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General Info about Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Visa Requirements
Citizens from the majority of Commonwealth countries (apart from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) along with citizens from the Republic of Ireland and citizens of Switzerland, Netherlands, San Marino and Liechtenstein don’t need a visa to visit Malaysia.

People from France, Greece, Poland and South Africa don’t need a visa if their stay is longer than one month, but will have to get once the 31 days is up.

If you are unsure as to whether or not you will need a visa it is recommended that you check with the Malaysian Consulate in your home country.

Currency
The Malaysian unit of currency is the Ringgit (M$) and it is made up of 100 sen. Notes are in denominations of M$1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 and the coins in use are 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 sen as well as M$1.

Language
Bahasa Malaysia is the country’s national and official language. English is widely spoken, however, particularly in tourist areas. Other languages such as Chinese and Hindi are also widely spoken in KL due to large communities living there.

Climate
Kuala Lumpur has a tropical climate which means it gets plenty of sunshine all year round. Despite this, temperatures don’t usually become unbearably hot and generally range from about 22ºC to 33ºC. Humidity is quite high throughout the year and the average annual rainfall varies from 2,000mm-2,500mm.

Medical Care
Kuala Lumpur has high standards of health and cleanliness in comparison to other South-East Asian cities. Even tap water is safe to drink.

As it is the Malaysian capital, it is never difficult to find a pharmacy. The main hospital (Hospital Kuala Lumpur) is north of Chinatown in an area of Chow Kit.

If you are coming from a country which is infected with yellow fever you may have to show proof that you are vaccinated.

Time Zone
Kuala Lumpur is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Opening Hours
Shops generally open at 9am and close at 5pm, while larger department stores open an hour later at 10am and remain open until 10pm. The stalls in places such as Chinatown remain open far later.

Tourist Offices
KL’s main tourist office is located in the Malaysia Tourist Information Complex which is on Jalan Ampang. It opens from 9am-6pm daily. In places popular with tourists, such as Merdeka Square, there are smaller tourist offices.

Tax
Malaysia has a general sales tax of 10%. But this can vary as some goods are taxed at 5%, some are at 15%, while others are tax free altogether.

Currency Exchange
Since 1998, the Malaysian government agreed a fixed exchange rate from the US dollar to the native currency. Therefore, if you are taking foreign currency into the country it is recommended that you bring US dollars as they are the most convenient to exchange. The same applies to travellers’ cheques which are accepted by all banks as well as the larger hotels, restaurants and department stores. The best place to exchange is in any of the city’s banks which offer the best rates. They open between 10.00am and 3.00pm from Monday to Friday and from 9.30am until 11.30am on Saturdays. You can also exchange foreign currency in any of the moneychangers which are located in the larger towns and cities as well as the more popular tourist destinations.

All major credit cards are accepted in the bigger hotels, restaurants and shops but in smaller businesses or in the more remote areas of the country you may have difficulty using this facility. You can also your credit card or bankcards which are members of the bigger international networks such as Plus or Cirrus to withdraw cash where the ATM states that they are acceptable.

It is also worth noting that since 1998 all visitors to the country must declare the amount of money in their possession on entering and leaving the country. You must fill in a Travellers Declaration Form (TDF) which you can get from Malaysian Embassy, Tourism Malaysia offices and at all airports and should keep this form inside your passport when it is returned to you from Immigration.

Electricity
220V-240V/50Hv. Plugs are 3-pin type, same as those in the UK.

Telephones
There are Telekom cardphones all over Kuala Lumpur. Cards for these phones can be bought from news agents and Telekom offices. When calling from phones on the street make sure that they say that you can make international calls from them. Local calls cost 10 sen for 3 minutes.

To call overseas from within Malaysia dial 00 (Malaysia’s international access code) followed by the country code for the country you are calling, then the area code (dropping the 0) and the local number.

Calling Kuala Lumpur from overseas dial the international access code of the country you are in followed by 60 (country code for Malaysia), then 3 (area code for KL) and the local number.

Post Office
KL’s biggest post office is across the river from Chinatown on Jalan Mahkamah Persekutuan. Opening hours are from 8.30am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday.

Tipping
A 10% service charge is usually added onto restaurant bills as well as the 5% government tax. Therefore, you really don’t need to tip unless you feel that the service warrants it. Where this is the case a tip of between 5% and 10% is sufficient. If a service charge is not included 10% to 15% per cent is acceptable. Taxi drivers also don’t need to be tipped but many people tell them to keep any small change. It is worth noting that at no time is it compulsory to tip – it is entirely at your own discretion.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day.

In Malaysia they are New Years Day (January 1st), Chinese New Year (late January/early February), Hari Raya Tussa/Islamic New Year (late February/early March), Labour Day (May 1st), Kings Birthday (1st Saturday in June), National Malaysia Day (31st August), Deepavali (October/November) and Christmas Day (25th December).

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