Malaysia is a southeast Asian country located partly on the Malay peninsula of the Asian mainland and partly on the island of Borneo. It’s a multi-cultural society with many different faiths.
Malays make up half of the population but about 30% of the people here are Chinese and 10% are Indian. Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, is home to the iconic skyscraper Petronas Twin Towers and has great shopping districts such as Bukit Bintang.
In Malaysia, developing nation meets modern world. With it’s oil wealth and many high technology industries it’s now one of the richest nations in southeast Asia. Travelers to Malaysia appreciate the high-tech infrastructure, the general first world efficiency of services and the more affordable prices compared to, for example, Singapore.
Malaysia Travel Info
Language: The official language of Malaysia is Malay (also known as Bahasa Malaysia). Aside from Malay, English is commonly spoken and Chinese dialects such as Mandarin and Hokkien. Tamil is a popular language spoken in the country by people from India.
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit.
Visa: US and Europe passport holders and citizens of most countries can get a 90 day visa upon arrival at the airport in Malaysia. So there’s no need to apply for a visa beforehand which makes traveling to Malaysia easy. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your entry date though.
Electricity: In Malaysia the standard voltage is 240 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. So you can use your electric appliances when in Malaysia if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 – 240 V (for example in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Malaysia Festivals & Celebrations
Malaysia is an ethnic and cultural melting pot and travelers here can experience a wide variety of festivals, cultural events and ceremonies all through the year.
See first-hand how the people of Malaysia come together to celebrate and honor century old beliefs and traditions.
Thaipusam: Thaipusam (pronounced “Thaipoosam”) is a festival celebrated by the Hindi Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (nothing to do with Thailand). Thaipusam celebrates Lord Murugan’s gift of a vel (spear) from his mother, Parvati, the Hindu goddess of love and fertility. Participants shout “vel! vel!vel!” above the drumming in the procession and some Hindu devotees pierce their faces or drag sleds attached to their bodies with hooks which is quite a sight to see.
Eid al-Fitr: The majority of the population in Malaysia comprises of Malays, who follow the religion of Islam. This makes Eid al-Fitr one of the main annual festivals. Eid al-Fitr marks the beginning of the New Year in the Islamic calendar. When the nine months come to an end Hari Raya Aidil Fitri is celebrated to welcome Ramadan. Amidst fasting from dawn to sunset, people celebrate it for two whole days with their families and friends.
Chinese New Year: A great time to plan a visit to Malaysia is around the Chinese New Year which is celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar (on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month). Discover the traditions, dishes and drinks that are part of China’s most important holiday, the Chinese New Year also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year.
Safety In Malaysia
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to Malaysia. Pick-pocketing and other scams to take advantage of tourists can happen in some less developed areas. Some parts of Malaysia could be dangerous so do your research before you travel and make sure that you avoid these places. Based on many years of travel around southeast Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance. I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Malaysia trip. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Amazing Things To Do In Malaysia
Admire The Petronas Towers
When in KL you must visit the world’s tallest twin towers, The Petronas Towers, also known as the Petronas Twin Towers, which stand 1,483 ft (452 meters) high. The Twin Towers visitor operations is open from Tuesday to Sunday and tickets are released at 8:30am on a first-come, first-serve basis. To avoid disappointment you can always purchase your ticket in advance online or at the Ticketing Counter (Concourse Level). The blend of Islamic and modern art and the architecture such as the bridge that joins the two towers make this well worth a visit. Not to mention the spectacular view of the city if you manage to get to the top.
Discover the Batu Caves in Selangor
Batu Caves is actually a cave temple and a limestone hill that has a series of caves in Gombak, Selangor, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu, which flows past the hill. Get to see a never ending trail of devotees carrying offerings to the temple. The 272 step trek up to the temple is worth it for the view alone.
Soak up the culture at Sarawak Village
Consider Sarawak Cultural Village to be the most impressive Living Museum in southeast Asia with seven traditional houses (Bidayuh, Iban, Orang Ulu, Malay Longhouse…) spread over 17-acres. If you want a unique multi-cultural experience when visiting Kuching or Damai then it’s worth visiting. Sarawak Cultural Village combines history, tradition, lifestyle and architecture, education and theatre.
Explore the historic city of Melaka
The historical city of Melaka is a UNESCO world heritage site in Malaysia. Malacca was once one of the greatest trading ports in Southeast Asia however it’s popularity dwindled with tourists due to the rise of many other more impressive tourist hot spots developing all around it. However in recent years, Malacca has been revived as a great vacation destination due to it’s abundance of historical attractions. For that reason, it makes our list of top things to do in Malaysia.
Climb Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Southeast Asia at 4095 meters and is one of the most popular ‘bucket list’ destinations in the world. No visit to Borneo, Malaysia, is complete without a trek to the summit of Mount Kinabalu to admire the breathtaking view. A World Heritage Site, Mount Kinabalu is well-known worldwide for it’s beautiful flora. So get a workout in while traveling!
Chill out on Langkawi Island
Done with the busy Penang streets or crazy KL city life? It’s time to relax and unwind amongst the swaying coconut trees surrounded by the turquoise Andaman sea. Langkawi is an archipelago made up of 99 islands on Malaysia’s west coast and is known as the Jewel of Kedah. A special bonus to a trip here is that it’s a great place for diving and you can also pick up duty-free alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate.
What To Eat In Malaysia
Assam Laksa: It has got rice noodles. It has got fish soup and it has the tanginess of tamarind. Assam Laksa is then garnished with ginger flowers, chilies and julienne cucumber.
Nasi Dagang: Roll up your sleeves because it’s time to dig into some flavorful fish curry and rice. The rice has the sweet and rich taste of coconut milk in which it is prepared along with lemongrass, chilies and other spices. Prawns, salmon or tuna are used to prepare the fish curry.
Hokkien Mee: You got all excited by just hearing the name, didn’t you? Ok maybe not if you don’t speak Malay. This delicacy is made by braising typically yellow-colored noodles which are found in Malaysia. Let your taste buds party as you slurp on the saucy taste of the Hokkien Mee that has got pork, fish cake, squid, cabbage and is garnished with fried strips of pork.
Mee Goreng Mamak: This dish brings together the tastes of different countries on a plate. Chicken or beef along with shrimps, veggies, eggs, sauce and yellow noodles make up this simple yet heavenly dish.
Where To Stay In Malaysia
Malaysia has a huge variety of accommodation options. Main cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang have by far the most variety of options with hostels costing $5 to $100 plus hotels.
If you’re traveling to Malaysia during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to discover that all of the best places to stay have already been taken. Malaysia is a pretty popular year-round destination you know.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Malaysia.
If you’re backpacking in Malaysia or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Malaysia Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Malaysia
When visiting Malaysia it’s important to realize that different parts of Malaysia will be experiencing different weather because the East coast works on a different timeline to the West coast. So it’s not recommended to visit the East coast from November through to mid February due to the rainy season which will really interfere with your daily travel plans. The West coast’s rainy season is from April until October and although it’s slightly longer, the rain won’t be heavy enough to put a dampener on your trip. With the high heat and humidity throughout the year and the alternating wet seasons, you can really visit Malaysia at any time of the year.
Malaysia Travel Budget
You’re likely to find Malaysia to be slightly pricier than some other areas in Southeast Asia, but still far less than any western country. If you’re planning on staying in a hostel and eating street food then budget between $25 to $35 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $60 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Kuala Lumpur then budget about $60 to $150 plus a day.
- Budget: $6-25
- Mid-range: $25-$60
- Splurge: $60+
Meal For One
- Budget: $2.00-$5.00
- Mid-range: $5-$15
- Splurge: $15-$50+
Malaysia Packing Guide
The most important things to think about when packing for a trip to Malaysia is that it’s likely to be hot, humid and at times wet. Bring not only an umbrella but also lightweight, breathable clothing.
Be prepared for the occasional cool evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater and a waterproof jacket just in case. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need in the larger cities such as Kuala Lumpur or Penang.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Malaysia include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Malaysia check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Asia Packing List For Female Travelers.