First-timer’s Best Guide to Visiting Malaysia

First time traveling to Malaysia? We know that traveling to a foreign country for the first time can be both exciting and daunting. That’s why we’re sharing some information you should know to better prepare yourself for the trip!

About Malaysia

In this section, you’ll get to know some basic and general info that’ll help you in planning your travel here, like the geography and climate, the best time to visit, popular destinations, and transportation methods.

Historical Crash Course

Historical Crash Course of Malaysia

Malaysia declared its independence back in 1957 on August 31. Since the beginning of the country’s recorded history and throughout the centuries, Malaysia has received many influences that make it the country that we now know.

The first influence they received was Indian Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism, both of which became the start of small kingdoms that spread throughout the peninsula.

The second major influence to affect the country’s growth was Islamic teachings that took place in the 14th century, and it’s also the start of the Sultanates period.

The country underwent tremendous growth and success that attracted the European institutions to the land; this is the third major influence that happened.

So many changes occurred following the European arrival, including the Chinese immigrants that settled for trade and business. However, this fourth influence also brought a new conflict between the native people and the Chinese immigrants on top of the Sultanates’ political struggles.

Then, came the fifth change, the British arrival, bringing more changes in the country. It’s followed by World War II and the Japanese arrival on the land.

After the Japanese declaration of defeat in 1945, Malaysia was in a state of disarray as they fought and strived for their independence. Even establishing themselves as their own country, Malaysia continues to develop wonderfully to this day.

Geography and Climate

Malaysia's beach under the sunny weather
The sunny weather at Malaysia’s beach

If you look for Malaysia on the world map, you’ll find it neatly tucked in the Southeast Asia continent, with Thailand, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, and the Indonesian archipelago as its neighboring countries. It’s a country with an abundance of breathtaking coastal plains that rise to lush hills and mountains. Did you know that 60% of Malaysia consists of primary forests?

As it’s located in the equatorial region, Malaysia is a tropical country that mostly experiences a hot and humid climate throughout the year. On average, the minimum temperature falls around 27°C (80°F), while the hottest days could reach 38°C (100°F).

There are only the dry and monsoon seasons here, and usually, 1-2 months of the dry season is followed by a brief visit of the rain and sometimes the flood too. Sometimes rain showers and thunderstorms can occur outside of the dry months.

When traveling here, be sure to pack lightweight and breathable clothes that are loose-fitting. The clothes should also cover the arms and legs as it’s more polite and acceptable according to the social norms here. Don’t forget to bring a folding umbrella to anticipate an afternoon shower during your trip!

Best Time to Visit

If you’re not a fan of drizzle during your travel, March until June is the best time to visit due to the dry season and clear skies. Plus, it’s generally less crowded during these months!

You might want to avoid July to September if you’re not a fan of a sweltering and humid visit accompanied by the summer haze. Meanwhile, you should prepare your umbrella and a thicker layer from September to October when the monsoon months in Sabah and the mainland’s west coast occur.

Wet months come in November until early to mid-February for the east coast and westerly shores of Sarawak, so keep that in mind! Aside from the weather and season, you might want to visit when the country’s in a festive mood too!

8 Malaysian Festivals You don’t Wanna Miss

All year round, there’s always something to see and visit in Malaysia, but there are time-specific events and festivals you don’t want to miss out on!

1. Thaipusam


Around late January or early February when the moon is full, the Tamils gather at Batu Caves to celebrate Thaipusam in honor of Murugan defeating an evil spirit called Soorapadman. If you come to watch the festival, you might see the devotees piercing parts of their bodies.

2. Malaysia Water Festival

Malaysia Water Festival

In April, the locals go all out in their festivity to celebrate Thai Songkran Day. Similar to the Holi Festival celebration, the people gather and splash each other with uncolored water. There are also other activities, such as international. This merry festival starts in Kuantan and ends in Labuan.

3. Kaamatan Harvest Festival

Kaamatan (Sabah Harvest Festival)
The local performance during Kaamatan Harvest Festival

As the year reaches the end of May, it’s time for the locals in Sabah to celebrate the Kaamatan Harvest Festival. There will be a fun party for visitors to partake in, tons of exhibitions to see, various food and drink to try, and music to dance to!

4. Gawai Harvest Festival

Gawai (Sarawak Harvest Festival)
The locals celebrating Gawai Harvest Festival

Come early June, it’s Sarawak’s turn to amp up the festivity with their Gawai Harvest Festival. Similar to Kaamatan Harvest Festival, this festival also invites visitors to partake in the celebration with many open houses serving different food and drinks.

5. Eid Celebration

People celebrating eid with a feast
The locals celebrating eid with a feast

Eid marks the end of Ramadan, the fasting month of Muslims, and with it comes the festive mood of the Malaysian locals. On the days of this celebration, the locals go to the mosque for their morning prayer before opening their house to visitors and having a hearty meal together.

6. Rainforest World Music Festival

Music lovers should know and visit the renowned Rainforest World Music Festival in mid-July, an occasion when international musicians gather and perform on the stage at Sarawak Cultural Village every year.

7. Deepavali


This “Festival of Lights” takes place around November, mainly in the Little India area of the country. Locals will draw shapes and patterns on the ground using colored chalks and scatter colored rice. Lots of Indian food will be sold on the streets, so be sure to partake in the celebration!

8. Dragon Boat Festival

Malaysia Dragon Boat Festival

Another famous festival to look forward to is the Penang International Dragon Boat Festival that takes place in December at Teluk Bahang Dam. Competitors from South East Asia and even Hong Kong and China will come to partake in the race from morning to afternoon.

Popular Destinations

You’ve known when to visit Malaysia, but have you known how to get there and where to visit? Find out the popular cities and destinations to visit along with the nearest international airport to enter the country!

1. Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

The heart and capital city of Malaysia offer many places and landmarks to visit, such as Menara Kuala Lumpur, Petronas Twin Towers, Batu Caves, KLCC Park, Perdana Botanical Garden, and more!

If you’re planning to visit the city, you can set Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) as your touchdown airport.

2. Kuching


Located in Sarawak, this tourist wonderland has many places you can visit. A few popular ones are Kuching Waterfront, Bako National Park, Kampung Budaya Sarawak, Pantai Tanjung Batu Bintulu, and Cat Museum.

Set Kuching International Airport as your arrival and you’re good to go!

3. Kota Kinabalu


Your trip won’t be the same without a visit to Kota Kinabalu, an infamous tourist city in the Sabah region. There are amazing destinations to explore here, like Mount Kinabalu, Poring Hot Spring, Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu, Tanjung Aru Beach, Mari Mari Cultural Village, and more.

Kota Kinabalu International Airport will be your destination if you’re looking to have fun here!

Transportation Methods

Exploring Malaysia and getting from one point to another can be made easier if you have learned about the transportation methods available beforehand. There are various selections to choose from at your convenience!

Land Transportations

This method of transportation is easily the easiest one when doing short-distance travel in the country. Let’s check out the options!

1. Rail Transportations
Malaysian Metro

Rail transportation in Malaysia is quite advanced and comfortable to ride on. Depending on where you’re heading, you can choose any of these:

  1. KL Monorail
    It has 11 stations and connects KL Sentral to Titiwangsa.
  2. LRT
    It has two main routes to choose from, the Kelana Jaya LRT line and the Ampang LRT line.
  3. MRT
    It’s similar to LRT but bigger and with more routes.
  4. KTM Komuter
    The commuter offers a comfortable trip with a card payment option and a bilingual map route.
  5. KLIA Express
    It’s a comfortable transportation option that connects KL Airport to KLCC.
2. Bus and Cabs
Malaysian Bus

There are the good ol’ bus options for a comfortable trip across cities and cars for close travel.

  1. Rapid-KL
    It’s a white-blue colored bus that offers ALL-DAY ticket packages (Local, City, or Express), in which visitors will be taken for a ride to tourist attractions in Malaysia and provided unlimited rides of the same services throughout the day.
  2. Go-KL
    This is a free bus dedicated to travelers as it is supported by the government.
  3. KL Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
    This bus is said to be the best way to get to know Kuala Lumpur in general.
  4. Taxi
    Taxis usually use the metered system, but some taxis use a coupon system for payment.
  5. Grab car
    It’s an online transportation service that’s similar to taxis. However, the payment is in cash or using the system’s virtual wallet that can be topped up using a credit card.

Water and Air Transportation

Boat Transport in Malaysia

If you’re planning to cross islands, there are two easy options for you to use, airplane and ferry or boat! Besides the six international airports, there are 16 domestic airports to help you get to your destination.

You can also travel from island to island with a ferry or a boat service. There are five ports in Malaysia, and a few of them can be found in Penang, Port Klang, and Kota Kinabalu.

Malaysian Mouthwatering Cuisine

Malaysia is famous for its melting pot of rich cultural heritage, and the heritage can be seen through the vast selections of delicious food Malay, Chinese, Indian, and even Thai! You can find all sorts of unique and mouth-watering food to enjoy when visiting the country!

1. Flavorsome Savory Meals

Nasi lemak
Nasi Lemak

When looking for a filling meal, you’ll never run out of menus to choose from. Malaysian people take food seriously, so be prepared to have your taste buds blown away by these delish dishes!

  1. Nasi Lemak
    This popular dish is a delicious savory dish of rice cooked with thick coconut milk, and it’s usually served with fried anchovies, peanuts, boiled egg, and cucumber. These days, you can enjoy other sides too, like chicken rendang and spicy beef or cuttlefish.
  2. Nasi Kerabu
    Blue is the color of the sky and nasi kerabu. This rice gets its color from the butterfly pea flower extract, and it’s a must-try savory dish when visiting Malaysia.
    It’s usually served with fried chicken, grilled meat, urap salad with salted duck egg, solok lada (green chili stuffed with fish meat), and shrimp crackers.
  3. Banana Leaf Rice
    Malaysian people love using banana leaves to enhance the fragrance and taste of their dishes. They often use banana leaf as a replacement for plates, a custom adopted from South Indian cuisine.
    You’ll get a hearty scoop of rice and vegetarian curry to enjoy, but sometimes you can ask for a serving of meat side dishes too.
  4. Beef Rendang
    You’ve probably heard of this internationally popular dish, but have you tried it? The flavorful dish is cooked by slowly stewing and simmering on low heat for hours until the meat thoroughly absorbs the flavor and the juice is no more. Beef rendang can be enjoyed with nasi lemak or even roti jala.
  5. Curry Laksa and Assam Laksa
    Laksa is a Peranakan-style noodle soup that’s well-known throughout the country. The dish usually uses thick wheat noodles or rice vermicelli as its main ingredient.
    The popular ones are Curry Laksa served with thick savory coconut milk broth and Assam Laksa served with a refreshing sour fish broth.
  6. Biryani
    This dish is a favorite among Malaysians for its deliciousness. This rice dish originates from India, and it consists of basmati rice, rich Indian spices, and meat. Lamb biryani is said to be the favorite choice for the locals, so try it out when you’re visiting!
  7. Ikan Bakar
    Also known as “grilled fish”, this dish is a perfect choice for seafood lovers! The fish, or any seafood, is marinated with spices, like chili and turmeric, before it’s wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled on top of the charcoal.
  8. Fish Head Curry
    A hybrid of Indian and Chinese cuisine, this dish uses the whole head of a red snapper fish that’s stewed in Kerala-style curry. There are also vegetables in the curry stew that can be enjoyed alongside a serving of rice.
  9. Bak Kut Teh
    Popular in Malaysia and Singapore, this hearty pork rib dish is slowly cooked until the meat becomes tender and melts in the mouth. The rich taste of the broth comes from the herbs and spices used when cooking the dish.
  10. Char Kuay Teow
    It’s a Chinese stir-fried noodle dish that is popular among the locals. The dish is cooked under high heat with sauces and many side ingredients, like shrimps, eggs, vegetables, chili, belacan, and more. It’s usually served on a plate with a banana leaf to enhance the smell and taste.

2. Yummy Snacks and Desserts

Roti Canai
Roti Canai

A savory meal won’t be complete without a good dessert to finish! Here’s a list of delicious desserts you can enjoy after a hearty meal, or when you’re craving a snack.

  1. Roti Canai
    You can’t come to Malaysia and not try roti canai!
    This infamous flatbread is an example of Malaysian-Indian cuisine, and it’s often served plain with a curry dip or served with sweet and savory fillings, like kaya bread, eggs, cheese, sliced bananas, and more.
    Roti canai is often enjoyed as a breakfast dish, but you’ll see locals ordering it as appetizers.
  2. Kaya Pau
    This sweet snack is steamed bread with kaya jam filling, which is made from coconut milk and has a smooth, buttery feel. Kaya pau is often enjoyed at breakfast or as an afternoon snack.
  3. Apam Balik
    This sweet delicacy is what the locals would dub as “pancake”. This pancake has many fillings nowadays, but traditionally, it’s filled with butter, sugar, and ground or roughly chopped peanuts. It can be served as a thin, crispy pancake or a thick and soft pancake.
  4. Roti Jala
    Named after its similar appearance to fishermen’s net, this savory crepe is often served with curry dipping. It’s recommended to enjoy this snack with tea, so have a quick fill while taking a break from exploring the country.
  5. Karipap
    Also known as curry puff, this small, deep-fried pastry is perfect for a quick bite during your travels. The rich curry and soft potato filling are perfect to stave your hunger away in the morning or afternoon.
  6. Teh Tarik
    The name means “pulled tea”, and you’ll understand if you watch the process. Made from a strong brew of black tea and sweetened condensed milk, the tea is pulled from one glass to another back and forth to improve its flavor by aerating the tea.

Shopping Spree in Malaysia!

Souvenirs are one of the best ways to remind you of your trip to Malaysia and a great gift for your loved ones at home. Let’s find out what are the best souvenirs to bring home and where to buy them!

1. Dodol


This soft, sticky palm sugar toffee is a must-buy when visiting the country! It has a variety of flavors, ranging from the original, pandan, to durian. You can find and buy dodol in many places. Some of the notable ones are:

  • Ana Dodol (Perusahaan Dodol Melaka)
  • Pak Lang Dodol at Central Market Annexe, Kuala Lumpur
  • Tan Kim Hock Product Centres, Melaka
  • Chowrasta Market, George Town

2. Songket


If you’re interested in traditional textile, Songket is a great choice to bring home! This precious brocade is the result of the Chinese and Indian trade that took place centuries ago, and it’s still much sought after for its sophisticated beauty. Here are some stores that sell songket for your needs:

  • Atikah Songket at KLCC
  • Zakir Batik at Central Market Annexe, Kuala Lumpur
  • Shops at Wisma Yakin

3. Kerongsang


A fine brooch to complement fine clothing. It’s usually worn with Baju Kebaya, the traditional female clothing, and tudung (a shawl that covers the head). This brooch is used to secure the tudung. You can easily find these beautiful fashion accessories at these shops:

  • Zakir Batik at Central Market Annexe, Kuala Lumpur
  • Jalan Hang Kasturi at KLCC

4. Tea

Teh Tarik

Who doesn’t love tea? Malaysia is infamous for three types of tea:

  1. Teh Tarik, which has an instant version for you to enjoy at home,
  2. Boh Tea, an all-time fave tea mix with interesting flavors like caramel, lime, and mandarin, and
  3. Sabah Tea, known for its organic, handpicked, and preservative-free tea leaves.

You can find these teas in any department store, supermarket, and grocery store.

5. Old Town White Coffee

Popular among locals and even tourists, this coffee brand is a must when buying souvenirs. Visit the Old Town White Coffee Shop and breathe in the fragrant smell of coffee beans before buying some for home. Aside from the shop itself, this instant coffee can be found in most supermarkets.

6. Pewter Wares

Pewter Wares

Known for its tin mining, Malaysia is a proud producer of pewter wares of good quality. These goods can be a bit pricy depending on which ware you choose and the purity of its materials. You can easily find these pewter products at these shops:

  • Zakir Craft at Central Market Annexe, Kuala Lumpur
  • KL Pewter at 34, Jalan Mewah, Selangor
  • Kuala Lumpur International Airport shop

7. Malaysian Batik

Malaysian Batik

Printed with beeswax and natural colors, Malaysian Batik is truly a sophisticated beauty. The cloth comes in numerous designs, patterns, and colors. This cloth can be purchased in most textile shops across the country, including these shops:

  • Koleksi Melayu at Central Market Annexe, Kuala Lumpur
  • Batik Boutique at Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur
  • Penang Batik Factory

8. Sabah Pearls

Sabar Pearls

These precious pearls come directly from the shores of Sabah with beautiful colors of pink, white, cream, or bluish-gray. Go to the crystal water shores of Sabah and find a direct seller to get it at cheaper prices.

You can either purchase ready-made pieces of jewelry or buy the pearls and make your jewelry! However, if you’re looking for nearby shops in the city, these are your choices:

  • Borneo Pearls at Central Market Annexe, Kuala Lumpur
  • Shops at Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Sabah

So many amazing destinations to visit, delicious food to try, and beautiful souvenirs to hunt! With its rich heritage and culture, Malaysia is a country you don’t want to miss when traveling the world, so make sure to put it on your travel bucket list. If you’re looking for a cheap flight ticket to the country and easy booking, has your back!


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