Malaysian Travel Information
Things to do on your Malaysia Diving Holiday
Looking for some information to make your dive trip to Malaysia run smoothly?
This section contains tourist information for your visit to the following locations:
1 of 2 Malaysian states in Borneo and a land of adventure and natural wonder. Home to Mt Kinabalu, orangutans, proboscis monkeys and the world famous Sipadan island ...
An equatorial paradise, the former British colony of Malaya offers pristine rainforests for safari trips, mountain ranges for trekking, unspoiled islands for some surf and sun, wetlands for bird watching and an amazing underwater kingdom for diving and snorkelling. Shopping is also a prime attraction, with most shops catering for both the budget conscious and the well-heeled spender.
Malaysia comprises the mainland peninsula and eastern states on the island of Borneo. There are 13 states and 3 federal territories in total. The administrative capital of the country is the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. Founded in 1857 as a Chinese tin-trading settlement, it sits on the confluence of the Gombak and Kelang Rivers and gets its name - which translates to "Muddy Confluence" in English - as a result of its location. East Malaysia is comprised of Sabah and Sarawak, and has a host of activities to offer the eco-tourist.
• View a map of Malaysia
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Tourist Security and Safety
Naturally, Dive The World has a vested interest in encouraging visitors to Malaysia. Having said that, while we do encourage visitors, we do not recklessly advise you to head to dangerous locations.
Malaysia is a very safe country to travel in, regardless of race, colour, creed and gender. Its multi-ethnic and multi-religious society has ensured generations of in-bred tolerance and respect for people from a multitude of cultures and background. Whether you're black or white, male or female, Catholic or agnostic, sport 10 tattoos and 20 different body piercings, Malaysians will generally be friendly and as accommodating to you as to any other person.
In April 2000, Sipadan was in the news in the wake of the kidnapping of tourists from a resort on the island. Since then, however, the Malaysian Navy has stepped up its security and does round-the-clock patrols of all islands in the vicinity. There is a marine base on the island of Mabul. In the wake of the 9/11 New York bombings, Malaysia, like many countries, also became known (rightly or wrongly) as a place with terrorists in its midst.
The fact of the matter is that the Malaysian Government has worked in tandem with other governments throughout the world in weeding out these terrorists and ensuring no harm comes to her people. The government views any form of terrorist activities as a serious threat to national security and unity and have come down hard on all organisations and individuals within this category. Generally, visitors have encountered no problem when visiting here - the Malaysian police are more than willing to help out tourists in any way they can.
Dive The World has travelled to all the tourist areas described in our website and has never experienced threats of any kind and indeed have never had any customers report safety or security concerns. The general sense that tourists get from visiting the country is one of warmth, hospitality and cultural richness. Blindly following all warnings issued by authorities these days, we sometimes wonder how people ever leave their homes!
If you still feel uncomfortable, we can recommend that you take out insurance to cover diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive quote.
How to Get There
Malaysia is one of the major travel gateways in South East Asia. You can fly directly into Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) from most countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, as well as Australia and New Zealand. There are also a few international airlines that fly into the smaller provincial airports of Malaysia, such as Kota Kinabalu.
Other convenient flight options to consider include the frequent and reliable connections into Malaysia from its neighbours, such as Singapore and Thailand.
If you require resort accommodation in Malaysia you can get the best value rooms with Agoda, our affiliated resort reservation specialists.
If you live in the UK or Ireland and wish to purchase international flights to Malaysia you can visit Cheapflights Ltd. They have over 150 travel partners including Expedia, Virgin and British Airways, which they use to search for the best up-to-date online flight prices.
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Malaysia has an equatorial climate. The average temperature is about 26°C, but highland temperatures can drop down to 18°C. The annual rainfall is about 250 cm, and on rainy days thunder and lightning often accompany the downpour. The humidity level is high - about 80%.
Generally, the east coast of the Malay Peninsula and the north eastern coast of Sabah and western Sarawak will expect more rain from November to February. The west coast of the peninsula will have more rain from May to October. Having said this, the diving season in Malaysia runs all year round in most locations.
Since the 3rd Century BC the region of Malaysia has been profoundly influenced by its neighbours of India, Indonesia and Thailand. Many Malay kingdoms were in existence as early as the 2nd and 3rd centuries, but it is the Malacccan Sultanate of the 1400's, lasting more than a century, which was the golden age of Malay self-rule and did much to spread Islam throughout the region.
Colonial influence was greatest with the British who, in the mid 18th century, with the British East India Company, based in British India increased their interest and made allies with the 19th century Malay Sultans.
Various Anglo-Dutch treaties shaped the borders of the Malayan peninsula and following the weakening of British power in Malaysia in World War II, and independence for Malaya was declared in 1957. Tunku Abdul Rahman became the nation's first president. In 1963 Malaysia came into being consisting of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. Brunei and Singapore subsequently withdrew. There continues to be an imbalance in favour of Malaya (and ethnic Malays) that allows resentment to fester in the Bornean states although the union appears healthy.
The Local People
Malaysia, truly Asia, is a multi-racial society with a population of about 22 million, 80% of which live on the Malay peninsula. The population comprise 3 main races - Malays, Chinese and Indians. The Malays, who are Muslim, form the majority in the country. The Chinese are mostly Buddhists and the Indians mainly Hindu. Other racial segments found in the country are the Eurasians, and the indigenous groups like the Ibans, Kadazans, Dusuns, Dayaks, Bidayuhs and Muruts.
The different races have their own culture, traditions and customs. This makes for a rich tapestry of local customs and culture - visitors will be amazed at the depth and variety found in the country. The national language is Bahasa Malaysia, but English is spoken by most (it's taught in all national schools as a second language), particularly in urban and tourist centres.
Malaysia generally has a good standard of health and cleanliness - it's better than most other destinations in South East Asia. Having said that, the usual rules for ensuring good health in an equatorial climate do apply.
Wear loose clothes, wash frequently and dry yourself carefully to avoid fungal infections. Drink lots of fluids to ensure you don't become dehydrated. Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and wear cool, lightweight clothes.
On the off chance that you do experience health problems here, the quality of hospitals and clinics are high. Hospitals and clinics are available in almost all cities and towns, with the only real exception to this rule being the smaller islands off the Malaysian coast. Most doctors and nurses speak English. Pharmacies/chemists are also of high quality, with most medications not needing a prescription.
Citizens coming from yellow fever infected countries on the African and South American continents have to produce their yellow fever vaccination certificates for entry into the country. Travellers are advised to buy travel and health insurance before visiting. International SOS, the world's largest emergency assistance company, provides 24-hour emergency assistance services in Malaysia.
Commonwealth citizens (except those from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan) and citizens of the Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, San Marino and Liechtenstein do not require a visa to visit Malaysia.
Citizens of Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovak Republic, South Korea, Sweden and the USA and most Arab countries do not require a visa for a visit not exceeding 3 months.
Citizens of France, Greece, Poland, South Africa and many South American and African countries do not require a visa for a visit not exceeding 1 month. Citizens of Israel cannot enter. Most other nationalities are given a shorter stay period or require a visa. You should contact a local Malaysian embassy or consulate for details.
There is only 1 national time zone: +8 hrs GMT, or +13 hrs EST.
Banking hours are 09:30 till 15:00, Monday to Friday. On Saturday, banking hours are from 09:30 till 11:30. Banks are closed on the first and third Saturday of each month. Shop stores are usually open from 11:00 till 22:00, every day. Government offices are open from 08:15 till 16:45 from Monday to Friday. On Saturday, they are open from 08:00 till 13:15; they are closed on the first and third Saturday of each month.
3 states on the Malay Peninsula practise slightly different office hours (welcome to Asia!). Offices in Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah open from Saturday to Wednesday, with a half-day on Thursday and a rest day on Friday.
Voltage is 220 - 240 volts AC at 50 cycles per second. Most major hotels provide 110 - 120 volt adaptors.
Most popular brands and types of film are widely available, especially in the cities and towns. Print film is commonly available. Slide films are mostly only found in large cities and are generally rather expensive. Film processing can be done quickly and competently in almost all urban and tourist locations.
Malaysia has an efficient postal system with good poste restante at the major post offices. Post offices are open from 08:30 till 17:00 from Monday to Saturday. They are closed on Sundays and public holidays. Parcels can be sent from any post office although the rates are fairly high. Other than the ordinary delivery services, there is also a national courier service known as Poslaju or Expedited Mail Service (EMS). Private air couriers such as DHL and UPS also have representatives in most urban locations.
International direct dial calls and operator assisted calls can be made from any private phone. The access code for making most international calls is 00. For information on international calls, dial 103. For operator assisted calls, dial 108. International direct dialling phone cards, which offer cheaper rates than local telephone operators, are also available for sale in most urban centres - the usual outlets which stock these are 7-11, news stands and shops. Public payphones throughout the country are offered by Uniphone, Citiphone and Telekom. Therefore, the phone cards are different for the differing pay phones and are not interchangeable.
There are many internet cafes in urban and tourist locations. Connection speeds vary - some can still be slow in the more remote locations.
Codes of Behaviour
Malaysians are generally a tolerant lot - a result of its multi-racial and multi-religious society, However, as in all countries, Malaysia has its own peculiar set of do's and don'ts which tourists need to practise when visiting the country. Remember to remove your shoes when visiting local homes and places of worship. Dress modestly when visiting rural areas and places of worship.
Shaking hands is acceptable but kissing the hand or cheek is generally not. Many Muslim women, particularly those who wear the tudung (head scarf) prefer not to shake hands with members of the opposite sex. In these circumstances, a polite nod of the head and a smile will do.
Kissing and fondling each other in public is a no-no, particularly in rural areas. Use your right hand when eating with your hands or when giving or receiving something - the left hand is considered unclean and rude. To indicate a direction or when pointing at a person or place, don't point with the forefinger as it is considered rude. Instead, use the thumb with the 4 fingers folded under.
Tipping and bargaining
Tipping is not necessary, although it is certainly appreciated. All hotels and restaurants have already added a 10% service charge and 5% government tax.
Due to the humid equatorial climate, lightweight clothing, especially cotton, is advisable. Generally, T-shirts and shorts are acceptable.
However, do dress appropriately when dining out in restaurants or going for a night out, especially in the cities. It is also important to dress decently (i.e. no shorts) when visiting villages and any place of worship.
It is a criminal offence to carry drugs into Malaysia. The penalty is death by hanging and many foreigners visiting the country have already fallen prey to this.
As it is in the rest of the world, travellers should be aware of pickpockets and con artists. These are more likely to be found in crowded areas, so keep a watchful eye on all your valuables in these places.
If you're keen to discover the unique underwater landscapes of Malaysia, then click below to check your options for:
Be sure to book up in plenty of time to avoid limited choice! The best Malaysian scuba diving vacations are booked by repeat customers who book well in advance to ensure their reservation!
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