Whether its a vacation, a stop in your travels, studying, or a move, Malaysia is an amazing place to visit. Occupying parts of the Malay Peninsula and the island of Borneo, Malaysia is a beautiful country made up of sprawling cities, rainforests and stunning beaches. The cultural mix of Malay, Chinese, India and European influences creates a truly diverse place to be. Kuala Lumpur, the capital city, houses a range of traditional and colonial buildings, shopping districts such as the famous Bukit Bintang, and iconic skyscrapers like the Petronas Twin Towers, which soar over the city standing at an awe-inspiring 451 meters.
One of the most popular cities in Malaysia is the city of Penang which is generally seen to be a lot more laid back than Kuala Lumpur. The years of cultural influence can be seen through the state capital of Penang Island; George Town. You can see the colonial Fort Cornwallis, the Kek Lok Si Temple, the ornate Chinese clan house Khoo Kongsi and the Kapitan Keling Mosque all within this wonderful city. Penang is a great city to stay in, with all of the incredible sights, beaches and a pretty good nightlife it should definitely be on your list of places to stay. If you’re there, look into the option to rent house for an extended stay – it could work out cheaper than staying in a hotel in a major city. Living any city can be extremely expensive, as with any country, the further away from the city you live, the better the price is. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Each state has a capital city surrounded by fantastic countryside, rainforests, small towns and villages, offering a huge range of places to live and experiences to have.
Now, Malaysia is a pretty terrifying place to drive around. There are poor traffic controls, missing signs, misplaced signs, outdated and inaccurate maps, and a total haphazard design to all roads, which are nicely coupled with a general feeling of aggressive driving. Also, motorbikes pretty much follow their own rules when it comes to red lights, stop signs and on not going into the oncoming traffic lane to overtake. Taxis are very common and easy to flag down but don’t expect them to drive any better than everyone else. Unfortunately, buses are few and far between and don’t operate at all in a lot of areas. So if you’re travelling around the city, it’s worth knowing that you’re going to be putting your life in their hands regardless of how you go about it. Walking has never sounded so good right?
The national currency in Malaysia is the Malaysian ringgit (RM), how that translates to your normal currency will be very different, but RM 1 equals 18p in GBP, and just under a US quarter. As we mentioned before, cities are going to be much more expensive to live in than towns or villages where rents can be as low as the US $100 for a house. In Kuala Lumpur and Penang, home prices get absurdly high and quite unreasonably priced. If you exclude the cost of rent, health care and transport costs, you are still looking at needing around RM 10,000 just to live comfortably within the capital city. Due to the country’s size, a lot of food has to be imported, meaning that a lot of food you might be used to getting cheaply back home, might have a higher price tag on it in Malaysia, but that’s something you should expect in any country you travel to. However, the street food and local delicacies are mostly locally sourced and so can be bought for a great price. Look here for more information on the cost of living in Malaysia.
If you are travelling, you might be passing through many different countries and encountering many different languages, so it’s near impossible to expect yourself to become fluent in all of them. However, it shows a level of respect to learn some basics. Plus it would give you a much more immersive experience. The native language of Malaysia is Malay, which is also spoken in Singapore, parts of Thailand, Indonesia and Bruni – however, the last two have a slightly different standard than the other. Due to years of cultural influence, it is a common occurrence to hear Chinese, Hindi and Urdu, along with a range of other languages, as you walk down the street. But most citizens in Malaysia speak English at a semi-fluent level, and many are completely fluent. So you don’t have to worry about learning Malay. However, you can learn those key phrases through classes, or with the help of apps like Babel.
Malaysian food truly reflects in multicultural influences it has had over the years, as well as the foreign additions, the food has its roots with the indigenous peoples of Malaysia; the Sabah and Sarawak people in East Malaysia, the Orang Asi of Peninsular Malaysia, and the Peranakan and Eurasian creole communities. Be prepared to eat spicy while in Malaysia as chilli, both dried and fresh, is a staple ingredient in almost every dish. As with most Asian dishes, noodles and rice are incredibly popular, and Malaysia has its own type of flat bread called roti canai. Meat wise, everything is prepared according to Muslim custom – which is halal. Poultry, beef and mutton – meaning lamp, sheep and goat, are present in many dishes, but, being an island, seafood definitely makes an appearance. Everything from fish to squid is served up in fragrant dishes.
Flights from most places in the Western world to Malaysia tend to switch over in Singapore, which is strange due to the fact that the island is right next door. But that does give you a great opportunity to pop out and see the city. and if you decide to stay a while, you do have the option to take a boat across to Malaysia rather than another flight.