How to go to Malaysia ?

 

You will find here most of the practical information you need to prepare your trip :

   

Getting there & away ?

Air :

It is possible to fly to KL or Penang in Malaysia but Singapore is also a good entry point.  Departure tax in Malaysia is RM40 for international flights but it is usually included in your ticket. 

Land :

The following countries offer worry free land or rail crossing with Malaysia :

  • Thailand : There are 4 entry points to choose from : Padang Besar (rail crossing as well), Bukit Kayu Hitam (the main crossing point) and Keroh for the West Coast (Penang) or Rantau Panjang for the East coast (Kota Bharu

  • Singapore : A Causeway with regular buses easily connect Johor Bahru with the State Island. 

Sea : 

It is possible to reach Peninsular Malaysia by sea from the following countries :

  • Indonesia (Sumatra) : boats regularly connect Medan with Penang and Dumai with Melaka. See the localities for more details. It is also possible to reach Johor Bahru from Sumatra (Batu Ampar or Tanjung Pinang).

  • Thailand : it is possible to reach Kuala Perlis or Langkawi Island from Satun in Thailand

  • Singapore : ferry crossing are possible between Changi Villlage and Tanjung Belungkor, east of Johor Bahru. More useful maybe is the high speed ferry to Tioman Island which operate daily except during the monsoon from 31 October to 1March. 

 

Visa ?

You are usually given a three months stay when entering Malaysia but some people get only one or two months. If you plan to spend a long period of time, it cost nothing to ask the official to give you the maximum. Otherwise, any immigration office in any town should be able to extend it up to the 3 months for R1. You have no choice but to leave the country after 3 months.

 

When to visit ?

From the weather point of view : 
Peninsular Malaysia can be visited year round. Temperatures are fairly stable : between 22C and 32C on average but it can get cold at the hill stations. The rain vary with the monsoon. The West Coast monsoon blow from September to December but does not really prevent from visiting. More annoying if you wish to relax on the islands is the East Coast monsoon which last from November to February : even if boats are not cancelled because of rough sea, it can rain all day...

    Weather in Malaysia

From the crowd point of view :
Any public holiday, in Malaysia or Singapore, fills up the resorts with local people.  The Chinese New Year is the worst time for example to visit cool places like Cameron Highlands, although local tourists are more likely to stay in hotels than guesthouses.  Foreigner's invasion is not yet a problem on the Peninsula but some islands are getting increasingly crowded : the Perhentian Islands are now very full from the end of May to September and finding a cheap place to stay at such time can be problematic.  Visiting the islands from the end of the monsoon until the beginning of May is a good idea . 

From the festivals point of view :

With so many ethnic communities, Malaysia is blessed with a fair number of festivals.  The Chinese New Year in January or February is a colorful time to visit..  Hari Raya Haji in April is the most important holidays for the Muslims who celebrates the end of the Ramadan.  The National Day is celebrated on the 31st of August.

    Tourism Information



How long ?

Peninsular Malaysia would require between three weeks and one month at a leisurely pace. But of course, you could forget the notion of time on a island... 

 

Money ?

At the time of writing, the Malaysian Ringgit was worth 3.76 to the US$.  See the banknotes

There is no problem to change money in developed Malaysia. Money changers usually offer a better deal than banks.  This is particularly true with Travelers Cheques as most banks charge a commission per cheque.  Plastic can be used in the numerous ATM Machines but check with your bank for the cost.

  Currency Converter

 

How much ?

Considering its relative modernity, Malaysia remains pleasantly cheap. There is however a big difference between the Peninsula and the islands. On the Peninsula, it is possible to live with less than US$8 a day : room, transport and food at the markets but unfortunately no beers ($2.66 for a big bottle, not cheap !). On the islands however, in particular during the high season, count on about US$15 for a basic bungalow, the boat transport and the basic food, again without any beer. Staying in dormitories will of course reduce the costs a bit. 

Backpacker's Tips : Ivana  (June 04)
Bus tickets were about 10% more expensive than the prices on your web.

Backpacker's Tips : Anonymous (Oct 01)
The transportation costs have increased a lot all over Peninsular Malaysia and accomodation costs have also increased in a few major places (KL, Penang,...), due to the rent decontrol acts. As a whole, expect now to pay at least US$10-12 a day.  

  See Passplanet's Cost Table for more details.

 

Health ?

Malaysia is a fairly healthy country to visit and the hospitals are well equipped. 

It is not recommended to drink water straight from the tap but it won't kill you. Check the color, ask around and boil it. Most guesthouses and restaurants provide boiled water and "plastic" drinks are available everywhere in the street. Ice from such food stalls are usually OK.

Malaria is not a problem on the Peninsula so prophylaxis could be avoided. Dengue fewer is also quite rare. 

    Latest Health Recommendations

 

Danger & Annoyances ?

There is little dangers in Malaysia as a whole but unfortunately a few real nuisances, in particular for the girls :

The sexual harassment conducted by Muslim men toward western girls, in particular on the east coast. Female travelers have reported being regularly pinched, touched or scrutinized while walking the streets and this even in the presence of their boyfriend. This weird attitude might be partly attributable to western TV series in which female are seen flirting from one guy to the other. The non respect of the Muslim dress code is probably another factor and it is clear that any dress provocation would attract hands full of fingers. But considering that any attractive local girls are also under continual verbal abuses, why not simply states that Malaysia is a country with a fair number of sexually frustrated machos ?

Discovering holes in the room of cheap hotels. As with the above, some local aren't too delicate and are going straight to the point when it comes to raise things up... 

Dirty Malaysia : most local people in SE Asia may also have a preference for throwing their rubbish outside any dustbin but it somehow strikes more here as Malaysia is a fairly developed country. Being located next to Singapore does not help...

Not seeing the hair of a lot of girls : well, I'll tell you : their hair is invariably black. Their chador, however, is multi colors ! I am not saying that I will turn Muslim anytime soon. Just that, in tolerant Malaysia, this dress somehow makes the girl look even more attractive...

The soft nightlife : Malaysia is not Thailand and beer here is even more expensive, if available. It is off course possible to have parties and to meet local people on the dance floor but, generally speaking, Malaysia is a fairly relaxed and quiet country where local people frown upon eccentricity in dress or behaviors. 

The pace of development : Some first class natural locations are falling victims of developers & mass (local) tourism to the point that backpacking may become irrelevant in the future. The trend is clearly toward prices increase and a lower ratio of sand or greenery compared to concrete or rubbish... 

The lack of big spectacular attractions : Malaysia is a country to be enjoyed as a whole rather than through a few architectural or natural wonders 


Notwithstanding the above, let's remind you that 93% of the backpackers we asked said they liked Malaysia, that 81% would happily come back and that 98% would recommend it around ! See Why Go for more details...

 


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