The following is a resource for travelers planning to visit Singapore or Malaysia. Some of the questions are specifically geared towards those individuals attending my Malaysia & Singapore Food & Culture Tour. But you’ll find most of these frequently asked questions useful for most individuals planning travel to Singapore, Melaka, Kuala Lumpur, and Penang (George Town).
The climate is tropical, so temperatures stay more or less the same in the lower elevations throughout the year. It is generally hot, with temps between 23 °C (73.4 °F) and 32 °C (89.6 °F) and humid. November, December, and January have traditionally been the rainy months (September and October for Penang, further north) but in recent times, with climate change, it’s not always the case. You can expect rain at any point in the year.
Citizens of most countries, including the US, UK, Canada, and Western European countries do not need a visa to enter Singapore or Malaysia and are offered 30-90 days free on arrival.
Most people already have routine vaccinations such as Polio, MMR, and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, which are useful anywhere in the world. It is recommended for Malaysia and Singapore to get both Hepatitis A and Typhoid. If you’ll be traveling to Borneo or the countryside of Peninsular Malaysia (not included on our trip’s itinerary), it may be wise to get vaccinated against Japanese Encephalitis. Read more about immunizations for Malaysia and Singapore.
Anti-Malaria meds are always up for debate. I almost never take them for a number of reasons. There is a LOW risk in the places we’ll be going on this trip, but Malaysia is still technically within a malarial zone. Best to just try to avoid mosquito bites. However, there will always be medical care close by (important if you get Malaria) on our trip. But overall, I’d probably say anti-malarials are not necessary for this trip to Melaka, Kuala Lumpur, and Penang.
Malaria is present (but at low risk) in rural areas of Malaysian Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak Provinces), and to a lesser extent in rural areas of Peninsular Malaysia. But some people would rather be safe than sorry. Malaria has been eradicated in Singapore.
In general Malaysia is a safe country and Singapore is very safe. If you take normal precautions, you should have no problems. Violent crime against travelers is very rare. Petty theft is probably the thing to be most concerned about, and I don’t think it’s too common. In times past, there has been a bag-snatching problem in Kuala Lumpur, but it seemed to have waned. In general, I don’t hear of people getting robbed in their hotel rooms, but I don’t give people a chance to take my money because it’s always in my money belt.
Unlike neighboring Thailand, Malaysia is not really a drinking country. It is a majority Muslim county and alcohol is taxed heavily. Coming from North America, you might not think it’s expensive. On the other hand, compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, beer and other alcohol is expensive. Figure $3 a beer as a general guideline and double that if you’re out at a trendy bar or club. You’ll find it’s mostly the Malaysians of Chinese descent who are keen to drink.
Singapore and Malaysia have capital punishment for drug smuggling, so I personally wouldn’t go anywhere near any illegal drugs. You’re unlikely to come in contact with drugs or dealers unless it’s something you’re specifically seeking out.
Yes, Singapore has a lot of laws banning certain types of behavior, but exercising common sense, you shouldn’t run into any problems. Leave your chewing gum at home, and don’t smoke in public, jaywalk, or litter.
This is totally up to you. You don’t need one for our guided Singapore & Malaysia trip, but I generally carry a Moon Handbook, Rough Guide, or Lonely Planet when I’m traveling independently. On our tour, we will be providing you with any logistical information and crucial cultural knowledge, but you may like to have supplemental reading material. During the past couple years I’ve been scoping out the best-value accommodation, the most delicious eating establishments, and the top sights. If you want to take a guidebook, I recommend: Lonely Planet Malaysia Singapore
Nothing on the tour will require any formal dress. Dress casually. Note that you will have an opportunity to eat an occasional meal on your own which means you could do formal dining in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur on your own if you wish. If that’s you’re your style, please dress accordingly.
You don’t have to carry a backpack. Use whatever type of luggage you are comfortable with. Know that you’ll be responsible for carrying your own bag. I use a 50 liter backpack, which is sufficient for me. Using public transportation, we’ll want to maintain our mobility. For this reason, you’re encouraged to pack as lightly as possible. Please keep your checked luggage pack under 20 kilos (44 lbs.).
At least once, near the mid-portion of the trip, we’ll have the opportunity to get our clothes sent out to be washed. You can always wash small clothes items in the sink/shower.
It depends on your personal spending habits. $10-15 per day should be more than enough to cover your two meals per day. Singapore is more costly than Malaysia. Shopping is a national obsession in both countries, so bring extra cash for that. I usually carry a couple hundred dollars to exchange when traveling overseas as well as have ATM cards to pull out local currency.
I always travel with at least two ATM/debit cards that I can use to withdraw cash from local ATMs. I also bring at least one credit card. Credit cards will only be useful if you’ll be doing fine dining on your own or purchasing expensive souvenirs from fancy shops. There are also lots of malls in Singapore. If you are a shopper, bring plastic. It’s always good to have at least one credit card for the plane, airport, or any emergencies.
I ALWAYS use a money belt and I recommend you do the same. Keep your passport, ID cards, debit cards, credit cards and large amounts of cash in your money belt. No matter where I’m traveling, I keep a designated traveling wallet with a small amount of cash in my pocket for small purchases. That way, if it gets stolen, I don’t lose much. If you carry a purse, keep it around and close to your body in the rare event of a bag snatching attempt.
Tip: Don’t just take along the money belt, actually wear it as it’s intended!
Visiting the beach is not on the official schedule, but there is enough free time, that if you want to break off from the group, beach time is a possibility (probably Penang is your best chance). If you bring your beach wear, I’ll help you get to the sand.
Intercity transport will be on buses (coaches) as well as low-cost air carrier. Highways are excellent in Malaysia and buses are typically comfortable and air-conditioned. The last leg of the journey will be with Air Asia from Penang back to Singapore.
Within cities we will mostly use public transport. Taxis will be used only if necessary. Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have extensive and modern transport in the form of metro system, monorail, and city buses.
Packing Tip: Pack any valuables in a smaller bag which you can carry onto the bus. Put all other things in your big pack which you can put under the bus and not worry about.
Email me if you are interested in joining our small group and not yet signed up!