For the mobility impaired, Malaysia can be a nightmare. In many cities and towns there are often no footpaths, kerbs are very high, construction sites are everywhere, and crossings are few and far between. On the upside, taxis are cheap and both Malaysia Airlines and KTM (the national rail service) offer 50% discounts on travel for travellers with disabilities.
Malaysia's National Council for the Blind has some online information about tourism initiatives for the sight impaired across the country – see www.ncbm.org.my/index/tourism-in-malaysia for details.
In Singapore, government campaigns have seen ramps, lifts and other facilities progressively installed around the island. The footpaths in the city are nearly all immaculate, all MRT stations have lifts and there are some buses and taxis equipped with wheelchair-friendly equipment.
The Disabled People's Association Singapore (www.dpa.org.sg) can provide information on accessibility in Singapore.
Many buildings, tourist destinations and public transport in Brunei Darussalam are not wheelchair accessible. Bandar Seri Begawan is flat with well-maintained, level footpaths.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel. Before setting off get in touch with your national support organisation (preferably with the travel officer, if there is one).
At pasar malam (night markets) and other street markets a certain amount of bargaining is fine for souvenir-type goods, but avoid being too aggressive as that's not part of the region's shopping culture. Smile, be polite and don't get stuck on small differences of price.
Dangers & Annoyances
Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei are generally safe countries to travel in and, compared with Indonesia or Thailand, they are extremely safe.
- Theft and violence are not particularly common, although it pays to keep a close eye on your belongings, especially your travel documents (passport, travellers cheques etc), which should be kept with you at all times.
- Credit-card fraud is a growing problem. Use your cards only at established businesses and guard your credit-card numbers closely.
- The main thing to watch out for are animal and insect bites.
Connect to the reliable electricity supply (220V to 240V, 50 cycles) with a UK-type three-square-pin plug.
Entry & Exit Formalities
Most visitors will receive a 30- or 60-day visa on arrival for Malaysia, 90-day visa for Singapore and 30- to 90-day visa for Brunei. It's possible to get an extension at immigration offices, but often simpler to exit the country and re-enter, ie hopping back and forth across the borders with Thailand or Singapore. Tourists must also go through passport control and have their passports stamped whenever they arrive in Sabah or Sarawak from Peninsular Malaysia or the federal district of Pulau Labuan.
Generally not required for stays of between 60 days (Malaysia), 90 days (Singapore) and 30 to 90 days (Brunei).
- Visiting mosques Cover your head, arms and legs.
- Eating Use your right hand only if eating with your fingers.
- Modesty Don’t embrace or kiss in public.
- Greetings A salam involves both parties briefly clasping each other's hand then bringing the same hand to touch their heart. Malay women don't shake hands with men – smile and nod or bow slightly instead.
Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei are blanketed with hot spots for wi-fi connections (usually free). Internet cafes are much less common these days, but do still exist if you’re not travelling with a wi-fi enabled device. Only in the jungles and the most remote reaches of the peninsula and Malaysian Borneo are you likely to be without any internet access.
In Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei it’s illegal for men of any age to have sex with other men. In addition, the Islamic sharia laws (which apply only to Muslims) in Malaysia and Brunei forbid sodomy and cross-dressing. Outright persecution of gays and lesbians is rare but not unknown.
LGBT+ travellers should avoid behaviour that attracts unwanted attention. The locals in the region are conservative about all displays of public affection regardless of sexual orientation. Although same-sex hand-holding is fairly common for men and women, this is rarely an indication of sexuality; an overtly gay couple doing the same would attract attention, though there is little risk of vocal or aggressive homophobia.
There’s actually a fairly active LGBT+ scene in KL and Singapore with a slightly more discrete one in George Town. Start looking for information on www.utopia-asia.com which provides good coverage of LGBT+ events and activities across Asia.
ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted by most businesses.
Tipping is not generally expected, but leaving a small contribution for exceptional service is appreciated.
- Hotels Tipping is most common for services in top-end hotels.
- Restaurants Many restaurants in the major cities add a service charge of around 10% onto the bill.
Pos Malaysia Berhad (www.pos.com.my) runs an efficient postal system. Singapore Post (www.singpost.com) is very reliable, as is Brunei Postal Services (www.post.gov.bn).
- Malaysia Banned in most public places including air-conditioned restaurants and on public transport. Smoking is, however, still allowed in bars and nightclubs.
- Singapore Prohibited in most indoor locations. Fines for smoking in prohibited places range from S$200 up to S$1000.
- Brunei Completely smoke-free since 2017. Tough anti-smoking laws ban puffing in all public spaces, and you're not allowed to import any tobacco into the country either.
The country code for Malaysia is 60, for Singapore 65 and for Brunei 673
In Malaysia, landline services are provided by the national monopoly Telekom Malaysia (TM; www.tm.com.my). In Singapore, Singtel (www.singtel.com) controls over 80% of the fixed line market. In Brunei the leading service provider is Telekom Brunei (TelBru; www.telbru.com.bn).
Local SIM cards can be used in most phones. Other phones must be set to roaming.
Although there are still some places with Asian squat-style toilets, you’ll most often find Western-style ones these days. At public facilities toilet paper is not usually provided. Instead, you will find a hose which you are supposed to use as a bidet or, in cheaper places, a bucket of water and a tap. If you’re not comfortable with this, remember to take packets of tissues or toilet paper wherever you go.