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Malaysia Halal Travel Guide

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia, on the Malay peninsula, as well as on northern Borneo. The country is one of Asia’s new tiger economies, having seen great economic and human development during the last decades. While the capital Kuala Lumpur is a cosmopolitan city, deep jungles cover some of the land.


Malaysia is divided into two main geographical regions, commonly known as Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia. See Geography for more information.

Peninsular Malaysia

West Coast (PerlisKedahPenangPerakSelangorKuala LumpurPutrajayaNegeri SembilanMalacca)
The more developed region, offering the modern capital, Kuala Lumpur, UNESCO World Heritage cities with colonial flare and the Langkawi archipelago.
East Coast (KelantanPahangTerengganu)
The more traditional Muslim region, home to Taman Negara (National Park), numerous unspoilt islands and the Jungle Railway, which winds through the rural hinterlands.
South (Johor)
Comprising just one state, two coastlines, endless palm oil plantations and the gateway to Singapore overland.

East Malaysia

Superb scuba diving in Sipadan island plus muck diving at Mabul, nature reserves, the federal enclave of Labuan and the mighty Mount Kinabalu.
The southern state of East Malaysia. Home to traditional longhouses, lush jungles and national parks in contrast to the state capital, Kuching.

Muslim Friendly Cities in Malaysia

The iconic Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur
  • Kuala Lumpur — the multi-cultural capital, home of the Petronas Twin Towers
  • George Town — the capital of Penang and Malaysia’s second largest city, famed for its colonial-era architecture, multi-cultural populace, food and arts scene
  • Malacca — the historical city of Malaysia with colonial-style architecture
  • Ipoh — the capital of Perak, with a historic colonial old town
  • Johor Bahru — capital of Johor, and the gateway to the neighbouring city-state, Singapore
  • Kuantan – capital of Pahang and commercial centre of the East Coast
  • Kota Kinabalu — close to tropical islands, lush rain forest and Mount Kinabalu
  • Kuching — capital of Sarawak
  • Miri — resort city of Sarawak located near the border of Brunei and gateway to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gunung Mulu National Park

Other Muslim Friendly Destinations in Malaysia

  • Cameron Highlands — famous for its tea plantations
  • Perhentian Islands (Pulau Perhentian) — glittering jewels off the East Coast still undiscovered by mass tourism
  • Taman Negara — a large area of rainforest National Park spanning KelantanPahang and Terengganu
  • Kinabalu National Park — home of Mount Kinabalu
  • Langkawi — an archipelago of 99 islands known for its beaches, rainforest, mountains, mangrove estuaries and unique nature. It’s also a duty-free island
  • Sipadan (Pulau Sipadan) — one of the best dive spots in the world
  • Redang (Pulau Redang) — popular island destination for scuba divers
  • Tioman (Pulau Tioman) — once nominated one of the most beautiful islands in the world
  • Fraser’s Hill — a time warp to the colonial era


Malaysia is a mix of the modern world and a developing nation. With its investment in the high technology industries and moderate oil wealth, it has become a rich nation in Southeast Asia. Malaysia, for most visitors, presents a happy mix: there is high-tech infrastructure and things generally work well and more or less on schedule, but prices remain more reasonable than, say, Singapore. The demographics between the rich and poor can also be quite apparent: for example, a high rise luxury condominium building built right across the street from old, rundown shop lots or flats. However, you will not find extreme rural poverty or gigantic slums as in other places in Southeast Asia.

In terms of attractions, peninsular (West) Malaysia contains islands with gorgeous beaches and a fraction of visitors found in Thailand‘s most popular beaches, mountain retreats surrounded by tea plantations, interesting historical cities, World-famous food, and the highly modern, multi-cultural capital of Kuala Lumpur. East Malaysia contains lush jungles with diverse native population and wildlife, as well as stunning natural attractions such as giant caves, beautiful mountains and fantastic diving sites. Notably, however, Malaysia is not as popular among backpackers as other Southeast Asian destinations such as Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, partly due to the relatively higher costs, and partly due to the more religious and conservative, albeit generally tolerant, culture.


The Dutch Square in Malacca

Before the rise of the European colonial powers, the Malay peninsula and the Malay archipelago were home to empires such as the Srivijaya (whose capital was near modern PalembangSumatra, but which included the entire Malay Peninsula and lands further north at its greatest extent), the Majapahit (centred in Java, now part of Indonesia, but believed by most scholars to have included the entire Malay Peninsula and most of coastal Borneo among its vassal states) and the Malacca Sultanate. The Srivijaya and Majapahit empires saw the spread of Hinduism to the region, and to this day, despite the fact that Malays are Muslims, many Hindu legends and traditions survive in traditional Malay culture. Mass conversion to Islam only occurred after the arrival of Arab traders during the Malacca Sultanate.

Fort Cornwallis in George TownPenang marked the site where the British colonisation of Malaya began in 1786.

During the 16th century the Portuguese established the first European colony in Southeast Asia by defeating the Malacca Sultanate. The Portuguese were religiously intolerant and cruel, so the Sultan of Johor assisted the Dutch in defeating them, and the Netherlands took control of the city. The British also established their first colony on the Malay peninsula in Penang when it was ceded by the Sultan of Kedah in 1786. Finally, the area was divided into Dutch and British spheres of influence with the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty in 1824. With this treaty, the Dutch agreed to cede Malacca to the British and in return, the British ceded all their colonies on Sumatra to the Dutch. The line of division roughly corresponds to what is today the border between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Before World War II, the Malay Peninsula was governed by the British as the Federated Malay States (Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang), which were governed as a single entity, the Unfederated Malay States (Johor, Kedah, Perlis, Terengganu and Kelantan), which were each governed as separate protectorates, and the Straits Settlements (including Malacca, Penang and Singapore), which were crown colonies. These colonies and protectorates were collectively referred to as “Malaya”. British Borneo consisted of the British colony of North Borneo, the Kingdom of Sarawak, which was ruled by a British family known as the “White Rajas”, and the British protectorate of Brunei.

World War II was disastrous for the British Malayan Command. The Japanese swept down both coasts of the Malay Peninsula and despite fierce fighting, much of the British military was tied down fighting the Germans in Europe and those that remained in Malaya simply could not cope with the Japanese onslaught. The British military equipment left to defend Malaya was outdated and no match for the modern technology used by the Japanese, and the only two British battleships based in the region, the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, were sunk by Japanese bombers off the East Coast of Malaya. By 31 January 1942, the British had been pushed all the way back to Singapore (then considered to be part of Malaya), which also fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. The situation was no different on Borneo, which fell to the Japanese on 1 April 1942 after months of fierce fighting. The Japanese occupation was brutal, and many, particularly the ethnic Chinese, suffered and perished during the occupation. Among the most notorious atrocities committed by the Japanese were the Sandakan Death Marches, with only 6 out of 2,345 prisoners surviving the war.

After World War II, the Federated Malay States, Unfederated Malay States and the Straits Settlements of Malacca and Penang were federated to form a single British colony known as the Malayan Union, with Singapore splitting off to form a separate colony. In the Malayan Union, the sultans of the various states ceded all their powers except those in religious affairs to the British crown. However, widespread opposition to the Malayan Union led the British to reconsider their position, and in 1948, the Malayan Union was replaced by the Federation of Malaya, in which the executive positions of the sultans were restored. In Borneo, the White Rajas ceded Sarawak to the British crown in 1946, making it a crown colony of the United Kingdom.

Malaysian flag flying in the Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur

On 31 August 1957, Malaya gained independence from the British. At midnight, the Union Jack was lowered, and the Malayan flag raised in its place at what is today Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) in Kuala Lumpur. The crowd, led by the first Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman, then proceeded to chant “Merdeka” seven times. On 16 September 1963, Malaysia was formed through the merging of Malaya with the British colonies of North Borneo (now known as Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore, with Brunei deciding not to join. The first several years of the country’s history were marred by the Confrontation (Konfrontasi) — actually a series of acts of aggression by Indonesia that ultimately ended in her defeat and a formal peace that has held ever since — and claims to Sabah from the Philippines. On 9 August 1965 Singapore was officially expelled from the federation after several bloody racial riots as Singapore’s majority Chinese population and the People’s Action Party, led by Lee Kuan Yew (later the long-ruling Prime Minister of Singapore), were seen as a threat to Malay dominance. There were further racial riots in 1969, which led to the forced resignation of Tunku Abdul Rahman; his replacement by Tun Abdul Razak; changes in the Malaysian Constitution that sought to prevent the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) from ever being defeated in a future national election; and the start of the New Economic Policy, which sought to aggressively promote the economic interests of the generally poorer Malay community (and also the non-Malay indigenous peoples of East Malaysia) over those of the generally less poor Chinese community (with the poorest major ethnic group, the Indians, and also to a very large extent the Orang Asli [aboriginal people] in the Peninsula mostly ignored in the process).

In 1975, boat people from across the South China Sea in Vietnam started coming, and Malaysia became one of the most important places of first refuge for Indochinese refugees, but in general, only those of the Muslim Champa minority were invited to stay permanently. Later, during the period of tremendous economic development under the long premiership of Mahathir Mohammed, a large number of immigrant workers were invited from BangladeshIndonesiaIndia, and several other countries in the area, and even more immigrated illegally. This further increased the diversity of the population, and quite a number of the workers were reported in local newspapers to have intermarried with local women, but it also led to social strife as many Malaysian men resented the competition, and while the economy depended on immigrant workers to do jobs most Malaysians were no longer willing to do, now that their standard of living was higher, most Malaysians also did not want to permanently absorb a large and potentially almost limitless number of poor people from the much more populous countries in the region. Some immigrants were expelled and even caned for immigration violations, but the issue has never been really resolved.


Malaysia comprises two geographic regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, which are separated by the South China Sea.

Peninsular Malaysia (Semenanjung Malaysia) occupies all of the Malay Peninsula between Thailand and Singapore, and is also known as West Malaysia (Malaysia Barat) or the slightly archaic Malaya (Tanah Melayu). It is home to the bulk of Malaysia’s population, its capital and largest city Kuala Lumpur, and is generally more economically developed. Peninsular Malaysia consists of plains on both the East and West Coasts, separated from each other by a mountain range known as the Banjaran Titiwangsa, with the West Coast being more densely populated and generally more well-developed than the East Coast.

Separated some 800 km to the east of Peninsular Malaysia is East Malaysia (Malaysia Timur). East Malaysia occupies the northern third of the island of Borneo, shared with Indonesia and tiny Brunei. Much of the development on East Malaysia is centred around the cities of KuchingMiri and Kota Kinabalu. Outside of the major cities and smaller towns are impenetrable jungle where head hunters once roamed and coastal plains rising to mountains. East Malaysia is rich in natural resources and is very much Malaysia’s hinterland for industry and tourism.

Culture & Tradition of Malaysia

Malaysia shares many cultural similarities with its neighbours, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei due to their common history. As the first great kingdoms to emerge in the region were Hindu kingdoms with much influence from India, Malay culture has substantial Indian influences. This is most visible in Malay cuisine with its relatively heavy use of curries, albeit using local instead of Indian spices, meaning that Malay curries often have a unique local flavour that is different from their Indian counterparts. Malaysia’s minorities also continue to maintain their own distinct cultures, with the Chinese and Indian communities continuing to preserve the traditions brought from their ancestral homelands.

Public Holidays in Malaysia

One of the significant characteristics of Malaysian culture is its celebration of various festivals and events. The year is filled with colourful, exhilarating and exciting activities. Some are religious and solemn but others are vibrant, joyous events. One interesting feature of the main festivals here is the ‘open house’ custom. This is when Malaysians celebrating the festival invite friends and family to come by their homes for some traditional delicacies and fellowship.

Multicultural Malaysia celebrates a vast range of festivals, but the ones to look out for nationwide are Islamic holidays, most notably the fasting month of Ramadan. During its 29 or 30 days, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from dawn to sunset. Pregnant, breast feeding or menstruating women are not expected to fast, nor are the elderly, the infirm, or travellers. People get up early before sunrise for a meal (sahur), and take off early to get back home in time to break fast (buka puasa) at sunset.

At the end of the month is the festival of Eid ul-Fitr, known locally as Hari Raya Puasa or Aidilfitri, when many locals take one to two weeks off to ‘balik kampung’ or return to their home towns to meet family and friends. Accordingly, this is one of the many times in a year when major cities like Kuala Lumpur have virtually no traffic congestion.

Another important festival is the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Adha, known locally as Hari Raya Haji or Aidiladha. It is during this festival that Muslims perform the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. In local mosques, cows and goats are donated by the faithful and sacrificed, after which the meat is distributed to all. Family reunions are also celebrated during other main festivals when locals usually put on traditional costumes and finery as these festivals are an integral feature of Malaysian society.

During the month of Ramadan, non-Muslims are expected to be considerate of those fasting. Non-Muslims, as well as Muslims travelling (musafir), are exempt from fasting but it is polite to refrain from eating or drinking in public. Public school systems also require non-Muslims to refrain from eating in front of those who are fasting. Many restaurants close during the day and those that stay open maintain a low profile. Business travellers will notice that things move rather more slowly than usual. The upside for foreign travellers are the Ramadan bazaars in every city and town, bustling with activity and bursting at the seams with great food. Hotels and restaurants also pull out all stops to put on massive spreads of food for fast-breaking feasts. During the month of Ramadan, meals at the end of fasts are usually considered grand feasts. Worldwide fast-food chain McDonald’s is known for holding several all-you-can-eat Ramadan feasts during the month.


Tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands

Malaysia is a fascinating country with many faces. It’s multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, and its attractions vary from the iconic Petronas Towers in bustling Kuala Lumpur to perfect sandy beaches lined with palm trees and dense jungles with orangutangs and tigers.

There are various impressive national parks. Expeditions range from those where you hardly lose sight of the hotel to those where you are fully immersed in the jungle for weeks, with only the guide and yourself. To spot a tiger or wild elephant in its natural habitat you might have to spend more than a few days in the wild, but you’ll have no trouble seeing smaller wildlife. Bako National Park is the oldest national park in Malaysia and one of the best places to see proboscis monkeys. The vast jungles of Taman Negara have become a popular destination for ecotourists, just like the remote but gorgeous Gunung Mulu National Park, a World Heritage Site famous for its limestone karst formations, stone pinnacles and huge caves. To escape from the muggy tropics, do as the English did and head up to the cool tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands, the quaint Tudor-style village on Fraser’s Hill or climb Mount Kinabalu in Sabah.

For many people, Malaysia brings pictures of pristine beaches with great diving opportunities to mind – and for good reason. Sipadan off the coast of Sabah, and the beautiful Perhentian Islands are among the best (and most popular) places. Coastlines in the less industrialized parts of the country, in general, are well worth driving through for their natural beauty and relaxing seaside kampung (villages). Follow the crowds to the postcard perfect sands of the Langkawi Islands, where you can have a cocktail on the beach and stay in one of the many resorts.

If you’re most interested in taking the pulse of a city, don’t miss Kuala Lumpurs crazy quilt ultra-modern skyline, including the famous Petronas Twin Towers. George Town, the capital city of Penang, is known for its great food, colonial architecture, and relatively long-standing and institutionalized Chinese, Peranakan and Indian communities, who share the city with ethnic Malays, Thais and Eurasians. Ipoh is a good choice if you enjoy a somewhat slower paced city that features elegant colonial-era buildings from about 100 years ago, and Malacca is for those who want to trace the colonial and imperial history of Malaysia several hundred years further back. For a completely different experience, head to Kota Bharu to discover a unique conservative Islamic regional culture influenced by Thailand, only a few kilometres away, or visit the diverse cities of East Malaysia, like Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. Especially when travelling with children, consider visiting one of the country’s excellent zoos, such as Taiping Zoo, Kuala Lumpur‘s Zoo Negara and Malacca‘s Zoo.


A beach on Perhentian

Malaysia has excellent scuba diving. The most popular spots are the islands off the East Coast of peninsular Malaysia (PerhentianRedangTioman and many more), although the dive season is limited to April to September. However, the most famous dive site — often ranked among the best in the world — is Sipadan, off the easternmost tip of Malaysian Borneo. There are many other less well known sites, like Layang Layang.

Whitewater Rafting

You can find tame Grade I to incredibly difficult and dangerous Grade V rapids in Malaysia’s many national parks:

  • Jeram Besu – Grade I-III – Pahang
  • Telom River – Grade V – Pahang
  • Kuala Perahu – Pahang
  • Lipis River – Pahang
  • Anak Jelai River – Grade I-II – Pahang
  • Tembeling River – Grade I-II – Pahang
  • Sedim River – Grade III-IV – Kedah
  • Sungai Selangor – Grade I-III – Selangor
  • Kiulu River – Grade II – Sabah
  • Padas River – Grade III-IV – Sabah
  • Sungai Itek (Kampar River) – Grade I-III – Perak
  • Sungkai River – Grade I-II – Perak
  • Singoh River – Grade V – Perak
  • Endau River – Johor
  • Nenggiri River – Grade I-III Kelantan
  • Kuala Kubu BahruSelangor

Martial Arts

A silat match taking place.

Malaysia is home to a uniquely Malay style of martial arts known as silat. Silat tournaments are held between different schools in the country, and the Southeast Asian Games is the premier international tournament in silat, with competitors from the neighbouring countries as well. There is also an equally traditional stylised dance version of silat called silat ung, which is quite worth seeing if you have the chance.

In addition, there are also many kung fu masters among the ethnic Chinese community, and Malaysia is consistently one of the top performers in international wushu competitions.


Malaysia is home to a uniquely Malay form of singing called dikir barat. Dikir barat is typically sung by a choir, though there may also be solo parts, and is also either sung a capella, or accompanied only by percussion instruments. Dikir barat competitions are fairly popular among the Malay community, and are frequently broadcast on Malaysian national television.

Bukit Bintang, a popular shopping area in Kuala Lumpur


Tipping is not customary in Malaysia. However, a small tip is typically appreciated if you have been provided with exemplary service. Service charge of 10% is included in total bill in most air conditioned restaurants. Most expensive restaurants, bars and hotels may indicate prices in the form of RM19++ (“plus plus”), meaning that sales tax (6%) and service charge (10%) will be added to the bill. Hotel tax of 5% may also be added to this.


Kuala Lumpur is a shopping mecca for clothes, electronics, watches and computer goods, with very competitive prices by any standard. Local Malaysian brands include Royal Selangor and British India. Traditional Malaysian fabrics (batik) are a popular souvenir. The cheapest place to easily buy ethnic souvenirs (especially wood-based) is in Kuching, East Malaysia, and the most expensive place is in the major, posh Kuala Lumpur shopping centres.

In general shops are open 10:30-21:30/22:00 in the large cities. They open and close for business earlier in the smaller towns and rural areas. Some shops may also be closed on certain days, such as in Malacca where many shops and restaurants close on Tuesday.

If you buy too much while shopping in Malaysia (which is quite easy to do), surface postage rates are very reasonable. Excess luggage at the airport is still high but not as high as in many other countries. Check first with your airline.

Where to eat

The interior of a kedai kopi near the railway station in Beaufort, Sabah

The cheapest places to eat are hawker stalls and coffeeshops, known as kedai kopi in Malay or kopitiam in Hokkien. These shops sell, besides coffee, many other types of food and fruit drinks. Particularly popular and tasty are mamak stalls, run by Indian Muslims and serving up localized Indian fare like roti canai. Most hawker stalls stay open till late and some even operate on shifts so you can find the same stall offering different food at different points throughout the day. You can also do take away from any stall, just ask for bungkus (Malay) or ta pao (Cantonese). A hawker meal will rarely cost you over RM5. Hygiene standards in Malaysia, while not up to that of neighbouring Singapore or Western countries, is still reasonable and much better than say, China or most of the rest of Southeast Asia. Just be observant, and generally speaking, if a stall is patronised by locals, it should be safe to eat there.

One step up on the scale is the kedai makanan or the more Western-style restoran. A type to look out for is the nasi kandar restaurant (also known as nasi campur or nasi padang), with a vast range of curries and toppings to ladle on top of your rice.

Seafood restaurants (makanan laut) are comparatively pricy but still excellent value by most standards; do check prices before ordering though. Local prawns are gigantic, Chinese-style steamed fish is a treat and crab served with sticky chilli sauce is particularly popular.

Last but not least, some less adventurous options. Food courts in shopping malls are a good way to sample local delicacies in air-conditioned comfort, paying only a small premium over hawker prices. And yes, you can also find McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut and the usual suspects plus imitators throughout Malaysia.

There are no kosher establishments in Malaysia, so Jewish visitors will have to bring their own food with them. Kosher grocery stores and restaurants can be found in neighbouring SingaporeThailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, so you might want to stop in one of those countries to stock up before entering Malaysia.

Veganism is rarely understood in this part of the world and is largely mistaken as a synonym for vegetarianism, yet the safest bet for a vegan is to patronize a Chinese Buddhist vegetarian restaurant (most Chinese vegetarian restaurants are essentially vegan and operated on Buddhist principles of non-killing and compassion, and thus they abstain from using dairy products, eggs, and the 5 fetid vegetables [onions, garlic, leeks, etc.] discouraged in Mahayana Buddhism). And if you’re still feeling uneasy or unsure, do not hesitate to ask.


Hotels and hostels are required to charge a tourism tax on international visitors: RM10 per room per night, which may not be included in the advertised rates.


Malaysia’s universities are generally well-regarded and draw exchange students from near and far. Among Malaysia’s universities, the undisputed most prestigious one is the University of Malaya (UM), located in Kuala Lumpur. In addition, several foreign universities have established campuses in Malaysia.


There have been some reports of pickpockets and snatch-and-run thieves in some of the major cities like Kuala LumpurPetaling Jaya and Johor Bahru. As a general precaution, never carry your bags on the side facing the road and always walk facing the oncoming traffic. Additionally, walk a few feet deeper away from the roads. Women travellers should take extra precautions at night.

Johor Bahru is known for having a relatively higher crime rate compared to the rest of Malaysia, and armed robberies and snatch thefts could happen at night in run-down areas of the city. Travel documents and valuables are best deposited in a hotel safe.

In Malaysia, some crimes are punished with caning. Being convicted of rape, vandalism, illegal entry, bribery, overstaying your visa, and certain other crimes could get you caned. This is no slap on the wrist! Strokes from the thick rattan cane are very painful, will take some time to heal and probably leave you a permanent scar. This technique is also applied in Singapore.

Credit card fraud is a growing problem in this country, especially if you order in an on-line store during your stay. Use credit cards only in reputable shops. If you are not sure about the reputation of a certain shop or service, there are several services available that can help to identify fraud and scams such as Trustedcompany.com for any online service they want to use.

Never bring any recreational drugs into Malaysia, even as a transit passenger. Possession of even minimal amounts can lead to a mandatory death sentence.

Traffic safety

Drink-driving is a serious offense and breathalyzer tests by the police are common.

When on foot, be careful when crossing the street. Vehicles will often ignore pedestrian (zebra) crossings. However, reports of road bullying during accidents are still common, so if you are involved in an accident be very careful when negotiating or dial 999 for help.


Taxis in Kota Kinabalu

Many taxis will refuse to use the meter, even though there is an official rate. Most taxis now have a sticker on the rear door informing tourists that haggling is not allowed. Taxi drivers, sensing that you are a tourist, may drive around and take a very long route to reach your destination.

If using a taxi late at night, it is best to use the dial-a-taxi service as there have been incidents where taxis flagged down during those hours being fake/unregistered. The unregistered taxi driver might then rob or assault their victims with the help of assailants. You are also more likely to get a metered taxi by flagging one at a street than a taxi stand.

Is it advisable to study maps and compare fares on the internet before visiting the country. Knowing distances between places is helpful when negotiating with taxi drivers. They won’t try to fool even a foreigner who demonstrates clearly that he knows the distance from point A to point B is 50 km and not 150 km.

Do not accept the first rates for inter-city travels by car offered by hotels, as these could be as much as double normal prices. In this case, negotiate with a taxi driver directly for a better and fair price (for example, a hotel near Balok Beach, not very far from Kuantan, asked 800 RM for a ride to Johor Bahru, while a negotiated price with a taxi driver who could be found in downtown Kuantan came down to a normal 400 RM). But for all this you need to know the exact distance and if possible even the exact itinerary between your departure and arrival point.

Public demonstrations are uncommon in Malaysia due to police crackdowns. Should one occur it may be dealt with in a heavy-handed manner, so avoid them at all costs.

Finally, it is generally not allowed for non-Muslims or non-Sunnis to proselytize. In particular, attempting to persuade Muslims to convert out of their religion is illegal, and if you are caught doing this, you will at best be expelled from the country.


The standard of healthcare in Malaysia is generally high, and Malaysia is rapidly emerging as a popular destination for medical tourism, with treatment costs in general far cheaper than in neighbouring Singapore and Western countries. Almost all Malaysian doctors are able to speak English fluently, while most other medical staff are able to converse in at least basic English.

Government healthcare facilities are cheap but good, though they tend to be understaffed and consequently, waiting times are long. Due to the shorter waiting times and sometimes hotel-like levels of comfort, most expatriates and visitors prefer to seek out private medical care. Malaysia’s largest private healthcare groups are Parkway Pantai, which operates the well-known Gleaneagles and Pantai hospital chains, and KPJ Healthcare. Private medical costs can be high and having travel insurance is a very good idea.

Telecommunications in Malaysia


Connecting to the internet in Malaysia is easily accessible in most cities and towns. It was one of the first countries in the world to offer 4G connectivity. Broadband Internet is available in most hotels, internet cafes, and some restaurants. Wi-Fi is usually available in hot spots in almost all restaurants and fast-food outlets and shopping malls. Prepaid internet cards are also available to access wireless broadband, in some cafes.

Customers usually pay RM1-5 per hour for internet services in cybercafes (depending on which city you’re in). Internet connections offered in restaurants and cafes are usually free, and more and more food outlets are offering this. These include all Starbucks and Coffeebean, some McDonald’s and Subway, and an increasing number of smaller places.

Telephone numbers

The country code for Malaysia is +60.

Phone booths in Sabah


Malaysian landline phone numbers have either seven or eight digits. The country is also divided up into areas which have been assigned two or three digit area codes, which have to be dialled when calling from outside the area. The area codes are:

  • 03 – Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor (all are Klang Valley), Pahang (Genting Highlands only)
  • 04 – Kedah, Penang, Perlis
  • 05 – Perak, Pahang (Cameron Highlands only)
  • 06 – Malacca, Johor (Muar district only), Negeri Sembilan
  • 07 – Johor (all districts except for Muar)
  • 082 – Sarawak (Kuching and Samarahan districts)
  • 083 – Sarawak (Sri Aman and Betong districts)
  • 084 – Sarawak (Sarikei, Sibu and west Kapit districts)
  • 085 – Sarawak (Miri and Limbang districts)
  • 086 – Sarawak (Bintulu districts and Belaga)
  • 087 – Sabah (Interior Division), Labuan
  • 088 – Sabah (West Coast and Kudat Division)
  • 089 – Sabah (Sandakan and Tawau Division)
  • 09 – Kelantan, Pahang (all districts except Genting Highlands), Terengganu

Area code 02 has been assigned for calls made from Malaysia to Singapore. This means there’s no need to call Singapore’s country code 65 when calling from Malaysia. International direct dialing (IDD) calls from landlines to all other countries should use the prefix 00 followed by the country code.

To call a Malaysian number:

  • From overseas except Singapore dial the international access code, the country code for Malaysia, the area code without the “0”, and then the phone number.
  • From Singapore dial 02, the area code with the “0”, and then the phone number.
  • From outside the local area dial the full area code, followed by the phone number. There are no exceptions to this rule, except when using a mobile phone.
  • From within the local area just dial the phone number without any code.

Mobile phones

Malaysia also has four mobile telephone service providers, Maxis, DiGi, Celcom, and U Mobile which utilise codes 012, 013, 014, 016, 017, 018, 019. Network connection in Malaysia is excellent. Mobile number portability has been implemented in Malaysia, meaning a code like 012 that traditionally belonged to Maxis, can now be a DiGi subscriber. Mobile networks utilize the GSM 900 and 1800 systems. 3G (WCDMA), EDGE & HSPDA networks available in larger towns. International roaming onto these networks is possible if your operator allows it. Prepaid SIM cards for sale at airports are pretty affordable; a one-week SIM card with a good amount of data might cost about RM20-30 (2019).

To call a Malaysian mobile number:

  • From overseas dial the international access code, the country code for Malaysia, the mobile telephone provider’s code without the “0”, and then the telephone number.
  • From within Malaysia dial the provider’s code with the “0”, and then the telephone number.
  • From mobile phone to mobile phone within Malaysia dial the provider’s code with the “0”, and then the telephone number. Although you can drop the provider’s code if the two phones share the same provider, you will still get through if the provider’s code is dialled.

To call from Malaysia to another country:

  • From a landline dial the international access code “00” followed by the country code and the phone number. For example, dialing the United States from Malaysia you would dial 001 followed by the US area code and phone number. On the Maxis network, take advantage of 50% IDD rates via IDD132, which doesn’t require any registration, just dial “132” prior to the “00”.
  • From a mobile phone same as from a landline (above). An alternative, and simpler, approach on many mobile phones is to press & hold the zero button to enter a “+” (plus sign) before the country code and phone number. The “+” represents (in any country) the appropriate international access code. On the Maxis network, take advantage of 50% IDD rates via IDD132, which doesn’t require any registration, just dial “132” prior to the “00”, and do not use the “+” symbol using this method.

Postal services

Many international courier services like Fedex, DHL and UPS are available in towns and cities but the main postal service provider is Pos Malaysia which reliably provides postal services to most countries in the world.

Postage rates in Malaysia are cheap. Much much cheaper than Thailand, Singapore or Vietnam, and surface post is available as well. In addition the mail is reliable and trustworthy. When posting, do not seal the box. This is to allow for inspection in case illegal items are posted this way.

A local alternative to the international courier companies mentioned above is the Pos Laju, which provides just as reliable a service but at a fraction of the costs!

Non-urgent letters and postcards can be dropped in postboxes inside postal offices or red postboxes found outside postal offices and along main roads. If there are two slots in a postbox use the one that says “lain lain” for international post.

Post offices are open M-Sa 08:00-17:00 except public holidays, although a few in Klang Valley stay open until 22:00. In the states of Kedah, Kelantan, Johor and Terengganu they are closed on Fridays and public holidays.

Last Updated on Sat 12 Shaban 1444AH 4-3-2023AD

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