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Malaysia

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Travel Guide Asia Malaysia

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Introduction

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© All Rights Reserved Mohd anuar

Malaysia is the home of satay, the tallest twin buildings in the world and thriving flora and fauna populations. It is also the home of a distinctive multicultural society: mostly Malay, then Chinese, Indian and indigenous people. Though Malay is the official language, English is widely spoken on the street. Partly because of multiculturalism, and partly due to the effect of harbouring high-tech computer industry, it isn't easy to get to the heart of traditional Malaysian life. But before you erupt into fits of tears, it must be said that few visitors really seem to care, especially once they've stretched out on some of Malaysia's fine beaches, or explored perfect, unspoilt jungle in the National Parks, or enjoyed a tantalizing meal in Kuala Lumpur's energetic Chinatown. Historical relics of colonialism by Portugal, the Netherlands and Great Britain only add to Malaysia's charm. And a well-developed tourism industry means you will be able to enjoy all of Malaysia's highlights in ease and comfort.

Be it the oldest rainforest, tropical islands with crystal blue waters, culture, shopping or just plain Malaysian gastronomical delight, there is something in Malaysia to suit everyone's taste.

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Brief History

Early Kingdoms and rise of Muslim States
Since early first millenium CE, Hindu and Buddhist empires like Gangga Negara (2nd to 11th century), Langkasuka (2nd to 14th century) and Srivijaya (3rd to 14th century) have ruled the region. Traders from as far as China in the east, and Persia, Arab states and India in the west, have long conducted tradings in the region but in scattered places.

The Kedah Sultanate was one of the earliest Muslim states in Southeast Asia. It was founded in 1136 by Phra Ong Mahawangsa, a Hindu Rajah, who later converted to Islam and changed his name to Sultan Mudzafar Shah. The inter-marriages of the muslim traders with the locals and rulers embracing Islam had influenced many people to convert as well.

In 1402, Parameswara, a prince of the Majapahit empire, started a trading port in Malacca and declared himself the ruler. The port flourished and became an important trade centre, especially spice, a highly sought after commodity in Europe back then.

He who is lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice.
– Duarte Barbosa, Portuguese writer

A Famosa, Melaka, Malaysia

A Famosa, Melaka, Malaysia

© All Rights Reserved langkelana

European Colonialism
The Sultanate of Malacca's reign ended in 1511 when the Portuguese successfully invaded Malacca after just 40 days of battle. In 1528, heirs of the last Sultan of Malacca founded the Perak Sultanate in the north and the Johore Sultanate in the south. The Dutch arrived in the early 17th century and made a pact with Johore in 1606 to recapture Malacca. After series of attacks, they finally wrestled Malacca from the Portuguese in 1641. The Dutch took control of Malacca and, as per the 1606 agreement with Johore, did not wage war with the Malay kingdoms.

The British arrived in 1786 and established their first colony in Penang, an area carved out from the Kedah Sultanate. Singapore became the second colony in 1819 with the signing of a treaty with the Sultan of Johore and Malacca was ceded to the British in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 in exchange for Bengkulu (Bencoolen) on Sumatra. Slowly, they expanded their influence in the other Malay sultanates on the peninsula. In 1874, the entire Malay Peninsula was under the British influence, and thus became the British Malaya.

During the World War II, the Japanese army successfully invaded and occupied Malaya from 1942 to 1945. After the Japanese had surrendered at the end of war, the British returned and resumed its colonial rule and the process of self-governance began to take place.

Malaysia in Transition
On 31 August 1957, Malaya achieved independence from Britain, signalling a new phase of its life. After 446 years of colonial rule and occupation, the Federation of Malaya, a constitutional monarchy government, was formed out of the 11 states on the Malay Peninsula. The British maintained Singapore as its crown colony because of its strategic location as a trading port.

On 16 September 1963, Malaya together with British crown colonies Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore merged to form Malaysia. The Sultanate of Brunei, a British protectorate, initially expressed its interest in joining the federation but later withdrew due to opposition from some of its people and disagreements over the terms of merger. Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in 1965 and became an independent country after a series of heated political disagreement in economic, financial and social policies with the ruling political party in the federal government.

In the decades after independence, Malaysia's economy was largely based on the agriculture sector and natural resources. However, the 1980s and 1990s saw Malaysia diversified its economy to manufacturing, services and tourism.

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Geography

Peak of Mt Kinabalu

Peak of Mt Kinabalu

© All Rights Reserved moutallica

Malaysia consists of two distinct land mass; Peninsular Malaysia on mainland Asia to the west, and Malaysian Borneo on the Borneo island to the east. Both parts are separated by the South China Sea in the middle. Malaysia has a total coastline of 4,675 kilometres, where 2,068 kilometres is on Peninsular Malaysia, while 2,607 kilometres is on Malaysian Borneo. Out of the total land area of 329,847 km², more than half are covered by tropical rainforests.

As Malaysia is located at the equatorial zone, the climate of the country is hot and humid throughout the year. Malaysia experiences two monsoons annually, the south-west monsoon (May to September) and north-east monsoon (November to March). The latter brings in more rainfall compared to the former.

The highest peak in the country is the famous Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, at an elevation of 4,095 metres. Tanjong Piai in Johore is the southernmost tip of mainland Asia. The longest river is the Rejang River in Sarawak, with a length of 760 kilometres.

Peninsular Malaysia shares borders with Thailand to the north and Singapore to the south linked by a man-made causeway and a bridge on the Johore Straits. The Straits of Malacca, a narrow channel separating the Malay peninsula and Sumatra, is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world, with over 50,000 vessels passing through it each year.[2]

Malaysian Borneo, consisting of Sabah and Sarawak, shares borders with Indonesia's Kalimantan to the south and Brunei in central north. To the north, it is largely surrounded by the South China Sea while to the north-east, it is separated from the Philippines by the Sulu Sea.

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Regions

Malaysia is geographically divided into two main regions. On the Malay Peninsula south of Thailand is Peninsular Malaysia. Across the South China Sea is Malaysian Borneo, occupying the upper one third of the Borneo island, consists of Sabah and Sarawak. Many locals discourage the use of the terms West Malaysia and East Malaysia for the two regions as they make them look like two separate countries like in the case of West Germany and East Germany prior to their reunification in 1990.

Peninsular Malaysia

Peninsular Malaysia, also known as Malaya from its pre-Malaysia time, has 11 states (Malay: negeri). Kuala Lumpur, formerly also the capital of Selangor until 1978, was ceded to the Federal Government in 1972 and made a federal territory (FT) (Wilayah Persekutuan). In 2001, Putrajaya, the new Federal Administrative Centre located 30 kilometres south of the capital, was also made a federal territory. All these states and territories are generally grouped into four geographical regions.

Northern regionPerlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak
Central regionKuala Lumpur (FT), Putrajaya (FT), Selangor, Negeri Sembilan*
Southern regionMalacca*, Johor
East coast regionPahang, Kelantan, Terengganu

* Negeri Sembilan and Malacca are sometimes listed in the central or southern region depending on the organisation.

Sabah

Sabah is a state located in Malaysian Borneo with more autonomy, such as immigration and judicial, a condition of joining the Malaysian Federation in 1963. Sabah has five administrative divisions. In 1984, the island of Labuan was ceded to the federal government and made a federal territory (FT).

  • West Coast Division - in the northwest, covering about 10% of the surface, but 30% of the population
  • Interior Division - in the southwest, less populated but covering around 25% of the surface of Sabah
  • Kudat Division - the northern tip of Sabah and the smallest of the five administrative divisions
  • Sandakan Division - central and northeastern Sabah and with around 38% of the total surface also the biggest
  • Tawau Division - the southeastern corner of Sabah
  • Labuan (FT)

Sarawak

Located in Malaysian Borneo, Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia and has 11 administrative divisions. Like Sabah, it also has more autonomy in areas such as immigration and judicial.

  • Kuching Division - including the capital with the same name. The most western part of Sarawak
  • Samarahan Division - east of Kuching
  • Sri Aman Division - including the famous Batain Ai National Park in the tropical rainforest
  • Betong Division - central west of Sarawak, the smallest and newest of the divisions
  • Sarikei Division - central Sarawak, the second smallest of the divisions
  • Sibu Division - central north of Sarawak
  • Mukah Division - east of Sibu division
  • Bintulu Division - central northern Sarawak, the third largest division
  • Kapit Division - the largest division, central Sarawak
  • Miri Division - the second largest division, in the east of Sarawak
  • Limbang Division - in the east, bordering Sabah and splitting Brunei into two parts

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Cities

Full moon over the twin tower

Full moon over the twin tower

© All Rights Reserved borneoan

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Sights and Activities

Islands

  • Langkawi (Kedah) is an archipelago in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of northwest Malaysia.
  • Pangkor Island (Perak) is an island off the coast of northwest Malaysia, known for great beaches.
  • Perhentian Islands (Terengganu) are off the coast of northeast Malaysia. Popular for their beaches.
  • Redang Island (Terengganu) is a large island off the east coast. A popular destination with many resorts.
  • Sipadan (Sabah) is Malaysia's only oceanic island, located in the Celebes Sea off Sabah.
  • Tioman Island (Pahang) is an island off the east coast of Malaysia, considered one of the world's most beautiful islands.
  • Pulau Tiga (Sabah) is an island not far from Kota Kinabalu where the reality show Survivor I was filmed
  • Turtle Islands (Sabah) are near Sandakan, consisting of the 3 islands of Selingaan, Bakkungaan Kecil and Gulisaan

Cultural and Religious

Sunset

Sunset

© All Rights Reserved exkay

  • Batu Caves (outskirts of Kuala Lumpur) are a series of caves on a limestone hill with a Hindu shrine in the biggest cave.
  • Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (Malacca) is a 17th century Chinese temple, the oldest in Malaysia, that was awarded a UNESCO award in 2003 for outstanding architectural restoration.
  • Kek Lok Si Temple (Penang) began its construction in 1890 on a hill at Air Itam and has since been constantly expanded. It is currently the biggest temple complex in Malaysia and is based on Mahayana Buddhism and traditional Chinese rituals.
  • Masjid Jamek (Kuala Lumpur) - This mosque was built at the meeting point of the two rivers where the name of the capital is named after.
  • Putrajaya Mosque
  • Sarawak Cultural Village
  • Thean Hou Temple (Kuala Lumpur)

Nature and Wildlife

Peninsular Malaysia

  • Cameron Highlands (Pahang) are home to jungle trekking and are also famous for its tea plantations.
  • Taman Negara (literally National Park) spans across three states in an area of 434,350 hectares of pristine tropical rain forest estimated 130 million years old, this "unnamed" national park was previously known as King George V National Park.
  • Endau Rompin National Park is a 870 km² big park in the central south of Peninsular Malaysia. It is a rather mountainous area with tropical rainforest and the largest population of Sumatran rhinoceros in Western Malaysia. Note that the park is closed during the monsoon season from November to March.
  • Gunung Ledang National Park
  • Krau Wildlife Reserve
  • Penang National Park

Sabah

Sarawak

  • Gunung Mulu National Park (Miri) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the world's largest cave chamber, the Sarawak Chamber, measuring 600 metres long by 415 metres wide by 80 metres high.
  • Niah National Park (Miri), known as The Great Cave, in this park is a very important archaeolgical site where Paleolithic era settlement and a 40,000-year-old human skull was found.
  • Bako National Park (Kuching) is home to rare proboscis monkeys, found only in Borneo.
  • Batang Ai National Park (Sri Aman)
  • Kelabit Highlands is a highland plateau in the interior Sarawak and home to the Kelabit indigenous people.
  • Lambir Hills National Park
  • Similajau National Park
  • Maludam National Park

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Events and Festivals

Cultural and Religious Festivals

Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple

© All Rights Reserved Degolasse

  • Thaipusam (17 Jan 2014) - This annual Hindu festival commemorates the birthday of Lord Murugan. Over a million devotees and visitors throng Batu Caves on this eventful celebration, every year. In 2013, it will occur on 17 January.
  • Chinese New Year (31 Jan 2014 - 14 Feb 2014) - Chinese make up about a quarter of the total population and in honour of the Chinese New Year, Malaysia has declared the first two days as public holidays. In the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year, a date between 21 January and 20 February. On 31 January 2014, the year of the Horse commences.
  • Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (Eid ul-Fitr) (28 Jul 2014) - This Muslim festival marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and is celebrated by 60% of the population. The first two days are public holidays, and most people take extra days off to spend time with family and visit relatives and friends. It will occur next on 28 July 2014.
  • Kaamatan (30 May 2014 - 31 May 2014) - A harvest festival celebrated by the Kadazan people of Sabah on 30 and 31 May each year.
  • Gawai Dayak (01 Jun 2014) - A thanksgiving day marking good harvest, held on 1 June yearly in Sarawak. Indigenous people, particularly the Iban and Bidayuh, in their colourful costumes make ceremonial offerings of traditional delicacies and tuak (home-made rice wine) to the gods of rice and prosperity.
  • Mid-Autumn Festival (08 Sep 2014) - Alternatively known as the Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the full moon day (15th day) of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar – usually in September. In 2014, it falls on 8 September.
  • Deepavali (or Diwali) (23 Oct 2014) - A significant Hindu festival also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrating the victory of good over evil. For 2014, this festival falls on 23 October.
  • Christmas (25 Dec 2014) - This joyous day is declared a public holiday in Malaysia. Year 2000 census indicates that almost a tenth of the population are Christians.

Sporting Events

Other events and festivals

  • Penang World Music Festival (12 Apr 2014 - 13 Apr 2014) - An annual two-day event of global music and culture, held in Penang.
  • Rainforest Music Festival (20 Jun 2014 - 22 Jun 2014) - An annual three-day music festival celebrating the diversity of world music, held in Kuching, Sarawak
  • Independence Day (31 Aug 2013) - Celebration of the nation's independence from Britain on 31 August 1957.

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Weather

Temperature and Humidity
As a tropical country on the equator, Malaysia experiences an all-year hot and humid weather. Average daytime temperature for most lowlands range from 30 °C to 34 °C. Nights are fairly cool at between 21 °C and 24 °C.

The mean monthly relative humidity is high at about 70 to 90%. During the driest months of January and February in the peninsula, the mean daily minimum can be as low as 42%. The mean daily maximum, however, is always between 94 and 100%.

Monsoon Seasons
During its peak in November and December, the northeast monsoon (November to March) often floods the east coast of the peninsula and can cause flash floods on the west coast. Travel related activities on the east coast islands are closed at this time until the northeast monsoon season ended in March.

The southwest monsoon (May to September) however, is milder because much of the rain brought in by the south-westerly winds from the Indian ocean have hit Sumatra in Indonesia before it reaches the peninsula.

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© All Rights Reserved Mohd anuar

Rainfall
Torrential rains are to be expected at any time of the year. Rains usually occur in the afternoon. Thick, black clouds could appear and form within the hour followed by raining cats and dogs for about an hour, sometimes longer. After that, the skies will be totally clear again. As the saying goes:

In Malaysia, it doesn't rain. It pours!

On the east coast states of the peninsula, November to January is the wettest period of the year while June and July is the driest. The rest of the peninsula experience the most rainfall during the two inter-monsoon seasons; from October to November, which is the wettest, followed by April and May.

In the coastal areas of Sarawak and northeast Sabah, maximum rainfall is recorded in January. The inland areas of Sarawak and southern Sabah, on the other hand, experience generally evenly distributed annual rainfall. Long Akah in inner Sarawak has the highest recorded average annual rainfall of 5,000 mm compared to to the national average of over 2,000 mm.

The northwest coast of Sabah is wettest in October followed by June. It is driest in February followed by August.

The hilly and mountainous areas in central Sabah experience the most rainfall in May and October. Minimum rainfall is recorded in February and August, making these two months the best times to climb Mount Kinabalu.

Source: General Climate of Malaysia, Malaysian Meteorological Department

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Getting There

KLIA

KLIA

© All Rights Reserved exkay

The most common way for travellers to get to Malaysia is by air, unless they're coming from Singapore or southern Thailand.

By Plane

There are six international airports in Malaysia, with the one at the nation's capital being the main entry point and the busiest of all.

Peninsular Malaysia

Sabah

Sarawak

The airlines based in Malaysia are:

  • Malaysia Airlines, the flag carrier
  • AirAsia, a regional low-cost carrier flying to regional destinations of under four hours
  • AirAsia X, fly long-haul destinations of over four hours from Kuala Lumpur
  • Firefly, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, operate turboprop aircraft to shorthaul regional destinations in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.

Some major foreign airlines flying into Malaysia include Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Emirates, Japan Airlines, JetStar, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways.

By Train

Johor Bahru Train Station

Johor Bahru Train Station

© All Rights Reserved Hien

The Malayan Railways (Malay: Keretapi Tanah Melayu, KTM) and State Railway of Thailand (SRT) operate cross-border intercity train services.

All times are departure except the final destination. Both Malaysia and Singapore (GMT+8) are an hour ahead of Thailand (GMT+7).

From Singapore:
KTM Intercity trains depart from the Woodlands station in northern Singapore (at the causeway border) for major cities and towns in Malaysia. Tanjong Pagar station near the city centre has ceased operations from 1 July 2011.

2Ekspres RakyatWoodlands 0845 – Johor Bahru 0850 – Gemas 1210 – Kuala Lumpur 1456 – Ipoh 1758 – Butterworth 2120
12Ekspres Sinaran SelatanWoodlands 1345 – Johor Bahru 1350 – Gemas 1729 – Kuala Lumpur 2025
14Ekspres Sinaran TimurWoodlands 0530 – Johor Bahru 0535 – Gemas 0918 – Jerantut 1238 – Gua Musang 1523 – Wakaf Bharu 1852 – Tumpat 1925
24Ekspres Senandung SuteraWoodlands 2330 – Johor Bahru 2335 – Gemas 0313 – Kuala Lumpur 0630
26Senandung TimuranWoodlands 1900 – Johor Bahru 1905 – Gemas 2250 – Jerantut 0210 – Gua Musang 0503 – Wakaf Bharu 0844 – Tumpat 0900
64ShuttleWoodlands 1945 – Johor Bahru 1950 – Kluang 2209 – Gemas 2355

From Thailand:
There are two train services departing from Bangkok and Hat Yai daily.

21Senandung LangkawiHat Yai 1600* – Padang Besar (border) 1755 – Bukit Mertajam 2147 – Butterworth – Ipoh 0153 – Kuala Lumpur 0530
* Thai time (GMT+7). Malaysia (GMT+8) is an hour ahead of Thailand.
35International ExpressBangkok 1445* – Nakhon Pathom 1600* – Huan Hin 1810* – Chumphon 2145* – Surat Thani 0040* – Hat Yai 0650* – Padang Besar (border) 0855 – Bukit Mertajam 1327 – Butterworth 1351
* Thai time (GMT+7). Malaysia (GMT+8) is an hour ahead of Thailand.

On the east coast, there is a railway track linking Malaysia and Thailand. However it is only used by freight trains and there is no cross-border passenger train service. SRT passenger trains terminate at the Sungai Kolok station, located about a kilometre from the border. From the station, take a motorcycle taxi or a 10-minute walk to the border checkpoint. Once you have cleared the Thai immigration, simply walk across the bridge to the Malaysian side for immigration clearance. Located next to the Malaysian immigration checkpoint is the Rantau Panjang train station. However, there is no passenger train service to this railway branch. The bus station is 100 metres away where there are buses and taxis to Kota Bharu and also the Pasir Mas train station.

By Car

From Brunei:
Kuala Belait in westernmost Brunei is linked to the oil town of Miri, Sarawak. The town of Limbang, Sarawak is sandwiched between Brunei-Muara and Temburong districts, whereas Lawas is located to the east of Temburong district.

From Singapore:

  • Bangunan Sultan Iskandar, Johor Bahru (Johor) - Woodlands
  • Sultan Abu Bakar Complex, Tanjung Kupang (Johor) - Tuas

From Thailand:

  • Wang Kelian (Perlis) - Satun (Satun)
  • Padang Besar (Perlis) - Padang Besar (Songkhla)
  • Bukit Kayu Hitam (Kedah) - Sadao (Songkhla)
  • Durian Burung (Kedah) - Ban Prakob (Songkhla)
  • Pengkalan Hulu (Perak) - Betong (Yala)
  • Bukit Bunga (Kelantan) - Buketa (Narathiwat)
  • Rantau Panjang (Kelantan) - Sungai Kolok (Narathiwat)

By Bus

From Singapore:
Buses to Malaysia operate from all over Singapore as there is no central bus terminal. Buses depart from HarbourFront Centre, Copthorne Orchid Hotel in Dunearn Road, Lavender Street, and Golden Mile Complex in Beach Road.

A cheaper alternative is to hop on a Singapore–Larkin bus from Kranji MRT or Queen Street (near Bugis MRT). This will take you to the Larkin bus terminal in Malaysia. From the terminal, there are many buses that go to major cities and towns on the peninsula. Fares from Larkin are in Malaysian Ringgit, which also means this could save you half of what you would be paying if you were to board a bus direct from Singapore, where the fare is about the same amount but in Singapore dollar.

Causeway Link buses serve from Jurong East MRT Station to Gelang Patah or Bukit Indah in Johor. Fare from Jurong East MRT Station to Sultan Abu Bakar Complex costs 4 Singapore Dollar.

From Thailand:
Buses to Kuala Lumpur and major towns in the peninsula are available in Hat Yai in southern Thailand.

By Boat

From Brunei:
Daily services from Muara Ferry Terminal in Brunei to Labuan island and Lawas, Sarawak. There are also speedboat services between Bandar Seri Begawan and Lawas.

From Indonesia:
Ferry services available from Batam to Batu Pahat (Johor) and Stulang Laut, Johor Bahru (Johor); Bintan to Johor Bahru (Johor), Karimun to Batu Pahat (Johor); Tanjung Balai to Kukup (Johor); Dumai to Malacca, Muar (Johor), Port Dickson (Negeri Sembilan), and Port Klang (Selangor); Nunukan and Tarakan to Tawau (Sabah).

Langkawi Ferry operates a daily ferry service between Penang and Medan, Sumatra. From Penang, it leaves at 09:00, arriving at 13:00. From Medan it leaves at 10:30 arriving in Penang at 14:30.

From Philippines:
The only option is ferry service between Zamboanga Peninsula (Mindanao) in southern Philippines and Sandakan in Sabah with Aleson Shipping Lines, taking about 13 hours for the journey.

From Singapore:
Daily boat services between Changi Point and Pengerang (Johor); Tanah Merah and Sebana Cover Resort (Johor).

From Thailand:
Langkawi Ferry operates four daily crossing in each direction between Kuah, Langkawi and the Thai port city of Satun (actually Tammalang), taking about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Other services between Thailand and Malaysia include Ban Taba (Tak Bai, Narathiwat) and Pengkalan Kubor (Kelantan).

By Foot

From Singapore:
Beginning January 2009, the Malaysian authorities no longer allow people to walk from Woodlands, Singapore across the 1,056-metre-long causeway into Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Many locals commuting by bus from both sides of the border used to do this during the rush hours to beat the traffic jam.

From Thailand:

  • Wang Kelian (Perlis) – Satun (Satun)
  • Padang Besar (Perlis) – Padang Besar (Songkhla)
  • Bukit Kayu Hitam (Kedah) – Sadao (Songkhla)
  • Durian Burung (Kedah) - Ban Prakob (Songkhla) - latest Thai-Malaysian checkpoint
  • Pengkalan Hulu (Perak) – Betong (Yala)
  • Bukit Bunga (Kelantan) – Buketa (Narathiwat)
  • Rantau Panjang (Kelantan) – Sungai Kolok (Narathiwat)

From Indonesia:

  • Tebedu (Sarawak) - Entikong
  • Lubuk Antu (Sarawak) - Badau
  • Bario (Sarawak) - Long Bawan

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Getting Around

Monorail

Monorail

© All Rights Reserved BrianKilp

Main articles: Peninsular Malaysia, Malaysian Borneo

Travelling around Malaysia is easy with different modes of public transport to choose from. On Peninsular Malaysia, it is possible to get around by road, rail, or air, while Malaysian Borneo, due to its size, geography and lack of good roads, is easier traversed by plane.

To travel between the peninsula and Borneo, air is the only option, as there is no ferry service between these two regions.

More:

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Red Tape

Visitors from most countries are given social visit pass valid for 14, 30, 60 or 90 days upon arrival.

  • 90 days: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Leichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Yemen
  • 60 days: American Samoa
  • 30 days: Antigua, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bolivia, Botswana, Brunei, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iraq, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Macau, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Namibia, Nauru, Nicaragua, North Korea, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Russia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, Upper Volta, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam, Western Samoa, Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe
  • 15 days: Taiwan
  • 14 days: Ivory Coast, Libya, Sierra Leone

For a complete, detailed and up-to-date list, refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Visa Requirements for Foreigners.

Nationals of Israel, Montenegro and Serbia are prohibited from entering the country without obtaining special approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Non-citizens who wish to retire in Malaysia or make Malaysia as their second home can apply under the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme. Successful applicants will be issued a multiple-entry social visit pass that is valid for up to 10 years, depending on the validity of the passport. While there is no minimum age limit for this programme, applicants have to conform to some financial requirements plus other terms and conditions. Business, investment and part-time employment is allowed under this programme.

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Money

See also: Money Matters

The Malaysian currency is Ringgit (pronounced ring-git) and the currency code is MYR (Malaysian Ringgit). Locally, it is known as Ringgit Malaysia (RM) in Malay. One ringgit is equivalent to 100 sen (cents).

  • Banknotes: RM1, RM5, RM10, RM50, RM100. (Most RM2 notes have been withdrawn from circulation. However, it remains a legal tender.)
  • Coins: 1 sen, 5 sen, 10 sen, 20 sen, 50 sen. (Due to serious conterfeiting, 1 ringgit coins have been removed from circulation and have ceased to be a legal tender).

Foreign currencies are generally not accepted in business transactions as they are not legal tender in the country. If a merchant makes an exception for you, you will stand to lose on the rate that will be used. So get yourself ready with enough cash in ringgit.

Automated Teller Machines (ATM) are available everywhere in cities and major towns. All ATMs are connected to the CIRRUS (by MasterCard) and PLUS (by Visa) networks, which makes it the best way to get your money.

Credit cards are accepted in many places. Some merchants may require a minimum purchase amount of RM30 or RM50 for credit card payments. Some credit card issuers might impose a service charge for overseas transaction. It's best to check with your credit card issuer on this before travelling. As usual in anywhere you are, never let your card out of sight. It's wise to make a habit of paying at the counter instead of just handing the card over to the staff serving you.

Bureaux de change are usually located in shopping malls. The offered rates are usually much better than what you could get in your home country, so exchange your currencies only when you arrive. Exchange rates of the MYR against some major currencies (as at 17 December 2009): USD1 = MYR3.50, EUR1 = MYR5.00, GBP1 = MYR5.60, AUD1 = MYR3.10, SGD1 = MYR2.45, THB100.00 = MYR10.00. Current exchange rates for various currencies can be checked here.

Tipping is not customary in Malaysia. When eating out, almost all mid-range to high-end restaurants will include a 10 to 15 % service charge into the bill. Restaurants which do not include a service charge do not expect customers to tip, so don't bother tipping.

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Work

Most foreigners who work here are expatriates posted here from overseas offices or headquarters of multi-national companies.

Malaysia have reciprocal working holiday programmes with the following countries.

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Study

There are many well-established local private colleges and universities which have collaboration with British, American and Australian universities. Apart from those, UK's University of Nottingham and Australia's Monash University, Curtin University of Technology and Swinburne University of Technology have also set up their overseas campuses in Malaysia.

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Language

See also: Malay Phrasebook

The official language is Malay (Bahasa Malaysia - Malaysian language), which is the base of Indonesian language (Bahasa Indonesia). It incorporates elements of the languages of surrounding regions, including Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Arab, Chinese dialects, Portuguese, Spanish and English (mostly for modern, technical and scientific terms). Being the medium of instruction in national schools, Malay is spoken by all Malaysians, of which just over half are ethnic Malays, a quarter are ethnic Chinese, about eight per cent ethnic Indians, and the rest consist of various indigenous tribes.

As a result of the British colonialism, English is taught as a second language in all schools and is widely spoken on the street in urban areas. Although one can get by speaking only in English, it would be better if you could utter a few Malay phrases when speaking to the locals, especially the ethnic Malays. Try to speak to them in Malay and see their faces change to a happy one. Sometimes, they might even go out of their way to help you if that's what you needed.

Within the ethnic Chinese communities, Hokkien (Min Nan), Hakka, Cantonese and Teochew (Min Nan) 'dialects' are main ones spoken by them based on to their origins in southern China from many generations ago. Most ethnic Chinese are capable of speaking at least two of these 'dialects'. Mandarin is also spoken by many, particularly those who attended Chinese vernacular schools. Including the national language (Malay) and English, this makes many of them at least trilingual and quadrulingual.

Tamil is the main Indian language spoken by the Indian community as their ancestors were mostly from southern India. There is also a sizeable group of Punjabi community who speak Punjabi and they are mostly, if not all, Sikhs.

In Sabah and Sarawak, the different indigenous tribes there speak different languages within their own communities. The Kadazan-dusun tribe is the largest in Sabah consisting almost one-fifth of the state population, while the Iban tribe is the biggest group in Sarawak, making up some 30 per cent of the state population.

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Eat

For many visitors, Malaysian food is one of the country's main highlights. Besides being absolutely delicious, it is also very cheap. The overall tone of Malaysian food is spicy with a tinge of sweetness. Cocunut milk and chilli are used in almost all the dishes. Noodles and rice are key to many Malaysian dishes. The country's ethnic make-up, which includes notable Indian and Chinese minorities and the influence from the neighbouring Asian countries, lends its cuisine a distinctive variety. Some of the more popular Malaysian dishes are:

  • Nasi Lemak is one of the most popular dish of the country. Nasi Lemak is basically a plate of white rice cooked in coconut milk, served with 'sambal', a chilli paste mixed with salted anchovies or 'ikan bilis', eggs(boiled or fried), salted peanuts and cucumber slices. Sometimes the dish is also accompanied by Beef or chicken meat cooked in rich cocunut milk. Nasi Lemak can be eaten throughout the day although it is more popular as a breakfast dish.
  • Satay is also very popular throughout the country. Satay is the Malaysian version of the 'Kebab' and in this small pieces of beef, mutton or chicken are marinated in spices, then skewered through thin bamboo strips, and barbecued over charcoal fire. Satay is usually served with ketupat (rice cake) and a raw salad of cucumber, pineapple and onions. Sweet and spicy peanut sauce also accompanies the dish.
  • Roti Canai is all time favourite among the local people and is usually taken during breakfast. It is made from wheat-flour dough and it usually incorporates beaten egg and diced onions in between to make a crispier pancake.

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Sleep

Like other southeast Asian countries, Malaysia is a great place to get by on very little. You can find beds for USD10 or less. If you are looking for something in the mid-range, you can find rooms/beds for around USD20 to USD40. Hotels rated 3, 4 and 5-star are available in many cities, but these generally cost much more.

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Drink

Tap water in Malaysia is generally clean and safe for consumption. However, it is advisable that water from the tap is boiled before consumption. Bottled water is the best option, and it's easily available in stores everywhere. Ice cubes are safe for consumption.

Non-alcoholic drinks which are very popular amongst the locals are teh tarik (aerated tea) and Milo, a chocolate malt drink from Nestlé. Many Malaysians are sweet-toothed, so the drinks prepared can be very sweet. When ordering drinks, you can ask them to make it kurang manis, which means less sweet in Malay.

Although Malaysia is a pre-dominantly Muslim country, alcoholic beverages are available for sale at many places. The government imposed a high duty rate on alcoholic beverages. The price of a 325ml can of beer range from as low as RM4 (for purchase in 24-can carton during promos) to as high as RM9 (at 24-hour convenience stores), depending on the type. At restaurants and bars, expect to pay at least double or triple the price. Some of the popular lager amongst the locals are Carlsberg, Heineken and Tiger.

There are three duty-free islands in the country; Langkawi, Tioman and Labuan. In these places, a can of beer costs not more than RM2. In the states of Kelantan and Terengganu on the east coast of the peninsula, alcoholic drinks are not as widely available as in other parts of the country because of strict local regulations on the sale of alcoholic beverages.

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Health

See also: Travel Health

Malaysia has modern healthcare services in both public and private sectors. Public healthcare, like most countries, is usually full with locals and the wait could be extremely long. For many visitors, private healthcare is the better option.

There are no required vaccinations for travelling to Malaysia, except for Yellow Fever, which is mandatory for travellers who come from, or have visited within the past week, any of the Yellow Fever endemic countries in Africa and South America. In these cases, a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for entering Malaysia. Vaccination against Yellow Fever must be taken at least 10 days prior to the date of arrival to Malaysia.

Recommended vaccines for travellers are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Polio (booster), Tetanus (booster), and Typhoid Fever. If you're venturing into rural and remote areas, further recommended vaccines are Japanese Encephalitis, Meningitis, Rabies, and Tuberculosis, especially when travelling for longer periods and when you are living or working more closely with humans or animals (rabies). Malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended for those visiting rural and remote areas of Sabah and Sarawak.

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Safety

See also: Travel Safety

Malaysia is a safe country to travel to, even for women travelling alone. However, just like any other place in the world, it is not crime-free so travel with some common sense of safety. Pickpockets and bag snatchers have been reported in busy places. It is recommended that travellers, especially women carrying handbags, take extra precaution in these places.

If you encounter problems or difficulties while travelling, you may seek the Tourist Police for assistance. They can be identified by the regular dark blue police uniform, a police hat with checkered stripe and a red-and-blue-colour badge with the letter "i" on the breast pocket. Tourist police usually patrol major urban tourist spots.

In case of emergency, the numbers to call are:

  • 999 – Police, Ambulance, Fire Brigade (Malay: Bomba), Civil Defence
  • 112 – Worldwide standard emergency number for GSM Mobile Phone

All emergency numbers are toll-free. 999 calls can be made from any phone in Malaysia. Calls to 112 will be redirected to 999.

Malaysia prescribes capital punishment for very serious offences. Drug (Malay: dadah) trafficking is punished on conviction with mandatory death sentence under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. Possession of illegal drugs over a certain amount, depending on the category of drug, is presumed as trafficking under Section 37(da) of the same Act. The most famous case of drug trafficking conviction is the 1986 executions of Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers[3], the first Caucasians to be executed in the country for drug trafficking offence. The two Australians were arrested at Penang Airport in 1983 with 141.9 grams of heroin, an amount presumed to be trafficking. Having possession of heroin in 15 grams or more constitutes trafficking. Other drug-related offences (possession below the amount of trafficking, drug abuse) carry severe punishment of imprisonment or caning, or both.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés are available in cities and major towns. Wi-Fi hotspots can be found in shopping malls, restaurants, food courts and cafés. Many of these hotspots are provided free-of-charge. Internet cafés can also be found in cities and towns.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Malaysia is on the GSM 900/1800 and UMTS (3G) mobile network. If you have an "unlocked" GSM band mobile phone, you can buy a prepaid SIM card and use it with your phone here for cheaper rates instead of roaming here. Prepaid mobile SIM cards are available cheaply at mobile phone shops and 24-hour convenience stores.

Below are the area codes in Malaysia:

01Mobile Phones (nationwide)
02Singapore (special access code to call Singapore)
03Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor
04Penang, Perlis, Kedah
05Perak
06Negeri Sembilan, Malacca
07Johor
080Brunei (special access code for use in Sabah and Sarawak only)
08xSabah, Sarawak (x determines the region)
09Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan
1-300Non-geographical numbers (local call rate)
1-800Non-geographical numbers (free call from landline, local call rate from mobile phone)

Area code is not required when calling a number of the same area code. However, it is mandatory when calling from a mobile phone.

There is no charge for receiving calls on any Malaysian phones. Only the caller is charged for the call made. However, if you're on mobile phone roaming service, you will also be charged for any calls received, by your operator.

To dial out of Malaysia, use the international access code 00 (zero zero), followed by the country code, followed by the area code (remove the preceding 0, if any), and finally the telephone number.
e.g. To call London, United Kingdom, dial 00-44-20-xxxx xxxx; or to call Dallas, Texas, United States, dial 00-1-214-xxx xxxx.
For mobile phones, the plus sign "+" can be used as the international access code.
e.g. Using the previous scenario, type +44-20-xxxx xxxx or +1-214-xxx xxxx and press the call button.

The country code for Malaysia is 60. To receive calls from overseas, that person will have to dial the country's international access code, followed by 60 for Malaysia, followed by the area code (remove the preceding 0), followed by the phone number.
e.g. If your prepaid mobile number is 012-1234567, and someone in the United Kingdom were to call you, the number to dial is 00-60-12-1234567. Those calling you from the United States and Canada will have to dial 011-60-12-1234567.

The emergency number is 999 and can be dialled from any phone, free of charge. The worldwide standard emergency number for GSM mobile phones, 112, can also be used on a mobile phone, even without a SIM card. Calls to 112 will be routed to 999 centres.

Post

Pos Malaysia is the national postal service of Malaysia. Rates for sending a standard letter locally is 30 sen (20 gram) to 40 sen (up to 50 gram). International airmail has minimum rates ranging from RM1.00 to RM2.00, depending on destination. It costs 20 sen to send a postcard or aerogramme locally, or 50 sen to send a postcard or aerogramme to anywhere in the world.

Expedited Mail Service (EMS), branded locally as Poslaju, is available for both domestic and international destinations. Domestic EMS has a next day delivery guarantee. International EMS guarantees mails and parcels to be delivered out of the country by the following day. The time required to arrive at its destination will depend on clearance by authorities and the postal service of the destination country. For most countries, delivery of documents can be done in 3 to 5 days.

If you need to receive mails or packages from home, there is Poste Restante service available at all General Post Offices (GPO) in the country. There is one GPO in almost every capital city of every state, and in all federal territories. Mails sent from Singapore and Brunei will be retained for one month while mails from all other places will be kept for two months, after which if unclaimed, will be sent to the Dead Letter Office.

Generally, post offices are open from 8:30am to 5:00pm Monday to Saturday, except the first Saturday of the month. They are closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.

Electricity

Electricity voltage in Malaysia is 240V AC 50Hz. The UK 3-pin plug is the standard used in Malaysia. European 2-pin plug can also be used on the 3-pin socket by inserting a screwdriver (or any hard object that fits) into the earth pin hole to open the live and neutral shutters. However, this practice can be hazardous.

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References

  1. 1 Mid-2010 estimate. Department of Statistics, Malaysia. Retrieved on 2011–08–01.
  2. 2 Marshall, Andrew (31 July 2006), Waterway to the World, TIME Asia. Retrieved on 2007–07–07.
  3. 3 Barlow and Chambers execution. Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2009–08–07.

Quick Facts

Malaysia flag

Map of Malaysia

[edit]

Capital
Kuala Lumpur
Government
Constitutional Monarchy
Nationality
noun: Malaysian(s), adjective: Malaysian
Population
28 250 500[1]
Languages
Malay (official), English, Chinese (Mandarin and other dialects), Tamil, Punjabi
Religions
Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism
Currency
Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
Calling Code
+60
Time Zone
MST (UTC+8)
Daylight Saving Time
Not observed

Contributors

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