HalalBooking guide for halal-friendly holidays in Malaysia
Malaysia is one of the world’s top destinations for halal travel and consistently wins awards for the quality of its halal-friendly amenities and services. Its culture is a melting pot of diverse cultures, where Malays, Chinese and Indian people live together in harmony.
Islam in Malaysia
Islam is the official religion of Malaysia and Malays, who are Muslim, make up around 60% of the population. The rest is made up of Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups, some of which are considered, like the Malays, to be bumiputera or indigenous groups. Malay is the national language but English is widely spoken. Although Islam is the official religion, Buddhism and Christianity are widely and freely practised. It is believed that Islam arrived in Malaysia at some point in the 13th and 14th centuries by means of Arab and Indian traders. These days it is a central part of Malaysia’s fascinating cultural heritage.
Halal tourism in Malaysia
Malaysia is very welcoming to Muslim visitors – it is easy to find halal food and mosques and other prayer facilities can be found throughout the country.
Top 4 reasons for Muslim tourists to holiday in Malaysia
1. Malaysia’s Tropical Landscapes
Malaysia enjoys tropical weather all year round, with temperatures usually between 21 and 32 degrees Celsius. Since it is close to the equator, it is hot and humid throughout the year. Malaysia’s geography is as diverse as its culture, boasting lush rainforests, white sandy beaches, bustling modern cities and rugged mountains.
Malaysia’s most famous rainforest is Taman Negara, which simply means ‘National Park’ in the local Malaysian language. It is the country’s largest national park covering more than 4300 square kilometres and at 130 million years old it is the oldest rainforest in the world. Easily visited on a day trip from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, you will see tropical flowers and vegetation, exotic birds and animals as you explore by means of the walkways, 45 metres up, high in the jungle canopy. You may have the chance to spot monkeys, elephants, tigers, leopards, water buffalo, tapirs and flying squirrels.
2. Malaysia’s Sandy Beaches
The western coast of peninsular Malaysia is home to some of the country’s finest beach resorts, including the islands of Langkawi and Penang to the north, with their pristine white sand. These are great choices for Muslim families wishing to enjoy a relaxing beach holiday. Many of the beach resorts and villas featured on HalalBooking offer private swimming pools, which are ideal for Muslim travellers, concerned about privacy.
3. Luxury Halal Hotels and Villas
Malaysia is known for the high standards of its accommodation and its friendly local people, who are welcoming to Muslim guests. Since the country’s official religion is Islam, hotels here are well used to catering for the requirements of halal-conscious visitors. Most hotels in Malaysia, which are featured on HalalBooking.com, serve halal food, and some are completely alcohol-free. Some hotels in Malaysia have spa centres, which have women-only areas, and other hotel rooms or villas feature private pools which offer privacy to Muslim families.
4. Islamic Cultural Heritage
Malaysia’s rich culture can be witnessed in her diverse cuisine and colourful festivals, as well as her historic monuments. Wherever you travel you will find an abundance of halal food. Mosques and other prayer facilities are well signed and easy to access, and you will generally hear the call to prayer throughout the country. Malaysia is one of the few countries to have a dedicated Islamic Tourism Centre, which is a government department ensuring the welfare of her Muslim guests.
Halal food and restaurants in Malaysia
Halal food is freely available throughout Malaysia. In fact, with the exception of a few international hotels and local Chinese restaurants, it is unusual to find food, which is not halal. Usually, halal restaurants will display a sign saying that the food served is halal or they will display a halal certificate, although not all places are certified. The JAKIM (Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia) certification awarded by the Malaysian Department of Islamic Development is very strict and is only awarded to establishments which serve halal food and are also alcohol-free, which does not suit some places such as hotels, which do serve halal food but also alcohol. Street vendors also cannot be awarded official halal status. JAKIM is the only body which can issue the halal logo and there are even penalties in place for falsely using the logo or making false claims about the halal status of their products. If you aren’t sure, just ask. Looking at your fellow diners is also a good indication of an establishment’s halal status. If they include Malay women in colourful headscarves then it almost certainly is halal. Although it used to be rare for Chinese restaurants to serve halal food, these days, increasingly, Chinese - as well as Japanese and Korean - restaurants are appealing to their Muslim guests by serving halal food.
In short, Malaysia is the place to go for Muslim holiday-makers to experience halal food from all different world cuisines. You will even find halal Greek food, halal Jamaican food and halal Brazilian food, all cooked by experienced chefs!
All international fast food restaurants are halal as are most major food courts in shopping malls.
Top halal food to try in Malaysia:
Mee goreng mamak
Yellow noodles with halal chicken or beef, shrimp and soy sauce stirred up with chilli, chopped vegetables and egg.
Sweet pancakes stuffed with sugar, peanuts and corn.
Rice cooked in coconut milk. It can be served with all sorts of things and each region has its own local speciality. This can include peanuts, vegetables, hard-boiled egg, or curry made from chicken, lamb, beef or seafood. In Malaysia this is traditionally a breakfast dish.
Traditional street food often eaten at the markets which take place during Ramadan, this is a thin sandwich filled with egg and grilled mincemeat.
This is a whole way of eating, with food laid out buffet style in restaurants found throughout Malaysia, run by Indian Muslims and often open 24 hours. Rice is served with different toppings including curry, egg, okra and fish.
This spicy noodle soup of fish or prawns is a speciality of Penang and is perhaps the best known of Malaysia’s dishes.
Top destinations to visit for Muslim tourists in Malaysia
Peninsula Malaysia is separated from the states of Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea. To its north lies Thailand, and to the south Singapore. There is a multitude of islands situated off its west coast, which are perfect for beach holidays.
Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s largest city and also its capital. It is a busy and bustling metropolis, with a population of over 8 million people. It is famous for its landmarks such as the Petronas Twin Towers, Merdeka Square and its Chinatown. It is a great place for a city break or as a stopover en route to a halal-friendly beach resort.
Top 5 things to do on your halal trip to Kuala Lumpur:
Visit Kuala Lumpur Tower – at 421 metres high (including its antenna) it’s the 7th tallest freestanding tower in the world. It provides a wonderful vantage point over the city and is the highest point in Kuala Lumpur, which is open to the public. Importantly, it is also used as the Islamic falak observatory. To continue the space theme head to Planetarium Negara, the National Planetarium, with its beautiful Islamic architecture. Alternatively, enjoy the views from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers with their stunning skybridge.
Shop – Kuala Lumpur is a great place for shopping and has a good choice of shopping malls and centres including Suria KLCC, which is also home to a museum and art gallery; and Berjaya Times Square which combines shopping with an indoor theme park – perfect for entertaining children! If you want to pick up some local souvenirs of your halal holiday, then head to Central Market in the Pasar Seni, which sells beautiful Malaysian arts and crafts.
Learn about Islamic history – the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, is a treasure trove of Islamic artefacts from Old Malaya, India, China and the Ottoman Empire. It’s a fascinating place to spend a morning exploring the arts, handicrafts and architecture.
Explore Kuala Lumpur’s beautiful nature – despite Kuala Lumpur being a busy urban centre, at the heart of all the concrete and modern buildings is a tiny but well-preserved part of the oldest rainforest in the world, the KL Forest Eco Park. Wildlife-lovers should also visit the KL Bird Park and the neighbouring KL Butterfly Park, as well as the Zoo Negara.
Visit the Masjid Negara – Malaysia’s National Mosque was built in 1965 as a symbol of Malaysian independence. Its architecture is a stunning example of modern Islamic design and it is set in one of the greenest areas of the city, next to the Lake Gardens of Kuala Lumpur, surrounded by beautiful flowers, palm trees and lush foliage.
Around one hour’s drive south of Kuala Lumpur is the coastal resort town of Port Dickson in the state of Negeri Sembilan. If you’re looking for a unique setting for your halal-friendly holiday, then it is worth considering a stay at the Lexis Hibiscus Port Dickson. Its water villas are in the shape of the flower from which it takes its name, stretching 1 km out to sea, overlooked by a spectacular 100-metre high water fountain. Some villas have their own private pool, perfect for Muslim families.
Heading further south to Malacca you will reach Malaysia’s cultural capital, a historic city and World Heritage Site showcasing its Peranakan culture. Visit the Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum for fascinating insights into this heritage. The bustling night market of Jonker Walk is atmospheric, and the historic Dutch architecture will be a highlight. View it all from the 110 metre high Taming Sari Tower, which offers 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape. Muslims should not miss a visit to Masjid Kampung Kling, first built in 1748 in wood, and later rebuilt in brick. It sits on so-called ‘Harmony Street’ close to Hindu and Chinese temples, demonstrating the religious diversity of the city.
Ipoh is the capital of the state of Perak, which stretches right up to the Thai border, and is one of Malaysia’s largest city. It became rich during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, due to its tin industry. Lots of grand buildings dating from the British colonial period remain and have become a significant attraction. This, combined with the natural beauty of the area, with its stunning rock formations, mountains, waterfalls, thermal springs, lakes, caves and beautiful white sandy beaches, makes Perak a wonderful destination for Muslim families. There are around 50 mosques in Ipoh, including the Town Padang Mosque also known as the Sheikh Adam Mosque, which was built in 1908 in the Moghul style, and the Panglima Kinta Mosque with its eye-catching blue dome.
In nearby Kuala Kangsar, the Ubudiah Mosque or Masjid Ubudiah, with its splendid golden domes and minarets is known as one of Malaysia’s most beautiful mosques. There’s plenty to visit in the area including: Gua Tempurong, one of Malaysia’s largest natural limestone caves; the Perak Tong Cave temple, a beautiful Buddhist temple with a 40 foot high golden Buddha. Muslim families should be sure to visit the Lost World of Tambun, a theme park in a beautiful setting with thermal springs and a mini zoo – children will love the slides and pools.
Close to Ipoh is the village area of Bukit Merah, which is popular with halal-conscious tourists. It is set on the beautiful freshwater lake, which covers around 7000 acres. Visit the Laketown Ecopark with its nature trails, reptiles and tropical species or the Laketown Waterpark with its fun rides, pools and slides. The parks have prayer room facilities.
Penang Island, in the state of Pulau Pinang, is attached to the Malaysian peninsula by road bridges in 2 places. It boasts beautiful white sandy beaches. George Town, is the historic centre of Penang and it is here where the famous Street of Harmony, or Pitt Street stands as a symbol of Malaysia’s religious tolerance, representing the diverse communities which have made their homes here, in the form of four significant religious buildings. Masjid Kapitan Keling is an elegant, whitewashed domed mosque dating from the 19th century, displaying elements of both Moorish and colonial design, and is set in beautiful gardens.
Neighbouring the mosque is the St. George Anglican Church, the oldest building in Penang dating from 1819, as well as the colourful Taoist temple to the Goddess of Mercy, and the Sri Maha Mariamman Hindu Temple.
Also worth a visit are the Penang Botanical Gardens, stretching over 71 acres. From here you can hike up to Penang Hill, 833 metres above ground, or take the funicular train from Air Itam. Muslim families will enjoy a trip to the Escape Theme Park or the interactive Made in Penang 3D Museum.
Kedah is the province in the far northwest of Malaysia, which comprises the north-western part of peninsular Malaysia, stretching to the border with Thailand, together with the island archipelago of Langkawi. There are some 99 islands – more at low tide – the majority of which are uninhabited, set up to 30 kms off the coast. The largest inhabited island is known as Langkawi Island or Pulau Langkawi.
It is an area of spectacular natural beauty offering luxury accommodation in halal-friendly hotels and villas, and is the perfect setting for a honeymoon or romantic break for Muslim couples. Its lush interior boasts a spectacular natural setting, sheltered by the rainforest, which gives way to pristine white sand beaches. It offers a very good choice of private villas, with pools, which offer privacy to Muslim families and couples alike.
Top 3 experiences on your halal trip to Langkawi:
Walk along the Langkawi Sky Bridge - this 125 metre long curved bridge appears to be suspended in the air, some 660 metres above sea level. It is reached by taking Langkawi’s famous cable car, the steepest in the world, up to Langkawi’s second highest peak of Mount Machinchang. It is an unforgettable experience and a unique way to enjoy the stunning views of the islands and the pristine jungle below.
Explore underwater life at the Pulau Payar Marine Park - located some 30 kms south of Langkawi’s main island, these islands are the best place to discover the area’s remarkable marine life. Its clear, warm waters are a favoured spot for snorkelling and diving. You will see corals and swim amongst black-tipped sharks, as well as a variety of brightly coloured fish.
Take a boat trip through the mangroves - along the northeast tip of the island lies the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, a protected area of natural beauty, characterised by mangrove swamps, karst cliffs, caves and beautiful beaches. Take a trip by boat along the Kilim River to admire the flora and fauna and spot the otters, monkeys, lizards, bats and tree crabs which live here. During the migratory period, it’s also a renowned place to spot local birdlife, such as kingfishers and eagles.