Malaysia is made up of a peninsula and the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. It is well known for its lovely beaches, lush rainforests, exotic wildlife, charming small towns and modern cosmopolitan cities, and so much more.
There are many races in Malaysia; such as Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian. As such, much of their architecture, food, fashion, language, attractions, entertainment and lifestyle have interesting cultural influences.
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. It is a fascinating city with so much to offer. See our Things To See In Kuala Lumpur for some of the interesting attractions such as Batu Caves and the iconic 451m-tall Petronas Twin Towers.
Culture & Religion
Officially, the main religion in Malaysia is Islam. At the same time many other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Christianity are accepted, tolerated and respected.
With all the different races – the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians – there is much diversity in customs and traditions that has gifted the country with a very colourful heritage.
Important festivals celebrated by each religion are proclaimed as public holidays. As everyone observes others’ practices, there is a feeling of understanding and respect for each other.
Dress Codes & National Dress
Most Malaysians wear clothing that is of western influence. On special or major religious occasions, they will wear the traditional fashion and accessories.
Some Malaysians wear a form of a headscarf called Tudung. It is worn in accordance to Islam belief. It covers the hair, ears, and neck, leaving only the face to be seen.
As a visitor, please be respectful and do not stare when you see someone wearing the Tudung. Also, do not wear clothes that are too revealing or offensive in public.
Sepak Takraw. Heard of it?
This is Malaysia’s national sport. Players use every body part except their hands to get a ball over a net. The ball is made of rattan or woven palm stems. It is hollow on the inside.
This sport is also popular and played in many other Southeast Asian countries.
Festivals and Public Holidays
Here are some of the public holidays and festivals in Malaysia:
– Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Malay)
– Thaipusam (Indian)
– Chinese New Year (Chinese)
– Hari Raya Aidil Adha (Malay)
– Awal Muharram (Malay)
– Wesak Day (Chinese & Indian)
– Sabah Kaamatan Festival
– Sarawak Gawai Festival
– The Birthday of SPB Yang Di Pertuan Agong
– Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday
– National Day
– Moon Cake Festival (Chinese)
– Deepavali (Indian)
– Christmas (Indian & Chinese)
Dates are not shown as some can change because they follow the lunar calendar.
Where is Malaysia?
Just north of Singapore, above the equator, and south of Thailand is the peninsula that is West Malaysia. Across the South China Sea, part of the island of Borneo is East Malaysia.
Together, they form the entire country known as Malaysia.
How to get to Malaysia?
Since West Malaysia is a peninsula, there are many choices on how to get to this part of the country. For East Malaysia, it is only by plane.
Malaysia’s national carrier is the Malaysia Airlines. AirAsia is its sister carrier that is no frills and a budget airline. Most international flights land at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
There are other airports in other states where more and more flights have access to. These are Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), Kuching (Sarawak), Penang, Langkawi and Johor Bahru.
From Thailand, you can take the national railway operator that is the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM, also known as Malayan Railways). This system used to travel to and from Singapore. But it has been closed. A new train system is now being planned to replace this route.
Bus and coaches are the best ways to travel to West Malaysia when you are arriving from neighboring countries such as Singapore or Thailand. There are many transportation companies that provide this service.
They have direct routes to various destinations such as Penang, Malacca, Ipoh, Johor Bahru, and even Kuala Lumpur as well as the smaller towns like Petaling Jaya.
One of the best bus operators we have experienced so far is Aeroline. We have used this luxury bus service often from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. The experience is very good. We will share about it in a blog post soon.
As mentioned above, there are buses and coaches that travel by road to many cities in Malaysia. This means that you can also drive into the country with a car.
Do note that you will need an International Drivers Permit (IDP) in order to drive into and around Malaysia. Do check with your car rental company for more details.
There are ferries that sail over the waters to various ports in East and West Malaysia from Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia. Luxury cruises are also a choice if you prefer a more comfortable journey with all the facilities, amenities, great food and entertainment they offer.
Do check out the ferry and cruises sites for further information.
Walking into the island of Borneo is not possible. But you can enter West Malaysia from Thailand on foot. The entry points are at Wang Kelian and Padang Besar (both in Perlis), Bukit Kayu Hitam (Kedah), Pengkalan Hulu (Perak) and Rantau Panjang (Kelantan).
Getting to West Malaysia on foot from Singapore is not allowed.
Most nationalities can enter Malaysia without a visa. Depending on the country you are from, the length of stay permitted can be 14, 30 or 90 days.
To know whether you require a visa to visit Malaysia or not, please confirm with the Malaysian Embassy in your country. Better still, visit the Immigration Department of Malaysia website and the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for confirmation.
Do note that when you overstay in Malaysia, you are subjected to a possible fine. Currently, the rate is MYR30 per day.
Best time to go Malaysia
Almost every day is good to visit Malaysia. This is because the weather is almost the same throughout the year. The only concern is the monsoon that arrives at year end. It usually lasts till January, or latest February. And that can put a dampener on your vacation plans.
1st Low Season (Mar–May)
Weather gets a little warmer. Good news is it is not monsoon season. Also, fewer tourists than other months. Ideal period if you prefer to avoid large crowds, especially at tourist places.
1st High Season (Jun–Aug)
Singapore’s school holidays are during the month of June. Many Singaporeans too arrive in huge numbers to enjoy all that Malaysia has to offer.
From July to August, sometimes way into mid-September, there are many visitors from the Gulf region. Also, due to school holidays. Most are escaping the heat in their own countries.
2nd Low Season (Sep–early Nov)
September to November is less crowded, similar to the 1st Low Season from March to May.
2nd High Season (late Nov–Feb)
Late November to December heralds the school holidays in Malaysia and Singapore. Many Malaysians visit other towns and cities in their home country.
Then there is the New Year followed by Chinese New Year. Traffic can get quite bad during these months as many Malaysians travel from other countries to return home to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Do note that prices are known to escalate during the peak seasons. Even then, remember to book transportation and hotels in advance.
Also, do note that if you plan to enjoy water sports or beach activities, do not visit from November to March. This is monsoon season.
Things to see in Malaysia
There is plenty to see in Malaysia, both East and West. There is the famous Batu Caves, the National icon – Petronas Twin Towers, and many more interesting sights.
We have covered some of them in the Things To See In Kuala Lumpur, so far. We have plans to visit more amazing attractions in Malaysia, and will share them with you soon.
What to eat in Malaysia
Whenever we visit Malaysia, we find ourselves enjoying the wide range of food that is really delicious. As mentioned earlier, there is a very rich culture in Malaysia due to the many races living in harmony. That has produced many delightful dishes that pleases the taste buds.
Of course, there is food that is not so good, too. And that is why we only share about the best. Check out our reviews of the Best Places To Eat In Kuala Lumpur.
Shopping in Malaysia
Whether it is in the larger cities or smaller towns, you can enjoy the shopping experience in shopping malls, charming small stores to street stalls at night markets.
The range of goods is extensive. Some malls are known for lower priced goods while there are luxury malls, too.
The best time to shop is during the 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival, which happens around June to September every year. Do check online for exact dates.
There is exemption of duty on a range of items such as cameras, watches, pens, cosmetics, perfumes, mobile phones, computers, cigarettes and liquor. Islands like Labuan and Langkawi offer goods that are duty-free.
Tip: It is all right to bargain at roadside stalls or night markets.
How to get around in Malaysia?
There are many ways to get around Malaysia – by plane, by train, by bus, by taxi, and by foot. When traveling between West and East Malaysia, the only option is flying. This is because the two lands are separated by South China Sea.
Travel between states in Malaysia is easy by plane. There is the carrier called AirAsia. This is a budget airline, and as such the flights are quite affordable. Another airline, Firefly, is also budget, and flies to certain states only.
This is a slower choice of travel compared to road transport, especially for long distances. For short distances, for example, Getting To Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur, it is decent and fast enough.
There is the ETC (Electric Train Service) that runs faster, and is comfortable with cool air conditioning. It offers fast connection between destinations. This is for West Malaysia.
For East Malaysia, there is a railway line that runs from Tanjung Aru to Tenom.
Malaysia’s highway network is extensive and quite good. One can practically drive from one state to another easily. Do note that there are tolls along the way, each requiring different amounts of payment. Do get cash ready or get the infamous xxx card.
Within cities, with the help of maps, a car can get you around and about. Alternatively, you can hire taxis. Taxis are available almost everywhere in all the cities and larger towns.
Do note that you must negotiate the fare before getting into the vehicle. They rarely go by the meter. Recently, Uber and Grab have started in Malaysia. These services have been found to be cheaper than the taxis, most of the time.
This is the cheapest way to travel in Malaysia. There are many bus operators. The two most dependable ones are Transnasional and NICE/Plusliner. Do choose the 24-seater buses when traveling long distances.
When traveling during peak seasons, which are holidays or weekends, it is wiser to reserve your seats in advance.
Weather in Malaysia
The temperate in Malaysia varies very little. It is usually around 30°C by day. It does get humid all year round, and that does make the air feel warm and uncomfortable.
The northeast monsoon ushers in the rainy season from the months of late November to early March. Driest months are usually May to August.
But it has been noted that the weather is a little different these days. There can be heavy rains or even torrential thunderstorms during June. So do check weather websites before planning to visit.
There is also another thing to look out for, and that is Haze. This can affect visibility, and as such ruin a good vacation. Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict when it will happen.
Currency in Malaysia
The currency of Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit. It is sometimes symbolized by RM. The currency code is MYR.
Do exchange some Ringgit for use in Malaysia as it is widely accepted.
If you have ANY questions about Malaysia, ANY at all, please submit your questions as comments below. I will be happy to help you out.
Thank you for reading this.
Wishing you and your loved ones safe and happy travels,