Malaysia travel guide: what you need to do


Visas, vaccinations, SIM cards, internet, power, money, travel insurance, handy apps and more.

Malaysia planning and preparation


Where to get the best cash rates, phone apps for maps and currency conversions, and the cheapest phone rates - download the Malaysia travel guide.

Visas and passports

Australian passport holders do not need a visa to visit Malaysia for up to three months.

You'll need:

  • a passport valid for at least six months on arrival
  • a confirmed return or onward international ticket

Visa rules may change, check with the Malaysian Embassy for up-to-date advice.

Vaccinations

Your doctor may recommend vaccinations before you travel to Malaysia, depending on your health status and your travel plans. The Travel Doctor recommends you make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date, and that you consider vaccinations for typhoid, hepatitis A and B, rabies and Japanese encephalitis, and consider a prophylactic for malaria. See their Malaysia health planner for more information or speak to your doctor.

Tip: Some vaccinations need to be given four to six weeks before departure, so get in early.

More about health and safety in Malaysia.

Phone and internet

Global roaming and coverage

Malaysia operates on a GSM network, so Australian mobile phones should work anywhere there's a signal. Rural areas and islands won't always get great coverage, but the cities will. If you use your phone overseas, particularly to access the internet, be prepared for sky-high bills. Check global roaming rates with your telco:

Tip: Switch off data roaming on your phone before you leave Australia. Likewise, switch off your voicemail and ask friends and family to text you rather than calling (you'll be charged if you answer incoming calls).

Beat global roaming bill shock - our guide to unlocking your phone and changing your global roaming settings.  

Local SIM

A pre-paid Malaysian SIM card is a much cheaper option than paying global roaming rates on your Australian SIM, provided your handset is unlocked. The main telcos are Maxis, DiGi, Celcom, and U Mobile - all websites are in English, so you can compare pre-paid deals for calls and data. There are phone stores at Kuala Lumpur Airport, or you can buy your SIM from a convenience store. Ask the person who sells you the SIM to help you set it up. You may need to show your passport as ID.

Tip: U Mobile has a Traveller Sim and DiGi has a Traveller's Pack - both available at the Airport.

Travel SIM

If you'd prefer to be organised before you leave Australia or if you're travelling through a number of countries, a pre-paid travel SIM is an easy option, although the rates probably won't be as cheap as with a local Malaysian SIM. Travel SIMs are available online and from some travel agents and post offices.

Remember: Your phone will need to be unlocked to accept a SIM from another network.

Wi-Fi

You'll find free Wi-Fi hotspots in many hotels, cafes and shopping malls. If you need to do more than just check your emails every now and then, consider buying a local data SIM or renting a USB modem or portable 'pocket hotspot'. Internet connections may be sketchy or non-existent in remote areas.

Tip: U Mobile rents MiFi devices from its store at Kuala Lumpur Airport, which you can return to them before your departing flight.

Power plugs

Standard voltage: 220-240V

Frequency: 50Hz

Malaysia's frequency is the same as Australia's, and the voltage range is similar enough to Australia's 230V that you can use your appliances without fear of frying them.

Power sockets: 

 

Malaysia uses the British-style type G plugs and sockets, so you'll need an adaptor to use your Australian appliances.

Money

Currency: Malaysian ringgit (MYR / RM) - one ringgit is made up of 100 sen

Tip: Malaysians often refer to ringgits as 'dollars'.

Check xe.com for the latest exchange rates.

Important: Tell your bank about your travel plans two weeks before you leave. Card activity in a foreign country could be mistaken for fraud and you could find your account frozen.

Credit cards

Credit cards are accepted at almost all Malaysian hotels, restaurants and shopping centres. Fraud is a risk, as it is in all countries, so never let your credit card out of your sight when making payments. For everyday purchases and taxi fares, you'll need cash.

ATMs

ATMs are easy to find in cities and towns and most will accept foreign cards. Some may have a low withdrawal limit. Remember you'll be charged a withdrawal fee and a conversion fee. If you're travelling to remote areas, ATMs will be harder to find, so stock up on cash (and hide it well).

Money changers

Currency exchange booths, including FOREX, are common in tourist areas, shopping centres and airports. There are no fees to change money in Malaysia - just variable exchange rates. You'll get a better rate if you avoid changing money at the airport, KL Sentral and at hotels. It's best to wait until you're in Malaysia to change your money, but if you want to be organised you could always buy a small amount of ringgit before you leave Australia.

Scam alert: Ignore unofficial money changers on the street and in shops. Stick to licensed outlets or banks.

Tip: Most banks are open from 9.30am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday. In the Muslim states of Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan, the banks are closed on Fridays and open 9.30am to 4.00pm Saturday to Wednesday and 9:30am to 11.00am on Thursday. Currency exchange booths will be open longer hours and on weekends.

Money security

Travellers' cheques are becoming a thing of the past and you may have trouble finding places in Malaysia that will cash them. If you're concerned about money security, consider a travel money card or 'cash passport'. They can be pre-loaded with a foreign currency and used like a credit or debit card, and cancelled if lost. Read more about the pros and cons of travel money cards.

Tip: Carry at least two cards and more than one cash currency (Australian and Malaysian). Split your money and cards between separate bags. That way if you lose one, you have a back-up.

For more advice on overseas spending see our travel money guide.

Foreigner fee

Expect to pay a higher price for many things in Malaysia, simply because you aren't Malaysian. Foreigners are often charged more than twice as much as locals for entry to tourist attractions. There's no point in complaining as there's no law against this kind of price discrimination.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Buy insurance at the same time as you book your trip, that way you'll be covered if you have to cancel for some reason before you go.

For more information read our buying guide and to choose the best cover, see CHOICE's travel insurance reviews and comparisons.

Check with your insurer about exclusions that may affect you, including sports, car hire, medical tourism and pre-existing medical conditions.

Be aware that anything that happens to you while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is unlikely to be covered by insurance.

Tips:

  • Keep a printout of your travel insurance details with you at all times while on your trip.
  • Share your insurance details with family or friends before you leave.

Handy links and apps

Consider adding these links and apps to your phone, tablet or laptop before you go.

Tip: Try to find apps that work offline so they won't chew up your data or stop working when you don't have an internet connection.

  • Travel apps such as City Guides (Kuala Lumpur) and Triposo (Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang and more) offer maps, hotel search, restaurant recommendations and other travel tips.
  • The Transit Kuala Lumpur app (AppleAndroid) helps with navigating Kuala Lumpur's public transport system.
  • Moovit (Apple / Android) is a public transport planner app covering Kuala Lumpur and many other world cities.
  • Currency conversion apps help you work out costs in Australian dollars.
  • Translation apps help with communication.

Tip: To save a map onto your mobile device for offline use, select the area on Google Maps then select 'Save offline map' from the menu and follow the directions on the screen. Your GPS positioning will still work on the saved map, even when you don't have access to the internet. Alternatively, go to 'Offline maps' in the menu and select a city.

Got a travel tip about Malaysia? Or spotted something in our guide that needs updating? Add a comment below.


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