What you should know before going to Malaysia

I think Asia is a fascinating continent because of the cultural diversity and because their traditions and habits are very different compared with the European ones. I am so lucky that I could visit three Asian countries and I could check that, besides their similarities, each one has its own culture and own identity.

When you’re travelling and you’re going to visit another country, it’s always good to learn something about the people who live there, the history of the country, the traditions and whatever other thing that makes your live easier once there. Today I’m going to tell you some important and interesting things about Malaysia that you should know before going there.

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How to move around

First thing you have to know is that Malaysia consists of two different parts: the peninsula (it borders Thailand) and the Borneo Island where three countries coexist, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

Malaysia is a small country and the distance between cities are not so big. That means than in 6 or 7 hours you can go from one to the other side of the country.

  • Plane

The fastest option is to travel by plane. There are airports in almost all the big cities and the price to go from one to another city goes from 4€ to 30€ one way (always it depends on the origin and the destination city). As you can see, it’s not expensive to travel by plane in Malaysia.

The low cost company Air Asia is the one that operates in Malaysia. I recommend you this way of travel if you’re planning to go to Borneo. The other way is to go by boat but it’s more expensive and it takes too many hours to arrive there.

Skyscanner is a very good website to look for the cheapest flights.

  • Bus

This is the cheapest way to travel around the country. You can travel almost everywhere, there are lots of connections between all the cities in Malaysia. This is a good option because, as I said, Malaysia is not so big and you won’t spend too many hours in the bus. The ticket price is around 2€ and 10€, it depends on the cities you’re travelling to/from. For example, one way ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca could cost between 11RM and 25RM (from 2€ to 5€). I paid 11RM for this journey and I booked it two days in advanced. The price for one way ticket from Penang to Kuala Lumpur could be from 30RM to 45RM (from 6€ to 9€).

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You can buy the tickets both at the bus station or online.

  • If you decide to buy the tickets online, I recommend you to use this website, where you can find train, bus and ferry tickets. The inconvenient to book it through the website (this one or another one) is that you have to fill up the information of the card you’re going to use to pay. In addition, when you receive the confirmation email you’ll see that you have to print the ticket. I did it all the times I took a bus but I met people who didn’t and it seems that it’s not necessary.
  • On the other hand, if you prefer, you can buy the tickets at the bus station. There are lots of different bus companies and schedules but I recommend you to go in the morning because tickets may run out.

FACT: You can take a bus from some cities in Malaysia to Singapore by bus. This way is easier to cross the border than if you do it yourself.

  • Train

It’s also possible to travel around Malaysia by train. The downside is that is more expensive than the bus and there are fewer destinations. On the other hand, one of the advantages is that it’s faster than the bus. For example, the price for one way ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Penang could be between 59RM and 79RM (from 12.5€ to 17€).

You can check the timetable table and the prices here.

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These are all the train stops in the peninsula of Malaysia.

  • Hitchhiking

Definitely, this is the cheapest way (it’s free). You only have to stand on the edge of a road with traffic, with your thumb upwards and wait for someone who stops and brings you somewhere as close as possible to your destination.

Malaysia is a good country to hitch-hike. I met people who told me that the average time to wait for a car is 15 minutes. There are lot of people willing to bring you to your destination.

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But I have to say a few things about hitch-hiking. Because I went alone to Malaysia I did not dare to hitch-hike for long distances alone, but, during my last days in the country, I joined some guys I met there, I hitchhiked and I have to say: it was an amazing experience. I recommend everybody to do it at least once in your life, but you always have to be careful.

Furthermore, I met lot of people who were travelling alone (by bus and hitchhiking), but most of them were boys. I don’t want to say that it’s dangerous for a girl, but we have to be more careful. I met a Spanish girl who was travelling for one month and she hitchhiked alone. Here it is her experience:

The experience hitch-hiking was unbeatable. The truth is that I didn’t think about hitch-hike before I travel to Malaysia. I thought that if I was going to distrust everyone, I better would have stayed at home, so I decided to hitch-hike from Lanchag to Johor Bahru (only a few kilometres). I did not do it to safe money (I had enough for this trip), but not to miss the best part of a trip: the people. Thanks to hitchhiking I could see and do things that I wouldn’t have done. I had lunch with a Malaysian family and I went to collect coconuts with them. They also brought me to a traditional market in the town we were, and they were always smiling and happy because they had helped me. I recommend hitchhiking to everyone but being always careful, anything can happen. But, must of all, enjoy!!!”

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Visa and travel insurance

If you’re from Europe or South America, congratulations!! You have free visa. For the European ones it’s a 3 months (90 days) free visa and for the South American ones it goes from 1 month to 3 months free visa, it depends on the country.

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Here you can check if you need visa or not, but I recommend you to check it in the official website of your country.

WARNING: Be careful at the time you cross the border to check if you have the Malaysian stamp on your passport. It could sound a bit obvious, but I want to aware about that because I did not have my stamp on it the first day I arrived and someone told me that sometimes they don’t stamp the passport and they can fare you the day you’re leaving because you don’t have the stamp.

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I always recommend to travelling with travel insurance because you never know what could happen. It’s not a must but it will be so helpful if you have to go to the hospital or you get sick and you have to go back home (I hope not). The price is not the same for everyone, it depends on how many days you are going to be travelling and which country you are going to.

There are many insurance companies, even the airlines can offer you a basic travel insurance. I hire the backpacker insurance with Iati Seguros and I paid 156.67€ for one month in Malaysia.

Vaccines

First of all, I recommend you to go to the nearest international health centre two or one and a half months before your trip, to know which vaccines you need or you don’t need.

There are no obligatory vaccines to travel to Malaysia, unless you’re going from a country at risk for yellow fever.

The recommended vaccines are: tetanus; typhoid fever and hepatitis A and B if you’re going to live there; typhoid fever for a short trip and Japanese encephalitis if you’re going to live in the countryside.

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Language and religion

The official language is Malay, officially known as Bahasa melayu. But you don’t have to worry, almost everybody speaks English and you won’t have any problem to communicate with the people. Chinese, Iban and Tamil are also spoken in this country.

Malaysia has a very cultural diversity and there are many religions. The most of them are Muslims (52%), but there are Buddhists too (17%), the rest are Christians, Hindus and Animists.

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Currency

The Malaysian currency is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM). The exchange in Euros (I’m sorry for those who don’t use Euros) is 1€=4.70RM and 1RM=0.2€. But it always depends on where you’re changing your money, it could vary some cents.

It’s a cheap country, as the most of the south-east Asian countries (except Singapore), so the accommodations and the meals won’t be expensive.

It’s possible to pay around 20RM and 35RM (between 4€ and 7€) for a shared room or around 28RM and 37RM (between 6€ and 8€) for a single room in a hostel.

The meals are cheap too, it’s possible to have a good lunch or dinner for 1€, 2€, 3€ and 4€. When I was there I paid 0,8€ for a big plate of noodles with vegetables (enough for a person).

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Plugs

The Malaysian plug is the same than the British one, the type G. So, if you’re from a country with another type of plugs, don’t forget to bring an adapter. A small power strip will be also a good idea if you need to charge many things (very useful).

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Weather – Best time to travel there

Malaysia is located so close to the equator, so the temperature is so similar all the year (around 30ºC) and there’s a very high humidity. Even though it could rain during the whole year, in April, May, October and November there’s the monsoon season (the rainy season) in the north-east part (Borneo) and, from November to March in the east part of the country.

I don’t recommend you to travel to Malaysia during this period because some parts of the country (the west islands) are closed during the monsoon season. For example, the Purhuntian Islands, the ones on the west coast, are closed from the end of October – beginning of November. That means that there are no boats going to these islands because it could be dangerous.

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Other interesting facts

Drive. The Malaysian people drive on the left side and I should say that they are not very good drivers. The traffic in the cities is a chaos, you have to be careful with all the crazy cars and drivers. To cross the road you have to start crossing and put the hand as a stop sign, this way the drivers will stop. If you wait till someone stops, you will be waiting for hours (don’t do it if there’s a traffic light)

Take your shoes.  You have to take your shoes in all (or the most of it) the temples and houses and leave them at the entrance. If you don’t know what you have to do, just copy what others do.

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Water. Don’t drink tap water. Always water in a bottle.

Affection in public. The physic affection in public is frowned upon. There’s a prohibited sign for the indecent behaviour in the metro.

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This are the things I think you should know if you’re going to travel to Malaysia. If your know some more, let us know at the coments.

 

Check here 15 ideas not to ger bored in a long journey.

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