Malaysia is a tropical paradise of immense charm – a veritable treasure trove of diverse cultures and hospitable people, exotic cuisine, fascinating festivals, quaint villages and the dazzling city of Kuala Lumpur. It's one of the easiest, most family-friendly countries in Southeast Asia to travel in, offering a blend of colourful Asian culture and pristine beaches and wilderness areas.
Malaysia is made up of two separate regions. Peninsular Malaysia is located off mainland Southeast Asia, bordering with Thailand. 650km of the South China Sea separate Peninsular Malaysia from East Malaysia on the island of Borneo.
Kuala Lumpur is definitely worth visiting, as it hosts a plethora of child-friendly attractions. Even toddlers will be amazed by the Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s tallest free-standing towers. The architecture is awesome with the 88-storey buildings soaring 452 metres over the city skyline.
Where it is and how do I get there?
Malaysia is located in the South China Sea, near Indonesia. Malaysian Airlines flies from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi. Royal Brunei Airlines will also be offering flights from Sydney to Kota Kinbalu, Sabah from November 2004.
When to go/Weather
Temperature in Malaysia does not vary a great deal. Therefore a visit to Malaysia can be planned for any time. The average temperature ranges between 21–32 degrees Celsius and the humidity is high. The rainy season occurs between November and February on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and on the west coast, the rainy season is from April to May and from October to November.
||23 – 32°C
||23 – 32°C
||22 – 29°C
Where to stay
Malaysia has accommodation to suit every taste and budget.
The Sunway Lagoon Resort Hotel in Selangor has the Sunway Lagoon theme park where kids and adults alike can enjoy rides and attractions.
There is also the Sea Gypsy Village Resort with daily childrens activities and FREE child-minding from 6pm for parents to 'let off steam', and Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria in Sabah.
Resorts with Kid’s Clubs
Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria in Sabah has a kids' club and offers babysitting services, as does the Sunway Lagoon Resort Hotel in Selangor and Shangri-La’s Golden Sands Resort in Penang.
There is plenty of food to try in Malaysia, not just Malay, Chinese or Indian food. Many restaurants serve Fusion cuisine, which has emerged from the world’s cultures over the past years. Why not try some nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk) or mee goreng (fried noodles with bean sprouts, eggs and prawns), nibble on some idli (steamed rice cake served with chutney or dhall) and feast on cendol (Indian-Muslim-style sweet cold dessert with ice, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup).
Malaysia is largely made up of Muslims so they do not eat pork and its products nor do they touch alcohol. Food in restaurants is displayed as "halal" (prepared according to Islamic tradition) or "non-halal".
Beware if you try food from hawkers’ stalls. Avoid stalls near busy traffic or unclean places and avoid precooked food. If the operator and his stall looks clean, chances are you food will be handled in a hygienic manner.
Shopping hours are from 10am to 10pm daily so there is plenty of time to hit the shops and get the latest bargains. There are plenty of Malaysian batik, handicrafts, antiques, jewellery, woodcarvings, pottery, songket and designer goods available and you can have fun bargaining with the shop attendant at bazaars and markets.
Michelle’s Kuala Lumpur Shopping Tips is great for finding the best shopping in Kuala Lumpur and has been tested and recommended by our editor. For more shopping tips in Malaysia, read Tourism Malaysia’s Shopping Tips.
Kuala Lumpur airport at Sepang is a modern, busy transport hub. It's well stocked with public phones, ATMs, banks, transport hire and tourist information. A good choice of food and beverages can be found throughout the main building and its satellites, with Western fast food outlets, restaurants, cafés and a 24-hour bar. Duty-free items like cosmetics, perfume, chocolates, liquor and wine can be picked up in shops both in the arrival and departure areas.
Transfers from airport
Kuala Lumpur International Airport is approximately 50km, or an hour’s drive, to the actual city. Therefore, it is best to arrange hotel transfers to and from the airport as taxis can be costly.
Getting around for families
You can travel to the states in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia by air, via Malaysia Airlines or Air Asia.
The main bus companies in Kuala Lumpur are Intrakota and Cityliner. Buses to other states in Peninsular Malaysia are Transnational, NICE and Plusliner.
Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station is the transportation hub that integrates all major transportation networks. The Light Rail Transit will only take you to destinations within Kuala Lumpur. For destinations outside Kuala Lumpur, use the KTM Komuter.
Popular destinations like Langkawi Pangkor Redang and Tioman have regular ferry services to the mainland. A few cruise liners like Empress Cruise Lines and Star Cruises have regular operations along the Straits of Malacca.
These three-wheeled cycles are found in Penang, Melaka, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Bharu and in some smaller towns and are a relaxing way to sightsee around town. Determine the fare before getting into one.
What to wear
Light, cool, and casual clothing is recommended all year round, although skimpy/revealing clothing is not acceptable. For more formal occasions, men should wear jackets, ties, or long-sleeved batik shirts, while women should wear dresses.
There are approximately 23 million people in Malaysia comprised of Malays (57%), Chinese, Indians and indigenous people.
Malaysia is a multicultural society, home to Malays, Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups. The Malays are the largest community and are predominantly followers of Islam, the official religion of Malaysia. The Chinese population are a mixture of Buddhists, Taoists and Christians, while the Indians are mainly Hindu Tamils. The ethnic groups of islands such as Sarawak and Sabah still practice ancient animist/shamanist traditions.
Some common courtesies and customs for tourists:
Remove shoes before entering homes, mosques and Hindu temples.
Dress neatly when entering places of worship. Ladies are advised to wear long sleeves and loose pants or long skirts when entering mosques and temples. No short dresses, shorts or singlets. Remove shoes when entering homes and places of worship.
The right hand is always used when eating with one's fingers or when giving and receiving objects. Point with the thumb of your right hand, fingers folded – not with the forefinger. Never point at someone with your foot.
The "salaam" is the traditional Muslim greeting. A younger person usually offers the salaam by clasping the hands of the elder, followed by the greeting "assalamualaikum" (peace be upon you). Some Muslim women will simply nod and smile to acknowledge an introduction with a man. Only greet a lady with a handshake or "salaam" if she offers her hand first.
Greetings are acceptable with a smile and a nod. Hotel staff may greet you by placing their hand over their left breast, which means “I greet you from my heart”. Shaking hands is acceptable but kissing the hand or the cheek is should be avoided. Many Muslim women prefer not to shake hands with the opposite sex.
Public behaviour is especially important in malaysian culture. Most Malaysians refrain from displaying affection (embracing or kissing) in public; it would be appropriate for visitors to do the same.
The official language spoken in Malaysia is Bahasa Melayu with English as the second language. Various Chinese and Indian dialects are also spoken, along with indigenous languages in the East Malays.
|I don't understand
||Saya tidak faham|
|My name is....
Malaysia is 2 hours behind Eastern Standard Time. Click here for more on time zones.
The currency used in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM). For and up-to-date currency conversion, click here.
Major credit cards are widely used and accepted. Travellers’ cheques can be exchanged for Malaysian ringgit at commercial banks, hotels and authorised money-changers.
Banking hours are 9.30am to 4pm on weekdays and 9.30am to 11.30am on Saturdays in most states.
Tipping is discouraged in Malaysia though most restaurants have a formalised service charge of 10% clearly marked on the bill.
220/240 volts using European twin plugs with round prongs or English square plugs.
It is best to see your GP before you travel to Malaysia and get the necessary vaccinations. Visitors from Yellow Fever-infected areas MUST have a Yellow Fever vaccination BEFORE you enter Malaysia.
The tap water in Malaysia is not safe to drink. Drink only bottled water from bottles with unbroken seals, and make sure ice is made from bottled water.
Passport and Visa
You need to have a valid National Passport valid for at least 6 months, or an internationally recognised travel document. Australians do not need to apply for a visa if they are only going for a social visit (3 months only).
HWK Family Travel Tips
When taking a local taxi in Malaysia, make sure that the driver has the meter switched on. If he refuses and asks for a flat rate (which is usually considerably inflated) don't hesitate to refuse the offer and get another cab if needed. Currently, the Malaysian law has yet to make it mandatory to use children car seat. Though it is legal to hold the child, we suggest that you take your own car seat.
Click here for Things to See & Do in Malaysia
Click here for Michelle's tips on visiting Langkawi