Planning a trip to any destination Sarawak like Kuching, Miri, Sibu or even Bintulu? Well, if you are not a local, here’s a quick guide what you should know about the place.

7THE PEOPLE

Models in the Iban costume – Photo by Cyril Dason

Sarawak is one of the most diverse places in the world, boasting more than 40 ethnic minorities and freedom of religion is guaranteed under the constitution. Religious and cultural festivals are a norm in Sarawak with Gawai Dayak, Chinese New Year and Hari Raya being the most celebrated. Despite the diversity, the people of Sarawak have been living in harmony for years, and are generally polite, humble and shy.

6THE LANGUAGE

Sarawakians talking to each other – Photo by Cyril Dason

Bahasa Malaysia, the national language of Malaysia is widely spoken, but English is also well understood, equally with Mandarin. Popular local dialects include the Sarawak version of the national language, known as Bahasa Melayu Sarawak, and Iban, Bidayuh, and Melanau.

5CURRENCY

Aside from the Malaysian Ringgit, major Credit cards are well accepted in major stores in Kuching

Malaysian Ringgit (RM) is the only trade currency and major foreign currencies are only accepted in major malls and the airport. Exchanging currencies can be done at license money changers and bank with the later offering better exchange rates. Credit Cards are also well accepted in major towns shopping areas, but do prepare spare change as most small shops on the outskirts of cities do transaction in cash.

4MOBILE NETWORK & INTERNET

High speed internet connection in major cities in Sarawak is adequate.

Celcom (or Xpax) offers the widest coverage in Sarawak, but internet speeds are fastest with Maxis (or Hotlink). Starter simpacks are easily available at the airport, telco kiosk and local stores, with reload coupons starting at RM5 to RM100. If you are planning to go to remote or rural areas, get Xpax.

3WHAT TO WEAR

Dressing up for comfort and to withstand the heat is vital in Sarawak – Photo by Cyril Dason

Sarawak is located close to the equator, and hence the weather is generally humid, striking 35-37 degrees daily. That said, wearing comfortable cotton clothing is advised and do also prepare for torrential showers every now and then. Oh, nudity, while much appreciated by some, isn’t appreciated by local standards, so do keep ’em clothing on, even on the beach. Do also stay hydrated by bringing a bottle of water everywhere you go.

2GOING AROUND

Ride sharing services like Grad are available in Kuching nowadays.

Uber and Grab are two ride sharing services available in Kuching, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu, and inter division buses are very reliable and cheap. Taxis are plentiful, but the in-city bus service is largely poor and unpredictable. You might need to use express boats to go to certain areas in Kapit, Sibu and Miri, and local connecting flights are provided by Malaysia Airlines, MASwings and AirAsia. In major cities, renting a motorcycle and bicycle may be a good idea to go around faster. It is recommended that you stay in hotels located nearby places of interest to decrease spending on transportation.

1STAYING SAFE

Police presence in Kuching City is prevalent. Other places in the Sarawak are largely safe.

Sarawak is one of the safest places in Malaysia and probably the world, but there is always the need to be extra careful when travelling. Snatch thieves are a constant menace in major towns especially Kuching, and it would be highly advisable to keep away from dark and quiet alleys. Keep an eye on your valuables when at crowded places, and always make sure you do not walk too close the roads.  If you need assistance the emergency force (police, fire brigade, hospital) can be reached at 999.

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