Country guides Asia
Malaysia Travel Guide
Widely recognised as one of the world's great melting pots, Malaysia offers a dazzling blend of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures against a backdrop of lively cities, gorgeous beaches, idyllic islands and lush national parks rich with wildlife. Holidays can be whatever visitors want them to be in this wonderfully diverse destination in South East Asia, where the traditional, the modern and the natural come together seamlessly.
Malaysia's glittering, cosmopolitan capital, Kuala Lumpur, lies on the west coast and is an irresistible playground for the curious. From the lofty Petronas Towers to the nearby Batu Caves, the city abounds with excellent sights and activities. Kuala Lumpur is also a world-famous shopping destination and a gastronomic delight for the adventurous palate.
East-coast visitors will find several easy-to-reach tropical islands, while northern Peninsula Malaysia has many hill resorts that provide a welcome respite from the heat and humidity of the coasts.
Nature-lovers will not want to miss east Malaysia. The tropical island is rich by way of outdoor and water-sport opportunities, all found in the twin states of Sabah and Sarawak. Tourists should certainly visit Kinabalu National Park, as its renowned biodiversity has led to it being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sipadan Island has what are often considered the best diving and snorkelling sites in the world.
Best time to visit Malaysia
Malaysia has a humid tropical climate, characterised by high temperatures all year round. The monsoon season (November to February) brings heavy rain to the peninsular region, and the best time to visit is between April and October. Travellers should bear in mind that if they're suffering in the heat at the coast, the highland region in northern Malaysia is significantly cooler.
What to see in Malaysia
-The Petronas Towers, the world's tallest twin skyscrapers, are an inspiring sight, and the view of Kuala Lumpur from the Skybridge is not to be missed.
-The Batu Caves are decorated with Hindu shrines and wall paintings, and remain an important pilgrimage site to this day.
-Taman Negara National Park is home to one of the world's oldest natural rainforests.
-The duty-free resort island of Langkawi offers splendid beaches and an array of excellent entertainment options.
What to do in Malaysia
-Practice haggling at Petaling Street, Malaysia's vibrant Chinatown area.
-Head to world-famous Pulau Sipadan, a gorgeous island that offers unbeatable snorkelling and diving opportunities.
-Hike up Mount Kinabalu, and be astounded by the rich diversity of the surrounding National Park.
-Sample Malaysia's diverse and delicious national cuisine in Penang, a gourmand's dream holiday destination.
Getting to Malaysia
Cheap flights to Malaysia are easy to find from the UK and US. Direct flights to Kuala Lumpur are available from London and the United States. Penang is also accessible by air, usually from Kuala Lumpur or other Southeast Asian cities such as Bangkok or Hong Kong.
Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan, Inspector Singh Investigates by Shamini Flint, and The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw.
Entrapment (1999), Lust, Caution (2007), and After This, Our Exile (2006).
Satay (slivers of chicken or beef dipped in a spicy peanut sauce), Char Kway Teow (stir-fried flat rice noodles), banana leaf rice, nasi goreng (fried rice), and nasi lemak (coconut rice served with fried anchovies, peanuts and a curry dish).
Kopi (coffee) or teh tarik (pulled tea), the latter of which is usually served with a shot of condensed milk.
What to buy
Traditional fabric known as batik and carved wooden figurines.
What to pack
Tourists should pack lightweight clothing, insect repellent and sunscreen. They should also have a small backpack to carry on day excursions, containing a rain-slicker and plenty of water.
What's on in Malaysia
The annual KL Tower Jump (September, October) sees BASE jumpers making repeated leaps off the 1,381-foot (421m) building, indulging in free-fall before opening their parachutes and delighting the crowds below. Visitors should head to Kuala Lumpur for Chinese New Year (January, February) and enjoy the spectacle of light and colour in Petaling Street.
Did you know?
-The Malaysian state of Sabah is home to the Rafflesia, the heaviest single flower in the world.
-The word ringgit (Malaysia's currency) means 'jagged' in Malay, and originally referred to the separated edges of Spanish silver dollars that were widely used in the region.
-Malaysia produces only about 15 feature films, but between 300 and 400 television dramas and serials every year.
A final word
From ancient rainforests in well-managed nature reserves to pristine beaches, and from the glamour of Kuala Lumpur to the gastronomic delights of Penang, a holiday in Malaysia is sure to be spectacular.