Malaysia: Useful Information
Asia's Rising Star
- The Malaysian population currently stands at around 25.2 million (2008 estimate).
- The Malaysian ringgit (RM) consists of 100 sen. Coins in use are one, five, 10, 20 and 50 sen, and RM1; notes come in RM1, RM2, RM5, RM10, RM50 and RM100. Locals sometimes refer to the ringgit as a ‘dollar’.
- Hotels add a 5% government tax to all hotel rates, plus an additional 10% service charge. Larger restaurants also figure the same 5% tax into your bill, plus a 10% service charge, whereas small coffee shops and hawker stalls don’t charge anything above the cost of the meal.
- All hotels and resorts have qualified physicians on call who speak English. These doctors will come directly to your room for treatment. If your condition is serious, he or she can help you to check in to a local hospital. Call tel. 999 for emergencies.
- The voltage used in Malaysia is 220-240 volts AC (50 cycles). Three-point square plugs are used, so buy an adapter if you plan to bring any appliances. Also, many larger hotels can provide adapters upon request.
- To find a public toilet, ask for the tandas. In Malay, lelaki is male and perempuan is female. Be prepared for pay toilets. Coin collectors sit outside almost every public facility, taking RM0.20 per person, RM0.30 if you want paper. The best toilets are in hotels, upmarket shopping malls, and restaurants.
- Internet has not left Malaysia untouched by its influence. From the crowded cities to the remotest part, Internet facility is available in the entire nation. Most of the luxury hotels have access for their guests in the business centre, though the charges could be high. If you don't find any internet café yourself, don't fail to ask the local tourism information office to get an idea about nearby places. They usually charge around RM5 to RM10 for an hour.
- Water in Kuala Lumpur is supposed to be potable, but most locals boil the water before drinking it. Experts advise against drinking the tap water anywhere in Malaysia. Hotels will supply bottled water in your room. If they charge you for it, expect inflated prices.
- Malaysia is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich mean time (GMT 8).
- The national language is Malay, or Bahasa Malaysia, although English is widely spoken. Chinese dialects and Tamil are also spoken.
- Malaysia has periodic problems with air quality reaching hazardous levels because of smoke haze.
- Indian and Malay food is traditionally eaten with the fingers, but western cutlery is generally used in most restaurants.
- Travellers should not become involved with drugs of any kind: possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment or the death penalty.
- Hepatitis C and E occur and hepatitis B is hyperendemic. Epidemics of dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis can occur in both urban and rural areas. Outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis can occur. Rabies is present; if bitten seek immediate medical advice.
- People in Malaysia don’t really tip, although you might want to give your bellhop something. In a nicer hotel, at least RM5 per bag should be enough.
- Credit cards are widely accepted at hotels and restaurants, and at many shops as well. Most popular are American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. Some banks may also be willing to advance Malaysia money against your credit card, but you have to ask around because this service is not available everywhere.
- Banks are open from 10am to 3pm Monday through Friday and 9:30 to 11:30am on Saturday. Government offices are open from 8am to 12:45pm and 2 to 4:15pm Monday through Friday and from 8am to 12:45pm on Saturday. Smaller shops like provision stores may open as early as 6 or 6:30am and close as late as 9pm, especially those near the wet markets. Many such stores are closed on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons and are busiest before lunch. Other shops are open 9:30am to 7pm. Department stores and shops in malls tend to open later, about 10:30 or 11am till 8:30 or 9pm throughout the week. Note that in Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu the weekday runs from Saturday to Wednesday.