Malaysia is a nation characterised by intriguing contrasts. It is a complex combination of various cultures, diverse landscapes and architectural styles. Chinese joss houses, Hindu temples and gold-domed mosques exist alongside state-of-the-art skyscrapers and contemporary business complexes. The land itself is divided into two parts by the South China Sea. Peninsula Malaysia (West Malaysia) boasts vast bustling cities, stately colonial architecture, misty tea plantations and tranquil islands. Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia) features lush jungles brimming with exotic animal and plant life, towering granite peaks and even some remote indigenous tribes. Outdoor enthusiasts can indulge in a range of adventurous activities including hiking through some of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests, scuba diving in some of the world’s most renowned dive sites, or white water rafting in one of the nation’s numerous exquisite national parks. Alternatively spend your days exploring the supercharged capital, Kuala Lumpur, with its pockets of rainforest interspersed between towering high rise buildings or simply relax under palm tree-lined beached.
Banking and Currency
As the central bank of Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia is the monetary authority that oversees Malaysia’s financial system and economy.
There is no restriction for a non-resident traveller to bring into or out from Malaysia ANY amount of foreign currency including travellers cheques.The amount of Ringgit that a non-resident traveller can bring into or out from Malaysia is only up to USD 10,000 equivalent.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Travel within the country is relatively cheap and efficient. All the major cities and towns are equipped with an airport and the roads are generally well maintained.In the capital, Kuala Lumpur, the public transportation infrastructure is pretty good, what keeps the city from congestions is the Mass Rail Transit system (MRT) and Light Rail Transit system (LRT). These rail systems, link the capital, KL, to the suburbs of the state of Selangor.
There is also the commuter train system, which is operated by Keratapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) this services Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding districts.
KTM also operate the intercity train services, they ply the whole length of Peninsula Malaysia right down to Singapore. Regardless of which rail lines that you travel on in Malaysia, the entire rail infrastructure is integrated as a network with the Kuala Lumpur Sentral Train Station serving as the hub for the entire Peninsula Malaysia.
In certain parts of Malaysia, the main mode of transportation is the riverine transport system. This is especially so in Sarawak where ferries and express boats ply up and down the Rejang River, the longest river in Malaysia.
Further up north, Labuan is interconnected to Kota Kinabalu City by express ferries as well. These boats or ferries are known as “Express Boats” for one reason only, they are fast! Powered by high speed marine diesels, these missile shaped boats can travel up to 30knots against the current while fully loaded with a hundred passengers. In Peninsula Malaysia, certain areas especially the islands are also serviced by ferries. Penang Island is linked to Mainland Butterworth by ferries in addition to the Penang Bridge. Pangkor Island and Tioman Island are also serviced by boats.
By Bus or Coach
Apart from intercity services, taxis in Malaysia also cover interstate routes. These taxis normally charge on a per person basis unless you charter the whole taxi for yourself. Intercity taxis in the capital run on metered fare, while fares for those taxis in other cities and towns are based on a negotiated rate.
The best thing about trishaws is the fact that they are environmental friendly, using pedal power. You can still find trishaw in Penang and Sibu town. This novel means of moving around is actually meant more for the curious tourist rather than the locals. Make sure you negotiate the fare first before climbing into one of these trishaws.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
If shopping is the national pastime in Malaysia, then food is the national obsession. It is not uncommon to be greeted by the phrase 'Sudah makan?' (Have you eaten already?). Everything in Malaysia revolves around great food. Locals usually never eat at home; unless it is with family. Everybody eats outdoors every night; Malaysia is all about food.
Eating out is very common in Malaysia. The biggest part of the population seldom cooks at home. The main reason is that eating out is generally cheaper than buying ingredients at the supermarket and cooking your own dishes. Another reason is that eating outside is part of the Malaysian (and other Asian) culture, there is no better place to get in touch with friends and relatives than during a delicious meal. Most dishes in Malaysia are either based on rice or mee. Malay dishes often contains beef, chicken, mutton or fish; but never pork as Malay food needs to be halal. Chinese dishes often contains pork. Indian dishes are often vegetarian; and they never contain beef (though Indians do eat chicken, mutton and fish). Most dishes will be served with some vegetables; either mixed through the dish or served as a side dish.
Climate and Weather
Situated between 1° and 6°N, the whole of Malaysia has a classic equatorial climate with high temperatures and wet months throughout the year. Temperatures at sea level range from 21ºC to 32ºC, whilst at higher elevations it is much cooler with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C. Annual rainfall varies from 2,000mm to 2,500mm.
A beach holiday can be enjoyed all year round in Malaysia as the east and west coasts experience their wettest months at alternate times of the year.
The wet season on the west of the peninsula (Apr-Oct) brings thunderstorms in the afternoons, but these are usually brief, and the odd downpour is a welcome way to reduce the humidity. The east coast however tends to have a heavier wet season and is best avoided during the rainy period (Nov-Feb). During these months, many of the beach resorts close, re-opening in March.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Kuala Lumpur is a cosmopolitan city where there is no particular dress code and where you will find all fashions.In keeping with many Muslim countries you will find that people in the capital city and other major towns are used to foreigners, and are therefore likely to be more tolerant and more liberal. However, away from the tourist areas the population are more traditional and rigid so please be sure to cover your shoulders, stomach, hips and bare legs. It is hot and humid so we suggest that lightweight clothes in natural fibers (linen, silk or cotton) will be most comfortable. Be sure to carry a sweater or pashmina in your bag. Wear plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
Internet is available at internet cafes and coffee shops.
Electricity and Plug Standards
In Malaysia the standard voltage is 240 V. The standard frequency is 50 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type G.