8 things foreigners should know about Malaysia


Your go-to guide before visiting the tropical paradise we call Malaysia.

© miroslav_1 | Getty Images

Like most countries, Malaysia has its idiosyncrasies. They are not always ideal and can sometimes be a pain but those of us who call this mudball home, we have come to embrace and love them. That said, it’s probably useful for you to be made aware of some of these fun facts which makes Malaysia unique.

Here are the top 8 things you should know:

1. You will never be lonely as KL never sleeps

kuala lumpur-city-centre-foreigner

© Sayid Budhi | Gettyimages.com

If Kuala Lumpur were a person, it would not get sufficient rest. In the day, it is full of energy from playing the role of the capital city of a country that’s renowned as a cultural melting pot between the different races residing in Malaysia. While Malaysia’s main religion may be Muslim, the other half of the population comprise of Chinese, Indians, Christians, Sikhs and various other ethnic groups.

Thus, giving birth to many eclectic activities across the spectrum of events, food and art. There is something happening every other weekend including RIUH in the city pop-up bazaar, conventions like the upcoming SneakerLAH, as well as numerous popular annual events including the Cooler Lumpur Festival, KL Fashion Week, Urbanscapes fest and Art Expo (AEM).

KL also takes on a new life in the night. The city continues buzzing way past most people’s bedtime with 24-hour restaurants, clubs, bars and night markets – all the way till the wee hours of the morning.

2. Food comes in all shapes and prices

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It stands to say that like most South-East Asian countries, Malaysia offers an absolute smorgasbord of food choices at all price levels. If you are travelling on a budget, Malaysia is an absolute street food haven with many hawker centres and food courts all over providing a galore of options – from Malay to Chinese, Indian, Western and even fusion fare. In fact, if you are an adventurous eater, this is probably the best way to sample true Malaysian food.

That said, if you prefer something more upscale, Malaysia also offers a glut of options within the mid-range priced cafes, various popular international food chains, trendy hotpot outlets, as well as a decent amount of fine dining options too.

Food is generally affordable for most cuisines but it is not quite the case for alcohol. If you are looking to enjoy a night out drinking, be prepared to pay a pretty penny.

CHECK OUT: 9 beautiful parks in Klang Valley you should not miss

3. You will never go to bed hungry as food is available 24/7!

The other thing you will quickly find is that Malaysians eat around the clock. Yes, it is probably not advisable but what’s one to do when the cravings for a plate of ‘Maggi Goreng’ hits at 2 AM? Go out and eat it of course.

We have ‘mamak’ outlets whose doors never close and selected fast-food establishments such as KFC and McDonald’s which are open 24 hours as well. You don’t have to just dream about the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices, you can actually have it right when you want it.

4. Public transport is a lot more viable these days

© Abdul Razak Latif | Getty Images

The opening of Klang Valley’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line in 2016 has greatly expanded the options of transportation in the Klang Valley – one can travel from one end of the conurbation in Sungai Buloh to the other end in Kajang via the efficient MRT. It is also integrated with three other rail networks, namely the LRT, monorail and KTM, making travelling to tourist hotspots such as Muzium Negara, Chinatown, Pasar Seni and KLCC super convenient.

Beyond these, there are also ample MyRapid buses you can take to get around the city including the free GO KL buses. Just get yourself a ‘Touch ‘N’ Go’ card which you can use on most major transportation systems. Ride-hailing is also a viable and relatively affordable way to get around in Malaysia with Grab and MyCar being the two most commonly-used platforms.

Foreigners can now purchase apartments and condominiums, priced from RM600,000 in urban areas in Malaysia beginning January 2020. As announced in the recently tabled Budget 2020, the threshold for foreign property purchase has been lowered from Rm1 million to RM600,000. However, this only applies to unsold, existing properties and not projects that have yet to be launched. Further details will be shared by the government soon, in the meantime check out Guidelines for foreigners buying a house in Malaysia.

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5. We love our malls


© 123rf

Malaysians spend quite a decent amount of their weekends at shopping malls. We suppose it’s a product of how hot and humid it can get around here so the mall’s (free) air conditioning provides some reprieve from that.

Do not be surprised if you bump into a shopping mall every 10 minutes or so when travelling around the Klang Valley – almost every neighbourhood has its own mall. In fact, a popular residential suburb, Subang Jaya, houses an astounding 11 shopping malls!

The major malls in Malaysia tend to be large and resembles a mini-town, offering various recreational activities such as ice-skating, rock-climbing and weekend bazaars on top of retail outlets. Popular ones include KLCC, Mid Valley, MyTown, 1 Utama and Sunway Pyramid.

6. We speak in many tongues  

You may find this interesting but most Malaysians can speak at least two languages. English and Bahasa Malaysia are spoken the most widely but most ethnicities in Malaysia can converse fluently in their mother tongues as well be it Tamil, Mandarin or Punjabi.

In fact, within some races, there are various dialects as well. For instance, many of our Malaysian Chinese friends can communicate not only in Mandarin but also Hokkien and Cantonese as well. Being multilingual is one of the traits that make us stand out from our Asian counterparts.

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7. We only have two seasons – rain or shine

© Kelvin Aik | Getty Images

There’s been a running joke amongst Malaysians that we do have seasons, but we only have two of them. It’s either really hot or raining cats and dogs. Sometimes we get both seasons in a single hour! Malaysia is located close to the equator, hence we are blessed with tropical weather. The one downside is that it gets pretty humid, especially during the day.

Usually, in the early months of the year, it gets quite hot and it progressively hits cooler climates during the monsoon season later in the year. If you are not attending anything formal, shorts or breezy summer dresses are the way to go exploring Malaysia with maybe an umbrella in tow in case it rains.

MORE: Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H): What are the latest requirements & How to apply?

8. We can be rather conservative

It’s safe to say that the average Malaysian is likely to be conventional in behaviour and thinking. Whether it comes to dressing, lifestyle or language, you would probably hold yourself in better stead in all walks of society if you keep things just a little conservative off the bat.

Here’s a tip: When visiting religious establishments such as mosques and temples, do wear appropriate clothing which covers your knees and shoulders. It is good to adopt the same stead when meeting your Malaysian host or dropping by a local’s home for the first time.

Malaysians may not immediately express their discomfort, so you may be better off keeping yourself in check when you are socialising with a new group of people.

And there you have it, just some key facts you should take note of before visiting Malaysia. Not all of them are exclusive to Malaysia but some of them certainly are. We hope you have found this list useful!

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