Kuala Lumpur attracts tourists and expats alike, with it’s towering skyscrapers, dynamic lifestyle and that unique buzz that all South East Asian cities have. However, this international flavor does not mean that you can behave as you would at home. Despite being extremely accepting of tourism and foreign travel, there are some key points to bear in mind. Let’s break down the top mistakes tourists and expats make in KL and how to avoid them.
Watch what you wear
Like it’s neighbour Indonesia, Malaysia is a country with a Muslim majority. Therefore, bear in mind that walking around in skimpy clothing may provoke offence. By using your common sense, you should avoid causing any offence. This means longer shorts or full length trousers for men, and for both sexes, shirts with sleeves. Skirts should be at least knee-length and shorts for women are a no-no. Shoulders should be covered at all times, but you do not have to worry about exposing your arms. It is not required to wear a headscarf, except if you visit a place of worship. Whilst the atmosphere is generally quite relaxed, you should bear in mind what you wear and how others might perceive you.
Watch who you touch
You may have witnessed an absence of public affection in countries like China and Japan, to a lesser degree. However, in Malaysia, public touching, kissing, hugging and hand holding is not acceptable in Malaysian culture. It might sound like something very small and easy to forget, but it will most likely offend the local population, as well as flout some religious laws. If you want to display any affection towards another person, it is best to do it in the comfort of your own home or hotel. When greeting someone, shaking hands or a kiss on the cheek is permissible but more than that and you stray into dangerous territory.
Avoid unofficial taxis in central Kuala Lumpur
As in any country, if you decide to take a non-metered, unofficial taxi in the hope that it will be cheaper or more convenient, undoubtedly you will end up paying more. If a driver offers a fixed price or you are tempted by touts, you may have to accept the fact that you will be out of pocket by the end of the trip. It is always best to choose a taxi that will have a meter, as the price will be much clearer and you will be less vulnerable to scams. Failing that, KL has a great public transport system so you may not even need to take a taxi at all.
Behave appropriately in places of worship
The first point to bear in mind is that you will be expected to remove your shoes before entering holy sites, as well as in people’s homes. This is a rule that must be respected or you will find yourself on the receiving end of a telling-off. Not obeying the rules for entering holy sites is not only rude but it is also extremely offensive to those around you. You should also be careful with your clothing here too. That means making sure that you are covered up and not exposing too much excess flesh.