Area Codes -- Malaysia's country code is 60. Area codes for destinations covered in this book are as follows: 03 for Kuala Lumpur; 06 for Melaka; 07 for Johor Bahru; 04 for Penang and Langkawi; 09 for Tioman, Kuantan, Cherating, Kuala Terengganu, and Kota Bharu; 082 for Sarawak; and 088 for Sabah.
Business Hours -- Banks are open from 9:30am to 3pm Monday through Friday. Government offices are open from 8am to 12:45pm and 2 to 4:15pm Monday through Friday. Smaller shops like provision stores may open as early as 6 or 6:30am and close as late as 9pm, especially those near the wet markets. Many such stores are closed on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons and are busiest before lunch. Other shops are open 9:30am to 7pm. Department stores and shops in malls tend to open later, about 10:30 or 11am until 8:30 or 9pm throughout the week. Note that in the states of Kelantan, Terengganu, and Kedah, the working week runs from Saturday to Wednesday, with weekends on Thursday and Friday.
Doctors -- All hotels and resorts have qualified physicians on call who speak English. These doctors will come directly to your room for treatment. If your condition is serious, they can help you check into a local hospital.
Drinking Laws -- Liquor is sold in pubs and supermarkets in all big cities and in provision stores. If you're going to a smaller island, your resort may have limited alcohol selections, so you may wish to bring your own. In Terengganu and Kelantan, liquor is strictly limited to a handful of Chinese restaurants. Pubs and other nightspots should officially close by 1am nationwide, but there are places in KL that stay open later. The legal age for alcohol purchase and consumption is 18, but foreigners are rarely checked.
Drug Laws -- As in Singapore, the death sentence is mandatory for drug trafficking (defined as being in possession of more than 15g of heroin or morphine, 200g of marijuana or hashish, or 40g of cocaine). For lesser quantities, you'll be thrown in jail for a very long time and flogged with a cane.
Electricity -- The voltage used in Malaysia is 220 to 240 volts AC (50 cycles). Three-point square plugs are used, so buy an adapter if you plan to bring any appliances, although most larger hotels can provide adapters upon request.
Embassies & Consulates -- Most embassies are located in Kuala Lumpur. Contacts for major embassies in Malaysia are as follows: Australian High Commission, 6 Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, Kuala Lumpur (tel. 03/2146-5555; www.australia.org.my); British High Commission, 185 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur (tel. 03/2170-2200; www.ukinmalaysia.fco.gov.uk); Canadian High Commission, 17th Floor, Menara Tan & Tan, 207 Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur (tel. 03/2718-3333; www.canadainternational.gc.ca); New Zealand High Commission, Level 21, Menara IMC, 8 Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur (tel. 03/2078-2533; www.nzembassy.com/malaysia); and the United States Embassy, 376 Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur (tel. 03/2168-5000; www.malaysia.usembassy.gov).
Emergencies -- Call tel. 999 for all emergencies.
Hospitals -- In the event of an accident or emergency, the best facility in Kuala Lumpur is Hospital Kuala Lumpur on Jalan Pahang (tel. 03/2615-5555).
Language -- The national language is Malay, or Bahasa Malaysia, although English is widely spoken. Chinese dialects and Tamil are also spoken.
Legal Aid -- If you encounter legal trouble in Malaysia, you should notify your home embassy immediately. They will not be able to change local laws to help you, post bail on your behalf, or offer legal advice, but they can assist you in contacting family and suggesting names of local legal representatives. Note that drug trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty and that conviction for certain other violent crimes can result in corporal punishment. Some aspects of Shariah (Islamic) law have been incorporated into the law books of some states.
Mail -- Post office locations in each city covered are provided in each section. Overseas airmail postage rates are as follows: RM.50 for postcards and from RM1.40 for a 100g letter.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Local English-language papers include the New Straits Times, The Star, The Sun, and The Edge, and are sold in hotel lobbies and magazine stands. International newspapers such as the International Herald Tribune and the Asian Wall Street Journal are also widely available. Of the local KL magazines, Time Out has good listings and local "what's happening" information.
Packing -- Despite the tropical weather, you'll want to bring a light jacket or sweater for moments when you're stuck in freezing air-conditioning. I usually wear shoes that are easily slipped on and off -- handy when visiting religious sites. A light-colored umbrella also doubles as a parasol. For more helpful information on packing for your trip, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile/ and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Police -- For all emergencies, call 999. By and large, law enforcement agents in Malaysia's cities and major towns can speak English. While tourist police do exist, they are not as ubiquitous as tourist police in other countries, such as Thailand.
Taxes -- Hotels, with the exception of those on Langkawi, add a 5% government tax to all rates, plus an additional 10% service charge. Larger restaurants also figure the same 5% tax into your bill, plus a 10% service charge, whereas small coffee shops and hawker stalls don't charge anything above the cost of the meal. Although most tourist goods (such as crafts, camera equipment, sports equipment, cosmetics, and select small electronic items) are tax-free, a small, scaled tax is issued on various other goods, such as clothing, shoes, and accessories that you'd buy in the larger shopping malls and department stores.
Time -- Malaysia is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, 16 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific Standard Time, 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, and 2 hours behind Sydney. It is in the same zone as Singapore. There is no daylight saving time.
Tipping -- Tipping is not expected, but most will leave coins behind. For bellhops, I give at least RM2 per bag, RM5 in a very expensive hotel or resort.
Toilets -- To find a public toilet, ask for the tandas. In Malay, lelaki is male and perempuan is female. Be prepared for pay toilets. Coin collectors sit outside almost every public facility, taking RM.20 per person, RM.30 if you want tissue. Once inside, you'll find that your money doesn't go for cleaning crews. Public toilets are pure filth. They smell horrible and the floors are always an inch deep with stagnant water. While most toilets are of the "squatty-potty" variety (a porcelain bowl set into the floor), even if you find a seat-style toilet bowl, locals typically place their feet on the seat to squat. The nicer toilets are in hotels, upmarket shopping malls, and restaurants.
Visitor Information -- Tourism Malaysia (www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my) provides excellent information, including websites, brochures, pamphlets, and other information that is regularly updated. Within Malaysia, each state or tourist destination has its own tourism board that operates a website and local offices for tourist information. These are also good sources for information, as they have on-the-ground knowledge that's more current. For each destination, I have provided websites, telephone contacts, and locations of information offices.
Malaysia Hotel News (www.malaysiahotelnews.blogspot.com) is a blog that covers all aspects of tourism in Malaysia, from government policy to hotel openings, to special events. It is a very comprehensive source for what's happening in the industry, with valuable information for tourism professionals and travelers alike.
Water -- Water in Kuala Lumpur is supposed to be potable, but most locals boil the water before drinking it. I advise against drinking the tap water anywhere in Malaysia. Hotels will supply bottled water in your room. If they charge you for it, expect inflated prices, especially for premium imported water. A 1.5-liter bottle goes for RM7 in a hotel minibar, but RM2 at 7-Eleven.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.