It’s possible to travel to Malaysia at any time of the year. But there are various factors to consider when deciding the best times and places to visit, including the weather and climate, peak tourist seasons and festivals or public holidays.
Weather and climate
Malaysia has a tropical monsoon climate. It’s hot and humid and rain generally falls evenly throughout the year, but the main rainy season is from October-April. There can even be sudden, heavy downpours in the middle of the dry season, but they disappear as quickly as they arrive.
The country is split between West and East Malaysia and both areas remain under the sway of the southwest monsoon (May-October) and the northeast monsoon (November-March). Overall, the best time to visit most of Malaysia would be between March and October, when there’s less rain and humidity, but there are better times to visit each area.
For current weather forecasts and relevant information or reports on extreme weather or monsoon season, see the Malaysian Meteorological Department website.
Peninsular Malaysia (West Malaysia)
The southwest monsoon brings rain to the lowlands on the west coast, but particularly on the southwest coast between Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. The northwest coast, around Penang and Langkawi, receives heavy rain from September-October. So it’s best to visit the east coast from April/May-October, when there’s plenty of sunshine, clear blue skies, dry weather and calm waters.
However, this changes when the northeast monsoon hits. The east coast receives a lot of rain and even flash floods during November-February. As a result, most resorts close and boat services decrease or stop altogether until the rain eases. Therefore, it’s better to visit the west coast at this time.
Here are the best times to visit the following areas according to the driest months:
- Kuala Lumpur (June-August)
- Penang (December-March)
- Langkawi (December-February)
- Perhentian Islands (June-August)
- Tioman Island (November-March).
Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia)
The states Sabah and Sarawak receive heavy rain between October-March from the northeast monsoon, making them damp for the entire period, but January is the wettest time, so avoid visits in January. The northeast monsoon particularly affects the west coast of Sarawak, with November-February seeing the heaviest rainfall. In Sabah, September and October are the wettest months.
The southwest monsoon hardly affects the region, but the typhoon season in the Western Pacific, which runs from April-November, sees cold, wet weather hit Sabah and Sarawak at random intervals. It’s best to travel to Malaysian Borneo in the summer months.
Malaysia has two peak tourist seasons. The first peak season is from December-January, in which the major winter holidays of the Northern Hemisphere are celebrated, such as Christmas, New Year’s Day and Chinese New Year. As a result, public parks, shopping malls and beaches will be more crowded.
The second peak season is during June-August/September, when most hotels will be booked by Middle-Eastern families whose children are on school holidays at this time. School holidays in Singapore occur from May-June and November-December, so many seaside resorts will be booked by Singaporean families during these months.
Festivals and public holidays
Despite the heavy rains in some months, there are a number of festivals and public holiday events that are worth seeing. Government offices and some shops and restaurants will be closed during official public holidays, but you can look out for special sales and celebrations.
Here’s a list of festivals and public holidays and the months they fall in:
- January – New Year’s Day and Chinese New Year
- February – Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday and Thaipusam
- May – Sabah Festival, Labor Day and Wesak Day
- June – Gawai Festival in Sarawak and the King’s Birthday
- June/July – Ramadan and the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, Sarawak
- August – Hari Merdeka (Independence Day)
- August/September – Hari Raya Puasa (aka Eid al-Fitr)
- October/November – Deepavali in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, and Hari Raya Haji (aka Eid al-Adha)
- December – Christmas
Before you plan your trip to Malaysia, make sure to confirm the dates of the festivals and public holidays listed above, as some vary depending on the phases of the moon. Also, check the weather and peak seasons for each area. This way, you can have a fun, relaxing and stress-free vacation.