Selamat Datang! Meaning …Welcome in Malay. A greeting to welcome you to a country of diverse landscapes, culture, nature and beaches. Malaysia in South East Asia, is one popular tourist destination owing to the varied choices it offers to its travelers. Every now and then, I keep getting queries to this destination and the most common ones include how to get visas, what currency to carry, which are the best flights, where should one stay and so on. I thought the best way to help everyone is to quickly address 10 of these common questions in the form of a Malaysia Travel Guide. This should help you take care of all your planning to this lovely country. So, let’s get started.
My Malaysia Travel Guide with 10 Travel Tips
Planning your destinations in Malaysia
Malaysia is one versatile destination. From pristine beaches to lush green rainforests, from a vibrant city life to stunning heritage towns, Malaysia has something for everyone. Depending on your interests, the first thing that is advised is picking destinations within Malaysia that suit your travel needs. Here are a few recommendations in Malaysia:
- Kuala Lumpur – For its city life, shopping and of course, the famous Petronas Tower.
- Penang – A UNESCO heritage city full of art and culture and pristine beaches. Also, a foodie’s paradise.
- Langkawi – An island in the North of Malaysia, this place is quite popular with honeymooners who are looking for a beach experience. From water sports to hikes, this island has it all.
- Selangor – A cultural and city experience where you do not just get to visit historic Batu caves but also, shop till you drop. And then of course, one cannot miss the thrilling amusement part at Genting.
- Sabah or Sarawak – A tryst with the rainforests of the famous Borneo islands. Don’t miss meeting the Orangutans at their homes here.
- Taman Negara – From waterfalls to wildlife, coupled with treks & other adventure activities, this national park of Malaysia is one refreshing experience
- Melaka – Yet another UNESCO heritage city with its Peranakan roots. There is just plenty to see & experience in this historical and cultural destination
- Perhentian Islands – A water lover’s paradise with its beautiful beaches and amazing scuba and snorkeling spots.
Adding any more places here ( and there are plenty that I could add) would make this a completely different post. Hence, I will just stop here. I am sure you have got a flavor of the place now and with your own research, will be able to shortlist your favorites for your own Malaysian trip. Based on this, you should be able to get your duration of stay sorted out. Most of these places are fairly well connected by road, flights or trains. Hence, access to them would not be so much of an issue.
Malaysia Travel Guide to Booking flights
There are tons of flights from all the major cities of the world to Kuala Lumpur. In addition to the capital city, the other major cities like Penang are also, well connected internationally. You will find plenty of airlines when you look up the internet for your flights. Depending on your budget, you can pick the full-service ones like Malaysian Airlines or the budget ones like Air Asia. One recommended airlines that I have used is Malindo Air.
Their airfares are quite low but there is no compromise on their services which are pretty much what a full-service airline gives you. There is no extra charge for your check-in baggage, you get Free WiFi and meals on board. In addition to that, they have some good internal flights that can allow you a seamless travel within Malaysia.
As the norm goes, an early booking always helps get you better fares. So, try and do so quickly. Keep an eye out for those deals. Try and book all your internal flights too as early as you can.
Alternately, you can even do Malaysia on a cruise.
Booking your stay
The peak tourist seasons in Malaysia are during the month of Ramazan and from December to January. This is when the accommodation rates are on a high and in smaller towns, completely sold out. Even the budget accommodations will be priced higher. If you choose to travel during these months, it is best that you book well in advance.
Most of the key towns and cities like Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Langkawi will have a range of accommodation types for you to choose from. You can go for beach resorts or luxury hotels to budget hotels and even home stays. The smaller places like Perhentian Islands will have limited stay options. All these can be booked online.
Remember to check the proximity of your hotel to the places of interest in your chosen destination. To give you an example – in Penang, we stayed in Hotel Neo+ which was right in the heart of George Town. This made it easier for me to explore the heritage town at my convenience without having to spend too much on internal transport. Everything was just walkable from here.
On the other hand, during the same trip, I even had the pleasure of being hosted by Lexis Suites which is located at the other end of Penang Island, closer to the Airport. This seemed perfect for a family or a honeymoon traveler for it is a destination within itself. It has all the possible facilities under one roof and is right next to a beach. Why it even had a private pool in each suite 😉 However, a travel to George Town would be half an hour on the road.
Thus, depending on your purpose in each destination, remember to check the hotel and its location. It is imperative that the stay is booked before you get onto your paperwork as one of the pre-requisites for your Visas is a copy of your accommodation details,
Malaysia Travel Guide to Visas
Visa and documentation is one of my main points in this Malaysia Travel Guide for there is a lot of conflicting information on the Internet regarding it. Malaysia has been encouraging a lot of tourism and for that purpose, they have made the process of getting visas easier. Citizens of quite a few nations including India. can avail e-visa by applying online. You can check your eligibility on this site.
There are two types of visa – one called e-visa and the other called e-NTRI visa. The first allows you multiple entries for one month for the purpose of tourism while the 2nd one allows you a single entry for a maximum period of 15 days. e-Visa takes around 48 hours to be confirmed while e-NTRI visas are instantaneous. The cost of each is different and you can get more details on their official website. The website has an active chat window where you can get any question regarding the documentation answered by the Malaysian officials.
Remember that you need to upload a copy of your itinerary in the form of air-tickets to and from Malaysia as well as your hotel bookings when in Malaysia. On arrival, you may also, have to furnish proof of cash that would be required for your stay.
Malaysian Currency Tips
I would not call Malaysia inexpensive nor would I say that it is extremely costly. Most places in the big cities accept international cards. However, if you are looking at smaller towns and local street shopping or food, you will need to carry cash. Malaysian Ringgit is the official currency of the country and most people prefer to deal only with that. It is thus, advisable to carry this form as against USD or your local currency. You can exchange the same in your home country or avail services at the key airports in Malaysia. You can even try the currency changing counters in the larger cities for they are easily available.
Malaysia Travel Guide for Packing
Through the year, the weather is fairly sunny. The rainy season is different for different parts of the country. January to March it rains a lot on the East coast, while it is the same from April to May on the West Coast. Note these, especially if you are headed for water sports. As suggested by me in my Malaysia Travel Guide, you must check the climate of the place before you head there for your clothes for the country would depend on the same.
Malaysia is a mix of ethnic cultures – predominantly Chinese, Muslim and Indian Hindus. Given that, they are fairly tolerant in this part of the world as far as dressing goes. However, if you are visiting any religious temples or mosques, please ensure you are dressed modestly – no shorts, no bare shoulders etc.
Always carry the Universal charger. A bug spray or a mosquito repellent would also, be advised, especially if you are headed to the rainforests.
Getting a local SIM in Malaysia
Frankly, I really did not feel the need for a SIM in Malaysia for every place in the bigger cities like Penang and Kuala Lumpur has WiFi available for you to use. However, if you still need one, there are plenty of companies offering your voice and data plans at fairly reasonable You can pick these up at the airport itself for there are several counters as you exit the same. Or you can even pick it from the town. The rates are fairly standard. Here are the Celcom rates, who as I understand, has got the best network coverage in Malaysia.
Remember to show your passport as your documentation for your connection. The top-up for the prepaid SIMs is readily available everywhere in Malaysia.
Getting around in Malaysia
Cabs are easily available in Malaysia, including Uber services. Places like Penang also, have Trishaws that are perfect for those cultural outings in heritage towns. Alternately, hiring bikes and bicycles in these towns and beach destinations could be an economical and exciting option too. They are easily available on the Internet or you can check your hotel for the same.
The train and the monorail network in Kuala Lumpur is another economical and convenient option to get around the city. You can even avail of a day pass option for your sightseeing expedition. And yes, of course, the buses within the cities can definitely help.
Malaysia Travel guide to Food
If you are a food, especially a sea food lover, you will love Malaysia. Places like Penang are known for its street food. You will find a beautiful fusion of Indian and Chinese flavors as well as authentic Malay ones. Nasi Lemak and Nasi Goreng are two regular rice dishes that you can find almost everywhere. It is not surprising to find a meal laid out for you on a Banana Leaf, just the way you would find in South India.
Durian is one fruit that is very popular here. From Durian chocolates to Durian coffee, you can take a pick to try out what works for me. For me, the fruit itself was good. I did not really relish it in any other form. Also, watch out for the freshly pressed drinks – like this one that I had – Guava Dragon Fruit and Orange – Truly Yummy.
On the whole, whether you are a vegan, vegetarian or a hard core meat lover, you are bound to find something that works for you in Malaysia. There are plenty of fast food restaurants here in case these don’t agree with you. You can always be safe with a slice of Pizza or a burger from McDonalds.
Malaysia Travel Guide for Shopping
The one thing every guide or every local will lure you to is Shopping. From clothes to electronics to cute souvenirs, you can really shop till you drop. Check out the Batik art here in case you are looking for authentic local stuff. You should also, try out the local chocolates here as well as the local coffee powders for they really have some authentic and novel flavors to offer.
There are a lot of flea markets and night markets in places like Penang that you might want to explore. If you are shopping on the streets, as the rule goes, bargain hard. For the branded stuff, it is best to stick to the reputed malls.
Ah well, that is it from me on this Malaysia Travel Guide. From the post itself, you know that this is one destination where time is going to be really short for there is just so much to do. So, plan smart and optimize it all to have a great time in Malaysia, Truly Asia as they say! 😉