The cultural melting pot of Southeast Asia, Malaysia seamlessly blends the flavours of the Orient, India and Europe.
The country naturally focuses on its new millennium metropolis of a capital, Kuala Lumpur. With the iconic Petronas Towers lighting the way, Kuala Lumpur has the polished panache of a Western capital combined with the frenetic nature of an Asian city, making it the ideal gateway to the rest of Malaysia and, indeed, to Southeast Asia.
It's difficult to believe you're in the same country when you travel from urban Kuala Lumpur out into the countryside. With three-quarters of the land covered in dense and ancient rainforest, it is rich in natural attractions that will appeal to the spirit of adventure in us all. Explore Borneo and the states of Sabah and Sarawak, and you'll find Malay tribes still inhabiting longhouse river settlements just as their forefathers did for centuries before - an amazing juxtaposition with the modern capital.
Although the inhabitants exhibit the customary frenetic nature of this part of the world, Malaysia manages to somehow exude an air of laid back casualness, an insouciance born of the fact that for centuries people have chosen to come here without Malaysia itself having to make much effort.
Visitors haven't always been as welcome as today's tourists, but that doesn't stop the traditional Malay hospitality from being expressed. Prepare to slip into Southeast Asian life, with ease...
Demographics and Stats
Malaysia is a real melting pot of Southeast Asian races, cultures and practices. The Malay people are the most dominant in the country, but there are also very significant populations of Chinese and (mainly Northern) Indian people. Consequently you'll find a babel of languages spoken throughout the nation. In Kuala Lumpur things are even more cosmopolitan with people from all over the world coming here to do business and trade.
From the birth of Buddha, to the holy month of Ramadan, to the piercing ritual of Thaipusam, all the representative cultures that make up Malaysian society are afforded equal importance and freedom to celebrate their religion and beliefs. It is marvellously egalitarian and makes visiting any part of Malaysia, but particularly Kuala Lumpur, an excellent way of getting a handle on a huge cross-section of Southeast Asia.
Shopping in general is much cheaper than in Europe or the United States. High quality goods can be purchased at very reasonable prices and sometimes come with the opportunity to bargain. Kuala Lumpur is the centre of all shopping with its many malls and department stores. Visitors looking for luxury goods and designer brand names will find all these and more. Local handicraft and fabric are also readily available at the Suria KLCC at the foot of the world-famous Petronas Twin Towers. It is more likely, however, that things will be cheaper at their place of origin.
Malaysian batik is famous, its colourful patterns printed or often hand-drawn on cotton or silk. In general, good quality batik can be found at large handicraft centres. The country's best batik comes from Kelantan and Terengganu. Pewter items are widely sold and are available in major shopping centres, hotel shopping arcades and specialist shops.
Other items worth taking out your wallet for include the colourful songket cloth woven with gold or silver thread, pottery from Sarawak, Perak and Johor, brassware and silk from Terengganu, silverwork and wood carvings from Kelantan, woven basketwork and high quality gold jewellery. Stores can make arrangements for overseas shipping.
Most shops and department stores in Malaysia open from 10h00 to 22h00, Mon-Sun. Few places close for lunch or dinner. There are 24-hour convenience stores and restaurants in major cities. A modest tax of 5% is payable on the price of most goods and services. This tax is non-refundable. Foreign visitors can make duty free purchases on production of their passport.
Currency: Ringgit (RM). RM1=100 sen
Notes: RM1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000
Coins: RM1 and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 sen
Credit cards: Credit cards are widely accepted by most shops and restaurants in the cities, but smaller shops usually accept only cash.
Depending on exactly where you go, recommended vaccinations are hepatitis A & B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, typhoid, and booster shots. In Sabah and Sarawak, you may also need to take malaria tablets. It is advisable to consult your doctor before travelling.
Should your nationality not be listed above, kindly contact our dedicated consultants for assistance.
Generally speaking Malaysia is split into wet and dry seasons, however these occur at different times in different areas of the country.
Peninsular Malaysia experiences an equatorial climate, meaning that for most of the year temperatures are hot and humidity high. There are slight variations through the seasons but the most distinctive variation occurs with the onset of the monsoon between Oct-Nov and Apr-May. Inland areas experience a relatively even spread of rainfall throughout the year, most hot & dry months from Apr - Aug.
At all times of year the climate is a lot warmer than Europeans and Westerners will be used to and you should pack appropriately. Light but waterproof clothing is essential during any wet season.