Constitutional monarchy. 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.
230-240 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are 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.
Last updated: 31 January 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to all islands off the coast of eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau, including (but not limited to) Lankayan, Mabul, Pom Pom, Kapalai, Litigan, Sipadan and Mataking.
There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. There is a threat to foreigners of kidnapping and criminality on the eastern coast of Sabah and in particular the islands close to the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines.
Recent incidents involving tourists include:
On 12 July, gunmen killed a member of the police and kidnapped another at the Mabul Water Bungalows Resort on the island of Mabul, off Semporna.
On 2 April, armed men abducted 2 women, a Chinese tourist, and a Philippine hotel worker, from Singamata Reef Resort. Singamata Island is situated off the coastal town of Semporna in eastern Sabah.
On 15 November 2013, 2 Taiwanese tourists were attacked in their room at the Sipadan Pom Pom Resort, off the coast of eastern Sabah. A male tourist was killed and his wife kidnapped.
You should take great care in the town of Sandakan and along the coastal area south to Tawau. You should also take great care in areas east of Lahad Datu and around Semporna following the confrontation in March 2013 between insurgents and Malaysian security forces. Keep up to date with developments, and follow the advice of your tour operator and the local authorities.
Malaysia is a multicultural, but mostly Muslim country.
Around 435,500 British nationals visit Malaysia each year. Most visits are trouble free, but incidents of petty crime, especially bag snatching, can affect visitors.