It is not a stretch to imagine Malaysia as being two countries in one – split between vibrant peninsular Malaysia and lush, exotic Borneo.
The peninsula offers a varied mix of cultures and cuisines; from Malay to Chinese and Indian; from the modern and cosmopolitan capital of Kuala Lumpur to the colonial cities of Penang and Melacca; and from the white sandy beaches of Langkawi to the oldest rainforest in the world.
Meanwhile, Borneo is renowned for its steamy rainforests and marine national parks, smouldering volcanoes, remote tribes and diverse wildlife – from orang utans to proboscis monkeys and newly hatched turtles flinging themselves toward the sea.
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Capital Kuala Lumpur
Flying time from London 13.25 hours
Official language(s) Malay (official), English
Time difference +8 GMT
Visa requirements UK passport holders do not require a visa
The Malaysia Experts
Our experts will be delighted to tailor a completely personalised itinerary to suit your interests, dates and budget.
There are plenty of colonial sights to explore on peninsular Malaysia. Malacca once was a powerful empire, and was ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British for its spice trade. Georgetown, the capital of Penang, showcases colonial architecture with mixed influences from Chinese, Indian and English culture. In Ipoh there are still impressive British and Chinese buildings in the old town – and the nearby tea country of the Cameron Highlands were a favourite of the English during the colonial era.
Look out for orang utans
Visit the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, a sanctuary in Borneo established to rehabilitate orang utans to be released into the wild. Watch them interact while learning about their plight and the work of the centre. To spot wild orang utans, head further into the Sepilok Forest Reserve, take a boat ride along the Kinabatangan river, or spend time in the Danum Valley – a patch of primary rainforest with the highest concentration of wild orang utans in the world.
Savour Malaysian food
Malaysia is a culinary melting pot, with influences from Indian, Chinese, Portuguese and Indonesian cuisines. Wander the markets, some stuffed with fresh produce and others with street hawkers, selling spicy satay and fluffy roti from their stalls. Taste traditional Peranakan (also known as Baba Nonya) cuisine in Mallaca – a mixture of Malaysian and Chinese style flavours. Enjoy ‘stretched’ teh tarik, and the fragrant, national dish of nasi lemak.
Respect the rainforest
Malaysia features some amazing rainforests. In peninsular Malaysia, Taman Negara – thought to be the oldest rainforest in the world – features canopy walks, waterfalls and cave systems. In Borneo, the Sepilok Forest Reserve and Danum valley offer the chance to spot wild orang utans and other wildlife, while Mulu National Park contains remarkable karst scenery as well as the spectacular Deer Cave, from where thousands of bats flit into the rainforest in the evening.
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The best time to visit Malaysia The best time to visit Malaysia is between March and October. In Borneo, the main rainy season is November to February, though the rains can be unpredictable – so expect some to fall even during the peak period. The temperature is hot and humid all year round. The west...