Malaysia Malaysia

Malaysia General Information

Land & Climate

Location

Region
Southeast Asia

Neighbours
West Malaysia is situated south of Thailand and north of Singapore. The island of Sumatra, part of Indonesia, lies southeast of West Malaysia, across the Strait of Malacca. East Malaysia borders both sections of the nation of Brunei, on the north coast of Borneo. The northeast coast of East Malaysia borders the Sulu Sea; the east coast borders the Sulawesi Sea. The southern two-thirds of Borneo is occupied by Indonesia.

Area
329,758 square kilometres (127,320 square miles)

Size Comparison
Slightly larger than Vietnam

Topography

The peninsular portion of Malaysia has mountain ranges in the north, flanked by wide plains along both coasts. Much of the country's population is centred in the south, where the peninsula is relatively level.

East Malaysia, on Borneo, includes the States of Sarawak and Sabah. The State of Sarawak consists of a swampy lowland along the coast rising to high mountains in the interior, especially in the east. An extensive lowland covers the eastern part of Sabah. The Crocker Range in the northwest rises to an elevation of 4,101 metres (13,455 feet) on Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Malaysia.

Climate

With a temperature that fluctuates little throughout the year, travel in Malaysia is a pleasure. Average temperature is between 21° to 32°C (70° to 90°F). Humidity is high. Rain tends to occur between November to February on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, on western Sarawak, and northeastern Sabah. On the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia the rainy season is April to May and October to November.

The exposed northern slopes of State of Sarawak and State of Sabah receive as much as 5,080 millimetres (200 inches) of rainfall yearly. Average rainfall for the peninsula is about 2,540 millimetres (100 inches).

 

The People

Population

23 million. Contrasts of racial and cultural roots, with predominance of Malays, Chinese and Indians. Smaller groups in the community such as Sikhs, Eurasians and indigenous groups like the Ibans, Bidayuhs, Kadazans and Muruts, which are often found in Sabah and Sarawak. The official language is Bahasa Malaysia, but the ethnic groups still use their mother tongue for communication among themselves. However, English is widely spoken in the country.

The Malay Peninsula has been occupied for 6,000 to 8,000 years, and in Sarawak, which is across the South China Sea from the peninsula, remains have been found that may be 40,000 years old.

The ancestors of the modern Malay people migrated from China perhaps as long as 4,000 years ago. The peninsula became a centre of trade between China and India, resulting not only in commerce but also in the exchange of ideas, religion, art, and models of government.

Near the beginning of the Christian era, Malaysia was visited by Indian traders, and Buddhist and Brahman missionaries and Hindu colonists came to the area over the following centuries.

Malays and other indigenous groups account for about 60 per cent of the population, Chinese for about 31 per cent, and Indians for about 8 per cent.

The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is by far the largest city and the only one that has a population of more than 1,5 million. About 43 per cent of Malaysians live in suburban areas.

Malaysia is a multiracial society of indigenous Malay, called the Bumiputra, or sons of the soil, and immigrant Chinese and Indians. Each community guards its cultural identity, and a racial dimension is present in most aspects of Malaysian life.

Language

Malay is the official language and is spoken throughout the country. The ethnic Chinese also speak one of various Chinese dialects such as Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien, Mandarin, or Min. On the island of Borneo, in Sabah and Sarawak, many indigenous languages are spoken. Most Malaysians are bilingual if not multilingual, and English is spoken in all but the most remote areas.

Religion

Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, although the constitution guarantees freedom of worship. Ethnic Malays are virtually all Muslim. The Chinese on the peninsula are chiefly Buddhist, with some Taoists, Christians, and Confucianists. Some Malays practise principles from all three. The Indians are generally Hindu, but some are Christian.

In the states of Sabah and Sarawak, the denomination percentages are different. In Sabah, about 38 per cent are Muslim, 17 per cent Christian, and the rest follow indigenous beliefs. In Sarawak, where there are more Chinese, 24 per cent are Buddhist and Confucianist, 20 per cent Muslim, 16 per cent Christian, and the rest follow indigenous or other beliefs.

Throughout Malaysia many people follow traditional beliefs and customs as well as those of their religion.

 

Travel Info

Customs & duties

Passports
Visitor to Malaysia must be in possession of valid passport/travel documents with a minimum validity of six months beyond the period of intended stay. In the case of national passport not recognized by the Malaysian Government, the holder must be in possession of a document in lieu of passport obtainable at the nearest Malaysian Mission abroad. The national passport holder must also ensure his re-entry into the country of his citizenship.

Visa
Is not requested to enter Malaysia, except for a few countries (Check with your Country Malaysian Mission). The travelers can obtain either a social or business visa, for a period of one week and not exceeding three months. Passport is necessary for visitor traveling between Sabah and Sarawak.

Arrival & Departure
Upon arrival visitors must fill up the immigration and custom declaration forms. All visitors have to declare the foreign currency in possession, to avoid confiscation by the custom before leaving the country, for international flights the airport tax is RM 40 while for domestic flights the tax is RM 5. (Subject to change without prior notice).

Customs
Items such as video equipment, cameras, radio cassette players, watches, pens, lighters, perfumes and cosmetics are duty-free items in Malaysia. Visitors bringing in dutiable goods may have to pay a deposit for temporary importation, refundable on departure.

Currency, mail, telecommunications, etc

Currency
Foreign currencies can be changed at banks or authorized money- changer throughout the country. Malaysian currency consist of the Ringgit Malaysia (RM) which is worth 100 sen. Coins are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 sen and 1 Ringgit. Currency notes are in 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1.000 RM. Travel cheque and credit cards (American express, Barclays, Visa, Diners and Master card) are accepted in any bank, moneychanger and large shopping complexes.

Health
No vaccination is required for cholera and smallpox. Water is generally safe to drink straight from the tap. Bottled mineral water is easily available in shops and supermarket. In the event you need medical care, there are private clinics in most towns. It is a good idea to take out a medical insurance before you travel, as Malaysia does not have reciprocal health service agreements with other nations. For over-the-counter prescriptions, there are pharmacies and ‘Chinese medical halls’.

Mail
Aerogramme cost 50 Cent to all countries. Postcards and letters vary. Enquire at the post office.

Telecommunications
International Direct Dialing (IDD) or trunk calls may be dialed direct using area codes or assisted by an operator. The country code for Malaysia is 60.

Business Hours
Banks: 9.30 am - 3.30 pm (Mon to Fri) 9.30 am - 11.30 am (Sat), Shopping complexes: 10 am - 10 pm daily

Time
Malaysia is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Electrical Supply
Electric supply is on a 240-volt 50-cycle system.

What to Wear
As Malaysia's climate is sunny almost year round, light clothing is ideal. It is advisable for ladies, when entering mosques and temples, to wear long sleeves and loose pants or long skirts.

Etiquette
To avoid “cultural offences”, here are some tips:
-Remove shoes when entering homes and places of worship. Do not point your finger at someone.
-Dress neatly in suitable attire, which covers arms and legs when visiting places of worship.
-Handle food with your right hand.

Holidays

There are many holidays throughout the year in Malaysia, including national holidays, religious holidays reflecting Malaysia. s range of religions, and festivals celebrated only in certain regions.

Among the national holidays are the international New Year. s Day (1 January), Labour Day (1 May), and the Birthday of the King or Yang di-Pertuan Agong (currently 4 June). The Chinese New Year is a week-long festival in January or February. Also celebrated is Merdeka Day (31 August): Merdeka means independence, and on this day Malaysia. s independence from the British in 1957 is celebrated. There are parades and special exhibitions, and the streets are decorated.

The three chief Islamic holidays include Hari Raya Puasa, the three-day feast at the end of the month of Ramadan; Hari Raya Haji, the Feast of Sacrifice at the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah); and the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. Mandi Safar, in the second Muslim month, is a Muslim bathing festival that is not observed in any other country. Its origin is believed to derive from Muhammad. s last bath before his death, and it is known to be a high-spirited holiday.

Wesak Day (in May) commemorates the birth of Buddha. For the birth date of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin, women make pilgrimages to her temples bearing flowers, fruit, and cakes, and pray for her good will.

Deepavali is a Hindu festival in October or November that celebrates the triumph of Lord Krishna over a demon king. Hindus prepare for Deepavali by cleaning their homes and setting clay lamps along their windows and roofs to welcome Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. It is believed that Lakshmi will decline to bless a home that is not ablaze with lights to greet her.

Christmas Day (25 December) is a national holiday. The Dayak ethnic groups also celebrate various festivals that mark the harvest, honour the dead, and venerate heroes; in May, the Kadazan (festivals) celebrate the harvest.

There are also local holidays in each state. Malaysia. s high degree of diversity has resulted in the custom of holding open house on special days for those who belong to different ethnic and religious groups. For example, Christians hold open house at Christmas; Chinese at their New Year; Hindus at Deepavali; and Muslims at Hari Raya Puasa. Different calendars are used to determine each group. s holidays.