Malaysia, a land of beautiful smiles and incredible contrasts beckons the visitors with a rich diversity of experiences. A charming, fascinating land of warm, friendly people, here you get a taste of all of Asia in a single destination.
Malaysia consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 330,803 square kilometres (127,720 sq mi) separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo). Ranked as the 35th best country in the world, Malaysia is a cosmopolitan, progressive nation of great opportunity which has managed to retain its rich heritage of culture and traditions despite modernisation.
The country’s rich character unfolds from the moment the visitor clears the state-of-the-heart KL International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang. You will soon discover that Malaysia is a fascinating kaleidoscope of interesting and colourful places, peoples, customs, festivals, art and delightful cuisine. The country is also endowed with verdant rainforests, beautiful dive sites and marine parks containing fascinating animal life and a diversity of flora and fauna unique to this part of the world.
In Malaysia, you can choose to city-hop to experience the incredible variety of shopping opportunities, entertainment and accomodation or lie back blissfully on white sandy beaches as you gaze upon the rustic charms of the countryside. Or take an eco-holiday and climb Kinabalu, one of the region’s highest mountains, visit the orang-utans in Sepilok, or go diving in Sepadan. Malaysia has something for everyone, the historian, the businessman, the backpackers, the eco0tourist, city-hopper or beachcomber.
Bring the family along for the Malaysia holiday adventure is a well-rounded experience. In the words of British novelist and playwright, Somerset Maugham, “If you havent’t seen this place, you haven’t seen the world.
Malaysia’s population comprises many ethnic groups. The official language in Malaysia is ‘Bahasa Melayu’, although several other languages such as English, Chinese and Indian are also spoken, along with several indigenous dialects.
Although English is widely spoken and understood in major tourist areas, it is uncommon in areas outside the major cities.
Travelling within Malaysia is relatively cheap and convenient. For those who wish to drive in Malaysia, they can hire rental cars at very competitive prices. The renter (contract signer) and authorised drivers must be at least 21 years of age with a valid international driving license and identification from their country of residence.
Getting around by public transport is also relatively inexpensive. Taxis and buses are easily available and run until late at night. In the modern city like Kuala Lumpur, Light Rail Transit system allows you to get anywhere within the city in no time.
Generally, days are hot and dry, so it is ideal to wear light cotton clothing in the daytime. A hat, sunscreen and insect repellent are vital, and you may want to invest in some leech socks if you’re planning to go jungle trekking. As Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, women should not wear dresses, skirts or shorts that are too short.
If your plans include a visit to religious sites, please ensure you are appropriately dressed as you could be refused entry. Informal outfits are fine, but you’ll find conservative styles with long sleeves and loose pants are best. You will also be expected to remove your shoes when entering a mosque or private home. For evenings out at restaurants or shows, smart attire is highly recommended.
The unit of currency in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit and abbreviated RM or MYR. One ‘Ringgit’ is worth 100 cents. Currency notes are issued in denominations of RM1, RM5, RM10, RM20, RM50 and RM100 while coins come in denominations of 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent and 50 cent. Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks or authorised money changers, same goes for traveller’s cheques.
Major credit cards are also widely accepted at most business premises like hotels, stores, cafés and restaurants. Some places might charge a fee when accepting credit cards as payment.
The practice of tipping is not essentially followed in Malaysia. Nearly all hotels and restaurants add service charge into the bill and further, gratuity is unnecessary. However, if you wish to express happiness with any personal service you receive with some kind of gratuity, you may tip the person. Naturally this is entirely at your discretion, so its amount cannot be specified.
Malaysia is a shopper’s paradise. The exemption of duty on certain items has resulted in more competitive pricing and makes shopping in Malaysia a much more attractive option and very enjoyable. The bustling Kuala Lumpur city of towering buildings offers some of the best shopping in the world, with everything from excellent local brands to top designer labels. It is wise to compare prices before you buy to ensure you get the best bargains. Prices in bigger stores are usually fixed although bargaining is still practiced in smaller shops and roadside stalls.
Take a break from shopping at the air-conditioned malls and shop with the locals at the colourful night market, it’s full of food stalls and an array of merchandise including clothes, shoes, handicrafts and other local produce such as fragrant and exotic spices. Bargain and haggle is a common practice here.
Food remains a wonderful window on new cultures and the multi-cultural nature of Malaysia’s population has resulted in a symphony of flavours, making Malaysian cuisines highly diverse and vibrant. Malaysian cuisines are comprised mainly of the dishes from the three major ethnic groups – Malay, Chinese and Indian with each having its own different style of cooking. In particular, Malaysian food is generally sweet and spicy. Throughout the country, rice is a staple food that is often eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is normally served with meat, fish and vegetables.
Eating out is very common in Malaysia. Places to eat out range from street stalls to top-class hotel restaurants. A wise choice if unsure of which place to choose, eat where the locals eat – it’s an indication of how good it is.
There are no strict etiquette rules that you have to stick to when in Malaysia. It is advisable, however, to demonstrate decent manners and respect to the local culture and traditions. Although handshakes generally suffice for both men and women, some Muslim ladies may acknowledge an introduction to a gentleman with a nod of her head and smile. A handshake is only to be reciprocated if the lady offers her hand first. The right hand is always used when eating with hands and when receiving or giving items.
Millions of people travel safely in Malaysia every year, however, as always, you should use common sense and take basic precautions. Be vigilant at all times and take care on public transport and in crowded areas where pickpockets and bag snatchers may be operating. Women on their own are advised to be cautious especially if not acceptably dressed.
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