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Malaysia and Borneo - Frequently Asked Questions

From travel logistics and planning to the best beaches and wildlife encounters, we answer the most common questions on holidays to Malaysia.

Table of contents

  1. When is the best time to go?
  2. Do you need a visa?
  3. How can I get there?
  4. What is the local currency and what currency should I take?
  5. What is there to see and do?
  6. Where are the best beaches?
  7. What is the best way to travel around the country?
  8. Are there any local customs I need to be aware of before travelling?
  9. Where are the best places to see the orangutans?

When is the best time to go?

For the best holiday weather, you'll want to visit Malaysia outside of Monsoon season. There are two monsoons affecting different parts of the country at different times of year. On the Malaysian Peninsula, the west is driest between November and April; the east coast between May and October. Malaysian Borneo's rainforests rely on its humid climate, but to dodge the rainy season visit between April and September.

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Do you need a visa?

If you have a British passport and are entering Malaysia from the UK, you don't need a visa and will be granted permission for a three-month stay upon arrival. Remember to bring your passport if you are flying between Peninsula Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Passports need to be valid for a minimum of six months from the date you enter the country.

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How can I get there?

Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur has a major international airport with direct flights from the UK. If you wish to fly to Malaysian Borneo or the islands, you can board a domestic flight from Kuala Lumpur. You can also enter Malaysia from Singapore to the south of the Malaysian Peninsula, which is a hub for international flights to the region.

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What is the local currency and what currency should I take?

The Malaysian Ringgit is the local currency. One Ringgit is divided into 100 sens, and a ringgit is roughly equal to £0.18 or 18p (2017). It's always a good idea to take some local currency with you on holiday, but you can find exchange booths in Kuala Lumpur and ATM machines in all Malaysia's major towns and cities.

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What is there to see and do?

Malaysia is an incredibly diverse country with natural wonders, show-stopping wildlife, bustling cities and an amazing heritage and culture. Places to stay include everything from luxury beach boutiques and chic city spa hotels to rainforest eco-lodges and heritage-infused hill stations. You can experience world-class diving, go on a jungle adventure, get up close with orangutans, climb a mountain, take a foodie tour, explore historic enclaves or simply lay back on a glorious tropical island.

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Where are the best beaches?

The Langkawi archipelago to the west of the Malaysian Peninsula is rightly famed for its pristine tropical beaches but the country is blessed with countless beaches that could vie for the title of world's most beautiful beach. Tioman Island between Peninsula Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo is a rainforested paradise with white sands, comfortable resorts and a marine reserve offering excellent diving. There are also some stunning beaches close to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo – the offshore islet Gaya Island is a great place to play castaway for a few days.

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What is the best way to travel around the country?

In Peninsula Malaysia you'll find a decent plane, train and road network with ferries linking islands to the mainland and river boats used to penetrate deep into the jungle. The best way to travel between Peninsula Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo is to catch a domestic flight, and this is also the quickest way to hop between distant locations such as Penang and Kuala Lumpur. But most travel in Malaysia is done by road. The Eastern Oriental Express train travels the length of the Malaysian Peninsula between Singapore and Penang offering a luxury way to see the sights. Domestic flights connect Kuching in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sarawak with Kota Kinabalu in the state of Sabah, and you can also fly into Sandakan for the best wildlife experiences in Malaysian Borneo. Local touring around Borneo is usually done by a combination of road and river. Access to little tropical islands and marine reserves is usually by boat.

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Are there any local customs I need to be aware of before travelling?

Malaysia is a multi-cultural country with many different customs, but its predominant religion is Islam. You can avoid faux pas by dressing modestly in rural areas and at religious sites.

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Where are the best places to see the orangutans?

Head to Malaysian Borneo's jungles to see endangered orangutans. There are a few well-run sanctuaries where you can get up close to them at Semonggoh close to Kuching and Sepilok near Sandakan. The Danum Valley in Sabah is said to have the greatest concentration of wild orang-utans in the world so this is the place to go if you want to spot these magnificent beasts in the jungle.

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