Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 1: Introduction

25.8: Tehran -> Kuala Lumpur
26.8: KL
27.8: KL -> Pinang
28.8: Pinang
29.8: Pinang
30.8: Pinang
31.8: Pinang -> Kota Kinabalu -> Kudat

1.9: Kudat -> Pulau Banggi -> Tip of Borneo -> Kudat
2.9: Kudat -> Bavanggazo -> Gombizau -> Mengkabong -> KK
3.9: Kota Kinabalu -> KL
4.9: Kuala Lumpur
5.9: Kuala Lumpur -> Dubai
6.9: Dubai -> Munich

Overview and overall impression
This was a brief 10 days trip to Malaysia meant to relax a bit after the intensive Iran trip. Basically I spent a few days in KL, four nights in Pinang and three nights in Sabah.
Pinang was chosen because it offers a mix of beach activities and sightseeing due to the proximity to Georgetown and other sites on Pinang island. The beach is nothing special and in fact the sea water is unbelievably dirty, but it was nice to spend a few days on the sea with the family. Pinang has - together with Melaka - been nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site, due to its rich colonial heritage.
The area around the Tip of Borneo is interesting and suitable for a mix of beach holiday and cultural experience. There are several good beaches around the tip of Borneo with clean seawater and good tourist infrastructure. In addition there are interesting local villages which one can visit and experience the local culture. The island of Banggi is still largely undeveloped and not suitable at the moment for tourists.
Kota Kinabalu is slowly developing its waterfront into an attractive area with cafes, restaurants, shopping malls and nice views.

Costs are still moderate if compared to holiday destinations in Europe. On the other hand however prices in Malaysia have been rising in the past years.

Due to its mixed ethnic background Malaysia offera a wide variety of cuisines: local Malay, Chinese and Indian. Restaurants and food stalls are everywhere. The least expensive food is available in food stalls, very often with surprisingly good quality. Almost all shopping malls in Malaysia have food courts with a large number of food stalls.

High end four or five star accomodation is still less expensive in Malaysia than in western countries, although at the  upper end room prices can be very high. Basic, affordable accomodation is still available in most places. In Sabah there are a number of hotels and resorts designed to blend with the traditional local lifestyle: these are homestays and longhouses built with traditional materials, most of the time not offering A/C.

Money  / Exchange rate (August/early September 2011)
1 Euro = RM 4.23
1 Euro = USD 1.45
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a Cirrus/Maestro ATM card. You won't need traveller cheques.

Mobile phones and prepaid cards
This time I used a prepaid card of DiGi (initial cost was minimal, RM 5 or so,  recharges started at RM 10). Moderate call cost. Internet flat rate for RM 8/day. Coverage was good in all places I stayed, although 3G coverage was only available in the larger cities (KL, Pinang, Kota Kinabalu, but for instance not Kudat).


Internet access
Wherever hotels offered free wireless Internet I used this to surf the web and check my emails. Otherwise I relied on a 3G phone (SIM card from DiGi) which I used as a modem for my notebook computer. Internet cafes are everywhere and charge less than RM 4/hour.


Tropical climate, hot and humid. Typical weather pattern of blue sky in the morning with gradual clouds buildup over day and overcast skies in the afternoon. Except for Pinang it didn't rain much during our stay, because August/September is still mostly dry season in Malaysia.

Health / Vaccinations
The usual set of vaccinations for tropical countries (consult your doctor). These include polio, Hep A, tetanus, diphteria, typhoid, although this list may be subject to change. Malaria tablets are recommended if you go to the interior rural regions of Malaysia and Borneo.

VISA / Entry requirements
A valid passport is necessary. EU nationals automatically get a three month visa upon arrival. This also holds for nationals of many other countries - check with the Malaysian embassy in your country.

No issues here. Malaysia is a very stable and peaceful country.

Recommended things
  • The beaches around the Tip of Borneo are well suited for a beach holiday. Nice, soft sand beaches, clean water, snorkelling possible off the beach.
  • Surprisingly well preserved Runggus longhouses in Bavanggazo near Kudat.
  • Kota Kinabalu is developing its waterfront area. In combination with the nearby islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman national park, Kota Kinabalu is slowly turning into a place where it makes sense to spend several days. In the past KK was just a place where to pass through, on route to the more interesting destinations of Sabah.

Things to avoid
  • The beach in Batu Ferringhi (Pinang) as well as all beaches on Pinang island. Beaches everywhere else in Malaysia are just so much better.
  • The blue taxis in KL, which are much more expensive than the standard taxis.

Getting around
I used the usual mix of inexpensive AirAsia flights to cover the larger distances and shared taxis and taxis to get around locally. Some locations in Sabah can only be reached with a taxi, because public transportation is either missing or complicated. I got ripped off in KL by the driver of a blue taxi who made a big detour instead of using the shortest way.

Copyright 2011 Alfred Molon