Myths and Facts about Travelling to Malaysia

Top ten highest building in the world
Top ten highest building in the world
A view from the highest building in Malaysia, Petronas Twin Tower.

Recently I had followed some travel blogs and sad to read about the misconceptions towards Malaysia. I am sure they didn’t do it intentionally but by twist of fate, they had encounter something which smeared their opinion of Malaysia.

Hence, here I am, a Malaysian, typing on my laptop to clear the myths and facts about travelling to Malaysia. Note that the questions were picked from the sites that I read.

Myth 1 : You can’t find pork and alcohol in Malaysia

A majority of Malaysians are Muslims but there are also Buddhists (including myself), Christians, Hindus, Taoism and other religion. Restaurants in Malaysia will usually omit pork and alcohol from their menu but most Chinese restaurants and chinese food stalls has pork. Some western restaurants build their business on pork ribs. The above that I mentioned usually allows ordering of beer although selection of wine can be limited. Just drop by any hypermarkets and upmarket stores, and you will be able to purchase your wine of choice.

Three terms you might need to know:

Halal : Usually you will see a Arabic word symbol pasted on the windows or the doors of the restaurant. It means no pork, no alcohol and all meats are slaugthered according to Islamic law. It is highly adviseable not to bring food your own food or alcohol into these eateries.

No Pork : This means the eatery is not halal-certified but there are no pork in their menu although some might serve alcohol in their establishment.

Non-Halal : Most of those that falls under this category are Chinese restaurants or Western Grill House which means yes pork, yes alcohol.

Famous Chinese Malaysian Food
Famous Chinese Malaysian Food with pork (Non-Halal)

Rules of thumb : Fast food chains like McDonalds, KFC, Burger King etc are all halal. Most of the restaurants in hotel fall under Halal or No Pork policy, so there goes your dream to have bacon for breakfast. The good news is, there are plenty of cafes serving bacon-y breakfast around big cities or towns in Malaysia.

Good to know : It might be difficult to find alcohol in certain states like Kelantan and Terengganu.

Myth 2 : Western and European cuisine are hard to find

Tony Romas, TGI Fridays, Bubba Gumps, Italianese are just a few of the big brands in Malaysia, need I give more? That’s not even counting the independent restaurants opened by expatriates in Malaysia. We even have authentic Korean cuisines by Koreans in Ampang area.

Good to know : Western cuisine are easily available in cities like Kuala Lumpur, in Selangor, Johor Bahru, Penang, Melaka although I could not vouch for other places which I have not been to.

Myth 3 : There’s only spicy food in Malaysia

Our food is not even spicier than Thai’s.

Rules of thumb: Chinese food are generally spicy-free, Indians and Malay food are generally spicy with some exceptions. Western, definitely not spicy, unless you grab the chili sauce on your table.

Myth 4 : You eat with your hands in Malaysia.

Many Malays eat with their hands as part of their tradition but forks and spoons are not alien objects to us. I eat with forks, spoons and chopsticks all the time. I use my hands when I am gorging a fried chicken. If you were served food in Malaysia and not given utensils, you will find them either at the counter or in a tray on your table or the table next to you. If nothing works, it’s not considered offensive to ask for utensils in eateries.

Myth 5 : Shorts and sleeveless are not allowed in Malaysia.

I grew up in southern state of Malaysia and now live in Kuala Lumpur. I have no problem with wearing sleeveless and shorts when I shop and dine. However, these are not a good choice of dress code if you are visiting government offices and mosques though.

Rules of thumb : Sleeveless and shorts are generally accepted in Malaysia but I will recommend avoiding them if you are going to Kelantan and Terengganu states.

Truth : Travelling in Malaysia is more expensive than other south east asian countries.

As a Malaysian, I am sad to admit this is true, probably with the exception of Singapore. If you read through my travel posts, you will notice I travel mostly to overseas instead of domestic.

Take the recent example ; I stayed in a 5 star hotel in Bangkok for RM400 with impeccable customer service and facilities in Nov 2014, yet recently, I had to fork out more than RM500 for a 3 star beach resort in Malaysia during low season.

Good to know : Malaysia is still a country not to be missed as the food is still considered cheap or on par with other south east asian country. Not to forget Malaysia is able to offer you something of everything – beaches, cities, historical states, natures, cultures etc.

Truth : Transportation Terror

I remember saving up for months to come up with the front payment for my car, because I hated taking the bus services. There’s no such thing as punctuality and once, I almost fell off a bus.

Rules of thumb : For Kuala Lumpur area, stick to MyRapid LRT if possible, if you want something closer to punctuality and skip the drama with taxi drivers. Some LRT stations have bus services to take you nearer to your destinations but frequency depends. I do not recommend city bus (that should-not-be-named here) as I almost fall down from one of them because of the driver’s fault.

To get to another state, there are plenty of express bus but I had ceased from taking them for ten years now and could not give recommendation. Just beware though, some ticket vendors will lie just to sell you the bus ticket. Try to buy ticket from proper counters and reputable bus company. Check your ticket before leaving the counters.

If you have any other question about traveling to Malaysia, let me know. I will try my best to answer them.

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