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Patriotic volunteers celebrating their country indepence day at the iconic site Merdeka square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | © Calvin Chan/Shutterstock
Patriotic volunteers celebrating their country indepence day at the iconic site Merdeka square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | © Calvin Chan/Shutterstock

When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Malaysia?

Picture of Michelle Leong
Updated: 27 March 2018
In Malaysia, the only thing you should worry about is mosquito repellent. But if you absolutely must worry about your travel dates as well, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Overview

Don’t worry about the temperature — this country sits close to the equator, which means you can expect a comfortable temperature range of 79°F (26°C) and 90°F (28°C).

The only thing you should be concerned about is the rainfall (heavy in east coast between October and March), the humidity (you’ll be fine with lightweight T-shirts and pants), and which festivals you’d like to attend.

January

Come mid-January, the sun will beat down upon locals and tourists alike and turn all skin lobster-red. But if this is no problem for you, you’ll have a blast along the west coast Peninsula and all of North Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak).

Stay clear of the east coast (particularly Terengganu and Kelantan) and its islands during this time; this region is smack in the middle of the thundering path of the Northeast Monsoon.

Depending on the year, Thaipusam may fall in January. This fun, colorful festival is a tribute to the Hindu deity, Lord Murugan. Devotees may choose to pay penance by piercing their skin with Vel skewers.

Thaipusam devotion in Georgetown, Penang
Thaipusam devotion in Georgetown, Penang| © TY Lim/Shutterstock

Rainfall: 16 days

Temperature: 81°F (27°C)

February

You still have to avoid the east coast (the islands are literally ‘closed’ for the season), but everywhere else is good to go. Sunshine abound, and the only thing you have to worry about is whether you’ve applied deodorant.

Depending on the year, Chinese New Year may fall in February. This national holiday is celebrated with bright red clothes and — on the fifteenth day — mandarin oranges in the lakes and sea.

This is also the month to catch the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Penang. Music, lights, food, a ‘balloon envelope’ to walk into and varicolored balloons floating into the sky — it’s every child’s (and adult’s) dream come true.

Hot air balloon fiesta at Padang Polo, Penang, Malaysia
Hot air balloon fiesta at Padang Polo, Penang, Malaysia| © C.S Tan/Shutterstock

Rainfall: 14 days

Temperature: 82°F (28°C)

March

One of the best months to visit Malaysia, March is when the sun shines on all, and islands like Tioman, Redang and Perhentian kick into gear again.

Music buffs will enjoy the KK Jazz Festival in Kota Kinabalu, featuring an exciting line-up of local and international musicians, while sports and health enthusiasts will get an adrenalin rush from the Konvoi Berbasikal Wanita (Women Cycling Convoy), where over 3,000 women compete by bike in Putrajaya.

For the culturally inclined, check out the Tawau International Cultural Festival, where visitors will be initiated into all cultural aspects of 27 local ethnic groups.

Group of people from Dusun Lotud ethnic during Sabah Harvest festival celebration in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Borneo, Malaysia
Group of people from Dusun Lotud ethnic during Sabah Harvest festival celebration in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Borneo, Malaysia| © Augustine Bin Jumat/Shutterstock

Rainfall: 17 days

Temperature: 82°F (28°C)

April

Tourists will start pouring in, thanks to Easter breaks in Europe and the Americas. And as the monsoon lets up, Terengganu will let its hair down — at the Duyong Art Festival. Held in Duyong Island, this event is a celebration of Terengganu’s uniqueness, including their handwoven products and traditional food.

All Souls’ Day — known variously as ‘Qing Ming’, ‘Cheng Beng’ or Grave Sweeping Day — also falls in April. True to its name, this is the day when the Chinese community (all over Malaysia) sweep the graves of their deceased loved ones and offer paper gifts, so the deceased may enjoy a better afterlife.

Ancestor offering burning at grave site on Tomb Sweeping Day
Ancestor offering burning at grave site on Tomb Sweeping Day| © p_saranya/Shutterstock

Rainfall: 19 days

Temperature: 82°F (28°C)

May

If you like snorkeling and diving, this is the time to visit the east coast. Miles of pale, fine sand blend into clear, turquoise seas, where pink-green parrotfish flit and dance among moon wrasses and coral reefs.

The west coast remains sunny, but be prepared to weather a few late afternoon thunderstorms. If you get a thrill out of flashes of lightning, then you’ll enjoy watching the sky quake and crack on the west coast.

Thunderstorm with lightning bolts at night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Thunderstorm with lightning bolts at night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia| © Shemyakina Tatiana/Shutterstock

Depending on the year, Ramadan may begin in May. This is the time when Muslim devotees observe fasting and prayer and break-fast at sundown (which, in Malaysia, is usually around 7 p.m.).

Rainfall: 17 days

Temperature: 82°F (28°C)

June

Hot and dry is the name of the game — and this is the case for most of Malaysia. The west coast may present a few short rainfalls, but these don’t usually last for more than 1-2 hours. Diving, snorkeling, and jet-skiing are popular activities on both the east coast and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), so you’d best get your goggles on.

If Ramadan began in May, then Hari Raya Aidilfitri will fall in June. You don’t want to miss this — ‘open’ houses, colorful new clothes, and lip-smackingly good food abound.

Rainfall: 15 days

Temperature: 82°F (28°C)

July

Don’t like rain? This is the month when wind and rain both catch on in the west coast, so you’d best be keeping east all the way (east coast and East Malaysia).

In fact, you may even want to check out Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak. Established in 1998, this is one of the most prominent music festivals in Southeast Asia. Over 20,000 people fly in to attend the festival, which features workshops, jamming sessions, mini-concerts, and evening performances.

The Iban Warrior perform the ngajat in Santubong, Sarawak, Malaysia
The Iban Warrior perform the ngajat in Santubong, Sarawak, Malaysia| © Faiz Zaki/Shutterstock

Rainfall: 15 days

Temperature: 82°F (28°C)

August

The west coast is still wet, so outdoor activities tend to be hit or miss, but if you’ve had your fun in Redang and KK anyway, then this is the time to check out Penang’s George Town Festival, a month-long event of heritage art, culture and community. Most events are indoors, so you won’t be risking a bad hair day.

Malaysia’s independence day — known as ‘Hari Merdeka’ — also falls in August (on the 31st). This national holiday is celebrated with float parades, processions, concerts, and competitions.

Patriotic volunteers celebrating their country independence day at the iconic site Merdeka square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Patriotic volunteers celebrating their country independence day at the iconic site Merdeka square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia| © Calvin Chan/Shutterstock

Rainfall: 17 days

Temperature: 82°F (28°C)

September

This is the wettest month for the west coast and in Sabah. There are more storms which may or may not threaten to blow your roof off. Traffic is a pain when the rain is heavy, especially in Kuala Lumpur (it’s not uncommon to be stuck in your car for 1-2 hours).

But even though Sabah will be experiencing sharp downpours, it will still be hosting the Sabah Women Art Exhibition, held at the Sabah Art Gallery to promote women’s creative works.

Rainfall: 18 days

Temperature: 81°F (27°C)

October

The west coast may be huddling indoors and hiding from the rain, but Sarawak will be flying kites. The Borneo International Kite Festival features kites of varying shapes, colors and sizes, and you can even learn to make your own.

Bird lovers will also enjoy the Borneo Bird Festival, a joyous celebrating of all things feathered and flying. Bird walks and talks (not literally) are a thing here, and you can participate in the Bird Race, an exhilarating contest to find, identify and name as many bird species as possible within 24 hours.

Great hornbill
Great hornbill| © WeStudio/Shutterstock

Rainfall: 22 days

Temperature: 81°F (27°C)

November

Sorry, snorkelers, this is the month when the east coast begins to close shop. Visitors tend to prefer Penang and Langkawi during this time, when the pours are slowing but it’s still cool enough to walk outside without a hat.

Prose and poetry romantics will relish in the George Town Literary Festival, an annual celebration of all things literature, often accompanied by the stories of myth and legend.

Reading at Hin Bus Depot
Reading at Hin Bus Depot| © Michelle Leong

Rainfall: 25 days

Temperature: 81°F (27°C)

December

The west coast begins to enjoy long, sunny days, as if preparing for the new year. Sabah and Sarawak remain ideal for visits. The same can’t be said for the east coast though — this is the quietest time of year for Kelantan and Terengganu.

If you’re an adventure buff, be sure to check out the RFC Rainforest Challenge, where the rain is just part of the thrill. Swollen, muddy rivers, uneven terrain and vicious insects are all par for the course in order that you might rediscover your true self.

Sg Lembing, Malaysia
Sg Lembing, Malaysia| © Rapax/Shutterstock

Rainfall: 20 days

Temperature: 81°F (27°C)

When not to go to Malaysia

If you only want to snorkel on the east coast, then avoid visiting between October and March. Otherwise, all months are fair play.