TRAVEL GUIDE - MALAYSIA

 

 

MALAYSIA

FACTS, USEFUL TOURIST INFORMATION AND TRAVELING TIPS

 

 

 

1. COUNTRY

The Federation of Malaysia comprises Peninsular Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

 

Malaysia is made up of 13 states and 3 Federal Territory (FT) as shown below:-

 

Northern Region

Kedah, Penang, Perak and Perlis

 

Central Region

Kuala Lumpur (FT), Putrajaya (FT), Selangor and Negeri Sembilan

 

Southern Region

Johor and Malacca

 

East Coast

Kelantan, Pahang and Terengganu

 

East Malaysia

Labuan (FT), Sabah and Sarawak

 

 

 

2. GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION

Located at the crossroads of Southeast Asia at 70N of the Equator, Peninsular Malaysia is separated from the states of Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea. In the north of the peninsular is Thailand while its southern neighbor is Singapore.

 

 

3. AREA

329,758 sq km

 

 

4. POPULATION

21 million

 

 

5. CAPITAL

Kuala Lumpur (Commonly being referred to as 'KL')

 

 

6. PEOPLE

Malays who make up about 57% of the population are the predominant group with the Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups making up the rest.

 

 

7. LANGUAGE

Bahasa Melayu (Malay) is the national language but English is widely spoken. The ethnic groups also speak various languages and dialects.

 

 

8. RELIGION

Islam is the official religion but all other religions are practiced freely.

 

 

9. GOVERNMENT 

Parliamentary democracy with a bicameral system. The Head of State is the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and the Head of Government is the Prime Minister.

 

The Federation of Malaysia is a constitutional elective monarchy. It is nominally headed by the paramount ruler (also known as the Head of State) or Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commonly referred to as the King. A King will be selected for a five-year term among the nine sultans of the Malay states.

 

This system of government is closely modeled on that of Westminster since Malaysia is a former British colony. In practice, power is vested in the executive branch of government rather than in the legislative. A general election will be held once every five years.

 

Executive power is vested in the cabinet led by the prime minister. The Malaysian constitution states that the prime minister must be a member of the lower house of parliament, who, in the opinion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commands a majority in Parliament. The cabinet is chosen from among members of both houses of parliament.

 

The parliament under a bicameral system consists of the Senate (Dewan Negara) and the House of Representative (Dewan Rakyat). All 69 Senators sit for the 6-year terms whereby 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies and 43 are appointed by the King. The 193 members of the House of Representatives are elected from single-member districts by universal adult suffrage for a maximum 5-year term.

 

Legislative power is divided between Federal and state legislatures.

 

 

10. CLIMATE

Tropical climate with warm and humid weather all year round. Temperatures range from 210C to 320C. Annual rainfall varies from 2000mm to 2500 mm.

 

 

11. HISTORY AND CULTURE

As trade began to flourished between China and India through the busy Straits of Malacca, the Malay Peninsular became a major commercial centre in Southeast Asia. The earliest Malay kingdoms grew from coastal city-ports in the 10th century AD which include Langkasuka and Lembah Bujang in Kedah as well as Beruas and Gangga Negara in Perak and Pan Pan in Kelantan.

 

Islam was introduced in the 14th century in Terengganu. In the early part of the 15th century, the sultanate of Malacca was established. Due to its prosperity, it attracted invaders from Portugal and then it became the centre of colonial expansion involving the Dutch and British.

 

The British crown colony of the Straits Settlements was established in 1826 and then it gradually increased its control over the rest of the peninsular. The Straits Settlements included Penang, Singapore and Malacca.

 

Penang was established in 1786 by Captain Francis Light as a military as well as a commercial outpost. Its development was soon overshadowed by Singapore, established by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. Malacca came into British control after the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824. This settlements was ruled from the English East India Company seat of government in Calcutta until 1867 when their administration was transferred to the Colonial Office in London.

 

Later in time, several west coast Malay states too become under the British influence. The role of the merchants of the the Straits Settlements saw the British government intervening into the affairs of the tin producing states in the Malay Peninsular. Due to the disturbances caused by the Chinese secret societies together with civil war, British gunboat diplomacy was employed to bring about a peaceful resolution that favored the merchants of the Straits Settlements.

 

The Pangkor Treaty of 1874 paved the way for the British influence to expand and by the turn of the 20th century, the states of Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak and Selangor was known as the Federated Malay States were under British rule who took orders from the High Commissioner in Singapore, who was also the Governor of the Straits Settlement. The officer in turn received orders from the Colonial Office in London.

 

The other Peninsular states were known as the Unfederated Malay States which were not directly under the rule from London but had British advisors in the Sultans' court. These four northern states of Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu were previously under Thai rule. British North Borneo (now known as Sabah) was a British Crown Colony formerly under the rule of the Sultanate of Sulu while the huge jungle territory of Sarawak was the personal fiefdom of the Brooke family. Both North Borneo and Sarawak are located on the islands of Borneo. Following a Japanese occupation during World War II, a popular support for independence grew, coupled with a strong communist insurgency.

 

Post-war British plans to form a 'Malayan Union' were met by strong Malay opposition who wanted a more pro-Malay system, rejecting Singapore's inclusion and demanding only single citizenship as opposed to the dual-citizenship option which would have allowed a significant immigrant communities to claim citizenship in both Malaya and their country of origin.

 

Finally, independence was achieved for the peninsula in 1957 under the name of the Federation of Malaya which did not include Singapore.

 

A new federation under the name of Malaysia was formed on September 16, 1963 through the merging of the Federation of Malaya and the British crown colonies of Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak. The Sultanate of Brunei, though initially expressing in joining the Federation pulled out due to the opposition from its people. The early years were marred by Indonesia efforts to control Malaysia, Philippines claims to Sabah, Singapore's eventual secession in 1965 and a racial violence in May 13, 1969 following a fiercely contested general election.

 

There is a strong interlink between the country's multi-racial and multicultural make-up with its history. Beside the local Malays and the native groups, immigrants from China, India, Indonesia and other parts of the world have all contributed to the multiracial composition of its population. Its interesting cultural diversity can be largely attributed to the country's long and on-going interaction with the outside world and colonial rule by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British.

 

Consequently, the evolution of the country into a cultural melting pot is evident in the unique blend of religions, socio-cultural activities and traditions, dressing, languages and food. The country achieved independence on August 31, 1957 as the Federation of Malaya and subsequently with entry of Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia was formed.

 

 

12. MAJOR HOLIDAYS

New Year's Day (January)*, Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (January), Chinese New Year (January/February*, Federal Territory Day (February 1)**, Wesak Day (May), King's Birthday (June), National Day (August 31), Deepavali (October or  November)#, Christmas Day (December)

Note: * National Holidays, ** Kuala Lumpur and Labuan only, # Except Sarawak and Labuan

 

 

13. ECONOMIC PROFILE

Manufacturing constitutes the largest single component of Malaysia's economy. Tourism and primary commodities such as petroleum, palm oil, natural rubber and timber are major contributors to its economy.

 

Malaysia transformed itself from a producer of raw materials into a multi-sector economy via the New Economic Plan (NEP) which also introduce a stronger bumiputra participation in the economy through various policies. Growth was entirely driven by exports , especially from the electronics sector and as a result of the global economic slowdown and the slump in the information technology sector in 2001, Malaysia was hard hit with the GDP in 2001 grew by a miserable 0.3% but a fiscal stimulus package by the government has mitigated the worst of the recession  and the economy soon began to grow by over 4%.

 

Malaysia's stable macroeconomic environment with a low inflation and unemployment figure together with a healthy foreign exchange reserves and a relatively small external debt makes it unlikely to experience a similar crisis to the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

 

Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram in Penang

                                        Photo: Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram in Penang

 

14. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Visitors to Malaysia must be in possession of a valid passport or travel document with a minimum validity of six months beyond the intended visiting period. Most nationalities do not require visas for a social or business visits. For further information, please check with the nearest Malaysian diplomatic mission or Tourism Malaysia Office.

 

 

15. CURRENCY

The unit of currency is the Malaysian Ringgit indicated as RM. Foreign currencies can be converted at banks and money changers.

 

All residents and non-residents are required to complete the Travelers declaration Form (TDF). The revised TDF has two separated sections and separate columns for residents and non-residents to declare their currencies ;  the blue section for the residents and the white section for non-residents.

 

Residents are only required to declare in detail the exact amount of ringgit carried when they enter or leave the country only if the amount is in excess of RM1,000. They are also required to declare in detail the exact amount in foreign currency, including traveler's cheque carried, when they leave the country only if the amount exceeds the equivalent of RM10,000. Residents do not have to declare any amount of foreign currency, including traveler's cheques, carried with them when they re-enter the country.

 

Non-residents are only required to declare in detail the exact amount of ringgit carried when they enter or leave the country only if the amount is in excess of RM1,000.  As for foreign currency. including traveler's cheques, declaration in detail is required only if the amount exceeds the equivalent of USD2,500. Residents are required to keep the TDF in their passport when they leave the country and surrender the TDF on their return journey.

 

Non-residents are required to keep the TDF with their passport and surrender the TDF on leaving the country.

 

USD1.00 = RM3.80 (Malaysian Ringgit)

 

 

16. BANKING HOURS

Most states: Monday - Friday: 9.30am - 4.00pm and Saturday: 9.30am - 11.30am

Sunday: Close

 

Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu: Saturday - Wednesday 9.30am - 4.00pm and Thursday: 9.30am - 11.30am

Friday: Close

 

Also closed on the first and third Saturday of the month.

 

 

17. POST OFFICES

Open from 8.30am to 5.00pm daily except first Saturday of the month, Sundays and public holidays. In Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu post offices are closed on Fridays, first Saturday of the month and public holidays.

 

 

18. TIME

Eight hours ahead of GMT and 16 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific Standard Time.

 

 

19. ELECTRICITY

Voltage is 220-240 volts A C at 50 cycles per second.

 

 

20. WEIGHTS AND MEASUREMENTS

Malaysia follows the metric system in weights and measures.

 

 

21. TELEPHONES

Local calls can be made from public phones using coins or pre-paid cards. International calls can be made from public phones with card phone facilities or at any Telekom offices.

 

 

22. GETTING THERE

BY AIR

A large number of visitors to Malaysia arrive by air. There are six international airports in Malaysia with the main gateway being the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at Sepang in the state of Selangor. The rest of the country including Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan in East Malaysia is well serviced by 14 domestic airports and airstrips for the rural areas.

 

The fully-computerized, state-of-the-art KLIA which was opened in mid-1998 is one of the most modern airports in the world and has replaced the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang as the premier international gateway into Malaysia. The KLIA is a four-runway airport facility capable of handling an initial 25 million passengers per annum with facilities for expansion to 45 million passengers per annum.

 

Incorporated into the airport's design are an automated people-mover shuttle system which links the satellite building at which passengers disembark, to a contact pier where immigration and customs clearances take place, and finally to the airport terminal building. An efficient aerotrain service brings arriving passengers from the satellite building to the contact pier in two minutes. This fully automated baggage and passenger clearance system ensures reduced waiting time.

 

The airport terminal building has suitable rest, recreation, dining and duty free shopping areas. Beside shops and restaurants, a recreational facility, the Hotel Airside Transit, offers a fitness centre with gym, steam and sauna. An international class hotel is located within walking distance from the terminal building. Car rental, bus and coach, taxi, limousine and rail services into the city of Kuala Lumpur and neighboring towns are available at KLIA.

 

KLIA is located about 50km from the city of Kuala Lumpur and linked via the ELITE Expressway which runs north to Kuala Lumpur. The journey takes about one hour. There is also a highway that runs east to the town of Nilai along the North-South Expressway. This expressway links the main towns on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

 

The KTM Komuter train service operates from Kuala Lumpur to the town of Nilai, which is a junction point to other towns. An express Rail Link (ERL) from KL Sentral, the future main rail terminal and transportation hub in Kuala Lumpur is still being built. Outgoing air travelers will be able to check in at KL Sentral and take the ERL to the KLIA.

 

The Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang now serves a few domestic and regional airlines. Other major international airports which serve as entry points are Penang, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Langkawi.

 

BY SEA

Both Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo are accessible via their sea ports. Malaysia's largest modern sea port is Port Klang, located midway on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It has excellent harborage and is a major shipping and cargo terminal. Other sea ports are located in Penang and Langkawi, in the north of Peninsular Malaysia, Johor to the south, Kuantan on the East Coast and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah.

 

Westport and Pulau Indah

Port Klang is already serviced by its North Port and South Port facilities but a recent development is the international harbor city. Westport located on the island of Pulau Indah, lying just beside Port Klang. Pulau Indah is a free trade zone and is undergoing development as an industrial, commercial and residential hub. Recreational and tourism development projects include a marina and resorts.

 

The Westport stretching over 11 km, with a natural depth of 14-18 m is designed to be a high-tech regional port to ships from all over the world. It has a container terminal, large warehouse area and commercial centre. It is also the site of the largest cruise ship terminal in the Asia-Pacific region, known as the Star Cruise Terminal. Star Cruises and the Empress Cruise Lines are the major international leisure lines that call at Penang, Port Klang, Malacca and Langkawi.

 

FerryLink operates a vehicular ferry service consisting of 4 trips daily on weekdays and 8 trips on weekends from Changi Point in Singapore (near the airport) to Tanjung Belungkor on the southern coastline of Peninsular Malaysia, facilitating speedier access to the popular beach resort of Desaru on Johor's eastern coast.

 

For reservations, contact tel: 02-545 3600 (Changi Point) or 07- 252 7408 (Bandar Penawar, Johor)

    

BY ROAD

Situated 48 km north of Alor Setar in the northern state of Kedah, Bukit Kayu Hitam is the main entry point into Malaysia for visitors from Thailand. The Malaysian immigration and customs post is located near restaurants, shops, car parks and a duty-free shopping complex. The North-South Expressway links Bukit Kayu Hitam to Kuala Lumpur, 490 km away.

 

Johor Bahru is the main southern entry-point into Peninsular Malaysia for visitors entering Malaysia from Singapore. The North-South Expressway links Johor Bahru with Kuala Lumpur 220 km to the north and takes in several towns along the way.

 

A causeway carrying a road and railway, connects Johor Bahru to Singapore. Immigration and Customs checkpoints are based at the entrance to the Causeway. A second bridge links Tanjung Kupang 30 km south-west of Johor-Bahru to Tuas in Singapore. Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) has train services connecting Singapore to Johor Bahru and other states in the peninsular right up to Padang Besar on the border with Thailand.

 

BY RAIL

Padang Besar is Malaysia's northern-most state of Perlis serves as another entry point. It is on the main rail route and a daily train service from Bangkok stops here. Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) or Malayan Railway provides the international express from Butterworth to Haadyai in Thailand and has regular services from Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur and on to Singapore.

 

The exclusive Eastern and Oriental Express also romances this route on a nearly 2,000 km journey from Singapore via Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok traversing the entire length of Peninsular Malaysia with frequent stops at scenic locations, over a two-day period.  

 

A causeway carrying a road and railway, connects Johor Bahru to Singapore. Immigration and Customs checkpoints are based at the entrance to the Causeway. Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) has train services connecting Singapore to Johor Bahru and other states in the peninsular right up to Padang Besar on the border with Thailand.

 

 

23. GETTING AROUND

Malaysia has a well developed internal transportation infrastructure enabling travel within the country to be convenient, speedy and relatively inexpensive. All major towns have road, rail and air links and there is a good public transportation system which includes rental cars, taxis, buses, a Light Rail Transit (LRT) Systems in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur which links to the adjoining Klang Valley district. Another rail service known as KTM Komuter connects suburban or adjoining districts with Kuala Lumpur. 

 

BY AIR

One way to travel by air in Malaysia is to use the domestic services available from the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah International Airport at Subang, Selangor. Aside from Malaysia Airlines, other domestic airlines such as Air Asia, Pelangi Air, Berjaya Air, Transmile and Sabah Air also serve popular tourist destinations within the country.

 

There are domestic air services linking Kuala Lumpur International Airport with major cities within the Peninsular and with Sabah and Sarawak. Major cities linked to Kuala Lumpur include Ipoh, Penang, Alor Setar, Langkawi, Kota Bahru, Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Tawau, Labuan, Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri.

 

BY ROAD

Most points in Peninsular Malaysia are accessible via the North-South Expressway which links up to coastal roads and the rest of the road arteries in the country. The Expressway is an excellent road network which allows you to drive through Peninsular Malaysia. There are also modern highways which connect towns  and villages throughout the length and breath of the country.

 

Interstate air-conditioned buses ply between most cities and towns in Malaysia. They offer a comfortable ride at a reasonable rate. These are to be found in all major cities and offer air-conditioned comfort at metered rates. There are set charges for outstation travel.

 

BY RAIL

The railway network extends from neighboring Singapore through the major cities and towns within Peninsular Malaysia up to Thailand on both the West and East Coasts. You can travel in air-conditioned comfort in daytime first class coaches with single or double berths. Second class coaches also have sleeping berths.

 

BY SEA

Ferry services are offered to major islands. In Peninsular Malaysia, the ferry service between Butterworth and Penang island is still popular despite the Penang Bridge link. A modern ferry service is offered from Kuala Perlis on the mainland to Pulau Langkawi, a popular tourist destination.

 

Regular boat services are available on the Lumut-Pangkor Island and the Mersing-Tioman Island routes. A longboat service is available from Labuan to Menumbak in Sabah. In the riverine areas of Sarawak, the major means of transportation are air-conditioned express boats.  

 

 

 

24. ACCOMMODATION

Malaysia has a wide range of accommodation at competitive rates. International standard hotels, medium and budget hotels, youth hostels and timeshare apartments are just some of the types of accommodation available. Privately operated motor-homes are also available for rental.

 

 

25. DO'S AND DON'TS

When visiting Malaysia, the visitor should observe local customs and practices.

 

Some common courtesies and customs are as follows:-

 

Shoes must always be removed when entering a Malaysian home, places of worship such as mosques and temples.

 

Some mosques provide robes and scarves for female visitors.

 

Taking photographs at places of worship is usually permitted but always ask for permission first.

 

The right hand is always used when eating with one's hand or when giving and receiving objects.

 

The right forefinger is not used to point at places, objects or persons. Instead, the thumb of the right hand with the four fingers, folded under is the preferred usage.

 

 

 

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