Marvel at the Petronas Towers. Shop in Kuala Lumpur. Visit tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands. Relax on one of Penang’s many beaches. Or see orangutans in Borneo. There’s so much to do in Malaysia! The country is a melting pot of cultures, with Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous influences. Whether you’re looking for bustling cities, stunning beaches or wild jungle adventures, Malaysia has it all!
The official currency of Malaysia is the Malaysian ringgit (MYR).
The latest series of banknotes in Malaysia are designed to reflect the country’s rich history, culture, and landscape. The fourth series of Malaysian banknotes, with the theme “Distinctively Malaysia,” highlights the country’s artistic and cultural manifestations, natural beauties, flora and fauna, economic history, and cultural traditions.
The obverse side of the fourth series honours Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the first paramount leader of independent Malaysia. The right side of the banknote features a portrait of him, with the national flower – hibiscus – and patterns of traditional fabric – songket. Denominations of the new series include RM1, RM5, RM10, RM20, RM50, and RM100
Similar to banknotes, Malaysia’s third series of coins were also designed with the country’s history and culture in mind. The obverse of each coin features a bank title, value, year of minting, and the national flower. While the reverse side features different designs for each denomination – Sulur Kacang for the 50 sen coin, Bunga Melur for the 20 sen coin, Orang Asli Motif for the 10 sen coin, and Destar Siga Motif for the 5 sen coin. 5 and 10 sen coins comprised stainless steel, while 20 and 50 sen coins are made of nickel brass.
As of 2021, Malaysia’s economy is the fourth largest in Southeast Asia and the 39th largest in the world. Despite being state-oriented, a freshly industrialised market economy is rather open. In recent years, the Malaysian economy has been gradually expanding. Expected to reach USD $380 Billion by the end of 2022, Malaysia’s growth is expected to remain strong in the coming years.
Since 1970, Malaysia has gone from having an economy dependent on exporting raw commodities (rubber and tin) to one of the strongest, most diverse, and fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia. The primary sector continues to play a significant part in the economy since the country is a global leader in producing and selling commercial hardwoods, a significant exporter of petroleum and natural gas, and a big rubber and palm oil producer.
The Central Bank of Malaya (Bank Negara Tanah Melayu) was established in January 1959 and is responsible for issuing Malaysian ringgit in accordance with The Central Bank of Malaya Ordinance, 1958. Currency in Malaya and British Borneo was still issued by the Board of Commissioners of Currency until June 12, 1967. Soon after, Bank Negara Malaysia became the country’s sole currency issuer. Until the 16th of January, 1969, old Malayan notes circulated alongside new Malaysian banknotes.
The issuance of banknotes by Bank Negara Malaysia commenced in June 1967. There were five different denominations of these bills: 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 ringgit. The very first Malaysian coins were circulated in the same month. They were produced in five different denominations, all with identical designs: 1 sen, 5 sen, 10 sen, 20 sen, and 50 sen.
On the 2nd of September 1968, a 1,000 ringgit denomination note was released. There were no coins minted at the time. Four years after, the first $1 coins were released into circulation.
In addition to the previously existing denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 1,000 ringgit, Bank Negara Malaysia established two additional legal tender denominations on the 1st of September 1982: 20 and 500 ringgit. With their emergence came a new design for the banknotes that reflected Malaysian aesthetics. The fundamental layout was motivated by Malaysian flora, fauna, traditional ornamentation, and wood engravings. Banknotes now feature a portrait of His Majesty the First King instead of the tiger’s head watermark used previously.
On the 4th of September 1989, the second set of coins intended for general circulation was released. The second series of Ringgit coins shared the same technical characteristics as the first, except that the smaller Ringgit was minted using a copper-zinc-tin alloy.
Introduced on the 5th of February, 1996, the RM2 banknote was the first denomination of new Malaysian banknotes designed with the Vision 2020 theme. In this series of banknotes, the country’s impressive recent economic growth and accomplishments are depicted for the first time.
Today, with the third coin and fourth banknote series, Malaysian currency is more colourful than ever! The recent release of banknotes continues the tradition of featuring Malaysian flora, fauna, and cultural motifs. Similarly, the latest coins reflect Malaysia’s rich heritage and natural beauty.
If you’re travelling to Malaysia, you’ll need to convert your Australian dollar to Malaysian ringgit before you leave. Check out our guide on converting AUD to MYR here.
Buying Malaysian ringgit in Australia will usually be cheaper than in Malaysia. Doing it in Malaysia may be more convenient, but you’ll likely pay more in fees and get a worse exchange rate, whereas getting your Malaysian ringgit in Australia before you leave means you’ll have one less thing to worry about when you land.
Residents and non-residents can carry up to USD $10,000 worth of ringgit notes into and out of Malaysia per person. There is no limit on the amount of foreign currency notes or traveller’s cheques that a resident or non-resident can bring into or out of Malaysia. Still, they must declare any amounts exceeding USD $10,000 equivalent on Customs Form 22 (Borang Kastam 22).
Converting currency is made simple with Crown Currency Exchange. With over 20 years of experience in the foreign exchange industry and a network of more than 50 locations across Australia, Crown Currency Exchange is your go-to place for all your currency needs. We offer competitive rates and over 80 currencies to choose from with no commissions or fees. Our stores are located in Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, The Gold Coast, Adelaide, Tasmania, Melbourne & Perth.
Tipping is not as prevalent in Malaysia as in other Southeast Asian nations. A 10% service charge may be applied to your restaurant bill in certain tourist hotspots. Otherwise, tipping is discretionary, although guides and drivers depend on gratuities to supplement their income.
Restaurants: 10% service charge and 5% government tax are already included in restaurant bills. Therefore, gratuities are not necessary. However, pubs and clubs are customary to tip servers RM10 for exemplary service.
Taxis: Taxi drivers, particularly in large cities like Kuala Lumpur, have a negative reputation for refusing to use the meter. Congratulations if you’ve located one that does! Most passengers simply round up the fare. For example, if the meter reads RM13.60, you would pay RM14.
Hotels: Some upscale hotels urge guests to tip the bellhop between RM 2 and 10 for each bag. Some customers like to tip the housekeeping staff a small amount (RM 5 to RM 10) at the beginning of their stay to promote better service.
Bargaining is essential in the markets to get a good price, just like elsewhere in Southeast Asia (SEA). Of course, you should only attempt to haggle in markets where prices are not set in stone. Prices are final at all retail establishments, including grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, food courts, and specialty boutiques. Just keep in mind that once you have a receipt, you have no grounds for requesting a price adjustment.
Malaysia has a well-developed banking system, so you should have no trouble finding an ATM when you need one. ATMs are widely available in all major cities and towns and many smaller villages. Just keep in mind that banks charge foreign withdrawal fees, so it’s always best to withdraw larger amounts less often to avoid these fees. MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted cards in Malaysia.
Assuming you’re on a tight schedule, we recommend allocating 115 MYR (AUD $38) daily for your backpacking trip through Malaysia. This budget allows for a hostel dorm room, street cuisine, public transportation, forgoing alcoholic beverages, and focusing on free activities such as walking tours, hiking, and beach lounging.
A daily budget of 295 MYR (AUD $98) will get you a private Airbnb or private hostel room, a few extra drinks, public transportation (including the occasional taxi), a mix of street food and sit-down meals, and a few extra paid activities (such as museums, food tours, and scuba diving).
Staying in a hotel with a pool, dining out for every meal, drinking more, travelling to the islands, and doing whatever excursions and activities you like are all possible on a “luxury” budget of 520 MYR (AUD $173) per day or more. However, this is only the first level of luxury. If you can spend even more, you can easily add a few zeroes to your daily budget!
Bank Negara Malaysia
Sen = 1/100
RM1, RM5, RM10, RM20, RM50, RM100
5, 10, 20, 50 sen
Regarded as one of the most impressive skyscrapers in the world, the Petronas Towers are definitely a must-see in Malaysia. The towers are home to the world’s tallest double-decked sky bridge, which connects the two towers on the 41st and 42nd floors. Visitors can take an elevator up to the sky bridge to enjoy stunning views of the city.
Bako National Park is located on the island of Borneo and is home to a variety of different animals, including Bornean bearded pigs, monitor lizards, and otters. But the most popular residents of Bako National Park are the wild proboscis monkeys. These monkeys are easily recognisable by their large noses and are a must-see for any animal lover.
Malaysia is a street food paradise, and you’ll find stalls selling all sorts of different food, from fried noodles to grilled meats. If you’re brave enough, you can also try their unique and exotic foods, such as Bull Penis Soup, Frog on a Stick, and Cow’s Brain Curry.
Other than its cuisine, shopping is Malaysia’s claim to fame, resulting in an annual influx of millions of tourists bearing nothing but empty luggage. Affordable and trendy clothing, shoes, perfumes, electronics, handicrafts, and souvenirs may be found in the many shopping malls that dot Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and other major cities in Malaysia. But for the best deals, head to one of the country’s many open-air markets, such as Petaling Street Market and Bangsar Sunday Market.
Orangutans are a protected species in Malaysia, and there are a few sanctuaries where you can see these beautiful creatures up close. One of the most popular sanctuaries is Sepilok, located in the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. You can see orangutans in their natural habitat at Sepilok and learn more about these amazing animals.
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