Thaipusam, January or February
Chinese New Year, January or February
Hungry Ghost Festival, August
George Town Festival, August
New Year is a busy travel period. It’s monsoon season on Malaysia’s east coast and Sarawak.
Enormous crowds converge at the Batu Caves north of KL, Nattukottai Chettiar Temple in Penang and in Singapore for this dramatic Hindu festival involving body piercing. Falls between mid-January and mid-February.
This Hindu festival, which usually takes place in mid January, celebrates the end of the harvest season. Pongol, either a sweet or salty rice dish prepared in a clay pot, is prepared and Hindu temples see various festivities over a four-day period.
Chinese New Year is a big deal throughout the region and a busy travel period. Book transport and hotels well ahead.
Chinese New Year
Dragon dances and pedestrian parades mark the start of the new year. Families hold open houses. Celebrated on 5 February 2019, 25 January 2020 and 12 February 2021.
Held over two nights during the first weekend of Chinese New Year, Chingay delivers Singapore's biggest street parade, featuring lion dancers, floats and performers.
One of the wettest months along the west coast of Malaysia, so bring an umbrella and watch out for flash flooding.
Birthday of the Goddess of Mercy
Offerings are made to the popular Chinese goddess Kuan Yin at temples across the country. The goddess is also honoured three times more during the year, in April/May, July/August and October/November.
In 2019 and 2020 Ramadan will fall mostly in May, so look out for night food markets and buffets around the region.
Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death are celebrated with processions in KL, Singapore and other major cities, plus various events including the release of caged birds to symbolise the setting free of captive souls. Celebrated on 18 May 2019, 6 May 2020 and 8 April 2021.
School holidays and one of the hottest months, so get ready to sweat it out.
Dragon Boat Festival
Commemorates the Malay legend of the fishermen who paddled out to sea to prevent the drowning of a Chinese saint, beating drums to scare away any fish that might attack him. Celebrated from June to August, with boat races in Penang.
Held on 1 and 2 June but beginning on the evening of 31 May, this Sarawak-wide Dayak festival celebrates the end of the rice-harvest season.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri
The end of Ramadan is followed by a month of breaking the fast parties, many public occasions where you can enjoy a free array of Malay culinary delicacies.
Great Singapore Sale
The Great Singapore Sale sees retailers around the island cut prices (and wheel out the stuff they couldn't sell earlier in the year). There are bargains to be had if you can stomach the crowds. Go early!
Busy travel month for Malaysian Borneo, so book ahead for activities, tours and accommodation.
Rainforest World Music Festival
A three-day musical extravaganza held in the Sarawak Cultural Village near Kuching as well as Kuching itself which hosts a Fringe Festival.
Singapore Food Festival
A two-week celebration of all things edible and Singaporean. Events taking place across the city include tastings, special dinners and food-themed tours.
Sultan of Brunei's Birthday
Colourful official ceremonies are held on 15 July to mark the Sultan’s birthday and include an elaborate military ceremony presided over by the supremo himself.
With a big influx of Arab and Europeans tourists to the region during this time, it pays to book ahead for specific accommodation.
George Town Festival
This outstanding arts, performance and culture festival in Penang includes international artists, innovative street performances and also has a fringe component in Butterworth on the mainland.
Hungry Ghost Festival
Chinese communities perform operas, host open-air concerts and lay out food for their ancestors. Celebrated towards the end of the month and in early September.
Malaysia's National Day
Join the crowds at midnight on 31 August to celebrate the anniversary of Malaysia’s independence in 1957. There are parades and festivities the next morning across the country.
Singapore National Day
Singapore National Day is a hugely popular spectacle of military parades, civilian processions, air-force fly-bys and fireworks. Tickets are snapped up well in advance; however, you can watch all the aerial acts from Marina Bay Sands.
Haze from forest and field clearance fires in Indonesia create urban smog across the region.
Formula One Grand Prix
The F1 night race screams around Marina Bay. Off-track events include international music acts. Book accommodation months in advance and be prepared to pay through the nose.
Start of the monsoon season on Malaysia’s west coast, but it’s not so heavy or constant to affect most travel plans.
Malaysian Fashion Week
Malaysian and international designers reveal their spring/summer collections over four days of runway shows.
In the run-up to Deepavali, the region's Indian communities are packed with stalls selling textiles and celebratory sweets.
Tiny oil lamps are lit outside Hindu homes to attract the auspicious gods Rama and Lakshmi. Indian businesses start the new financial year, with Little Indias across the region ablaze with lights.
A sense of festivity (and monsoon rains in Singapore and east coast Malaysia) permeates the air as the year winds down. Christmas is a big deal mainly in Singapore with impressive light displays on Orchard Rd.
ZoukOut is Singapore's biggest outdoor dance party, held over two nights on Siloso Beach, Sentosa. Expect A-list international DJs.