Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 1: Introduction

25-26.6: Munich -> Dubai -> KL
27.6: KL
28.6: KL
29.6: KL -> Miri
30.6: Miri -> Mulu
1.7: Mulu -> Camp 5
2.7: Pinnacles
3.7: Camp 5 -> Miri -> Kuching
4.7: Kuching -> Singapore
5.7: Singapore
6.7: Singapore
7.7: Singapore -> KL
8.7: KL -> Merang
9.7: Merang -> Lang Tengah
10.7: Lang Tengah
11.7: Lang Tengah -> Kuala Terengganu -> Pulau Kapas
12.7: Pulau Kapas -> KL -> Teluk Intan

13.7: Teluk Intan
14.7: Teluk Intan, Ipoh, Kuala Kangsar, Taiping
15.7: Teluk Intan -> KL -> Kuching
16.7: Kuching, Kubah NP, Matang wildlife reserve
17.7: Semenggoh, Kuching wetlands NP, Kota Kinabalu
18.7: Kota Kinabalu -> Labuan
19.7: Labuan -> Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei)
20.7: Ulu Temburong NP -> BSB
21.7: BSB -> Seria -> Tasek Merimbun -> KL
22.7: KL
23.7: KL
24.7: KL -> Dubai
25.7: Dubai -> Munich

Overview and overall impression
I travel to Malaysia every year, so I'm quite used to the country and there is not much that surprises me. The interesting thing this year was the sharp increase in prices, especially for what concerns taxis in KL and some restaurants. Apparently in the past year prices for some basic goods (petrol, food etc.) have increased substantially in Malaysia, prompting sharp price increases in some sectors.
For this trip I had no predefined schedule when I arrived to Malaysia. I was hoping to visit the Ulu Muda reserve and therefore tried to be flexible timewise, in case it would have been possible to visit this reserve.
It turned out that the only guesthouse on the Pedu lake was fully booked most of the time and the only guide who could have brought me into the reserve wasn't interested in single travellers.

Sharp price increases compared to 2009 in some sectors: taxis in KL, some restaurants. Rising prices in the Boulevard hotel where we usually stay in KL. The exchange rate Euro/RM was a bit unfavourable when we visited compared to one year ago: only RM 4 for one Euro compared to RM 5 one year ago.
Still, on a general note, it is possible to spend not too much, by carefully choosing hotels, restaurants, activities etc.

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. Elsewhere in Malaysia the situation is similar. Malaysia is benefiting from its ethnic mix: Malays, Chinese and Indians.

I stayed in a mix of places, ranging from the luxury Four points hotel in Kuching to the open hut in Camp 5 of the Mulu national park. Accomodation in Malaysia is plentiful and affordable. Some places, especially in Sabah, Langkawi and some islands of the east coast only have resort or other expensive accomodation.

Money  / Exchange rate (June 2010)
1 Euro = around RM 4
1 Euro = USD 1.25
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 we bought Maxis SIM cards. Cost was 10 RM, with 4 RM of airtime on them. I topped mine up with 30 RM. A few hours later, thanks to a Nokia dumbphone which initiated a data download, the card was almost empty (see here for more details).
That however is nothing compared to the USD 500 bill somebody I know had to pay, after he gave his iphone to his daughter while on a visit to China. The computer-savvy, sweet girl used the iphone to surf the web and watch youtube videos, using data roaming. In the evening customer support called him from the USA informing him that his bill had exceeded USD 500...
Conclusion: it's a good idea to 1) use a local SIM card and thus avoid roaming and 2) even better to purchase a local mobile data flat rate in the country you are visiting. In Malaysia such packages are available.


Internet access
While Internet cafes are plentiful and available everywhere in Malaysia, I mostly relied on Internet access in the hotel rooms. Where this was unavailable or too expensive I used either Internet cafes or coffee shops offering free WLAN.


Tropical weather, hot and steamy. June-July actually is the dry season in Malaysia, but for some strange reason I experienced heavy rain in parts of Sarawak. Typical tropical weather pattern with cloud free mornings, gradual clouds build-up during the morning and heavy rain in the afternoon.

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 Pinnacles trek is very tough, but the view from the top is very rewarding.
  • Lang Tengah, beautiful little island with white coral sand beaches and pristine waters.
  • Kuala Kangsar in Perak, with its breathtaking mosque.
  • The cave temples near Ipoh are very impressive.
  • Semenggoh was a positive surprise. Much better organised than when I first visited 10 years ago. Plenty of orang-utans during the feeding time.

Things to avoid
  • I wasn't particularly impressed by the Kubah national park and the nearby Matang wildlife reserve.
  • The trip to the Kuching wetlands national park was also a disappointment, as we didn't see any dolphins. I've been later told that you can spot dolphins, when taking the boat from Kuching to Sibu.

Getting around
Taxis in KL now have increased their prices by 50% compared to last year, but still refuse to use the meter in the touristy areas of KL.  
As usual I relied on a mix of flights and chartered taxis to get from A to B. Not the cheapest way to travel, especially if you book on very short notice, but very fast and gives you a lot of flexibility. Travelling with buses is a lot cheaper, but takes much more time.
Renting a car is also an option, but the problem is that you may get lost or unable to find the place you want to visit.

Copyright 2010 Alfred Molon