Located in South-East Asia, Malaysia is a beautiful country that offers spectacular natural beauty, diverse wildlife and boasts of a rich, colourful history with interesting people, customs and cuisine. No wonder it has earned the sobriquet of ‘Truly Asia’, given the cultural diversity it encompasses within its fold.
Travellers taking flights to Malaysia can treat themselves to two beautiful sides of the country – Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia shares borders with Thailand and Singapore at its North and South respectively. East Malaysia shares Borneo Island with Brunei and Indonesia.
Peninsular Malaysia is more popular in the tourist circuit. The Titiwangsa mountain range splits up the peninsula into the East and West coasts. While the East coast has a more bucolic appeal, the West coast has the trappings of a modern tourist destination. The capital city of Kuala Lumpur is located in the West Coast and usually people start their Malaysian odyssey with the West Coast.
While Kuala Lumpur can sometimes become a bit too overwhelming with its frantic pace of life, one can always escape to the serenity of the colonial era Fraser’s Hill and Cameron Highlands hill resorts.
In fact, each and every part of Malaysia has its own brand of charm. While Melaka and Penang emerge as a colourful cultural kaleidoscope, Sabah and Sarawak stun one with majestic charmers like the gigantic Mount Kinabalu, the awesome Mulu caves and an amazing wildlife.
Those with a passion for scuba diving would do well to head to Pulau Sipadan, one of the best spots in the world for the sport. There is just no end to the charms of Malaysia.
For information about obtaining a visa for the destination, British Nationals can visit the FCO website at www.fco.gov.uk or contact the relevant authorities.
Malaysia Culture & Lifestyle
Malaysian culture is a healthy mix of various tribes such as Malay, Chinese and Indians. Malaysian society has witnessed influences from other cultures. On the whole, Malaysia is close-knit with ‘family-life’ being the corner stone of its society and elders are treated with utmost respect. People tend to socialise within their ethnic groupings and marriages are also preferred within the community. However, there is religious tolerance and most of the major festivals of the different ethnic groups are public holidays. A very important aspect of Malaysian way of life is the concept of personal honour or face. This means, Malaysians go to great lengths to avoid loss of face. This happens in situations like insulting or criticising someone in public, challenging some authoritative figure publicly, breaking a promise, and declining a request. Here are some additional pointers on social conventions in Malaysia.
- Usually, Malays and Indians may not shake hands with someone from the opposite sex. In the case of Chinese, the practice is that the woman needs to extend her hand first.
- Many Malays use their father’s name as their surname with ‘bin’ as a connecting word. For instance, Arif bin Shariq means Arif, the son of Shariq. Similarly, women use ‘binti’ as the connecting word.
- Usually, the Chinese have three word names – the surname at the first, followed by two personal names.
- Malaysians often laugh away seemingly serious matters. This should not be considered offensive as the gesture is meant to cover up an unpleasant situation.
- More emphasis is placed upon subtle indirect communication techniques and body language to drive home a point rather than a direct confrontational manner.
Best Time to Visit Malaysia
The best time to visit Malaysia is during November to January when all major festivals like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Puasa are celebrated. Most tourists however choose to visit Malaysia during the Great Shopping Carnival that is held in March/April each year.
However, Malaysia can be visited anytime as there is not much of a difference in temperatures and rainfall throughout the year. Still, Peninsular Malaysia’s East coast is an exception and gets lashed by heavy rainfalls from November to February
Sabah and Sarawak experience heavy rainfall across the year with the months of October to March receiving the highest. Planning holidays during the rainy months increase the chances of landing off season discount package deals.
Popular Airlines to Malaysia
There are quite a few options for flying to Malaysia as different airlines operate direct and indirect flights, as well as luxury and cheap flights to different parts of the country. Here are just a few of the choices:
Travel Tips for holidays in Malaysia
Here are some tips to make your holiday to Malaysia as hassle free as possible. Like any other destination in the world, Malaysia has its own set of unfamiliar issues for travellers. So, go through the following list carefully before travelling to the country.
- Travel to isolated regions of Eastern Sabah, including Semporna and the Mabul and Sipadan islands is highly risky due to criminal and terrorist threat.
- Do not carry drugs. You might just get the death penalty.
- Getting comprehensive travel and medical travel insurance cover is highly recommended.
- Since, Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim nation, attitudes may not be too liberal everywhere. One needs to respect local customs. For instance, public display of affection is frowned upon.
- Do not accept drinks from strangers or an invitation to join some gambling match.
- Drinking tap water is not advisable and one also needs to be on the lookout for sunburn. Furthermore, certain areas of the country have the problem of dengue and malaria.
- Don’t give or receive anything with your left hand and avoid pointing your forefinger towards anyone. Furthermore, touching someone’s head and pointing the undersides of your feet at someone is also considered rude.
- Like any other destination, high discounts are to be found on the country’s hotels and flights to the destination during off season times.
- A UK driving license in Malaysia is valid for 3 months and you’ll either need a yearly renewable license or a Malaysian license if you plan to stay for more than three months.
- While taking a flight from Malaysia at the end of your trip, you need to pay an airport tax.
- Travellers can save good deal of money by booking Package holidays to Malaysia instead of booking the flights and hotels separately.
- Prefer travel agencies which are popular for holidays in Malaysia or other Asian destinations for cheap hotels, vacation packages and low cost flights.