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Malaysia Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

There are regular direct flights to Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur from the UK with both Malaysia Airlines and British Airways. Emirates, Qatar Airways, Oman Air, Turkish Airlines, Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines all offer indirect flights via their respective hubs.

Flying times from UK

A direct flight from London to Kuala Lumpur takes between 12 and 14 hours. The total length of travel time for an indirect flight depends on the airline and the route you take.

Time zone

Malaysia is +8 hours ahead of GMT.

Visa requirements

If you are a British national you do not need a visa to visit Malaysia and on arrival in the country will be given permission to stay for three months. If you plan to stay for longer than three months a visa must be obtained in advance of your arrival. You should also ensure that your passport is valid for a minimum of six months from the date you arrive in Malaysia.

Do’s and don’ts

In Malaysia the head is the most sacred part of the body. You should only touch another person’s head if you know them very well and are certain they will not take offence. This includes children.

Avoid pointing at anything or anyone with your feet, or indeed resting them on a table. This is very disrespectful. It is also considered rude to point with your index finger, particularly if you are pointing at another person. Instead, use your thumb on your right hand.

Malaysia is a Muslim country and although western clothing is common in Kuala Lumpur and at some beaches you still need to be appropriately covered to visit a mosque. Some mosques will have long sleeved clothes for you to borrow.

Most Malaysians are very friendly and welcoming but you can avoid staring by covering your chest, arms and legs, especially if you are a woman.

Money

The currency in Malaysia is the Malaysia Ringgit (RM) and is divided into sen. Notes come in 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1 Ringgits and coins are in denominations of 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 sen. Pound Sterling and US Dollars are widely accepted throughout Malaysia and both are easy to exchange with facilities to do this at airports, authorised dealers and hotels. If in remote areas it may be harder to exchange money so it is better to carry local currency with you. All major credit cards are accepted in Malaysia and ATM machines are widespread although in rural areas it is still better to carry Ringgits should a card not be accepted or an ATM not working.

Tipping

In Malaysia, tipping is not generally expected. Normally when you go to a restaurant, a service charge of 10% will be added to your bill, however, it is common practice to tip service staff in a bar. A guideline for tipping your drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

A fusion of three of the world’s most loved cuisines – Chinese, Indian and Malay – the food in Malaysia is truly exceptional. The national dish of Malaysia is called 'Nasi lemak' and is rice steamed with coconut milk, served alongside dried anchovies, peanuts and eggs. Nasi lemak can be found all over the country. Another favourite is 'Nasi goreng', a Malay-style fried rice, which is very popular and commonly found being served at street stalls and night markets. In Malaysia Chinese food is normally eaten with chopsticks whilst Indian and Malay food is eaten with the fingers or knife and fork. Beer, wine and spirits and found throughout the country and locally brewed beers such as Tiger and Anchor are very popular. In tribal areas of Borneo look out for a traditional rice wine called tuak.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

During almost every month of the calendar year there is some kind of special celebration happening in Malaysia. Most holidays, festivals and other celebrations originate from culture or religion and are spectacular to witness or participate in. Chinese New Year is celebrated to mark the first day of the New Year in the Chinese lunar calendar and lasts for 15 days. Fireworks, dancing and lots of the colour red are used across Malaysia during this time. In April each year the Malaysia Water Festival takes place with a range of water based activities such as kayaking and outdoor swimming enjoyed by many. Wesak Day in May is celebrated by Buddhists to mark the three significant events in Buddha's life – when he was born, his enlightenment and achievement of Nirvana. The festival involves meditation, prayers and donations are given to the poor and those in need of help.

Shopping

Kuala Lumpur was voted as the fourth best shopping city in the world by CNN Travel a few years ago, so there is plenty on offer. The best place for buying souvenirs and crafts in Kuala Lumpur is at Central Market, opposite the Pasar Seni LRT station. Here you will find stalls selling everything from figurines and t-shirts, bags to knick-knacks and local handicrafts. Bartering is common. Other popular souvenirs include pewter-ware, hand carvings and songket, a stunning fabric laced with golden or silver thread-work.

Suggested Reading

Aside from Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and Bradt, a good place to start is with Janet Tay and Eric Forbes' ‘Urban Odysseys’ – a collection of short stories detailing everyday life in Kuala Lumpur. For a more holistic look at the country, try Farish A Noor's ‘Searching for the Other Malaysia’ which journeys around the country covering everywhere from Majapahit to Putrajay. For a history of the country try ‘A Short History of Malaysia’, by Virginia Matheson Hooker or ‘Malayan Spymaster: Memoirs of a Rubber Planter, Bandit Fighter and Spy’, by Boris Hembry.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed and a rabies vaccination may be a consideration if you will be in very rural areas for an extended period of time. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/home.aspx) is also a useful resource as is the Malaysia NaTHNaC webpage.

Travel advice

For current information on Malaysia the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

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