MALAYSIA – YOUR STUDY DESTINATION

Malaysia is one of the most pleasant, hassle-free countries to visit in South-East Asia. Several decades of sustained economic growth and political stability have made it one of the most buoyant and wealthy countries in the region.

With a population of about 30 million people, Malaysia has moved towards a pluralist cultural melting pot based on a vibrant and interesting fusion of Malays, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures and customs. Being a multiracial country Malaysia also has a variety of religious beliefs such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism etc.

There are 14 states in Malaysia, namely Wilayah Persekutuan, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Melaka, Pahang, Perak, Pulau Pinang, Terengganu, Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak.

Weather

Malaysia is a tropical country and is situated near the equator. Temperatures fluctuate between 25 and 35 degrees during the year. Annual rainfall varies from 2000mm to 2500mm. Humidity is high and on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the rainy season is from April to May as well as October to November. Light clothing such as T-shirts, slacks, jeans, shorts and shirts are ideal and will be most comfortable. In addition, cool clothing materials such as polyester and cotton are best suited to the climate.

Religions

Islam is the national religion, but freedom of religion is guaranteed. Malays are usually Muslims. The Chinese are predominately Taoists and Buddhists, though some are Christians. The majority of Malaysia’s Indian population are mainly Hindus and originated from southern India, though a sizable percentage are also Muslims and Christians. There are also Sikhs, mainly in peninsular Malaysia. Many indigenous people of east Malaysia are although some still follow their animist traditions.

Culture

Malaysia’s cuisine reflects the multiethnic makeup of its population, and is defined by its diversity. The many cultures from Malaysia and the surrounding areas have greatly influenced Malaysian cuisine: with strong influence from Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Javanese, and Sumatran cuisines. As an international student, you will experience a student life in multi-cultural Malaysia. Studying in a multicultural environment and working with people from diverse background contributes immensely to broadening your perspective and this experience is invaluable in a rapid globalized economy.

Language

Bahasa Malaysia, spoken by all Malaysians, is the nation’s official language. Each race also speaks specific languages indigenous to them – the Chinese speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and other dialects while the Indians generally speak Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi and other dialects.

Indigenous tribal peoples generally communicate in Bahasa Malaysia. Despite the combination of different languages spoken all over Malaysia, Bahasa Malaysia is largely spoken in the cities as a means of communication between races.

Transportation and Amenities

Being an emerging nation in the Asia Pacific region, the public transportation system in Malaysia is quite up to date and is in line with its development plans to reach a fully developed nation status by the year 2020.

Travel within the country is relatively cheap and efficient. All the major cities and towns are equipped with an airport and are connected by highways. Rural roads are generally well maintained.

In the capital, Kuala Lumpur, the public transportation infrastructure is pretty good, what keeps the city from congestions is the Mass Rapid Transit system (MRT) and Light Rail Transit system (LRT). These rail systems, link the capital, KL, to the suburbs of the state of Selangor.

There is also the commuter train system, which is operated by Keratapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) this services Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding districts.

With numerous bus companies providing interstate travel on air-conditioned coaches, it is relatively easy to move from state to state on the cheap. All the major towns have these interstate bus services and the prices are pretty standard for each destination, regardless of which bus company that you are using. Travel within the city is also serviced by buses. The best and newest buses that are available for intercity travel are those found in Kuala Lumpur and its suburbs.

Apart from intercity services, taxis in Malaysia also cover interstate routes. These taxis normally charge on a per person basis unless you charter the whole taxi for yourself. Intra-city taxis in the capital run on metered fare, while fares for those taxis in other cities and towns are based on a negotiated rate. E- hailing services such as UBER and GRAB car are also available with reasonable rates.

Attractions

Malaysia offers many tourist attractions to engage even the most sophisticated traveller. Kuala Lumpur itself offers many exciting attractions such as the famous Petronas Twin Towers. A few kilometres out of the city are the famous Batu Caves. These are found in a limestone hill that is 400 million years old and contains a series of caves and cave temples that are a wonder to behold. Other interesting areas worth exploring are “Little India” in Brickfields and “Chinatown” in Kuala Lumpur. The Sunway Lagoon Theme Park close to Kuala Lumpur is another great weekend getaway if you wish to chill-out or have an adventure after a gruelling week of study.

If you are prepared to travel out of the city, the islands of Penang, Pangkor, Perhentian, Langkawi and Tioman offer beach holidays with the sun, sea and sand as a big part of the agenda. Penang in particular, has retained its colonial charm and you can glimpse the colourful phases of Malaysian history in restored wonders like Suffolk House, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and the E&O (Eastern & Oriental) Hotel. If you yearn for a colder climate, however, you can always head up to hill resorts like the quiet and restful Cameron Highlands and Fraser’s Hill or the livelier Genting Highlands Resort, which offers the thrill of indoor and outdoor theme parks.

Malaysia has several World Heritage Sites you may want to explore. They include the cultural heritage sites of Georgetown and Malacca, as well as East Malaysian natural sites such as the Mulu National Park and the Kinabalu Park. Another place that offers an opportunity to get acquainted with paradise in the tropics is the Taman Negara National Park.

Apart from Malaysia, there are also many overseas holiday opportunities for students. Malaysia is known as the “gateway to Asia” and students will be able to travel for quick getaways to neighbouring countries. These include Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Macau, Hong Kong and many more. Affordable air travel to these countries is offered by AirAsia, Malaysia’s own regional budget airline, Batik Air Malaysia as well as the national carrier, Malaysia Airlines.

Cosmopolitan Living

Malaysia is a multi-cultural society. The main ethnic groups are the native Malays, Chinese, and Indians. When visiting the country, it is clear that the ethnicities retain their religions, customs and ways of life. The most important festivals of each group are recognised as public holidays.

Malaysia is a country with strong family values. The family is considered the centre of the social structure. As a result, there is a great emphasis on unity, loyalty and respect for the elderly. Malaysians are friendly and warm, and don’t be surprised if your local friends ask you out for ‘makan’ (a meal). In Malaysia, relationships are built around food!

Malaysia’s ethnic diversity is a blessing. The melange makes Malaysia one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth, as it helps sustain international relationships with the many societies represented in Malaysia: the Indonesian archipelago, the Islamic world, Southeast Asia, India, China, Europe and Australia. Malaysians easily exchange ideas and technology with the rest of the world and have an influence in global affairs.

Modern Amenities

In all of the major cities of Malaysia, you will find the vital amenities necessary for your well-being in every corner. These encompass accommodation, public transportation, restaurants, banks, clinics, bookshops, convenience stores, cineplexes and shopping malls, among others.

Malaysia is a great shopping destination offering a wide variety of brand names to satisfy the most discerning shopper. There is something for everyone, ranging from affordable goods sold in the numerous street-side shops to luxury labels located in high-end boutiques found in many of its modern shopping malls. Malaysia’s malls offer a host of other activities that include dining, bowling, archery, rock climbing, movies, spa attractions, video arcades, and many more. Another attraction that Malaysia has to offer is an impressive list of nightlife hotspots. A host of vibrant clubs offer a variety of themes and environments along with strict age restrictions.

With many different forms of public transportation available such as buses, trains and taxis, travelling is convenient and inexpensive. Buses are the cheapest and most common form of transportation depending on the distance and route. The railway system in Malaysia is also very well-connected through several railway lines such as the Monorail, commuter trains, and Light-Rail Transit (LRT) as well as the Mass Rapid Transit system. Commuter trains run efficiently within Kuala Lumpur and will connect you to the amenities you require in different precincts.

Food Paradise

If there is one thing this country is famous for, other than being an education destination, it is the wide selection of cuisines available here.

Dining in Malaysia can be an unending adventure with numerous ethnic groups in the country contributing various cuisines. You will discover a fusion of culinary styles that have evolved with the arrival of migrant communities over the centuries. Most residents of Malaysia are well-versed with the primary cuisines – Malay, Indian and Chinese – as well as the distinctive style of mixed cultures such as Peranakan (Straits Chinese) and Eurasian cooking. Malaysian dishes are known for their lovely flavours, achieved by the expert blending of herbs and spices that make each dish distinctive in taste.

Today, with the influx of students, immigrants and expatriates from different parts of the world like the Middle East, Africa, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, Malaysia has truly become a gourmet’s paradise. Food from various cultures is becoming increasingly available as there are many new restaurants opening all the time. Restaurants that serve Western, Continental and European food are becoming increasingly common in Malaysia, while Middle Eastern restaurants are also in abundance, serving various popular dishes like shawarma and hummus. There are also a number of restaurants that serve African food. These restaurants tend to be spread across different locations that are easily accessible by public transport.

As far as other Asian cuisines go, there is an abundance of Japanese, Korean, Thai, Taiwanese and even Indonesian restaurants that serve many of their popular traditional dishes. These restaurants can be found right across the country. There are also numerous international fast-food chains serving burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, fried chicken and many of them have a delivery option. The wide range of options not only exposes Malaysians to different kinds of cuisines, it also caters to the needs of homesick foreigners.

COST OF LIVING

Personal Expenses – This would very much depend on your personal lifestyle. Your cost for toiletries, grooming, occasional movie or social outing and other necessities can start from as low as USD50 per month.

Meal – You can have an immensely satisfying meal at a shop for just USD 2.00, while three square meals can be enjoyed for under USD5 per day. So, if you’re prudent, your food bill for a month can be covered within USD200.

Laundry – The cost of washing and ironing your clothes can be from as low as USD20 per month if you lead a normal student lifestyle.

Accomodation – Where you live as a foreign student in Malaysia will depend on your accommodation budget which starts from USD 70 a month for a twin sharing room. Like everywhere else, the higher the budget, the better the lodging! Most universities and colleges will assist their students in finding adequate accommodation within a convenient distance.

Phone bills – Your costs in this area would depend on your usage charges and could be anything from USD15 onwards.

Public Transport – Travelling using public transport such as train or bus, may cost approximately USD 20-30 per month (Estimated currency exchange rate : USD1 = RM 4.50)

Note : These figures are estimates and serve only as a guideline. It is essential in every case that you contact the institution or country’s education authority in question to ascertain the exact fee for the course that is of interest to you as well as the actual living cost in that location.

Economy

Malaysia is a highly open, upper-middle income economy. Malaysia was one of 13 countries identified by the Commission on Growth and Development in its Growth Report to have recorded average growth of more than 7 percent per year for 25 years or more. Economic growth was inclusive, as Malaysia also succeeded in nearly eradicating poverty.

From an economy dominated by the production of raw natural resource materials, such as tin and rubber, even as recently as the 1970s, Malaysia today has a diversified economy and has become a leading exporter of electrical appliances, electronic parts and components, palm oil, and natural gas. After the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, Malaysia continued to post solid growth rates, averaging 5.5 percent per year from 2000-2008. Malaysia was hit by the Global Financial Crisis in 2009 but recovered rapidly, posting growth rates averaging 5.7 percent since 2010.

Less than 1 percent of Malaysian households live in extreme poverty, and the government’s focus has shifted toward addressing the well-being of the poorest 40 percent of the population (“the bottom 40”).

While significant, Malaysia’s productivity growth over the past 25 years has been below those in several global and regional comparators. As factor accumulation is expected to slow, accelerating productivity growth is the main path for Malaysia to achieve convergence with high-income economies. Accelerated implementation of productivity-enhancing reforms to increase the quality of human capital and create more competition in the economy will be key for Malaysia to secure a lasting place among the ranks of high-income economies.

GST

GST which is also known as VAT or the value added tax in many countries is a multi-stage consumption tax on goods and services. GST is charged on all taxable supplies of goods and services in Malaysia except those specifically exempted. GST is also charged on the importation of goods and services into Malaysia.

For more information on GST – please click here


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