Bordering Thailand and Singapore, Malaysia is a South-East Asian country spread between the China Sea and the Straits of Melacca.
With a cultural mix of local Muslim, Hindus and Chinese, this two-part country offer a variety of cultures, traditions and cuisines.
This South-East Asian nation is composed of Peninsular part, home to the capital city Kuala Lumpur, and East Malaysia, also known as Borneo.
Malaysia presents an interesting mix of both highly-developed urban cities and natural wonders such as sandy beaches on the East coast and vast rainforests.
Money and ATM
The official currency in Malaysia is the Ringgit. Licensed money changers can be found in shopping areas and offer better rates than foreign exchange offices at the airport.
Banks and ATM are available throughout the country. Note that banks tend to close early, around 4:00pm.
Cost of living in Malaysia is slightly more than in nearby Thailand, yet much cheaper than Singapore.
Visa and Embassies
Most tourists do not need a visa to enter Malaysia. However, the validity of the entry permit stamp may vary.
Most Europeans and citizens of the USA will obtain a 90-day entry permit stamp, while most other country nationals can obtain a 30-day stay. Please check on the Malaysia Official Immigration Website.
Health in Malaysia
Peninsular Malaysia is generally malaria-free, while breakouts happen at times on Borneo. However, it is still necessary to protect yourself from mosquito bites as dengue fever is not unheard of in both Peninsular and East Malaysia.
Mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever are most active at dawn and dusk, so make sure to cover up your body with pants and long-sleeves.
Tap water in Malaysia is usually drinkable across the country. This being said, to be on the safe side, you may consume bottled-water which are quite inexpensive.
Although Malaysia is quite a modern Muslim country, it is recommended to wear conventional clothing, covering legs and shoulders.
Kuala Lumpur and other large tourist cities may be more open to western way of dressing, while more rural areas will prove more conservatives.
Best time of year in Malaysia
Malaysia, located close to the equator, has a tropical climate which only allows two seasons : dry season and rainy season with intense yet brief showers.
There are two main monsoon which hits different areas of the country at different times. The northeast monsoon usually floods Borneo and the East coast from October to February. Rains hit the West coast from April to October.
Kuala Lumpur, in the south-west part of the country, escapes neither.
Temperatures range from 32°C (90°F) during the day, down to 26°C (79°F) at night. It may get a little cooler on rainy days, averaging 23°C (73°F) at night time.
In addition, the heart of the country, mainly highlands and rainforests, tend to be cooler with a maximum of 25°C (77°F) during the day.
How to get there ?
There are multiple airports in Malaysia, with the main one being at Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)). Indeed, the capital airport is the main regional hub, welcoming flights from all neighboring Asian countries.
You may fly in directly from Europe or America, while some flights to Malaysia include a stopover in nearby Singapore or other main Asian capital cities.
To visit East Malaysia for a vacation in Sabah, fly in Kota Kinabalu airport. You will find cheap airfare tickets for domestic flights in Malaysia with local low cost airlines such as Air Asia and Firefly.
Please note that if you book with these low cost airlines for flights to or from Kuala Lumpur, you will be departing or arriving at LCC terminal, located 20km from the main terminal airport KLIA.
Diving in Malaysia
There are great diving opportunities in both Peninsular and East Malaysia.
Although the dive season in Malaysia is limited to a 9-month period from February to November, the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia offers pristine waters and rich marine life, most notably on the nearby islands of Perhentian, Redang and Tioman.
Diving in Borneo usually refers to the Sipadan area located on the eastern tip of Malaysian Borneo, a 50-min ride from Kota Kinabalu.
As a world-class scuba diving destination, Sipadan is a protected diving area with a limited 120 divers per day.