Malaysia (/məˈleɪʒə/ (About this sound listen) mə-LAY-zhə or /məˈleɪsiə/ (About this sound listen) mə-LAY-see-ə; Malaysian pronunciation: [məlejsiə])[lacks stress] is a federal constitutional monarchy located in Southeast Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 330,803 square kilometres (127,720 sq mi) separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo). Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand at the north and maritime borders with Singapore at the south, Vietnam at the northeast, and Indonesia in the west. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. With a population of over 30 million, Malaysia is the 44th most populous country. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia, Tanjung Piai, is in Malaysia. Located in the tropics, Malaysia is one of 17 megadiverse countries on earth, with large numbers of endemic species.
Malaysia has its origins in the Malay kingdoms present in the area which, from the 18th century, became subject to the British Empire. The first British territories were known as the Straits Settlements, whose establishment was followed by the Malay kingdoms becoming British protectorates. The territories on Peninsular Malaysia were first unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. Malaya united with North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore on 16 September 1963 to become Malaysia. Less than two years later in 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federation.
The country of Malaysia, with a population of about 29 million people, is split into 2 significant areas:
• Peninsula Malaysia (also known as West Malaysia)
• Borneo Malaysia (also known as East Malaysia)
Peninsula Malaysia lies comfortably in-between south Thailand & Singapore. The peninsula is surrounded by the Straits of Malacca on the west coastline and the South China Sea on the east coast. The primary cultures found in Peninsula Malaysia are the Malays, Chinese, and Indians.
Borneo Malaysia is comprises the two states of Sarawak & Sabah and is located on the island of Borneo, shared with Indonesia’s Kalimantan and the small nation of Brunei. Culturally, Borneo’s ethnic groups (Ibans, Kadazandusuns, Dayaks, and other smaller tribes) are the largest cultural group, although you can also find many Malaysia and Chinese in the states.
Malaysia experiences its monsoon season from the months of November to February. During this period, there is steady rainfall and choppy seas on the eastern coastline; however the central and western coast remains quite isolated.
Malaysia is located near the equator with steady temperatures throughout the year (between 21° t0 32°C, except in the cooler highlands) and the country can be extremely humid. Light clothing is recommended.
Time & Date: GMT +8
The word ringgit is an obsolete term for “jagged” in Malay and was originally used to refer to the serrated edges of silver Spanish dollars which circulated widely in the area during the 16th and 17th century Portuguese colonial era. In modern usage ringgit is used almost solely for the currency. The Malay names ringgit and sen were officially adopted as the sole official names in August 1975. Previously they had been known officially as dollars and cents in English and ringgit and sen in Malay, and in some parts of the country this usage continues.
Officially, the national language is Bahasa Malaysia. However, due to the great diversity of cultures (each with their own unique language), many other languages are spoken. English, with its common roots in the country’s history, can be considered an unofficial second language and most Malaysia are able to converse in English, except in the remote areas.
That being said, Malaysian English (humorously referred to as Manglish) is practically a dialect onto itself. Grammar is often skewered as they have been influenced by their native tongues (none of which follow the same grammatical rules as English). Due to this, many Malaysians will speak an English sentence in the shortest possible way. The sentence ‘yes, I can’ could be reduced to a simple ‘can’.
Also, do not be surprised if you hear sentences partially in English and partially in some other language. Depending on how many languages a person can speak, it is entirely possible for a single sentence to comprise of 4 languages. (Usually we take the ‘easiest’ word from each language and just use that).
When buying your travel insurance, always check the small print – some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which could be anything from scuba diving to horse riding. You should check whether the medical coverage is on a pay first, claim later basis and, more importantly, ensure that your medical coverage includes the cost of medical evacuation.
Certain countries may require visas in order to enter Malaysia. You may check your country’s visa requirement status on this website:
Borneo & Peninsula Malaysia often run separate customs & immigration departments. Therefore, you will be required to present your passport when entering/leaving Borneo.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Kuching International Airport
Langkawi International Airport
Kota Kinabalu International Airport
Senai International Airport
Penang International Airport
Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Currency: Malaysian ringgit
Population: 31.19 million
Official languages: Malay, Malaysian