Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, etc.

Business Customs
Malaysia has a multicultural and multiracial population consisting of Malays, Chinese, Indians, and indigenous peoples. Although Malaysia's ethnic mix is generally harmonious, the various communities remain largely separate and ethnic/religious tensions exist. With such a varied ethnic composition, there is a diversity of religions. The official religion is Islam, but it is common to see temples, mosques, and churches within the same area.

Business customs in Malaysia do not differ fundamentally from those of the United States.  Compared to some other Asian countries, the traits of frankness, openness, and punctuality are valued relatively more in business negotiations and dealings. Ongoing personal contact is very important. However, visitors should be aware of differing religious and cultural traditions for each ethnic group. For example, Malay Muslims may feel uncomfortable in business or social functions where alcohol or pork is served, and visitors should take note that items (such as business cards) should always be presented and received using the right hand.

Travel Advisory
Information from credible sources suggests that there is a continued risk of armed terrorist and criminal groups operating and planning attacks against foreigners, including U.S. citizens, in the East Asian and Pacific region. Please see the U.S. State Department Travel Advisory for Malaysia.

U.S. citizens are advised against travel to coastal areas and outlying islands in Eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau because of the threat of kidnappings-for-ransom and violence from both terrorist and criminal groups, including the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Group (see the Philippines Travel Warning for more information). In addition to incursions on coastal or resort islands themselves, criminal or terrorist groups may attempt to intercept boats ferrying tourists from the mainland to resort islands.

Due to safety concerns, U.S. government employees traveling to eastern Sabah east of the North-South line drawn from the cities of Kudat to Tawau, including all islands, must obtain official written permission from the Embassy. The exceptions are the cities of Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Tawau, the Sepolik Nature Reserve, and the Kinabatangan River areas, which require U.S. government employees to officially notify the Embassy prior to travel.

Crime: Petty theft and violent crime in Kuala Lumpur continue to be concerns. Purse snatching, pick-pocketing, and residential burglaries are the most common crimes committed against foreigners. Criminals frequently target women, alone or with children, for purse snatching.  These incidents can occur anytime or anywhere and have also targeted men. Avoid wrapping purse straps around arms or shoulders to avoid injury. Taxi drivers in downtown Kuala Lumpur have perpetrated violent crimes against foreign tourists and local residents. Travelers are advised to book taxis in downtown shopping areas by phone or online, rather than hailing a taxi on the street, particularly after dark. The GRAB application is available for e-hailing facilities.

Criminals also target motorists stuck in traffic or stopped at a light with smash and grab robberies. Keep valuables out of sight while driving or remove them from the car (including from the trunk) when parked. GPS devices should not be left on the windshield or dashboard.

Scams: U.S. citizens and businesses continue to be frequent victims of Internet-based scams originating in Malaysia and have reported millions of dollars in losses. Do not send money to people you have not met in person and who claim to be U.S. citizens in trouble in Malaysia. Resources on how to protect yourself from financial fraud can be found on our International Financial Scams information page. If you become the victim of a scam you may make a formal complaint (in person) to the nearest Malaysian embassy or consulate.  You can also report the crime to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Credit Card Fraud: Closely safeguard your credit cards at all times and use them only at reputable establishments.  If you must use a credit card in Malaysia, check your account information frequently for fraudulent charges.

Visa Requirements
For holders of a U.S. Passport, your passport must be valid for at least six months. You do not need a visa if you are coming for business or tourism for 90 days or less. Immigration officials will place an entry stamp, known as a social visit pass (visa), in your passport authorizing a stay of up to 90 days.  Travelers may apply to the Immigration Department for extensions of up to two months.  For additional information, including visa requirements for non-U.S. passport holders:  Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia

Travel to Sabah and Sarawak: The eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak (on the island of Borneo) have special entry requirements. You must have your passport to enter or exit Sabah or Sarawak, even when arriving from peninsular Malaysia on domestic flights.

Currently, Malaysia’s central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) issues Malaysian ringgit (RM) notes in five denominations, as follows:  1 ringgit, 5 ringgit, 10 ringgit, 50 ringitt and 100 ringgit. Coins are also issued in 4 denominations: 5 sen, 10 sen, 20 sen, and 50 sen. Most of the banking institutions in Malaysia own proprietary ATM networks.  Only institutions with prior approval from BNM are allowed to issue credit cards in Malaysia. Institutions primarily issue Visa and MasterCard credit cards. The usage of debit cards is gaining popularity in Malaysia, with banking institutions issuing both domestic debit cards and international brand debit cards, such as Visa Electron and MasterCard Maestro. As a step forward to improve the operational efficiency of the domestic debit card system and promote the usage of debit cards in Malaysia, Malaysian Electronic Payment System Sdn Bhd (MEPS) has set up a domestic debit card switching network that enables universal usage of domestic debit cards at all debit card merchants.
Banking institutions in Malaysia provide electronic banking. This includes telephone banking, desktop banking, mobile banking and home banking. Desktop banking and telephone banking are commonly used in electronic distribution channels.

Effective June 1, 2000, domestic banking institutions were allowed to provide a full range of Internet banking facilities, subject to compliance with the guidelines on Internet banking issued by BNM. Typically, the services offered by banking institutions through their Internet banking facilities are account balance summaries, request for account statements, funds transfer between own or third party accounts, payment facilities and check book request services.

International telephone service from Malaysia is good and more investment is being undertaken to keep up with the very rapid increase in demand. GSM is the Malaysian standard for digital cellular communications. One of its cellular providers is GPRS enabled, while the other two are 4G spectrum holders.

Broadband Internet access is widely available in most major hotels. Offices and residential customers have dial-up or broadband Internet access via ISDN, ADSL, SDSL, WiFi and/or WiMax.

The major telecommunication companies in Malaysia are TM Berhad, Celcom (013, 019 and 0148), Maxis (012, 017 and 0142), DiGi (010, 011, 016, 0146, 014-30, 014-31 and 014-32) and U Mobile (018).

The voltage used in Malaysia is 230/240 volts and 50hz. If the electrical appliance uses 110/120 volts, you need to use a transformer/converter to step down the 230/240 volts Malaysian voltage to your 110/120 volt appliances. Failing to do so will damage your electrical appliances.

Some electrical appliances are multi voltage, that is can be used for both 120volt and 230/240volt. Most multi-voltage equipment will state somewhere on the product, usually on a label or decal on the charging unit, input 100-240 AC 50-60 HZ.  Malaysia uses the British Standard BS 1363 domestic AC power plugs and sockets.

Malaysia's central location in the Asia Pacific region makes it an ideal gateway to Asia and ASEAN markets.

With such a massive coastline, there are more than 40 seaports across the country. Sixteen of these ports have container facilities. By far the largest container port is Westport, along the Straits of Malacca in Port Klang, about an hour by road from Kuala Lumpur.

Air cargo facilities are well developed in the five international airports. On Peninsular Malaysia these are the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), Penang International Airport, and Langkawi International Airport. Malaysia's modern Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is the nation's largest, located 50 kilometers south of Kuala Lumpur. Cargo import and export procedures are fully automated at KLIA.

In East Malaysia on the island of Borneo, Kota Kinabalu International Airport serves the State of Sabah, and Kuching International Airport serves the State of Sarawak.

Kuala Lumpur is served by a number of international airlines, with international carriers flying into KLIA and low cost carriers utilizing the
nearby and ultra-modern KLIA2 terminal opened in 2014. No U.S. airlines fly to Malaysia directly, though there are codeshare and partner flights available through major U.S. carriers. Additional international connections are available via Singapore, from which there is a joint Malaysia Airlines/Singapore Airlines air shuttle service. Direct flights to Singapore are available from the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Allow at least an hour for taxi service between the airport and Kuala Lumpur’s central business district (though 45 minutes is the norm for off-peak times).  Fares can range from RM100 to RM200+ (at an exchange rate of RM4.0 = USD$1.00), depending on style of car and whether the trip is a pre-negotiated fare or on the meter. Taxi fares can be prepaid at KLIA at booths located just outside the Customs area; avoiding taxi touts is recommended.  The KLIA Ekspress train is faster and less expensive, providing direct service between KLIA and the city’s Stesen Sentral (central train station) in under 30 minutes for RM55 -One-Way and RM 100 - Return (at exchange rate of RM 4.0 = US$1.00) per person.

Within Malaysia, the national airline—Malaysia Airlines (MAS)—provides frequent service to all major cities. A range of low-cost carriers has dramatically expanded service to cities throughout Malaysia and, in some instances the rest of Asia. The largest of these is Air Asia. Other low cost carriers include:  Malindo Air, Firefly, TigerAir and Lion Air.

Taxis are generally plentiful and inexpensive, and online booking services such as Grab Car and the taxi e-hailing app PICKnGO (launched collaboratively in 2017) are increasingly popular and commonplace. Uber is not available in Malaysia.

For the latest security tips please visit International Travel. Taxis and cars may be booked by the hour or day for extended trips. Kuala Lumpur boasts a growing and modern light rail system that can be convenient for avoiding traffic delays.

Local transportation rates can be found on the MIDA website: Living In Malaysia

As a result of the country's ethnic diversity, most Malaysians speak at least two and even three languages: Bahasa Malaysia (the national language), English, and an individual’s own ancestral tongue (often Chinese Mandarin, Cantonese, or Tamil). English is widely spoken and is commonly used in business. British English conventions are generally used.

State-of-the-art private medical facilities are available in Kuala Lumpur and other big cities. Quality health care is accessible in Malaysia with many reputable private hospitals, as well as numerous clinics and doctors who are aware of the expectations and needs of expatriates. Rates for medical services as well as hospital stays are generally lower than in the U.S.  Foreigner visitors should consider travel insurance to cover any necessary medical costs or evacuation.

The climate can be debilitating for some because of the warm temperatures (typically 83F-95F during the day in Kuala Lumpur dropping as low as 71F at night), the rainfall (afternoon downpours often delivering more than an inch per day ), and high humidity (well over 90 percent during the day, dropping to 60 percent at night).

Travelers should also be aware of dengue fever, including the hemorrhagic variety ,and Zika virus, which exists throughout Malaysia. Dengue has reached epidemic numbers in Malaysia and throughout Southeast Asia. Wearing long sleeves and trousers, and regular application of DEET-containing insect repellant are strongly recommended when spending any time out of doors, including at the numerous open-air dining establishments. Though it is not as common in Kuala Lumpur, open drainage ditches and stagnant water at construction sites facilitate breeding of mosquitoes in the city, and expatriates have been increasingly affected by dengue.  Symptoms such as fever, rash, conjunctivitis and other symptoms of Zika and if you have recently visited an endemic country or had contact with Zika patients, you are advice to consult a doctor immediately.  Information about Zika can be obtained from Ministry of Health website  Ministry of Health .

In developed areas, water is generally safe to drink, and ice is generally safe to use.

Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays
The first thing to consider when planning business travel to Malaysia is whether or not any local holidays may occur during the trip, and whether they will disrupt the normal flow of business. If offices are not open, appointments may not be scheduled as easily.  All states and territories in Malaysia observe federal holidays, and in addition each state observes its own respective local holidays, such as birthday celebrations of its Sultan and the current King. In 2018 there were 31 official federal and state holidays. The Malaysian Prime Minister’s Department announces federal and state holidays through the Cabinet. The Malaysian Employer’s Federation provides a useful set of links to 2019 Public Holidays. The holidays observed by the U.S. Embassy are can be found on the Embassy website at 2019 US Embassy Holidays.

Malaysian government offices are open five days a week, Monday through Friday, in all states except Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.  Saturdays and Sundays are considered weekends and offices are closed during these days.

The typical hours of operation for offices in Malaysia are as follows:

Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur:  8:00am to 5:30pm
Other States: 8:00am to 5:00pm
On Fridays, the lunch break is usually from 12:15pm-2:45pm to allow the Muslims to perform their prayers.
Kedah, Kelantan, Johor and Terengganu

Working days are from Sunday through Thursdays.  Fridays and Saturdays are considered weekends. The typical operating office hours in these states are:

Sundays to Wednesdays: 8:00am to 4:45pm
Thursdays: 8:00am to 4:30pm

Additionally, travelers should be aware that Friday is the holy day for Muslims, and government offices close from 12:00-2:45 on Fridays. It is usually difficult to schedule meetings on Friday afternoons, especially with government agencies.
Malaysia does not practice daylight saving time, and is UTC +08:00 (EST + 12 hours) in spring/summer and UTC +9.00 (EST + 13 hours) in the fall/winter. 

Bank Operation Hours
Most banks are open five days a week. However, some banks in shopping complexes or selected branches operate 6 days a week.
All States except Terengganu, Kelantan, Johor and Kedah
Monday - Thursday:  9:15am to 4:30pm
Friday:  9:15am to 4:00pm
Sunday:  Closed

Terengganu, Kelantan, Johor and Kedah
Sundays - Wednesdays: 9:15am to 4:30pm
Thursdays 9:15am to 4:00pm
Fridays - Saturdays: Closed

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings
Malaysia has no restrictions on temporary entry of business-related materials, such as software, laptop computers, etc. Movement of exhibit materials for Malaysia-based trade shows is typically handled by official freight-forwarding companies that are able to handle customs and other required procedures easily and quickly. Malaysia also accepts the ATA Carnet, which is essentially a passport for your goods. If the good can be described as a "tool of the trade," then upon presentation of the ATA Carnet the good may be exempt from duties and taxes. "Tools of the trade" are items such as commercial samples, professional equipment, items used for trade shows or exhibitions and some ordinary goods such as computers (including laptops) or industrial equipment. Carnets do not cover consumable goods, disposable items or postal traffic. The ATA Carnet can be ordered by contacting the U.S. Council for International Business (1-866-786-5625 or 1-212-703-5078).

Some equipment, including some high-speed or encrypted laptop computers, requires an export license from the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) or other U.S. government export licensing authorities. Also, some technical materials, sophisticated equipment, and goods to certain countries will need a license. If you are unsure whether or not an export license is required for your laptop or other materials, please contact BIS at 202-482-4811 or visit their website.

Finally, before returning to the U.S., the U.S. Customs Service should be notified that your temporary entry items will be coming back into the U.S. and that U.S. import duties and taxes should not be assessed on the goods once they return. U.S. Customs will need the serial number of the item(s) taken. To find your local customs office, information may be found online at the U.S. Customs website.

Travel Related Web Resources


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