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What You Need to Know Before You go to Malaysia

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Below you will find background information and general Malaysia travel tips. In our Malaysia directory you can search for additional travel information and links to other websites about Malaysia.

Always read the travel warnings for Malaysia from the US Department of State or the travel advicefrom the British government before you book a vacation. The governments provide travel tips and up to date information on safety and health issues, tourist traps and culture.

Malaysia Travel - Petronas Twin Towers
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Kuala Lumpur – Petronas Twin Towers

The beautiful 452 meters high Petronas Twin Towers are one of the main tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur. If you would like to visit the bridge on the 41st floor, the best time to go is before 10:00 AM, because later on most Kuala Lumpur tour buses and tourists will visit the towers, claiming most of the free tickets. You can also admire the Petronas Twin Towers in the movie “

What you Need to Know About Malaysia

  • Malaysia Geography

Malaysia is located in the southeast Asia. One part of Malaysia is a peninsula and the other part is about one third of the island Borneo. Both parts of Malaysia are seperated by the South China sea. Malaysia is bordering Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei. The total area is 329.750 sq. km. Two third of the country consists of (tropical) forests and woodlands. View 

  • Malaysia: People and Population
malaysia kuala lumpur city
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The overall population is about 32.37 million by the end of 2019.  About 4% of the population is over the age of 65, 63% of the population is between the ages of 15-65 and 33% of the population is under the age of 15 . About 58% of the population is Malay or other indigenous people, 26% is Chinese, 7% Indian and 9% is a mixture. About 40% of the people lives in urban areas. Kuala Lumpur is the only mega-city in Malaysia with about 1.5 million people living in it. The average life expectancy for the people in Malaysia is 70 years. The main language is Bahasa Melayu or the Malaysia Language. As a former British colony, English is taught at every school in Malaysia and this makes it easy for (Western) tourists to get around. Apart from these languages you will probably hear some (Chinese) dialects.

  • Malay Government
birds eye view of road during Chukai Malaysia
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Malaysia is a federal parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch and consists of 13 states and 3 federal territories (wilayah persekutuan): Kuala Lumpur (1974), Labuan (1984), Putrajaya (2001). The federal government consist of a lower chamber with 193 members (House of Representatives) and an upper chamber with 70 members (Senate). National elections are held every 5 years and the latest election was held in March 2004. The government is sustained by Barisan Nasional (BN; National Front) consisting of 14 parties and led by the Malay nationalist UMNO (Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu or United Malays National Organization). The leader of UMNO and president until 2003 has been Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad. Now the prime minister is Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (October 2003). Recently, BN has won the elections in Malaysia and has two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives, which is required to pass constitutional amendments. The opposition has gathered in a front formed by four parties, the most important of which is the PAS, the “All-Malaysia Islam Party” or Parti Islam Semalaysia.

  • History of Malaysia
Kuala Kubu Bharu, Malaysia
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Malaya (peninsular Malaysia) has been independent from Great Britain since 1957. Tunku Abdul Rahman became the first prime minister. In 1963 Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore formed Malaysia. Singapore became an independent country in 1965. Malaysia has a rich colonial history (Portoguese, Dutch and English).

  • Religion in Malaysia

Malaysia has a wide variety in religion. The main religion and official state religion is Islam. In 2000 approximately 60.4 % of the population was Muslim, 19.2 % Buddhist, 9.1 % Christian, 6.3 % Hinduism and 2.6 % Confucianism, Taoism or other Chinese religions. Other religions found in Malaysia: animism, Sikhism Baha’I Faith.

Malaysia Travel - Boh Tea Plantation
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Cameron Highlands Malaysia – Boh Tea Plantation

  • Local Customs and Etiquette in Malaysia

Below you will find some remarks about how you can make your stay as comfortable as possible. Everyday day life in Malaysia is pretty relaxed and straightforward. Visitors behaving in a decent and normal way are unlikely to unintentionally give offense.

  • Visiting places:

In Malaysia, it’s polite to remove one’s shoes at the door of the house upon entering. This also applies when you visit a mosque or temple. Seniority is greatly respected in Malaysia households and usually the eldest male of a family should be greeted first.

  • Gifts:

Usually, receiving gifts or items in Eastern societies should be given and received with both hands. If you receive items with one hand, use your right hand and not your left (left hands are mostly used for unhygienic tasks). This may vary from country to country in Asia. Also, when buying a suitable gift for someone, take into account the various (sub)cultures and religions. Never give liquor to a Muslim or buy/cook a meal with pork (forbidden in Muslim religion). Never give knives, clocks, watches or white flowers to a Chinese person (associated with death).

  • Social interaction:
Batu Caves malaysia
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It’s easy to get around with English in Malaysia. Knowing a few Malay words might be both be useful for non-English speaking Malaysian people and also tends to influence conversation in a positive way. Pointing with a finger is considered to be very rude. Instead, the entire hand should be used to indicate a direction, but not a person. Also, when trying to indicate you want a person to come over to you, don’t use your hand in a horizontal way to signal a person. Instead, keep your arm closer to your body and move your hand (backside up) in a vertical way (up and down).

  • Clothing:

Because of the tropical climate, comfortable and informal clothing is recommended all year round. Take into account that Malaysia is predominantly a Muslim country, so conservative dress is most appropiate. Women should not wear skirts, dresses or shorts that are too short, especially in smaller towns and villages or in the northern states. Too much hippie-style dressing is not much appreciated in Malaysia.

  • Business:

Malaysians expect others to be on time for appointments, but tend to be late for appointments themselves. Usually a contact will meet you at your hotel or his office. A suit and tie is suitable clothing men, with the jacket removed on warmer days. Long-sleeved batik shirts are also accepted. A suit or blouse and skirt are recommended for women during daytime appointments and evening dresses or cocktail dresses are recommended for evening appointments or formal occasions. Business meetings are often held during dinner and on meeting your contact a firm handshake and a “hello” are suitable as a greeting. Muslims bring their hand to their chest after shaking hands and you should follow this gesture. Malaysians are usually called by their given names preceded by Mr. Mrs. or Miss and Chinese use their family names preceded by Mr. Mrs. or Miss.

  • Alcohol & Drugs:

Malaysia is predominantly Muslim, so alcohol is both harder to get and more expensive than in Western societies. It’s harder to get alcohol in smaller, conservative towns and villages and the northern states (including the islands). You could try to find Chinese shops to get some liquor. The story on drugs in Malaysia is quite simple: stay away from it (!). When caught with drugs (even with cannabis) you could end up in an infamous “rehabilitation center”, spend years in jail or receive death penalty. So, be smart and find another way to entertain yourself. Since “culture” is always in motion, there are no static guidelines in how to act in various situations.

  • Transportation in Malaysia
malaysia travel
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It’s quite easy to get around in Malaysia. Buying second-hand cars in Malaysia is not recommended, but hiring a car is. As a former British colony they drive on the left side of the road. Public transport is a cheap and good way to travel around. 

  • Malay Economy and Money

The major export products in Malaysia are petroleum and petroleum products, electronic equipment, wood and wood products, palm oil, rubber and textiles. For more key info about Malaysian economy take a look at Key stats graph of the Malaysian department of statitistics. Many tourists have trouble to identify foreign money. To prepare yourself, take a look at some Malaysian Ringitt Banknotes and find out what their current value is compared to other foreign money with the Universal Currency Convertor.

  • Travel and Health

Staying in good shape is important for travellers. When you get in trouble and need medical help as quickly as possible, try the following institution: – Private hospital listing and government hospital listing you can find at the Malaysian Medical Association – Listing of doctors, specialists, pharmacies you can find at the YTL community – my doctor – For general tips and info about diseases, vaccinations and travel in South East Asia, check: CDC Travelers‘ Health

  • Weather and Climate in Malaysia
chin swee caves temple
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Malaysia has a tropical climate with average temperatures ranging from 26-29 degree Celsius the whole year round. The raining season is from September until February. To find more about weather and weather reports in Malaysia visit the Malaysian Meteorological Service.

  • * Time zone: +8 UT
  • * Capital: Kuala Lumpur
  • * Electricity: 220 and 240 V
  • * Main Languages: Bahasa Melayu, English and Chinese dialects
  • * Currency and Prices: Ringitt (1 RM equals 100 sen), softdrinks RM 5, local beer 10 RM.
  • * International Dial code: 60 * City dial codes: Ipoh – 05, Johor Bharu – 07, Kota Bharu – 09, Kota Kinabalu – 088, Kuala Lumpur – 03, Kuala Terengganu – 09, Kuantan – 09, Kuching – 082, Melaka – 06, Penang – 04, Seremban – 06, Sungai Pentai – 04 and Taiping – 05.
  • * Kuala Lumpur International Airport info: 03-8776 4135
  • * Bank hours: 08:00 – 17:00, closed on Sundays and national holidays
  • * Emergency numbers: 999 (police and ambulance); 994 (fire department); 112 mobile phone dial
  • * Public Holidays: visit CUTI – 20020 Malaysia Holidays
  • * Food: visit Nonya recipes
  • * Climate: Tropical 26-29 degrees Celsius
  • * Valid Drivers License: International Drivers License
  • * Tourist info:
  • Tourist Information Centres in Malaysia

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