Malay men often elect to wear traditional garb on Fridays, known as batik, while Malay women generally wear a kebaya and hijab that cover them from head to toe. The kebaya and hijab usually come in a myriad of different colours and patterns. Western-style attire is generally worn by the other two principal groups and is acceptable for expats, but women should adhere to a conservative dress code when venturing out into rural areas. Exposing arms and legs should be avoided in formal situations.
Malaysia’s diverse religious and cultural make-up have fostered a tolerant society. Although foreign influences in Malaysia have contributed to its liberal atmosphere, one should still be careful to show respect for local social convention. Following Muslim tradition, greetings or passing and accepting anything with your left hand can be viewed as offensive. Public displays of affection should be kept to a courteous level and one should avoid pointing with the index finger as it is considered rude. Malaysians remove their shoes at the door before entering a home and sometimes an office. Likewise, one should never enter a mosque without removing footwear. It is also advisable to avoid shaking hands with women unless they initiate the gesture. The Chinese handshake is rather light and may be prolonged.
Office hours are between 9.00am and 5.00pm, with the exception of government offices, which operate from 7.30am until 5.30pm. Lunch is usually from 12:30pm to 2:00pm and some offices close midday on Fridays for prayers. The workweek in some states, including Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor (only government) begins on Sunday and ends on Thursday. Banking hours are 9:15am- 4:15pm, Monday to Friday with some branches choosing to open on Saturdays until 12:30pm.
Although Bahasa Malay (Malaysian) is the country’s official language, English is widely understood in Malaysia. Other languages spoken in the country include various Chinese dialects and Tamil.
Nationals from EU member states, the US, Canada, Australia do not require a visa upon entry.
When travelling to Kuala Lumpur city centre from KL International Airport and the recently opened KLIA 2 one can take the KLIA Ekspres, a 28-minute train ride that stops at KL Sentral. Car hire establishments can be found at the airport and at many other locations. Most foreign licences can be used to rent a car. Taxis can be usually found outside airports, malls and hotels. Metered taxis are ubiquitous and cheaper than executive taxis (usually blue in colour), which have more space than their counterparts and are required by law to use the meter. Kuala Lumpur has an extensive network of trains, monorails and buses. The public transport web portal is www.myrapid.com.my and a useful taxi app for those that have access to data is MyTeksi.
The Malaysian ringgit, or RM as it is commonly known, is the national currency. Banknotes come in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 notes, while coins are available in 5, 10, 20 and 50 sen (cents). Most airport exchanges handle foreign currencies, but it is advisable to convert more obscure currencies into dollars or pounds before arrival. Credit cards are accepted, but one should keep cash on hand for taxis.
In Malaysia tipping is not required and will not be expected. Restaurants usually add a service charge of 10%.
The country code for Malaysia is +60, followed by a city code (03 for Kuala Lumpur). SIM cards can be obtained from Celcom, Maxis, Digi, U Mobile or Altel among others, but be sure to have a passport on hand to register.
Both public and private health care facilities in Malaysia are excellent. Visitors should make sure they have comprehensive health coverage prior to travel, as payments are expected upon treatment.
Malaysia uses the British 230/240-V, 50-HZ, three-pin electrical system. Other plugs will need adaptors that can be obtained from most hotels.