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Malaysia - Essentials
The climate in Malaysia is tropical. The north-east monsoon (October to February) deluges Borneo and the east coast in rain and often causes flooding, while the west coast (particularly Langkawi and Penang) escape unscathed. The milder south-west monsoon (April to October) reverses the pattern. The southern parts of peninsular Malaysia, including perennially soggy Kuala Lumpur, are exposed to both but even during the rainy season, the showers tend to be intense but brief.
The temperature varies little throughout the year and are usually between 20-30ºC (68-86ºF) with a humidity level of 90%.
Passport / Visa
Visitors to Malaysia must hold a valid passport or travel document with a minimum validity of six months beyond the intended visiting period. Most nationalities do not require visas for social or business visits but this really depends on how long you will be in the country.
For more information on the latest entry procedures and requirements visit the Malaysian government's website
Currency & Banking
The Malaysian currency is the ringgit, informally known as the dollar (the M$ symbol can be seen on older notes) and abbreviated RM or MYR, is divided into 100 sen. US$1 = RM 3.6 (01.11.2006)
Banks and airports are not the best places to exchange money if it is not urgent. Licensed money changers in major shopping malls often have the best rates - be sure to say the amount you wish to exchange and ask for the 'best quote' as rates displayed on the board are often negotiable.
ATMs are widely available in cities, but do stock up on cash if heading out into the smaller islands or the jungle. Credit cards can be used in most shops, restaurants and hotels, although skimming can be a problem in dodgier outlets.
Banks in Malaysia, especially those in major towns and cities, have staff who are trained to handle international transactions. Banks are opened Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4pm and selected banks are opened on Saturday from 9.30am to 11.30am except on the first and third Saturdays of each month. In the states of Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, they are open Saturday to Wednesday from 9.30am to 4pm and Thursday from 9.30am to 11.30am
Most visitors will find Malaysia quite cheap, although it is noticeably more expensive than Thailand to the north. You can live in hostel dorms and feast on hawker food for less than RM50 per day, but you'll wish to double this for comfort, particularly if travelling in more expensive East Malaysia. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury hotels and air fares are comparatively affordable, with even the fanciest 5-star hotels costing less than RM400/night.
Tipping is not customary in Malaysia. However, hotel porters and taxi drivers will appreciate a small tip if you have been provided with exemplary service. Most expensive restaurants, bars and hotels may indicate prices in the form of RM19++, meaning that sales tax (5%) and service charge (10%) will be added to the bill. Hotel tax of 5% may also be added to this.
Kuala Lumpur is a shopping mecca for clothes, electronics, computer goods and much more, with very competitive prices by any standard. Traditional Malaysian fabrics (batik) are a popular souvenir. The cheapest place to easily buy ethnic souvenirs (especially wood-based) is in Kuching, East Malaysia, and the most expensive place is in the major, posh KL shopping centres.
In general shops open from 10.30am till 9.30pm in the large cities. They open and close for business earlier in the smaller towns and rural areas.
• Police/Ambulance - 999
• Fire Brigade (Malay:Bomba) - 994
• Civil Defence - 991
• From mobile phone - 112
The country code for Malaysia is 60
Voltage is 220 - 240 volts AC at 50 cycles per second. Standard 3-pin square plugs and sockets (British plug).