Malaysia holiday highlights

Malaysia is an intriguing mix of old and new, enticing its visitors with vibrant cities, idyllic island escapes and wild forested landscapes. Made up of 13 states and three federal territories, Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures with Malays, Chinese, Indian and Europeans all living in harmony with indigenous groups throughout the Peninsular and islands of the Malay Archipelago.

Picture Malaysia and for most it would be defined by its wonderfully lush rainforests and jungle interiors. Boasting an incredible biodiversity, Malaysia’s forests play host to an exceptional variety of wildlife, while on its oceans are rich in coral reefs and exotic marine life. Throughout Malaysia, you’ll discover tranquil beaches and secluded hideaways that mesmerise with their beautiful locations. Discover the palm-fringed stretches of the west coast isles; marvel at the rugged long beaches of Malaysia’s unspoilt East Coast; explore the underwater marine life around the Tioman Islands; or head to the untouched rainforests on the secluded private island of Pangkor Laut.

Where is Malaysia?
Malaysia is a nation of two regions: Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo, separated by the South China Sea in South-East Asia. It shares land borders with Thailand, Brunei and Indonesia. Check out our best time to visit guide to find out about Malaysia’s climate.

Borneo
One of the best wildlife destinations in the world, Malaysian Borneo is a dream for any naturalist or wildlife lover. The picturesque states of Sabah and Sarawak offer incredible rainforests and wildlife-rich jungles, fringed by an underwater world that rivals the Earth’s finest. Those with an adventurous spirit can climb to the summit of Mount Kinabalu on an intrepid expedition, while wildlife lovers can glimpse an endangered orangutan swinging through its native environment, or snorkel with hawksbill and green sea turtles in the South China Sea. If that all sounds a little too strenuous, then how about unwinding on one of Borneo’s unspoilt beaches, or indulging in a spa treatment or two… sheer bliss.

Kuala Lumpur
Once just a small Chinese tin mining town, Kuala Lumpur has grown to become a major 21st-Century Asian city and a popular destination for stopovers when travelling to and from Malaysia’s exotic beach destinations. A unique capital city dominated by iconic skyscrapers and exquisite shopping malls that sit happily alongside Moorish buildings, colonial architecture and more traditional street markets, Kuala Lumpur is a city emerging gracefully into the modern world while holding true to its long held traditions and ancient cultures.

Langkawi
The strikingly beautiful archipelago of Langkawi is made up of 99 islands, situated off the west coast of mainland Malaysia. Blessed with sleepy fishing villages, pure white sand beaches and lush jungle vegetation, you’ll find yourself amid clear, calm waters with the opportunity to relax in total tranquillity, or head out for a spot of spontaneous rainforest exploration. Spend time relaxing in luxurious spa resorts, exploring the jungle clad hills on a suspended sky bridge or canopy walk, or venture offshore for an afternoon of diving and snorkelling in the surrounding coral-rich sea.

Penang
The popular island of Penang is rich in sightseeing opportunities from Hindu temples, Buddhist statues and colonial life in the capital of George Town, through to exquisite luxuries provided by the hotels lining the famous Batu Ferringhi Beach. Cosmopolitan George Town, a UNESCO-listed historical centre, is particularly great for foodies; dine on excellent regional cuisine, including sublime seafood, at local restaurants or from the numerous hawker stalls at the bustling night market.

Diving & snorkelling
With incredible coastlines across the peninsular and Borneo, Malaysia offers some of the best diving and snorkelling sites in South-East Asia. Tioman Island is one of the best areas to go snorkelling; off the south-eastern side of the peninsular mainland you’ll find a high concentration of colourful coral reefs and very rewarding marine-life diversity. Within the Terenngganu Marine Park, Tenggol Island is another offshore highlight, famed for its beautiful white sand beaches and untouched coral gardens. There are over 20 different dive sites to explore around the island, offering you some of the most incredible underwater explorations; teeming with exotic marine life, sightings of sea turtles, reef sharks, humphead parrotfish and eagle rays are not uncommon.  

Food & drink
With such a diverse melting pot of cultures, it should come as no surprise that Malaysia is a gastronomic hub of flavours and vibrant cuisine. Malay cuisine is mostly fusion food, drawing on neighbouring influences like Indian, Chinese, Indonesian and Thai. While in the big cities you’ll find a diverse selection of gourmet and upmarket restaurants, across the peninsular some of the most delicious food can be enjoyed at street stalls and diners called ‘kedai kopis’. Often the best places to try local Malay specialities, these are exceptionally great value and offer a vast selection of noodle and rice dishes all day long. While Malay cuisine covers a host of different regional specialities, across Malaysia you’ll find that seafood, meat, rice and fresh fruits and vegetables are used in abundance. Laksa and Satay are two of the country’s most well-known dishes, and Beef Redang, a slow-cooked curry originally from Indonesia, is especially popular to eat during ceremonial or celebratory events.

Malaysia key facts

Capital

Kuala Lumpur

Currency

Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)

Flying time to destination

Varies between 12½ and 15 hours depending on the airport.

Language

Malay. English is widely spoken.

Malaysia good to know

Etiquette

A tourist tax applies to all hotels in Malaysia and is only payable locally.

Religion

Islam