An Idiot’s Guide to Malaysia

Now, we’re not calling you an idiot, but this is a guide for someone who knows nothing about Malaysia. We’re talking basic facts here, people. So if you’re looking for Malaysia 101, then you've come to the right place.

Malaysia has a rich cultural history, made beautiful by a blend of Malays, Chinese, Indians and more. With a variety of festivals, architecture, beaches and rain forest, you can see why it is a popular destination for the whole world to visit.

Brief History

Malaysia is in Southeast Asia, split over two landmasses, partly on the Asian mainland and partly on the northern third of Borneo. Hinduism and Buddhism dominated Malaysia’s early history, but Islam established itself in the 14th and 15th century, and has had a huge influence on the country. In the 16th century, the British (and before them the Dutch and the Portugese) established themselves as rulers. It wasn't until the First World War that the country was invaded with success again, this time by the Japanese, who occupied the country from 1942-45.


The climate in Malaysia is pretty consistent all year round - hot and humid with rain. The low season (between March and June) is the best time to go, as you will avoid the worst of the humidity and the tourists. You should expect rain whatever time of year you go, however.


Malaysia’s currency is the ringgit, which is divided into 100 sen. At the time of writing, the exchange rate is £1 to 5.6RM.

It is slightly more expensive as a country when it comes to food and accommodation than Thailand; however in comparison to Indonesia, it is cheaper.
Feel free to haggle in markets and small shops, but not for meals or accommodation.

Places You Shouldn't Miss

Petronas Towers – these are the world’s largest twin towers, and they dominate the skyline no matter where you are in Kuala Lumpur. With 88 storeys, they reach a height of 451.9 metres.
Melaka – Once one of the greatest trading posts in Southeast Asia, it is now a melting-pot city with Portuguese, Dutch and British buildings as well as indigenous influences.
Cameron Highlands – an area that has an eco-system substantially different from the rest of the country. It is home to hundreds of rare floral species, as well as fauna including the mountain peacock-pheasant and sumatran serow.
George Town – one of the most touristy cities, it is the capital of the state of Penang. Largely Chinese, it combines old and new, offering colonial and modern architecture, rattan weaving, fortune telling and woodcarving.

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