"If you're feeling relaxed or you're feeling adventurous – Malaysia and Singapore have something for everyone!"
"Singapore boasts a wealth of eastern culture combined with very modern living. No trip would be complete without having dinner at Boat Quay where you can sit outside and soak up the vibrant atmosphere and the fabulous view of the Singapore River and towering skyline. Then afterwards a relaxing Singapore Sling in the Raffles Hotel is unmissable! Malaysia also offers the modern with the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur dominated by the impressive Petronas Towers but away from the cities you'll also find beautiful sandy beaches and humid jungles. Journeying to the stunning tea plantation scenery of the Cameron Highlands you may be surprised by the occasional monkey jumping out of the forests and fascinated by the traditional huts inhabited by families who live in a world far apart from your own. Then in Melaka you'll find Dutch colonial buildings, ample arts and crafts and if you're feeling particularly daring you can take a rickshaw ride – it's enough to satisfy any adrenaline junkie!"
Joynita Chamilall, Traveller
If your tour in Malaysia & Singapore begins in Thailand you will need to read both country dossiers (i.e. Malaysia and Thailand) for full details of visa requirements and arrival transfers
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Official Language: Bahasa Malaysia. Others: English, Hindi
Religions: Predominantly Muslim also Hindu, Buddhist and some Animist.
Voltage: 220 volts, sockets are two pronged flat pin.
Most nationalities do not require a Malaysian or Singapore visa as a 30 day entry permit will be granted on arrival at the border or at the airport of both countries. However we recommend that you check the rules for your nationality with your local Malyasian/Singapore Embassy or Consulate.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of the correct visas for your holiday and onward travel. The Imaginative Traveller cannot accept responsibility for anyone who is refused entry to a country because they lack the correct documentation.
Malaysia – The monetary unit in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringit (RM). Approximate exchange rates (as at May 2008) are as follows:
Singapore – The monetary unit in Singapore is the Singapore Dollar (SGD). Approximate exchange rates (as at May 2008) are as follows:
At present there is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that a visitor may bring into Malaysia or Singapore.
XE.com is a useful site for currency conversion.
Bank and exchange counters are everywhere in Singapore and Malaysian cities and towns. Larger hotels will also exchange cash and travellers cheques. We recommend that you take either US$ or GB£ currency and travellers cheques, however it is possible to exchange other major currencies (please note Scottish Pounds are not recognised outside of the UK). Credit Card advances are possible at banks. There are lots of ATM’s however there are reports of ATM fraud especially in Kuala Lumpur. You should always keep your PIN secret when using the ATM and be aware of any odd cables or devices attached to the front of the machine. Credit Cards can be used in larger restaurants (in cities) and for purchases in stores. In all cases you should never let your credit card out of your sight.
The Pre-Departure Booklet that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains general information about organising your spending money. Your Tour Leader will be able to advise you on local facilities.
The Pre-Departure Information contains general information about the things you will need to consider when budgeting for your holiday. Below are some specific notes relevant to our tours in Malaysia and Singapore.
Although our Traveller trips include entrance fees for all sites specified in your itinerary there are some additional sites that you may like to visit. Adventurer trips do not include any entrance fees. The average entrance fees in Malaysia vary between US$0.25 and US$2. You should expect entrance fees In Singapore to be higher (i.e. usually between US$2 and US$10).
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Remember to bring your student card if you have one or are entitled to one as you may be able to get discounts on certain entrance fees, though the actual policy on this varies from site to site.
All of our itineraries include some free time, the amount of which usually depends on the style of tour you are travelling on (Adventurer trips generally have more than Traveller). If you wish to take optional excursions your Tour Leader will be able to advise you of the possibilities in each area.
Approximate costs (per person unless otherwise stated) for popular excursions and activities are shown below:
(all prices are per taxi)
On Traveller tours you will find the meal plan clearly indicated in the brochure and on your Trip Dossier. Breakfast is provided each day on most Traveller tours, and many tours also include a number of dinners. Lunches are rarely included to give you more freedom. Meals are not included on our Adventurer tours in Malaysia and Singapore. Approximate costs for meals and snacks are shown below:
For a guide to the type of food you will find in Malaysia & Singapore see the Local Food & Drink section of this dossier.
Approximate costs for drinks bought in a shop in the street are shown below. Note: Prices in restaurants and hotels can be as much as double those specified.
It is not recommended that you drink the local tap water in Malaysia and Singapore however bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices are widely available throughout the region.
In Malaysia taxis (teksi) and tri-shaws (three-wheeled bicycles) are the most effective methods of local transport. Local buses (bas) are also very cheap and easy to use. In some towns (but not all) tuk-tuks are also available.
In Kuala Lumpur tri-shaws are only found around Chinatown and suburban areas. For any other journey taxis are always available. Most taxis are now metered, however if there is no meter or it does not work remember to agree a price in advance. You should also note that asking the driver to turn on the air-con could put the fare up by 20%. Kuala Lumpur also has a Light Rail Transit (LRT) network which is cheaper than taxis (and avoids the traffic!) although not as flexible.
In Penang taxis or tri-shaws are the best way to get around the island. Tri-shaws are a lot of fun and you can hire one (and a driver!) for between US$1.25 and US$2.50 per hour (the same price also applies in Melaka).
In central Singapore many places can be reached on foot however the city has a comprehensive bus network and a very efficient MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) subway system both of which are cheap and easy to use. Singapore also has plenty of metered taxis.
The Pre-Departure Information that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains a comprehensive list of items that you should consider bringing with you. There are certain items of equipment (e.g. sleeping bags, towels) that you will need on some tours and not on others. Please note that you DO NOT need a mosquito net on any of our tours in Malaysia/Singapore however you should protect yourself with a good mosquito repellent spray. Check your Trip Dossier for any special requirements.
As a general guideline clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting, hard wearing and easily washed. Malaysia and Singapore have a tropical climate and therefore the weather is generally warm to hot all year round. However the Cameron Highlands can be cooler all year round and in particular between December and March.
You should bear in mind that Malaysia has conservative attitudes towards dress, particularly in remote areas. Likewise most Singaporeans dress smart but casual so 'short' shorts and revealing vests look out of place. Women, and also to a certain extent men, will find that the way they dress will often determine the degree of respect they receive from both men and women. The issue is not nearly of such importance in ‘touristy’ areas, such as the coastal areas and beaches, where you can be just about as casual as you like.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Make sure you bring lots of clothing that covers shoulders and knees and also at least one outfit which covers your legs to ankles and your arms past the elbows. A sarong is an invaluable item to carry as it can be used to instantly cover any exposed areas (i.e. head, legs). It also doesn’t go amiss to bring along a set of smart/casual clothes for the occasional night out.
In certain areas and religious sites your Tour Leader may ask you to dress conservatively. Out of respect for local values, we ask that you follow your Tour Leader’s advice at all times.
Make sure you allow for climate changes and remember that even in very hot countries, night-time and early morning temperatures can be extremely cold. You will generally find it is better to have several thin layers rather than one thick layer as it gives you more flexibility and warmth. A fleece can be invaluable and double as a pillow.
Whilst few of our tours can be described as physically demanding you will find all activities more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit and active.
Wherever you use a western or squat style toilet remember to place your toilet paper in the rubbish bin provided – DO NOT flush it down the toilet as this may block the sewerage system. You may also want to carry your own toilet paper as not all toilets will supply it.
Travellers should respect that religion is an inherent part of Malaysian and Singaporean life. We encourage travellers to experience religious festivals and visit temples and shrines but ask that you follow religious rules such as removing your shoes and refraining from taking photographs at certain sites. Your Tour Leader will be on hand to advise you of local sensitivities.
In most cases your Tour Leader will brief you on etiquette accordingly; however there are a couple of good points which are worth noting. In Muslim company you should only handle food in your right hand as the left is usually used for washing purposes after visiting the toilet. Patting someone (even a child) on the head or pointing your finger is considered to be rude and insulting and open displays of anger or affection (such as kissing and holding hands) are generally not acceptable. You should also avoid pointing the soles of your feet at anyone. This may seem unlikely to happen but you could inadvertently do this while laying down or sitting with your feet up.
In Singapore there are a few rules and regulations which travellers should note. In many public places (including shopping centres and air-con restaurants) smoking is strictly prohibited, and you can be fined (sometimes quite steeply) for littering and jaywalking as well as smoking. You should not drop litter of any kind including cigarette butts and chewing gum and remember not to cross the road within 50m of a pedestrian crossing, bridge or underpass.
Bargaining is a way of life in much of South East Asia although in Singapore you will find more fixed price shops and less room for negotiation. In Malaysia shops don't have fixed prices so the shop keeper will start with a high price which you are then expected to bargain down until you reach a fair price. As a rough guide your first offer should be around half of the shop keepers original price. Bargaining should always be relaxed and can be a lot of fun but you should remember that it is considered disrespectful to agree a price but then walk away.
Upon arrival at Changi International Airport (Singapore), please look for our representative who will be holding a sign with your name or The Imaginative Traveller on it. He should be waiting for you in the Arrivals Hall (i.e. after exiting the Immigration and Customs area).
Note: Airport Taxis
If free Arrival Transfers are included on the tour but you have not been met after roughly 20 minutes, in Malaysia we suggest you take a taxi from the airport into Kuala Lumpur. Taxi counters are on level three just before you exit the arrival hall, marked AIRPORT TAXI. The price should be about MYR85 (about US$23).
If you are arriving at Bangkok International airport, please refer to the Thailand Country Dossier for details of arrival transfers.
The Meeting Point for your tour should be clearly marked on your travel vouchers.
From Changi airport you can either catch the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) or hire a taxi. On the MRT you should head for Bugis station (changing at City Hall) from where you will need to catch a taxi to the hotel. The MRT ride costs approx. US$1.40 and the taxi approx. US$2.30. A taxi direct from the airport to the hotel will cost approx. US$9.
Most people find that Malaysia and Singapore are very friendly and hospitable countries and feel quite comfortable wandering around alone during the day. However, as with any country you are not familiar with (and in particular in large cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore), it is recommended that you exercise more caution at night and generally take taxis rather than walk especially if you are a lone female. You should also be aware of strangers standing near you or behind you at ATMs.
Your Tour Leader's role is to ensure all aspects of the trip run smoothly. He/she will share their local knowledge, advise on how to fill your free time and co-ordinate the day to day running of the tour – although occasionally he/she may need your understanding if things do not go according to plan. If you have any problems on the tour, please let your Tour Leader know so that steps can be taken to put it right. Tour Leaders are supported by our regionally based office staff and, in most cases, a locally based manager.
In South East Asia we also use the services of licensed guides at sights of particular historical interest.
Please note that some styles of trip, such as Imaginative Escapes or Imaginative Honeymoons, do not have a Tour Leader. However, there will be representatives on hand who will be able to assist you in arranging any excursions that you wish you take.
Our main criterion for choosing hotels is cleanliness. On Adventurer tours hotels are simple, but comfortable. Bathroom facilities may sometimes be shared and rooms may sometimes be multi share rather than twin. Hotels on Traveller tours almost always have private bathrooms, air conditioning and bar / restaurant facilities. In Malaysia we use family-run guesthouses which although quite basic have LOADS of atmosphere. They are also well located and have friendly staff. Occasionally in Malaysia it may be necessary to share a double-bed with another group member, for this reason we recommend that you bring a lightweight sleepsheet. Please also bear in mind that hotels can sometimes suffer from minor problems and technical difficulties.
At each hotel your Tour Leader will try to organise the rooming arrangements to suit everyone's requirements. If you are travelling alone you will be allocated a room with another group member of the same sex (unless you have paid a single supplement*). If you are travelling as a couple please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of double beds.
*Note: Single supplements are only applicable to single travellers who wish to have their own room. Single supplements are also only available on Traveller tours and are not applicable on overnight boats and trains.
There are never any shortages of laundries in South East Asia, the side streets of most towns and cities are teeming with them, generally offering their services for a very cheap price! A laundry service is available in most of the hotels and guesthouses we use.
With such a huge diversity in cultures and traditions it isn’t surprising that the food available in the region is equally varied. In fact here you can eat Chinese for breakfast, Malay for lunch and Indian for dinner! You can generally eat well for a reasonable price at a local food court or in what is called a Kedai Kopi or Coffee Shop. Also on offer is just about every kind of Western food for those who need a fix of McDonalds or KFC.
In most large centres and especially in Penang you can enjoy Chinese specialities like Dim Sum, Beijing Duck and the fiery Szechuan style.
Malay food is generally fiery hot, flavoursome and rich in seafood. No Malay dish is complete without Nasi Goreng (Malay fried rice). Chicken, beef and mutton satays are abundant and served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce.
The Malaysian region is full of coffee drinkers and coffee. Every town, village and city has an abundance of coffee shops, where they will generally serve a variety of styles of coffee and teas.
Although the rural areas in particular are strongly influenced by Islam you can generally find a variety of alcoholic drinks. Tiger beer from Singapore is the local drop of beer. Also spirits are available from all over the world and freely available in shops and bars.
Vegetarians should not have any difficulty in finding a great selection of food in Malaysia and Singapore. Chinese, Malay and Indian vegetarian dishes abound.
If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour Leader who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met.
Please note: Unfortunately we can give no guarantee that special requirements can always be met.
Internet cafes can now be found everywhere in Malaysia and Singapore. The cost for an hour is approx US$0.80 in Malaysia. You will probably have to pay slightly more in Singapore.
A 3 minute call (to the UK) will cost approx. US$14.50 from a hotel. A US$5 international phone card can be used to make a 15 minute phone call to the UK from a phone box/booth.
The postal service in both Malaysia and Singapore is good and stamps are available everywhere. An overseas stamp will cost approx. US$0.50 for most overseas destinations.
Availability of Film
Photo shops are in abundance and film widely available.
Malaysia and Singapore have a typically tropical climate. Both are hot and humid ALL year round and experience frequent bursts of heavy rain - although generally this never lasts all day. During the monsoon (Nov – Feb) it may rain more and longer than usual. Humidity tends to remain at around 90%. The hill-station areas like the Cameron Highlands are always a pleasant respite from the heat and humidity and can even become quite cold during December to March.
The following shows average daytime temperatures (in degrees celsius):
|City / Temp||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
Islamic holidays are fixed in accordance with the Lunar calendar therefore the date will move back 10 or 11 days each year.
(Bahasa Melayu is the Malay language which is usually just called Bahasa)