| Part 1: Introduction
In this trip I visited a few places
in Malaysia for the first time: Johor Bahru, the islands around Mersing
archipelago), the western tip of Sarawak (Sematan, the Gunung Gading
and Tanjung Datu NPs) and the Similajau national park.
Not every tourist development in Malaysia is a success story: the
Seribuat archipelago now is receiving less visitors than years ago and
a number of resorts have closed.
In Malaysia western tourists can walk around the streets
without being bothered by people trying to sell something. In some
neighbouring countries this is not the case.
Malaysia is only a bit more expensive than Thailand or Indonesia, if
you travel on a mid-range budget. In KL we spent RM245 on a nice room
in a four star hotel, elsewhere I spent between RM55 and RM153 for
hotel rooms. Meals range from less than RM 10 to between RM 10 and 20
Transportation is relatively affordable if you use low cost airlines
such as Airasia for instance. Since I travelled to less touristy places
in Sarawak and didn't have the time to wait for the buses, I used taxis
to get from A to B. Taxis are relatively cheap but added to the cost of
the trip as I covered larger distances.
There is an incredible variety of food in Kuala Lumpur, with tons of
restaurants and eateries everywhere. In every shopping complex there
are one or two floors dedicated to restaurants and food stalls.
Especially in the basement floor of the Midvalley shopping complex in
KL there are tons of places where to find all sorts of food and snacks.
Prices are a fraction of what they are in a developed country.
Elsewhere in Malaysia the situation is similar. Malaysia is benefiting
from its ethnic mix: Malays, Chinese and Indians.
In KL we stayed in a comfortable four star hotel, spending RM 245 for a
nice room. Elsewhere in Malaysia I stayed in a variety of places,
spending between RM 55 (basic but clean place) and RM 153 (resort like
place with air-conditioned bungalows on the beach).
/ Exchange rate (June 2009)
1 Euro = RM 4.95
1 Euro = USD 1.40
the Universal Currency
ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a
Cirrus/Maestro ATM card. You won't need traveller cheques.
phones and prepaid cards
We used prepaid cards of Maxis to avoid roaming charges. The card costs
RM 10 which includes RM 4 of calls. The clerk in the shop activated the
card for us. This year it was possible to use the prepaid cards to
access the Internet (APN:
net, username: maxis, password: wap, dial-in number: *99#). It was
expensive however, at 1 cent/KB (RM 10/MB).
While Internet cafes are plentiful and available everywhere in
Malaysia, I mostly relied on Internet access in the hotel rooms. Where
unavailable or too expensive I used either Internet cafes or coffee
shops offering free WLAN. Occasionally I used the free WLAN hotspot at
the KL airport or accessed the Internet with the mobile phone, but just
to check the emails. The WLAN hotspot at Starbucks becomes almost
unusable when too many people are using it.
Tropical climate, dry season. In western Malaysia the sky was mostly
hazy (el nino phenomenon). Little rain, but blue skies only in the
morning, overcast in the afternoon. Little rain, except for Johor Bahru
where it rained a lot on the two days when I was there. More overcast
than sunny in Sarawak, but little rain there as well. Overall hot, but
not too hot.
The usual set of vaccinations for tropical countries (consult your
doctor) and recommended. These include polio, Hep A, tetanus,
diphteria, typhoid, although this list may be subject to change.
Regarding malaria the risk is low in Malaysia, so I didn't take any
pills and relied instead on mosquito repellent which I applied twice
daily (in the morning and in the evening). Almost no mosquito bites
except for the house of my in-laws in Teluk Intan where the mosquitoes
ate me alive.
VISA / Entry
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.
Swine flu check at all Malaysian airports in June/July 2009. Especially
westerners were screened carefully. Lots of questioning in some cases.
When arriving from Surabaya to Mersing Malaysian customs asked me to
open the suitcase and checked the content (first time this happens to
I also noticed that AirAsia opened my suitcase without asking me.
Nothing was missing, but the next time I'll use an external lock
difficult to crack.
No issues here. Malaysia is a
very stable and peaceful country.
- The costal area of the Similajau national park is
impressive, especially in the late afternoon and before sunset. When
you walk back to the park HQ, walk along the beach instead of the
jungle trails. Impressive bays, beaches and rock formations. The golden
beach in Similajau is beautiful. Similajau is a little known, but very
- Pulau Rawa near Mersing has a very impressive beach
(but just one beach unfortunately and the resort is expensive).
- Tanjung Datu is a cute little national park with a
very nice beach and a pleasant rainforest. Spend a couple of days there
- In the "hinterland" of Kuching there are several
national parks, all interesting.
Things to avoid
- Be careful with the bus station in Johor Bahru: taxi
drivers there are very aggressive. Keep them at a distance and don't
walk around as if you didn't know what you were planning to do.
- It is becoming increasingly difficult finding taxis
in KL willing to use the meter, especially if you are in the Golden
triangle area. A work-around is to use public transportation, for
instance the monorail if you are in the Golden Triangle.
Metered taxis are inexpensive in Malaysia. In KL and
major cities taxis should use the meter (you have to insist on that).
Elsewhere taxis charge a fixed fee or you need to negotiate the fare.
Public transportation in Sarawak can be patchy, and you might
have to charter a car or use a taxi even for a longer distance.
offers inexpensive flights, but you have to book at least 24h in
advance or buy a ticket at an Airasia outlet (for instance at the major
airports). Malaysian Airlines (MAS) has reduced their fares and is now
on average only 15-20% more expensive than AirAsia if you include all
surcharges of AirAsia. MAS is even cheaper than Airasia on some flights
if you book several days in advance.