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Malaysia Travel Planning Roundup

2 January 2016

Prepping for your trip to Malaysia? We’ve done the research for you with our essential list of top sites for Malaysia travel planning and inspiration.

Say the word Malaysia and you’re likely to hear two responses: food and wildlife. Whether you’re off to Peninsula Malaysia or East Malaysia, you’re in for a treat. Kuala Lumpur is an amazing city, with its impressive twin towers, gardens and markets. Petaling Street in particular is known for its amazing food – as is Penang, where even the Malay locals head for the best cuisine. Don’t miss the hawker’s markets for delicious – and unbelievably cheap – eats. Penang is a family paradise, with resorts along Batu Ferringhi that are so fun they’ll have the kids’ eyes popping out of their heads with delight.

The bushwalking and wildlife experiences in Malaysia are unlike any others in the world. Head out to see the turtles, or visit the butterfly park, caves, botanic gardens and national parks. Perhaps you’re keen to take on a more exotic challenge, like trekking the jungles to see orangutans in the wild, or visiting the elephant sanctuary for a close encounter with these ancient creatures.

Add the museums and art galleries in Malaysia, plus sights like the Petrosains Science Discovery Centre to the mix and it’s not just a food and wildlife haven but a cultural extravaganza.

To help you plan your trip we’ve scoured the internet for the best Malaysia travel tips.

ORIENTATION

Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy located in Southeast Asia. Malaysia is  separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo). Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines.

The capital of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it’s commonly known. Check out WikiTravel for a snapshot on this sprawling city’s main tourist districts and transport options.

Typically, tourists enter Malaysia via Kuala Lumpur International Airport, or its low cost sister airport klia2, before making off to one of Langkawi’s 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, Penang’s George Town, Mount Kinabalu, Taman Negara – the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, or the budget friendly Perhentian Islands.

MALAYSIA AIRPORTS

Malaysia’s biggest airport Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is located 45 kilometres from Kuala Lumpar. KLIA is ranked as the world’s 20th-busiest airport by total passenger traffic and is a major flight hub for South East Asia.Located in the KLIA complex, is the International Airport’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), now referred to klia2.

A shoe-string traveller’s best friend, klia2 was opened in 2014 to replace the airport’s long serving LCCT. klia2 is the home of “no-frills” airline, AirAsia. The KLIA Ekpres train links KLIA to KLIA2 in 3 minutes at a costs of RM2 per trip. Klia Ekspres is also your magic carpet ride into the city of KL, at around 40 minutes. The countries other important airports – 8 of which are international – are Penang International Airport at southeast of Penang Island 14 km from George Town, Langkawi International Airport on the duty-free island of Langkawi, and Kuching International Airport located 11 km south of Kuching city centre. Smaller domestic airports like Lahad Datu Airport in Sabah and 

GETTING THERE

Thanks to low cost carriers like Air Asia, getting to Malaysia from Australia is hassle-free and budget-friendly. Kuala Lumpar is but a casual 8h20 minute punt from Melbourne, while West Australian’s can hop over from Perth in 5h45 minutes.

The flight options are plenty. Malaysia Airlines, Emirates and Air Asia X services the KL route out of Melbourne. Malaysia Airlines, Malindo Air and Air Asia X fly direct to Kuala Lumpar from Perth. Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia X takes care of the Sydney to KL route.

From the hubs of KLIA and klia2, the world’s your proverbial oyster with dozens of connections on offer to Malaysia’s – and South East Asia’s – holiday hot spot.

MALAYSIA VISAS

The Aussie government’s Smartraveller site is our go-to for the really important stuff on all foreign travel, including Malaysia. On tourist visa rules for Australian’s visiting Malaysia on holiday, Smartraveller says:

Tourists do not require visas for stays of up to three months. Australians entering Malaysia for business or study/research purposes require a visa. As visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly, you should contact the nearest Embassy, High Commission or Consulate of Malaysia for the most up-to-date information.

Smartraveller also advises that the Immigration Department of Malaysia uses biometric registration for travellers, which means all foreigners entering Malaysia by land, air and sea are required to provide biometric fingerprints of both their thumbs and index fingers at all Malaysian immigration entry points. Children under 12 and diplomatic passport holders are exempt.

It’s a good idea to carry suitable photographic identification with you at all times while in Malaysia, and know that your passports will be required for travel between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak).

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Smartraveller lists the treat of terrorism, credit card fraud, snatch-and-grab crimes and drink spiking as travel safety risks to prepare for. Of major concern is the possibility of kidnapping in eastern Sabah:

Australians should avoid all travel to the coastal resorts of eastern Sabah, including the islands, dive sites and associated tourist facilities owing to the continuing high threat of kidnapping, and as such you should reconsider your need to travel to the area. The risk of kidnapping increases on the water and waterfront after nightfall. Information indicates there is a continuing threat of attacks by armed insurgents in or around the coastal regions of eastern Sabah.

The kidnapping threat is highest in the area between the towns of Sandakan and Tawau due to its proximity to the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines. There are recent indications that extremists may be in the advanced stages of planning to kidnap foreigners from locations in this vicinity.

On travel by taxi, Smartraveller issues this advice, especially for women travelling alone;

Violent crimes perpetrated against foreign tourists and local residents by taxi drivers in downtown Kuala Lumpur also occur. Travellers, especially women travelling alone, are advised to book taxis by phone, use the shopping centre taxi desk or the new My Teksi App, rather than hailing taxis on the street, particularly after dark. Make sure it is a bona fide taxi. Confirm that there is a license (with photo) on the dashboard or seatback before entering the vehicle.

Make sure that the driver’s appearance matches the photo. If alone sit in the back seat, and if possible keep your belongings with you. Taxis are not permitted to stop to pick up additional passengers. If they do, you should disembark when safe to do so. Note that some drivers, particularly in tourist spots or when roads are jammed, refuse to use the meter despite a law prohibiting the practice.

Health risks come in the form of smoke haze, which affects many parts of South East Asia from June to October especially. Dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis are also worth keeping an eye out for. On a fashion note, stay clear os temporary ‘black henna’ tattoos as they often contain dye which may cause nasty skin reactions. Get more on that at the Australasian College of Dermatologists’ website.

Weather wise, flooding and landslides are common during Malaysia’s wet season (October to February). Earthquakes and tsunami’s are also a possibility. Register your Malaysia travel details with Smartraveller to stay in the loop via their emergency email service.

LOCAL LAWS

Each country has its own laws and Malaysia is no exception. Smartraveller’sMalaysia advice reminds us that Australian visitors are subject to the local laws ofMalaysia, including ones that appear harsh by our standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can’t get you out of trouble or out of jail. The police and military retain extensive powers of detention, arrest and search and there are limitations on judicial redress for decisions made by authorities.

It’s smart to research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay. Here’s what to look out for in particular:
Penalties for drug offences are severe and include the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. Some aspects of Sharia (Islamic) Law have been introduced by all states in Malaysia. Kelantan and Trengganu states are particularly observant. You should ensure you are aware of relevant provisions, which apply to all Muslims, including those from Australia. Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia. Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal and penalties are strictly enforced. The penalty for criminal offences, including other drug offences, commercial crime, rape and robbery, may include corporal punishment. Malaysia has regulations on importing prescription and non-prescription medication. Some medications require a letter from the prescribing doctor. You should always keep your medication in its original packaging and respect the restrictions on importation of prescription and non-prescription medication. See the Malaysian High Commission in Canberra for more information on this. Homosexual acts between males are illegal and penalties include corporal punishment and long prison sentences. Homosexual acts between women may be considered an ‘act of gross indecency with another’ and penalties include imprisonment.

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CULTURE

While Malaysia is multicultural it is still a predominantly Islamic country with local traditions, customs and laws. It’s important to honour the local way, both for your own comfort and to show respect. Acceptable dress codes and behaviour err on the side of conservative, especially at religious sites. Practising cultural sensitivity is a biggie especially during Ramadan. Smartravellers offers a word of advice:

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2016. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting.

For more information check out Smartraveller’s Ramadan travel bulletin.

WEATHER

Malaysia is close to the equator, so warm weather is pretty much a given. Temperatures generally range from 32°C at noon to about 26°C at midnight. Like its tropical Southeast Asian neighbours, Malaysia’s sunny days are interrupted by the wet season from November to February. During monsoon night temperatures ‘plummet’ to a balmy 23°C on rainy days. The north-east monsoon puts Borneo and the east coast under water from October to February while the west coast including Langkawi and Penang remain dry as a crisp. The milder south-west monsoon reverses the pattern, bringing rain with it from April to October. The southern parts of peninsular Malaysia, including perennially damp Kuala Lumpur, are exposed to both but even during the rainy season, the showers here tend to be intense but short-lived.

Selective Asia have done an awesome job of summing up Malaysia’s weather averages by month, and by region. Visit their site to check out the best times to visit Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Cameron Highlands,  the West Coast, and the East Coast. As a bonus they even throw in a monthly events calendar to help you plan your trip.

A beach holiday can be enjoyed all year round in Malaysia as the east and west coasts experience their wettest months at alternate times of the year.

THE BEST OF MALAYSIA

Sometimes you just want to cut to the chase and experience the big hitters, right? For an awesome range of top Malaysia lists, we love visit-malaysia.com for their concise recommendations and stunning photo galleries.

Here you’ll find the 10 Things To Do in KL, the Top 10 Langkawi Attractions, and the 10 Best Restaurants in KL among dozens of lists and guides on Malaysia’s favourite holiday spots.

MALAYSIA PLUGS AND ADAPTORS

You’re probably travelling with an armload of devices, so keeping those gadgets charged will be a priority. Malaysia uses the same plug types – type G – as the UK does. Unfortunately that means Aussie travellers will need to bring adaptors. Check it all out here.

You’ll need travel insurance before heading to Malaysia to ensure your dream island getaway stays as perfect as possible. Head here to check out our easy and budget-friendly Travel with Jane options.

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