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Malaysia Country Guide

Malaysia is fast becoming a ‘must see' destination topping the list of travellers all over the world. The key attraction is the extreme contrast between past and present; towering skyscrapers shadowing wooden houses on stilts and bustling cities and lush green rainforests. Full of surprises and deeply intriguing, Malaysia is an exciting place to visit.

Malaysia's ethnically and culturally diverse history is easily matched by it equally diverse and beautiful landscape.

Our Malaysia Country Guide will give you all the travel information you need to know to plan your holiday in Malaysia, while our Malaysia Destination Guide will give you some handy information about some of the exciting things to see and do during your holiday in Malaysia. Joining a Malaysia tour or activities is a safe and easy way to explore the country!

We recommend you read about travel in Malaysia on GoNOMAD.

Check out the latest travel information from YouTube.

We currently have a local connection in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Miri & Mulu and Sandakan.

Malaysia Country Guide

Follow the links to the right or scroll further down the page for some handy details to help you plan your Malaysia holiday:


Average CostsTop

Malaysia Peninsular is a relatively inexpensive and fun place to get around. Those travelling on a budget in Malaysia can easily get by on little more than US$ 25 a day staying in cheaper hotels, eating at street malls or small local restaurants and travelling mostly on foot or by bus. For those who enjoy there creature comforts of a nice hotel, travelling by taxi and eating out in the better known restaurants can expect to spend around US$ 65 a day.  

Banks in Malaysia are readily available to process foreign exchange transactions. Credit Cards can be used in most upmarket hotels, restaurants and shops, and you can get cash advances against your credit card from an ATM if you have a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Malaysian banks are linking to international banks, which means you may be able to access your funds from your savings account through ATM's. Check with your banking institution for international access capabilities.  

Here is a guide to some average expenses in Malaysia:  

- Beer (small bottle) RM 11.00
- Water (small bottle) RM 0.95
- Petrol RM 1.90/litre
- Internet access RM 4.00
- Pizza at Pizza Hut RM8.50 personal 6"; M23.90 large 12"
- Hainanese Chicken Rice RM3.00
- Foot massage RM30
- Accommodation ranges from RM30-75 budget, RM75-200 mid-range and RM200-300top-end
- Meals range from RM11-15for budget, RM15-35for mid-range and RM35-55 for top-end.

Climate/weatherTop

Want to know the best time to travel Malaysia? Check out our Malaysia weather page for Malaysian climate and weather information including a six-day Malaysia weather forecast.

CommunicationTop

The International Subscriber Dialling (ISD) code of Malaysia is +60. To make outgoing international calls from Malaysia, dial 00, the country code (for instance 001 for the United States) and the relevant telephone number. Though erratic, International Direct Dial is available all around Malaysia. Calls can be made from the card and coin-operated phones, as well as from hotels. Do check the rates for international calls at the hotels as some of them have a stiff surcharge for these calls.

Most of the phone boxes in Malaysia are provided by Telekom and Uniphone. Phone cards issued by them can be bought at newspaper agents, petrol pumps and airports. These cards are not transferable between the two companies. Every Malaysian city has a code; for instance, (0) 4 is the code for Penang while that of Kuala Lumpur is (0) 3. Almost the entire country is covered by GSM mobile networks. Areas most frequented by tourists have many internet cafes.

Currency/MoneyTop

Ringgit Malaysia is the currency of Malaysia. 100 sen = 1Ringgit (RM)

Ringgits are available in the denominations of RM 100, RM 50, RM 10, RM 5 and RM 1. Coins (sen) are available in the denominations of RM 1, 50 sen, 20 sen, 10 sen, 5 sen and 1 sen.

ATMs are found all over Malaysia and major credit cards are accepted at premium hotels, restaurants and shops.

You can exchange your travellers' cheques at most banks and a few hotels. Malaysian banks however charge around US$ 2 or US$ 3 for all foreign exchange transactions. Money changers do not levy any commission and are faster, but their rates fluctuate and differ widely. If you can, do carry dollars or pounds as they are the most easy to exchange. You have to declare all currency that is brought into and taken out of Malaysia, in a Travellers Declaration Form that is available at all exit and entry points of Malaysia. While there is no restriction on foreign currencies, statutory regulations disallow non residents from bringing in and taking out more than RM 1000 at any given point of time.

Click here to view the latest Malaysia exchange rate from OANDA.com.

ElectricityTop

Malaysia runs off a 220V/ 50Hz system, with British 3-pin rectangular electrical socket.

Embassy LocationsTop

To view a list of Malaysian embassies around the world, as well as foreign embassies within Malaysia, check out EmbassyWorld.com.

General InformationTop

Population: 25,274,133 (July 2008 est.)
Total Area: 329,750 sq km
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Time Zone: UTC+8 hours

Click here to view the current time in Kuala Lumpur.

LanguageTop

Bahasa Melayu is Malaysia's national language. However, English is also widely spoken as it is the language of choice for all commerce and business. The Indians in Malaysia speak Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil, while the Chinese speak Hakka, Hokkien and Cantonese.

Public HolidaysTop

Follow the link to view a list of current public holidays in Malaysia.

Religion Top

The official religion of Malaysia is Islam - in a form that is not fundamental or extremist but tolerant and secular. This is evident by the presence of many other places of worship like churches, mosques and temples, and the fact that the religious freedom of Non- slamic Malaysians is protected by the constitution. However, this freedom is subject to certain restrictions on the celebration of religious festivals and the construction of religious structures. Secondly, since all ethnic Malays are deemed Muslims by the constitution, non-Muslims who wish to marry Muslims must renounce their religious faith and convert to Islam.

All Muslims are subject to the dictates of the Sharia Court in all matters pertaining to religious obligation and faith, conversion, custody, apostasy, inheritance and marriage. No civil or federal court can override any decision of the Sharia Court in these matters. Likewise, the Sharia Court cannot adjudicate or override the Federal Court's decision in civil and criminal offences.

Visas/PassportsTop

In order to travel to Malaysia, you need a passport that is valid for no less than six months after the date of entry, an onward or return ticket and a minimum of US$ 500. Malaysia does not recognise dual nationality and you may be refused entry if you furnish two different passports. You are advised to enter the country on the same passport on which you exited the previous country. Travellers who hold an APEC Business Travel Card can enter without a visa, but only if the card affirms overleaf that it is applicable for travel into Malaysia. In the case of such an affirmation, the card holders will be issued a visitor's pass when they enter Malaysia.

Visa and passport requirements change at short notice. Do check with the consulate and embassy each time you plan to travel.

Travellers of Dubious Appearance

Malaysian authorities refuse entry to hippies and tourists who resemble them! Additionally, non Malaysian women who are six months or more than six months pregnant are also disallowed entry.

US citizens that need to renew, add pages, change name, or just get a new US passport, can Apply for a New US Passport here.

GeographyTop

Malaysia is not a very big country in size. It has a land area of 1, 27,316 square miles and is located seven degrees north of the Equator. The South China Sea divides Malaysia into West Malaysia and East Malaysia. To the north of West Malaysia lies Thailand, to its south lies Singapore, to its west lie the Straits of Malacca and to its east lies the South China Sea. East Malaysia is surrounded by the South China Sea in the north and the west, the Sulu Sea in the northeast and Indonesia in the South.

East and West Malaysia both have sizeable coastal plains that gradually rise to thickly forested mountains and hills. Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, with an imposing height of 13,435.7 feet (4095.2 metres), is the highest mountain in Malaysia. Malaysia has an equatorial climate, with the northeast monsoon between October and February and the southwest monsoon between April and October.

Small though it may be, Malaysia has a lot to offer. You can see the southernmost point of the Asian continent, Tanjung Piai, in the state of Johor in South Malaysia. You can see one of the world's most crucial shipping routes in the Strait of Malacca between peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra. Then there is Putrajaya, the recently established administrative capital of the Federal Government of Malaysia, which is the answer to the congestion in Kuala Lumpur, the political, financial and commercial capital of Malaysia.

To view a map of Malaysia, click on this link to WorldAtlas.com.

HistoryTop

Malaysia's history can be traced to the Malaccan Sultanate. Around the thirteenth century, certain developments in the Roman and the Chinese Empire made Indian traders search for an alternate port to carry on their trade of spices and silks. They turned towards Malacca which, thanks to its location, was protected from the strong monsoon winds and therefore able to function throughout the year. Malacca, which was already a busy port, soon became the maritime hub for traders from China, Arab and India.

Malacca's advantageous location and its consequent commercial importance threw it open to invaders. In 1511, Malacca was captured by the Portuguese who ruled till 1641. In 1641, the Dutch vanquished the Portuguese and ruled Malacca till 1815. In 1815, Malacca passed into the hands of the British who consolidated it along with Singapore and Penang and called it the Colony of The Straits Settlement. After the Second World War, Tunku Abdul Rahman led the nationalist independence movement, which resulted in freedom from British rule on 31 August 1957. He became the first Prime Minister of Malaysia. Malaysia then comprised 13 states (which included Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore) and two federal territories, and was founded in 1963. Indonesia resisted this configuration and declared an offensive on Malaysia. The conflict came to an end when President Sukarno of Indonesia was defeated a year later. This federation continues till today, with the exception of Singapore, which pulled out in 1965.

HealthTop

There are certain precautions that need to be taken by travellers visiting Malaysia. This is because Hepatitis A and B, dengue and malarial fevers are widely prevalent here. There has been a rise in the incidence of dengue since 2005 and Sabah has malaria throughout the year. While there is no inoculation against dengue fever, visitors are advised to check with their doctors about immunisation against malaria, Hepatitis A and B and some other common tropical fevers. Visitors above the age of a year must carry a yellow fever vaccination certificate if they are arriving from infected regions.

Travellers are also advised to take necessary medications to combat respiratory and cardiac problems that are likely to arise from the highly polluted air and smoke of Malaysia. In fact, Kuala Lumpur is notorious for having the highest benzene pollution levels in Asia! Do stick to bottled water and cooked food. Ice, raw salads, uncooked vegetables, fish and meat and fruit are best avoided. It is also advisable to take medical insurance cover.

Kuala Lumpur and other major tourist destinations and cities of Malaysia have state of art medical, imaging and diagnostic facilities. Malaysia has an aging and rising population. The Malaysian government is engaged in an ongoing programme to improve the provision of health care services by updating existing hospitals, establishing new ones, increasing the number of poly clinics in rural areas and expanding facilities for telemedicine. The Malaysian health administration stipulates that all doctors do a mandatory three-year stint with public hospitals so that these hospitals too enjoy the benefit of their expertise. The government is also looking for foreign investment in terms of foreign doctors as well as financial participation in health care projects, especially in the small towns and rural areas, which are severely compromised in terms of a workforce, expertise and equipment. Many Malaysian hospitals seek American, British and Australian accreditation for their hospitals as they believe it will go a long way in attracting foreign investment.

People/CultureTop

Malaysia is a truly multi racial and multi cultural society, with myriad ethnic groups and languages. The Malays, along with groups like Murut, Melanau, Dusun, Kadazan, Dayaks and Orang Asli, dominate the country's population of over 25 million. Almost 60 % of the population is Malay, 30% are Chinese, 8% are Indians and the remaining 2 % is an amalgam of other cultures and races like Eurasians of Portuguese and European ancestry and the Baba-Nyonyas. Four-fifths of Malaysia's population is settled in west Malaysia.

Malaysia offers a rich variety of diverse experiences. There is something for every kind of traveller, from the city slicker to the adventurous. Malaysia offers a thumbnail picture of the entire Asian continent and a visit to Malaysia tells you what Asia is all about. The people are warm and friendly, diverse and yet united, and Malaysia truly offers a great experience.