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Malaysia vacation travel guide

Why choose Malaysia?

Malaysia is a melting pot of ethnicities, including Malay, Chinese, Indian, and various indigenous groups. This diversity is reflected in its festivals, languages, traditions, and especially its cuisine, offering a blend of flavors and dishes that are hard to find elsewhere.

 

Malaysia is also home to some of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests. Places like the Taman Negara National Park, which is estimated to be over 130 million years old, and the diverse ecosystems of Borneo’s Sabah and Sarawak states are prime examples. These areas are habitats for a vast array of flora and fauna, including rare species such as the Malayan tiger, orangutans, and proboscis monkeys.

 

Malaysians are known for their hospitality and friendliness towards visitors. English is widely spoken, making communication easy and travel more comfortable for international tourists.

 

Whether you’re into extreme sports, leisurely beach days, or exploring underwater marine life, Malaysia has it all, making it a compelling choice for a vacation destination.

malaysia vacation

Planning your Malaysia vacation

• Visa: Many nationalities can enter Malaysia without a visa for stays of up to 90, 30, or 14 days, depending on the country. However, please check the latest visa requirements for your nationality.

• Vaccinations: Depending on your travel plans in Malaysia, vaccinations for hepatitis A and typhoid are often recommended because you can contract these diseases through contaminated food or water.

• Flight Booking: Check out our flight booking tips to make sure you get the best value for your money.

• Currency: The currency of Malaysia is the Ringgit, abbreviated as RM. ATMs are widely available in urban and tourist areas, and credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants, and shops. However, cash is king in local markets, street food stalls, and rural areas.

malaysia vacation

Malaysia famous beaches

• Rawa Island: A small island located off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia in Johor. Known for its white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, Rawa is a perfect getaway for those looking to relax and enjoy water sports in a relatively untouched setting.

• Pangkor Island: Situated off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the state of Perak, Pangkor Island is known for its historical sites, forests, and beautiful beaches like Pasir Bogak and Teluk Nipah. It’s a great spot for a more laid-back beach experience.

• Mantanani Islands: A group of three isolated islands off the northwest coast of Kota Belud in Sabah, Borneo. These islands are known for their stunning beaches, clear waters, and the opportunity to see dugongs, also known as sea cows.

• Kapas Island: Just a short boat ride from Marang, Terengganu, Kapas Island is known for its  peaceful atmosphere, clear waters, and beautiful coral reefs. It’s an ideal spot for snorkeling, kayaking, and relaxing away from the crowds.

• Sipadan Island: Located off the coast of Sabah in Borneo, Sipadan is renowned as one of the world’s best dive sites. While the island itself is protected and overnight stays are not allowed, the surrounding waters offer excellent diving experiences to see turtles, barracudas, and diverse coral species.

malaysia vacation

Can't-miss Malaysia attractions

• Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur: Once the tallest buildings in the world, these famous towers dominate the Kuala Lumpur skyline. The sky bridge on the 41st floor offers visitors a breathtaking view of the city.

• Mount Kinabalu, Sabah: The highest peak in Southeast Asia, located in the Kinabalu Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a popular destination for climbers and nature lovers, offering great views.

• Langkawi: An archipelago of 99 islands known for its stunning beaches, clear waters, and natural attractions such as the Langkawi Sky Bridge, Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, and Dataran Lang (Eagle Square).

• Taman Negara: One of the world’s oldest rainforests, offering a chance to experience Malaysia’s incredible natural beauty through jungle treks, canopy walks, and river cruises.

• Cameron Highlands: A hill station known for its tea plantations, strawberry farms, and cooler climate. It’s a perfect place for trekking, visiting butterfly gardens, and enjoying nature.

malaysia vacation

Our favorite food in Malaysia

• Nasi Lemak: Often considered the national dish of Malaysia, Nasi Lemak is rice cooked in coconut milk, served with a spicy sambal (a spicy chili sauce), fried crispy anchovies, toasted peanuts, boiled egg, and cucumber.

• Satay: Marinated, skewered, and grilled meats served with peanut sauce, rice cakes, and a small serving of acar (pickles). Satay comes in various meat options including chicken, beef, and lamb.

• Char Kway Teow: It’s a stir-fried noodle dish that includes shrimp, bloody cockles, Chinese lap cheong (sausage), eggs, bean sprouts, and chives in a mix of soy sauce.

• Laksa: There are various types of Laksa in Malaysia, but the most famous are Penang Laksa, known for its sour fish-based soup, and Laksa Lemak from the Peranakan culture, known for its coconut milk-based soup.

• Cendol: A refreshing dessert perfect for Malaysia’s hot climate, made from shaved ice, coconut milk, jelly noodles made from rice flour with green food coloring (usually derived from the pandan leaf), and palm sugar.

malaysia food

Cultural experiences in Malaysia

• Visit a Longhouse in Sarawak or Sabah: Experience the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous people of Borneo by visiting a longhouse. Some communities offer stays or visits where you can learn about their way of life.

• Explore the Rainforests: Join a guided tour in one of Malaysia’s ancient rainforests, like Taman Negara or Borneo’s Danum Valley, to learn about the indigenous flora and fauna and possibly visit an indigenous village.

• Learn Traditional Crafts: Participate in workshops to learn traditional crafts such as batik painting, wood carving, or weaving, which are offered in various cultural villages and centers.

• Tea Plantation Visit in the Cameron Highlands: Experience the British colonial heritage and the scenic beauty of tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands, where you can learn about tea production and enjoy the cool climate.

• Explore the Peranakan Culture: Particularly in Penang and Melaka, explore the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) heritage through its distinctive architecture, antique shops, and unique cuisine.

malaysia culture

Malaysia customs and etiquette

• Greetings: Traditional Malay greeting involves a light handshake followed by placing your right hand over your heart, which signifies sincerity. However, not all Malaysians may follow this, and a simple nod or smile can also be appropriate.

• Shoes Off: It’s customary to remove shoes before entering a Malaysian home, and this practice is sometimes observed in certain shops or offices, especially if they are carpeted or if there’s a noticeable place for shoes at the entrance.

• Use Your Right Hand: The right hand is considered clean and should be used for eating and handing over or receiving items. The left hand is traditionally seen as unclean.

• Gift Giving: When offering gifts, use both hands. Gifts are not always opened upon receiving. Avoid giving alcohol, pork products, or anything made from pigskin due to Islamic dietary laws. Gifts wrapped in yellow are reserved for royalty, and green is often associated with Islam and Malay royalty, so choose your wrapping paper accordingly.

• Tipping: Tipping is not a widespread practice in Malaysia, as most hotels and restaurants include a 10% service charge in bills. However, small tips for taxi drivers or for exceptional service are appreciated.

malaysia vacation

How do I avoid Malaysia roaming charges?

Before international travel, you should always make a plan for how you’ll use your phone.

Malaysia roaming charges can add up quickly, and you don’t want to get stuck with a huge phone bill after an amazing vacation.

Carrier travel data packages are often expensive, with limited data and a lot of restrictions.

A budget-friendly way to avoid Malaysia roaming charges is to download a Malaysia eSIM that comes with a prepaid Malaysia data package.

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Travel tips for your Malaysia vacation

malaysia vacation

Famous festivals in Malaysia

• Kaamatan: The harvest festival of the Kadazandusun and Murut communities in Sabah, celebrated with traditional sports, buffalo races, cultural performances, and the Unduk Ngadau beauty pageant.

• Chinese New Year: A 15-day celebration marking the beginning of the Chinese lunar year. It’s characterized by family reunions, lion dances, fireworks, and the giving of red envelopes (ang pao) containing money for luck.

• Malaysia Water Festival: A month-long festival celebrated across the country with water-based sports and activities, including boat races, water skiing, and fishing competitions.

• Malaysia International Gourmet Festival: An annual event that showcases the country’s sophisticated dining scene, with top chefs and restaurants participating to offer special menus and culinary delights.

• Rainforest World Music Festival: Held in Sarawak, this festival brings together musicians from around the world for performances that blend traditional music and instruments with contemporary sounds.

malaysia vacation

Malaysia phrases that will come in handy

Try to learn a few basic phrases, as this is appreciated by locals and can enhance your travel experience.

• Thank you: “Terima kasih” /tuh-ree-mah kah-see/

• Hello: “Halo” /hah-loh/

• Yes: “Ya” /yah/

• No: “Tidak” /tee-dahk/

• Please: “Sila” /see-lah/

• Excuse me / Sorry: “Maaf” /mah-ahf/

• Where is…?: “Di mana…?” /dee mah-nah/

• How much is this?: “Berapa ini?” /buh-rah-pah ee-nee/

• Can you help me?: “Boleh tolong saya?” /boh-lay toh-long sah-yah/

• How much does this cost?: “Berapa harga ini?” /buh-rah-pah hahr-gah ee-nee/

• Help!: “Tolong!” /toh-long/

 

 

malaysia vacation

10-day Malaysia itinerary suggestions

• Kuala Lumpur (Days 1-3):

–  Petronas Twin Towers, KLCC Park, Jalan Alor

–  Batu Caves, Islamic Arts Museum, National Mosque, Bukit Bintang

–  Day trip to Putrajaya

• Penang (Days 4-5):

–  George Town, Khoo Kongsi, Pinang Peranakan Mansion

–  Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si Temple, Batu Ferringhi Beach

• Langkawi (Days 6-7):

–  Pantai Cenang, Sunset Cruise

–  Langkawi Sky Bridge, Cable Car, Water Sports

• Cameron Highlands (Day 8):

–  Tea Plantations, Strawberry Farms, Mossy Forest

• Malacca (Days 9-10)

–  Jonker Street, A Famosa, St. Paul’s Hill, The Stadthuys

–  Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum, Melaka River Cruise

malaysia vacation

Go on a Malaysia shopping spree!

• Malls: Malaysia is known for its impressive shopping malls, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, such as the Suria KLCC, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, and Mid Valley Megamall. These malls offer a wide range of international and local brands.

• Street Markets: For more traditional and local shopping experiences, visit street markets (pasar malam) and bazaars. The Central Market and Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur are great for souvenirs, crafts, and affordable goods.

• Specialty Shops: Look for shops specializing in Malaysian crafts such as batik, pewter ware, woodcarvings, and traditional fabrics.

• Take Advantage of the Sales Seasons: Malaysia has two major sale seasons, the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival and the Malaysia Year-End Sale, offering significant discounts. Check the dates before your visit to take advantage of these deals.

• Useful Apps and Resources: Consider using apps or websites to compare prices, find reviews, and get directions to the best shopping spots. Apps like Grab can be useful for transportation to and from shopping venues.

Plan the perfect Malaysia vacation

  • Malaysia in January

    January in Malaysia offers warm, tropical weather, with temperatures ranging from 23-32°C (73-89°F), ideal for beach and outdoor activities.

  • Malaysia in February

    February is warm, with temperatures between 23-33°C (73-91°F). The tail end of the dry season in many parts, making it great for outdoor explorations. Early planning is advised as Chinese New Year celebrations can make this a busy time.

  • Malaysia in March

    In March, it starts to get hotter, with averages of 24-34°C (75-93°F). Humidity begins to rise, signaling the approach of the rainy season.

  • Malaysia in April

    April is hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from 24-34°C (75-93°F). Rain showers become more frequent, offering respite from the heat. Ideal for those who enjoy tropical climates and indoor attractions.

  • Malaysia in May

    May continues to be hot and humid, 24-33°C (75-91°F). The beginning of the fruit season, perfect for tasting local delicacies like durian. Rainfall is common during this month.

  • Malaysia in June

    Similar conditions to May, June brings temperatures between 24-33°C (75-91°F). A popular time for beach holidays despite occasional rains.

  • Malaysia in July

    July is slightly cooler, with temperatures of 23-32°C (73-89°F). Less rainfall and more sunny days make it ideal for outdoor and beach activities.

  • Malaysia in August

    In August, temperatures range from 23-32°C (73-89°F). The weather remains favorable for traveling, with occasional rain showers. Consider visiting during the Hari Merdeka celebrations at the end of the month.

  • Malaysia in September

    September is a quieter month for travel. It starts to cool down slightly, 23-32°C (73-89°F), with the monsoon season approaching the east coast.

  • Malaysia in October

    In October, the rainy season is in full swing on the east coast, with temperatures ranging from 23-32°C (73-89°F). However, destinations on the west coast are still quite appealing, experiencing only occasional showers.

  • Malaysia in November

    The monsoon season significantly affects travel to the east coast due to heavy rainfall, with temperatures between 23-31°C (73-87°F). Meanwhile, the west coast sees lighter rain, making it an attractive option.

  • Malaysia in December

    December is a cooler month, with temperatures ranging from 23-31°C (73-87°F). Monsoon season continues on the east coast, while the west coast enjoys a peak travel season.

How do I use my phone in Malaysia?

Affordable eSIM data

Choose a data package

Start by deciding how much data you’ll need. Then choose a prepaid data package for your Malaysia vacation. If you need more, it’s easy to buy more Malaysia data.

Convenient eSIM data

Install your eSIM

An eSIM is a downloadable SIM card, so you’ll install your eSIM on your phone or tablet. It takes less than two minutes, and then you will have a Malaysia eSIM on your phone.

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Activate your package

When you’re ready to start using your Malaysia eSIM you’ll activate your data package and make sure your device knows to use your Malaysia eSIM for all mobile data.

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