It is always interesting to know some Malaysia facts before visiting the country for some tourism and travel. After all visiting a country is not just about exploring the sights and environment, it is also about interacting with the people and of course knowing some Malaysia facts would help gain some knowledge about the place can be helpful too.

Malaysia Population and Malaysia Economy

Let’s start with the Malaysia population; Malaysia has a projected population of about 28 million with approximately 60-65% comprising of Malays, 20-25% Chinese, 10% Indians, and the balance a mix of various indigenous races.

Most of the population is centred on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia where the economic activities are concentrated. I myself am staying in Petaling Jaya, nearby to Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, which is also located on the west coast of West Malaysia.

The GDP or gross domestic product is about US$158 billion per year and the per capita income at about US$7,000. Enough about Malaysia facts of key economic indicators, let’s go talk about more useful Malaysia facts for the traveller who is planning for tourism Malaysia.


The Malaysian Currency

The currency used here is called Ringgit, broken in denomination of RM1, RM5, RM10, RM50 and RM100. We use to have bigger denomination like RM500 and RM1000 but those were scrap in favour of better control against counterfeits. For coins the denominations are 5¢, 10¢, 20¢ and 50¢. The RM1 coin has also been scrapped due to mass counterfeiting while the 1¢ coin has been eliminated due to cost of minting them. Now when you make purchases that did not end in 0 or 5¢, would be rounded up or down accordingly.

Apart from using cold hard cash, plastics are acceptable here too. Credit cards are accepted in most establishments and are a convenient way of paying for products and services. MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accept credit cards, while Diner’s Club, American Express and JCB cards are not so acceptable by many except where the establishment is big like major hotel chains, posh restaurants and giant retail shops. Why Diner’s Club, Amex Cards and JCB cards are less accepted because the merchant banks take a big commission chunk from the sales made. Since establishment has to balance between saving cost of doing business while still giving payment options, they would prefer to go more with MasterCard and Visa credit cards.

Certain retail shops will add back the fees charge by the card companies to you if you wish to pay by credit card. These shops do so because they heavily discount their products and would prefer to receive cash and should the customer choose to pay by credit card, they have no choice but to pass the burden of merchant card cost to the customer. Usually digital IT shops, cameras and travel and tour companies will impose the credit card fees should the customer wishes to pay by credit card.

Traveler’s cheques are not so popular here, though you could use them as payment at hotels to pay for your room and board. I think traveler’s cheques are an outdated mode of payment, even myself do not use them when travelling abroad, preferring to stick with cash and credit cards.

Budgeting of meals

Meals are relatively cheap. For RM5 you can have your fill provided you go for a simple shop with hawker stalls and non-air condition. Simple Indian meals will cost more to about RM8. While modernised old fashion coffee shops known locally as “Kopitiam” would cost between RM8-RM15 for a meal.

As an indicator McDonald Big Mac (which is used sometimes as an indicator for cost of living comparison) would cost about RM7.

For mid range restaurants, meals would cost anywhere from RM20 – RM50 per person. And of course if you want to splurge, meals of RM100 and above per pax can be expected.

Dying for a coffee? Locally brewed coffee goes for about RM1 to RM1.50 per cup in a simple coffee shop or Indian Mamak shops. Kopitiams will cost twice, while Starbucks and related coffee shops would go above RM10 per cup.

Malaysian Language

The official language in Malaysia is Malay and supposedly used as a common language for communicating between the various races. However with so many mixtures of races other predominant languages are also used. We have Mandarin and the various Chinese dialects like Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Teochew, Hainanese, etc. We also have Indian language Tamil. And of course we have English.

Though Politician do harp on the issue of language and wanted to make Malay an important language as a common language for all races, neglecting the importance of English as a global language has resulted in many younger generation with very bad spoken and written English. Hopefully the government has seen the error and make remedial actions for the improvement of English as an important secondary language or would Malaysia be made a laughing stock remains to be seen.

Still a traveller could communicate without any problem in the major cities and towns while in the outskirts or more remote areas, communication may be hampered. On the other hand, most tourism Malaysia spots would probably have some fair amount of English communication to get you by.

The Malaysia Weather

The weather in Malaysia is relatively hot and humid. On a hot sunny day, the sunshine is extremely bright. With an average of 30° to 35° temperature, you would well be advised to wear lose cotton clothes. Walking around with shorts or Capri would not be an issue in the city area, though some very posh hotels and restaurant in the city may bar you from entry. There are plenty of restaurants that you can go without requiring strict dress code.

Bring along your dark sun glasses and a wide bream hat would help to shade off from the bright hot sun. A cap would also help too. You could of course be dainty and use an umbrella like some of the local girls do when they go out on a hot sunny day!

Bringing along a hand towel to wipe off the excess sweat would not be bad idea too!

Speaking about umbrellas, you should consider taking a brollie as the Brits would say it. Tropical thunderstorms do happen frequently. Tell tale signs include very dark clouds forming with lightning flashes and soon there would be cats and dogs everywhere. Downpours may be heavy; you might even think you are caught in a typhoon! All too soon, after about an hour or so, it would quickly subside. If the rain was too heavy even an umbrella won’t help you from getting wet. The best idea would be to look for shelter and wait it out. Give yourself about an hour or so. If you perchance happen to be around some coffee shop, then do have yourself a local coffee or teh tarik (tea with sweetened milk poured into a frothy mix).

That’s all about Malaysia facts for now!

See additional Malaysia facts and information
Find out more about each State of Malaysia

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