Since Malaysia is close to the equator, it experiences a hot, tropical climate with temperatures ranging from 70°F to 95°F. Temperatures are cooler in the highlands. Heavy rainstorms occur throughout the year, with the monsoon season starting from November until February. The Northeast monsoon (October to February) brings strong rains to the east coast, often causing floods. The milder Southwest monsoon (April to October) hits the southern parts of peninsular Malaysia, with showers usually being intense but brief.
The official language of Malaysia is Malay. English is learned in all schools and is widely spoken in the major cities. Arabic is taught to those who attend Islamic religious schools. Mandarin is taught in most Chinese schools while Cantonese is commonly heard in the mass media. The most commonly spoken Indian language is Tamil.
National Holidays and Festivals
January 1 – New Year’s Day
1st day of the 1st lunar month – Chinese Lunar New Year
May 1 – Labour Day
May or June – Wesak
June 1 or 2 – Gawai Dayak
Varies – Ramadan
August 31 – National Day
September 16 – Malaysia Day
October or November – Deepavali
December 25 – Christmas
January or February – Thaipusam
End of May – Harvest Festival
Early June – Pesta Gawai
End of Ramadan - Eid ul-Fitr, known locally as Hari Raya Puasa or Aidilfitri
November - Deepavali or Diwali (Hindu Festival of Lights)
Varies - Eid ul-Adha, known locally as Hari Raya Haji or Aidiladha
The official currency is the ringgit (MYR), informally known as the dollar. The subdivision is the sen (at 100 sen per ringgit). The exchange rate as of Feb 2010 is 3.4 ringgit to US$1.
Bring small denominations of cash with you wherever you go to avoid problems with changing larger denominations and credit card skimming, which can be a problem in some areas. Foreign currency, including the US dollar, is not generally accepted.
You will get the best rates when exchanging your money licensed money changers in major shopping malls. Rates displayed are negotiable, especially if exchanging large amounts, so make sure you ask for their best quote.
Bargaining is commonly practiced as prices are usually inflated, especially with street vendors and tourist areas.
Tipping is not necessary but is highly appreciated; however, tipping to tour guides, tour bus drivers, and porters are customary.