Travelling to Malaysia promises an exciting adventure full of colourful scenery, unique cultures and delicious food. To ensure a smooth and enriching experience, however, it is necessary to familiarise oneself with a few details before visiting this captivating Southeast Asian gem. From cultural nuances to useful advice, here are the key things you should be aware of before travelling to Malaysia.
In the perpetually warm and humid climes of tropical Malaysia, where temperatures linger around a balmy 86°F (30°C) throughout the year, your packing list should be light and practical. Essential items include flip-flops for leisurely strolls, sneakers for active adventures, and an array of light, airy cotton garments that allow your skin to breathe under the tropical sun. Should you find something missing from your suitcase, rest assured Malaysia offers plenty of options to pick up any essentials. In addition, bring a lightweight jacket or hoodie to prepare for the Malaysian habit of maintaining frigid temperatures, particularly in buses, trains, and shopping malls.
The Peninsula and Malaysian Borneo are the two main regions that make up Malaysia. The Peninsula, often referred to as the "mainland," shares its borders with Thailand and offers an array of experiences perfect for travellers on a limited schedule. It is the heart of Malaysia’s bustling life and vibrant culture, ideal for those seeking to soak in the essence of the country within a few weeks.
Malaysian Borneo is the ideal destination for those who wish to venture off the beaten path and enjoy jungle trekking. Furthermore, it stands as one of the few remaining sanctuaries where the majestic orangutans can be observed in their natural habitat, a truly unique and unforgettable encounter.
In contrast to many other parts of the world, where cash is frequently met with surprise and contempt, in Malaysia, people oftentimes only accept cash. For instance, the food markets you frequent will only accept cash. They will demand cash even when you buy a tube card in Kuala Lumpur. You will discover that there are things you need or want every day that you can only get with cash. So it is best to keep some local currency on you.
In Malaysia, a kaleidoscope of cultural experiences awaits, presenting a fascinating array of surprises and learning opportunities. The country is a melting pot of diverse ethnic groups, living in harmonious coexistence, each adding their unique thread to the rich cultural tapestry. Among these, the Orang Asli, the indigenous peoples, along with ethnic Chinese and Tamil Indians, blend seamlessly with the multi-ethnic yet predominantly Islamic population of Peninsular Malaysia, where Malay Muslims constitute about 69.8 per cent.
This diversity manifests in the architectural landscape as well, where traditional Chinese temples, adorned with vibrant red lanterns, stand in harmonious contrast with the ornate Hindu gopurams or temple gates. These, in turn, share the skyline with modern, intricately designed mosques crowned with their characteristic onion-shaped domes. Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil are the most popular languages spoken by people of the Islamic, Taoist and Hindu religions.
Local buses and transportation in Malaysia are very affordable. A fantastic web of integrated rail networks exists in Kuala Lumpur, connecting all parts of the city, making it easy to navigate and cost-effective. Local buses are also very affordable in places like Penang.
The allure of street food in Southeast Asia is undeniable, with its irresistible combination of affordability and exquisite flavours. Although with globalisation, Malaysian food is available around the world, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, the nation's capital, have the best street food. Among the must-try street delicacies are the savoury Koay Chiap, a comforting duck and noodle soup; the sweet and satisfying Apom Balik, a stuffed pancake that's a delight to the senses; and the refreshing Rojak, a fruit and vegetable salad bursting with contrasting flavours.
Each dish is a culinary masterpiece, and the variety is so vast that each seems to surpass the last in taste and creativity. The cost of street food typically doesn't exceed INR 200, depending on what you eat and where you get it.
Although alcohol is readily available in Malaysia, it is more costly, particularly if you like wine or spirits. Try some of the delectable fruit drinks or smoothies that are available throughout Malaysia as an alternative.
Always remember to carry a pack of tissues with you. In Malaysia, although finding a restroom is easy, with both Turkish and Western-style toilets readily available, the presence of toilet paper is a different story. Locals often prefer using the water hoses provided in bathroom stalls for cleanliness, a practice that might be unfamiliar to many travellers. Hence, having your own supply of tissues in your bag is not just a convenience; it’s a necessity. It ensures you’re prepared for any situation, allowing you to navigate cultural differences easily and comfortably.
The most ideal way to get to Malaysia from India is via flight since it's an island nation. There are many flights from India’s major cities to Malaysia, with Chennai being the shortest route, which takes around 4 hours to reach Kuala Lumpur International Airport.