Frequently asked questions about Malaysia

What is the best time to travel?

Malaysia and has a tropical climate with lots of sun throughout the year. The temperature is consistent, at around 30 degrees during the day and a couple of degrees cooler at night. In the Cameron Highlands it is somewhat cooler. West Malaysia experiences a north-easterly monsoon between October and April and a south-westerly monsoon the rest of the time. Downpours are brief but heavy and usually occur at the end of the afternoon. Both monsoons cause no major problems in most of the peninsula. Only the east coast experiences extreme rain and this occurs between November and January when there is an average of 24 inches of rainfall per month! During November to the middle of February we do not travel to the island of Pulau Perhentian, as most hotels and diving schools are closed for the monsoon and the large waves prevent snorkelling. Instead we travel to the island of Pulau Langkawi on the west coast. Humidity is quite high throughout the year.

What are the best festivals and when do they take place?

As the Islamic calendar is based on the position of the moon, the annual festivals are on a different day every year according to our calendar. In 2014, the Festival of Sacrifice falls on 4th October and lasts for three days. Ramadan (the month of fasting) can cause inconvenience for visitors, as many restaurants are closed during the fasting hours and eating, drinking or smoking in public is not appreciated by the Muslim population. Chinatown, however, stays open. Muslim hosts will still cater for visitors, although be discreet and don’t eat in front of them. In 2014, Ramadan begins on 28th June and runs until 27th July. Eid Al-Fitr, the breakfast festival following Ramadan, begins on 28th July.

Can I pre-book transfers and extra nights?

You can pre-book a transfer on arrival and also extra nights (pre and post tour). These items can all be added to your booking form.

What about my passport?

You need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from your date of departure. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel.

Do I need a visa?

UK/EU citizens do not need a visa for Malaysia, but these things can change so please click here and check out the current situation. You can also check on that website if a visa is required for any other nationality. Make sure you inquire at least a month before departure so you do not run out of time.
If you need a visa, please contact the nearest embassy unless you choose to use a visa service. Shoestring does not organize your visa. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel. You can also obtain the visa through a specialized visa agency like

Do I need vaccinations or malaria tablets?

Please click here for questions regarding vaccinations or malaria tablets for this country and then contact your GP or a specialised health clinic and make an appointment to get your injections and pills. Please make sure that you allow at least six weeks before your departure for a full program of injections. Two weeks should suffice for people who have already had a few injections. You are responsible for having the right protection when going on tour.

What is the recommended currency for Malaysia?

The local currency is called the Malaysian Ringgit  (RM). At the time of writing, there are approximately 7 Ringgits to the pound. We recommend that you take pounds sterling or US dollar travellers cheques with you which can be exchanged all over Malaysia.

What kind of clothing and other stuff is practical to take?

Don’t bring too much baggage. Clothing can always be bought cheaply during the holiday and almost every hotel has a laundry service. Malaysia is a tropical country so thin, cotton clothing is advisable. However, don’t walk around too ‘naked’. A sweatshirt can be useful in the cooler evenings, especially in the Cameron Highlands. All you need for your feet are a pair of good, worn-in walking shoes or hiking boots and a pair of flip flops. Remember that you must remove your shoes when entering sacred buildings such as temples. Flip flops prove very useful for such occasions. An umbrella will come in handy as protection against both sun and rain. Further items to protect you from the sun are sunhats, sunglasses and sun cream with a factor of at least 15. Other important items include swimwear, toiletries, a beach towel, a first-aid kit, a camera and sufficient film, spare batteries, a torch, copies of your passport and travel insurance documents and fligh

What kind of luggage should I take?

We ask you to bring a frameless backpack or a strong weekend bag to carry your luggage. Don’t bring a suitcase, as these are very tricky to transport and sometimes you will be required to carry your luggage a long way. Make sure your baggage is not too heavy. We find that 12 kg is the maximum weight for your requirements. Make sure you have a change of clothes in your hand luggage and anything else you need to go for up to 48 hours without your main luggage, in case of delays in retrieving your luggage at the airport. Make sure, for example, that you carry any medication and your toothbrush with you in your hand luggage. A small backpack or shoulder bag is best for your hand luggage. For carrying your valuables or important documents we advise that you bring a thin money belt that you can wear under your clothes.

What is the electricity situation in Malaysia?

Please click here to check what voltage and plugs are in use in Malaysia. You could consider taking a universal electric adaptor.

Which travel guides and maps?

If you want to take a travel guide or map, we suggest you click on Lonely Planet.

What is the accommodation like?

You will stay in comfortable hotel rooms with en-suite facilities.

How is accommodation arranged if I book alone?

If you book alone you will share your room with a fellow traveller (same sex when possible) unless you have booked a single room.

Do I need a sleeping mat or sleeping bag?

A sleeping bag is not necessary for this trip.

Do I need to take a mosquito net?

Insect bites are impossible to completely avoid in Asia, although there are several steps you can take to minimise the problem. Many hotels provide mosquito nets upon request (air conditioned rooms don’t need mosquito nets) and electric mosquito repellers are often placed in rooms.

Do they cater for vegetarians in Malaysia?

Malaysian cuisine includes influences from many countries and vegetarian dishes are very easy to find.

What kind of transportation is used?

We will transfer you by private minibus or public transport depending on the group size and also by boat (where applicable),

Is Malaysia dangerous?

Malaysia is a relatively safe country to visit and the people are friendly and honest. However, you should still keep an eye on your possessions. Always keep your passport, money and other important documents in a money belt worn under your clothes or leave them in the hotel safe. Never leave valuable items unattended on the beach.

If you are interested in what the Foreign Office has to say, please click here.

What local customs do I need to keep in mind?

There are many local customs in Malaysia. Here are a few important ones:
Visits to sacred sites, even if they are ruins, must be made with bare feet. Worshippers will not bother you, even during religious ceremonies, as long as you remember this. Also remove your shoes if you enter a Malaysian house. Women are obliged to wear scarfs when inside mosques.
After shaking hands to greet people, Muslims bring their hand to their chest. It will be greatly appreciated if you reciprocate this gesture.
Pointing with your index finger is very rude. It is better to use your thumb with your hand loosely clenched into a fist. Never point at a person, even with your thumb, as this is extremely rude in Malaysia.
Women must be ‘covered up’, i.e. a blouse or short-sleeved T-shirt and skirt that covers the upper legs and knees as a bare minimum. Tops that reveal your midriff are seen as highly inappropriate especially in places of worship and topless sunbathi

Are there opportunities to snorkel or dive?

There are plenty of chances to dive and snorkel in Malaysia. The snorkelling off the Pulau Perhentian islands is exquisite.

Are there opportunities to swim?

There are many places to swim in the beautiful coastal waters but take care as some beaches have jellyfish and so are not safe.

What are other activities and sports I could do?

In the Taman Nagara National Park you can take a boat trip or go for a walk through the jungle where you can see many different exotic plant and animal species.

How are communications in Malaysia?

The international access code for Malaysia is +60. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United States). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)3 for Kuala Lampur, (0)4 for Penang. International Direct Dial is available throughout the country but the service can be erratic. Hotels can add a hefty surcharge to their telephone bills; it is best to check before making international calls. Coin and card-operated public phones are widespread and phone cards can be purchased at the airport, petrol stations and newsagents. Cards are not transferable between phone companies: Uniphone and Telekom phone boxes are the most common. Mobile networks cover most of the country; the local mobile phone operators use GSM networks, which are compatible with most international phones. Internet cafes are widely available in tourist areas.

What is the time difference?

Please check the world clock in order to find out the exact time difference between Malaysia and your home country.

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