At a Glance
A. Population
With a diverse group of people, the majority of which are the Kadazan/Dusun it covers an area of 74,000 sq km with a population of 2 million. The state capital is Kota Kinabalu with a population of 500,000.
B. Government
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with a unique system whereby the 9 hereditary sultans in Peninsular Malaysia rotate among themselves for a 5 year term to be the Paramount Ruler (Yang Di Pertuan Agong). Presently the King of Malaysia is the Sultan of Terengganu and his reign will be from 2008-2011.
The form of government is based loosely on the British system and electoral mandate is given for a maximum of 5 years.
Presently, Malaysia is governed by the Barisan Nasional (National Front), a coalition of parties led by the dominant UMNO (United Malay National Organisation) and which control just two third of the seats in Parliament.
Sabah has its own state legislature with an appointed governor as the head of state serving a renewable term of 5 years.
C. Climate
The climate is typically tropical with temperature ranging from a cool 22°C (72°F) in the evenings to a sultry 34°C (93°F) in the daytime.
When is it a good time to visit? Sabah is less wet than Sarawak and because it lies just below the typhoon belt, it is often known as "The land below the wind".
The monsoon period should not deter visitors to the region as it is not cold; in fact the rains during this time may be heavy but are intermittent and they bring respite from the tropical heat. This is also the time of the year when the local tropical fruits unique to the region are in abundance.
D. Time Difference
Malaysia has a single time zone and is 8 hours ahead of GMT. This means it is 8 hours ahead of London (GMT) and 7 hours ahead during daylight saving time in the spring and summer. It is 13 hours ahead of New York (Eastern Standard time) and 12 hours during daylight saving time in the summer.
E. Electricity
The electricity supply is 220/240 volts at 50 hertz. The electrical plugs and sockets used are similar to those used in Britain but adaptors are readily available from the major hotels and street shops.
F. Banking and Currency
The Malaysian currency, the Ringgit (RM) is presently to the US dollar at 3.3 RM to 1 USD. There is limited currency control in effect and the ringgit can be hard to obtain overseas. Visitors are allowed to bring in any amount of foreign currency but amounts over USD10000 have to be declared upon entry. It is illegal to bring in or to take out more than RM1000 in local notes.
The Malaysian Ringgit notes are available in denominations of RM1, RM5, RM10, RM50 and RM100, and coins from 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent.
Most outlets take the major credit cards and ATM machines are readily available. However, do note that most but not all of these machines have a 24 hour operation.
G. Customs Allowances
Normally visitors entering Malaysia are allowed to bring into the country, duty-free: up to a liter of alcoholic beverages and 200 sticks of cigarettes or 50 cigars and 225 gm of tobacco.
H. Visa and Immigration
Presently, only Israeli passport holders are not valid for entry to the country except with prior exemption. Visitors from most countries are not required to obtain a visa except for nationals from: Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cuba, Hong Kong (Certificate of Identity), India, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Vietnam. All other nationals are allowed in without visa requirements for a stay of 7 days. Generally visitors from Western countries are allowed in without a visa requirement for a stay of 1-3 months. Validity on passports should be 6 months or more. There is a severe penalty for drug traffickers.
I. Departure Tax
Do not forget that there is a departure tax. Most of the time, this is already included in your airline ticket. The departure tax at airports is RM5 for local departures and RM40 for international departures. Brunei and Singapore are considered as international destinations.


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