Culture

Malaysia Has Reopened to the Fully Vaxxed

Heritage shophouses, buzzy bars and restos, and beautiful beaches are reopened to international travelers in Malaysia. Here’s what to know.

Malaysia : Petronas Twin Tower

Petronas Twin Tower. Photo by Ben Cheung/Pexels/Canva

By Paul Adams

Apr 1, 2022

AFTER TWO YEARS, Malaysia has reopened its international borders as of April 1, 2022. This is good news for travelers who miss their caffeine and condensed milk kick of teh tarik; nasi lemak enveloped in banana leaf; wok-singed koay teow along with other delicacies on this Southeast Asian country’s multicultural culinary smorgasbord. Beachcombers and city bar hoppers avail once again to Langkawi’s white sand shores and Kuala Lumpur’s inventive bar scene that trails from the foot of the Petronas Twin Towers to louchier side streets and alleyways. 

Here are some outstanding reasons to visit Malaysia now that it’s reopened, and our guide to the newly simplified rules of entry.

best paradise islands to visit in Southeast Asia
Tioman Island Coast. Photo by Nirian/Getty Images Signature/Canva

While borders were shut, a quiet stretch of sand on the south coast called Desaru became a major luxury beach destination, with the romantic One & Only and family haven Anantara making waves. Several resorts in scuba-paradise Tioman Island will soon be reopening. Meanwhile in KL in recent years, the night scene has evolved from poolside bars with jaw-dropping views to speakeasy-type establishments where the bartenders have become celebrities in their own right.

Admittedly, the past two years of repeated lockdowns and strict Covid regulations have piped down the city’s buzz. But if one strolls down places like Chinatown, joints like PS150, one of the first places to inject street cred into the historic area, is still around. With great relief, the city’s hipsters are now waking up from government-induced social slumber, and starting to hit the town, albeit in a more understated fashion. The logic here is simple: drinking at bars or dining in restaurants are among the few chances one gets to take Insta-posey photos minus masks. The latter could well take place at the Nobu KL, which opened at its new location in mid-March this year. 

Nobu Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Nobu Kuala Lumpur. Courtesy of Nobu

Over in George Town, the nifty little island of Penang boasts a pizazzy cafe and restaurant scene. The heritage-y vibes and UNESCO World Heritage accreditation has in the past, attracted tourists from around the world. Some arrive for the laidback beaches of Batu Ferringi, while others fly in to imbibe the city center’s authentic eras-from-bygone past vibes. The latter’s streets throng with decades-old neighborhood Ayurvedic centers, Chinese coffee shops that serve a mean if possibly too sweet kopi-o (the Malaysian version of an iced Americano), and (potentially now more sedate) incense smoke-filled Taoist temples where locals head to for extra doses of divine assistance

As of April 1, reopened Malaysia once again has all these options and more for arriving travelers. Here’s all you have to do: first, download the MySejahtera app, filling in pre-departure details in the ‘Traveller’ section.

Malaysia : George Town
George Town Chew Jetty, Penang. Photo by Daboost/Canva

Travelers who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will have no quarantine requirements. What is required, however, is a negative result of an RT-PCR test taken a minimum of two days before departure and a professionally administered rapid test (RTK-Antigen) within 24 hours of arrival into Malaysia. An option of a Covid-19 breathalyzer test (costs are paid by the traveler) is also available at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. After that, consider Malaysia fully reopened for business and play for the fully vaxxed.

Overseas travelers who arrive in Malaysia without being fully vaccinated are subject to five days quarantine at their arrival destination. These travelers are also subject to local Covid-19 restrictions in the country. This includes no dining in restaurants or drinking at bars. 

Malaysia : Tung Wah Taoist Temple, Ipoh
Tung Wah Taoist Temple, Ipoh. Photo by RAVINDRAN JOHN SMITH/Getty Images/Canva

Quarantine-free entry to the country is allowed for children and teenagers from 12 – 17 years of age. For these individuals, a Covid-19 RTK-Ag test by trained personnel is mandatory within 24 hours of arrival into the country. More information is available here

Previously, international travelers had to apply for MyTravelPass, and there were quarantine requirements even for the vaccinated. In Southeast Asia, Malaysia follows Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines in relaxing restrictions. Meanwhile, South Korea has also reopened as of April 1.

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