Malaysia holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
The official language in 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, a number of Chinese and Indian languages are also spoken. English is learned in schools and widely spoken, especially in the major cities.
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.
Nationals from many countries can enter and travel within Malaysia visa-free. These include citizens of the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and many EU countries. Nationals of these countries are allowed to stay up to 90 days visa-free in Malaysia. Citizens of some other countries are only granted 30 days. A valid passport and return or onward ticket are required.
Malaysia is composed of two regions: Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. While weather patterns are different due to geography, both regions’ climates are considered tropical monsoon. October to February sees monsoon rains in Borneo and the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, while April to October is the wettest time of the year for the more developed west coast and the southern parts of Peninsular Malaysia.
The main gateway to Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur International Airport, located in Sepang, about 50kms outside of Kuala Lumpur. It is one of the largest airports in Southeast Asia, serving around 18 million passengers a year. 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.
The main carrier in Malaysia is Malaysia Airlines, which is well-known globally for its quality of service. 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 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.
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.
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 in the south and Thailand in 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.
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.
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 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 and their buses are comfortable, even for long-distance travel. Buses are the most cost-effective means of overland travel in Malaysia due to cheap fares.
Malaysian trains are a good option for travellers who have an open schedule and do not mind travelling slowly. 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, crossing the length of Peninsular Malaysia, to southern Thailand and onwards to Bangkok, a journey which takes three days.
Car rental companies, both international and local, are well-represented in Malaysia. Destinations along and close to the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia are connected by a stellar network of motorways. Roads are not as developed on the east coast and in Malaysian Borneo.
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 a number of 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.
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 skybridge.
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. Right across the river 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.
While most Malays don’t drink alcohol as per Islamic regulations, 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 Ramalee hosts modern nightclubs. Nearby Bukit Bintang, Bangsar, Asian Heritage Row, Mutiara Damansara, Cap Square Centre and Sri Hartamas offer further options. Tourists looking to have a fun night out on the town will find restaurants, cafés, 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.
With Malaysia being at the crossroads of some of the richest food cultures in the world, it is not hard to understand why Malay cuisine is considered one of the richest. The Malays use meats, fruits, vegetables and most importantly, spices which are grown locally or have passed through their historic ports 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 have for breakfast, lunch or dinner, 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, cafés and restaurants are all present here. Most of the options are very affordable.
There is an endless list of dishes worth trying and most of the major destinations have their own speciality. Those wanting a taste of Malay cuisine will want to sample the rich, deep and dark 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 which is 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.