Malaysia Region Guide

Malaysia Region Guide

A mixture of everything that is Asia


Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy. It is divided into two regions, West Malaysia and East Malaysia. West Malaysia, also known as Peninsular Malaysia, consists of the southern portion of the Malay Peninsula and nearby islands, bordering Thailand and Singapore. East Malaysia occupies the northern section of Borneo Island, as well as offshore islands. East Malaysia shares Borneo with Brunei and with the Kalimantan region of Indonesia. Malaysia is a federation of 13 states and 2 federal territories. Kuala Lumpur is the capital and largest city.

From the late 18th to the early 19th centuries, Britain gradually gained control of Peninsular Malaysia, and most of northern Borneo fell into private British hands. During the same period, the largely Malay population became diversified, as ethnic Chinese and Indians immigrated to work in Malaysia’s tin and rubber industries. Since independence in 1957, ethnic tensions, especially between Chinese and Malays, have dominated political and economic issues. Despite the tensions, however, Malaysia has experienced rapid economic growth, particularly in the manufacturing sector, and economists include the country among Asia’s “newly industrialized economies”.


  • Population: 22.6 million
  • People:Malays (59%); Chinese (26%); Indians (7%); Others (8%).
  • Language:Malay (official language), Chinese (various dialects), English, Tamil and other indigenous languages.
  • Religion:Islam (48%); Folk religions (24%); Christianity (8%); Buddhism (7%); Hinduism (7%); Other religions (6%)
  • Major Industries: Rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing, electronics, tin mining and smelting, logging and processing timber, petroleum production


Commonwealth citizens are given a 30 day entry pass when arriving


  • Time Zone: GMT/UTC +8
  • Dialling Code: 60
  • Electricity: 240V, 50Hz
  • Weights & measures: Metric


The currency of Malaysian is the Ringgit. (Currency code: MYR).


Notes come in denominations of RM1, RM5, RM10, RM50 and RM100.

Coins are issued in denominations of 1 sen, 5 sen, 10 sen, 20 sen, 50 sen and RM1.00


  • Budget meals are RM5-15.
  • Mid-range for RM15-25.
  • High for RM25-50.
  • Deluxe for RM50+



Budget accommodation is available all over the country for as low as RM30 a night, and sometimes even less. The backpacker route is well-trod in Malaysia and there are plenty of fun bedget spots available in nearly every town and city.

  • Mid-range: RM50-200.
  • High: RM200-300
  • Deluxe: RM300+

Long term

Houses and apartments, while not easily available, are not expensive and simply need to be sought out. Schools can often assist, and many schools have communal houses which teachers share on a temporary basis.


PGCE qualified teachers with degrees could look into the very upper-crust, serious international schools that have extremely well paid positions and have great benefits packages.

TEFL qualified teachers can head for the rising number of language institutes around the country. ELS is one of the oldest, but plenty are offering tuition to young Malaysian children.

A TEFL or equivalent is essential for a work permit and native English speaker status is crucial for ease of employment. A degree may be required for certain positions as well.

Things to do and see

Malaysia is a stunning country with plenty of magic to keep anyone occupied. The multicultural population are friendly and approachable, the cities are well-planned and easy to navigate, and signs are clear and easy to follow. The public transportation system, although stretched, is efficient and cheap and traveling around the country is painless and stress free, by comparison with some of the neighboring Asian countries.

A comprehensive list of the tourist attractions of Malaysia would require several web pages, but there are certain things a visitor should not dare miss.

In Kuala Lumpur, there is much to do and see, especially the lovely old British colonial architecture, the spectacular Petronas Towers and the rather bizarre Batu Caves.

Nearby, visit the old Portuguese settlement of Malacca, or Genting Highlands for a bit of Asian adrenalin. A bit further out, Taman Negara is reputed to be the olderst rain forest on earth, and it is really worth a visit. The Cameron Highlands in Pahang near Ipoh are also spectacular, and reminiscent of the tea hill stations in Southern India and Sri Lanka.

For a wetter experience, Pangkor Island is close to KL and a lovely getaway. Further afield, try Penang for a more Chinese experience. Langkawi is heavily promoted and is certainly very pretty, but doesn’t compare to the natural wonders of Pulau Tioman, Pulau Perhentian and the magnificent Pulai Redang on the east coast.

While Sabah and Sarawak are part of Malaysia, they are not frequently part of most travellers’ itineraries. They are worth the effort, even though they are difficult to get to and much less developed.