The Travel Money Guide to Currency in Malaysia
We love visiting Malaysia and there is so much to do, like engorge yourself in Kuala Lumpur, trek through Cameron Highlands and Taman Negara, visit the enchanting Malacca or snorkel off Pulau Pangkor. But it isn’t a budget destination and to get the most out of your trip, it’s a good idea to learn everything you can about the local currency and payment options before you go.
Want to learn more about the Malaysian Ringgit and how to get your hands on it for the best value:
What Currency is Used in Malaysia?
The official currency of Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit, which has the international code MYR and the symbol RM. Malaysian banknotes have 6 denominations: RM1, RM2, RM5, RM10, RM50 and RM100. However the RM2 is rarely used.
The Malaysian Ringgit is divided into 100 sen: sen5, sen10, sen20 and sen50.
How to Buy Malaysian Ringgit Before You Go
There’s a certain reassurance that comes with stepping off the plane (or cruise ship) already cashed up with Malaysian Ringgit.
Buying Malaysian Ringgit before you leave Australian shores isn’t just convenient. It can also save you money. But it all depends on where you get your Malaysian Ringgit in Australia. There are three main options:
- Buy MYR online and have it delivered or collect it in-store
- Swap Malaysian Ringgit for Australian dollar from a money changer
- Buy your Malaysian Ringit at your home airport
Currency exchange offices at Australian airports are notorious for their poor rates and commissions so we recommend avoiding that option entirely.
You’ll easily find a bureau de change near you; even suburban shopping centres should have at least one. But it’s better to get your money from an inner-city bureau if possible. They have more competition, which is likely to drive their rates down.
If there’s already too much running around to do ahead of your trip, consider ordering Malaysian Ringgit online. You can choose to have them delivered or made available for pick-up at a location near you.
Online orders are often the best value too, especially if you go with S Money, which offers the same rates listed on Google and XE.com.
The Average Cost to Travel Around Malaysia
To get the most out of your time in Malaysia, you’ll want to create a budget and make sure your savings stretch as far as possible.
To give you an idea of a reasonable budget, we’ve listed the average prices of some common items and experiences you’ll have while in Malaysia.
The average daily travel budget in Malaysia is about $160. Some of the expenses you might be looking at include:
A room in a guesthouse
Two-course meal at a nice restaurant
A local beer
Public Transport One Way
How to Change Currency When You Arrive
Places like Kuala Lumpur and Penang receive great numbers of tourists, so there are facilities to cater to money exchanges. Beyond these major destinations, it’s best to get cash before you venture into remote territory.
There are lots of ATMs throughout Malaysia in big cities and small towns, linked to the international network. Once you place your foreign card in, it will automatically display english to read. Most operate 24 hours a day. Popular ATMs include Maybank and Public bank.
Depending on your bank, you may have to pay for overseas ATM withdrawals and currency conversions. To reduce the amount you’ll pay in fees, try to withdraw just the right amount of money you’ll need for the duration of your trip.
Don’t forget: Let your bank know you’re travelling! If they detect a foreign transaction but aren’t aware you’re overseas, they could end up freezing your card.
Currency Exchange in Malaysia
You won’t have any problem changing money in Kuala Lumpur. There are plenty of money changers and their shop fronts look similar to the ones in Australia. Metro money is a chain however most are stand alone businesses.
Money changers tend to offer marginally better rates than banks as many banks charge flat fees per transaction. Also, banks only exchange currencies on weekdays.
Not worth the bother! Travellers cheques are so outdated, very few banks even accept them any more.
They can’t be used as direct payment, so the only way to use them once you’re in the country is to swap them for currency at a bank or bureau de change office. Even then, very few banks will accept travellers cheques if you don’t have an account with them. And exchange services apply exorbitant fees and rates to them.
Using Your Bank Card
Most Malaysian businesses are well set up to receive card payments. But before you use your bank card willy-nilly, it’s worth reading up on the fees and charges you might incur.
You’ll probably want a debit card if you plan to withdraw money from an ATM. While you may also be able to pay with a debit card in some businesses in the major destinations, you might discover some hefty fees on your account summary.
Depending on your bank, you could be hit with fees for foreign ATM withdrawals or currency conversions. But some banks are better than others; we recommend checking out ING, Revolut, and TransferWise, all of which have travel-friendly debit cards that waive these charges.
Credit cards can come with some enticing perks, including added security, loyalty programs, and even free travel insurance.
But are they worth it?
Major local businesses, including hotels, restaurants, airline offices, and department stores, accept credit cards. But you might have to pay a surcharge.
Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted. You may also be able to use your American Express card, though local ATMs won’t accept them.
Just be aware of additional charges you may incur for foreign transactions. These could include:
- International transaction fees
- High exchange rate margins
- ATM fees
- Potential ‘cash advance fees’ if you use an ATM
If you still prefer credit cards over any other payment, consider going with a company that offers cards that waive certain travel fees. Bankwest Platinum and 28 Degrees both have travel-friendly cards.
Prepaid Travel Cards
The biggest advantages of prepaid travel cards are that you can lock in a favourable exchange rate. You also get a handy back-up card.
Just remember that while they are convenient, you could end up paying a long list of hidden fees. Many travel cards still impose:
- Currency conversion fees
- Uncompetitive exchange rates
- International ATM withdrawal fees
- Initial load fees
- Reload fees
- Inactivity fees