Malaysia is one of the most pleasant, hassle-free countries to visit in southeast Asia. It's buoyant and wealthy, and has moved towards a pluralist culture based on a vibrant and interesting fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures and customs. Read more...
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Malaysia is one of the most pleasant, hassle-free countries to visit in southeast Asia. It's buoyant and wealthy, and has moved towards a pluralist culture based on a vibrant and interesting fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures and customs.
Peninsular Malaysia (Malay: Semenanjung Malaysia) occupies most of the Malayan Peninsula between Thailand and Singapore , and is also known as West Malaysia (Malaysia Barat) or the slightly archaic Malaya (Tanah Melayu). It is home to the bulk of Malaysia's population, its capital and largest city Kuala Lumpur , and is generally more economically developed.
West Coast (Malaysia) West Coast - the more developed side of Peninsular Malaysia, with the states of Kedah , Malacca_(state) Malacca , Negeri Sembilan , Penang , Perak , Perlis and Selangor , and Malaysia's capital city Kuala Lumpur and the new administrative centre of Putrajaya , all located within this region.
East Coast (Malaysia) East Coast - more traditional and Muslim, the islands here are glittering tropical jewels. Made up of the states of Kelantan , Pahang and Terengganu .
South - comprising just one state, Johor , two coastlines, and endless palm oil plantations.
Some 800 kilometres to the east is East Malaysia (Malaysia Timur), which occupies the northern third of the island of Borneo , shared with Indonesia and tiny Brunei . Partly covered in impenetrable jungle where headhunters roam (on GSM networks if nothing else), East Malaysia is rich in natural resources but very much Malaysia's hinterland for industry and tourism.
Sabah - superb scuba diving in Sipadan , nature reserves and the mighty Mount Kinabalu
Sarawak - jungles, national parks, and traditional longhouses
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.
Israeli nationals must obtain permission from the Ministry of Internal Security in advance.
Republic of Serbia and Republic of Montenegro nationals must obtain permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs in advance.
Most international flights land at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) ( ); 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 ( ) in Subang near Kuala Lumpur handles chartered and turboprop aircraft.
See the Kuala Lumpur#get in Kuala Lumpur Get in section for detailed airport information.
Other airports handling international flights are Johor Bahru , Langkawi , Malacca , Penang and Ipoh , plus Kota Kinabalu ( Sabah ), Kuching ( Sarawak ) and Miri (Sarawak).
The airports at the popular dive spots of Pulau Tioman and Redang Pulau Redang also serve limited international flights by Berjaya Air to Seletar Airport(XSP) in Singapore .
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 , Indonesia , Laos , Macau , Philippines the Philippines , Singapore , Thailand and Vietnam . It will soon start a long haul flight from Kuala Lumpur to London Stansted Airport.
AirAsia +60 3*8775-4000 (hotline within Malaysia: 1-300-88-9933)
Malaysia Airlines+60 37846-3000 (hotline within Malaysia: 1-300-88-3000)
Berjaya Air*+60 3 7846-8228 (ticketing only); +60 3 2145-2828
Travelling by train from Singapore A good example of the ups and downs in Malaysia-Singapore relations is the way immigration formalities for train passengers from Singapore to Malaysia are done. Both Malaysia and Singapore were handling immigration controls at Tanjong Pagar railway station until 1998 when Singapore moved its checkpoint to Woodlands station. Malaysia, however, refused to move, as doing so would have caused the country to lose its claim on the prime real estate on which Tanjong Pagar station sits in downtown Singapore. As such, Malaysian immigration checks are still conducted at Tanjong Pagar where passports are NOT stamped but merely scanned for entry into Malaysia. Passengers then proceed to Woodlands where they are stamped out of Singapore. Thus, you will never get a Malaysian entry stamp if you enter the country via train from Singapore. In the other direction, Malaysian immigration formalities are conducted on board trains in Johor Baru. Trains then cross the Causeway to Woodlands where Singapore immigration formalities are done.
To/from Thailand: Direct sleeper train services operated by the State Railway of Thailand http://www.railway.co.th/english/ connect Bangkok (Thailand) and Butterworth near Penang (Malaysia), while Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malaysian Railways) http://www.ktmb.com.my(http://www.ktmb.com.my) runs trains between Hat Yai (Thailand) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Both trains cross the border at Padang Besar where Thai and Malaysia immigration formalities are all conveniently done in the station. There is also a less used eastern route from Hat Yai to Thai border town Sungai Kolok , but there are no through trains to the nearby Malaysian station at Wakaf Bahru (near Kota Bharu ).
To/from Singapore: Singapore is the southern terminus of the Malayan Railway (Keretapi Tanah Melayu http://www.ktmb.com.my(http://www.ktmb.com.my)) network. Comfortable overnight sleeper and somewhat misnamed daytime express trains connect Singapore with Kuala Lumpur and Tumpat, near Kota Bharu . Bizarrely, tickets purchased at the Singapore station are twice as expensive as those purchased in Malaysia; you can save quite a bit by taking the train from Johor Bahru instead. Another option is to [https://intranet.ktmb.com.my/e-ticket/login.asp buy your tickets online] at the cheaper rate, but you must book at least 48 hours in advance.
Long-distances buses/coaches into Malaysia run from Brunei, Indonesian Borneo, Singapore and Thailand. Please see the relevant city pages for more details.
Brunei - there are no direct buses into Brunei. However, there are buses from Miri and Limbang going to the border where there are connections to Bandar Seri Begawan.
Indonesia - direct buses operate between Pontianak in West Kalimantan and Kuching in Sarawak .
Singapore - a multitude of bus companies operate direct routes from Singapore to various destinations in Peninsular Malaysia , including Malacca , Kuala Lumpur , Penang , East Coast (Malaysia) East Coast cities and even the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Petaling Jaya . Frequent buses make the short run between Singapore and Johor Bahru , and you can save a few bucks by changing at JB's Larkin terminal to a cheap domestic bus instead of taking a more expensive direct bus.
Thailand - several companies operate services from Kuala Lumpur and other cities in Malaysia to Hat Yai in South (Thailand) southern Thailand , where direct connections are available to Bangkok and many other Thai destinations.
Land crossings are possible from South (Thailand) 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.
Brunei - the main crossings are at Sungai Tujoh on the Miri , Sarawak , to Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) road, and the Kuala Lurah-Tedungan checkpoint which is used for traffic travelling between Bandar Seri Begawan and Limbang in Sarawak . You can also access the Temburong district of Brunei by road from Limbang via the Pandaruan (Puni on the Brunei side) checkpoint and Lawas via Trusan (Labu on the Brunei side).
Indonesia - the main crossing is at the Tebedu-Entikong checkpoint on the main Kuching - Pontianak road. Various other minor border crossings used by locals are not necessarily open to foreigners.
Singapore - the two crossings are the Causeway which links Johor Bahru with Woodlands in Singapore, and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link which links Tanjung Kupang in Johor with Tuas in Singapore . See Johor Baru#Get in Johor Bahru Get in section and Singapore#Get in Singapore Get in section for more details.
Thailand - international checkpoints (with the Thai towns in brackets) include Wang Kelian ( Satun ) and Padang Besar ( Padang Besar (Songkhla) Padang Besar ) in Perlis , Bukit Kayu Hitam ( Sadao ) in Kedah , Pengkalan Hulu (Betong) in Perak , and Rantau Panjang ( Sungai Kolok ) in Kelantan .
Ferries connect various points in Peninsular Malaysia with Sumatra in Indonesia and South (Thailand) 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.
Brunei - ferries daily between the Muara Ferry Terminal in Brunei and Labuan island and Lawas in Sarawak . Speedboats, mostly in the morning, also run between Bandar Seri Begawan jetty and Limbang, Sarawak .
Indonesia - the main jumping-off points from Indonesia are the Riau Islands of Batam , Bintan and Karimun ; Dumai , Medan and Pekanbaru on the Sumatra mainland as well as Nunukan in East Kalimantan . Ferries link Batam with Batu Pahat and Johor Bahru ; Bintan with Johor Bahru ; Karimun with Batu Pahat and Kukup in Johor ; Dumai with Malacca , Muar in Johor , Port Dickson (in Negeri Sembilan ) and Port Klang , the port for Kuala Lumpur ; Pekanbaru with Malacca ; and Medan's port of Belawan with Penang . Daily ferries also link Nunukan with Tawau in Sabah . There are also minor crossings like between Bengkalis in Riau and Batu Pahat; Sumatra and Malacca and Muar in Johor ; and Tanjung Balai Asahan in North Sumatra with Port Klang , the port for Kuala Lumpur .
Philippines - ferries run between the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sandakan , Sabah .
Singapore - daily passenger boats run between Changi Point and Pengerang, between Tanah Merah and Sebana Cover Resort, as well as between Changi and Tanjung Belungkor, all in Johor . See the Singapore#Get in Singapore Get in section for details.
Thailand - four ferries daily (reduced to three during Ramadan) between Tammalang at Satun and Kuah on Langkawi , Malaysia. Vehicle ferries operate between Ban Taba near Tak Bai in Narathiwat(province) Narathiwat province and Pengkalan Kubur in Kelantan , Malaysia, while passenger boats run between Ban Buketa in Narathiwat(province) Narathiwat province and Bukit Bunga in Kelantan .
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 http://www.airasia.com, 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 http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/ also has competitive fares if booked in advance, and their offshoot Firefly http://www.fireflyz.com.my/ has a handy network radiating out of Penang.
Berjaya Air http://berjaya-air.com 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 http://www.maswings.com.my, 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 32267-1200 (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 is cheap at a little over RM1.92/litre, 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!
Warning: Bus drivers (especially on more rural routes) sometimes drive carelessly, speed like maniacs, overtake on blind corners, etc. The vast majority of journeys are problem-free but some horrific accidents attributed to reckless driving have, however, led to a crackdown and a nationwide hotline and SMS number for reporting these drivers/vehicles have been set up. These numbers are conveniently pasted on the back of every single large vehicle in the country.
When to go
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.
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.
Be aware on markets. Especially in Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur products sold are most likely to be fakes.
'All type of emergency (Police/Ambulance/Fire Brigade (Malay:Bomba)/Civil Defence etc)- 999From mobile phone' - 999 or 112
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 the cylindrical variety with a hollow tube down the middle 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 brining 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.
Aboriginal Malays (Orang Asli) began moving down the Malay peninsula from southwestern China about 10,000 years ago. The peninsula came under the rule of the Cambodian-based Funan, the Sumatran-based Srivijaya and the Java-based Majapahit empires, before the Chinese arrived in Melaka in 1405. Islam arrived in Melaka at about the same time and spread rapidly. Melaka's wealth soon attracted European powers, and the Portuguese took control in 1511, followed by the Dutch in 1641. The British established a thriving port in Penang in 1786 and took over Melaka in 1795.
The British traded for spices and colonised the interior of the peninsula when tin was discovered. East Malaysia came into British hands via the adventurer Sir James Brooke (who was made Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after suppressing a revolt against the Sultan of Brunei) and the North Borneo Company (which administered Sabah from 1882). Gradually, the Federated Malay States were created in piecemeal fashion over the course of the 19th century.
The final pieces of the Malaysian mosaic fell into place when Britain took formal control of both Sabah and Sarawak after WWII. The indigenous labour supply was insufficient for the needs of the developing rubber and tin industries, so the British brought large numbers of Indians into the country, altering the peninsula's racial mix.
The Japanese overran Malaya in WWII. Communist guerrillas who fought the Japanese throughout the occupation began an armed struggle against British rule in 1948 and Malaya achieved independence in 1957. Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore combined with Malaya to establish Malaysia in 1963, but two years later Singapore withdrew from the confederation. The formation of Malaysia was opposed by both the Philippines and Indonesia, as each had territorial claims on East Malaysia.
Tension rose in 1963 during the 'Confrontation' with Indonesia. Indonesian troops crossed Malaysia's borders but were repelled by Malaysian and Commonwealth forces. In 1969, violent riots broke out between Malays and Chinese, though the country's racial groups have since lived in relative peace together. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has been in power since 1974. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is keen to exert his influence on the world stage as a pan-Asian leader, presided over a booming economy until 1997, when tumbling Asian currencies dragged the ringgit down with them.
In September 1998 the country hosted the Commonwealth Games, but the public relations aspect of the competition came apart when students and citizens protested against the unfair sacking and later imprisonment of deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Continuing street protests calling for the resignation of Dr Mahatir Mohamad have unsettled Malaysia's reputation as one of the most politically stable of southeast Asian countries. By the time the 21st century rolled around, social upheavals had faded to a distant rumble and the Malaysian economy had clawed its way back into the black. Dr Mahathir Mohamad remained a controversial figure until the end. Just before his resignation in October 2003, after 20 years at the helm, the PM addressed a meeting of Islamic countries hosted by Malaysia, and exhorted them to collectivise against an alleged world Jewish conspiracy. His replacement, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, won a March 2004 election in a landslide. In August 2004 the country's highest court upheld Anwar Ibrahim's appeal against his sentence and he was released from jail.
Sheltered by the island of Sumatra, Malaysia was hit by the December 2004 tsunami's secondary 'shadow' wave, which travelled at 160km/h (compared to the primary wave speed of 800km/h). The impact resulted in 68 deaths and US$25 million in property damage. Areas affected included the island of Penang and Langkawi, and parts of the mainland in the states of Kedah, Perlis and Perak. In the resort areas of Penang and Langkawi, clean-up efforts were quick and efficient and all beachfront hotels were at full operating capacity within two weeks of the event.
In March 2006 Abdullah unveiled a new five-year plan for Malaysia, the ninth such economic and social agenda in the country's independent history, and thus known by the shorthand '9MP'. Unlike Mahathir's previous plans - sometimes referred to as Wawasan 2020 (Vision 2020) which focussed on major construction and industry projects- the 9MP seeks to tackle Malaysia's crisis in education. Since his release from prison Anwar has been steadily rebuilding his political platform. However he is barred from running for political office until 2008 and for this reason - as well as to capitalise on the inevitable feel-good factor following the 50th anniversary celebrations of Malaysia's Independence (Merdeka) in August 2007 - it's widely suspected that Abdullah will call an election towards the end of 2007, even though he doesn't actually have to until 2009.
Articles and Stories about Malaysia
Quick Facts about Malaysia
26.6 million (Jan 2007)
Thai ; in addition, several indigenous languages are spoken in East Malaysia, especially Iban and Kadazan
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