Facts about MalaysiaThe Country and its People
Malaysia Comprises Peninsular Malaysia (West Malaysia) and the states of Sabah and Sarawak (East Malaysia) on the island of Borneo. Malaysia’s neighbours are Brunei, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. The population of Malaysia is about 26 million consisting of Malays, Chinese, Indians and indigenous people. Two million people inhabit the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
The official language is Bahasa Melayu although English is widely spoken. Chinese and Indian dialects and indigenous language are also used.
Although the official is Islam, other religions are widely practiced. Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism and Taoism are example of other religions in the country.
Malaysia is located 7 degrees north of the Equator, in the tropical climate zone. Temperatures are around + 30 C throughout the year with high humidity. Areas around highlands and mountains are cooler. Heavy rains come normally between November and October, although there are showers during other months as well.
As the weather in Malaysia is warn and humid, light cotton clothes are comfortable to wear. Certain dress codes do apply. Generally speaking, shirts/blouses that cover the shoulder and skirt/pants that cover the knees are considered appropriate for females. Men should usually dress in long pants and shirts.
Sandals and shoes are acceptable footwear and so are high-heeled slippers. Flip-flops (rubber slipper) can be worn to the beach and shopping centres but are not appropriate for formal or semi-formal occasion. Take your cue from the local people rather from other travelers.
As air-conditioning is widely used, a sweater or a jacket may be occasionally needed. Long distance air-conditioned buses, trains and ferries can be surprisingly cold so be prepared for that when travelling.
Malaysia has a wide variety of cuisine and food is available basically everywhere. however, those who prefer a vegetarian diet without animal products may have to check for suitable outlets/restaurants. This is because usually fish oil or shrimp paste may be used to cook the vegetables. There is, nevertheless, a fairly large selection of Chinese vegetarian restaurants in Penang.
You are likely to find chili with other hot spices in your meal unless you request for non-spicy servings. Although the tap water in Penang is usually of good quality, either filtered or bottled water is recommended for drinking. When talking cooked food home, use tightly covered containers to protect your food from ants and flies. Fruits and bread are safer when placed in the refrigerator. Try the extensive varieties of food available to find your own favourite dishes: there is definitely a big range to choose from!
Money and Banking
The Malaysian currency is the (RM) and cents, although some people may say they use dollars and cents.
A hundred cents make a right. Coins come 1,5,10,20, and 50 cents. Noted in circulation are RM1, RM5, RM10, RM50 and RM100.
Be sure to carry plenty od small bills with you, as many shops amd small businesses cannot give change for notes like RM50 and RM100. Usually, they do not accept a credit card either. You can change currency and travelers cheques at the banks or with money changers. The commissions and exchange rates vary sodo comparison and only visit authorized money changers. Money changers can be found in George Town and in major shopping centres.