Malaysia travel tips and advice

Malaysia is commonly regarded as an extremely safe place to travel with less instances of violent crime or robbery than most of Southeast Asia. Malaysians are generally quite traditional in their beliefs, embracing religion and adhering to a strict moral code.

It is far more likely that visitors to Malaysia unwittingly cause offence than are the victims of any crime, and so it is important to be sensitive to cultural sensibilities within the country. But by following out travel tips to Malaysia visitors will have the best possible time.

Malaysia travel tips – air transportation
The vast majority of international travellers coming to Malaysia arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). This transport hub has grown in stature considerably over the last few years thanks to the meteoric rise of budget carrier Air Asia.

This also makes KL a great place for exploring the wider region, with cheap direct flights all over the continent and beyond to Europe and Australia. There are also small planes which fly to tourist resorts such as Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Tioman which are perfect for short breaks when you do not want to waste a day sitting on a coach and ferry.

Malaysia travel tips – bus transportation
Malaysia is blessed with a high quality road network with all sealed surfaces except in the more remote parts. This means getting from a to b is relatively easy with a plethora of bus companies vying for business. Government legislation ensures prices a kept low, and ever more travel agents are putting on private minibuses which cater specifically for tourists by picking them up from hotels and taking them directly to their next destination. It is important to book tickets in advance, especially if travelling at weekends or public holidays, and store valuables securely on board.

Malaysia travel tips – getting around cities
The Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur is easy to navigate with an efficient metro system that glides over the city. But in general taxis are the best method of getting around Malaysian cities as they are relatively inexpensive for tourists.

Those on a tight budget can use the public bus network, but these are often difficult to fathom and unreliable.

In areas such as Penang’s Georgetown there are still quaint cycle-rickshaws to ferry visitors around the sights. Although these were once the usual mode of transport for many people, the modern age has seen their popularity dwindle and the remain almost solely for visitors. So remember to bargain hard for a decent price.

Malaysian travel tips – health
There are very few health concerns for visitors to Malaysia with tap water generally safe to drink in urban areas and no real malaria problem to speak of. Dengue fever is an issue in the cities, especially during the rainy season, so it is wise to cover up and use DEET mosquito repellent to avoid being bitten. Food preparation is generally of a high standard, but a little caution should be exercised if eating from streetside stalls. A general rule of thumb is to stick to the busiest as Malaysians will not waste their money on dodgy grub.

Malaysian travel tips – safety
Crime is not a major issue in Malaysia although it pays to be a little careful in big cities or in the tourist resorts. Despite its flourishing economy, Malaysia remains a country with a massive divide between rich and poor and so the sight of flashily-dressed tourists wearing jewellery and carrying an expensive camera may provoke unwanted attention. Try to be conservative in appearance and avoid showing a bulging wallet when paying for every trifle, perhaps keep a few small notes in your pocket for everyday expenses to avoid making yourself a target for petty thieves.

Visa tips for Malaysia
Citizens of most Western nations are granted a visa-on-arrival without charge upon turning up at one of Malaysia’s borders or designated entry-points. These are normally valid for 90 days and adequate for most stays in the country. Those wanting to remain longer in Malaysia will find it easy just to hop over the border to Singapore or Thailand, or even get a ferry the short distance to Indonesia (although visa charges apply there). But visitors wanting to work in the country will need to arrange some form of long-term business visa, although the employing company normally helps with this bureaucratic process.

Travel tips for Malaysia – hotels and lodging
Malaysia is blessed with some of the best five star hotels in Asia, if not the world. These are generally extremely cheap considering the standards of service received, and it can only take a few extra dollars to upgrade from a hostel dorm bed to the height of luxury. Kuala Lumpur is extremely well equipped with high-end hotels and competition keeps prices low, but great deals can also be found in Penang and Langkawi as well. For travellers on a shoestring, there are plenty of basic beach hunts which provide that sought-after castaway experience.

Malaysia etiquette tips
Malaysian etiquette is an important area of the culture where it pays to be well-informed. It is very easy to embarrass local people, and oneself, by presuming the country is just like any other hedonistic beach resort and acting in a unnecessarily brash manner. As a majority Muslim nation, alcohol is tolerated but frowned upon and many traditional communities (even in popular holiday destinations) forbid drinking beers or cocktails.

Similarly topless bathing is always forbidden no matter how secluded you may appear, and heavy petting is also frowned upon. Gay travellers will almost certainly not encounter any outright homophobia, but it is still wise to be avoid outlandish behaviour and not to draw too much attention.