Although English is widely spoken, especially in the business world, Bahasa Melayu is Malaysia’s national language. The country’s Chinese population speaks Cantonese, Hakka and Hokkien. The Indian population speaks Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam.

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Malaysia’s official currency is the Malaysian ringit, which is often referred to as the Malaysian dollar and broken down into 100 sen. Banks charge a few dollars commission for foreign transactions, but moneychangers don’t charge any commission, although their rates can change. Banks and some hotels will exchange traveler’s checks and most high-end hotels, restaurants and shops accept major credit cards. ATMs are easy to find.

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Malaysia’s international country code is 60. To call another country from Malaysia, dial 00 followed by the appropriate country code. Check with your hotel before making an international call. Some hotels add a large surcharge to telephone bills. You can buy phone cards at newsagents and gas stations. Tourist areas have plenty of Internet cafes.

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It isn’t customary to tip in Malaysia, but high-end restaurants and hotels add a 10 percent service charge to their bills. Hotel rooms are taxed 5 percent, but this tax is often included in quotes from cheaper hotels.

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Check with the US State Department before traveling to Malaysia. There has been an increased risk in terrorism in recent years, especially in the eastern state of Sabah where kidnapping is a serious risk. If you’re traveling to resorts and islands, stay at the larger resorts and be very cautious. Minor street crime like pick-pocketing, scams and purse-snatching is common.

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Consult your doctor before traveling to Malaysia as there are tropical diseases present. Hepatitis A and B, and dengue fever are common illnesses and malaria is a risk mostly in the inland regions. Stick to bottled water to avoid dysentery and travelers’ diarrhea. Stay away from uncooked meat, vegetables and fish, as well as unpeeled fruit, salads and ice. Malaysia, particularly Kuala Lumpur, has terrible air pollution with high levels of Benzene. Visitors with cardiac or respiratory problems might struggle. Urban hospitals are quite good, but you should carry health insurance. If you’re coming from South America or sub-Saharan Africa, you’ll need a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

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Malaysia’s electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz and uses UK-style, three-pinned plugs.

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Melisse Hinkle
A New England native but explorer at heart, Melisse has lived in four U.S. cities, spent a summer in Hawaii, made her way through wine-producing regions in Australia and New Zealand, and traveled around Europe while studying abroad in London. She is the Content Manager for the U.S. and Canada at Cheapflights.
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