Five Things First Time Travellers To Malaysia Should Know
- There isn't an arrival and departure tax. It's included in your flight ticket price, so you don't have to worry about paying it at immigration.
- You don't need to tip. While it isn't standard practice in the country, some restaurants charge a 10% service charge. But if you feel the service was exceptional, just leave some change after you pay your bill.
- Don't wear beachwear outside of the resorts. Malaysia is a conservative country, and it's advised to dress modestly. Also if you're planning on visiting places of worship, you'll need to cover up.
- Malaysia has strict anti-drug laws. Be sure to read up on the items that are prohibited on Malaysia’s tourism website to make sure your trip doesn’t have any unexpected hiccups.
- Don't worry about the language barrier. While it's not the main language of Malaysia, English is a common language spoken by most of the locals. If you need help getting around it won't be hard to find someone who can help you.
Best Time To Visit Malaysia
The best time to visit Malaysia depends on where you go. Due to its geographical shape, the seasons differ from one side of the country to the other.
During the winter months (December to February) the west side of Malaysia is at its best. Visit Penang and Langkawi during this time; you'll miss most of the monsoon and still be able to get in some sightseeing.
For the summer, head to the south. June to August is the best time to visit Tioman Island and the Perhentians to make the most out of the good weather. But it's also high season as well as school holidays. Hotels can be hard to book during this period, so make your reservation well in advance.
Another high season to keep in mind is from December to January. Christmas, New Year's Day and Chinese New Year cause prices to increase for flights, accommodation and public transport.
You also need to plan your trip around major festivals. For example, The Rainforest World Music Festival fills Kuching to capacity. You'll need to either arrive early or stay clear until the event is finished.
Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's capital city and the gateway to exploring the rest of the country. It's also home to more than 1.5 million people making it the biggest metropolis in Malaysia.
Once a quiet tin-mining town, it's flourished into a modern city that is a Southeast Asian cultural melting pot. Its highlights include the soaring Petronas Towers, Batu Caves, the Perdana Lake Gardens and its excellent shopping and dining options.
Penang is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site and is Malaysia's foodie capital. It's considered the best place for street food in Southeast Asia, with Gurney Drive full of local Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes.
Once you've had your fill, check out the museums and spend a few hours wandering past the historic homes and fort.
Malacca is known for its cultural, historical and colonial sites. Battled over for centuries between the Indian, Portuguese, British and Dutch governments the city is packed with a blended culture that reflects its rich heritage.
Named a UNESCO heritage site in 2008, you'll find remains of Dutch architecture scattered around town, interesting museums and even a palace.
Kuching is the largest city on Borneo Island. It's one of the best places to base yourself if you plan on exploring the rainforest.
But the city also has its fair share of sights. Visit the historical landmarks, go shopping at the bustling markets or stargaze at the Kuching Civic Center.
Top Attractions in Malaysia
Taman Negara is Malaysia's oldest national park and one of the world's oldest tropical rainforests. It stretches across three states and features beautiful waterfalls, jungle treks and the longest canopy walkway in Asia.
The national park is also a haven for endangered species. Inside you might catch a glimpse of the Malayan Tiger, Asian elephant and the Sumatran Rhinoceros as well as exotic birds and plants.
While many hiking trails don't need a guide, the night safaris are where the park shines. Join a tour and see flowers that only bloom at night, nocturnal creatures and even glow in the dark fungi.
If you're looking to escape Malaysia's stifling heat, head to the Cameron Highlands in the Titiwangsa Mountains. With its cool temperatures, it's one of the few places that you'll need to wear a jacket.
The area is home to the country's colourful flower farms and sprawling tea plantations. Choose a trail and go trekking through the beautiful scenery, passing the farms, waterfalls and volcanoes in the distance.
Visitors can also book a behind the scenes tour of the plantations. Learn how the tea is harvested, prepared for distribution and enjoy a freshly brewed cup before heading home.
Gunung Gading National Park
Gunung Gading National Park is home to the world's largest flower. The Rafflesia can grow up to three feet in diameter and gives off a rotten smell once in bloom. After taking nine months to mature, the gigantic flowering only lasts for five days before dying.
But the Rafflesia isn't the park's only attraction. Made up of rugged mountain peaks, jungles and remote beaches Gunung Gading has beautiful walking trails.
If you're looking for a challenge, try the Gunung Gading Summit trail. It takes 4 hours to complete one way, and you'll need to exit the park before closing as camping is not allowed.
Nearly everyone who visits Kuala Lumpur makes their way to the Batu Caves. It's the most popular Hindu shrine outside of India and has been attracting devotees for over 120 years.
Visit during the annual Hindu festival of Thaipusam, when thousands of worshippers visit for the festivities.
The most popular limestone cavern is Cathedral Cave. It's the largest and houses a giant statue of a Hindu god. But you'll need some stamina to reach it as you'll have to climb 272 steps.
The other two caves, the Art Gallery and Museum are smaller but house many statues and paintings.
Semenggoh Nature Reserve
Semenggoh Nature Reserve is famous around the world for its orangutan conservation program. For over 20 years, it's rescued and rehabilitated several of these primates back into the wild helping to create a thriving population.
If you want to catch these endangered creatures in action, the best time to visit is during the feeding sessions. Come past at 09:00 a.m. and 03:00 p.m. when the orangutans visit the centre for a free meal.
Bird lovers will also enjoy visiting Semonggoh. The reserve is home to exotic birds like the Bornean black magpie, Yellow-rumped flowerpecker and the brown hawk owl.
Major International Airports in Malaysia
- Kuala Lumpur International Airport
- Kota Kinabalu International Airport
- Penang International Airport
- Kuching International Airport
- Senai International Airport