Located in the tropics, Malaysia straddles the South China Sea. Peninsular Malaysia is at the southern tip of mainland Southeast Asia, while the states of Sabah and Sarawak are part of the island of Borneo. The nation's natural diversity offers visitors a range of attractions including beautiful beaches, idyllic islands, cool hill stations, historic towns, a dynamic capital and the world oldest rainforests with an astounding diversity of flora and fauna.
Malaysia is truly multi-cultural, and one of its greatest resources is its rich cultural diversity. The Malays number around half the total population of over 21 million, while the other half comprises Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans, and other ethnic groups. Bahasa Malaysia is the national language although English is widely spoken. Islam is the official religion, but freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Malaysian Constitution.
Climate and Clothing
Malaysia has an equatorial climate with uniform temperatures throughout the year. Temperatures range from 22oC during the night to 32oC during the day. It is slightly cooler in the hill country.
Rainfall is common throughout the year, averaging from 200-250 cm a year. Light, comfortable clothing is the norm with lightweight woolens required for visits to highland areas.
Currency and Banking
The Malaysian Ringgit (RM) is issued in denominations of RM100, 50, 10, 5, 2, 1 and coins from 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 (sen). Major credit cards are accepted in cities and large towns.
All banks except in Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu open on Mondays to Fridays at 9.30 am - 4.00 pm. For the Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu states, all banks open on Saturdays to Wednesdays at 9.30 am - 4.00 pm.
All banks are authorised foreign exchange dealers and licensed money changers can be found in urban centers, key entry/exit points and shopping complexes. Major foreign currencies and travelersâ€™ cheques can also be exchanged at major hotels.
Most international airlines fly in and out of Kuala Lumpur, with some also calling at Penang, Langkawi, Senai, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. Malaysia Airlines operates numerous domestic services providing easy connections to destinations throughout the country.
The centre of Kuala Lumpur is about 60 minutes by express bus, train or taxi from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)
Peninsular Malaysia can be entered by road or rail from Singapore and Thailand. Driving is on the left hand side of the road. Most major car rental companies operate counters at KLIA, other airports and urban centers. Local transport is available and includes air-conditioned express buses and long-distance taxi services. Malaysia is connected to the rest of the world by telephone, facsimile, telegraph, telex, email and airmail communications. Standard Malaysian Time is eight hours ahead of GMT.
All urban areas of Malaysia have electricity (240-volt, 50-cycle system) and have safe water supply
Over the last decade, the Malaysian economy has undergone rapid expansion, with emphasis shifting from agriculture to manufacturing. More changes are envisaged for the new millennium with the nation set to move from the industrial into the information age. The year 2020 is being projected as the target for the nation to achieve developed-nation status.
Malaysia has long been a leading producer and exporter of commodities such as rubber, palm oil, timber and tin and is a net exporter of petroleum and natural gas. However, since 1987, manufacturing has overtaken agriculture as the leading growth sector of the economy.
Major manufactured exports include electronic, chemical, wood and fabricated metal products, textiles and apparel and transport equipment. Malaysia is a leading producers and exporter of semi-conductors, audio-visual products and petro-chemicals. The manufacturing sector is expected to lead economic growth into the next decade with the emphasis on accelerating the shift towards higher value-added products and activities including research and development (R&D), design and prototyping, distribution, logistics and marketing. Investors are welcome to invest in high value-added, capital and technology-intensive and knowledge-based industries. Investments are also encouraged in the setting up of R&D and advanced skills and training facilities. Incentives are available for investments in the various promoted products and activities.
Realising the important role of information technology (IT) as a catalyst for national development, the Government has initiated the construction of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). This 15-by-50 kilometre zone extends south from Kuala Lumpur, embracing Cyberjaya, a dedicated â€œintelligentâ€ city for multimedia companies, and Putrajaya, the new national capital, to the KL International Airport (KLIA) at Sepang. Sepang is also famed by the F1 circuit. The Corridor will be supported by world-class physical and information infrastructure. The private sector, especially leading multimedia companies, are being encouraged to locate there to undertake remote manufacturing as well as introduce high value-added IT goods and services, thereby enabling Malaysia to become a regional IT hub.