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Malaysia is best explored by rental car. Carrentals.co.uk has over 8 pick-up locations in Malaysia. This means there is always a pick-up location close to your destination.
Modern cities, island getaways, lush rainforests and nature reserves are just some of the things that make Malaysia so diverse. Its history includes Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism and Islam, and this can be seen everywhere one turns. By car, visitors can explore the country’s largest and most modern cities, discover the coastal beaches, zigzag up Mount Kinabalu and visit the prehistoric cave paintings at Niah National Park.
Motorways in Malaysia are well maintained and offer an ideal way to discover the country, with good signage in English. Getting around East Malaysia (Borneo) is more difficult, as roads are not as well maintained. Still, with a four-wheel drive car, they are easy enough to manage.
Driving licences: UK drivers can drive here with their UK driving licence.
Which side does Malaysia drive on: the left-hand side.
Highways and freeways: 49-68mph (80-110kph)
Major roads and small highways: 56mph (90kph)
Outside built-up areas: 37mph (60kph)
Built-up areas: 31mph (50kph)
School zones: 18mph (30kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.05 per cent, which is less than the 0.08 per cent UK limit. This limit is strictly enforced and those above the limit should expect steep fines and the possibility of imprisonment.
Driving age: 17 years; 23 years to hire a car. Some car hire agents ask that drivers have held their licence for at least one year.
Seatbelts: are compulsory for all occupants, if fitted. There are no laws regarding child seats.
Mobile phones and GPS: using a mobile phone while driving is illegal unless accompanied by a hands-free system. GPS is permitted but not essential due to good signage.
Cost of fuel in Malaysia: considerably cheaper, at about one-third of the cost of fuel in the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: petrol stations accept credit cards, as do car hire companies. UK travellers should inform their card company that their card will be used here prior to travel.
Insurance: drivers should purchase full-coverage insurance as accidents are common. Third-party insurance is included with car hire.
Traffic and parking: large cities tend to get congested during common rush hours, but otherwise are easy to navigate. On-street parking can be found everywhere and is posted as such. There are also plenty of car parks.
Malaysia has an excellent railway network that spans for a total of 1,149 miles. Two of its railway lines are linked to the neighbouring countries of Thailand and Singapore; the West Coast Line and the East Coast Line. Domestic long-distance trains run throughout the Peninsular, offering an inexpensive way to get around. Trains tend to be much slower than buses, but are a comfortable way to travel at night. The journey from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh in a second-class sleeper costs around £7. The North Borneo Railway operates a steam train in Sabah, Borneo, which runs along the west coast between Kota Kinabalu and Tenom. The fare is around £55 and includes breakfast. Additionally, Kuala Lumpur has an extensive inner-city and suburban rail network, as well as a monorail and light rail line. Fares are cheap, with a single journey costing as little as £0.20.
Taxis are available in all major cities and although they are required to operate on a metre system, few drivers actually do. Regular red-and-white taxis are cheaper than executive blue taxis, although getting around by taxi in general is not cheap but is fast in cities outside of Kuala Lumpur. Rates start at around £0.60 for the first two kilometres and increase by around £0.20 per kilometre, with rates being higher after midnight. A standard city trip should not cost more than £4.
Frequent international buses arrive in Malaysia from Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. There are also numerous inter-city buses which are a fairly cheap way to get around. There are several companies that offer bus service, although the most reliable are Transitional, Konsortium Bas Ekspres Semenanjung and Sipitang Express Bus. Fares between Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth start at around £6, while the fare between Kota Kinabalu and Lawas is around £5. All cities have their own inner-city bus networks. Timetables are posted at stations and most bus stops.
Ferries arrive into various ports throughout Malaysia from Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. Penang offers ferry service to Langkawi and Butterworth via Penang Port and Langkawi Ferry Service, while Shahbandar Jetty operates ferries between Kuala Terengganu and Redang Island. Passenger ferries are also available between Labuan and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. There are also boats that run along the Rajang River in Sarawak, with economy fares between Sibu and Kapit around £4.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport is Malaysia’s busiest airport and one of the busiest airports in the world, offering flights to London-Heathrow with Malaysia Airlines. It is also possible for UK travellers to arrive at other Malaysian airports with a stopover in Hong Kong or Singapore, including at Sabah’s Kota Kinabalu International Airport and Sarawak’s Kuching International Airport. Domestic air travel is popular, especially for reaching Sabah and Sarawak from the Peninsular and for getting from one end of the Peninsular to the other. Costs of flights vary depending on destination but normally range between £25 and £50.
Kuala Lumpur is where most visitors begin their exploration as it is the country’s main port of entry. Here, visitors can see an amazing contract between ultra-modern and historic Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is home to famous architectural landmarks such as the Petronas Twin Towers, the KL Tower, Istana Negara (National Palace), Masjid Jamek (Jamek Mosque) and Thean Hou temple.
Georgetown, to the north, is known for its culture and cuisine, and is home to some beautiful historical and religious buildings, including the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, the Municipal Council of Pulau Pinang Hall, Kapitan Keling Mosque and Kuan Yin Teng (Goddess of Mercy Temple).
The Perhentian Islands along the east coast offer divers the best diving sites in Malaysia and have some of the nation’s best beaches. Langkawi, on the west coast, has a little more to offer, as it is home to the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls, Crocodile Adventureland and Underwater World, as well as some stunning beaches.
The less visited Sabah is home to Kinabalu Park, which is the location of Mount Kinabalu and boasts some amazing flora and fauna. It is popular among nature lovers for its jungle walks and mountain hikes, while the more adventurous can go climbing.
Sarawak is home to a plethora of national parks, including Gunung Mulu National Park and Bako National Park, as well as the Rejang River and the Kelabit Highlands, and is known for its eco-tourism.
Kuala Lumpur to Singapore – following the west coast of the Peninsular along the E2 motorway and stopping in at the bustling city of Johor Bahru along the way before driving south into this small, modern country.
Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan – across the interior of the Peninsular to the picturesque east coast. The E8 motorway offers a smooth drive from the capital city to Kuantan, which is the largest city in the region and home to magnificent waterfalls and stunning beaches.
Penang Island – drive along the Penang Bridge to enjoy this culturally-rich, west coast island and explore its beaches and discover the historic city of Georgetown.
Malacca – lying just 93 miles (150kms) south of Kuala Lumpur is historic Malacca. From the capital, drive south along the E2 motorway or enjoy a more scenic journey along smaller coastal routes.
New Year’s Day (1 January)
Chinese New Year (January/February)
Prophet Muhammad's Birthday (5 February)
Labour Day (1 May)
Wesak Day (5 May)
King’s Birthday (first Saturday in June)
Independence Day (31 August)
Hari Raya Puawa (August)
Ramadan (August or September)
Malaysia Day (16 September)
Hari Raya Qurban (October/November)
Christmas Day (25 December)
Malaysia experiences a tropical climate, although the weather varies according to region. Generally, it experiences an average annual temperature of around 30ËC. The entire country experiences a monsoon season, with the northeast monsoon occurring between October and February and the southwest monsoon happening between April and October. The peak season for tourism is Christmas, although cities like Kuala Lumpur host visitors all year round.
Malaysia’s urban sites, natural scenery and coastal resort towns make it a popular holiday destination. The country is easy to explore on the cheap, with most modes of transport comfortable. Before holidaying here, visitors should educate themselves about travelling in an Islamic country with these tips.
Malaysia contact numbers
Country code - (+60)
Emergency services – 999 (Police & Ambulance 994)
British High Commission – +60 3 2170 2200
Tourist Police – +60 3 2419 6590
Irish Embassy – +60 3 2161 2963
Australian Embassy – +60 3 2146 5555
Canadian Embassy – +60 3 2718 3333
US Embassy – +60 3 2168 5000
The Malaysian ringgit (MYR) is the currency used here, with banknotes printed in denominations of MYR1, 2, 5, 10, 50 and 100. Coins (sen) are also used and come in 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 sen, with 100 sen equalling MYR1. There are currency exchange booths in all major cities and currency can also be exchanged at many hotels. All cities have ATMs and credit cards are regularly accepted.
Health and safety
Malaysia is a relatively safe country for both male and female travellers. No specific vaccinations are required although it is recommended to get vaccinated against rabies. There is a risk of malaria and dengue fever, especially in Borneo, so visitors should be sure to use DEET when travelling to this area. Tap water should be avoided, while lids of bottled water should be checked to ensure they are properly sealed.
Malaysia is a Muslim country so locals tend to be more conservative than in some other Southeast Asian countries. Visitors should dress appropriately and be sure to keep their shoulders and knees covered (especially women), and to avoid all public displays of affection. The left hand is considered to be dirty so be sure not to use it to pass things to the locals.
Visas for Malaysia
Visitors from the UK, Canada, Australia, the US and EU countries can stay in Malaysia for up to 90 days without a visa. Sarawak and Sabah have their own immigration laws, but like Peninsular Malaysia, travellers from most Western countries are able to stay here for up to 90 days visa-free.
Malaysia uses the same electricity as the UK, which is 240V/50Hz. Plugs are either type C (euro two pins) or type G (UK pins). Travellers wishing to use appliances and electronics with different plugs or voltages can purchase an adaptor or transformer.
Businesses: 08:00 to 17:30, Monday to Friday
Government offices: 08:00 to 12:45 and 14:00 to 16:15, Monday to Friday, 08:00 to 12:45, Saturday
Shops: 10:00 to 20:00, daily
Banks: 10:00 to 15:00, Monday to Friday, 09:30 to 11:30, Saturday
Hello - Hello
Selamat pagi – Good morning
Sila - Please
Selamat petang – Good evening
Terima kasih – Thank-you
Saya alah kepada... – I am allergic to...
Ya/tidak – Yes/no
Saya tidak faham – I don't understand
Adakah anda fasih berbahasa Inggeris? - Do you speak English?
Di manakah…? – Where is… ?
Apakah harga barang ini? – How much is this?
Tolong - Help