The Federation of Malaysia comprises of Peninsular Malaysia, and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.
Situated between 2 and 7 to the North of the Equator line, Peninsular Malaysia is separated from Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea.
In the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia lies Thailand, and in the south, neighboring Singapore. Sabah and Sarawak are bounded by Indonesia while Sarawak also shares borders with Brunei.
History of Malaysia
Evidence of modern human habitation in Malaysia dates back 40,000 years. In the Malay Peninsula, the first inhabitants are thought to be Negritos. Traders and settlers from India and China arrived as early as the first century AD, establishing trading ports and coastal towns in the second and third centuries. Their presence resulted in strong Indian and Chinese influences on the local cultures, and the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Sanskrit inscriptions appear as early as the fourth or fifth century.
The Kingdom of Langkasuka arose around the second century in the northern area of the Malay Peninsula, lasting until about the 15th century. Between the 7th and 13th centuries, much of the southern Malay Peninsula was part of the maritime Srivijayan empire. By the 13th and the 14th century, the Majapahit empire had successfully wrested control over most of the peninsula and the Malay Archipelago from Srivijaya. Islam began to spread among Malays in the 14th century. In the early 15th century, Parameswara, a runaway king of the former Kingdom of Singapura linked to the old Srivijayan court, founded the Malacca Sultanate. Melaka was an important commercial centre during this time, attracting trade from around the region.
In 1511, Melaka was conquered by Portugal, after which it was taken by the Dutch in 1641. In 1786, the British Empire established a presence in Malaya, when the Sultan of Kedah leased Penang Island to the British East India Company. The British obtained the town of Singapore in 1819, and in 1824 took control of Melaka following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. By 1826, the British directly controlled Penang, Melaka, Singapore, and the island of Labuan, which they established as the crown colony of the Straits Settlements.
By the 20th century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States, had British residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers, to whom the rulers were bound to defer to by treaty. The remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under British rule, also accepted British advisers around the turn of the 20th century. Development on the peninsula and Borneo were generally separate until the 19th century. Under British rule the immigration of Chinese and Indians to serve as labourers was encouraged. The area that is now Sabah came under British control as North Borneo when both the Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu transferred their respective territorial rights of ownership, between 1877 and 1878. In 1842, Sarawak was ceded by the Sultan of Brunei to James Brooke, whose successors ruled as the White Rajahs over an independent kingdom until 1946, when it became a crown colony.
In the Second World War, the Japanese Army invaded and occupied Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore for over three years. During this time, ethnic tensions were raised and nationalism grew. Popular support for independence increased after Malaya was reconquered by Allied forces.
Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the "Malayan Union" met with strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the weakening of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese. The Malayan Union, established in 1946, and consisting of all the British possessions in the Malay Peninsula with the exception of Singapore, was quickly dissolved and replaced on 1 February 1948 by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection. During this time, mostly Chinese rebels under the leadership of the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla operations designed to force the British out of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency lasted from 1948 to 1960, and involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops in Malaya.
On 31 August 1957, Malaya became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations. After this a plan was put in place to federate Malaya with the crown colonies of North Borneo (which joined as Sabah), Sarawak, and Singapore. The date of federation was planned to be 31 August 1963 so as to coincide with the anniversary of Malayan independence; however, federation was delayed until 16 September 1963 in order for a United Nations survey of support for federation in Sabah and Sarawak, called for by parties opposed to federation including Indonesia's Sukarno and the Sarawak United Peoples' Party, to be completed.
Federation brought heightened tensions including a conflict with Indonesia as well continuous conflicts against the Communists in Borneo and the Malayan Peninsula which escalates to the Sarawak Communist Insurgency and Second Malayan Emergency together with several other issues such as the cross border attacks into North Borneo by Moro pirates from the southern islands of the Philippines, Singapore being expelled from the Federation in 1965, and racial strife. This strife culminated in the 13 May race riots in 1969. After the riots, the controversial New Economic Policy was launched by Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, trying to increase the share of the economy held by the bumiputera.
Under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad there was a period of rapid economic growth and urbanisation beginning in the 1980s. The economy shifted from being agriculturally based to one based on manufacturing and industry. Numerous mega-projects were completed, such as the Petronas Towers, the North–South Expressway, the Multimedia Super Corridor, and the new federal administrative capital of Putrajaya. However, in the late 1990s the Asian financial crisis almost caused the collapse of the currency and the stock and property markets.
People & Language
Having had an interesting past and being a part of the international spice route many hundreds of years ago, Malaysia has turned into a mosaic of cultures. Everything from its people to its architecture reflect a colourful heritage and an amalgamated culture. To understand Malaysia culture, you must first get to know its people. The largest ethnic groups in Malaysia are Malays, Chinese and Indians. In Sabah and Sarawak, there are a myriad of indigenous ethnic groups with their own unique culture and heritage.
While Malay is the national language the many ethnic groups also converse in their various languages and dialects, but English is also widely spoken.
The monetary unit of the country is Ringgit Malaysia and is written as RM or MYR.
The exchange rate currently is valued at USD1 = RM4. Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks and money changes. View the latest exchange rate www.xe.com
The country experiences tropical weather year-round. Temperatures range from 27°C to 32°C.
Higher elevations are much colder with temperatures between 15°C to 25°C.
Eight hours ahead of GMT and 16 hours ahead of U.S. Standard Time.
Voltage is 220 – 240 Volt AC at 50 cycles per second. Malaysia uses standard 3-pin square plugs and sockets.
Weight & Measurement
Malaysia follows the metric system for weight and measurement.
Local calls can be made from public phones using coins or prepaid card. International calls can also be made using phone cards or at any Telekom office.
Do's and Don'ts
Malaysia is generally a laid back and relaxed place. However, we do have our own customs and visitors should try to observe these practices when they arrive. Some common courtesies and customs are as follows
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 .
- It is polite to call before visiting a home.
Shoes must always be removed when entering a Malaysian home.
- Drinks are generally offered to guests. It is polite to accept.
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 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 permission beforehand.
Toasting is not a common practice in Malaysia. The country's large Muslim population does not drink alcohol.
Getting Here and Around
Set in the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is easily accessible from most parts of the world by air, surface and sea links.
Over 45 international airlines fly into the country while national carrier Malaysia Airlines has a global network that spans six continents and a national network that covers more than 36 local destinations.
AirAsia, Firefly, Malindo, Malaysia's budget airlines also services certain domestic and regional routes.
The main gateways to Malaysia are the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) & Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) at Sepang which is about 50Km south of the KL city center and the low cost carrier airport (LapanganTerbang Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah) at Subang which is about 16km west of the city centre. Other gateways to Malaysia are Langkawi International Airport, Penang International Airport, Kuching International Airport and Kota Kinabalu Airport. From all of these the country is well serviced by 14 domestic airports including those in Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan in East Malaysia.
Approximate Travel Time to Kuala Lumpur (KL) from
- Singapore - 1 hour 10 minutes
- Bangkok - 2 Hours 10 Minutes
- Jakarta - 2 Hours
From KLIA & KLIA2 to KL
KL city is a 28-minute journey away on the comfortable KLIA Ekspres, a high-speed rail service. Car rental, bus, coach, taxi, and limousine into Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring towns are widely available at both airports.
For more information, visit www.klia.com.my and www.kliaekspres.com
Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia are easily accessible via sea ports. Port Klang, about 35km west of KL city center is Malaysia’s largest modern sea port where the Star Cruise Terminal - the largest cruise ship terminal in the Asia-Pacific region - is situated. Other major sea ports are located on the islands of Penang and Langkawi in the north of the Peninsular, at Johor to the south, at Kuantan on the East Coast and at Kota Kinabalu in Sabah.
‘Ferry Link’ operates a vehicle ferry service from Changi Point in Singapore to TanjungBelungkor, the gateway to the popular southern peninsular beach resort of Desaru. For reservations call +602-545 3600 (Changi Point) or +607-252 7408 (Bandar Penawar, Johor).
By Road and Rail
Located 48km north of Alor Star in the northern state of Kedah, Bukit KayuHitam is the main entry point into Malaysia for visitors from Thailand. The North-South Expressway links Bukit KayuHitam to Kuala Lumpur – 490km away.
For more information, visit www.ktmb.com.my .
Situated on the main rail route with a daily train service from Bangkok, Padang Besar - in Malaysia's northernmost state of Perlis - is another entry point. Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) or Malayan Railway provides an international express from Butterworth to Haadyai in Thailand, and regular services from Padang Besar to Singapore (via Kuala Lumpur).
The exclusive Eastern and Oriental Express also romances the route from Bangkok to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur. Covering the entire length of the Peninsular - over 2,000 km, this two-day journey has frequent stops at scenic locations.
For more information, visit www.orient-express.com .
For visitors entering from Singapore the Causeway provides the main road and rail link to Johor Bahru from where the North-South Expressway links Johor Bahru with Kuala Lumpur - 220km to the north. A second bridge at Tuas links Singapore to TanjungKupang which is 30km south-west of Johor Bahru.
Driving to Kuala Lumpur from
Singapore - 5 - 7 Hours depend on traffic condition
Bangkok - 18 Hours
Driving from Singapore to Malacca
- 4 – 6 Hours depend on traffic condition
Health and Safety
Dehydration and Sunburn
The sun is strong throughout the year in the country. Proper care against sunburn must be constantly taken. Dehydration and loss of salt through perspiration are two other common problems for the unprepared traveller. Drink plenty of fluids and replace your salt loss. Make sure you pack clothing suitable for a warm humid climate.
Due to the constant humid climate, mosquitoes tend to be present throughout the year. The three most significant diseases transmitted by mosquitoes are Malaria, Dengue Fever and Japanese B Encephalitis. To repel mosquitoes, ticks and other arthropods, apply an insect repellent containing DEET to your skin or clothing.
The risk of malaria for most tourists visiting Peninsular Malaysia is extremely small. There is insignificant risk in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and other major cities. However, in East Malaysia, the risk of malaria is present throughout the year. Even in these regions, the risk is mainly off the coastal plains and towards the border areas. Generally, prophylaxis is recommended for those visiting Sabah or Sarawak.
Generally, the level of food hygiene throughout the country is high. However, make sure your food and drinking water are safe. Food from street vendors should be treated with care. Drink only bottled and boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. If possible, avoid tap water, fountain drinks and ice cubes. Bring along iodine tablets and portable water filters to purify water if bottled water is not available. Also, wash your hands often with soap and water. As an extra precaution, bring along anti-diarrhea medication and an antibiotic prescribed by your doctor to self-treat moderate to severe diarrhea.
Recommended vaccines: Poliomyelitis (childhood booster), Tetanus (childhood booster), Typhoid (food & water borne diseases), Hepatitis A (food & water borne diseases).
For those venturing outside cities and towns, further recommended vaccines are Hepatitis B, Rabies, Japanese B Encephalitis, Tuberculosis and Meningitis. For those visiting Sabah and Sarawak, Malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended.
If you are coming from, or have recently travelled in, South America or sub-Saharan Africa you must present a certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever upon arrival in Malaysia.
Passport/Visa / Travel Document
Visitors to Malaysia must hold a valid passport or travel document with a minimum validity of six months beyond the intended visiting period. Immigration and customs checkpoints are situated at all air, sea, road and rail entry points.
Every visitor to Malaysia has to fill in a Disembarkation Card (IMM. 26). The card has to be handed over to the Immigration Officer on arrival together with the national passport or other internationally recognized travel document endorsed for travel into Malaysia. A passport/travel document is also necessary for travel between Sabah and Sarawak.
Visitor passes issued for entry into Peninsular Malaysia are not valid for entry into Sarawak.
Fresh visit passes must be obtained on arrival at the point of entry in Sarawak. However, subject to conditions stipulated, visit passes issued by the Immigration Authorities in Sabah and Sarawak are valid for any part of Malaysia.
Commonwealth Citizens (except Bangladesh/India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), British Protected Persons or Citizens of the Republic of Ireland and Citizens of Switzerland, Netherlands, San Marino and Liechtenstein.
Free Visa For Social & Business Visit Not Exceeding Three Months
Citizens of Albania, Austria, Algeria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Republic of Slovakia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Italy, United States of America, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, North Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia,Qatar United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Tunisia
One Month Nationals Of Asean Countries
14 DAYS Citizens of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, South Yemen
1 WEEK Citizens of Bulgaria, Romania and Russia
VISA REQUIREMENTS BY COUNTRY
Commonwealth countries that require visa
Visa Requirements for other countries
- Afghanistan (Visa with reference) Equat.
- Burkina Faso*
- Hong Kong (C.I/D.I)
- Serbia Montenegro
- Central African Republic*
- Sri Lanka
- United Nation (Laissez Passer)
- Ivory Coast (Cote d’ivoire)*
- Western Sahara*
- Congo Democratic Republic*
For the countries marked as ( * ) are allowed to enter Malaysia by air only.
Israel citizen** who wish to enter are required Visa and approval from Ministry Of Home Affairs, Malaysia.
Visa is not required for a stay of less than one (1) month for ASEAN nationals except Myanmar. Visas are required for duration of stay exceeds (1) month except for Brunei and Singapore nationals.
Yellow Fever certificate is required to be produced upon landing in Malaysia for countries as listed below:
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- Burkina Faso
- St Kitts & Nevis
- Central African
- Republic Niger
- Sao Tome & Principe
*Further information on the country can also be obtained from the Malaysian government’s official portal. www.malaysia.gov.my