5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Malaysia

  • May 3, 2022
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Nomad Gavin shares the five things he wishes someone had told him before traveling to Malaysia, from culture to food to how to get around.

Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures, a vibrant destination for a bit of urban exploration in one of the major cities, relaxation on the beaches, hiking in Borneo, or scuba diving around one of 800+ islands. Here's what you should know before you visit.

1. Cultural heritage in Malaysia

Malaysia may be governed by (and for) Muslim Malays, but that doesn't mean other religions and cultures don't thrive here. Chinese, Indians and Indigenous ethnicities all contribute to the cultural diversity, making Malaysia an incredibly multicultural place to travel.

2. Is English widely spoken in Malaysia?

As Nelson Mandela said "Speak to me in a language I understand and you speak to my head. Speak to me in my language and you speak to my heart." Having said that, English is widely spoken in Malaysia; much more so than in most other Asian countries, so reasonable English is enough to get you around.

If you're venturing beyond the major cities, learn a few words of Bahasa for a better chance of connecting locally.

3. Cheap flights in Malaysia

AirAsia has made air travel easy and affordable. This budget airline based in Malaysia flies all over Asia and beyond from its two main hubs, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. It is a low cost airline, so beware of baggage limitations and don‘t expect much sympathy if you miss your flight for any reason.

4. Food in Malaysia

Food is often regarded as one of the best things about Malaysia. From cheap roadside food stalls to deluxe fusion restaurants, there's something for everyone. Often pork is not on the menu, but just about every other protein is available – including bull penis.

Penang is considered the gastronomic capital of Malaysia, and it showcases influences from India, China, Thailand and beyond with an intoxicating blend traditions and spices.

Health standards are higher in Malaysia than elsewhere in Southeast Asia, even for street food. But, it's still a good idea to follow these simple tips for good food hygiene.

5. Don't miss Malaysian Borneo

Go beyond Penang and Kuala Lumpur on peninsular Malaysia to explore Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

In the state of Sabah, experience some of Malaysia's best scuba diving on Sipadan Island and Layang Layang Island, hike to the top of Mayalsia's highest mountain – Mt Kinabalu at 13,435ft (4,095m), or visit Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to see the largest sanctuary of its kind in the world. Here, illegally captured, orphaned, and injured orangutans are rehabilitated to survive in the wild – a process that could take up to seven years.

In the state of Sarawak, explore Gunung Mulu National Park to see incredible rock formations, walk inside Niah National Park's limestone caves, or for a bit of urban exploration check out the colonial buildings and street food in the city of Kuching.

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