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When should I visit Malaysia?

Tropical Malaysia is a year-round destination where the sun is always shining somewhere and the monsoon strikes at different times in different places – read our guide on when to visit Malaysia to find out more.

Malaysia's climate

Set within the tropical climes of south-east Asia, Malaysia is a warm and humid country. Its equatorial climate with frequent short showers and sunny spells are what make it so lush and green. Palms and exotic flora flourish in daytime temperatures that rarely drop below 32 degrees Celsius, and average at 27C over the year. In the highlands the cooler temperatures and misty hillsides are perfect for tea cultivation and fruit farms.

Split in two by the South China Sea, both halves of the country – on the Malay Peninsula and on the island of Borneo – are affected by the tropical monsoon rains coming from the north-east and south-west. The wettest months are between October and December, with November seeing the highest monthly rainfall, while the driest months are May, June and July. That said, the wet season hits different parts of the country at different times of year, so for example Peninsula Malaysia's west coast is generally sunny between November and February, while the east is doused with regular rains.

When is it best to travel?

Choosing the best time for holidays in Malaysia really depends on the weather, which can be vastly different across the Peninsula and Malaysian Borneo. As with any tropical country, you are likely to see a few scattered showers whatever time of year you visit. Even in the dry season, there is the odd abrupt downpour that dries up quickly in the tropical heat. But you'll want to avoid the wet seasons that strike different parts of Malaysia at alternate times, when the rain can become torrential.

The Malay Peninsula's east coast sees a heavy monsoon between November and February, when island resorts shut down for the season and seas are generally quite rough with poor visibility for snorkelling and scuba diving. Conversely, the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia generally has blue skies and sunshine between November and April with a less intense wet season arriving between May and October that brings thunderstorms and short showers interspersed with sunshine. This means you can take a beach holiday in Malaysia at any time of year, remembering to visit the east for calm waters and clear skies between April and October and the west for the rest of the year.

In the centre of the peninsula, the Cameron Highlands has a clement climate with cloud cover and temperatures usually in the low twenties for most of the year, offering a welcome retreat from the heat and humidity of the lowlands.

If you are heading to Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, it's worth noting that the north-east monsoon brings in heavy rain between October and January. For the rest of the year the weather can be unpredictable, with more frequent showers up until March, and occasional fronts blowing in from the Western Pacific's storm season. On the whole, April to September is the best time to visit Borneo.

Festivals

Malaysia celebrates a range of religious festivals and national events, reflecting its eclectic cultural mix, and adding an interesting spin on any visit to the country. There are festivities for Chinese New Year in January or February, particularly in the China Town districts of Malaysia's main cities. On 10 May, Wesak Day is celebrated in Malaysia, a Buddhist festival honouring the birth, life and death of Buddha.

The Islamic month of Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr marking its end, and the Eid Al Adha feast of sacrifice are observed in Malaysia, at different dates according to the Islamic calendar. Hari Raya Puasa or Eid Al Fitr falls at the end of June in 2017, but changes every year. Hari Raya Haji or Eid Al Adha is celebrated in September. The beautiful Hindu Festival of Lights or Diwali is also celebrated in Malaysia in October or November.

Nation-wide state holidays in Malaysia include Malaysian Labour Day on 1 May and the King's Birthday on 4 June. Merdaka Day or Independence Day is celebrated every year on 31 August – a national holiday marking independence from the British Empire. Malaysia Day is another annual national holiday on 16 September, this time marking the day Malaysia became a united nation. As well as viewing parades and joining in with festivities on these dates, you may need to adjust travel plans around national holidays when local services can be limited.

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