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The country's urban areas still retain the sentiment of bygone era, where modern buildings and businesses flourished side by side with historical structures and small traders. Malaysia's unspoiled tropical forest, magnificent mountains and rich flora and fauna are pronounced among the best in this part of the world.

On the weather, Malaysia has two not very marked seasons - a moderately wet and a moderately dry season. During the wet season thunderstorm are very frequent in the afternoons because of the high humidity, but they are brief and seldom dampen the mood for outdoors activities. The East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia however tends to have a heavier wet season and is best avoided during the rainy period (November-February). During these months, most beach resorts take a break and receive visitors again in March.

Malaysia has a cosmopolitan population comprising mainly Malays, Chinese, Indians and numerous indigenous people with everybody living in peace and harmony. Mutual respect of each others' cultures, traditions, religious belief and way of life offer a potpourri of colorful festivals and opportunities for perennial celebrations.

In relation to its racial diversity, Malaysia is also a gourmet's paradise. It offers all sorts of cuisine. Bargain hunters are also in for a good time as Malaysia is also a shopper's paradise. You can Experience shopping in night markets, side street stalls, and the many shopping complexes.

Malaysia's abundance of sun, sea and sand offers great opportunities for diving enthusiasts and idyllic holidaymakers. From marine parks to white sandy beaches, visitors are treated to explore, relax and seek peaceful refuge in some of the best resorts in Asia.

GENERAL ADVISE ON MALAYSIA

Official name: Malaysia

Country: Federation of Malaysia comprises Peninsular Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

Location: Between 2 and 7 degrees north of the Equator with Peninsular Malaysia separated from the states of Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea. Neighbours of Peninsular Malaysia are Thailand to the north and Singapore to the south. Sabah and Sarawak are bordered by Indonesia. Sarawak also shares a border with Brunei.

Area: 329,758 sq. km (130,808 sq. km in Peninsular Malaysia and 198,950 sq. km in Sarawak and Sabah)

Ethnic groups: Malay 50 %, Chinese 24 %, indigenous 11 %, Indian 7 %, Other Races 8 %

Population: 26 million

States: 13 (11 on Peninsular Malaysia and 2 on Borneo) and 3 federal territories – Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan (an island off the coast to Sabah)

Religion: Islam is the official religion with other religions being practiced freely

Language: Bahasa Melayu is the national language, but English is widely spoken and is the business language. Cantonese, Hokkien and Hakka are spoken by Malaysia's Chinese population and Tamil and Hindi among the Indian population.

AIRPORT TAX

The airport tax is usually included in the flight ticket. In view of continuous updates of surcharges by international airlines for security, insurance and fuel, all international airport check-in counters in Malaysia may be charging international passengers at departure when applicable.

CLIMATE

The climate in Malaysia is hot and humid all year round, with some rain in the afternoons. The average temperature ranges from 24 degree Celsius to 30 degree Celsius in the lowlands. The days are generally sunny and warm and the nights are cool. On the East Coast the rainy season is from early November to the middle of February.

CLOTHING

It is recommended to wear loose-fitting "summer" clothing. If travelling to higher altitudes like Cameron Highlands and the mountain ranges of central Malaysia (Peninsular) and in Borneo some form of layering is required.

Formal style clothing is not required, but for visits of various sights, especially religious sights, long trousers and long sleeves are needed the dress should be respectful. Laundry facilities are widely available and quick.

CURRENCY

The unit of currency is the Malaysian Ringgit. Notes in circulation are RM 100, RM 50, RM 10, RM 5 and RM 1. Coins in circulation are 50 sen, 20 sen, 10 sen, 5 sen.

MONEY EXCHANGE:

Money and travelers cheques of all major currencies can be exchanged at hotels, banks, and licensed money changer in tourist areas. Banks and money changer usually offer the best rates.

CREDIT CARDS:

International credit cards are widely accepted in department stores, major hotels, up-market shops and restaurant. Make sure that you have enough cash in local currency before you leave for smaller towns or remote areas.

Please take note!

All arriving and departing travelers (including children) must fill in a Travelers Declaration Form (TDF) regardless of the amount of currency carried. The TDF is available in all inbound Malaysia Airlines' flights and at check-in counters. It should be handed over to the Immigration Officer together with the traveler's Disembarkation Card and Passport.

Effective from October 1, 1998, please take note of the following currency regulations for travelers to Malaysia:

LOCAL CURRENCY (RINGGIT MALAYSIAN - RM): Residents and non-resident travelers are not allowed to bring in or take out more than RM 1,000 per person.

FOREIGN CURRENCY: Resident travelers are not allowed to take out more than the equivalent of RM 10,000 worth of any foreign currency from Malaysia (i.e. maximum RM 10,000 worth of foreign currencies). Non-resident travelers are allowed to take out not more than the amount of foreign currencies, which they had brought in at the time of their arrival.

Effective from January 1, 2010, please take note of the following addition to the currency regulations for travelers to Malaysia:

Travellers entering or leaving Malaysia and carrying more than US$10,000 (RM34,000) must make a declaration to the Customs Department.

DEFINITIONS:

Resident: a citizen of Malaysia residing in Malaysia or a non-citizen of Malaysia who is residing permanently in Malaysia.

Non-resident: any person not residing in Malaysia, whether the person is a citizen or not.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS

All visitors to Malaysia must fill in declaration forms and show their luggage to customs officials on request.

Prohibited Goods

Trafficking of illegal drugs carries the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.

A special permit is required for the carriage of firearms and ammunition. Other prohibited items include flick knives, daggers and pornographic material.

Taped videocassettes should be submitted for clearance by Customs.

Export of antiquities and historical objects is not allowed unless an export license has been obtained from the Director Genera I of Museums, Malaysia, or if the antiquity was originally imported and declared to customs.

All passengers must declare the following items to the Plant Quarantine Office upon arrival: plants and plant parts (including fresh plant produce and processed products), insects and other organisms, microorganisms, herbarium, dried flowers, soil and growth or rooting media. Penalty for failure to do so is liable to a fine of up to RM 1,000 or up to six months imprisonment, or both. Penalty for maliciously introducing a pest or a plant into Malaysia is liable to a fine not exceeding RM 10,000 or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both.

Passengers from South and Central America and Central Africa are required to report to the Plant Quarantine Office.

Duty Free

Visitors entering Malaysia for a period of not less than 72 hours, except from Labuan (24 hours) enjoy customs' exemption on the following purchases:

wines, spirits/malt liquor not exceeding one liter

tobacco not exceeding 225 gm or 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars

footwear not exceeding one pair

apparel not exceeding one pair

one unit each of portable electrical and/or battery-operated appliance for personal hygiene

food preparations of a total value not exceeding RM 75

cosmetics, soap and dentifrice to a total value not exceeding RM 200

souvenirs and gifts not exceeding RM 200, except for Labuan and Langkawi where the total value shall not exceed RM 500

Except for the last item, all duty free items must be for personal use only. A 30% tax will be levied on items that

exceed the above limits.

ELECTRICITY

The electricity current in Malaysia is 220 volts or 250 volts AC, 50 cycles. 3-pin British Plug is generally used. Adaptors could be used for other types of plug.

HEALTH REQUIREMENTS

No vaccinations are required. However visitors arriving from Yellow Fever and Endemic Zones and other affected areas are required to present International Health Certificates showing Yellow Fever vaccination. This regulation does not apply to children below the age of one. Malaria prophylaxis is recommended in Sabah and for Jungle tours. Visitors are advised to check with their doctor or travel immunization clinic for further details. Medication may be obtained at licensed clinics and pharmacies.

DRINKING WATER

Tap water (boiled) is safe to drink but not recommended. To avoid stomach upset, we recommend not taking any drinks with ice cubes during hot weather. Also bottled mineral water can be found in supermarkets and local coffee shops at relatively cheap prices.

DOCTORS, DENTISTS, HOSPITALS

In all major cities and towns, we have government hospitals for Accident and Emergency treatment. Patients are treated according to medical priority and not order of arrival. And in most major cities and towns, there are private clinics and even private hospitals, which are generally of international standards. Private dental clinics are also abundant in major cities and towns, and are of generally good standard. Most pharmacies can be found at major shopping complexes.

INTERNET

You can access the internet through hotels, Cyber Caf?s & Internet/Computer Service Centers. Following are internet addresses with relevant information on Malaysia:

VIP TOUR ASIA.,JSC

www.viptourasia.com

The Star Newspaper

www.thestar.com.my Railway Station

www.ktmb.com.my/route.htm

Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board

www.tourism.gov.my Sarawak Tourism Board

www.sarawaktourism.com

Malaysian Meteorological Office

www.kjc.gov.my Sabah Tourism Board

www.sabahtourism.com

TIME ZONE AND WORKING HOURS

Malaysia runs at GMT +8 hours and 16 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific Standard Time. Malaysia is in the same time zone as Singapore, Hong Kong and Perth.

Governmental agencies work Monday to Friday from 7:30 hrs to 17:30 hrs (excluding one-hour lunch) and are closed Saturday and Sunday.

Banking hours in most states of Malaysia are normally from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm Monday to Friday and 9.30 am to 11.30 am on Saturday. Banks are closed every first and third Saturday of the month.

Private shops are open from 8:00 or 8:30 hrs to 21:00 or 23:00 hrs. During the Chinese New Year as well as Hari Raya shops may be closed several days before and after as well as during the festive holidays.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

5 Nov  Public Holiday  Deepavali

17 Nov Public Holiday Hari Raya Qurban (Muslim's Festival of Sacrifice)

07 Dec  Public Holiday Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year)

25 Dec  Public Holiday Christmas Day

01 Jan  Public Holiday New Year's Day

20 Jan Public Holiday Thaipusam

01 Feb  Public Holiday Federal Territory Day = Kuala Lumpur & Putrajaya Only

03 & 04 Feb  Public holiday Chinese New Year holidays

15 Feb Public holiday Mawlid al-Nabi (Birth of Nabi Muhammad)

01 May  Public holiday Labor Day

17 May Public holiday Wesak Day (Birth of Buddha)

04 Jun  Public holiday King's Birthday

30 & 31 Aug  Public holiday Hari Raya Puasa (end of Ramadan)

31 Aug  Public holiday National Day

16 Sept  Public holiday Malaysia Day

26 Oct Public holiday Deepavali

06 Nov  Public Holiday  Hari Raya Qurban (Muslim's Festival of Sacrifice)

27 Nov  Public Holiday Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year)

25 Dec  Public Holiday Christmas Day

Note that for all Public Holidays that fall on a SUNDAY, the following day will be a holiday.

PASSPORT - VISA

Visitors must be in possession of national passports or other internationally recognized travel documents, endorsed for traveling in Malaysia and with a validity period of at least six months beyond the time of stay allowed in Malaysia.

Malaysia Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah) have their own Immigration Department and when one enters Malaysia Borneo through Mainland Malaysia, one has to go through Immigration check again and a new stay permit is issued again, mostly for 30 days only.

All visitors are required to complete a Disembarkation Card, which has to be shown to the Immigration Control upon arrival and departure from the country. This card can be obtained on all inbound Malaysia Airlines' flights.

Visitors on social and business visit purposes are to be guided by the following visa requirements:

Visa Exemption: No visas are required for citizens of Commonwealth countries (except Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), British Protected Persons or citizens of the Republic of Ireland and citizens of Switzerland, Netherlands, San Marino, Liechtenstein and the United States of America.

Three Month Visa-Free Visit: Citizens of Albania, Austria, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Norway, Netherlands, Oman, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Romania, San Marion, Slovakia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Turkey, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United States of America, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Yemen are eligible for three-month visas.

One Month Visa-Free Visit: Applicable to citizens of ASEAN countries (except Myanmar).

14-Day Visa-Free Visit: Citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Macao, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Yemen and Syria are eligible for 14-day visas.

Social or Tourist Visit Pass: A Social or Tourist Visit Pass does not permit the holder to take up employment, business of professional work in Malaysia.

The Business Visit Pass allows foreign visitors to enter Malaysia for business negotiations or inspection of business houses but cannot be used for employment purposes, or for supervisory work or construction of a factory. No fee is charged for a Business Visit Pass issued for a period of up to 3 months. A nominal fee is imposed for each month beyond this.

Foreign visitors, except from the Republic of Singapore, who have entered Malaysia on Social Visit Passes may contact the Immigration Department to convert their passes to Business Visit Passes.

As regulations may change from time to time, it is advisable to check with the nearest Malaysian Embassy before departure or check the Tourism Malaysia website: http://www.imi.gov.my/index.php/en/visa/visa-requirement-by-country

POST OFFICE AND TELEPHONE FACILITIES

Most post offices are open Monday to Saturday from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm, and some are open on Sunday from 10.00 to 1.00 pm. International calls can be made from most public card phones. Major hotels all have quiet and convenient card phone booths. In smaller towns, these card phone booths can mostly be found at the Telecom Office. Telephone cards are also sold in sundry shops and hotel lobbies. The International Country Code is +60.

SAFETY & SECURITY

Malaysia is a safe country, but like anywhere in the world, it is wise to be a little cautious. Simple safety precautions such as ignoring touts, keeping away from trouble areas, not wearing excessive jewelry, being careful when crossing roads (remember: left-hand traffic!) and taking care of valuables will keep you out of trouble. Valuables such as money, traveler cheques, passports and flight tickets are best kept in the safety box of your hotel.

SHOPPING

Exotic local handicrafts like Batik, gold and silver woven "songket" cloth, silverware, pewter ware, exquisitely straw woven items, woodcarvings and pottery are among the many invaluable mementos.

Bargaining at small shops is encouraged. Average discount expected can range from 10 to 30 percent, but all prices are fixed at major shopping centres. Most shops are open from 10.00 am to 9.00 pm daily. All supermarkets are open daily.

TIPPING

Tipping is not common in Malaysia, especially in the more rural areas. In most hotels and large restaurants,

a 10% service charge is added to the bill along with 6% government tax.

For tours and sightseeing we recommend some tip for the driver and guide, depending on the quality of the service. Porters and bellboys are usually tipped depending on the weight and size of the bags.

DO'S AND DON'T'S

Malaysia is generally a laid back and relaxed country. However, it has its own customs and visitors should try to observe these practices when they arrive. The following guidelines will help visitors understand the country and its people better, for a smooth and pleasant stay in Malaysia.

Although handshakes are generally acceptable for both men and women, some Muslim ladies may acknowledge introductions to gentlemen by merely nodding and smiling. A handshake should only be initiated by ladies. The traditional greeting or salam resembles a handshake with both hands but without the grasp. The man offers both hands, lightly touches his friend's outstretched hands, and then brings his hands to his chest to mean, "I greet you from my heart". The visitor should reciprocate the "salam".

The right hand is always used when eating with one's hand or giving and receiving objects.

The right forefinger is not used to point at places, objects or persons. Instead, the thumb of the right hand with four fingers folded under is the preferred usage

Shoes must always be removed when entering a Malaysian home.

Shoes must be removed when entering places of worship such as mosques and temples. Some mosques provide robes and scarves for female visitors. Taking photographs at places of worship is usually permitted but always ask for permission beforehand.

Public behaviour is important in Malaysian culture. Most Malaysians refrain from displaying affection (i.e. embracing or kissing) in public. It would be appropriate for visitors to do the same.

Drinks are generally offered to guests. It is polite to accept.

Toasting is not a common practice in Malaysia. The country's large Muslim population does not drink alcohol.