Budget and Exchange
The official currency is the Malaysian ringgit (RM).
You can bring cash with you. In cities in Malaysia, it is easy to exchange money in banks and at Money Changers (private exchange booths with legal authorisation).
You can use your credit card in many shops.
You can also withdraw money from ATMs with your bank card.
Before leaving to go hiking in the jungle for several days, do not forget to withdraw some cash just in case.
Tipping is not customary in Malaysia.
Of course, you can choose to leave a few coins if you are satisfied with the service.
However, service charges (10%) and taxes (5%) are always added to hotel and restaurant bills.
There is a 6 hour difference with France in summer and 7 hours in winter. When it is noon in France, it is 6 p.m. in Malaysia in summer and 7 p.m. in winter.
The voltage is 220V or 240V and 50Hz. The sockets are the same as in the UK.
You will not need an adapter for UK plugs.
Photos and videos
Do not forget to make sure you have enough memory (memory cards or hard drive) to save your digital pictures.
Do not trust the weather: do not forget to leave your equipment in the shade and to protect it from the ambient humidity and water using waterproof bags such as Zip Locks.
You will have many opportunities to taste “homemade” traditional Malay cuisine as you will share the meals of local people at some point or another: Malay cuisine is inspired by all the different Asian cuisines: Chinese, Indian, Thai, Indonesian, etc. You will therefore be able to sample all the tastes of Asia in Malaysia.
The main dishes in Malay cuisine are: rice (nasi), noodles (mee), chicken, beef, mutton, and fish, shellfish and seafood by the coast.
The spices delicately enhance the flavour of every dish.
Here is a brief presentation of some of the delicious Malay specialities that you will be able to sample:
- Satay: meat skewers (chicken or beef) marinated in a spicy peanut sauce and then grilled.
- Nasi goreng: fried rice with meat and/or vegetables.
- Mee goreng: fried noodles with meat and/or vegetables.
- Nasi lemak: rice cooked in coconut milk, served with cucumbers, dried anchovies and grilled peanuts.
- Nasi Padang: steamed rice served with meat or fish and vegetables, in a spicy curry sauce.
Malaysia is located in the tropical zone, where it is warm all year round: this humid heat played an essential role in the growth of the wild nature in Malaysia.
Although some continental regions in the tropics are arid, Malaysia is surrounded by the sea and is therefore constantly under the influence of warm, humid air, which brings rain and humidity at certain times of the year.
There are two monsoon seasons in Malaysia:
- From November to February on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, in the centre of Peninsular Malaysia (Taman Negara Park) and in the coastal regions of Sabah and Sarawak.
- From September to November on the West Coast: the rain is not as heavy as on the East Coast but is often accompanied by winds from Sumatra (strong westerly winds).
The temperature of the water almost never varies and is between 26 and 29°C all year round.
No vaccinations are required for travellers coming from Europe.
However, it is recommended you make sure the following vaccinations are up-to-date: tetanus, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis B.
Only cities in Malaysia have drinking water. It is still better to drink mineral water: you can find bottled water at every step of the trip.
However, we recommend you bring purification tablets, like Micropur: they may come in useful when you are hiking in the jungle.
Do not forget that you are a guest, so follow local traditions and respect the dignity of the people who live and work there.
Behaving appropriately in society and wearing correct attire are very important to the Malay, as they consider this shows respect towards others.
The Malay tradition teaches that foreigners are guests and should be treated accordingly.
In return, we represent our country.
For a successful trip, it is important to respect the traditions and customs of the host country:
- Always ask permission before taking photos of people.
- Do not systematically shake people’s hands when you meet them. A nod of the head and a smile are enough.
- Do not point at people.
- Always take your shoes off before you enter a Malay house or a place of worship.
- Do not touch people’s heads, including children.
- Do not sneeze or blow your nose at the table.
- Never refuse a dish when you are eating with local families. This would be an insult. Try to sample everything: this honours the person who prepared the meal.
- He King is highly respected by the Malay. “Avoid criticising the political system in public”.
- Never swim naked or topless for women. Bikinis or, better yet, one-piece bathing suits are better suited for swimming in Malaysia.
Arts and crafts
During your trip in Malaysia, you will come across some beautiful local crafts.
- Batik: a fabric with patterns often incorporating flowers or bright colours. Batik has been practised for over a thousand years.
- Tin: tin mines contributed to Malaysia’s wealth. They are mostly located in Perak State. You can find beautiful vases and figurines. There are different grades of tin: look carefully before you buy.
- Kites: you can find lovely kites handmade in the traditional manner, using coloured fabric and wood. There are different shapes, but they usually represent an animal.
- Aboriginal objects: you can find these in Taman Negara and Borneo. They are often made of wood. You can bring back an authentic blowpipe, pretty sculptures and statuettes, as well as masks.
- Kris: the famous Malay kris is a dagger with a wavy blade. It is a ceremonial object that has been handed down from father to son for generations, which means that genuine kris are real collectors’ items.
However, you can buy more recent models on the markets. You can find all sizes, in every price range. Bear in mind that the blades of real kris are always decorated with engravings and must be stained with enemy blood.
Finally, with real kris, the blade will balance perfectly on the base of the hilt.
The People of Malaysia
Malaysia has been inhabited for a long time. The first inhabitants are thought to have come from continental Asia before travelling south, all the way to Australia. As we mentioned in the historical section, Peninsular Malaysia was visited and settled by many different people, but Borneo Island was less affected by the influence of merchants and immigrants.
Inland, the different tribes are characterised by their culture and language. Most of these tribes lived – and still live – in longhouses: proportionately narrow buildings that house the entire community. They rotate crops, drink fermented rice beverages, are divided into several social classes and practice tattooing. Today, the Iban are the main indigenous group of Borneo.
In Taman Negara, you will undoubtedly meet the Orang Asli: a nomadic tribe that lives in the forest.
The Orang Asli are hunter-gathers who live from the fruits of the forest. They hunt using 1.5 metre (5 feet) long blowpipes and 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 inches) long darts soaked in poison extracted from the ‘Ipoh tree’, which is harmless to man. To reach their target 100 metres (328 feet) away, they use an ancestral technique: they fill their stomach with air and blow one short, strong burst to propel the dart.
They gather pure water and honey by cutting the roots of a creeper-like tree that grows in the ground. The Orang Asli know all sorts of natural remedies to heal wounds.
The national language of Malaysia is Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Malaysia, a language which is close to Bahasa Indonesia.
Since 1972, Indonesia and Malaysia share a unified spelling system. The national language is written in Roman characters. English is widely used, just like in the former British colonies in Africa. It is the common language between the different communities.
However, the road signs are not in English but in Bahasa Malaysia.
- Selamat datang = Welcome
- Selamat pagi = Hello (until noon)
- Selamat malam = Hello (until 6 p.m.)
- Selamat tinggal = Goodbye!
- Selamat jalan = Have a nice trip!
- Tolong ou sila = Please
- Terima Kasih = Thank you very much
- You're welcome = Sama sama
- Excuse me, sorry = ma'af
- How are you? = Apa Kabar
- I’m fine = Kabar baik
- What is your name? = Apa nama awak ?
- My name is Michael = cantik Michel
- I do not understand = saya tidak mengerti
- Yes = ya
- No = Tidak ou Ta
- How much is it? = berapa (prononcez brapa)
Words you will come across:
- Road = jalan
- Market = pasar
- Exit (at the airport) = keluar
- Lake = Tasek
- Cave = gua
- Village = Kampung
- Beach = pantai
- Mountain = gunung
- River = sungai
- Boat = kapal
- Taxi = teksi
- Airport = lapangan terbang
Our colleague in Malaysia and his English-speaking teams are entirely at your disposal to assist you during your stay in Malaysia and to make sure you have the best possible stay. The accompanying guide for your trip will meet you at the airport when you arrive and remain at hand every step of the way.
Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board57 Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 5DU
Phone: 020 7930 7932
Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.