Malaysia - Fast Fact

Malaysia is one of the most pleasant, hassle-free countries to visit in Southeast Asia. Several decades of sustained economic growth and political stability have made it among the wealthiest and economically buoyant in the region. Malaysia has moved towards a pluralist culture based on a vibrant and interesting fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures and customs.


The Federation of Malaysia comprises Peninsular Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

Geographical Location

Located between 2 and 7 degrees north of the Equator, Peninsular Malaysia is separated from the states of Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea. To the north of Peninsular Malaysia is Thailand while its southern neighbour is Singapore. Sabah and Sarawak share a common border with Indonesia while Sarawak also shares a border with Brunei.


Located at latitudes of between one and seven degrees north of the Equator and longitudes 100 and 119 degrees east, Malaysia covers 329,758 square kilometres, with the Peninsular taking up 40 percent while East Malaysia, comprising Sabah and Sarawak, take up 23 and 37 percent respectively. With intensive development and an annual growth rate of 2.3 percent during the last decade, nearly 23.3 million people populate this land. Situated at one of the world's busiest East-West crossroads, the country has long been an important meeting point for world traders and conquerors. The Peninsular, which juts from the south of Thailand to the island republic of Singapore, spreads over an area of 131,598 square kilometres - approximately the size of England. At its widest point between Dindings in Perak and Tanjung Penunjok in Terengganu on the east coast, it measures 322 kilometres.


All citizens of the country, comprising Malays, Chinese, Indians and several other races, are 'Malaysians'. Current population is estimated at around 23.3 million, of whom 83 percent live in the Peninsula, eight percent in Sabah and nine percent in Sarawak. The Malays (the country's original inhabitants), make up 52 percent, Chinese 29 percent, Indians eight percent and the indigenous communities 11 percent. The Malays and the indigenous people are called 'Bumiputeras'(Sons of the Soil) owing to the entrenched ancestral roots that go back thousands of years. Together, the Malays and the various indigenous groups make up 63 percent of the population.


Malaysia's capital city is Kuala Lumpur. The name, which means 'muddy confluence' in Malay, began as a mining settlement and outpost for the tin trade in the 1800s. Simply known as KL, today's Kuala Lumpur is a bustling metropolis, the federal capital of Malaysia and the principal centre of commerce, politics, entertainment and international activities. The site of the original settlement draws a steady stream of tourists, largely to the adjacent Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Merdeka Square where the British flag was lowered for the last time on August 31, 1957 and replaced by the flag of independent Malaysia - the 'Jalur Gemilang.'


Malays make up 57 percent of the population. The other main ethnic groups are Chinese, Indians,Eurasians and the many indigenous communities comprising Iban, Kadazan, Dusun, Dayak, Bidayuh and Murut.


Bahasa Melayu (Malay) is the national language but English is widely spoken. The ethnic groups also speak various languages and dialects.


Islam is the official religion but all other religions are practised freely.


Parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislative system. The Head of State is the Yang Di Pertuan Agong while the Head of Government is the Prime Minister.


Malaysia enjoys Tropical climate with warm and humid weather all year round. Temperatures range from 21C to 32C. Annual rainfall varies from 2000mm to 2500mm. Humidity level is at an average of 80% throughout the year.
Generally, Malaysia has two distinct seasons. The dry season occurs during the southwest monsoon from May to September. The northeast monsoon which blows from mid November till March brings the rainy season to the country.

History & Culture

There is a strong interlink between the country's multi-racial and multicultural make-up and its history. Besides the local Malays and the other indigenous groups, immigrants from China, India, Indonesia and other parts of the world have all contributed to the multiracial composition of its population. Its interesting cultural diversity can be largely attributed to the country's long and on-going interaction with the outside world and colonial rule by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British.

Economic Profile

The Malaysian economy has undergone rapid expansion, with emphasis shifting from agriculture to manufacturing. For this millennium the nation is set to make the transition from industrial to the information age. In line with this local and foreign companies are encouraged to invest in technology-related ventures. Malaysia is ranked as one of the top 20 trading nations of the world and the 17th largest exporter according to the WTO Annual Report 2000. Its global trade tripled in the last decade, from RM158 billion in 1990 to RM570 billion in 1999 with the USA, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and the Republic of Korea making up the major trading partners.


The unit of currency is Malaysian Ringgit (RM). Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks and money changers.


Traveller's, both residents and non-residents, are required to complete the Traveller Declaration Form (TDF). The blue section is for residents and the white section for non-residents. Residents are only required to declare in detail the exact amount of ringgit to be brought in or out of if the amount exceeds RM 1,000. They are also required to declare the exact amount in foreign currency, including traveller's cheques that they wish to take from the country. They need to do so if the amount exceeds RM 1,000.

Residents do not have to declare any amount of foreign currency, including traveller's cheques, carried with them when they re-enter the country. Non-residents are required to declare the exact amount of foreign currency to be brought into or out of the country only if the amount exceeds the equivalent of USD 2,500.00. Residents are required to keep the TDF in their passport when they leave the country and surrender it on their return journey. Likewise, non-residents will need to keep the TDF with their passport and surrender the TDF on leaving their country.

Banking Hours

Most states:
Mon-Fri: 9.30am-4.00pm
Sat: 9.3Oam-1.30pm
Sun: Closed
Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu:
Sat-Wed: 9.30am-4.OOpm
Thur: 9.30am-11.30am
Fri: Closed

Post Offices

Open from 8.00am to 5.00pm daily except Sundays and public holidays. In Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu post offices are closed on Fridays and public holidays.


The Malaysian Standard Time (MST) is eight hours ahead of GMT and 16 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific Standard Time.


Voltage is 220-240 volts while A/C is at 50 cycles per second.