When travelling to Kuala Lumpur (KL) from either of KL International Airport’s (KLIA) two terminals (KLIA1 and KLIA2), one can take the KLIA Ekspres – a 28-minute train ride that terminates at KL Sentral. Rental car companies can be found at the airport and throughout the country, and the mobile phone transport applications Uber and Grabcar are both in operation. Executive taxis (normally blue) are required by law to use a meter and are larger than red budget taxis. KL has an extensive network of trains, monorails and buses, and the public transport web portal can be found at www.myrapid.com.my.
Bahasa Malay is the official language, while other commonly spoken languages include Chinese and English, which is also frequently used as the lingua franca for business.
The Malay culture has a rich history of honorific titles, such as Tan Sri, Dato Seri, Dato and Datuk. Remembering to use them will go a long way. Citizens with Chinese heritage traditionally have three names, while many Malaysians with an Indian background place the initial of their father’s name before their own, instead of using a surname.
Malaysian society is tolerant, but care should still be taken to show respect for social conventions. Politeness is important, and subtlety in communication is highly valued. In line with Muslim tradition, using one’s right hand to greet people and to pass and accept things is preferred. Public displays of affection should be restrained, and it is advisable for men to avoid shaking hands with women, unless they initiate the gesture. Using one’s forefinger to point is also considered rude.
Malay men often wear traditional garb, known as batik, on Fridays, while Malay women generally wear a kebaya and hijab all year round. Western-style attire is generally worn by the other two principal races and is acceptable for expatriates. Women should adhere to a conservative dress code when travelling to rural areas, and exposure of the arms and legs, as well as tight clothing, should be avoided in formal situations.
Malaysia enjoys an abundance of festivals and holidays, reflecting its cultural diversity. Islam’s Hari Raya, Hinduism’s Deepavali, Christmas and Chinese New Year are all celebrated. Each festival is designated as a public holiday.
Nationals from Australia, the US, Canada and EU member states do not require a visa upon entry.
Malaysia’s national currency is the ringgit (RM), which comes in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 notes, and 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins. Airport exchanges handle most major foreign currencies, but converting less-common currencies into dollars or pounds before arrival is advisable. Credit cards are widely accepted, but one should always keep some cash on hand.
Office hours are between 9.00am and 5.00pm, with the exception of government offices, which operate from 7.30am to 5.30pm. Lunch is usually from 12.30-2.00pm, and some offices close at midday on Fridays for prayers. The working week in some states, including Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor (government offices only) starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday. Banking hours from 9.15am to 4.15pm, Monday to Friday, with some branches opening on Saturday until 12.30pm.
Tips are appreciated but not expected. Most restaurants add a service charge of 10%.
The country code for Malaysia is +60. SIM cards can be obtained from U Mobile, Maxis, Celcom, Digi and Altel, among other operators, but be sure to have a passport on hand to register.
Malaysia is emerging as a premier medical tourism destination and travellers can expect a high standard of care in public and private hospitals.
UK-style three-pin plugs are used as standard, with a 230/240 V, 50 Hz electricity supply.