Going on a holiday to Malaysia is lots of fun and there is a lot of information about the country to be found on the internet. Or you could just go there and find out all about the country and the culture while you’re there if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous.
I wasn’t one of the more adventurous people, but I also didn’t look up every simgle thing there was to know about the country. I knew a few things before I got there, and I learned a few things along the way. Today I am going to share with you the ten a lot ofmost important things I think you should know before visiting this country.
Quick disclaimer: all of these tips are based on my personal experience in this country. Going there at a different time of year or going to other cities than Malacca and Kuala Lumpur might mean that things will be different for you and your experience.
- Get the local currency, but not too much of it
- The air is incredibly humid
- The best way to get around, is by using Uber
- The way a restaurant looks doesn’t say anything about the quality of the food it serves
- Also food-related, try to get used to spicy food before you leave
- Their eating and drinking habits are different
- A lot of the shops and restaurants don’t open untill lunchtime
- Don’t let the internet scare you
- Go at the end of the peak season
- If you decide to go to Malaysia, please go a little longer than I did
Here we go
This is going to be a long one, so grab a cup of tea, coffee, some cookies, popcorn or a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, whatever you need to feel comfortable.
Tip #1: Get the local currency, but not too much of it.
Before leaving, it’s smart to make sure you’ve already got some local currency. Just in case of emergency or in case the restaurant or shop you go to doesn’t accept creditcards or regular bank cards. I have not come across any place that did not accept these, but better to be safe than sorry.
In Malaysia they use Ringgit. 1 euro (1.23 USD) is about 5 Ringgit. So the amount you receive, is a lot higher than the amount you ‘put in’. Now the bonus part is: not only do you get back a higher amount, everything in Malaysia is a lot cheaper as well. But you probably already knew that. Now what I’m trying to say, is that you probably don’t have to exchange as much of your money to their Ringgit as you thought you would have to. Depending on how fancy you want to live of course. Now I don’t have any receipts, but I think a main course was around 15-20 Ringgit, starters around 8. You could probably live comfortably with just 100 Ringgit a day, so 20 euros a day.
Tip #2: The air is incredibly humid.
Please don’t think it’s going to be the same as, for example, in Italy, where the air is pretty dry and so the heat is very bearable. This is what I thought it was going to be like and boy, was I wrong. The humidity hit me like a brick as soon as I stepped foot outside of the airport. It’s not so much the heat that is going to make you sweat, it’s the humidity. When going to Malaysia, wear light, loose-fitting clothes. Unless you like them sticking to your entire body.
Tip #3: The best way to get around, is by using Uber.
If you’re an amazing driver that could probably drive anywhere in the world, please go ahead and find a place to rent a car, or maybe a scooter even. If you’re not, like me, the best way to get around is by using an Uber. You could obviously take a taxi as well, or maybe take the bus. However, using an Uber is not only more affordable than a taxi (maybe also more affordable than taking the bus, didn’t check that), it’s also quicker than both the bus and the taxi, since taxi drivers tend to take the long route to make you pay even more.
The people driving the Uber know the fastest way to get to wherever it is that you need to be, and will drop you off at that exact spot. Even if it’s in the middle of a busy road, they don’t mind. These people are incredibly nice as well, all of the Uber drivers I’ve had have started a conversation with me, and they are actually interested in what you have to say as well. A ride within the city will cost you less than 5 Ringgit. Also: there’s always one available and most of them are only about 5 minutes away from you. Fun fact: they drive on the left side of the road.
Tip #4: The way a restaurant looks doesn’t say anything about the quality of the food it serves.
Honestly, some of the best meals I’ve had, was in restaurants that did not look fancy or high-quality in any way. It wasn’t in the hotel restaurants either. It was in small restaurants, one of them on one of the major streets in Kuala Lumpur and two of them ‘hidden away’ in a side street. So if you’re looking for good food, please step out or your comfortzone that maybe only consists of quality restaurants in Europe with waiters wearing all black and nicely decked tables. Get out of that comfortzone and step into the small restaurants owned by local people that know how to make food taste good. Some of the staff just wears their regular clothes, some of the restaurants don’t even serve the food on plates, but I promise you it’s worth it.
Tip #5: Also food-related, try to get used to spicy food before you leave.
If you are not used to eating spicy food at all, not even mildly spicy, then I highly suggest you start getting used to spicy food before you leave. At least a week before you leave. This will make it so much easier for you to find something to eat and to be able to finish the dish they serve you as well. Most of the dishes on most of the menu’s I’ve seen were at least mildly spicy.
If you want to be on the safe side, you can alsways order some kind of smoothie, preferably one with milk or yogurt, with your dish. Drinking water while eating something that’s too spicy for you is not recommended, since it will only make it worse. Plain rice usually helps as well.
Tip #6: Their eating and drinking habits are different. (I know, so much about food)
So, I know this is alreaady the third tip about food, but I promise it’s the last one. And by the way, food is important. Food is life. This tip actually consists of three ‘less important but still important’ tips.
Firstly, the locals are used to eating pretty much everything with their hand. No wait, their hand, just the right one. You might already know why they don’t use their left one if you’ve read my travel diary: Malaysia. They don’t use the left one for a very important reason: they use that one to whipe their ass. And there’s no toilet paper involved, just water and their hand. Yuck. I personally found it very easy and very fun to eat with my hand, since my parents have spent all of my childhood teaching me not to eat with my hands. Just remember not to use your left one.
Secondly, basically every dish and every drink contains sugar. Sugar in drinks is much more of a thing than putting it in food though, but still. Apparently Malaysian people really like sweet stuff. If there’s even sugar in the food they serve you, you’ll most like not be able to tell. Unless it’s a desert of course. The drinks though, fresh juices for example, are bad. Unless you like drinking pure, undiluted lemonade, I suggest you ask for them not to put any sugar in your juice. They will most likely still put in a little because they don’t believe you actually don’t want any sugar, but it’s still better. Of course they also serve canned drinks, so if there’s one one the menu that you know you like, thats always a safe option. I personally just don’t drink those so I opted for juices.
Now the third tip within this tip, is also about the juices. It’s very important to know what fruits are in season in Malaysia when you go there. And it’s easier to find out when you’re still at home of course, so I suggest you ask Google before you leave. The reason this is important, is because only the juices made with the fruits that are in season will actually be fresh. A restaurant might have a whole list of 6 different ‘fresh’ fruit juices on their menu, while only one of them actually is fresh because the rest of the fruit is not in season. I once ordered a fresh mango juice and I got lemonade that kind of tasted like mango. Extremely sweet lemonade. Not very nice. If you want fresh juice, don’t order any juice made with fruit that’s not in season, unless you want lemonade.
Tip #7: A lot of the shops and restaurants don’t open until lunchtime.
No, this does not count as food-related, this is opening hours-related. In Malaysia, people are used to going out and about later on the day, but they also stay up untill after midnight. Thus, the timeframe in which they are active, is different than wat you might be used to. I know it’s different from what I am used to.
A lot of the places are closed untill lunchtime or they dont serve (a lot of) dishes between certain hours, between 10.00 and 12.00 for example. So if you go out quite early, chances are there might not be a lot for you to do. If you plan on having breakfast outside of your hotel, check in advance which restaurants will be open and will be serving food. You could also ask the hotel staff, they probably have lots of great tips for you on what to do, where to go, where to eat.
Tip #8: Don’t let the internet scare you.
Of course it is important to look up some information about the country you plan on going to for a holiday. I’ve looked up plenty of things before I left. Most of them were fun and positive, but there’s always people (especially the government) trying to scare you. I read that you can catch strange diseases over there, like rabies. I read that sometimes tourists get kidnapped and it also said somewhere to be carefull with your bags because of pickpockets.
Please don’t let that scare you into not going to Malaysia. Actually, don’t let it scare you at all. Of course you need to look after your bags, every large city in the world has pickpockets, that’s nothing new. Also, I’m not saying you shouldn’t get your vaccines because the chance of getting sick is very slim. And yes, people might actually have been kidnapped from the islands. The thing is, don’t stress about it. You know those things are possible, but if you’ve got at least some common sense you’ll also know how to prevent them from happening.
Don’t stress about it. First of all, bad things can happen to you all over the world. Secondly, you can get all sorts of medication before you even leave your homecountry to make sure you don’t get sick and to make sure that if you do get sick, you can easily make it go away. Bonus info: the malaria mosquito does not live in Malacca or Kuala Lumpur. Finally, Malaysia is actually really very safe. At least Malacca and Kuala Lumpur are. So if you don’t get involved with sketchy people, you’ll be fine. I actually felt safer here then I do in Amsterdam for example. Do you know what shops do when they close? They don’t roll down the rolling shutter or close the door with three different locks. Most of the time, they don’t even have a door. A lot of the shops don’t have walls at one or two sides. They just hang a rope across the entrance with a sign hanging from it saying ‘we’re closed’. That’s all. And nothing will happen, that’s how safe it is.
Tip #9: Go at the end of the peak season.
I’ve never been in Malaysia during peak season, but I can imagine going at the end of it is so much more pleasurable. I’ve been told the cities get crowded in tourists from all over the world. So crowded it’s not even fun anymore because you can’t really see anything besides other tourists.
So, if you want to actually be able to see the cities you’re visiting…. If you don’t like standing in line for more than 5 minutes to buy a ticket for the river cruise just to wait for another hour to get on it…. If you think it’s important to be able to actually see the historic artifacts in the museum without using a binocular…-Okay I’m exaggerating a little- Then don’t go to Malaysia during peak season. Go there right at the end of it.
Tip #10: If you decide to go to Malaysia, please go a little longer than I did.
This might just be the most important tip of all. If you go to Malaysia, go for longer than 4 nights. If you do go this short, it’s still worth it, but if you’re able to stay longer, please do.
It takes a very long time to get there (at least if you’re from Europe) and to get back but more importantly: the country is absolutely gorgeous. There’s so much to see. You could definitely see everything in just a few days, but it’s more fun to just take things slowly, do a few things each day and really relax and enjoy your time there. Maybe even visit some more cities besided just Malacca and Kuala Lumpur.
If you’ve made it this far: thank you so much for reading the entire blogpost!
I know it’s incredibly long but I feel like it’s all information you might want to know. I know I would have liked to know all of this before I went there.
I hope you enjoyed it!