Malaysia is like two countries in one, cut in half by the South China Sea.
Influenced by China and India, the multicultural peninsula is a zenith of culture with dynamic urban metropolises while Borneo is where travelers go for respite on one of the many turquoise beaches or to explore its vast and ancient jungles.
This Malaysia travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.
- Malaysia power voltage is 230/240 V 50 Hz; Power sockets G.
- The Malaysian currency is the Malaysian Ringett (MYR) and is around 4 MYR to 1 USD.
- Malaysia is a multicultural but predominantly Islamic country.
- Water is generally safe to drink water straight from the tap. Bottled mineral water, however, is easily available in shops and supermarkets.
- For five consecutive years, Malaysia has won the coveted Guinness League of Excellence Award and bragging rights for brewing some of the best Guinness in the world.
- Visiting during Ramadan is not a problem as visitors and non-Muslim Malaysians aren’t expected to abstain from eating, drinking or smoking in public during the month of fasting.
- Malaysia has one of the highest rates of biodiversity in the world, said to host some 20% of the world’s animal species. The Taman Negara in Malaysia is over 130 million years old and is considered the oldest forest in the world.
Budget – Budget hotels in Malaysia start from about 4 USD per night, which is very affordable. Some of these hotels provide free Wi-Fi and free parking spaces.
Mid Range – In Malaysia, hotels in this category cost about 12 USD per night on average. Rooms here are fitted with air conditioners and water heaters. Some hotels also provide free Wi-Fi.
High End – Hotels here have modern rooms and suites fitted with kitchenettes. There are also gyms, indoor or outdoor pools, dining, free Wi-Fi, and in some cases, free shuttle or chauffeur services. Rooms cost 100 USD and above per night.
Nasi Lemak – Nasi Lemak, which is the traditional dish of Malaysia, is coconut rice cooked with pandan leaf and topped with chili sauce or other Malaysian curries.
Ikan Bakar – This is marinated grilled fish or seafood, spiced with chili sauce, wrapped in banana leaves, and prepared over charcoal.
Nasi Kandar – With influence from India, this dish consists of steamed rice, Indian style curries, and a variety of protein options.
Char Kuay Teow – This is a stir fry noodle dish known for its unique smoky taste and accompanied with seafood and protein of your choice.
Bak Kut Teh – Bak Kut Teh is a Malaysian broth-based delicacy consisting of pork ribs, spices, and herbs that are slow-cooked until they are tender.
Flights: Malaysia has airports in major cities like Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, and Penang. You can get direct flights to Malaysia from the United Kingdom, India, and Taiwan, to name a few.
You can check for the best flights to Malaysia on Skyscanner.
Buses: Buses are common in Malaysia, and fares cost around 4 USD.
Taxis/Uber: There are affordable and safe taxi services in Malaysia. Most taxis are metered but cost about 1 USD and above depending on the distance. Uber is no longer available in Malaysia, but there are substitutes like Grab and Easy Taxi.
Car Rental: Car rental services are available in Malaysia. Depending on the rental company, you may spend about 45 USD a day.
You can also compare prices here.
Places to Stay
MOV Hotel – If you plan to visit Kuala Lumpur, this hotel has western breakfast options, free Wi-Fi, a gym, swimming pool, and other attractions.
The Waterfront Hotel Kuching – Located in Kuching, this hotel offers free Wi-Fi, free parking, airport shuttle and an indoor pool.
Eastern & Oriental Hotel – This hotel in Penang has a golf course, fitness, spa and wellness centers. They also offer free Wi-Fi, free parking, and complimentary breakfast.
Malaysia is hot and humid with a typically tropical climate. Average temperatures lie between 21 C and 32 C. Humidity is high. Rain tends to occur between November to February on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, on western Sarawak, and north-eastern Sabah.
On the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the rainy season is April to May and October to November.
- Dress conservatively. Malaysia is a Muslim country, as a result women should be dressed conservatively (long pants, shirts with arms and shoulders covered) while men are recommended to keep their shoulders and legs covered. Many religious sites forbid shorts and sleeveless shirts for both sexes, so a light scarf is handy to wrap around the shoulders. Swimsuits are ok to wear at the beach or pool, but make sure to cover up before walking anywhere else.
- The protection basics – Travellers should stock up on the essentials: sun block, mosquito/insect repellant containing DEET or a pyrethroid insecticide, sunglasses and a hat.
- Pack for Humidity – for humid weather it is best to pack fabrics that breathe as much as possible and natural fabrics, like cotton, linen or rayon (avoiding silk, wool and polyester). Clothing should be loose and comfortable to encourage the flow of air and allow moisture to evaporate. Think: cool yet conservative
- Sarongs – From protecting yourself from the hot island sun, covering up at religious sites or keeping warm on a cool night, sarongs are a must-have.
See our packing tips: packing tips
When to Go
The weather in Malaysia is always warm and humid, which makes it easy to visit at any time of the year. However, there is an important point that should be noted. The east coast and west coast have different rainy seasons.
For the former, it starts around November till mid-February and is quite intense. The west coast has a more toned down rainy season, which begins in April and ends in October.
Things to Do
- Hike Mount Kinabalu – This 4095 metre mammoth is a 2-hour bus ride from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo’s northern province.
- Trek the Pinnacles of Gunung Mulu – a stone forest of white and grey limestone, jutting 45 metres out of the earth in razor sharp formations.
- Go on a Jungle Safari – Take a boat up the The Sungai (river) Kinabatangan right into the heart of the jungle of Borneo, and stay in a rustic camp for a few days with Uncle Tan Wildlife Adventures.
- Attend the Thaipusam Fesitval – It is the most fascinating festival you will ever witness. Thaipusam is a Hindu festival that happens every January or February.
- Take Cooking Lessons – Learn about the rich Malaysian cuisine by taking cooking classes for a short time during your stay.
- Visit Sarawak Cultural Village – This is the home of Malaysian culture where you can learn about the art, music and culture of the people.
- Explore Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia’s intrinsic colourful contrasts climax in spectacular Kuala Lumpur.
- Enjoy Tea Time in Cameron Highlands – When travelling to Malaysia, one normally doesn’t think of tea plantations and mountain chalets. But when visiting the Cameron Highlands in the country’s interior, that is exactly what you will find.
Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies.
We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.
We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.
Booking.com: This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It is usually the has the cheapest prices, not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
Trip Advisor: What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation.
Air BnB: Airbnb is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
Skyscanner: This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
Hostelworld: With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
Rome 2 Rio: If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs. I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
Get Your Guide: For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world’s largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
World Nomads Insurance: When traveling you should always have travel insurance. We do.