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Malaysia travel guide

Before you travel to Malaysia, find out what you need to do. Get holiday tips with our handy travel guide.

Travel to Malaysia to view: Warm sunset light illuminating the Petronas Towers and downtown skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's vibrant capital city, as they soar over the leafy foliage and fountains Taman Tasik Titiwangsa lake.

Image: Getty Images

Travelling to Malaysia? The sunny peninsula of Malaysia awaits all kinds of travellers. Do you enjoy shopping or sliding down rollercoaster rides? Perhaps you prefer an adventurous hike or a leisurely spa. Malaysia offers so many options for visitors.

If you’re thinking of holidaying in Malaysia, prepare your travel checklist with our handy guide on what to do, where to go and what you’ll need to complete before travelling.

Malaysia travel restrictions

As of 1 April 2022, Malaysia has opened its borders to international travellers. Fully vaccinated travellers do not need to show a negative COVID-19 result or undergo quarantine.

Partially vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers must take pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 tests. They are also required to quarantine at their accommodation for 5 days. Children under 17 are exempted.

Here is what you will need to do:

    • Download the MySejahtera app and create an account to fill up the digital pre-departure form via the “Traveller” icon
    • Verify your digital COVID-19 vaccine certificate

You will only need to verify once, so skip this step if you have done this previously.

Malaysia at a glance

Malaysia is an ideal destination as it offers plenty of options for all travellers. In addition, the country’s landscape with rugged mountains, lush rainforests and native wildlife attracts adventurous visitors ready to explore its natural beauty.

At the same time, its diverse population and rich history weave a rich experience of sights and sounds for the culture lover. Delicious food, traditional handicrafts such as batik and Nyonya beadwork, as well as museums await.

If neither nature nor needlework interests you, Malaysia is well-known for its theme parks. If you have children or you are a child at heart, its 18 theme parks promise an immersive experience of delightful fun.

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Top things to see and do in Malaysia

Here are some of the coolest things you can consider adding to your itinerary when you travel to Malaysia:

Visit the Langkawi Geopark in Langkawi

    • Picture not describedLangkawi Island is known for its sandy beaches and calm blue waters. Apart from that, the Langkawi Geopark also attracts many visitors. The UNESCO heritage site is a natural landscape with stunning ecological harmony.
    • If you are not fond of hiking, you can also take the SkyCab cable car that connects the Oriental Village at Teluk Burau to the peak of GunungMachinchang mountain.

Relive your childhood at Legoland Malaysia

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      • LEGOLAND Malaysia is located in Johor. The first LEGOLAND theme park in Asia is full of rides, shows and other attractions. There is also a waterpark with more than 20 tubes and slides to explore. If you are a LEGO toy collector, over 70 LEGO models are on display.
      • It’s a huge theme park with a hotel built on site. So if you want to spend more than a day, stay at LEGOLAND Hotel. The hotel is unique, continuing the LEGO theme and offering themed rooms. For example, there’s a pirate theme with nautical bed sheets, wall decor and curtains to match.

    Snorkel at Perhentian Islands

      • Picture not describedThe Perhentian Islands are part of the state of Terengganu in northeast Malaysia. The waters between the group of islands known as Big Perhentian and Small Perhentian are famous dive spot. Divers come to admire the variety of underwater corals and exotic marine animals. If you cannot swim or dive, the waters near the coast are shallow enough to observe the corals.
      • If you prefer to stay dry, there are plenty of jungle treks through the rainforest on the islands. You can choose to camp or stay at a guesthouse.

    Buy handicrafts in Malacca

      • Picture not describedFor the shoppers who like to collect unique handmade items, Malacca is the state to visit. Located in southwest Malaysia, the vibrant state is known for its artisans who ply their wares on Jonker Street. A bustling night market, there are plenty of handicrafts and antique shops on Jonker Street.
      • Not forgetting the food as well. Malacca is home to the Peranakan community, an ethnic group with Chinese, Malay and Indonesian roots. So it is their food which you can look forward to trying in Malacca.

    Climb mountains in Sabah

      • Picture not describedMount Kinabalu, located in Sabah, is an astounding sight. The mountain range is in East Malaysia, part of Sabah and Borneo. You can climb using the trails available, although at least 6 months of training is recommended.
      • The peaks of the mountains are often covered in fog, making it a dreamy sight to behold. Many first-time climbers start with this non-volcanic mountain. You can admire the diversity of its flora and fauna along the trail.

    Walk the streets of George Town for a culinary adventure

      • Penang, located in northwest Malaysia, is a popular destination for many travellers. Its capital city, George Town, is lined with colourful buildings that feature vibrant street art. The wall murals are an unexpected find, varying between whimsical, playful and bold. Many photographers make it a mission to find all of them.
      • If walking tires you out, pop into one of the city’s old-school coffee houses or modern cafes. Penang is also well-known as a food haven, so it’s a must to head there to expand your culinary horizons.
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    Best time to visit Malaysia

    You can travel to Malaysia all year round as the country does not have seasonal changes. It has a tropical, equatorial climate that is humid and warm throughout the year. However, you should avoid the areas when the monsoons happen. The monsoon on the east coast runs from March until September and the west coast monsoon runs from October to April. The weather will be extremely cool, but the high rainfall may make it a hassle to go out.

    Additionally, as Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, you will need to check when the Ramadan fasting period is. During this time, shops are generally quiet and may be closed during the day.

    The most popular period to visit Malaysia is between March and October. This is because the weather stays relatively consistent in these months with occasional rainfall.

    The average temperature in Malaysia is 24.5 degrees celsius. The average rainfall is 200mm per month and goes as high as 350mm in the monsoon seasons.

    Do I need to apply for a tourist visa to visit Malaysia?

    Singapore nationals do not need a visa to enter Malaysia for up to 30 days.

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    Travelling to Malaysia

    Malaysia has several airports, depending on your destination. The most popular way to travel to Malaysia is to take a direct flight from Singapore to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. From there you can travel interstate to several cities.

    Instead of KL, you can also travel from Singapore to Johor Bahru (JB) by bus or train before transferring to another transport mode. In addition, from JB, you can travel to other Malaysian states.

    Trips from Singapore to Johor Bahru

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    Do I need travel insurance for Malaysia?

    From 1 May 2022, Singapore travellers no longer need compulsory COVID-19 insurance when they travel to Malaysia. Previously, visitors had to have compulsory COVID-19 travel insurance. You can check the updated information on the MySafeTravel site.

    While COVID-19 travel insurance is no longer compulsory, purchasing travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage is still advisable. Apart from unexpected COVID-19 medical expenses, travel insurance for Malaysia protects you from unnecessary costs arising from events such as flight delays and luggage theft. Therefore, purchasing travel insurance is a good idea.

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    Where to exchange Malaysia ringgit

    The unit of currency used in Malaysia is ringgit. The currency code is MYR and the symbol is RM.

    You should change a small sum of money before you travel to Malaysia. While you will be able to find money changers in Malaysia, you might need cash while travelling there. A tip is to change money at local money changers in shopping malls in Singapore or Malaysia. Try not to change at the airport, the bank or the hotel as the rate will be less competitive.

    If you prefer to travel without cash, you should consider a digital, multi-currency wallet or bank account. Read our comparison of YouTrip vs Revolut vs Wise to find the best digital wallet for when you travel.

    Tips to remember when exchanging money in Malaysia

    • Check for card-skimming devices at ATMs and card machines
    • Make sure that you check and count your cash in front of the money changer before leaving
    • Carry cash in lower denominations while street shopping
    • Tipping is not the norm in Malaysia
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    Top cities to visit in Malaysia

    DestinationDescription
    Kuala Lumpur

    This well-connected city boasts skyscrapers and spacious shopping malls. Merdeka 118 is its latest sky-high building, the second tallest building in the world.

    Apart from the giddy heights and shopping till you drop, KL has an active nightlife with plenty of supper options. Street food has cultural influences from all over the world.

    Picture not described
    George Town

    The capital of Penang is a UNESCO world heritage site. The place exudes old-world charm, with several well-preserved colonial buildings.

    Many shops open past noon, and there are plenty of artisanal coffee spots in the city. The pace is slower and more relaxed there. Don’t forget to try the famous Penang Laksa when you visit.

    Penang
    Ipoh

    One of Malaysia’s largest cities, Ipoh, offers a lot. You can kayak along the Kinta River or explore its natural limestone caves. It’s also near breezy Cameron Highlands, where tea grows abundantly on terraced landscapes.

    Stroll down the city and admire colonial buildings converted to shophouses. Ipoh is known for its coffee, so savour freshly brewed coffee there if you visit.

    limestone cave
    Johor

    The capital city of Johor state, Johor Bahru (JB), is well known among Singaporeans who travel to the JB checkpoint. City Square mall is nearby, with over 200 retailers for you to shop to your heart’s content.

    Plenty of hawker options are available. Many people get their banana cake fix from the decades-old Hiap Joo bakery at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee. Besides, it’s also host to theme park LEGOLAND. An excellent place to visit if you like a short getaway!

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    Malacca

    Malacca City in the coastal state of Malacca (south-west Malaysia) is where you can find a melting pot of culture. Stay near Jonker Street to visit its antique shops and night market.

    Its places of worship for different religions sit side by side and the colourful facade is a photographer’s dream. Visit the city if you want an easy walk from your hotel to a shopping street lined with museums, cafes, art shops and plenty of street food.

    Picture not described
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    Malaysia food guide

    Here are some of the most delectable Malaysian dishes you should try!

    nasi lemak

    Nasi lemak

    This dish is considered the national dish of Malaysia. Rice is boiled with coconut milk and pandan leaves before adding sides. The sides are usually fish or chicken, anchovies and fried egg.
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    Curry mee

    This dish is cooked with coconut milk, sambal, mint and curry spices. The sides can include bean sprouts, coagulated pork blood and shrimp.
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    Assam laksa

    This noodle dish has a spicy, sour fish broth. Assam laksa hails from Penang, and it’s over there that they do it best.
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    Roti canai

    We recommend you have roti canai early in the morning when you travel to Malaysia. Buy this flatbread from the vendors selling it along the streets. It comes with lentils and curry.
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    Hokkien mee

    While you can find this noodle dish in Singapore, the Kuala Lumpur version is unique. Expect a plate of thick noodles stir-fried in heavy, dark soy sauce.
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    Chee cheong fun

    These rolled rice noodles hail from Fujian, China. The smooth rice roll is served with light soy sauce. We recommend that you try these when you are in Ipoh.
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    Durian

    The king of fruits is an acquired taste if you’re new to it. But its fans travel from far to purchase this richly pungent fruit with yellow, creamy flesh. The popular Musang King variety is grown in central Malaysia, Pahang. We recommend that you have some when you’re in Pahang.

    Kuih

    Malay-style pastries, known as ‘kuih’, are sweet and colourful. They might come with several layers of brightly coloured rice flour. You can usually find gula melaka (palm sugar) in these kuih.

    Otah-Otah

    A light snack, otah-otah is made of fish paste spiced with seasonings. It is then wrapped in a banana leaf and barbecued until it is warm and toasty. Many roadside vendors sell this savoury side dish in most Malaysian states.

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    Malaysia shopping guide

    Malaysia is a shopper’s dream, whether you’re after high-end luxury goods or bargain finds. Here are our recommended shopping spots when you travel to Malaysia:

    • Suria KLCC. With over 300 flagship stores at Suria KLCC in Kuala Lumpur, you’re spoilt for choices. This 6-storey shopping mall is at the foot of the majestic Petronas Twin Towers. Fountains and a scenic park also surround the area.
    • Berjaya Times Square. Berjaya Times Square has 48 floors of retail stores, restaurants and even an indoor theme park. You can shop for premier fashion goods there or entertain the children with rollercoaster rides at the theme park.
    • Lorong Kulit Flea Market. Located in Penang, this flea market is for bargain hunters or thrift shoppers. You can find vintage, rare items among the second-hand items sold there.
    • Zon Shopping Paradise. This large shopping mall in Langkawi is where you can go to buy duty-free designer items at discounted prices. A favourite among locals and tourists.
    • 1 Utama. The largest shopping mall in Malaysia, this mall is located in Selangor. Over 1,000 shops sell all kinds of goods, from high-end luxury goods to household items.
    • Central market. This lovely market in Cameron Highlands is where you can buy fresh spices, tea and delicious nuts when you travel to Malaysia.
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    How to stay safe in Malaysia

    Malaysia is generally a safe country to visit. It is a country where tourists are unlikely to encounter violence. Still, it would help to be careful as petty crime rates are relatively high. Travel insurance is necessary to protect you against pickpockets or loss of valuable items.

    However, the locals are friendly and welcoming to visitors. So as long as you exercise vigilance and keep your valuables safely, you should not have any problems touring Malaysia. Check the travel advisory if you intend to travel to Malaysia so you know the latest updates before entering the country.

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    Images: Getty Images

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