Malaysia holidays

Experience Malaysia

Best Places to Visit

Most travellers begin Malaysia package holidays in Kuala Lumpur, the big, 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 Kuala Lumpur will want to see the Malaysian architectural wonder that is the Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest twin buildings in the world.

To see the history of the Straits Settlements - 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 Peranakan architecture, a colourful mix of Chinese and Malay cultures found only in these areas.

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

Both Kota Bharu and 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 of Malaysia.

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 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, people gathered to lower the Union Flag and hoist the Malayan Flag 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.

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Top Landmarks

The most popular landmark of Malaysia is found in the heart of the the capital, 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 rich colonial history, boasting landmarks such as Fort Cornwallis - the largest standing fort in Malaysia. Other popular attractions on Malaysia holidays include Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, the former residence of Penang's richest merchant and Penang City Hall, a beautifully preserved British colonial building.

Malaysia's natural wonders include its national parks. Taman Negara National Park, found in the heart of Peninsular Malaysia, has rich rainforests and stunning wildlife. In Malaysian Borneo, the Sarawak River, which snakes it way from inland Borneo through the city of Kuching, is a sight to behold. One of the most popular landmarks in Malaysian Borneo, however, is the 13,435-foot peak of 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 statue of Hindu deity, Lord Murugan. 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 district in the capital is the Golden Triangle. The districts of 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 situated 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, takes place along Batu Ferringhi, while the Little Penang Street Market is also not to be missed.

Many of the big cities have large malls and shopping centres, making holidays to Malaysia perfect for retail therapy. 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' encompasses a variety of regional foods, including dishes from Chinese, Indian and Peranakan cuisine.

Whatever type of cuisine visitors choose to eat, they are sure to find a whole spectrum of different restaurants on package holidays to Malaysia. Street food stalls, food courts in shopping malls, street markets and of course, cafés 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), eaten with nasi lemak, or white rice cooked in coconut milk.

Hainanese chicken rice (boiled chicken, lightly spiced with ginger) with soy sauce, garlic and chilli is also a popular dish from Chinese influence. A Peranakan dish sure to please taste buds is ayam pongteh, chicken made with fermented soy bean paste and dark soy sauce. Roti canai is also a must-eat on holidays to Malaysia, an Indian-influenced flatbread.

Beach

Malaysia offers some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. The most popular of its beach destinations is the 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 treasures. Finally, those willing to travel further can visit the pristine islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park - a must-see on package holidays to Malaysia.

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 take in the views of Pahang's magical landscape. Then again, a tropical beach getaway in Langkawi is also great for a 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 on the hills and a one hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, the hotels, theme parks and shopping centres are perfect for families on holiday. The recently opened Legoland in Johor Bahru, 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 down 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 large numbers of Chinese and Indian communities throughout many cities in Malaysia. Thus, many Chinese and Indian languages are also spoken. English is taught in schools and widely spoken, especially in the major cities. While most Malay people 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 sometimes confusing. The Malay are extremely welcoming 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 Malaysian ringgit (MYR, RM). Currency is easily exchanged in exchange bureaus 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 word ringgit is an obsolete term for "jagged" in Malay. It was originally used to refer to the serrated edges of silver Spanish dollars which circulated in the area during the 16th and 17th century Portuguese colonial era.

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. 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 obtain the relevant visa. 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 equatorial climate means that temperatures usually range from 29 to 32°C. 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 the country between November and March.

Main Airports

The main gateway to Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur International Airport, located in Sepang, about 60kms 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

Malaysian's main carrier has 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 those in the U.S and Australia. Routes to major airports in Southeast Asia, China and India, are frequent. A typical London to Kuala Lumpur flight usually lasts 13 hours.

Travel Advice

Travellers looking to save on air fares may want to consider flying via a low-cost carrier. While some don't fly direct from Europe, cheap connections may still be possible, especially from within Asia and Australia. It is easiest to find cheap flights outside of major 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.

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FACTS

  1. The Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia's Gunung Mulu National Park is the largest known 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. Wild Orangutans can only be found in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra.
  5. 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 known 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. Wild Orangutans can only be found in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra.
  5. It is considered rude to point at people. Malay use the knuckle of the index finger.

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