Difference between revisions of "Malaysia"
Revision as of 13:41, 13 December 2008
Malaysia  is a country in South-East Asia, located partly on a peninsula of the Asian mainland and partly on the northern third of the island of Borneo. West (peninsular) Malaysia shares a border with Thailand, is connected by a causeway and a bridge (the 'second link') to the island state of Singapore, and has coastlines on the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca. East Malaysia (Borneo) shares borders with Brunei and Indonesia.
Some of the most stunningly beautiful things about Malaysia are its tropical islands. And there's more to them than sun, sand and surf: particularly on the East Coast and Borneo's Sipadan there are coral reefs and hence excellent diving .
There are various beautiful national parks in Malaysia. There are many different types of expeditions available, ranging from those where you hardly lose sight of the hotel to those were you are fully immersed in the jungle with only the guide and yourself if you are willing to pay the money! Tours vary from about 4 days to 2 weeks or more. It is very unlikely in most of the national parks for you to see a tiger or an elephant, this is only really likely if you are going to be staying for longer than a few days, i.e., for a couple of weeks at least. One of the most common forms of wildlife that you will encounter in the jungle however are definitely leeches! In the rainforest it is very very humid but actually it is not incredibly hot. This is because of the large amount of shade afforded by the canopy created by the interlocking trees. Shop around for deals of getting into the jungle and make your decision based on what type of person you are. If you are going to enjoy a lot of hiking without seeing any other people for days or even weeks then you can have that choice, alternatively you can have a much more 'packaged' tour in which you will probably stay in a very built up tourist town which has probably just grown out of the demand for people wanting to stay in the jungle.
To escape from the muggy tropics, do as the English did and head up to the cooler highlands of West Malaysia.
Malaysia is a mix of the modern world and a developing nation. With its investment in the high technology industries and moderate oil wealth, it has become a rich nation in South-East Asia. Malaysia, for most visitors, presents a happy mix: there is high-tech infrastructure and things generally work well and more or less on schedule, but prices remain reasonable and daily life far more vibrant than, say, sanitized Singapore.
Malaya was formed in the year 1957 and became independent from British Colonialisation. The Union Jack was lowered and the first Malaysian flag was raised in the Merdeka (independence) square on midnight 31st August, 1957. Six years later, Malaysia was formed in 1963 through a merging of Malaya and Singapore, including the East Malaysian states of Sabah (known then as North Borneo) and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo. The first several years of the country's history were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippines' claims to Sabah, and Singapore's expulsion in 1965.
Today's Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, nominally headed by the Paramount Ruler (Yang di-Pertuan Agong), who is elected for a five-year term from among the nine sultans of the Malay states. The current king, from Terengganu, was sworn in on 13 Dec 2006. In practice, however, power is held by the Prime Minister, who is the leader of elected government. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party and its National Alliance (Barisan Nasional) coalition have ruled Malaysia uninterrupted since its independence, and while periodic elections are contested by feisty opposition parties, the balance has so far always been shifted in the government's favor by press control and use of restrictive security legislation dating from the colonial era.
The climate in Malaysia is tropical. The north-east monsoon (October to February) deluges Borneo and the east coast in rain and often causes flooding, while the west coast (particularly Langkawi and Penang) escape unscathed. The milder south-west monsoon (April to October) reverses the pattern. The southern parts of peninsular Malaysia, including perennially soggy Kuala Lumpur, are exposed to both but even during the rainy season, the showers tend to be intense but brief.
The terrain consists of coastal plains rising to hills and mountains.
Malaysia is a multicultural society. While Malays and other indigenous minorities make up a 69% majority, there are also 21% Chinese (especially visible in the cities), 8% Indian and a miscellaneous grouping of 10% "others", such as the Portugese clan in Melaka. There is hence also a profusion of faiths and religions, with Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sikhism and even shamanism on the map.
Most notably in Malaysia, unlike in other countries, the Chinese community is not assimilated and has managed to maintain a distinct cultural identity from the rest of the population. Many traditional Chinese customs, including some no longer practised in China itself due to the cultural revolution, are widely practised by the Malaysian Chinese
Multicultural Malaysia celebrates a vast range of festivals, but the ones to look out for nationwide are Islamic holidays, most notably the fasting month of Ramadhan. During its 30 days, devout Muslims refrain from passing anything through their lips (food, drink, smoke) between sunrise and sunset. People get up early before sunrise for a meal (sahur), and take off early to get back home in time to break fast (buka puasa) at sunset. At the end of the month is the festival of Hari Raya Puasa, also known as Aidilfitri, when pretty much the entire country takes a week or two off to 'balik kampung' or return to their home towns to meet family and friends, this is the one time of year when Kuala Lumpur has no traffic jams, but the rest of the country does, and traveling around Malaysia is best avoided if at all possible.These family reunions are also celebrated during other main festivals in the country. With people decked out in their traditional finery, these festivals are an integral feature of Malaysia society.
Non-Muslims, as well as Muslims traveling (musafir), are exempt from fasting but it is polite to refrain from eating or drinking in public. Many restaurants close during the day and those that stay open maintain a low profile. Business travelers will notice that things move rather more slowly than usual and, especially towards the end of the month, many people will take leave. The upside for the traveler is the bustling Ramadhan bazaars in every city and town, bustling with activity and bursting at the seams with great food. Hotels and restaurants also pull out all stops to put on massive spreads of food for fast-breaking feasts.
Other major holidays include Chinese New Year (around February), the Buddhist holiday of Wesak (around June), Deepavali, the Hindu festival of lights (around November) and Christmas.
Some uniquely Malaysian festivals of note include the Harvest Festival at the end of May each year and the 'Pesta Gawai' in early June, both thanksgiving celebrations held in East Malaysia.
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival that falls in January or February and is one of the must-see events. The largest procession in the country takes place at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur. Devotees carry decorated altars or kavadi up a flight of 272 steps towards the temple, all this while also having spears and hooks pierced through various parts of their bodies. This masochistic practice does not harm the devotees in any way! The ability is attributed to divine intervention and religious fervor.
Malaysia is close to the equator, therefore a warm weather is guaranteed. But like most Southeast Asia countries, Malaysia's sun-shining days are interrupted by Monsoon season from November and February every year.
Most Western nationalities can enter Malaysia without a visa, and are normally issued 30, 60, or 90 day entry permit stamps.
Some nationalities that are not eligible to enter without a visa can get a tourist visa on arrival; other nationalities must apply for a visa in advance - see the Immigration Department of Malaysia website for the current scoop. If you need a visa to enter Malaysia and plan to visit Sarawak, state this when applying as a separate visa is required for Sarawak.
ASEAN nationals (with the exception of Myanmar) can enter and visit for up to a month without a visa; a visa is required for longer stays, except for Brunei and Singapore nationals.
Israel, Republic of Serbia and Republic of Montenegro nationals must obtain permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs in advance.
For people with Dual Citizenship (two passports), Malaysian immigration is pretty strict about this. It is advised that you exit your last port and enter into Malaysia with the same passport.
Most international flights land at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) (IATA: KUL | ICAO: WMKK); AirAsia flights now use the new LCC terminal, a 20km road transfer away from the main KLIA terminal. KLIA's predecessor, the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (IATA: SZB | ICAO: WMSA) in Subang near Kuala Lumpur handles chartered and turboprop aircraft.
See the Kuala Lumpur Get in section for detailed airport information.
National carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has an extensive worldwide network coverage and regularly ranks high in airline quality assessments, while no-frills low-cost carrier AirAsia now covers an ever-expanding set of neighboring destinations including Australia, China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It will soon start a long haul flight from Kuala Lumpur to London Stansted Airport.
Long-distances buses/coaches into Malaysia run from Brunei, Indonesian Borneo, Singapore and Thailand. Please see the relevant city pages for more details.
Land crossings are possible from southern Thailand and Singapore into Peninsular Malaysia, as well as from Brunei and Kalimantan (the Indonesian side of Borneo) into Sarawak. An International Drivers Permit (IDP) is required. See the respective city or state pages for more detailed information.
Ferries connect various points in Peninsular Malaysia with Sumatra in Indonesia and southern Thailand, Sarawak with Brunei, and Sabah with East Kalimantan in Indonesia and Mindanao in the Philippines. Luxury cruises also run from Singapore and sometimes Phuket (Thailand) to Malaysia.
It's possible to walk across the Causeway between Singapore and Johor Bahru at the southern tip of Malaysia, although getting to the Causeway on foot from Singapore is not so easy (see Johor Bahru and Singapore pages for if you decide to catch the bus instead). You can also walk in/out of Thailand at Wang Kelian and Padang Besar (both in Perlis), Bukit Kayu Hitam (Kedah), Pengkalan Hulu (Perak) and Rantau Panjang (Kelantan).
Largely thanks to budget carrier AirAsia , Malaysia is crisscrossed by a web of affordable flights with advertised "promotional" prices starting at RM9 for flights booked well in advance. Flying is the only practical option for traveling between peninsular Malaysia and Borneo, as well as reaching some of the more remote outposts of Borneo. State carrier Malaysia Airlines  also has competitive fares if booked in advance, and their offshoot Firefly  has a handy network radiating out of Penang.
Berjaya Air  also flies small Dash-7 turboprops from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to its own airports on the resort islands of Pangkor, Redang and Tioman. Prices are steep (from RM214 plus fees one way), but this is by far the fastest and more comfortable way of reaching any of these.
In Sabah and Sarawak, MASWings , operates turboprop services linking interior communities, including those in the Kelabit Highlands, with coastal cities. MASWings took over the rural air services network from FlyAsian Express on October 1, 2007, which in turn took the service over from Malaysia Airlines 14 months before that.
Long-distance trains in Malaysia can rarely match road transport in terms of speed, but state operator KTMB provides relatively inexpensive and generally reliable services around Peninsular Malaysia (but not Sabah/Sarawak in Borneo). The main western line connects Butterworth (near Penang), Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru, while the eastern line runs through Gua Musang and the Taman Negara National Park to Kota Bharu, near the Thai border and the Perhentian Islands.
There are several train types and fare classes. First and second class are air-con, third class has fans instead. For sleeper trains, KTMB's epitome of luxury is Premier Night Deluxe (ADNFD - between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur only) featuring individual cabins containing two berths and a private shower/toilet unit. More economical are the Superior Night (ADNS) sleeper cars, which have upper and lower berths along each side, each bunk having a solid partition at each end and a side curtain for privacy. The carriages shake and rattle quite a bit but are comfortable and clean.
The Jungle Railway is a daily eastern line service which stops at every station (every 15-20 min or so) between Tumpat (close to the Thai border) and Gemas, including stops at Gua Musang, Kuala Lipis and Jerantut. It's 3rd class only, meaning no air-con and no reservations, and some stops may be lengthy as it's a single line and all other trains have priority - hence the "Jungle Train" waits in side loops along the way so that oncoming or overtaking trains can pass. Tourists may use this service to travel to Taman Negara National Park (Jerantut) or the Perhentian Islands (closest station to Kota Bharu is Wakaf Bahru). Some find it to be a fascinating and stunningly scenic ride; others feel there's not much to see when you're in the jungle.
Eastern line night trains (for which reservations are possible and recommended) also have 2nd class berths and seats, and some have 1st class sleepers too.
Tickets can be booked and even printed online at KTMB's site. Enquiries and reservations can be made by phone at KTMB's call centers +60 3 2267-1200 (Malaysia) or +65 6222-5165 (Singapore).
Malaysia has an excellent highway network, culminating in the North-South Expressway from Singapore all the way to the Thai border. Petrol slightly cheaper than market prices at RM2.45/litre (in Peninsular Malaysia) and RM2.44 (in Sabah and Sarawak), but tolls are payable on expressways.
Traffic drives on the left.
Beware of reckless motorcyclists, especially at night. At traffic lights, they will accumulate in front of you. Let them get away first to avoid accidents.
In general, cars and motorcycles might not always indicate line changes and often change from the far right to the far left at the very last minute. Always be aware of what the cars in front are doing!
Care is needed when driving in larger cities, such as Kuala Lumpur. Problems include apparently suicidal motorcyclists, massive traffic jams throughout the day, and bewildering roads especially in the older parts of the city where planning is virtually nonexistent. Out of town however, cars and motorcycles are the best and sometimes the only way to explore the country. Some of the more rural areas have motorcycles and scooters to rent for as little as RM25/day, a great way to explore the local area or larger islands like Langkawi.
To avoid the hassle of driving, taxis are a good way of getting around. They are available in major towns and cities but are most abundant in Kuala Lumpur and its suburbs. Taxis in Kuala Lumpur and its suburbs are metered but when demand exceeds supply or during rush hour, they may ask for a fixed price before commencing travel.
A few tips for unmetered journeys: (1) If you live in an expensive hotel, quoting a nearby destination such as a restaurant or shopping mall might save you some money. (2) Once the haggling is done, hop into the taxi, sit back and don't question the driver - the fastest route between two points in Kuala Lumpur is almost never a straight line!
The cheapest way to travel in Malaysia is by bus. All towns of any size have a bus terminal offering connections to other parts of the country. There are many companies of varying degrees of dependability, but two of the largest and more reliable are Transnasional and NICE/Plusliner. 24-seater "luxury" buses are recommended for long-distance travel.
If travelling on holidays or even over the weekend, it is advisable to reserve your seats in advance. Note that air conditioning on some buses can be extremely cold so don't forget to bring a good sweater, pants and socks, especially for overnight journeys on luxury buses!
The sole official language of Malaysia is Malay (Bahasa Malaysia). Some parts of Malaysia near the Thai border, most notably Kelantan have dialects of Malay which are nearly incomprehensible to speakers of standard Malay, though most people in these areas will be able to converse in standard Malay if needed. English is also taught in schools and widely spoken in the larger cities although in rural areas a little Malay will come in handy. There is also a colloquial form of English spoken among Malaysians in urban areas, not inappropriately known as Manglish, which takes a bit of getting used to if you intend to join in the conversation on local topics. Malaysians will almost always try to speak 'standardized English' when approached by Western travellers.
The Chinese community in Malaysia speaks a wide variety of Chinese dialects including Cantonese, Mandarin, Teo-chew, Hakka, Hainanese, Hok-chew and Hokkien. Mandarin is taught in most Chinese schools while Cantonese is commonly heard on in the mass media, so most Malaysian Chinese would be conversant in both, regardless of their native dialect. The most commonly spoken Indian language is Tamil; other include Malayalam, Punjabi and Telugu. In East Malaysia several indigenous languages are also spoken, especially Iban and Kadazan.
See also: Malay phrasebook
The Malaysian currency is the ringgit, informally known as the dollar (the "$" symbol can be seen on older notes) and abbreviated RM or MYR, is divided into 100 sen. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, and 50 sen (1 sen coins were withdrawn in 2008 and RM1 coins ceased to be legal tender in December 2005) as well as bills of RM1, 2, 5, 10, 50 and 100. The RM2 note is becoming very rare and is usually in bad condition as new notes have ceased to be issued. 5 sen coins are mainly given as change in large establishments and supermarkets, peddlers and street vendors might be reluctant to accept them.
Ringgits are freely convertible and the exchange rate is US$1 = RM3.16 (28 April 2008). Foreign currencies are not generally accepted. The major exception is Singapore dollars, which are accepted by KTMB and toll roads, but at a highly unfavorable 1:1 exchange rate (an anomaly dating back to when the ringgit was interchangeable with the Singapore dollar, prior to the 1970s).
Banks and airports are not the best places to exchange money if it is not urgent. Licensed money changers in major shopping malls often have the best rates - be sure to say the amount you wish to exchange and ask for the 'best quote' as rates displayed on the board are often negotiable, especially for larger amounts.
ATMs are widely available in cities, but do stock up on cash if heading out into the smaller islands or the jungle. Credit cards can be used in most shops, restaurants and hotels, although skimming can be a problem in dodgier outlets.
Banks in Malaysia, especially those in major towns and cities, have staff who are trained to handle international transactions. For any enquiries and transactions, get a number, sit down and wait for your turn to be served (There is no need to queue while you wait in air-conditioned comfort!).
Banks are opened Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4pm and selected banks are opened on Saturday from 9.30am to 11.30am except on the first and third Saturdays of each month. In the states of Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, they are open Saturday to Wednesday from 9.30am to 4pm and Thursday from 9.30am to 11.30am.
Most visitors will find Malaysia quite cheap, although it is noticeably more expensive than Thailand to the north. You can live in hostel dorms and feast on hawker food for less than RM50 per day, but you'll wish to double this for comfort, particularly if travelling in more expensive East Malaysia. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury hotels and air fares are comparatively affordable, with even the fanciest 5-star hotels costing less than RM400/night.
Tipping is not customary in Malaysia. However, hotel porters and taxi drivers will appreciate a small tip if you have been provided with exemplary service. Most expensive restaurants, bars and hotels may indicate prices in the form of RM19++, meaning that sales tax (5%) and service charge (10%) will be added to the bill. Hotel tax of 5% may also be added to this.
Kuala Lumpur is a shopping mecca for clothes, electronics, computer goods and much more, with very competitive prices by any standard. Traditional Malaysian fabrics (batik) are a popular souvenir. The cheapest place to easily buy ethnic souvenirs (especially wood-based) is in Kuching, East Malaysia, and the most expensive place is in the major, posh KL shopping centres.
In general shops open from 10.30am till 9.30pm in the large cities. They open and close for business earlier in the smaller towns and rural areas.
The crossroads of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine, Malaysia is an excellent place to makan (eat in Malay). Look out for regional specialities and Nyonya (Peranakan) cuisine, the fusion between Malay and Chinese cooking.
Malaysians are very proud of their cooking and most towns or even villages have their own delicious specialities such as Sarawak laksa, Kajang satay, Ipoh chicken rice, Kelantanese nasi minyak and many, many more. Most of them rely on word of mouth for advertising and are frequently located in the most inconvenient, out-of-the-way places so you might want to try asking the locals for their personal recommendations.
Generally, you can eat pretty much anywhere in Malaysia. Food outlets are comparatively clean - the only thing you should avoid is ice for your drinks, when you frequent the street or hawker stalls since the blocks of ice used there might not be up to your hygienic standards. In actual restaurants this is not a problem. Also you might want to avoid ordering water from hawker stalls or the mamak restaurants as they are usually unboiled tap water.
Eating habits run the gamut, but most foods are eaten by fork and spoon: push and cut with the fork in the left hand, and eat with the spoon in the right. Noodles and Chinese dishes typically come with chopsticks, while Malay and Indian food can be eaten by hand, but nobody will blink an eye if you ask for a fork and spoon instead. If eating by hand, always use your right hand to pick your food as Malays and Indians traditionally use their left hand for dirty things like washing up after using the restroom. If eating in a group, serving dishes are always shared, but you'll get your own bowl of rice and soup.
The Malays were Malaysia's original inhabitants and their distinctive cuisine is popular to this day. Characterized by heavy use of spices, most Malay dishes are curries, stews or dips of one kind or another and nasi kandar restaurants, offering a wide variety of these to ladle onto your rice, are very popular.
Malay desserts, especially the sweet pastries and jellies (kuih or kueh) made largely from coconut and palm sugar (gula melaka, named after Melaka), bear a distinct resemblance to those of Thailand. But in the sweltering tropical heat, try one of many concoctions made with ice instead:
Besides these dishes, the Peranakans are also known for their kueh or snacks which are somewhat different from the Malay versions due to stronger Chinese influences.
Chinese food as eaten in Malaysia commonly originates from southern China, particularly Fujian and Guangdong. While "authentic" fare is certainly available, especially in fancier restaurants, the daily fare served in hawker centres has absorbed a number of tropical touches, most notably the fairly heavy use of chilli and the Malay fermented shrimp paste belachan as condiments. Noodles can also be served not just in soup (湯 tang), but also "dry" (干 kan), meaning that your noodles will be served tossed with chilli and spices in one bowl, and the soup will come in a separate bowl.
The smallest of the area's minorities, the Indians have had a disporportionately large impact on the culinary scene, with the mamak (Indian Muslim, see below) stall being a fixture in every Malaysian city. Authentic Indian food in Malaysia includes south Indian typical meals such as dosai, idli, sambar, and others, as well as north Indian meals including various curries, naan bread, and more. In addition, however, a number of Indian dishes have been "Malaysianized" and adopted by the entire population, including:
East Malaysia, especially Sarawak, also offers a wide range of local dishes, but these are very rarely seen in peninsular Malaysia. See Sarawak#Eat for details.
Where to eat
The cheapest places to eat are hawker stalls and coffeeshops, known as kedai kopi in Malay or kopitiam in Chinese. Despite the name, these usually sell a lot more than coffee! Particularly popular and tasty are mamak stalls, run by Indian Muslims and serving up localized Indian fare like roti canai. Most hawker stalls stay open till late and some even operate on shifts so you can find the same stall offering different food at different points throughout the day. You can also do take away from any stall, just ask for bungkus (Malay) or ta pao (Chinese). A hawker meal will rarely cost you over RM5. Hygiene standards in Malaysia, while not up to that of neighbouring Singapore, Hong Kong or Western countries, is still reasonable and much better than say, mainland China or Thailand. Just be observant, and generally speaking, if a stall is patronised by locals, it should be safe to eat there.
One step up on the scale is the kedai makanan or the more Western-style restoran. A type to look out for is the nasi kandar restaurant (also known as nasi campur or nasi padang), with a vast range of curries and toppings to ladle on top of your rice.
Seafood restaurants (makanan laut) are comparatively pricy but still excellent value by most standards; do check prices before ordering though. Local prawns are gigantic, Chinese-style steamed fish is a treat and crab served with sticky chilli sauce is particularly popular.
Last but not least, some less adventurous options. Food courts in shopping malls are a good way to sample local delicacies in air-conditioned comfort, paying only a small premium over hawker prices. And yes, you can also find McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and the usual suspects plus imitators throughout Malaysia.
Being a Muslim country, finding halal food in Malaysia is easy, but most Chinese restaurants are not halal — ask if in doubt. Meals at Malay restaurants and Western fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut are halal. Restaurants at major hotels serve halal food. Generally local Muslims will eat at Western, Chinese and Indian eateries if there is a halal sign or a framed picture of Quranic verses on the walls at the payment counter. Most of the restaurants tend to display their halal certification or halal sign on their places.Halal certification was awarded and enforced by government agency usually JAKIM.
Vegetarianism is well understood and every restaurant will be able to come up with something on request, but don't rely entirely on menu descriptions: innocuous-seeming dishes like "fried vegetables" etc will often contain pork bits, shrimp paste (belacan), fish sauce etc. Indian restaurants usually have very good vegetarian selections, and purely vegetarian Chinese restaurants (often serving remarkable "mock meat" products made from tofu, gluten etc) are also not uncommon. Getting vegetarian food in rural areas, especially those near fishing villages, may be more difficult, but learning some basic Malay vocabulary will go a long way to help you get your message across — see the Malay phrasebook. Veganism is rarely understood in this part of the world and is largely mistaken as an acronym for vegetarianism.
Available widely in all town in form of hostel or budget hotel. In major town, usually budget accommodation is in form of hostel with shared bathroom and toilet. Price range from RM 20 to RM 50
One noticeable no frills or budget hotels chains operated under brand TuneHotel claims to offer a 5-star sleeping experience at a 1-star price. Advanced booking is encourage and can be done online www.tunehotels.com
Usually only available at district level town
Only available at the city, Kuala Lumpur , Penang & Johor and most of the island
Malaysians like both coffee (kopi) and tea (teh), especially the national drink teh tarik ("pulled tea"), named after the theatrical 'pulling' motion used to pour it. By default, both will be served hot, sweet and with a dose of condensed milk; request teh o to skip the milk, teh ais for iced milky tea, or teh o ais for iced milkless tea. Drinking with no sugar at all is considered odd, but asking for kurang manis (less sugar) will ease the pain.
Another peculiar local favourite is the kopi tongkat ali ginseng, a mixture of coffee, a local aphrodisiacal root, and ginseng served with condensed milk that's touted as an alternative to viagra and red bull combined and is usually advertised with a picture of a bed broken in half.
Other popular nonalcoholic options include the chocolate drink Milo and lime juice (limau). Freshly made fruit juices are also widely available, as well as a wide range of canned drinks (some familiar, some less so).
Topically and perhaps, rather un-PC, is a local drink comprised of white soya milk and black grass jelly (cincau) called a Michael Jackson and can be ordered at most hawker centre and local roadside cafes ("mamak")
Although Malaysia is a self-proclaimed Islamic country, alcohol is widely available on licensed outlet, however some states (notably Kelantan and Terengganu) ban alcohol. With the exception of tax-free islands (Labuan, Langkawi, Tioman) and duty free shops (for example in Johor Bahru), prices are comparatively high, with a can of beer costing RM7.50 or more even in supermarkets or 7 elevens. However, in East Malaysia, smuggled liquors are widely available.
In East Malaysia, particularly Sarawak, tuak is a common affair for any celebration or festivals such as Gawai Dayak and Christmas Day. Tuak is made from fermented rice which sometimes sugar, honey or other various condiments are added. It is normally served lukewarm without ice. Visitors can choose from 'strong' flavour of tuak (which is normally being fermented for years), or 'mild' flavour (which sometimes just being prepared a week or even a day before). Tuak in Kelantan is also can be considered as a liquor since that it contains trace amount of fermented nipah or sap juice. The alcohol content in Kelantan tuak can easily reach 50% after 3 days from the time it was extracted.
Malaysia's universities are generally well-regarded and draw exchange students from near and far.
Obtaining a working visa takes some effort. The easiest way to work in Malaysia is probably to work for an overseas company and get posted to Malaysia. The Malaysian Immigration Department website has basic advice. In order to obtain a work permit, you need to have an offer from your future employer who will have to do the paperwork for you. It's very expensive and comes with many restrictions if a company wants to hire a foreigner and as such next to impossible. As stated above, a feasible way is to get transfered. Finding a job is otherwise unlikely unless you are getting married to a local and even then it remains difficult.
Never bring any recreational drugs into Malaysia, even if you are only there for transit. Possession and/or trafficking of even minute amounts can lead to a mandatory death sentence.
Crime levels are on the rise in Malaysia, especially in Johor, so common sense precautions should be observed. Pickpockets and snatch-and-run thieves ply their trade in Kuala Lumpur and large cities as well as in housing areas, and the security of cheaper accommodations may have room for improvement. Be particularly careful when it comes to snatch-and-run thieves as some of them are known to drag victims along the road with their motorcycle until they release their grip on their possessions. As a general precaution, always carry your bags on the side not facing the road and walk against the flow of traffic.
Vehicles will not stop at pedestrian/zebra crossings. Seeing that this will not change, the problem is overcome by building pedestrian bridges and installing pedestrian traffic lights.
Drunk driving is a serious offence and breathalyser tests by the police are common.
Police in Malaysia are known for asking for and accepting bribes on traffic stops. This is accepted among locals, and a fair amount of traffic violations will be ignored for a fee (usually between 50-200RM depending on severity). Do not be alarmed if you are asked for money, but if possible let your host do the talking. It is best practice to pay the officer what they want and not ask any questions, as a disgruntled officer can create issues for you and your host. Note that this is generally restricted to traffic stops, and you should not offer bribes in other situations, especially with government officials or customs agents.
Travel documents and valuables are best deposited in a hotel safe or carried safely with you, as there is a potential of theft from hotel rooms while guests are away.
Women travelling alone should be wary of opening their room doors to strangers. In such situations, common sense judgement should prevail.
Many if not most taxis will refuse to use the meter, although you are far more likely to get a metered taxi by flagging one at a street than a taxi stand. While understandable — official rates are often years behind inflation — you have to bargain, as the initial asking price may be grossly inflated. If using a taxi late at night, it is best to use the dial-a-taxi service as there have been incidents where taxis flagged down during those hours being fake/unregistered. The unregistered taxi driver might then rob or assault their victims with the help of assailants.
Do not accept drinks from strangers in any pub or club as there is a risk they might be spiked. Gambling is illegal and tourists are often scammed at illegal gambling joints.
Credit card fraud can be a problem, so use plastic only at large, reputable retailers, and do not let your card out of sight.
Public demonstrations are almost unheard of in Malaysia - should any occur, they may be treated with heavy-handed tactics, so avoid them at all costs. Especially if you are not Malaysian citizen or permanent resident as you could even get in trouble with your own country, if it has good relations with Malaysia.
Be aware on markets. Especially in Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur products sold are most likely to be fakes.
Tap water is drinkable in a some areas and not others, but even locals boil or filter it first just to be on the safe side. When travelling it is best to stick to bottled water, which is very inexpensive.
Ice in drinks might be made from tap water but nowadays, most restaurants and even roadside stalls use the cylindrical variety with a hollow tube down the middle that are mass-produced at ice factories and are safer to consume.
Avoid buying cold drinks or cut fruit from street vendors unless you have a local bringing you around.
Heat exhaustion is rare, but do consume lots of fluids, use a hat and sunscreen and shower often!
Peninsular Malaysia is largely malaria-free, but there is a significant risk in Borneo especially in inland and rural areas.
Dengue fever occurs throughout Malaysia in both urban and rural areas, and can only be avoided by preventing mosquito bites. The mosquito that transmits dengue feeds throughout the daytime, and is most active at dawn and dusk. If you experience a sudden fever with aches and lethargy, seek medical attention immediately. Aspirin and ibuprofen should not be used until dengue fever has been ruled out.
Haze from burning vegetation in neighbouring Indonesia may come and go without warning from the months of May to August so travellers with respiratory ailments should come prepared. The Malaysian government is actively seeking Indonesia's co-operation in this matter but up until now, efforts seem to have been mostly futile.
Most public washrooms make a small charge (generally between RM0.20-RM2.00, usually depending on the standard of the facilities) so keep some loose change to hand. If the condition of the sitting toilets is questionable, use the squatting toilets instead - both are usually available, and the latter are more hygienic and (once you get used to them) are just as easy to use as sitting toilets.
Adhere to safe sex practices for all sexual encounters.
It is extremely rare for tourists to seek medical treatment from government hospitals. Private medical care is the only option and costs can be staggering (albeit generally much less expensive than in the West). Be sure to have the appropriate travel health insurance.
As in any predominantly Muslim country, you should dress respectfully, particularly in rural areas (wearing trousers not shorts and covering your shoulders is recommended but not essential). In more metropolitan areas such as Kuala Lumpur, as well as towns and cities such as Penang and Ipoh with a larger non Muslim population, attitudes are more liberal.
As a tourist, it is best not to criticize the Government and especially the Malay royal families.
When entering a home or a place of worship, always take off your shoes. Also, never eat with your left hand, or give a gift with your left hand; and never point with your forefinger (you may use a closed fist with the thumb instead), point the bottoms of your feet at a person or touch a person's head.
Public showing of affection in larger cities is tolerated but might invite unnecessary attention from the public. In more rural areas it is frowned upon and is to be avoided.
Same-sex relationships is a taboo subject in Malaysia. Gay and lesbian travellers should avoid any outward signs of affection, including holding hands in public.
Internet connection in Malaysia is extensive and can be easily accessed in most cities and towns. Malaysia's Internet providers offer affordable unlimited broadband services throughout Malaysia. Therefore broadband Internet is available in most hotels, internet cafes, and some restaurants and cafes. Both cable broadband and wireless broadband usually available in hot spots areas such as fast food restaurant & large shopping center. Prepaid internet card also available to access wireless broadband.
Customers usually pay RM 2.50 to RM 5.00 per hour for Internet services in the cybercafe (depending on which city you're in) and Internet connection offered in restaurants are usually free.
The country code for Malaysia is 60.
Malaysian landline telephone numbers have either seven or eight digits. The country is also divided up into areas which have been assigned two or three digit area codes, which have to be dialled when calling from outside the area. The area codes are:
Area code 02 has been assigned for calls made from Malaysia to Singapore. This means there's no need to call Singapore's country code 65 when calling from Malaysia. International direct dialing (IDD) calls from landlines to all other countries should use the prefix 00 followed by the country code.
To call a Malaysian number:
Malaysia also has four mobile telephone service providers, Maxis, DiGi, Celcom, and U Mobilewhich utilise codes 012, 013, 014, 016, 017, 018, 019. The mobile number portability policy already implemented in Kuala Lumpur. Mobile networks utilize the GSM 900 and 1800 systems. 3G ( WDMA ), EDGE & HSPDA networks available in large town.
To call a Malaysian mobile number:
To call from Malaysia to another country:
Many international courier services like Fedex, DHL and UPS are available in towns and cities but the main postal service provider is Pos Malaysia which provides reliable and affordable postal services to most countries in the world.
Non-urgent letters and postcards can be dropped in postboxes inside post offices or red postboxes found outside post offices and along main roads. If there are two columns on a postbox use the one on the right for international post.
Post offices are open from 8am to 5pm daily except Sundays and public holidays, although a few in Klang Valley stay open till 10pm. In the states of Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu they are closed on Fridays and public holidays.