Travel guide to Malaysia

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Malaysia is best known for long beaches bordered by palm trees and colourful coral reefs. But the country, with a population comprised of Chinese, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist, has much else on offer. It is a special culture that seems to have room for everybody.

Facts

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Local name
Malaysia
Capital
Kuala Lumpur
Size
330.434 km2
Principal Languages
The official language is bahasa malaysia.
Principal Religion
Islam is the dominant religion. Furthermore there is Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism.
Inhabitants
21.793.293 (2000)
Government
Constitutional monarchy
Geography
Malaysia consists of the peninsula Malaysia and of East Malaysia. The country is divided in 13 regions. The biggest regions are Sarawak and Sabah, which are situated on the island Borneo. Half of Malaysia is covered by rainforest, but because of the intense destruction of the forest due to the hunt for rubber trees, the rainforest is endangered.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

The climate is tropical in Malaysia, and it is summer all year. It is best to avoid the rainy season (the monsoon) from November to January, especially if you would like to enjoy the nature parks, which often close during the monsoon. If you want to see turtles on the East Coast of the island, the best time is from May to September.

Literature

Lonely Planet Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei Culture Shock! Malaysia Frommers Singapore & Malaysia Fodors Singapore Malaysia : Singapore & Brunei : The Rough Guide Blue Guide Malaysia & Singapore

Local conditions

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Currency

Malaysian ringgit (MYR). 1 MYR = 100 sen

Net cafes

It is easy to find Internet cafés in Malaysia due to the many backpackers - this has resulted in a large quantity of Internet cafés in many places. Do not count on internet access out in the countryside though.

In case of emergency

To call for help in Malaysia you must dial the following numbers: Ambulance, police or fire department (999) Tourism Police in Kuala Lumpur (03241522/5253)

Tipping

Tipping is not normal in Malaysia. Waiters, taxi drivers and piccolos do not expect tips. At some hotels they put an extra 5-10 percent on top of the bill as a service fee.

Timezone

When it is 12.00 in England, it is 19.00 in Malaysia.

Weight and Measures

In Malaysia they use the following units of weight and measurement: Weight: kilo Temperature: Celsius Distances: metre Cubic content: litre

Photography

The principal rule is that you can take as many pictures as you like. But if you would like to take pictures of people, you should ask first. In some religions it means bad luck to be photographed. Do not take pictures of military installations or in airports.

Drinking water

You can drink water from the tap in many places in Malaysia, but far from everywhere. It is therefore recommended that you buy bottled water just to be safe. At the places where they serve tap water it is generally safe to drink, even though it tastes more of chlorine than here in the UK.

Electricity

In Malaysia they use the following current: 220 Volt, 50 Hz.

Behaviour

It is prohibited to bathe topless in Malaysia. Malaysians are rigidly self-controlled people with an extreme sense of honour. It is considered a sign of weakness if you show your emotions - and bodily contact in public is considered embarrassing. The left hand is seen as impure, and you should therefore only use your right hand when you greet somebody or accept things.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 10.00 to 15.00 (Monday to Friday) and from 9.30 to 11.30 (Saturday). The shops are open from 9.00 to 17.00/22.00 (Monday to Friday). Most shops close a couple of hours in the middle of the day. Opening hours on Saturdays vary a lot. Public offices are open from 9.00 to 17.00 (Monday to Friday).

Food and drink

Malaysian cuisine is a mixture of British, Thai, Indian, Chinese and Malaysian food. The main ingredients are rice and noodles, served with flesh like fish or chicken. The preparation varies a lot in each region, but it is always highly spiced and flavoured. They serve many types of delicious fruit juice in Malaysia. If you would rather drink beer then Carlsberg, the preferred brand, is brewed in Malaysia.

Disabled travellers

Conditions for disabled travelers are not very good in Malaysia.

Holidays

New Year's Day (except from the states of Kedah, Perlis, Johor, Kelantan and Terengganu), 1 January The federal areas' day (Lubulan and Kuala Lumpur), 1 February Labour Day, 1 May National Day, 31 August Christmas Day, 25 December Holidays which are not fixed The King's birthday, 1st Saturday of June

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There are no camping grounds in Malaysia, but it is possible to camp in the national parks.

Hotels

There are hotels in every price range in Malaysia. It is cheap to stay at a hotel in Malaysia, and everybody can afford to stay at a first class hotel.

Hostels

The closest you get to hostels in Malaysia are the dormitories in the national parks. Furthermore there are quite a few hostels all over the country, and it is very cheap to stay. You must register at hostels between 17.00 -20.00.

Other Accommodation

State funded hotels. They are often simple and cheap - they are pleasant and clean with all necessary facilities, and they often have a good restaurant as well. You should note that they are quite popular and it is therefore a good idea to book a room in advance. Huts Along several beaches in the country it is possible to rent huts - so you can fall asleep to the sound of the sea. The standard of these huts varies a lot.

Local transport

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Planes

Malaysia Airlines has quite a few regular and cheap flights. If you are going to more remote areas, Pelangi Air will fly where Malaysian Airlines will not, in spite of its large network.

Bus

There are buses with and without air-conditioning. Those with air-conditioning are best on long trips, but shorter trips can easily be done in buses without. There is no significant price difference between the two bus types.

Trains

If you go long distances in Malaysia the trains are recommended - they are comfortable and of good standard. There are two major routes. One operates along the west coast of Malaysia - whilst the other leaves the west coast at Gemas and travels east towards Khota Baru on the east coast of the country.

Taxi

It is easy and relatively cheap to go by taxi. Always remember to settle the price before the trip as taxis rarely use taxi-meters. Prices vary a lot, depending on which part of the country you are in.

Car rental

The easiest way to get around in Malaysia is by car. The largest car rental company is Avis. Usually the price includes free mileage. You should be aware, though, that all signs are written in bahasa malay. They drive on the left hand side of the road, as here in the UK.

Boat or Ferry

There is a fast ferry from the harbour city of Penang to Sumatra in Indonesia.

Other Transport

Trishaw. A trishaw is a colourful cycle-taxi. It is good for short trips - but always remember to settle the price before you go. Usually the price can be haggled down.

Special conditions

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Always be very polite and respect the local population.

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