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The Basics
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Malaysia Travel Guides

The Basics:


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


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.


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.

Safety Information

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.

Local 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.




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.

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. Luxury NEWS >