Things I wish I had known before visiting Malaysia

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Malaysia is a wonderful country that surprised us every day with its natural and cultural beauty and definitely became one of our favorites.

I can just recommend everyone to go and visit Malaysia.

Several cultures in Malaysia are quite different from many Western cultures. Therefore, it is important to know certain things before visiting Malaysia. In this article, you can find everything you should know before your holiday in Malaysia.

Malaysia Facts

  • 1963 founded out of 4 parts of the former British Colonies
  • State religion: Islam
  • One of the richest countries in Southeast Asia
  • The National flower is Hibiscus
  • Ca. 31 Million inhabitants (2017)
  • Country Code +60

Best Time to visit Malaysia

The Monsoon times are different throughout the country. Therefore, Malaysia is a great destination at any time of the year. Thus, the best time to visit Malaysia depends on which part of the country you would like to go to.

Best time to travel to Malaysia, Inland (Peninsula)

The weather doesn’t change much throughout the year. Anyway, the official raining season is from February – May, and September – November

Best time to travel to Malaysia, West Coast

The driest season at Malaysia’s West Coast is between January and February.

The months with most rain are September, October, and November.

Best time to travel to Malaysia, East Coast

April – October

From November – February, there are strong showers and storms. The Perhentian Islands even close for tourists for some time during the year. (Click here to read my Post about the Perhentian Islands with the exact closing times)

Best time to travel to visit Borneo


The raining season is from November – February

Holidays in Malaysia

01.01. New Year

January Thaipusam

01.02. Federal Territory Day

February Chinese New Year (2 Days)

01.05. Labour Day

May Wesak

June Aidil Fitri (2 Days)

August Hari Rava Haji

31.08. August Merdeka Day

09.09. Birthday of the King

11.09. Muharram

16.09. Malaysia Day

November Diwali/Dipavali

21.11. Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday

25.12. Christmas

Important words

Hello – Hello (Commonly Used)

Bye – Bye (Commonly Used)

Thank you – Terima Kashi

Excuse me – Maafkan Saya

Delicious – Lazat

Rice – Nasi

Fried – Goreng

Noodles – Mi

Chicken – Ayam

Fish – Ikan

Malaysia Currency & Money

Penang, George Town, Streetart, Painting, swing
Street Art in Penang, George Town

Currency in Malaysia

The currency of Malaysia is the Ringgit. One Euro equals 4,8 Ringgit and one USD equals 3,9 Ringgit. (March 2018)

Withdrawing money in Malaysia

Almost everywhere throughout the country, you can find ATMs. The only place we’ve been to where there was none is the Perhentian Islands. Just carry enough cash with you, just to be sure.

Usually, the banks in Malaysia won’t charge you extra fees for withdrawing money.

Prices in Malaysia

Even though Malaysia is known to be one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia the prices aren’t much higher than in other countries in Southeast Asia.

Especially, the food is normally sold at affordable prices.

If you want to know more about prices and budget in Malaysia and how you can save a lot of money while traveling Malaysia be sure to also check my Malaysia Budget Guide here.

Tipping in Malaysia

Giving tips in Malaysia is not quite common and is usually not expected.

Food in Malaysia

Nasi Goreng, Malaysia, fried rice
Nasi Goreng

In Malaysia, you can find something delicious for everyone. Especially, if you are into spicy food you will love the Malaysian cuisine. But keep in mind that the Malaysian kind of spicy is way different than the definition of spicy in most Western Countries.

In Malaysia, you will find a great selection of different food.

Most popular are the traditional Malaysian dishes such as Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice), Mi Goreng (Fried Noodles), Nasi Ayam (Rice and Chicken) and Nasi Lemak (Traditional Malaysian Rice). Moreover, there is a great amount of Chinese Food as well. I absolutely recommend trying my favorite Chinese Dish, the Kung Pow Chicken, which I fell in love with already back in China.

And if you are still looking for more, how about some Indian Food? In almost every town you can find an Indian area in which you can also find traditional Indian cuisine.

Regarding its food, Malaysia definitely has become one of our favorite countries worldwide and my mouth starts to water just thinking about it.

Vegetarian is not always vegetarian

Has someone ever tried to serve you chicken in a vegetarian restaurant? If that would happen in Western countries it would probably be a big thing, but in Malaysia, it can totally happen to you. But why would someone call his restaurant vegetarian if they actually sell different kind of dishes including meat? (Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like they are hiding the meat in a vegetarian dish: The menu clearly states that it included e.g. Chicken. What vegetarian means in this context is actually that the food doesn’t include pork which is forbidden to eat for the Islamic Inhabitants. So if you find meat on the menu make sure to check with your water before ordering whether it is actually meat or not.


eco forest, Kuala Lumpur, jungle, girl, bridge
Discover a jungle in the middle of Kuala Lumpur

European and US Citizens are allowed to enter Malaysia for 90 days without a visa.

Anway, you have to be able to show a ticket back or for your onward journey if asked to do so.

Author’s note: Please note that information can change at any time. Please make sure that information is correct by contacting an official source before your trip or applying for your visa. This post is just for general information and I can’t guarantee or be made responsible for any changes or exceptions.


Proboscis nosed monkey Borneo, Malaysia
Discover the Proboscis Monkeys which only exist in Borneo
Malaysia is said to be one of the safest countries in Southeast Asia. Of course, you still should keep an eye on your belongings (especially in Kuala Lumpur) and don’t trust every taxi driver. However, scams don’t happen quite frequently as for example in Ho Chi Minh City. (Click here to read about how they stole us 1 Million Dong in Ho Chi Minh)


Melakka, colorful, streetart, Malaysia, girl
Malaysia is colorful and full of Street Art

The infrastructure in Malaysia is probably one of the best in Southeast Asia. The hospitals and clinics are equipped with modern technology and can be visited when needed without any worries. (Don’t worry, you most probably won’t go through such an annoying hospital horror marathon as we had to in Myanmar.)

The roads usually have pretty good quality what gave me a nice break from the motion sickness I suffered from on many journeys in Thailand and Myanmar. Another great and fun way to get around and explore the country is cycling in Malaysia.

Busses in Malaysia

Riding a free bus in Kuala Lumpur, Pink bus

After being used to the busses in Myanmar, the busses in Malaysia were a welcomed change. Those busses seemed more modern and the departures were more or less on time. 
Furthermore, you can purchase your tickets usually at reasonable prices. For most routes, on which busses don’t operate you will be able to find a Mini-Van going instead.

If you want to take the bus in Kuala Lumpur be sure to check whether you can use one of the pink busses as those lines are for free.

Metro in Kuala Lumpur

In Kuala Lumpur, you can even take the Metro (instead of an expensive taxi). Kuala Lumpur’s Metro is modern and well developed. So you can reach your destination fast and without breaking the bank.

Use Grab

Just to be sure, you can always use Grab. It worked perfectly fine for us in Malaysia and we met nice drivers. Since the prices are fixed by the App, drivers can’t overcharge you.

The only drawback is that you need a working internet connection to look for a driver.

Flying in Malaysia

If you want to go fast from A to B in Malaysia it might be an option to take a flight. Especially, if you want to go to Borneo Island. We also took a cheap flight from Kuching to Miri as we just couldn’t take another 15-hour bus trip. (After six months on the road you just get lazier I guess 😉 )

In Malaysia, you can find pretty cheap flights. Another huge benefit is that, unlike in Europe, with many airlines, your luggage is included even when booking with a low-cost-carrier. (Air Asia is a big exception, though)

I usually use to find the best and cheapest flights.

Check Flights with Momondo

Malaysia’s Locals

Talking about the ethnic population of Malaysia is actually not that easy: There are just so many.

The biggest ethnical group in Malaysia is the group of Malay while the second biggest ethnic group are Chinese. Even though their culture is extremely different compared to the one of the Malay they live together peacefully. Therefore, they could be a  great role model for other countries around the world. The third biggest ethnic group in Malaysia are the Indian. In almost every town you can find an Indian Quarter, in which you can feel almost like actually being in India.

Please take off your shoes

bako national park, Kuching, jungle, girl
View of the Bako National Park in Borneo

In many accommodations and houses, you will find signs that politely ask you to put off your shoes before entering. Therefore, you might want to check for such signs before entering a place. If you are not sure whether you should take off your shoes ask or check what other people are doing when entering.

Communication in Malaysia

Malaysia has been a British Colony for many years. Therefore, English is widely spread and many people will be able to communicate with you in (perfect) English.

The menu cards in restaurants are sometimes not translated into English, but after eating out a few times, you will be able to understand most of it. (Especially if you are eating traditional Malay Food)

Alcohol in Malaysia

Since Malaysia is a Muslim Country, alcohol is prohibited in many restaurants and accommodation. (Same goes for pork, by the way)

However, many places will sell and serve alcohol to tourists and non-muslim inhabitants. Anyway, the prices for alcohol can be quite pricey (Comparable to prices in Central Europe)

If you want to buy alcohol without spending a fortune, you can do that while visiting Langkawi or Labuan as those are tax-free islands in Malaysia.

Internet and Sim-card in Malaysia

In Malaysia, most accommodations will offer Wifi. (Besides Perhentian Islands)

If you need internet on the go though, you can purchase a pretty cheap sim-card all around the country. You can choose between different companies and internet plans.

Travel Insurance for Malaysia

One important thing that I’ve learned on our big trip through Southeast Asia is: Never ever travel without Insurance. We have needed it more than once and we have met people that desperately needed a doctor but refused to go because they didn’t get an insurance. So, please don’t be that person and be better safe than sorry. If you need more reasons for an insurance check our Why is it important to have a travel insurance-Article.

If you are already sure that you need an insurance (which you do), make sure to consider the World Nomads insurance here which is considered the most popular travel insurance among backpackers and long-term travelers worldwide.

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5/5 - (5 votes)

4 thoughts on Things I wish I had known before visiting Malaysia

  1. Erm no, we don’t serve animal meat in vegetarian restaurants in Malaysia… Many of the Buddhist and Indian population here are strict vegetarians due to religion and do not eat animal meat. The “chicken”, “duck”, “fish” you see in vegetarian restaurants are actually vegetarian meat – they are made of soybeans, tofu, etc.

    They do not taste like meat. It is just a delicious vegetarian twist of our everyday dishes. Since it’s a vegetarian restaurant it’s understood that no animal meat is served so the menu are not redundant in saying “vegetarian chicken”. You could’ve clarify with the waiters whether or not it’s made of real meat…

    So we have vegetarian restaurants that ARE VEGETARIAN, and we have PORK-FREE restaurants that do not serve beef, chicken, fish but no pork for our Malay friends. Both are different things.

    • Hi Mei Mei Chu,
      Thank you for your comment. I didn’t mean to say in any way that every vegetarian restaurant would serve you meat. I am sure the majority of vegetarian restaurants doesn’t. But exactly that is what happened to us. And I assumed that it would be some kind of tofu but it was definitely meat. So, I checked with the waiter and this was his explanation. Moreover, we stayed with a Malaysian family that told us the same thing. I don’t mind much since I am not a Vegetarian, but I wanted to include this point because if I was vegetarian that would have been a big deal. So, I don’t mean anyone to get suspicious about every vegetarian dish they eat, just if someone sees a dish that says “Chicken” or something along those lines on the menu in a vegetarian restaurant to check with the waiter before ordering. That’s all. 🙂

  2. Agree on everything!! I live in a third world country and traveling overseas can be pricey for me but not when I went in Malaysia. Eveyrthing was relatively cheap knowing how rich the country is. Grab and Uber is convenient so as their train system. I love the food especially when we went to Jalan Alor. I wish to come back and spend more time in this beautiful country!

  3. Excellent information. Thank you! I particularly like the advice about Grab. I wish I had known that before I overpaid my cab driver off the street.


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