Malaysia will invigorate and surprise you, from its picture-perfect beaches and sumptuous cuisine to adventure activities and eclectic cities. It is a bubbling, bustling melting pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese and many other ethnic groups live together in peace and harmony.
Located in Southeast Asia, it is situated slightly north of the Equator line. The Peninsular Malaysia is separated from Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea. In northern part of the Peninsular Malaysia, Malaysia borders with Thailand, and in the south it borders with Singapore. Sabah and Sarawak on the Malaysia Island are bordered by Indonesia while Sarawak shares borders with Brunei.
One of Malaysia's key attractions is its extreme contrasts. Towering skyscrapers look down upon wooden houses built on stilts, and five-star hotels sit several metres away from ancient reefs.Cool hideaways are found in the highlands that roll down to warm, sandy beaches and rich, humid mangroves.
This information has been compiled for your reference in good faith but please use this only as a general guide. We advise you to check with relevant authorities with regard to the latest requirement for passport, visa, travel advisory, entry restrictions, health requirements, local currency etc as these are subjected to change without prior notice and our information given below may not be as updated.
Best time to go: Malaysia is close to the equator so has a true tropical climate. Daylight extends from around 6am to 6pm year-round and temperatures are consistently between 22 to 32 degrees, with humidity normally above 83%. Monsoons move over the country from the west, starting with Langkawi and Penang in September/October then through Kuala Lumpur and Peninsular Malaysia in November/December, then across the east coast and its Islands which close completely from November to January and finally onto Sarawak between April and September and Sabah from May to November.
Kota Baru was the landing point for the Japanese invasion of Malaya during World War II in 1941. Riding bicycles, Japanese soldiers took an amazing 45 days to reach Singapore.
Visa:New Zealand citizens travelling on a New Zealand passport do not need a visa to visit Malaysia for tourism visits of up to 3 months, provided the passport has at 6 months validity at time of entry. For information on non-tourist visas and travel on non-New Zealand passports contact your local embassy, or consulate for the most up-to-date visa requirements, or see your travel agent. It is your responsibility to make sure you have the correct documentation and all advice here is given in good faith.
Penang's St. George Church, built in 1818, is the oldest Anglican Church in Southeast Asia.
Currency:The Malaysian Ringgit is the currency in Malaysia (MY). The symbol for MYR can be written RM. The Malaysian Ringgit is divided into 100 sen.US dollars can be readily exchanged for Ringgit, New Zealand dollars are harder to exchange.
Credit Cards - Visa & MasterCard readily accepted. Although credit cards are widely accepted in Malaysia, credit card fraud and “skimming” or “cloning” is rampant. If you do need to use a credit card stick to the higher end establishments, and never let it out of your sight. A government Sales and Service tax of 5% is included in bills for food and hotel accommodation. In addition to this, some restaurants and hotels may add a separateservice charge as well, so be aware of this.
The word ringgit means "jagged" in Malay, and originally referred to the seperated edges of Spanish silver dollars widely circulated in the region.
Health: Malaysia does not have any particular health risk but general hygienic conditions are not the same as in New Zealand. There are a few precautions recommended – avoid eating food exposed to natural elements, ensure that mineral water bottle is properly sealed when you buy it, cover arms and legs in the evening to avoid mosquito bites. Carry your general medication with you and consult your doctor well in advance to prepare for the trip.
The usual sensible health precautions for life in the tropics apply to Malaysia. Apply sunscreen regularly and generously, avoid excessive sun and drink lots of water to replace lost fluids in the humid climate (tap water is potable in Kuala Lumpur, but bottled water is recommended everywhere else).
Heat rash and 'traveller's tummy' from the spicy cuisine are the two most common problems for tourists, so carrying an antihistamine cream and digestive aids are advised to overcome these minor discomforts.
Jellyfish can be a problem in the waters around Penang, so a rash vest is recommended when swimming.
If hiking in the rainforests and jungle, leeches can also be an inconvenience. If visiting Malaysia (especially East Malaysia), many doctors will recommend immunization against hepatitis A, typhoid, diphtheria, up-to-date tetanus protection, and a prophylactic course of Malaria tablets.
The availability and quality of medical facilities Malaysia can vary, depending where in the country you happen to be. Although there are public hospitals in Malaysia, in practice travellers options are often limited to private healthcare and hospitals, so it is highly recommended that good quality travel insurance is taken out before entering the country.
We strongly advise that all New Zealand travellers check the latest travel advice on the New Zealand Government Safe Travel site
Malaysia shares with Qatar the world's lowest death rate of respiratory diseases, at 7.5 death per annum per 100 000 people.
Food and Drinks: Mineral water is recommended but please ensure that it’s properly sealed before you buy it. Malaysia being multi-cultural society, it offers a wide variety of food ranging from spicy curries from India, Cantonese or Sichuan style of Chinese dishes, dried seafood and spiced vegetables from Indonesia, Japanese flavours with fresh ingredients. American, Thai, Korean, Spanish, Italian and French restaurants are also popular in Malaysia. Malaysia has an amazing selection of tropical fruits available – fresh coconut, pineapple, banana, papaya, mango, guava – to name a few but we suggest that you buy the fruit that you can peel off – to be on the safer side. Eating at night markets are also recommended where, besides tasting local Malay cuisine, you also get a chance to interact with locals.
Each state in Malaysia has something different to offer in terms of culinary delights. Kuala Lumpur has the most diverse offering of foods from all over the world. Indulge in gourmet fusion cuisine created by talented chefs in designer restaurants, or sample an endless amount of goodies found bursting out of malls, store fronts and side-street hawker stalls.
Melaka is also home to delicious Baba Nyonya food, much of it served in quaint cafes in historical shop houses.
Penang is hawker stall haven, where the most delicious food requires you to wait for al fresco tables and costs as little as RM3.50 per dish. Ipoh receives many day trippers who come only to savour local favourites.
Kelantan is the cradle of Malay culture and serves exotic Malay food rich in flavour and colour. When trying to decide on what stall or restaurant to visit, the rule of thumb is that the most popular place, especially among the locals, is normally the best.
Multiple varieties of noodles and rice, local or imported from Thailand, Japan or India, are often used as a base. Fish live in abundance around the shores of Malaysia's islands, and so most Malaysian dishes use fish sauce or paste even if the meat itself isn't a featured ingredient. Indian and Thai curry spices, along with regional varieties are often used to create rich and spicy curry dishes. Coconut milk is also commonly found in countless dishes, both to add savoury sweetness and to cool the fire of hotter spices.
The country's large Muslim population does not drink alcohol. Despite this alcohol is widely available in many states, though generally expensive.
A local favourite ‘kopi tongkatali ginseng’ or ‘kopi’ for short. It is the local alternative to Viagra and Red Bull. It is made from a local aphrodisiac root, ginseng, condensed milk and coffee. Non alcoholic drinks that are popular are ‘limau’ – a soft drink made from milo mixed with lime juice. Coffee and tea are served sweet with condensed milk. Plentiful are healthy fresh fruit juices everywhere.
The largest undivided leaf in the world, Alocasiamacrorrhiza, comes from Sabah. A specimen found in 1966 was 3.02 metres long and 1.92 metres wide.
Safety & security:Malaysia is a peaceful country that relies on tourism. Beware of ‘snatch theft’ - Malaysia is full of scooter bikes/mopeds; some thieves speed around looking for loose purses or camera bags to snatch. Always keep your bags and purses close to your body and walk on the opposite side of roads. Bring just enough money to get you through each day, and leave the rest in the hotel safe or someplace secure. That way, if you get pick-pocketed, your losses won't be as substantial. Keep your passport in a safe at the hotel, or somewhere close to your body (loose purses or backpacks are a no no!). Passports are very valuable on the black market and therefore a popular target for theft.
Credit card fraud is common, so it is advisable to only use them in the more reputable stores, but never let your card out of your sight. Drink spiking occurs. Victims lose consciousness and have been assaulted and robbed.In addition, Malaysia takes a hard stance on crimes against tourists, and visitors are generally safe - however unfortunate incidents do happen involving theft and scams, so be vigilant. Common sense is a good rule of thumb here.
Penalties for drug offences are severe. Malaysia’s strict laws and penalties for drug use or trafficking include life imprisonment or the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking.
Traffic can be a hazard to the unwary pedestrian as local motorcyclists and drivers do not tend to stop... even at pedestrian crossings, so even if you have the right of way, stay alert.
Malaysia produces a meagre 15 feature films annually but churns out 300 to 400 television dramas and serials. There are 250 movie theatres and Cineplex’s nationwide.
Clothing:Considering the climatic conditions of Malaysia, wear comfortable clothes made from natural fibres like cotton. Though Malaysians don't expect from foreigners to follow the same clothing conduct which they observe, it is always better to dress decently to keep away from confrontation.
Casual and cool clothing is totally acceptable in the country, but not revealing at any cost.
In more metropolitan areas such as Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Penang, and Ipoh, as well as East Malaysian states (Sabah and Sarawak) with a significant non Muslim population, attitudes are more liberal. You should also dress modestly in conservative and rural areas, and when visiting places of worship. When visiting mosques, it's advisable for women to cover their heads and wear decent clothes. Bring a pair of slip on footwear while visiting religious places and homes; you have to take off your footwear. Dressing respectfully (especially for women) is highly advisable. Modest like t-shirts, knee length skirts, tops with thick straps or covering shoulders is recommended but not essential.
Beachwear is acceptable on beaches, but you mustn't roam away from the beach in your costume. Topless sunbathing is absolutely a big 'No'. When meandering through city streets, try not wearing too short clothes and prefer keeping your shoulders covered.
In 1997, the state of Kelantan, Malaysia ruled that lights would be kept on in cinemas in order to deter people from kissing and cuddling.
Language:Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) although English is widely spoken, especially in urban or tourist areas. Apart from the Malay language and its regional variants, various dialects of Chinese and Indian are commonly used by the respective ethnic groups, whilst the more remote indigenous tribes of Eastern Malaysia speak their own languages, including Iban and Kadazan.
The largest insect egg in Malaysia comes from the 15 cm Malaysian Stick Insec, which lays eggs that measure 1.3 cm, making them larger than a peanut.
Gratuities:In Malaysia tipping is not expected, but greatly appreciated. You can, at your discretion, tip for good service. A service charge of 10% is normally added to the bill to cover tipping.
In August 1997, a model of the Malaysian flag was completed, made out of 10,430 floppy disks. The country’s deputy education minister described this as ‘an event Malaysia can be proud of’.
Airport tax:A departure tax of currently MYR 45 is currently included with your flight ticket. Check with your travel agent for further details.
TheBelum rainforest has more Malayan tigers per square kilometer than any other animal sanctuary here.
Internet:Internet access in Malaysia is reasonably priced with very good choice of connection options.Many restaurants and cafes offer free internet access to customers. Hotels offer either WiFi access or cabled option.
Only 0.85% of 218,004 people in Malaysia use broadband services.
Telephone: Malaysia’s country code is + 60 from New Zealand. While calling New Zealand from Malaysia, you will need to dial +64…. Malaysia is serviced by four mobile phone providers which mainly utilize the GSM (900 and 1800), 3G networks. Coverage is generally good, especially in the urban and main tourist areas. Although international roaming is possible if your provider allows it, prepaid sim cards are widely available, with all of the major providers offering competitive rates.
Bintagor trees, found only in Sarawak, is believed to contain properties that could help fight the virus that causes AIDS.
Time Difference:Malaysia is 5 hours behind New Zealand.Malaysia has one time zone and does not implement daylight saving.
Malaysia has 65,877 km of highway. This is more than the Earth's circumference of 40,075 km.
Photography: If you are planning to take photographs of locals during your travels in Malaysia, always ask their permission first. Photography is permitted inside mosques; however you should never take pictures during prayer times or of worshippers performing ablutions before the prayer.
The Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia is the world’s largest underground cave. It is so spacious, it could easily hold forty Boeing 747 planes.
Religion:As a predominantly Muslim country, Islam is the official religion of the country, but other religions are widely practiced.
Customs: Malaysia is generally a laid back and relaxed place. However, they do have their own customs and visitors should try to observe these practices when they arrive. Some common courtesies and customs are as follows:
Although handshakes are generally acceptable for both men and women, some Muslim ladies may acknowledge instructions to gentlemen by merely nodding and smiling. A handshake should only be initiated by ladies.
The traditional greeting or salamresembles a handshake with both hands but without the grasp. The man offers both hands, lightly touches his friend’s outstretched hands and then brings his hands to his chest to mean ‘ I greet you from my heart’ The visitor should reciprocate the salam.
"Kuala" means estuary while "lumpur" means mud.
Kuala Kangsar district office is the site of the last surviving rubber tree from the original batch H. N. Ridley brought from London's Kew Gardens in 1877.
Cities of Interest:
Kuala Lumpur- Kuala Lumpur is where the new embraces the old, where modern sophistication meets colourful tradition. The nation’s capital will surprise and delight you with its mix of old and new. In the capital you can soak up the invigorating atmosphere of a busy Asian city while enjoying sumptuous and affordable luxury accommodation.
The city known as ‘KL’ is named after the Malay for ‘muddy confluence’ –refers to the colour of the Klang River that flows through it. Established in the 1850's as a tin mining town with a small population of prospectors and workers, KL has grown from these humble beginnings to a population today of more than 7 million people. The city offers shopping galore from exciting street markets, sophisticated luxury brand signature stores to modern shopping malls – KL has it all!
Kuala Lumpur is a relatively easy city to get around with a modern light rail transit, a traditional rail system and a network of buses. Like many Asian cities it can become congested (or even gridlocked) during peak hour so taking advantage of public transport can save considerable effort and feet!
Langkawi is located off the north-west coast of Peninsula Malaysia. It comprises of a group of fewer than 100 islands forming an archipelago. The groups of islands are a protected Geo-Park listed with UNESCO for their natural beauty and ecological value. Situated in the Andaman Sea, the islands have everything from beautiful white sand beaches, coral reefs, lapping waves, to plush resorts and then there is the shopping on the main island PulauLangkawi. The island attracts travellers from around the globe and caters for all budgets.
Scuba diving and snorkelingare particular holiday favourites. There is much to do on the water and below- from kayaking, sailing and snorkeling to diving among the clear waters around the islands. Beyond the beach, the island is home to a range of spectacular natural reserves that help protect local animal life and make for great day trips. For a breathtaking experience the LangkawiSky bridge is world-class. Clinging to a 700-metre high mountain ridge on beautiful LangkawiPulau the 125-metre long pedestrian bridge offers incredible views of the Andaman Sea.
And when the sun goes down the island has everything from bars, eateries, restaurants and road-side stalls in nightmarkets to please almost every type of taste. Make sure to try the juicy deep-fried fish dipped in Thai sauce!
Sabah is the second largest state in Malaysia and is located in East Malaysia on the north west coast of Malaysia. It is a sunny year round destination that is hot and sunny so ideal for any outdoor pursuits. Known as The Adventure loving state- travellers can enjoy trekking lush jungles, exploring caves, water sports, climbing mountains, wildlife, forest, coral reefs, scuba diving- The list is endless! A laid back and easy going environment, Sabah is definitely the mecca for nature lovers. Stunning scenery surrounds you.
Mount Kinabalu is one of its most well known landmarks and will definitely test your fitness. The mountain rewards climbers with spectacular views, a special treat is to experience the summit for the spectacular dawn view. Sabah is renowned for its flora and fauna, and attracts travellers from all over the world keen to view the many varieties of animals and plants. It is a magnificent place to explore.
Sabah is developing as an ecotourism hotspot. Apart from the natural attractions of this region, it is a good place to explore and experience diverse ethnic backgrounds and is one of the most culturally diverse regions of Asia.
The state’s most famous residents are the ‘wild men of Malaysia’: the Orang Utans. Take a 20 minute drive from Sandakan and you will reach Sepilok, the world’s largest and longest established rehabilitation for Orangs. Visitors can see these amazing animals in a reserve of rainforest where orphan apes learn to live in their natural habitat. Something not to be missed!
The Malaysian state of Sarawak is found on the northwestern coast of the island of Malaysia and is the largest state of Malaysia. A lot of its appeal to travelers is that the area is undeveloped, with 60% of the region covered in rainforests. There is a well developed national park system which ensures much of the natural beauty of the island can be maintained and the 23 ethnic groups within the state have a strong sense of identity so exploring the cultural aspects of Sarawak are truly rewarding.
Trekking through the mountainous rainforests and meeting local tribe’speople can be a wonderful experience, but for those who are a little less adventurous the Sarawak Cultural Village, just outside of Kuching, displays authentic ethnic architecture and lifestyles. Sarawak is a preferred tourist destination for those seeking culture, nature and adventure tourism. The rainforests of Sarawak are home to the richest and most diverse ecosystem in the world. The rich flora and fauna include the world's largest flower Rafflesia, squirrels and snakes that fly, plants that eat insects and various other species of plants and insects that are yet to be discovered.
The capital Kuching is home to almost 2 million inhabitants- many live in urban areas, however a significant proportion enjoy a traditional village lifestyle. Kuching is a brilliant city for walking and discovering for yourself. You might like to begin at the Main Bazaar in the old town centre, where the jumble of stores stock local art, antiques and handicrafts, and from there explore the waterfront and then finally eating at one of the interesting cafes and restaurants.
Using Kuching as your base you can dive into Sarawak’s main attractions: adventure and nature.River kayaking, hiking, climbing through the region’s forests. Visitors have an opportunity to spend a day up close and personal with the orangutans. The ‘Heart 2 Heart’ program at the Matang Wildlife Sanctuary makes this possible, and will be a highlight of your time in Sarawak.
Penang- Commonly referred to as the Pearl of the Orient, is one of Asia’s famous islands. Penang entices many tourists who are drawn to the beautiful beaches and to the deep culture embedded within the island. Penang was recently declared as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Malaysia's single state island is situated on the north-west coast of the Malaysian peninsula, by the Strait of Malacca and it is the second smallest and eighth most populous state in Malaysia.
The name Penang found its origin from a modern Malay name, Pulau Pinang, meaning the island of the areca nut tree. Penang can refer to the Penang state (NegeriPulau Pinang) or the Penang island (Pulau Pinang). The capital of the state is George Town.
The island of Penang is one of the main tourist attractions in Malaysia. The island has a fabulous coastline along with its rich multicultural history that is filled with European, Indian, Chinese and Malay influences. It is also known to be the ‘food paradise” of Malaysia.