GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT MALAYSIA
The country of Malaysia comprises 13 states and two federal territories - Kuala Lumpur and Labuan (an island off the coast of Sabah). The country of Malaysia is split between West (or Peninsula) Malaysia and East Malaysia. Peninsula Malaysia is connected to the Southern Thailand and is adjacent to the island nation of Singapore in the south. East Malaysia consists of the states of Sabah and Sarawak, located on the northern part of the island of Borneo, which is shared by Malaysia with Brunei and Indonesia. The government is based on parliamentary democracy. The head of the government, the Prime Minister heads the Cabinet of Ministers. Nine of the states also have a hereditary ruler respectively from which the Supreme Head of State, the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (King) is elected every five years. The Agong is a constitutional monarch and functions in roughly the same way as the Queen of Great Britain. Malaysia is 8 hours ahead of GMT.
Malaysia’s climate is easily described as hot and wet. Malaysia lies between one and seven degrees north of the Equator. The country has a tropical climate where the average temperature is around 27°C. However, temperature in the highlands can drop to about 18°C. Annual rainfall is heavy at 2500mm (100 inches) and rains on average of 200 days a year. Rain frequently occurs in the late afternoon and evenings. Frequently, thunder and lightning often accompany a heavy downpour, which normally lasts for about an hour or two.
Malaysia has a high humidity level, averaging 80% throughout the year. Due to this, your wardrobe should consist mainly of light and sweat-absorbent material like cotton or linen. Malaysia has two distinct seasons, hot & dry (less rain) and hot & wet (more rain, slightly cooler temperatures due to the rain). The dry season occurs during the southwest monsoon from May to September. The northeast monsoon comes during mid-November till March, which brings the rainy season (monsoon) to the country. However, it rains even during the dry season, there’s just less of it. It never hurts to carry a small umbrella that can fit into your backpack with you whenever you are out.
(Kindly visit these websites: http://allmalaysia.info & http://www.geographia.com/malaysia for more information about Malaysia)
The population of Malaysia currently stand at over 29 million. The country offers a diverse mix of peoples, cultures, and religions. The Malays, Chinese, Indians and other indigenous tribes make up the population. The Malays along with the oldest indigenous peoples they form a group called bumiputra, (which translates as “sons” or “princes of the soil.”), comprise 58% of Malaysia’s population, with the Chinese making up 24 %, and the Indians at 8%. The other smaller groups make up the other 10%. Included in the 10% are also the Eurasians, where their European ancestors settled down in Malaysia centuries ago and married the locals.
Due to the long history of immigration in Malaysia, don’t be surprised to find that there are many Chinese and Indians who do not know how to speak their so-called “mother tongue” and there are also some who are fluent in another race’s language and dialect. Each culture in its own has a separate and distinct way of life. Yet, it is the interaction between each individual group that actually creates the unique fusion of the Malaysian culture.
Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, but other religions are practised freely. Much of Malaysia’s cultural diversity stems from religion and religious festivals.
Selangor is Malaysia’s most developed and prosperous state. It lies on the central west coast of Peninsula Malaysia. The state capital is Shah Alam. The Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (KL) is located in the centre of Selangor. Petaling Jaya (PJ) is one of the biggest city in Selangor. Life College, along with many other colleges are located in PJ. PJ is one of the most popular residential areas in Malaysia, thanks to its proximity to both KL and Shah Alam. The Klang Valley area, consisting of KL, PJ, Shah Alam and Klang, is the largest urban region in Malaysia, with a population of over 3 million people living in the area. This also makes the Klang Valley the most developed and mordernized part of Malaysia.
GENERAL MALAYSIAN SOCIAL ETIQUETTES
When greeting another person, it is common practise to shake hands when you are first introduced to the person. You should call beforehand when you want to visit someone.
It is customary for Malaysians to remove their shoes before entering someone’s home. Some people leave their shoes outside, others choose to place their shoes inside, next to the door. A quick glance will let you know which to do, but if you are uncertain, don’t hesitate to ask the host.
If you are uncertain what is acceptable behaviour or speech, be sure to ask beforehand, it could save you a lot of embarrassment and confusion.
Bahasa Malaysia or Malay, is the country’s official language and is spoken by practically all Malaysians. Each race also speaks specific languages indigenous to them – the Chinese speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, and other dialects while the Indians generally speak Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi, and other dialects. Indigenous tribal peoples generally communicate in Bahasa Malaysia as well as their tribal dialect. English is also widely used as a second language and generally spoken in cities and major towns by every race.
When it comes to writing down and reading the dates, Malaysia follows the day / month / year format. If you are uncertain of the format, just write out the month in full.
FOOD AND DINING
Food and eating seems to be a central part of Malaysian life and culture. It has become a form of greeting. Instead of asking “How are you?”, sometimes, you may hear Malaysians ask “Have you eaten?”. Malaysia’s rich racial and cultural diversity is reflected in the mind-boggling variety of foods. You can find all kinds of food, from Mediterranean to Thai to Japanese. Each culture has foods indigenous to its race and religion, including some unique fusion foods like Nyonya and Malaysian Portuguese. Due to Malaysia’s tropical weather, the country is also home to colourful array of juicy and unique fruits. Different months will produce different types of fruits, depending on the season. From the juicy red rambutan to the thorny, fragrant (or smelly depending on the person) durian to the giant green jackfruits, you’ll find something you’ll like. Malaysia is truly a haven (or heaven as some visitors have said) for food lovers and gourmands.
Eateries in Malaysia range from fine dining restaurants in posh hotels to roadside food stalls. Food courts, restaurants, and fast food joints are usually found in shopping complexes. Then, there are the hawker centres that can be found practically everywhere in Malaysia and serve a wide range of food. There are also Mamak (Indian Muslim) stalls which serve halal (food that is safe for muslims to eat) food and many are open only at night or open 24 hours. The mamak stalls are very popular among the students who frequently gather there for supper and to watch major sports events on the television at the stall.
For those of you who are not used to spicy and/or greasy food, you may find yourself making frequent visits to the toilet. You will want to slowly familiarize yourself with Malaysian food until you get used to the food.
The cost of a simple meal at the hawkers, mamak stalls or food courts will come up to around RM6 inclusive of a drink. Restaurants are slightly more expensive, ranging from RM8 to RM20, depending on what you order.
COST OF LIVING
The cost of living in Malaysia is low. As it will cost less than RM18 per day for 3 meals, you should not have a problem with finances if you live within a reasonable budget. Clothes, shoes, and other Malaysian-made products are well within your budget, especially during sale. Basic clothes like a normal T-shirt can cost around RM15 to RM 30, depending on the brand. There are even night markets (pasar malam), which sell everything, including clothes, a wide range of food (raw and cooked), kitchenware, jewellery, etc. Of course, the quality of what you buy is related to how much you pay for it. Imported products and famous brand names are available but are more expensive. Be careful if you think the bargain is too good to be true, it usually is. There are quite a number of imitation goods sold at the pasar malams and other street vendors like Petaling Street (KL’s Chinatown). So be sure to check the quality before you buy. ‘Caveat Emptor‘ – Let the buyer beware.
For the truly elite brands like Tiffany and Co., Gucci, Armani, etc; they can be found in major shopping complexes like KLCC, Mid-Valley Megamall, Starhill, Gardens, 1 Utama, Pavillion etc.
MONEY AND CURRENCY
Currency in Malaysia is called Ringgit Malaysia (RM) and sen (100 sen equals 1 Ringgit). The Malaysian currency is differentiated not only by size but also colour. The denominations of the notes are :1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Denomination of 2 is not printed anymore but some can still be found in circulation. With the different colours and sizes, it will be easy for you to adjust quickly to using Malaysian currency.
The coins are slightly different. Coins are denominated in 5, 10, 20 and 50 sen. The 5 sen coin is the smallest and thinnest coin, smaller than even the 1 sen coin. The rest of the coins are proportional in size to their value. Some confusion between the 20 sen coin and the 50 sen coin may arise when you are in a hurry or in a dark place searching for change. Be sure to check carefully before you pay for your goods.
The exchange rate is presently pegged at RM 3.40 to US$ 1.00. Due to the pegging of the Ringgit to the US Dollar, it may be difficult for some students to change money before entering Malaysia. Students from ASEAN countries (Association of South East Asian Nations) should not face this problem. For those who have difficulty changing money, we suggest using US dollars, credit cards and / or travellers’ cheques to ensure that money won’t be a problem upon arrival in Malaysia. There are plenty of authorized money changers and banks where you can exchange your foreign currency, US dollars and/or travellers cheques into Ringgit. Credit cards are widely accepted among departmental stores, hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies.
We highly recommend that every student open a bank account. There are several banks to choose from, but their services to students who just want to open a savings account are basically the same. You should choose a bank based on how near the bank is to where you live, near the college and the availability of ATMs (automated teller machines) in both the areas.
The banking hours in most states are Mondays to Fridays 9:00-4:30 pm, 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month 9:30-12:00 noon, and closed on Sundays and public holidays. In certain states, banks are closed on Fridays and Saturdays. A few banks even open on certain Sundays of the month. You will need to check out the times yourself.
There are some differences in the types of accounts in Malaysia compared to overseas :
- Current Account In Malaysia, it is difficult to open a current account. You not only need to have an introducer, but also quite a large sum of money to get approval for this type of account.
There is a new form of current account called i-accounts where you can get a cheque book for a minimal fee and deposit a minimum of RM500 to open the account. No introducer is needed and your bank statements will only appear online. Only a few major banks currently offer this option.
- Savings Account This is one of the most common accounts for students and young people. It is the easiest account to open and money withdrawals are pretty hassle free. You can opt to apply for an ATM card, which allows you to withdraw money at most machines throughout Malaysia. You will also be issued a savings passbook.
If you need a bank account that has international branches all over the world, HSBC, Standard Charted, Citibank are just some of the international banks that have established branches here in Malaysia. For these banks, you will need at least RM 1000 to open a savings account. Most of them will require more than RM1000. You will have to contact the banks about the various services they offer and the fees they charge.
Currency Declaration Since 1997, Malaysia has required both resident and non-resident travellers who carry large amounts of currency to declare the amount they carry.
For all non-resident traveller bringing in more than US$2500. Non-residents must also obtain permission and declare Ringgit exceeding RM1000 when leaving or entering the country. Failure to declare your currency notes is an offence. Declaration forms can be obtained on the airplane or at the airport upon arrival and should be completed prior to arrival or departure. The customs officials will not only check your luggage, but will also check your currency declaration form.
The water in most parts of Malaysia is safe to drink straight from the tap, although, depending on which area of the country you live, you are generally advised to either boil the water or use a water filtration system before drinking. Filters for the taps are relatively cheap, ranging from RM 50 to RM100. A cheaper alternative would be to just buy a big kettle. Bottled water is easily available in most shops and supermarkets. A 500ml bottle will cost around RM1.20 to RM2.00, depending on the brand and if it is plain drinking water or mineral water.
The electrical current is 220-240 volts AC at 50 cycles per second.
Electrical plugs used here fall under two categories :
‘B’ Pattern – 2 round pins usually used by audio-visual electrical appliances
‘C’ Pattern – 3 rectangular prongs
Please check for compatibility before bringing your electrical appliances with you.
Post offices are open from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, Mondays to Fridays, 8:00 am – 12:00 noon on Saturdays, and closed on Sundays and public holidays (For the states of Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu, the post offices close on Fridays and public holidays).
Mail is delivered daily, Mondays through Saturdays. Letters overseas may take anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks to arrive, depending on the country. A postcard sent internationally, with the exception of nearby Asian countries, will cost RM 0.50. Packages sent overseas can be brought to any post office to be weighed and mailed.
The post office in Malaysia also serves as a payment collection centre for many government and government-linked agencies. All phone, electricity, and water bills can be paid at the post office. The post office also offers telegram, telex, and fax services
In the Klang Valley, broadband internet access is widely available. The basic 56k modem access is available anywhere that has regular telephone line access. You will need to sign up with a broadband internet service provider for broadband access. The College has 2 computer labs that have a 1 megabit broadband line. There are many Internet and email facilities available for public use. Cyber-cafes are everywhere and cost a mere RM 2.00 – RM 5.00 an hour (about 79 cents – US$ 1.30). Note that there is also an internet facility at the hostel while the College has 1Megabit line
Local calls can be made from public phones, whether they are coin or card operated, with a minimum payment of 10 sen. International calls can be made from phone booths with card phone facilities, any Telekom (Malaysia’s telephone company) offices, or from a home phone. You will have to purchase a prepaid phone card to make an international call from a public phone. Discount rates for international calls differs from country to country. To get directory information or an operator, dial 103.
The country code for calling into Malaysia is 6 followed by the city code (03 for Kuala Lumpur / Petaling Jaya) and then the phone numbers (7 or 8-digit number).
There are public buses, trains, and taxis available for people to get around in Malaysia. There is also the newly developed LRT (Light Rail Transit) and Monorail train system. From the LRT stops, you can board one of the feeder buses or taxis for your destination. There are 2 buses that stop near Life College. They are the white, blue and red Putra LRT line feeder buses and the blue, yellow and red Triton buses. Both buses will take you to the Taman Jaya LRT station.
There are plenty of taxis available in Klang Valley. You can hail a taxi at bus stops or wait in line at taxi stands. Taxi stands are usually found outside big shopping centres, train and bus stations, airports and LRT stations. One can also call for a taxi to pick you up but it will cost you a RM1 surcharge. Taxi drivers need not be tipped. When taking a taxi, check that the meter is running and pay the taxi driver according to the fare displayed in the meter. Toll charges will be added to the fare if the taxi route takes you past a toll gate.
Taxis in major cities are usually fitted with meters. The rates are currently at RM2 for the first two kilometres and 10 sen for every subsequent 200 metres. However, there’s a surcharge of 50% levied between midnight and 6am.
The custom of tipping is not practised in Malaysia. To tip or not depends entirely on you. Most hotels and large restaurants have already included a 10% service charge in addition to the 6% government tax to the bill (indicated by the ++ sign on menus and rate cards) so tipping is unnecessary.
The only vaccinations that are suggested for Malaysia are those against Malaria and Typhoid, but only if you see yourself going out of the urban centres or making extended trips to East Malaysia. If you enjoy seafood, especially cockles and other shellfish, it is highly advisable that you get vaccination against Hepatitis A & B. Otherwise, the Klang Valley area is safe against such diseases.
NOTE: Students from South America or sub-Saharan African countries will need to get a yellow fever vaccination before arriving in Malaysia. You will need to produce a medical certificate confirming when you got the vaccine at the Immigration check point. Please check with the Malaysian Embassy in your country to confirm if you need a vaccine. Failure to do so will mean that you will have to spend up to 14 days in quarantine at the airport.
Medical services are available in cities and most towns at government-run hospitals and private clinics. Doctors and specialists are well-trained and speak good English.
If you need medical care, there are private clinics in the cities and most towns. You may want to buy medical/health insurance before coming to Malaysia as Malaysia does not have reciprocal health service agreements with other countries. Depending on the exchange rate, it may be cheaper for you to buy health/medical insurance here in Malaysia.
For over-the-counter prescriptions, there are modern pharmacies and Chinese ‘medical halls’ for more traditional herbal remedies. If you are on medication before you arrive in Malaysia, it is highly recommended that you bring a copy of your prescriptions in English with you.
If you are unused to the humid climate of the tropics, you may suffer from cases of dehydration and sunburn. Take precautions if you are new to the tropics. Precautions you can take include using sunscreens or suntan lotion with a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF), the fairer you are, the more prone to sunburn you will be. Be sure to use sunscreen according to where you are. If you intend to swim, make sure you use water-proof lotions. Wear sunglasses and a hat, using an umbrella will also help. Remember to drink lots of water and fluids!
Clinics And Hospitals
The basic consultation fee for private clinics, just for seeing the doctor is around RM50 per visit. Medication will cost extra. Most private hospitals are very expensive and a 1 night stay can come up to RM10,000 depending on the nature of the complaint. There are much cheaper government hospitals and university hospitals available, but the waiting queue is very long and you will be sharing a ward with many other patients.
Non-prescription drugs are available over-the-counter at pharmacies, supermarkets, and shopping malls.
Dental services are readily available. You should make an appointment ahead of time for whatever service required. The basic fee you pay for a check-up is standard. Please inquire on the cost of the service you require beforehand.
If you need to get a pair of contact lenses or glasses, you will not be charged a consultation fee for the eye test. You pay for the price of the glasses / contact lenses. It will help if you can get the prescription for your eyesight from your own optician before you arrive in Malaysia. Get an English translation of the prescription if necessary.
While visiting or residing in a foreign country, regardless of nationality, you are subject to that country’s laws and regulations. These laws may differ significantly from those of your home country. Your home country may be able to offer assistance, but cannot offer protection or immunity should you be charged with a criminal offence.
Should you violate the law in any way, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. The Malaysian criminal code includes a sentence of caning for certain crimes as well as death sentences for serious crimes.
NOTE: There is a mandatory death penalty for anyone caught trafficking drugs in Malaysia.
TRAVELLING WITHIN MALAYSIA
Please make sure that you carry your passport with you whenever you go out of the house. If your passport is with Malaysian Immigration, please make sure you carry a certified true copy of your passport photo page and the latest entry visa/ student pass, your student card and a letter from the college certifying that your passport is with immigration. If you fail to do so, the police are authorized to place you in a lock-up cell in the police station.
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.
Malaysia has an extensive transportation network that is modern and well-kept, providing access to every part of the country as well as its neighbours. Peninsula Malaysia is linked via road, rail, sea and air to Singapore in the south and Thailand in the north.
Malaysian highways and roads are among the best in the region. The North-South Highway extends from Johor in the south to the border of Thailand in the north, while the East-West highway in the north and the Karak Highway in the south brings you to the beautiful coastal beaches and island paradises on both ends of the peninsula. Car rental services are easily available. Buses, taxis, and coaches are available for interstate, as well as international travel to Singapore and Thailand (for West Malaysia) and Brunei & Indonesia (for East Malaysia) Buses are an inexpensive way to travel in Malaysia. Most, if not all buses in Kuala Lumpur (KL) are air-conditioned but there are still non-air-conditioned buses in smaller towns around the country. Buses plying routes within towns and cities typically charge fares according to the distance covered while interstate buses have fixed rates.
Remember: Malaysians drive on the left side of the road.
The national railway system, Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTM) connects the major towns and cities of Malaysia. KTM also travels to Singapore and Thailand. The KTM commuter has fast electric trains shuttling between KL and the surrounding areas. A Light Rail Transist (LRT) system also connects the major parts of PJ and KL. Plans are in place to connect the entire Klang Valley via LRT and KTM Commuter.
Malaysia has 5 international airports, with the largest and most important being the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), which lies about 35 – 40 miles away from the city centre. Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is the national airline and offers both domestic and international flights. MAS services over 100 international routes across 6 continents. There are also over 40 international airlines frequenting Malaysia. Finding an airline servicing your country should not be a problem for you.
Besides MAS, there is Air Asia. Air Asia is a low-cost, no frills airlines where you can make your bookings online at www.airasia.com.my. Besides Malaysia, Air Asia also flies to Brunei, Singapore and a few major cities in Thailand and Indonesia.
There are several ports of entry in Malaysia, namely Penang, Port Klang, Kuantan, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
Coastal ferries sail frequently between Penang and Butterworth, carrying both passengers as well as vehicles from the mainland to the island. Apart from that, there are many ferry/ boat services available for mainland-to-island and island-to-island travel around the country.
Fast boats and small river crafts are a popular way of getting about in Sabah and Sarawak especially to the more isolated settlements.
There are also sea cruises and river-cruises run by local tour agents. For sea travel within the country there are services available from Port Klang (Selangor) to Kuantan (Pahang) and to Sabah or Sarawak. Besides that, there are also holiday cruises that take passengers to neighbouring countries.
There is a wide variety of daily newspapers in the four main languages of Malaysia. Most cost RM 1.20, while The Sun newspaper is free but only available at certain places.
The state-run Radio Malaysia operates 6 radio networks, while Television Malaysia (RTM) operates 2 television networks, TV1 and TV2. There are also many other privately-owned radio stations that are also available in the 4 main languages of Malaysia and 4 privately-owned television networks. The television station programmes are run mainly in English, except for TV1 and Channel9. TV1 is run mainly in Malay while Channel 9 divides its main programmes evenly between the 4 main languages and shows dramas from other countries. For the rest of the tv stations, programmes in the 4 main languages are run different times of the day.
Please check the newspapers for TV schedules and Radio Station information.
Table Of Content
Food and Dining
Cost of Living
Money and Currency
Electricity and Postal Services
Internet & Telephone Services
Dental & Optical Services
Travelling within Malaysia