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Malaysia travel guide, including map of Malaysia, travel tips, accommodation, food and drink, attractions, culture, and weather in Malaysia

Mulitcultural, many-faceted, misunderstood – Malaysia is a country as spectacularly varied as its peoples and wildlife.

Peninsular Malaysia stretches south from Thailand to Singapore and Indonesia, and blends the best of all three: superb beaches and idyllic islands (try the Perhentians for diving and clean sand, Langkawi and Tioman for resorts); diverse cultures – Dutch-, Portuguese- and Chinese-influenced Melaka, colonial Georgetown and the tea plantations of Cameron Highlands, richly Muslim Kota Bharu, bustling Kuala Lumpur; and superb food.

Over the South China Sea, Malaysian Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak) boast mountains, rainforest, orang-utans, more great diving and fascinating tribal longhouse villages.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Meet the locals in a tribal longhouse – explore tribal Sarawak, Borneo
  2. Swim with turtles – explore the underwater world of Sipadan
  3. Hire a car for a self-drive adventure around Peninsular Malaysia
  4. Dive the reefs and relax on the beaches of the Perhentian Islands
  5. Try nonya cuisine and roam colonial streets in Penang
  6. Hike around the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands
  7. Climb Mt Kinabalu, Malaysia’s highest peak

Wanderlust tips

Hawker markets offer opportunities to try a variety of dishes from the numerous stalls ranged around a central eating area; order enticing-looking treats from any stalls, take them to your table and tuck in.

Only eat with your right hand.

Especially outside urban areas, and more so in the conservative Muslim north, dress respectfully – cover shoulders and legs.

Further Reading

Travel in Malaysia: vital statistics


  • Capital of Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur
  • Population of Malaysia: 27 million
  • Languages in Malaysia: Bahasa Malaysia or Malay. English is widely spoken
  • Time in Malaysia: GMT+8
  • International dialling code for Malaysia: +60
  • Voltage in Malaysia: 220-240V 50Hz AC
  • Visas for Malaysia: Malaysia visas
  • Money in Malaysia: Ringgit (RM) - sometimes called the dollar. ATMs are widely available. Tipping isn’t obligatory, but appreciated by porters, waiters and taxi drivers.
  • Malyasia travel advice: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Malaysia tourist board: Malaysia tourism

When to go to Malaysia

Malaysia is hot and humid year round; the ‘rainy season’ sees only a nominal increase in precipitation, except on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia, when November-February sees heavy downpours.

The fasting period of Ramadan (ninth month of the Muslim calendar) may limit transport options and see some restaurants close during daylight hours.

International airports

Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) is 75km south of the city.

Getting around in Malaysia

Domestic flights link Kuala Lumpur with destinations including Penang, Kota Bharu, Langkawi, Tioman, Kuching (Sarawak) and Kota Kinabalu (Sabah).

Within Peninsular Malaysia, comfortable buses connect most cities, and a good but limited-destination train service runs from Johor Bahru (near Singapore) north along the west coast via KL and Ipoh to the Thai border, branching at Gemas to run north to Kota Bharu via Taman Negara National Park.

In Borneo, internal flights, more limited buses and both coastal and river ferries transport travellers.

Malaysian accommodation

Malaysia has the full range of accommodation, from campsites, hostels and small guesthouses to hotels.

More intriguing options include homestays and old British-era colonial resthouses; the chance to stay in a traditional tribal longhouse in Borneo shouldn’t be missed.

Malaysian food & drink

Malaysian food is almost universally superb.

Chilli, coriander, tamarind, lemongrass, fish paste coconut milk and mint flavour many dishes, with seafood and chicken key staples (plus pork in Chinese communities).

Rice (nasi) and noodles (mee) are the carb sections of every meal, but the variations in each are stupendous.

Look out for regional dishes: the Nonya cuisine of Penang and Melaka blends Thai, Chinese and Indian influences – a home-made laksa (coconut curry noodle soup) is hard to top.

Tea and coffee share the honours in drinking stakes; alcohol is available but not as broadly consumed outside the big cities as in neighbouring Thailand or Singapore.

Health & safety in Malaysia


Consult your GP or a travel health clinic for advice on inoculations and anti-malarial prophylaxis.

Various biting bugs, leeches, parasites and venomous snakes are found in Malaysia – particularly the jungles of Borneo – so wear insect repellent, don’t walk barefoot and take sensible precautions to avoid bites and stings.


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