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Need to know – Malaysia

The picture-perfect Pulau Kapas.
Image courtesy: Tourism Malaysia

In this extract from Lonely Planet India’s Malaysia travel guide, we look at some of the important information you will need while planning a trip to the country.

Languages: Malay, English, Chinese dialects, Tamil.
Time: Malaysia Standard Time is 2½ hours ahead of IST.
Currency: Malaysian ringgit (RM). Malaysians may refer to ringgit as ‘dollars’.
Mobile Phones: International roaming is expensive. Cheap prepaid SIM cards (RM8.50; passport required) are widely available.
Internet Access: Internet cafes are common in tourist centres. Wi-fi access is widespread in hotels and cafes.
Tourist Information: Tourism Malaysia (+603 9235 4848+603 9235 4848/4900;; 109 Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur).

When to Go

December–February (high season): End-of-year school holidays and Chinese New Year push up prices; advance transport and hotel bookings are important. It’s monsoon season for the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and western Sarawak.
July–November (mid season): From July to August vie with visitors escaping the heat of the Gulf countries. The end of Ramadan (Hari Raya) also sees increased travel activity.
March–June (low season): Avoid the worst of the rains and humidity; plus you can enjoy places without the crush of fellow tourists.

What to Pack

• Light wash-and-wear clothes. Pack light and take advantage of cheap laundry services.
• A warm top and jacket for over-air-conditioned places and the cool highland regions.
• Slip-on shoes or sandals for quick removal when entering mosques and temples.
• Other handy items: A small torch, waterproof money/passport container, insect repellent, leech socks (if planning jungle hikes), earplugs, SPF30+ sunscreen and a travel umbrella.

Getting Around

Air: Domestic routes from KL and other Malaysian cities are plentiful and cheap.
Car & Taxi: Taxis are affordable as long as you can negotiate with your driver to ply by the meter. It’s also easy to rent self-drive cars everywhere.
Bus: Intercity buses are affordable, comfortable and often frequent; buy tickets at bus stations.
Train: Slow but scenic. Express trains stop only at main stations, while local services, which operate mostly on the east-coast line, stop everywhere, including the middle of the jungle. If you’re in no hurry they provide a colourful experience and are good for short journeys.