Constitutional monarchy since 1963. Gained independence from the UK in 1957.
Head of state:
King Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah since 2012.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak since 2009.
220-240 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are generally used.
Reefs and rainforests, mountains and minarets, skycrapers and sampans; Malaysia more than lives up to its official slogan ‘truly Asia’.
One of the great cultural melting pots, Malaysia is a nation where Chinese joss-houses, Hindu temples and gold-domed Malay mosques jostle for space with bustling markets and towering skyscrapers. Away from the cities, untamed nature awaits, in the form of jungles dripping with rare and exotic species and coral reefs teeming with turtles, sharks and rainbow-coloured tropical fish.
Malaysia offers two countries for the price of one – Peninsular Malaysia, bordering Thailand at the southern end of the Malay peninsula, and East Malaysia, the northern half of the island of Borneo, which pushes up against Indonesia and Brunei. The peninsula is where people come for bustling cities and colonial history, but the states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo are the gateway to a mysterious world of coral islands and lush rainforests inhabited by isolated indigenous tribes.
Most visits to Malaysia are trouble-free.
Malaysia shares with the rest of south-east Asia a threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate and against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.
It is believed that terrorists and criminal elements are continuing with plans to kidnap foreign tourists from the islands and coastal areas of Eastern Sabah. Action taken by the Philippines Armed Forces in January 2007 against terrorist groups in the southern Philippines may heighten this risk. Boats travelling to and from offshore islands and dive sites are possible targets. Travellers who wish to visit resorts on, and islands off, Eastern Sabah should exercise extreme caution.
Malaysia has periodic problems with air quality reaching hazardous levels because of smoke haze.
Travellers planning to travel over the border to Thailand should be aware that there has been a resurgence of terrorism in southern Thailand, particularly in the far southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla. All but essential travel to these Thai provinces is advised against. Travellers should also maintain high levels of vigilance when travelling to, or through, the neighbouring province of Satun. There have been reports that Thai military presence in Satun is being increased due to insurgency fears.
Malaysia is a multicultural but predominantly Muslim country, and as such visitors should respect local social conventions. During the fasting month of Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims. As a courtesy, visitors may wish to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public places.
Travellers should not become involved with drugs of any kind: possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment or the death penalty.
This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organisations for the latest travel advice: