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Welcome to Malaysia

Malaysia

'Selamat Datang' is the traditional Malaysian greeting that welcomes visitors to this vibrant and exotic country. Ethnically diverse cultures share the same lush landscape and create a fusion of cultural styles, cooking and religions that is distinctly Malaysian. Festivals throughout the year mark the Malay, Chinese and Indian holidays, as well as those of the indigenous Orang Asli and the tribes of Sabah and Sarawak.

Malaysia is a country with two distinct parts. Peninsula Malaysia constitutes the long fringe of land, extending down from Asia, which borders Thailand and Singapore. The South China Sea separates the mainland from the less populated East Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak. The dense jungles of Sabah and Sarawak support abundant plant and wildlife and Mt Kinabalu in Sabah stakes its claim as the highest peak in South East Asia.

It is the Peninsula that seems to attract the most visitors, probably because of the diversity it offers in the way of people, activities and climates. The highland regions offer cool relief from the clinging humidity of the mainland, while Langkawi is the popular choice for sand and surf enthusiasts. The east coast, particularly the northern Kelantan province, offers the chance for an interesting cultural exploration of traditional Malay life. The city of Kota Bharu and its surrounds is possibly the most fascinating part of the peninsula, and the least visited, with a remote beauty and rich culture. The west coast is favoured for historical interest, and is where Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur is to be found, the icon of Asian prosperity and the meeting point for expats and city slickers who enjoy the energy of urban life. The city is a powerful mesh of tradition and technology, vying for equal status.


Information & Facts

Attraction Overview

Attractions in Malaysia stand like giant beacons landing the international visitors at its cities. Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur are the second tallest buildings and are beautifully designed ways to experience a modern Malaysia. Both the National Mosque and Kuala Lumpur Railway Station are other great examples of the city's architecture.

However things to do in Malaysia aren't limited to modern constructs as Malaysia's natural attractions are even more beckoning. Mt Kinabalu towers over the Malay landscape which includes the Sepilok Forest Reserve and the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park and Sipadan Island. Other great island attractions are Tioman, Langkawi, and Perhentian islands all of which are nearly deserted by visitors over monsoons season November to January. One of the world's largest limestone caves is visitable at Niah National Park.

Business

Those looking to do business in Malaysia are strongly urged to research some of the cultural complexities of the country, which is home to 19 million people, of divergent ethnic groups. Although the Malaysian business world has largely succeeded in establishing a unified ethos for itself, it is important to understand that you might deal with people from different ethnic groups (Malay, Chinese and Indian being the most common) - and that your expectations and conduct might need to adjust accordingly, depending on who you're doing business with at the time. The defining characteristic of business culture in Malaysia is respect for, and deference to authority. Moreover, authority figures are viewed as such, less because of the powerful positions they hold, and more because they possess the skills, wisdom and temperament to foster harmony and cooperation within their organisation. The Malaysian style of management, it follows, is less goal-driven, and more holistic, than in some western cultures - with managers taking a personal interest in the well-being of their employees. Business etiquette in Malaysia is marked by sensitivity and diplomacy. The golden rule is neverto cause another to 'lose face' in professional company - the wilful, or even careless, humiliation of even a subordinate, is considered anathema in the Malaysian business world. Business meetings in Malaysia usually convene on-time, but can be subject to a lot of 'small talk' and personal digressions. Don't get impatient - this is seen as an important function of meetings in Malaysia, where the agenda is not always as important as the relationships between people that meetings serve to develop. Business cards are usually exchanged upon meeting new associates. Give and receive cards in your right hand, supported by the left, and never fold or put away a card without looking at it first. Be sure to have your details printed in Chinese on the reverse side of your card while in Malaysia. The dress code for business in Malaysia is typically western, with smart, formal clothes being worn. Men generally wear white shirts and ties (jackets to be worn to meetings); while women - since Malaysia is home to a large Muslim population - should dress more conservatively than they might be used to doing at home. English is widely spoken in Malaysia, and commonly used in most businesses. Business hours are generally Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

Climate

Malaysia has a tropical, humid climate with temperatures averaging 86°F (30°C), though it is cooler in the highland areas. The major change in seasons is marked by the arrival of the monsoons that bring heavy downpours on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia, the northeastern part of Sabah and the western end of Sarawak (from November to February). Boat trips to the islands do not run during the height of the monsoon. The best time to visit Malaysia is between April and October.

Communications

The international access code for Malaysia is +60. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United States). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)3 for Kuala Lumpur, (0)4 for Penang. International Direct Dial is available throughout the country, but the service can be erratic. Hotels can add a hefty surcharge to their telephone bills; it is best to check before making international calls. Coin and card-operated public phones are widespread, and phone cards can be purchased at the airport, petrol stations and newsagents. Cards are not transferable between phone companies: Uniphone and Telekom phone boxes are the most common. Mobile networks cover most of the country; the local mobile phone operators use GSM networks, which are compatible with most international phones. Internet cafes are widely available in tourist areas.

Customs

Malaysia is largely Muslim and therefore Islamic customs should be respected, especially during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking in public should be avoided, as it is forbidden by Islamic law. Dress, particularly for women, should be conservative, and arms and legs should be covered when visiting places of worship. It is customary to remove shoes before entering homes and places of worship. When eating or exchanging money, the right hand is used. Homosexuality is illegal.

Duty Free

Travellers to Malaysia do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 225g tobacco; 1 litre wine, spirits or malt liquor; cosmetic products to the value of RM 200; up to three new items of clothing and one pair of footwear; one portable electrical or battery-operated appliance for personal hygiene; food preparations to the value of RM 75; souvenirs and gifts to the value of RM 200 (with the exception of goods from Langkawi and Labuan, to the value of RM 500). Prohibited items include goods from Haiti, counterfeit money and illegal drugs.

Electricity

Electrical current is 240 volts, 50Hz. UK-style three-pin plugs are used.

Health

Some tropical illnesses are prevalent in Malaysia and travellers should seek medical advice regarding any recommended vaccinations before travelling. Hepatitis A and B are common, as is dengue fever, which has no vaccination or immunisation. There has been an increase in cases of dengue fever since January 2005. Malaria risks are isolated to the inland regions; the exception is Sabah, where there is an all-year risk. Visitors should stick to bottled water and avoid uncooked meat, fish and vegetables, unpeeled fruit, ice and salads. A further health hazard in Malaysia is smoke haze and air pollution, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, which has the worst air quality in Asia with very high Benzene pollution levels. This could aggravate cardiac or respiratory problems. The hospitals in Kuala Lumpur and other cities are of a high standard. Medical insurance is recommended. Travellers older than one year coming from infected areas require a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

Language

Bahasa Melayu is the national language, but English is widely spoken and is the language of business. Cantonese, Hokkien and Hakka are spoken by the Malaysias Chinese population and Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi among the Indian population.

Money

The Malaysian Ringit (MYR), also referred to as the Malaysian Dollar, is divided into 100 sen. Malaysian banks charge in the region of US$2-3 for foreign exchange transactions. Moneychangers are generally quicker to deal with and do not charge commission; their rates however are variable. Pounds or dollars are the easiest to exchange. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks and some hotels. All major credit cards are accepted at upmarket hotels, shops and restaurants. ATMs are widely available.

Passport Visa

Foreign passengers to Malaysia are required to hold sufficient funds (at least USD 500) to cover their expenses while in the country, and return/onward tickets and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. If passengers are not in possession of a return/onward ticket, they will be requested to purchase one. Note that admission will be refused to foreign ladies in an advanced stage of pregnancy (six months or more), except if they are in transit, for a maximum period of 72 hours (no extensions allowed). Also note that foreign nationals who have previously worked in Malaysia, and whose previous work visa is endorsed "COM", will not be allowed to return to Malaysia to work for six months. If they intend to return for a social visit, they will be subject to an interview on arrival, and will not always be guaranteed entry. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Malaysia, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Safety

Malaysia shares with the rest of South East Asia a threat from terrorism, including places frequented by Westerners. The US State Department updated its warning in November 2003 and stressed extra caution in the troubled eastern Malaysia state of Sabah, where the risk of kidnapping is high. Terrorists are believed to be planning to kidnap foreign tourists from the islands and coastal areas of Eastern Sabah and boats travelling to dive sites and between the islands are possible targets. Tourists wishing to visit the resorts and islands in the state should stick to larger resorts and exercise extreme caution. Visitors should be aware that street crime such as bag snatching, pick-pocketing and scams are a problem.

Tipping

Although tipping is not customary in Malaysia, the more expensive hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge to their bills and further gratuity is unnecessary. All hotel rooms are subject to a 5% government tax, though many cheaper hotels quote a price inclusive of this tax.

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