Malaysia is fast becoming a popular tourist destination. This melting pot of cultures offers you everything you could ever dream of, for your vacation. Expect pristine beaches, luscious jungle, crystal water ideal for snorkelling and a thriving city scene with the capital Kuala Lumpur. To help you choose Malaysia as your next destination we’ve put together this guide on what to expect when visiting Malaysia.
Travelling in Malaysia is incredibly easy and affordable. There is a generous visa policy that allows travellers with an American, Canadian or European passport up to 90 days to explore the country. Often overlooked in favour of Thailand, Malaysia offers a diverse mix of culture that is different from any other place in Asia. Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous people all live side by side in this cultural melting pot. You’ll get to experience a variety of food, traditions and music from many different ethnic groups, all in one country.
Time Difference: GMT + 8 hours
Capital City: Kuala Lumpur (population: 1.77 million)
Biggest Religion: Islam
What to expect while travelling in Malaysia?
Malaysia is a very easy country to get around. You will have no problems communicating as English is widely spoken. Public transport is reliable and the travel infrastructure is good. It is possible to travel to Malaysia on a budget, but you will find it is more expensive when compared to Thailand. Quality accommodation can be costly, especially in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, so staying at an AirBnB is a popular choice. There are many affordable places to stay, all close to the city and offering western amenities. Eating out is very reasonable, with sampling the delicious street food being a must on any tourists to do list. However, if you are found of a drink be aware that alcohol is heavily taxed, as this is a muslim country and you may find that it will not be readily available and where it is, it won’t come cheap. If you are found of bacon, also note that pig meat is not hallal so will not be widely available in many areas of Malaysia. If you really need a bacon fix your best bet is to try a Chinise restaurant, as they will be more likely to offer pork.
East and West Malaysia
Malaysia is a country that is made up of islands. West Malaysia is also known as, ‘Peninsular Malaysia,’ and is made up of the mainland, the capital Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding islands in the west. East Malaysia is made up of the states of Sarawak, Sabah and Labaun, located on the island of Borneo, the third largest island in the world, this area is often referred to as Malaysian Borneo.
When you travel in Malaysia you will get the opportunity to meet with a diverse mix of people who call Malaysia home. Malays, Indians and Chinise Malaysians all live together. Malaysian Borneo is home to over 200 indigenous groups, often referred to as the Dayak people. They each have their own language, culture and customs, offering a completely unique and enriching cultural experience.
Money in Malaysia
Currency: The Malaysian ringgit (MYR)
The currency in Malaysia is known as the ringgit. It’s available in notes of RM1, RM5, RM10, RM20, RM50 and RM100. ATMs usually only give 50s or 100s, so this is something to consider as breaking large notes can be a hassle. You will find ATMs throughout Malaysia, however in smaller towns or rural areas you may have limited access. Tipping is not the norm in Malaysia, however in hotels and restaurants targeted at tourists it might be added to your bill or the staff may have grown accustomed to it.
Official Language: Bahasa Melayu (simply called “Malaysian” or informally just “Bahasa” in Malaysia)
Secondary Language: English
English is the secondary language in Malaysia so you will find that it is widely spoken and you won’t have trouble being understood when ordering a meal in a restaurant or asking for directions. It would of course still be beneficial to learn the basic greetings in Bahasa, and please and thank you. This will definitely win over the hearts of locals and will make your trip all the more enjoyable.
Popular Places to Visit in Malaysia
The capital city of Malaysia is a buzzing city that has a unique character and charm. Stroll around the many street markets and take in the culinary delights. Sight see from the top of the Petronas Twin Towers and shop to you drop in one of the many shopping malls.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the colonial history, Penang is the large island off the west coast of Malaysia. Its settlement of Georgetown is famous for a thriving food scene and multicultural heritage. If you want to get out of the city you should visit Penang National Park, get lost in this tropical rainforest and take in the sites of the jungle from the canopy walk.
Malaysia shares the world’s third largest island with Indonesia and Brunei. It is a nature-lover’s dream with wild orangutans and plenty of national parks teeming with rainforest and jungle just waiting to be explored. Flights from Kuala Lumpur to Borneo are cheap so it’s a must do for anyone staying in Malaysia for longer than a week
The islands of Langkawi, Tioman and Perhentian are very popular with tourists to visit. Each island has its own personality and cultural traditions. Pristine beaches are abundant and if diving is your thing the Perhentian Islands is an idyllic and affordable location to snorkel or dive.
The Cameron Highlands are known for their tea plantations. If you fancy getting into the countryside and enjoying a trek, then this is the best location.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws tourists in for its Colonial history and pleasant charm.
Getting to Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur is an international airport that you can fly to from around the world. AirAsia offers low cost flights from many other Asian and buses to and from Singapore only take 5 hours, so you comfortably visit both cities. We recommend sending your luggage ahead to avoid excess fees and missing connecting flights.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Malaysia
The weather in Malaysia often differs between the islands. Kuala Lumpur is guaranteed to be hot and wet all year round, with thunderstorms being common, but July is the driest month. The best time to visit the Perhentian Islands is during June, July and August. However, the driest months for seeing Sabah is February and March, with Langkawi being similar having the driest months in December, January and February.