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Malaysia – a Tourist’s Guide to Packing for a Malaysian Holiday

Updated on October 10, 2018
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I tutor students in the English Language and English Literature at A Levels. I also help students with their college applications.

Many tourists who are planning to visit Malaysia for a holiday are often at a loss as to what to pack. Well, put your minds at ease. I will be your personal guide!

Where Is Malaysia?

I know. This may seem like the most obvious fact but there are many who actually book a holiday without knowing exactly where they are heading. Tourists are known to take the word of their friends or acquaintances and just arrive without a clue of what to expect. With the technology available today, do make sure you do your homework. Your due diligence will payoff tremendously and save you a lot of headaches.

Malaysia - A Tourist's Haven

Go to Google Map and check out your destination. Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia and we are just above the Equator. The weather here is worn and sunny throughout the year although you would experience periodic rain and thunderstorms. The temperature at noon is around 30°C, although it gets slightly cooler in the mornings and at night. If it rains, it is usually in the evenings although the rains are the heaviest at the end of the year in the months of November and December.


What Are Malaysians Like?

Malaysia is a multi racial country. This is a nation where people of different ethnic origins live together. The Malays, the Chinese and the Indians are the largest ethnic groups. Apart from this, there are the Sikhs, Eurasians, and numerous other indigenous groups that make up the people of this country. This is one of the many reasons why Malaysia id often considered “Truly Asia”!

The people of Malaysia are of different religions too. They are mainly the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Christians. There are also many smaller religious groups. The main religion in Malaysia is Islam.

Malaysians can be considered as a complex blend of the modern and the conservative. They are generally very fashion conscious and are into the latest styles of dressing while still observing modesty. Malaysians are not religious fanatics but most Malaysians frown upon wearing clothes that are too revealing.

So What To Pack

Simple. From the above you can conclude that:

  1. Malaysia is warm and sunny. It occasionally rains in the evenings.
  2. Malaysians are modern but dress modestly. No revealing clothes.

Perhentian Island, Malaysia


Fun In The Sun

Beach holidays in Malaysia are truly wonderful. Malaysia boasts of some of the most beautiful beaches and islands in the world. The waters are warm and the pristine white beaches are simply spectacular.

Pack your usual toiletries. If you have very sensitive skin make sure that you have a good sunscreen with you. If you are not used to the warm weather, you are going to perspire a lot. A good deodorant and a mild shampoo that you can use on a daily basis might be necessary. Apart from this you will need some body lotion and a lip balm if you intend to be out enjoying the sun.

Keep in mind that you can get just about everything you need in Malaysia. It is not necessary to bring huge bottles of your usual toiletries. Furthermore, it will be fun to buy some things in Malaysia. The currency exchange is usually about 1USD for RM3.3. Do not forget Malaysia is a wonderful place to shop, so keep your bags light and only bring the most important things. Having said that, don’t forget your medication especially the prescribed ones because you don’t want to be ill while on your holidays.

Tee shirts and shorts are the best. They are light and suitable for the weather. For the warm weather, cotton is best. Bring cotton undergarments as opposed to silk and nylon. Cotton absorbs sweat and will keep you cool and fresh all day. A pair of pants is also a must as you can just about use it anywhere. Sometimes, you might want to have a meal at a high-end restaurant and these establishments do usually have a dress code.

Keeping in mind that things are pretty conservative here, I would rather you pack single piece swimwear as opposed to bikinis. Although most of the larger hotels are fine with anything you wear but if you decide to swim with the locals something less revealing would be better. Most beach resorts do sell a variety of lovely tee shirts, hats, slippers, sunglasses and sarongs. These are wonderful items to buy as souvenirs for friends and relatives back home too.

A batik sarong or a wrap-around skirt is something I highly recommend that you should invest in. These come in a variety of beautiful hues and are cheap. They are so versatile and can be used in several ways. I use mine to spread out on the beach when I want to do some serious sun bathing. I can also wrap it around myself and use it either as a long skirt or a sundress and I can even use it to cover myself when I need to change my clothes.

If you are a diving enthusiast and Sipadan Island is on your agenda, you might want to bring along your personal gear though there are many shops there where these items can be rented. What you bring would depend of your itinerary and how extensively you would be travelling. If you are only going to spend a day or two in Sipadan Island, it might not make sense to lug your diving equipment all around Malaysia!

Heaven On Earth


The Mystical Mount Kinabalu


Going To The Mountains

If you are going up the mountains for a holiday, say to Cameron Highlands, the temperature is cool but not really cold. Temperatures hover around 18°C to 21°C. The nights will be slightly colder than this. To those who are used to winter, this is nothing so packing will not require anything more than a cardigan or a thin jacket.

Climbing the Mount Kinabalu, on the other hand, will require warmer clothing as it can get pretty cold up the mountain. Temperatures can drop from 4°C to 6°C. For the climb you will need good shoes and a few pairs of socks. Once again, do not over-pack, as it is important to travel light. Invest in a sturdy backpack that allows you to move easily. Usually if you are coming to Malaysia with the idea of conquering Mount Kinabalu, check out the official websites for the necessary guidelines.


A Cultural Fiesta

If you are coming for a backpacking holiday to Malaysia, there is a higher chance of mixing with the locals. There are many ‘home-stay’ facilities in Malaysia where you actually stay with the locals in their homes and savour the “true Malaysian hospitality”. Be a little more cautious when packing for such trips. I would rather you pack a lot of tee shirts, walking shorts and jeans. Try to dress modestly and respect the culture of your hosts. Super short shorts and revealing blouses are simply not right for this environment.

Being a tropical country personal hygiene is important, so take the necessary steps to this end. Have frequent showers and wash your tee shirts often. Clothes dry quickly in the Malaysian weather so keep changing your tee shirts! The folks around you will appreciate the effort.

If you are to attend a cultural event, festival or make a visit to a place of worship, do dress modestly. A pair of pants or a long skirt topped with a tee shirt or blouse is suitable. If it is formal occasion, shoes are better than slippers.


The “I Can’t Live Without It” Stuff

If you need to have your laptops with, you bring it along on your holidays. Malaysia has a good Wi-Fi network and you will be able to use the web without any trouble. Free Wi-Fi is available in many places and you would be able to connect with all your friends, anywhere in the world.

As for the mobile phones, you might want to get a prepaid card to use within Malaysia and enable you to keep in touch with your fellow travellers or with your host if you are a guest in his/her home. Prepaid card can be bought easily in many shops here in Malaysia. So no worries there.


Last Word Of Advise

Coming to Malaysia for a holiday might be one of your best experiences. The people are friendly, there is so much to see and do, the food is ‘to die for’ and the shopping is pure ‘wow’. Having said this, you must take the trouble to plan your holiday. Get to the web sites and read up all that you can about the country. Read the reviews and get a realistic picture of what to aspect. Talk to people who have come to Malaysia for a holiday and take notes. These little things will go a long way to making your holiday in Malaysia a truly memorable one!


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