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Malaysia - Travel Essentials

 

Type of Malaysia Holiday

We can tailor make any Malaysia holiday to suit your exact requirements from single centre beach holidays in Malaysia to complex tailor-made tours of Malaysia.

Our Malaysia holidays can include just flights, hotels and transfers without any excursions or your trip can be tailored to include a mix of guided excursions.

Malaysia Beach Holidays

There are some superb beaches in Malaysia and a beach holiday to Malaysia is a great option for those looking for a tropical beach getaway.

Langkawi is one of the most popular Malaysian beach resort destinations, with balmy jungle fringed beaches, emerald water and some of the world's oldest rainforest.

Neighbouring Penang has a long stretch of beach but has been blighted in places by hi-rise resorts, although stretches of the beach are pleasant.

Pangkor Island and neighbouring Pangkor Laut are also great options for a Malaysian Beach holiday.

The beaches on the East Coast of Malaysia are some of the best in Asia, especially on Tioman and Perhentian Islands.

Further East, Borneo is a also a great option for a luxury beach holiday in Malaysia.

Family Holidays to Malaysia

Malaysia is very family friendly, English is widely spoken and there is plenty on offer to interest children of all ages. Borneo is great for a family holiday, with some of the worlds' best nature and wildlife experiences.

Jungle Canopy Walkways, cruising along jungle rivers, spotting snakes in the trees, coming face to face with an orangutan and snorkelling over coral reefs are just some of the highlights of a family holiday to Borneo.

Temples & Heritage

Those looking for culture and heritage on a Malaysia holiday will find plenty of interest in Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Penang.

Kuala Lumpur has old colonial buildings and a blend of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences in a city which unashamedly embrances the 21st century.

Nearby Malacca hangs on to the past a little more strongly, and Penang offers heritage attractions in abundance as well as some superb colonial style boutique hotels.

The Cameron Highlands also offers a taste of the colonial era in the period buildings.

Malaysia Self Drive Holidays

Malaysia is the perfect destination for a self drive holiday, with good roads, sign-posts in English, driving on the left and petrol relatively inexpensive.

A straightforward route from Kuala Lumpur via the Cameron Highlands to Penang is many people's preferred route, although a self drive Malaysia holiday around the whole of Peninsula Malaysia is very easy and a great way to see the country.

Health & Wellness

Malaysia has it's own health and welln

ss culture, albeit not as ingrained as in neighbouring Thailand. Banjaran Hotsprings just 2 hours from Kuala Lumpur is a luxury spa retreat in a stunning location, ideal for a few days rejuvenation or a longer retreat.

There are also a handful of resorts such as Pangkor Laut and Tanjong Jara Resort which offer spa and wellness in a more in depth way than most beach resorts in Malaysia.

Nature & Wildlife Malaysia Holidays

Wildlife Holidays in Malaysia are of course focused on Borneo. There aren't many places on the world where it's possible to enjoy world class wildlife experiences and some of the world's oldest rainforest in combination with great beaches.

A week of wildlife touring and a week on the beach in Borneo is a compelling mix.

Highlights of a wildlife tour of Borneo include the Orangutan Sanctuary at Sepilok, Turtle Island, Bako National Park, cruising the Kinabatangan River and exploring the Danum valley or Tabin Reserve.

Peninsula Malaysia also has some great wildlife experiences in the Taman Negara National Park a few hours north of Kuala Lumpur and at Belum Rainforest in the north of Peninsula Malaysia.

Active Malaysia Holidays

Malaysia offers plenty of opportunities for a more active style of holiday, whether it's trekking to the top of 4,000 metre Mount Kinabalu in Borneo or pottering through the mossy forest on an afternoon walk in the Cameron Highlands.

Borneo offers some great trekking opportunities as well, including multi day treks through the jungle.

Undiscovered Malaysia

There are some 'undiscovered' regions of Malaysia where it's possible to have a more off-the-beaten track experience.

The East Coast of Malaysia can hardly be described as undiscovered, but quiet and under-developed it certainly is.

Few visitors head out from the main islands to explore a sleepy coastline dotted with sleepy Kampungs.

Much of Borneo of course is literally unexplored. Journeys into the some of the longhouses and along the rivers in Sarawak feel like a real journey and anyone going up to the Bario Highlands will certainly feel a world away from Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur (or “K.L.” as it is commonly known) is Malaysia’s vibrant and pleasant capital city, an ideal stopover for shopping, dining and a day or two’s sightseeing.

Sights in Kuala Lumpur include the impressive Petronas Twin Towers, the Hindu shrines at the Batu Caves, attractive Moorish style colonial buildings and some lively local areas. Kuala Lumpur is known as the “Garden City” and offers a pleasant stopover en-route to Malaysian beach resorts in Langkawi, Penang or Borneo.

Langkawi

A Langkawi holiday offers great beaches, superb scenery, some of the worlds oldest rainforest and an easy to get around island with plenty of things to see and do.

The best Langkawi beaches are at Tanjung Rhu and Datai Bay, the former in a picturesque setting overlooking some of Langkawi’s 99 islands, the latter backing onto the lush rainforest.

A Langkawi holiday is a great way to combine a wonderful beach location with some of Asia's finest scenery.

Penang

Historic Penang offers a compelling mix of heritage, dining and nightlife with a well preserved Straits Chinese heritage reflected in the shop-houses and temples of the island’s capital Georgetown.

The second largest city in Malaysia, Penang is an essential stop on any tailor made or self-drive tour of Malaysia or as a base for touring the island which has plenty of attractions for the whole family.

Cameron Highlands

A colonial feel pervades the Cameron Highlands, with timbered buildings more reminiscent of the Cotswolds than Malaysia.

Visitors to the Cameron Highlands today come for the lush landscapes, forest walks, colonial ambience, or to visit the villages of the indiginous Orang Asli.

The Cameron Highlands are easily reached by road from Kuala Lumpur and make an interesting midway point for those heading north to Penang.

Malacca

With a strong British, Dutch and Portuguese influence, a heady air of faded colonial grandeur hangs over this strategic town on the Strait of Malacca.

The unique Peranakan culture is very prevalent here, a mix of Chinese and local Malay, most readily experienced through the excellent local cuisine.

The Majestic Malacca is a wonderful excuse to add Malacca to any Malaysian holiday. Kuala Lumpur International Airport is only 45 minutes away, making Malacca just as easy to get to as Kuala Lumpur itself.

East Coast Malaysia

The East Coast of Malaysia is more traditional and conservative than the west coast and offers great diving, picturesque islands and a quieter pace of life.

Divers should head for Perhentian Island, Redang or Tioman Island, all of which offer laid-back island style living and access to some world class diving.

The fabulous Tanjong Jara Resort is the one truly luxurious Malaysian beach resort on the East Coast, sister resort to Pangkor Laut and ideal for travel between April and November when the climate is perfect.

Borneo

Few places in the world can conjure up such exotic imagery and romance as the island of Borneo, with its incredible wildlife, lush rainforest, tropical beaches and the majestic presence of Mount Kinabalu, the highest in South East Asia.

A holiday in Borneo is a chance for adventure, to see the endangered orang-utans in their natural habitat, to release baby turtles into the sea or to enjoy breakfast to the accompaniment of hornbills gliding between the treetops.

A Borneo wildlife tour, combined with a beach resort in Borneo is a very popular way to experience the island.

Getting There

There are twice daily direct flights to Kuala Lumpur from Heathrow with Malaysia Arlines and several options for indirect flights.

Flying time direct is approximately 12 hours and at least a couple of hours extra for indirect flights.

There are plentiful onward flights from Kuala Lumpur and some destinations within Malaysia can also be reached via other gateways such as Singapore.

Visas

No visas are required for Malaysia for UK passport holders.

Please note that visa information is subject to change at any time, so please check you have the correct documents for travel.

Costs & Money

Costs within Malaysia are generally lower than the UK, but not as low as in many Southeast Asian countries such as neighbouring Thailand and Indonesia.

Kuala Lumpur and Borneo tend to be more expensive in general.

The Malaysian currency is the Ringgit and is not available to pre-purchase in the UK. We recommend changing some cash on arrival in Malaysia.

Almost all hotels and most restaurants and shops accept credit cards.

ATM's are commonplace and most accept overseas bank cards, although your bank may put a hold on card use until they are notified that the transaction is genuine.

Health & Safety

Malaysia is a very safe country for travelling if you follow the usual precautions. To see the latest travel advice we recommend the Foreign Office Travel Advisory website.

Bear in mind that the FCO advice does tend to err on the side of caution, but nevertheless is a good guide to health and safety considerations if taken within context.

Vaccinations

We aren't medical experts and prefer to leave medical advice to those more qualified.

Some GP's will offer very good advice, but many will not be as up to date on travel health issues. The main vaccinations for travellers are usually available at GP surgeries.

We find MASTA Travel Clinic extremely good and very thorough and those looking at doing any amount of travelling in South East Asia would do very well to contact the nearest MASTA clinic.

Bear in mind that many vaccinations need to be planned well in advance of travel.

Some Cultural Considerations

Although multi-cultural, Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country although very westernised and tolerant in Kuala Lumpur and on the West Coast.

The usual considerations of travel to a Muslim country should be born in mind.

Generally things are more conservative and public drunkenness and excessive behaviour is frowned upon.

Alcohol in all forms is widely available with no real restrictions apart form in the very conservative north east.

Dress conservatively for visits to religious buildings. Topless bathing is definitely not an option. Most Malay women will swim fully clothed and headscarved.

On the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia, especially further north towards the border with Thailand the religous influence is more pervasive, the culture very conservative and in certain areas quite extreme.

Ethnic relations and politics can be touchy subjects for conversation, so proceed with caution.

Orangutans love Snickers bars

Don't take anything into the orangutan Sanctuary in Sepilok that you shouldn't, which includes smuggled food in your day-pack, that you think no-one will notice!

We speak from experience - Orangutans have a very good sense of smell and aren't shy about snatching bags with hidden chocolate.

You might get the bag back, you might not. The orangutan might eat your Snickers bar, it might drink your mosquito repellant. Leave the bag and the Snickers bar in the Reception.

The Visitors Centre has a nice collection of rescued items, crushed cameras, ripped bags and such like artfully arranged hanging from the ceiling.

Kuala Lumpur Airport

Kuala Lumpur International airport (KLIA) is one of the best airports in the world, efficient, comfortable, shiny and modern. Transiting KLIA is usually a delight. As airports go, this is how it should be.

Unfortunately KLIA has an ugly twin sister, with an equally ugly name - Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). Home of Air Asia, LCCT is about 30-minutes transfer from the main terminal, so bear this is mind if connecting between international and Air Asia flights.

Getting from the Airport into KL is easy enough if you haven't booked car transfers. The 'fastest train in South East Asia' (chuckle) whisks you into KL Sentral Station in just 23 minutes for about £7 each way. Alternatively there's the Air Asia bus - cheap as chips.

As an alternative to Kuala Lumpur, Malacca is about the same distance from the Airport as KL, so a stopover in Malacca is a great alternative for those who've done KL before.

Where are the best beaches in Malaysia?

Everyone's view of the perfect beach destination is different. For white sand beaches with clear water,  the East Coast islands in Malaysia such as the Perhentian Islands and Tioman Island are hard to beat for a Malaysia beach holiday.

Langkawi has some of the most beautiful beaches in Malaysia such as the long stretch of casuarina fringed sand at Tanjung Rhu, or the beautiful arc of sand on the edge of the rainforest at the Datai. Emerald Bay on Pangkor Laut is very picturesque.

Batu Feringghi Beach on Penang is the most famous beach in Malaysia but in our opinion a little bit disappointing, although there are a couple of nice resorts to consider.

Where is the best place to see Orangutans in Borneo?

The three main options for seeing Orangutans in Borneo are at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary near Sandakan, at Semanggoh near Kuching and in the wild, particularly in the Danum Valley.

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary is by far the most popular and well known and offers a great chance to get quite close to the orangutans in the semi-wild.

It's not like a zoo, but neither is it a totally 'wild' experience. There will be plenty of other people sharing the experience. Overall we think Sepilok is a great way to guarantee seeing orangutans in Borneo.

Semanggoh in Sarawak is quieter and less 'staged', although the orangutans are fed at particular times. The viewing platforms are a little further away at Semanggoh.

Seeing orangutans in the wild in the Danum Valley is a privilege. There is a high likelihood of seeing orangutans in the wild with a 2 or 3 night stay at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge but sightings certainly can't be guaranteed.

Another option is to stay at Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort where there is a small rehabilitation centre. This is a great way to get very close indeed to the orangutans.

Won't I get bitten to death in Borneo?

Not by Orangutans no. Take the usual precautions by wearing long sleeved shirts in the evenings, using mosquito repellant and wearing suitable footwear for trekking in the jungle and you should be fine.

Leech socks are available at Borneo Rainforest Lodge, but leeches are more of a nuisance than a health risk. Check with MASTA Travel clinics whether Malaria precautions are required.

What's the food like?

Malaysia has a variety of cuisine because of the diverse cultural influences, which whilst not as famous as Thai offers plenty to tempt foodies.

Penang is one of the best spots in Malaysia to try street food and there are some fantastic places to eat in the capital Georgetown.

Malacca is famous for the unique Peranakan Cuisine, the Malay Straits cuisine with Chinese and Malay influences.

Western food is available in all the resorts and Kuala Lumpur has a huge range of restaurants.

The most surprisingly good meal - Malaysian breakfast - Nasi Lemak, consisting of Rice, Boiled egg, spicy sambal, roasted peanuts and dried anchovies. You never know until you try.

We have special dietery requirements - what's Malaysia like?

Multi-cultural Malaysia caters well for vegetarians because of the Indian influence. As a Muslim country, Halal of course is commonplace. The most exclusive resorts may cater better for more restricted diets.

What are the hotels like?

Service standards on the whole are extremely high in Malaysia and hotels in Malaysia offer fantastic value for money.

There is a great choice of excellent accommodation in Malaysia, including boutique city hotels, luxury island resorts, jungle lodges, eco-chic hideaways, grand historic hotels and luxury spa retreats.

There are plenty of rather average hotels in Malaysia as well, especially in Kuala Lumpur which has a preponderance of rather large and dull business hotels. That's not what we do.

Can I combine a Malaysia Holiday with other destinations?

Of course. A Kuala Lumpur stopover is very easy and offers plenty to see and do for a couple of days - including some of the best shopping in Asia.

Kuala Lumpur is extremely well connected with onward destinations, as the main flight hub for Air Asia (the 'Ryan Air' of Asia).

Onward flights to beach destinations in Thailand, Bali or Vietnam are frequent and inexpensive.

Main Cities

Kuala Lumpur: Population 8 million

Penang: Population 3 million

Electricity

British 3 square pronged plugs are universal.

Communication

Free Wi-Fi is available in most hotels and resorts, with varying quality.

In public areas Wi-Fi is common in cafes in Kuala Lumpur.

Language

Malay is the official and main language of Malaysia and uses the western alphabet. Chinese and Tamil are also fairly common.

English is very widely spoken because of the historic links.

Time Difference

Malaysia is 7 hours ahead of GMT

Holidays and Festivals

Malaysians are always on holiday! Because of the ethnic diversity, Hindu, Muslim and Christian festivals are recognised.