TOP 18 important things you should know before visiting Malaysia
“Malaysia – truly Asia”! Yes, this country is absolutely adorable, and it is so diverse that you can get to know several cultures in one visit! And the nature which brings you from the juiciest jungle to the bluest sea, is just incredible! But before visiting Malaysia, read some tips that will help you to get around!
1. Diversity of the country
Malaysia – truly Asia! The diversity of the country is vast. Malay, Chinese, Indian, Persian, Arab and British cultures have mixed together in all those 32 million people! And this is called one of the fastest growing nations in Asia! Malaysia is truly amazing – churches, temples and mosques stand alongside. Chinese markets stretch into modern glass-building quarters where Indian ladies make delicious naans to businessman. Can you imagine that this is one of the most diverse countries on Earth? It is said that 20% of all the animal species of the Planet can be found here! In Malaysia, there is the biggest king cobra population, black panthers and tigers – the national animal. This country is home to elephants, rhinos, orangutans, tapirs, monkeys and so many more! There are more than 14 thousand plant and tree species, 28 National parks, also one of the oldest rainforests in the world and the biggest cave chamber! And, even with the megacity like Kuala Lumpur, jungle takes up 60% of Malaysia`s territory! It is possible to get lost in this diversity, but if you wish to see Asia – start with Malaysia!
Remember that Malaysia consists of two parts and they are very different from each other. 40% of the territory is located on Peninsular Malaysia that borders with Singapore and Thailand, while 60% is on the Borneo Island that borders with Brunei and Indonesia. This country has also 870 smaller islands, though 80% of people live on Peninsular Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo are not connected by land, but there are flights between them. If Peninsular Malaysia is good for food, cities and cultural events, then Borneo is a true adventure paradise!
Prepare for sweating. Malaysia is very hot and humid! Seems that it is always too hot, only the taller peaks can give the breath back! Eyes are always burning from salt and clothes are wet, but again – therefore the flora and fauna is just stunning! But be mindful of the time you visit this country, as there are dry and wet seasons. And they vary upon the place, e.g., the best time to visit Langkawi is December till February while the best time for Perhentian Islands is June to August. Just check the weather patterns in your chosen destination – internet is full of recommendations as this country is often visited!
And Malaysia is quite safe country to visit as the natural disasters are barely happening – all the biggest hits take its neighboring countries like Philippines and Indonesia. Malaysia does not have active volcanoes, but sometimes there can be an earthquake. The biggest issue is Zika and Dengue viruses. The humidity is perfect for bacteria and mosquitos to spread out.
Let`s start with the planes. The very Air Asia is based in Malaysia – so from here you can get the cheapest flights all around! And you will notice that even connected flights stop here. Therefore it`s worthwhile to check out Air Asia homepage or the same Skyscanner to find more travel options!
And what about the public transport? That is generally very easy and accessible. Buses are available in the biggest cities and they also go between places all across Peninsular Malaysia. Red Bus Malaysia and Easy Book will help you to find the tickets, otherwise just go to the station and locals will help you there! Malaysia’s national railway company is KTM, though there are only two lines.
There is also a metro system in Kuala Lumpur, which sometimes is hidden in the underground shopping centres. If sometimes not that easily understandable, it is a good way to move around the city fast. KL also has commuter trains, a Light Rail Transit (LRT), Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and a monorail system. Check out here how to move around Kuala Lumpur.
Though keep in mind that in Malaysian Borneo, you’re basically on your own – rent a car or hitchhike. If you rent a car, remember that Malaysians drive on the left side of the road. And, if you are planning to park your car by a rental flat, it is useful to know that parking closer to the first floor is more expensive than the one furthest underground. By the way, Malaysians have their own car – Proton!
Be careful with taxi rides. Especially Kuala Lumpur`s taxi drivers have a very bad fame. Drivers tend to charge more and often refuse to use the meter or just say that it`s broken. Instead try to get a ride from Uber of Grab.
If you are at the airport, besides taxi there are trains and buses that can take you to the city and back. Train is more expensive – it costs around 10 euros, while bus will be three euros.
And, yeah, also hitchhiking works very well in this country!
People of Malaysia are very friendly. Even if most of them generally are not very active, seems that they`re always relaxed and happy. And, yeah, they are obsessed with food and internet! Actually, in a global study people of Malaysia were ranked as the most e-social nationality on the web. So don`t be surprised when you see them making perfect photos and actively posting everything on social media.
And let`s not forget that there are so many different ethnic groups in Malaysia! Malays, Indians, Chinese, Europeans and all the tourists. And therefore you will find not only different cuisines but also different festivals held across the country in different times – when you know the time of your journey to Malaysia is, it`s worthwhile to check out the celebrations and festivals there, too!
6. Malay English
Malaysia is a country where it is generally easy to move around as English is widely spoken. But keep in mind that they have another type of English that they call “Menglish” and it is quite different from the one that is commonly used. Sometimes we caught ourselves laughing a lot – “taxi” is “teksi”, “emotion” is “emosi”, “brothers and sisters” is “braders and sistahs” there. Seems that in those ancient times locals just wrote down the English they heard from British in their own style. And here you go. But generally the official language of the country is Malay and English is recognized language.
7. Proper clothing
While there are rules that one cannot kiss in public in KL metro, the capital of Malaysia is very developed and open, therefore you won`t find any problems wearing skirts or having uncovered shoulders. Though in more remote areas it is still inappropriate for woman to be that much undressed, so buy some light long pants and a T-shirt. And, even if Malaysia is so hot and humid, you should always cover yourself when entering religious sites. Also, sometimes you will be asked to take your shoes off before entering temple or cover your head in the church.
8. Attending mosques
To continue, even if proper clothing is required in religious sites, usually in the biggest mosques where tourists can enter the clothing is provided. Also, there are volunteer guides that are happy to introduce everyone with Islam and their religious system, and it is worthwhile info as that is the biggest religion in this country. Donations are always highly appreciated.
Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting and it is observed throughout Malaysia. But while in other Muslim countries mostly everything stops during this period of time, it is much easier to travel in Malaysia. Visitors and non-Muslim Malaysians aren’t expected to skip eating, drinking or smoking in public during the month of fasting, though be more respectful in this time – do not show off, do not be too loud and too flashy. But keep in mind that in remote areas you might need to search for food a bit more.
During Ramadan you can also join Muslims eating at night – for that reason there are even Ramadan Bazaars full of food stalls with amazing dishes!
ATMs work perfectly fine in Malaysia, but keep in mind that there are more remote destinations with no option to withdraw the money, so cash still should always be in your pocket!
It is quite easy to find a place to stay, especially using Oyo – Malaysian type of AirBnb. And, if you are renting a whole flat, it is good to know that almost every building has a roof pool, so enjoy that too!
12. Not the real party
When we were hitchhiking around Malaysia, people often told us to look for the party elsewhere, like Thailand. And we can admit that Malaysia is more for those who like nature, adventure and crazy-good food. Bigger cities have bars, but alcohol is not that cheap, and partying loudly is not that commonly accepted. But that doesn`t make Malaysia less attractive. This is just a perfect holiday destination!
Malaysians are very proud of their food and seems that all of them are real foodies. But if you choose to go “more local” and try the street food, be careful with meat – even if they are real meat-lovers, sometimes it is not kept properly, so you can get very bad poisoning. It is actually quite expensive to get vegetables in Malaysia as most of them are imported. Malaysians do not tend to grow veggies even if the land is fertile. They`re more concentrating on meat production and seafood, therefore vegetarian dishes can be more expensive than meat dishes. But usually it is less expensive to eat out than to cook at home. Interesting side-note, Malaysia is the second largest palm oil producers in the world!
Generally, you will see eateries on every corner, but choose the one that has the most costumers – this is how you can tell the quality, taste and good prices of the food. Eating with hands is quite common, by the way.
And try Malaysian fruits, especially durian!
There are places that make even durian coffee, and it is possible to find durian buffets where you pay certain amount of money to eat different durian dishes as much as you like. But, when you have your meal in a restaurant, keep in mind that there are some service charge as well, so ask about this beforehand. And, when shopping, remember that some prices include a GST 6% tax, some don`t.
Malaysia is a Muslim country, so alcohol consumption is not that common. But they have their own traditional drinks, like Teh Tarih. Though one of the most popular is cocoa and malt drink Milo. Well, this is not the only country in the world where people love Milo, but Malaysia has the world`s largest Milo factory and this drink is sold everywhere! Be careful with the tap water though – better buy the bottled one!
The most accessible free public toilets are in metro stations. And the good thing is that they have not only hole in the floor but a normal toilet, though instead of toilet paper they usually use water, therefore you will see a small water tube besides the toilet or sometimes even just bucket with water. So bring your own paper and be aware that the floors can be quite slippery as they`re always wet!
16. Those strange rules
Well, even in Kuala Lumpur`s metro you will find signs that it is not allowed to kiss in public. And remember Malaysian fruits? One of them you cannot bring with you in the public transport and you cannot keep it in your hotel room, and that`s durian. You will see that many houses will be missing number four (even 14, 24 and especially 44) as those buildings constructed by Chinese won`t have this number, because in Chinese number 4 pronunciates similarly as the word “death” and therefore it is avoided. It is not allowed to advertise the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and any advertisement of aphrodisiac properties is an offence, but that might not even refer to you. Though you could be fined for causing excessive noise, also if you are drunk and are incapable of taking care of yourself when in public. No fighting in public, no spitting! And always be respectful of religions, and remember that non – Muslims in Malaysia are not allowed to use the word “Allah” for “God”!
17. Make visa in Malaysia
Malaysia is a real hub, a meeting point, and the best place to start the journey across Asia! Why? There are almost all the embassies from surrounding countries, and visa application process is much easier than elsewhere. So if you are planning to go around Asia, start with Malaysia!
18. Try some tours!
In Malaysia, it is easy to explore surroundings by taking a free walking tour (donations are highly appreciated), city tour, Hop On – Hop Off, and even tours in mosques! This is quite a common practice to introduce foreign visitors with this spectacular country, therefore try out some of them! When you know your precise destination, go to the tourism information office (if such thing exists in that specific place) and ask for the offers, mentioning walking tours!
Malaysia is a diverse and very beautiful country to visit. It is easy to move around and very interesting to discover those hundreds of secrets that Malaysia has! Hopefully these tips will help you to enjoy Malaysia even more!