Saint Lucia

·          Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

·          Samoa

·          São Tomé and Príncipe

·          Senegal

·          Seychelles

·          Sierra Leone

·          Singapore

·          Solomon Islands

·          Somalia

·          South Sudan

·          Suriname

·          Taiwan

·          Tajikistan

·          Tanzania

·          Thailand

·          Timor-Leste

·          Togo

·          Tonga

·          Trinidad and Tobago

·          Tuvalu

·          Uganda

·          Ukraine

·          Uzbekistan

·          Vanuatu

·           Vatican City

·          Venezuela

·          Vietnam

·          Zambia

·          Zimb

 On 1 March 2017, Malaysian government has set up a new online application system to accept applications for Electronic Visa (eVisa) and Electronic Travel Registration and Information (eNTRI) to facilitate tourism. eVisa applications are available to citizens of Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Serbia and Sri Lanka, while eNTRI applications are available only to holders of Indian and Chinese passports. Official E-visa website: https://www.imi.gov.my/index.php/en/visa/evisa.html

 International check point borders:

  • The Malaysia–Thailand borderconsists of both a land boundary across the Malay Peninsula and maritime boundaries in the Straits of Malacca and the Gulf of Thailand/South China Sea. Malaysia lies to the south of the border while Thailand lies to the north. The Golok River forms the easternmost 95 km stretch of the land border
  • There are two structural crossings along the border. They are the Johor–Singapore Causewayand the Malaysia–Singapore Second Link (as known in Malaysia), or the Tuas Second Link (as known in Singapore). There is also an international ferry service between Pengerang, Johor, Malaysia at the southeastern tip of Johor, Malaysia and Changi Village, Singapore at the eastern end of the island.

 Malaysia has international airports:

  • Kuala Lumpur (capital)
  • Langkawi Int’l
  • Kuching Int’
  • Penang Int’l
  • Kota Kinabalu Int’l
  • Senai
WEATHER & HOLIDAYS

Climate

In Malaysia, the climate is equatorial, ie hot, humid and rainy throughout the year. Temperatures are high and stable, with a slight decrease between November and January, when highs drop to 29/30 °C (84/86 °F), at least in the north, and a slight increase (which, however, is felt because of the high humidity) between March and August, when highs hover around 32/33 °C (90/91 °F) and lows around 23/25 °C (73/77 °F). 
The rains are abundant and continuous throughout the year as well, in fact it is difficult to find an area where the rainfall is lower than 2,000 millimeters (79 inches) per year, or a month when it is lower than 100 mm (4 in); however, it is possible to find periods when it is not too high, although they are not the same everywhere. 
The rains are caused by the monsoon regime, however, being Malaysia near the Equator and surrounded by the sea, there is no real dry season. In addition, the rains, as is generally the case in tropical countries, are quite erratic from year to year. 
However, the monsoons make more precipitation abundant and frequent, in the areas directly exposed to these winds: between mid-October and January the northeast monsoon prevails, primarily affecting the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and the north-east coast of Borneo, while between June and September it’s the period of the southwest monsoon, which in Malaysia usually produces weaker effects. 
It should be noted, however, that the tropical rains occur mainly in the form of intense downpour or thunderstorm, usually in the afternoon, so there’s no shortage of sunshine, at least in the morning, when the weather conditions are generally good. 
The country is divided into two parts: Peninsular Malaysia, also called Western Malaysia, located in the Malay Peninsula, and Eastern Malaysia, or Malaysian Borneo, located on the island of Borneo. 

Holidays and Festivals

  • New Year’s Day 1 January.
  • Federal Territory Day 1 February (in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya only)
  • Good Friday March or April (in Sarawak & Sabah only)
  • Labour Day 1 May.
  • Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s (King’s) Birthday 1st Saturday in June.
  • National Day (Hari Kebangsaan) 31 August.
  • Malaysia Day 16 September.
  • Christmas Day 25 December.

Food

There are many more delicious Malaysian dishes to try.  The two major influences of its cuisine come from Indian and Chinese background.  So spicy and flavorful.  Try our 10 favorites below:

  1. Nasi lemak

Possibly the national dish of Malaysia and beloved by all local Malaysians is a dish known as nasi lemak. It’s something you most definitely must eat when you’re in Malaysia. There are a few different varieties of nasi lemak and many variations, but the basis of the dish is rice cooked in coconut milk, topped with spicy sambal chili sauce. The most basic version is just a pocket of rice topped with sambal, perhaps a hard boiled egg on the side, and wrapped up in a banana leaf. More complex versions, like the one served at RA Nasi Lemak, include a buffet of delicious Malaysian curries and chili sauces which you scoop over your plate of coconut rice. I especially love sambal sotong (squid in chili curry) and a fried egg on the side.

  1. Ikan bakar

Ikan means fish, and bakar means grilled in Bahasa Malaysia, so ikan bakar is grilled fish – but it’s amazing marinated grilled fish! Ikan bakar is spiced up in a blend of chili paste, then grilled over charcoal on top of a banana leaf over the fire.The moist fish is then eaten with a plate of hot rice, sometimes some side vegetable dishes and curries, and dipped into kecap manis for extra flavor.

  1. Banana leaf

As mentioned before, Indian food plays a major part in the diverse spectrum of the food in Malaysia, and banana leaf, as it’s commonly known, is a local favorite. The food served at Malaysia banana leaf restaurants is often of south Indian origin. You site down at a table with a banana leaf as your plate, and it doesn’t take long before the waiter dishes you a giant scoop of rice and a round of incredibly tasty vegetarian curries. Banana leaf is often served vegetarian, but you can also normally order sides of meat to supplement the vegetable curries if you live. No utensils are need to eat banana leaf, you just go in with your fingers and devour!

  1. Nasi kandar

Another Indian influenced branch of Malaysia food, originally perfected in Penang, is known as nasi kandar. Nasi, as you may already know, is rice, and a kandar is a stick or pole used as a support to carry things with. Formerly, in the Malaysian villages, the rice and curry was sold from mobile vendors who carried large pots of food using a kandar. Nowadays, nasi kandar basically refers to rice and Indian style curry. You get a plate of rice, and dish yourself things like mutton curry, fried chicken, and some rotis on the side.

  1. Roti canai

Roti can mean different types of fried bread depending on where you are, and in Malaysia a roti canai (video) is a thin piece of dough fried in lots of oil and served with a curry dipping sauce. The dough is first stretched out, slapped across a counter top, then folded into a small square, and fried in oil. This gives it lots of flaky crispy layers. You break off bits of the roti and dip it into the delicious curry gravy.

  1. Curry laksa and Assam laksa

A great bowl of laksa will leave you stunned upon first bite – at least that’s what happened to me when I slurped up my very first bite of curry laksa in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. There are two different kinds of laksa in Malaysia food, curry laksa and Assam laksa. Assam laksa is noodles in murky brown fish soup, while curry laksa is noodles swimming in a thick and extremely flavorful coconut milk curry. There are many variations depending on what part of Malaysia you’re in, but for the most part you get a bowl of noodles topped with spice filled soup, seafood and or chicken, and garnished with lots of herbs and Vietnamese coriander.

  1. Char kuay teow

Malaysians absolutely love to eat, that’s one of the reasons why I love Malaysia so much! And if you really want to relate and make a Malaysian feel at home, start a conversation about char kuay teow. The dish includes wide rice noodles which are stir fried on high heat with shrimp, bean sprouts, chives, and often an egg. Char kuay teow is so good, you’ll immediately order another plate after finishing your first.

  1. Hokkien mee

Another giant in the scene of Chinese style fried noodles is Hokkien mee, a recipe derived from the Fujian province of China. Like nearly all food in Malaysia, there are quite a few variations such as Hokkien hae mee, which is prawn noodles, and Hokkien char mee, which is dark colored fried noodles. I’m a huge fan of both, but really have a soft spot in my heart for Hokkien char mee. The noodles are normally fried in lard on an extremely high heat, and flavored with dark soy sauce. It’s absolutely amazing!

  1. Nasi campur

While nasi kandar is the Indian version and economy rice is the Chinese version of rice topped with a selection of different dishes, nasi campur is the Malay version. You’ll find stalls and restaurants set up all over the country where you’re given a plate of rice, and it’s your task to make sense of the assortment of dishes and scoop up whatever looks the best – and let me tell you, it’s a lot of fun! I especially love dishes like the jackfruit curry, fish curry, omelets, and cutlets.

  1. Bak kut teh

Translating directly to “meat bone tea,” this southeast Asian Chinese dish includes lots of pork, slow cooked until extremely tender in a broth filled with herbs and soothing spices. Buk kut teh is especially popular as a breakfast dish in Malaysia. My first time eating it, I was so happy, I could hardly contain myself. I garnished each and every bite of tender pork with raw garlic and chilies.

 Internet:

Being a modern developed country internet access will not be an issue. Renting a wifi box at the airport on arrival or buy a sim data card can be done with the help of our guides will help you keep in touch with family or make travel arrangements. Maxis: One of Malaysia’s biggest telecommunications companies, it also has one of the most extensive wireless network in Malaysia. Similar to the other Internet providers, it also offers fibre Internet with speeds up to 100Mbps.

P1: One of the preferred data, voice and value added services providers for mobile broadband networks in Malaysia. P1 WiMAX provides you with the flexibility of on-the-go or at home internet connectivity with speed of up to 2Mbps; and unlimited quota.

Health

Malaysia has a high amount of biodiversity thanks to its tropical climate and a large population of over 30 million people. Its economy is steady and has some of the best economic records in Asia due to its natural resources and science sectors.  The capital city of of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia’s other major cities include Ipoh, George Town, and Klang. Yes, some vaccines are recommended or required for Malaysia. The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccinations for Malaysia: hepatitis Ahepatitis Btyphoidcholerayellow feverJapanese encephalitisrabiesmeningitispoliomeasles, mumps and rubella (MMR)Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis)chickenpoxshinglespneumonia and influenza.

A brief checklist:

  • Take insect repellent with DEET. You may want to consult your physician on proper medication to take for malaria.
  • Mosquito netting is always suggested when sleeping.

Consult your physician for medicine to treat intestinal infection.

BRINGING MONEY

Currency and Banking

The Malaysian currency is called the Ringgit.  Each Ringgit is divided into 100 Sen. Malaysian coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 Sen denominations in a variety of different materials and finishes. Banknotes are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Ringgits. The smaller value notes (RM1 and RM5) are polymer while the other notes are paper printed. There are several different series’ of banknotes in circulation, although older ones are more rare. They’re all legal, but some merchants might refuse the very old notes, especially if they show some damage.  Other currencies aren’t widely accepted in Malaysia, so you’ll need to exchange some cash to get you through. The Ringgit can not legally be traded outside of Malaysia, so you’ll need to exchange some cash when you arrive. Some exchange bureaus have found ways around this rule, so you may be offered currency exchange at home – but the rates won’t be as good as those available once you arrive.

Exchange money once you arrive in Malaysia

The Ringgit can not legally be traded outside of Malaysia, so you’ll need to exchange some cash when you arrive. Some exchange bureaus have found ways around this rule, so you may be offered currency exchange at home – but the rates won’t be as good as those available once you arrive.

Avoid exchanging in or around airports and hotels

Currency exchange in Malaysia is fairly easy. You can change your cash at a bank, with a money changer, or at a currency exchange desk – at a hotel or the airport, for example. As a general rule, it costs more to switch currency at a bank or currency exchange desk, and airports and hotels tend to have even higher fees.

If you need to change larger sums, using a money changer in town is the best way to get a good deal. Steep competition in town means you will get a better exchange rate than those offered in airports or hotels.

If you’re in need of cash in a hurry, your best option may be to use an ATM to withdraw what you need.

Be wary of ‘Zero Commission’ services – understand the mid-market rate

Naturally, when you choose an exchange service, you’ll need to watch out for hidden fees. Even if a service claims ‘Zero Commission’, they’ll simply add their profit into the poorer exchange rate they offer you.

Choose the best deal by making sure you understand the mid market rate. The mid-market rate is the real exchange rate, and by comparing it with the offered tourist exchange rates, you can see the profit margin that the exchange service has added.

Find out the mid-market rate by using a currency converter online so you can decide whether or not the deal you’re offered is fair.

If you’re exchanging cash, make sure the notes you have are in good condition. Torn or damaged notes might be refused by money changers.

Using traveller’s checks in Malaysia

Traveller’s Checks can’t usually be used in Malaysia as a form of direct payment. Banks and exchange services may cash the Checks for you, but there will be a fee for each Check they change.

If you’re carrying Traveller’s Checks with you, make sure you look carefully at the exchange rates and fees applied. Often, the combination means that you’re worse off than if you were using cash or spending on a card. Add in the inconvenience of needing to find an exchange bureau who can deal with Checks, and many travelers decide to avoid them altogether.

Using credit cards and debit cards in Malaysia

Many smaller businesses don’t accept cards

Smaller traders and stores don’t accept debit/credit card payments in Malaysia – but you should have no problems with large, established businesses in tourist areas. All the major card providers are accepted, but make sure you have some cash on you too, just in case of any issue.

Tell your bank before you leave home

Many financial institutions will have Malaysia on their ‘watch list’ for suspect activity. This means it is crucial to tell your card provider in advance that you’re travelling there so that your card isn’t blocked. It only takes a minute or two to call your bank and it can help avoid an embarrassing and awkward situation later.

Avoid letting foreign ATMs convert for you

Spending on credit or debit cards is a convenient option for many travellers – especially for larger purchases or hotel bills. However, because you’re using a foreign card, you might find that you’re asked if you want to be charged in your home currency.

Being charged in your home currency is something called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). It lets you see the cost of the transaction listed in your home currency when you pay. Though it’s described as a “service”, DCC isn’t a great idea. It leaves you exposed to hidden fees with a poorer exchange rate assigned by the local bank. Always opt to pay in the local currency (MYR) instead – that way, your home bank (who wants to keep you as their customer) will assign a much better exchange rate.

Finally, apply sensible precautions when using a card in Malaysia. Tourists are easy targets for scams, so don’t let your card out of your sight. If you have any doubts, use the ATM finder in the next section to withdraw cash and pay that way.

ATMs in Malaysia

ATMs are common in Malaysia and can be found in banks, shopping malls and transport hubs. You can find one easily using one of the locator tools below.

Visa ATM locator
MasterCard ATM locator
Amex ATM locator

Research ATM fees

When you use an ATM, your home bank will apply a fee for overseas withdrawal. You may also find that the Malaysian ATM adds its own fee. Ask your home bank before you leave what charges will be added – and watch the notices on the ATM to understand any additional fees.

Choose to be charged in the local currency

Usually, despite the fees, using an ATM is a convenient and reasonable value way of getting cash abroad, as long as you avoid DCC.

DCC (described in the previous section), is when you’re charged for the withdrawal in your home currency. However, this means that the exchange rate applied is selected by the Malaysian ATM provider – it’s almost always a poor deal. While your home bank has an interest in keeping you, an ATM provider will be very happy to take your hard-earned cash.

Always select to be charged in local currency when withdrawing money abroad to access the rate set by your home bank.

Banks in Malaysia

The major Malaysian banks (which are listed below) have excellent branch and ATM coverage throughout the country. They also operate more broadly throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

It is well worth seeing if your home bank works in partnership with any Malaysian banks. If they do, you might be able to use their ATMs for free during your travels.

These are the most common retail banks in Malaysia along with a list of several major foreign banks that have a presence there:

Five Major Retail Banks in Malaysia

International Banks Operating in Malaysia

Shopping

What’s best to buy is always the question that comes to mind when you visit a country.  Here are some of our suggestions for Malaysia:

  1. Batik

Batik is a type of fabric made from silk and often used to create shirts and accessories. The high-quality material has elaborated, intricate and multicoloured patterns making an ideal gift for anyone who likes arts and crafts. Batik is famous in both Malaysia and Indonesia with each region creating their own styles and patterns. The price of Batik varies depending on quality from RM 40 ($9.60) up to RM 100+ ($24).

  1. Sarong

A sarong is a versatile cloth both men and women wear in Malaysia. Each has its own patterns and styles and can be bought for as little as RM 20 ($4.80). Sarongs are extremely adaptable, and you can use them in a range of situations both in Malaysia and back home.

  1. Hand-woven gifts

Bamboo is ubiquitous in SEA and strips are sometimes woven into handicraft such as baskets, ornaments and souvenirs. You should be able to find these on sale in touristy areas or local handicraft shops.

  1. Tropical fruit chocolate

If you’re a fan of chocolate and love tropical fruit, try tropical fruit chocolate. Flavours include the notorious durian as well as jackfruit and many others. You may not be able to bring the fruit back with you, but you can in the form of chocolate!

  1. Songket

A Songket is a type of fabric unique to Malaysia consisting of multi-coloured threads interwoven into patterns similar to batik. The material itself can be used to make clothes and accessories or hang on your wall as a decoration. Songket represents the fusion of Chinese, Malaysian and India cultures.

  1. Cucuk Sanggul

For a more traditional souvenir, buy a cucuk Sanggul. Sanggul means to put your hair in a bun. Cucuk Sanggul are hairpins made from either silver or gold with a decorative end. Some have patterns; others have images of animals and mythical creatures. The price ranges from at least RM 100 up to RM 300 ($22 to $74) and higher depending on material quality. You may need to go to a specialist shop to buy one.

  1. Tropical art

Some of the local handicraft and art shops have a selection of hand-drawn pictures and paintings of a tropical environment. Many have vibrant colours and will look perfect hanging in your front room. The art often depicts palm tree, banana leaves and houses on stilts especially in a ‘kampung’ (countryside) setting.

  1. Rice wine

Malaysia may not be flooded with alcohol like other SEA countries. But some of the indigenous communities in Sabah and Sarawak brew a special type of liquor called rice wine. As the name suggests, rice is fermented and distilled into a drink that shares similarities with vodka. You’re unlikely to find this in Western Malaysia, though it’s available in Sabah and Sarawak. If you know the right place, you can get a 1-litre bottle of rice wine for as little as RM 10 to 20 ($2.40 to $4.80).

  1. Clothes and shoes

Anyone who lives in the west knows how expensive shopping can be. And those in Asia often experience being unable to find clothes or shoes that fit. Malaysia combines the best of both. Casual t-shirts may set you back RM 20 ($4.80), and a pair of decent shoes shouldn’t be more than RM 100 ($24).

  1. Dodol

Dodol is a sticky toffee-like sweet with a soft texture often eaten as a dessert. You can find a range of flavours including some with tropical fruits such as durian. Shops often sell dodol in a prepacked box in the same way as confectionary. Depending on where you buy it from, expect anything between RM 15 ($3.60) and RM 30 ($7.20) for a large box. But beware of buying in the touristy areas; the price can be almost double. If you’re in Malaysia around major festivals, you may be able to find a better deal.

  1. Sabah Pearls

Pearling was a major industry in Sabah in a bygone era. Divers without sophisticated equipment dove to the shallow depths of the South China Sea to make a living. Today, speciality shops sell pearls as ornaments and jewellery such as necklaces and earrings. Prices start from RM 100 ($24) to several thousands of ringgits depending on the quality and rarity of the pearl. However, buying in Sabah is often significantly less expensive than elsewhere. Shop around as the price and quality varies considerably.

  1. Sabah Tea

Shopping in Malaysia

Tea drinkers will love the locally-produced oraganic Sabah Tea which you can find in Sabah and West Malaysia. The tea plantation in Ranau, a small town a few hours from Kota Kinabalu, harvest the preservative-free leaves by hand. Tours are available for those who are interested to visit and learn about the process. Some say the tea has health benefits too. Expect to pay at least RM 5 ($1.20) for 200 grams box of loose tea or around RM 10 for a box 20 tea bags. Be sure to order a cup to sample the tea before buying a few boxes to take home.

  1. Spices

When walking through the streets of any town or city in Malaysia you’ll notice the multiculturalism and mixture of different races and ethnicities. Each group has their own style of cooking that uses various spices like saffron, paprika, curry powder, turmeric among other types in their food. Spices are on sale at very reasonable prices in markets or speciality shops around the country, especially in Kuala Lumpur. When you’re at the restaurant, ask the waiter or chef what they use and try to buy some to bring back home. Having the right spices allows you to replicate and cook some of the delicious food yourself.

  1. Old Town Instant White Coffee

When you’re in Malaysia, you’re likely to drink some Old Town coffee. Old Town has a strong flavour with a texture that’s both milky and smooth to drink. Tourists tend to fall in love with the coffee. A big packet of instant coffee with 15 sachets in the local supermarkets cost around RM 15 ($4) allowing you to have your favourite drink when you get back home.

Electricity

In Malaysia the standard voltage is 240 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electric appliances in Malaysia, if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 – 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa).

DO'S & DON'TS

Local Etiquette

When visiting a foreign country, it is always important to gain an understanding of their culture and to respect it all times. A little bit of research in advance will provide you with a good foundation.

Malaysia is an Islamic state but it also has an extremely multicultural society as the predominant cultures are Malay, Indian and Chinese. This means it is a melting pot of ethnicities and religions and can make it difficult to know how to behave with members of each culture. However, good etiquette is often simply a combination of common sense and a basic understanding and respect for the local culture.

Here are some etiquette tips to ensure you are aware of yourself and don’t offend anyone whilst travelling in Malaysia.

Introductions and greetings

The traditional Malay greeting in is the ‘salam’ and can be described as a handshake with both hands but without the grasp. Never extend your hand for a traditional handshake unless first offered by your counterpart. As more of the country (especially cities such as Kuala Lumpur) becomes more westernised, handshakes are becoming more commonplace.

Importantly, don’t attempt to touch a woman to greet them, as usually a bow (or a nod and smile) is sufficient. However, if a woman first extends her hand for a handshake then it’s fine to do so.

If given a business card, receive it with two hands and take a moment to read it before putting it away. This is a show of respect.

Dress code

Due to the predominantly Muslim culture, tourists should dress in a conservative manner, particularly in more rural areas and always when entering a mosque. Women should wear loose clothing that covers the legs, arms and shoulders. A headscarf can also be worn to show further respect for the culture.

Shoes should always be removed when entering a mosque and also when entering a Malaysian host’s home.

Body language

Being aware of your actions is important as what we may deem as normal can be offensive in Malaysia. Pointing with the finger is considered rude in Malaysia so directions are often given using an open hand or using the thumb. It is also considered rude to sit opposite a host with your legs crossed (especially for women).

It is also considered rude to touch an adult on the head or show the bottom of your feet to anyone.

When out in public, be careful not to express intimacy, even if it’s in the form of a simple hug or kiss. Due to the Islamic nature, this type of contact is extremely frowned upon.

Food and drink

When out for a meal and passing something along, always use the right hand. The left hand is considered to be reserved for bathroom functions. Also, be very conscious of your company and never often a Muslim peer any alcohol or pork (they also require a restaurant to be certified Halal). Hindus do not eat beef so keep this in mind when ordering and selecting a restaurant, depending on your company.

Tipping is not necessarily customary in Malaysia as most establishments include a service charge, but if you feel that you have received great service a small tip for your waiter will always be appreciated.

In the end, most etiquette comes down to common sense, no matter what country you find yourself in. Observing and practicing a genuine respect for the local culture will always shine through and help you determine what may be right or wrong. Worst case, keep an eye on the locals and you will soon realise what is considered appropriate, if you find yourself in any doubt.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Emergency Travel and health insurance is not included in our tour package. This is an important requirement when you travel with us for your safety and peace of mind in the unexpected event that you need urgent international standard care. You should buy travel insurance in your country as it will be more convenient for you to deal with any claims and adjustments upon your return home. AIG, Allianz, or John Hancock have good travel coverage and respond very quickly to emergencies. We do not endorse any one travel insurance company but suggest you consider www.travelguard.com, as past clients of ours have had good experiences with them in times of need. Also, check with your insurance provider to see if they cover:

  1. emergency evacuation during your travels, and

2.emergency airlift to an international hospital or provide professional medical care to transport you home.  The cost alone for airlifting a person home can cost up to the 100’s of thousands of USD.  Travel more safely with fewer worries. 

PACKING LIST

A packing list is often a forgotten part of the planning processes, but it’s one of the most important steps to ensure an enjoyable vacation.  Here are some important reminders from our traveler’s experiences:  
 
Documentation: 

  • Your passport should have at least 6-months validity from the date of departure on your trip. 
  • Check your visa requirement to your destination. Check the entry date on your visa and validity of the visa. 
  • When possible book e-tickets. If you happen to lose your ticket you can always print your ticket online. 
  • Always make extra copies of your passport and keep it separate from your original. 
  • Make a copy of your travel insurance and emergency contact information. It’s best to have those numbers entered in your mobile phone. 
  • Call your credit card company to inform them of the dates of your trip so that your charge card won’t get blocked by your card company because of a foreign charge. This will also protect you in the event your card is stolen, and you have fraudulent charges on your account. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted as oppose to Amex. 
  • Make sure your tour operator knows of any allergies you may have. 

 
Electronics or gadgets: 

  • If you have a 3-pronged plug , you will need to bring an adapter to change to 3 prong G(see above).  
  • Make sure your electronics can take 240 volts as this is standard in most countries. 
  • Sometimes it’s a good investment to bring a backup mobile phone where you can use a local SIM card for calls. It’s much cheaper than using your regular mobile phone and paying for roaming calls. 
  • Don’t forget your charger for your electronics and check to see if they are compatible with 240 volts. 
  • Bring small pocket solar calculator to convert exchange rates. 

 
Clothing & Miscellaneous: 

  • Know where you are traveling and the weather you should expect. Traveling to a tropical area you will expect to see mosquitoes, so bring some long sleeve shirts and long pants for evenings. 
  • Traveling to Asia it is frowned upon to wear shorts that are 6 in. above the knee, especially when visiting temples or places of worship. Wearing a dress is fine if you plan to dress light.  But again, when visiting temples please make sure dresses are no more than a few inches above the knee with a shirt or blouse covering your shoulder. Revealing shoulders are frowned upon.
  • Good walking shoes and socks
  • Slip-on shoes for ease of taking them on and off when visiting pagodas, houses, and other places where footwear in inappropriate.
  • Rain-resistant light jacket (if traveling during raining season)
  • Head cover to protect from hot tropical weather 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Insect repellent with DEET 
  • Stomach medicine
  • Prescription medication 
  • A good book for those occasional flight delays 

You’ll find that sometimes it’s cheaper to buy clothing you need in the country of arrival to save weight on luggage and you can also done to local charity if you do not find a need for it after the trip.

TIPPING

For good service, guides are usually tipped $25-30MYR/day(local currency), and drivers about $15MYR/day. Tips are not expected in restaurants in western-style restaurants and most hotels will add a 10% service charge to the bill. It’s also customary to leave any small change (coins etc) and if a charge is not added then 10% is a good gauge. Local restaurants usually don’t expect tips although they certainly won’t reject them should you leave a few dollar notes behind.

CANCELLATION POLICY

Before 45 days, no charge tours.
45 to 30 days prior arrival date: 5% of the total price
29 to 15 days prior arrival date: 10% of the total price
7 days to the day of arrival: 50%
3 days to the day of arrival: 100%