MALAYSIA-SINGAPORE

Summer 2005
INTRODUCTIONMalaysia is the result of its history of invasions and foreign dominations and this is reflected in a multiracial society: It is a country where it is difficult to find indeed, people which immediately you can identify as Malayans, what we saw arriving at Malaysia is a big mixture of races: Indians, Arabian, Thai, Indonesian, Chinese...

We also realized it is a very developed country and even more if we compare it with its neighbours of South East Asia: Vietnam, the Philippines.... and this a result of the English presence which is really visible all around the country with influence in the infrastructures, commerce and most of the sectors...
Also as a result of all this, most of indicative posters or announcements or of publicity (private and public), are in English, Chinese and of course in Malayan.

Cities are pretty modern and we did not see much difference between rich and poor like we saw in other countries.

Who visits the East and the West coast of Malaysia will realize that the level of development in general: infrastructures, tourism, level of spoken English... etc, is much more than in the Western side of Malaysia.

Curiosities:
- In most of the restaurants they do not give (and often nor they have) knives. And the napkins frequently must be specifically requested, because they do not give them automatically with the meal.
- It’s recommendable to reveal photos and the digital photos in Malaysia, we paid to 0,35RM per each digital photo in size 10x15. In order to reveal analogical pictures we paid 0,35RM plus 5RM for the reveal. It is worth to compare prices and also to try to negotiate prices by amounts, in most of the places they offer 0,60RM by photo revealed as a first price, but you can get it for 0,50RM or 0,42RM. We did it in Kuala Lumpur in Suria Photo (50 Jalan Hang Kasturi, just in front of the power station market, www.fotosuria.com), they have several stores around Kuala Lumpur.

General information:
Official website of Tourism Malaysia

FACT SHEET OF THE TRIPDateJuly 29th to August 21st, 2005
MoneyIn Malaysia it is possible to change euros or dollars in banks or houses of change with no proble. We had the experience changing the two currencies and we never had problems to change.

Somewhere we even asked if we could get a better change and surprisingly they did it, therefore you’re advised to insist if the change can be improved.

Credit cards however, are accepted in almost all places and hotels but be aware that they charge between a 3% and a 5% of commission.

Average change: In Singapore we took American dollars by Singapore dollars: 1.636 dollars of SGP by each American dollar (to go faster in the calculation of the prices, you take the price in dollars of Singapore, and divide between two and the result are €).

Malayan Ringgit (RM) 1€ = 4.6 RM (to go faster in the calculation of prices, we divide between 5 the price of RM and the result will be €. Another way would be multiplying x2 the prices in RM and to remove a 0 and we will have the price in euros). By each American dollar they give us 3,6RM.

Banks do not take commission when they exchange in cash, but they take 10RM when changing travel checks. It is recommendable to compare the change rates in different places.

Travel Expenses

+ 1034€ (BCN-Malaysia-BCN flight)
+ 45 €  (flight Johor Bahru-Kuching-Johor Bahru)
+ 120 € (Transports: interurban buses, buses and taxis)
+ 280 € (Hotels)
+ 140€ (Restaurants, drinks, juices and supermarket expenses)
+ 38 €  (Souvenirs and others)
+ 48€  (Excursions and entrance fees)

= 1.705€ Total of the travel
Average daily budget: 27€, flights aside.
VisaIt is obligatory to take the valid passport and to keep the entrance card until the end of the travel because it will be requested at the airport customs. The visa is only necessary if we want to stay in Malaysia longer than 90 days.
The same is valid for Singapore.
HealthIt is not necessary to be vaccinated if you’re not going to the island of Borneo, if you want to go there, it’s better to be vaccinated and to take pills to prevent the malaria. The recommended vaccines are those of the yellow fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid fever, meningitis, to be updated of the vaccine of diphtheria and tetanus.

You need to be vaccinated at least one month before beginning the travel, and the tablets of the malaria must also be taken 1 week before the trip and during 6 weeks. To get the vaccine you must go to the centres qualified by the department of health of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Tel. 93-443 05 07). The vaccines and consultation cost around 30€. We recommended to ask for the appointment, minimum 3-4 months in advance, because as travellers to exotic destinations are growing, it is possible that they cannot give us our preferred time.
SecurityMalaysia is a country that seemed to us very, very calm, the same sensation as in other Asian countries. Certainly is recommended to have the same precautions that we would have in all the places where we travelled (or where you live). The robberies happen, but they do not have to happen if you’re watching your properties and the value objects that you take. Logically it is advised to travel without jewels or external ostentations.

Our experience was absolutely positive and for the rest, we took the habitual precautions that had in any other travel (or when you go for a walk in your city), and of course in places with people agglomeration and night hours or places with few luminosity.
TransportsAlthough distances in Malaysia are not big, when you use public transport, they do seem to be bigger as they are. Taxis or buses do not drive over 70/80 km per hour and what could be done pretty fast, takes longer, some hours.
The infrastructures of the roads are better in the West side as the East side, and when we were there, they were building a new highway from the North to the South, and they are making big investing efforts in infrastructures.

Taxi: the taxis in Malaysia are cheap, and the only place where they use taximeter (= barmeter) is Kuala Lumpur, and it must be requested (better demand!) that they switch it on, because sometimes they don’t use it and they raise prices.
As we have the right that they switch the taximeter, it is our choice to demand that they switch it on or to get out of the taxi and take another one. That’s what we did a couple of times. For instance, what could cost taximeter between 2,5-3RM, without it they charge 10RM. Of course you also find taxis that work honestly.
In the rest of the country they do not work with taximeter and the routes prices are stipulated with "official" fixed tariff, and the rest of the routes must be agreed.

Airplane: We only took an internal flight that we bought a month before in Internet. We flew from Johor Bahru (and not from Singapore as it’s cheaper to fly from Johor Bahru) to the island of Borneo. Johor Bahru is a small and modern airport where they also have low cost flights and we do not found them at the international airport of Singapore. In August 2005, the works at the Johor Bahru airport were just finished and it was really surprising its modernity.

Airline companies:
AirAsia: http://www.airasia.com/index.htm, low cost flights
Malaysia Airlines: http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/
Singapore Airlines: http://www.singaporeair.com/saa/

In the guide they say that at the airport, leaving Malaysia you must pay an airport fee of 47RM, but it’s better to ensure that this airport fee is included in your ticket as it will probably be.

Bus: The interurban buses are a good option to move around the country. The different companies that operate between cities, have all the same price, therefore what we must do is to check which kind of buses offers this service.

All buses we took, they put oil once they had charged the passengers and in addition they put it wile the motor was on (very dangerous!), we saw that everyone puts oil this way in Malaysia.
The disadvantage is that although the distances are not big, speed oscillates between 60 and 90 km/hour

The most important bus companies are:

Konsortium Bas Ekspress , www.supercoach.com.my
Gunung Raya: http://www.gunungraya.com.sg/coachframe.asp
Plusliner: http://www.plusliner.com/
Transnasional

Some bus lines have buses with three seats by row instead of the four habitual ones, and this allows us to be much more comfortable. We recommend to ask which type of bus the different companies use.

Train: we did not take any train, because there is only a train-line in the Western side of Malaysia and the schedules, duration of trip and prices are better with the buses.
http://www.keretapi.com/railwaymap.html

Car: the option of renting a car seems to be good, because the oil is very cheap and the price of the renting cars seems not to be abusive. But we did not do it, so we cannot explain much about that!
WeatherMost of Malaysia territory does not present significant seasonal variations, neither in rain, nor temperature or humidity. The climate in Malaysia when we visited it, was extremely warm and humid and we were always sweating. Temperatures were superior to the 35 degrees during the day and during evening around 30. In the mountains area, in the Cameron Highlands, evidently it did not make an extreme heat but a good temperature. In the island of Borneo the heat was extreme.
LodgingMalaysia has many types of lodging, in general with very good price. We have verified that that some hotels have a nice website in which the rooms seem very pretty and new but the reality that we found was another one...

Who does not have odd habits or has austere habitudes can find lodging between 30-50RM per night per double room. The modern or only better hotels cost between 90RM and 150RM. From 150RM they are very pretty hotels, new and modern.

When the hotels offer rooms with tv it is usually local channels unless they have satellite tv that also offer some channels in English.

In this travel, exceptionally we went to some hotels with the reservation already done per internet from Barcelona, some hotels they gave us surprises when comparing what we saw in their website with the reality, and due to this, we recommend to follow our usual system: when we arrive to a new city, one of us remains with the backpacks and the other goes around to see the hotels that the guide recommends, and we also checked those that we had found previously per internet.
Without problem the managers of the hotels allow us to see the rooms and give us the price. You should also try to bargain the price, but in Malaysia it is not like in other countries that always reduce the price obtaining big discounts. You must try it at least.

Breakfasts are not always included in the price of the room, and to be sincer, if you are not a rice lover, it’s not necessary you get the breakfast included. We saw it usually was “Asian breakfast”, or thought for Asian guests with cooked rice and noodles in different ways.
We rarely found fruits (melon, watermelon and pineapple basically) and eggs in the breakfast buffets.

If you pay with credit card, they always charge 3% or 5%. Also it is better you ask if the prices are net or "plus plus": +5% of taxes of government and 10% of services fee.

If you foresee you will arrive to a city on Friday or Saturday, we recommend to make a previous reservation because we had difficulties to find a room when we liked the place (and the price) because we arrived on Friday and the Malayans are used to travel in weekend.

If you prefer to leave your country with all reservations done, we recommend not to do it with the hotels directly, but in:
www.malaysiahotels.cc, maxcarry@tm.net.my, because we were able to verify that the prices that hotels have in Internet are cheaper than making the reservations directly with the hotel, or through the website of the hotel. And the service is extremely good and kind.
GastronomyMalaysia is the varied result of an incredible mixture of cultures and logically this is reflected in very various gastronomy: we found specialties from India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China….

In addition beside that, we found many counters in the streets that are built up in the evening and there you can taste any type of plate you wish in very simple conditions and at very economic prices. For us it is a very recommendable food.

The restaurants that we went to were usually simple, with plastic furniture, and opened, that is to say, without glass windows or walls, almost completely outdoor. We must say that the prices of dishes were cheap, if you want you can eat for 2-3€, if you prefer a better restaurant, you could pay about a 10-15€. The difference of these restaurants with the cheaper ones, is the facilities or the presentation of the food, but for us the cheaper ones have also a good quality of food (at least the raw material meat, fish, seafood).

Interesting is to eat fish where you can choose it: they show you the different fishes they have, and you agree how to cook them and you also agree the price according the weight.
They are generally fast in serving.

Though in the tourist zones they live on the tourism, their level of English is minimal to understand what drink you want and not much more.

Although we ordered a first and a second dish, they bring the food whenever they want, without considering if it’s a starter or a main dish and also without expecting that all people sitting in the table get the dishes at the same time.

A negative surprise was that fruits were not so good or sweet as we expected and the juices that they give us contained half glass of water. We only obtained in few places the juice we wanted (pure juice we must say) and for that you must always pay extra money. The prices of juices oscillate between 3RM and 10RM.

For the wine lovers, we are sorry to say that in Malaysia the wine is clearly a product of luxury and not of consumption. In some restaurants of medium level can be found Australian or French wine to a relatively high price.

At the time of paying you must consider that in some restaurants they will receive the "plus plus": +5% government taxes and 10% of services fee.
Time differenceDuring our summer, Malaysia is 6 hours ahead of Barcelona.
Travel guideMalaysia e Brunei, Lonely Planet Italian version (Ed. March 2004).