Malaysia holidays

Experience Malaysia

Best Places to Visit

Most travellers begin their Malaysia holidays in Kuala Lumpur, or KL, the big and bustling capital of the country. Here, visitors will see mosques, Chinese temples and Indian places of worship in the same vicinity. Malay, Chinese and Indian food is best sampled here, too. Visitors to KL will want to see the Malaysian architectural wonder that is the Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest twin buildings in the world.

To see the rich history of the Straits Settlements, alluding to a time when British, Portuguese and Dutch ships dominated commerce and seas in the region, visitors can head to Malacca and Penang. Here, visitors will find heritage buildings along with a rich Peranakan culture, a colourful mix of Chinese and Malay cultures found only in these areas.

Visitors heading to the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia will discover that the region is the heart of Islamic Malay culture. One good stop here is Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan. Visitors to this city will get to taste east coast cuisine and be treated to traditional royal architecture and many good museums. The historic city of Kuala Terengganu is a major destination on the east coast.

Both Kota Bharu and Kuala Terengganu are good jumping-off points for those travelling to the beautiful, pristine beaches of the Perhentian Islands. Stunning beaches can also be found in Langkawi, the premier resort destination off the west coast.

Those willing to venture into Malaysian Borneo will be rewarded with virgin rainforests, unique flora and fauna, and traditional ethnic communities. Kuching in western Borneo is a good starting point for those venturing into the jungle. The multicultural city of Kota Kinabalu, on the other hand, gives travellers access to Malaysia's highest peak, Mount Kinabalu.

While in Kuala Lumpur, visitors may want to see Merdeka Square. This is where, on the eve of Malaysia's independence from the British, Malaysians gathered to raise the flag of the Federation of Malaysia for the first time. Around Merdeka Square are a number of British colonial buildings, mosques and heritage structures such as the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Royal Selangor Club.

The heritage towns of Malacca and Penang are teeming with historic landmarks. In Malacca, one major tourist attraction is the Dutch Square, which is dominated by Christ Church, the country's oldest Protestant church. At the top of a hill adjacent to the square are the ruins of St Paul's Church, which was used by both the Portuguese and Dutch.

Top Landmarks

The most popular landmark of Malaysia is found right in the heart of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Standing at 1,483 feet, the Petronas Twin Towers are the tallest twin structures in the world. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the capital from the 41st and 42nd-floor sky bridge.

Right across the river, in Malacca, is Chinatown, Malacca's old town, which contains many of the city's museums and top attractions.

Georgetown in Penang also has a rich colonial history and landmarks here include Fort Cornwallis where Penang's founder first landed, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, the former residence of Penang's richest merchant, Penang City Hall, a beautifully preserved British colonial building, and many more.

Malaysia's natural wonders, on the other hand, include its national parks. Taman Negara National Park, found in the heart of Peninsular Malaysia, has rich rainforests, insects and birds. Meanwhile, in Malaysian Borneo, the Sarawak River, which snakes it way from inland Borneo through the city of Kuching, is a sight to see. The top landmark in Malaysian Borneo, however, is the 13,435-foot peak of the highest mountain in Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu.

Just north of Kuala Lumpur, are the world-famous Batu Caves. The caves themselves are located on a limestone outcrop, but visitors will have to make the 272-step climb to get there. At the entrance to the three caves is a large Hindu statue. While the caves were created for peace and serenity, visitors should watch out for the light-fingered monkeys that have made it their home.

Entertainment

While most Malays don't drink alcohol, there is still a huge population of Chinese and Indian locals, along with many tourists, that keep the country's watering holes afloat.

In Kuala Lumpur, visitors are sure to find the liveliest and most exciting night-time entertainment venues in the country. Here, tourists have the option of heading to bars, nightclubs and street markets. The most popular party venue in the capital is the Golden Triangle. Here, Jalan P Ramlee hosts modern nightclubs. Nearby Bukit Bintang, Bangsar, Asian Heritage Row, Mutiara Damansara, CapSquare Centre and Sri Hartamas offer further options. Tourists looking to have a fun night out on the town will find restaurants, café’s, bars and clubs in these areas.

In the smaller cities, including the major tourist destinations, night-time entertainment comes in the form of street markets. In Malacca, the place to be on any weekend night is Jonkers Walk, an open-air food market that happens right on the busiest street of Malacca's old town. Trying any one of the local Malay or Peranakan dishes here is highly recommended. In Penang, the Pasar Malam, or night market, happens right along Batu Ferringhi, while the Little Penang Street Market is not to be missed as it only happens on the final Sunday of every month.

Most of the big cities in Malaysia have large malls and shopping centres. Most, if not all of these venues, have entertainment centres inside: from karaoke bars, bowling centres, gaming arcades and cinemas playing American, Chinese, Indian and Malay movies, often with English subtitles.

Dining Out

Malay cuisine is considered one of the richest food cultures in the world. The Malays use meats, fruits, vegetables and spices to produce some of the most flavourful dishes in the world. The word 'Malay' does not even begin to cover the variety of regional foods, dishes brought by the Chinese and Indians, and the Peranakan cuisine.

Whatever type of cuisine visitors to Malaysia choose to eat, they are sure to find a number of choices with regards to dining venues. Street food stalls, hawker centres, food courts in shopping malls, street markets and of course, café’s and restaurants are all present here.

Those wanting a taste of Malay cuisine will want to sample the rich flavours of slow-cooked rendang (beef, chicken or mutton), naturally eaten with nasi lemak, or white rice cooked in coconut milk.

The Chinese in Malaysia, meanwhile, have developed Hainanese chicken rice, which features boiled chicken, lightly spiced with ginger, with the cooked meat dipped in a condiment made from soy sauce, garlic and chilli. A Peranakan dish sure to please anyone's taste buds is ayam pongteh, chicken made flavourful with fermented soy bean paste and dark soy sauce. As for Indian cuisine in Malaysia, it doesn't get better than roti canai, the tasty Indian flat bread.

Beach

Malaysia has some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. The most popular of its beach destinations is the duty-free, highly-developed island of Langkawi, off the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia. On the east coast, visitors will want to head to the Perhentian Islands to find Malaysia's best hidden tropical secrets. Finally, those willing to head a bit further can visit the pristine Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park close to Kota Kinabalu.

Romance

Couples on Malaysia holidays can head to the Cameron Highlands, only a three-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. Here, couples can cosy up next to each other as they view the seemingly endless tea plantations and the lush hills of Pahang state. Then again, a tropical beach getaway in Langkawi is also a good idea for that romantic holiday.

Family

Apart from the beach destinations, families on Malaysia holidays will want to take note of Malaysia's city of entertainment, Genting Highlands. Perched above the hills and close to Kuala Lumpur, the hotels, theme parks and shopping centres of this tourist town are perfect for families on holiday. The recently opened Legoland in Johor, close to Singapore, is another place the little ones will surely enjoy.

Adventure

Nothing defines an adventure holiday in Malaysia better than a trek up the country's highest peak, Mount Kinabalu. The trails here are developed even for the inexperienced trekker and reach all the way to the rock-slab dominated summit. Peninsular Malaysia offers visitors the chance to explore the jungles of Taman Negara National Park, while in Malaysian Borneo small boats take adventure-seekers through the Kinabatangan River deep into the Sabah wilderness.

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Need to know

Language

The official language of Malaysia is Bahasa Melayu. This Malay language which is spoken in areas of Southeast Asia is related to the language spoken in Indonesia, Bahasa Indonesia. There are huge Chinese and Indian communities in many cities in Malaysia. Thus, many Chinese and Indian languages are also spoken. English is learned in schools and widely spoken, especially in the major cities. While most Malay will make an effort to talk to English visitors in English, there is a colloquial form, known as Manglish. This is a mix of English and Malay and can make conversation confusing. The Malay are a welcoming people and will respond well to basic greetings and courtesies in their native tongue, so a phrasebook can be a sound investment.

Currency

The official currency used in Malaysia is the Malaysia ringgit (MYR, RM). Currency is easily exchanges in exchange bureaux and banks. The credit cards most widely used here are Visa, MasterCard and American Express. ATMs are widely available and accept foreign cards. Travellers' cheques are also widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and large stores. It is best to carry them in pounds sterling, US dollars or Australian dollars. The ringgit is often referred to as the 'Ringgit Malaysia' to differentiate it from the Singapore Dollar and the Spanish silver dollars that were widely used between the 16th and 17th Centuries. Both these currencies are also referred to as ringgit.

Visas

Nationals from many countries can enter and travel within Malaysia visa-free. These include citizens of the US, Canada, Australia and many EU countries. Nationals of these countries are allowed to stay up to 90 days visa-free in Malaysia. UK nationals are generally granted permission to stay for three months, upon arrival. Those wishing to stay for a longer period of time or for non-tourist purposes must be obtained from the nearest Malaysian diplomatic mission, before travelling. Citizens of some other countries are only granted 30 days. A passport valid for a minimum of six months from the date of entry into Malaysia and return or onward tickets are required.

Climate

Malaysia’s tropical climate means that temperatures have been known to hit 30°C and above. Travellers will be pleased to know that it stays hot throughout the year, while the country’s humidity levels are also consistently high. Even night time temperatures rarely drop below 20°C.

Malaysia also experiences a monsoon season. From May to September, it hits the south-west of the country, moving on to the north-east of Malaysia between November and March.

Main Airports

The main gateway to Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur International Airport, located in Sepang, about 50kms outside of Kuala Lumpur. It is well connected to flight hubs worldwide. Secondary airports include those in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, as well as major tourist destinations Penang and Langkawi.

Flight Options

The main carrier in Malaysia is Malaysia Airlines. It is the only carrier with a direct flight from London-Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur International Airport is also connected to other flight hubs in Europe, such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris-Charles de Gaulle, as well as to those within the continental US and Australia. Routes to major airports in Southeast Asia, China and India, are frequent. A typical London to Kuala Lumpur flight usually lasts 14 hours.

Travel Advice

Travellers looking to save on air fares may want to consider flying via Malaysia's low-cost carrier AirAsia. While the airline no longer flies direct from Europe, cheap connections may still be possible, especially from within Asia and Australia. It is easiest to find cheap flights outside of holidays such as the Chinese New Year, Hari Raya (end of Ramadan) and school holidays.

Other Transport Options

Those travelling from other regions in Southeast Asia may enter Malaysia via its land borders and sea ports. Buses and trains are available from Singapore to the south and Thailand to the north. In Malaysian Borneo, buses are available from Indonesia and Brunei. There are also ferry and boat connections from Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Borneo, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Getting Around

Domestic air travel is easy and cheap thanks to the presence of budget airlines. However, buses are the most cost-effective means of land transport. Trains, albeit slower, are still a good option. Cars can be rented in most regions, with good secondary roads and motorways connecting the major cities.

Bus

Malaysia's bus network is extensive, with a number of reliable bus lines plying different regions of the country. Transnational and NICE/Plusliner have wide-ranging networks that reach even small cities. Buses are the most cost-effective means of overland travel in Malaysia.

Train

The operator of the state railway is Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB). The railway line only covers Peninsular Malaysia and has stops at or close to most major tourist destinations. It is even possible to travel from Singapore to Bangkok, a journey which takes three days.

Air

The largest regional airports in Malaysia are those in the major tourist destinations. These domestic hubs are all connected to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. In Peninsular Malaysia, it is easy to fly to Penang, Langkawi, Kota Bharu and Kuala Terengganu. In Malaysian Borneo, flights are available to Kuching in Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. Flights are reasonably priced, especially those with low-cost carriers such as AirAsia.

MALAYSIA`S WEATHER TODAY

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MONTHS

AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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MONTHS

MAP

FACTS

  1. The Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia's Gunung Mulu National Park is the largest cave chamber in the world.
  2. Putrajaya in Malaysia is home to the world's biggest roundabout, which measures 2.2 miles in diameter
  3. Nasi lemak, a fragrant breakfast meal of rice cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in a banana leaf, is Malaysia's National dish
  4. Malaysia is home to the world's largest population of King Cobras ' which also happen to be the world's most venomous snakes!
  5. Wild Orangutans can only be found in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra
  6. It is considered rude to point at people. Malay use the knuckle of the index finger

FACTS

  1. The Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia's Gunung Mulu National Park is the largest cave chamber in the world.
  2. Putrajaya in Malaysia is home to the world's biggest roundabout, which measures 2.2 miles in diameter
  3. Nasi lemak, a fragrant breakfast meal of rice cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in a banana leaf, is Malaysia's National dish
  4. Malaysia is home to the world's largest population of King Cobras ' which also happen to be the world's most venomous snakes!
  5. Wild Orangutans can only be found in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra
  6. It is considered rude to point at people. Malay use the knuckle of the index finger

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