What Should Tourists Wear in Malaysia?
Most tourists ask how to pack and what to wear in Malaysia for their holidays.
In Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Kuching’s urban areas, the local women generally do not dress to draw attention.
Most Malaysian women are comfortably grabbed in tee shirts and jeans or trousers.
Malaysian culture, as a whole, remains relatively conservative and conformist.
As a tourist visiting Malaysia for the first time, it all depends on where you are.
In smaller towns and on the east coast of Malaysia, it is more appropriate for women to dress modestly.
Dress Code in Malaysia’s Tropical Climate
Malaysia is close to the equator, a tropical country that is hot and humid, so you must dress comfortably.
TravelStylus recommends light clothing of natural fibers (linen, silk, or cotton).
Think of breathable and flowing natural fabrics like cotton for women’s clothing.
Cotton is a good choice if you wear it directly against your skin, as it naturally regulates your body temperature.
It is more humid as more water vapor is present in the coastal areas and the islands.
What to wear in Malaysia?
In Malaysia, exposing too much bare flesh is generally not the norm.
Everyone appears conservative, prim, and proper for both men and women.
Style and Culture Streetwear in Malaysia
When you walk around Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur (KL), you see women dressed in all forms and manners of streetwear.
There’s a bit of everything here in a beautiful fusion of style and culture.
- skirts and tops
- robes that cover from neck to toe
- colourful headscarves
- fitted slacks
When planning what to wear in Malaysia, consider wearing lightweight, airy fabrics in vibrant prints.
You can add bold, fashionable colors to your travel capsule wardrobe.
Dress code in Malaysia
There is no specific dress code for tourists and visitors in Malaysia – as long as you are decently dressed, other women are dressed in shorter skirts, fitted tops, and heels.
Woman Wear in Malaysia
The traditional dress for Muslim women conceals the hair and the body from the ankles to the neck.
Most Muslim women’s clothing includes a Baju Kurung – a modest long loose outfit that covers them entirely.
Many Malay women now wear a tudung – a secured headscarf to cover their hair.
On the East Coast, the dressing for women folk is conservative.
Long-sleeved tops are preferable, and skirts should extend to the knee and ankles. Long trousers are ideal.
Figure-hugging tight clothes are often frowned upon, particularly for women.
What should a man wear in Malaysia?
Muslim men have typically covered at least the head and the area between the waist and the knees.
For office workers, the attire is a long sleeves shirt, trousers, and covered shoes.
For Friday prayers, the men will wear a short, rounded skullcap.
The men wear a Songkok – a traditional Malay cap during festivals and official functions.
What do local women wear in Malaysia?
Most Malaysian women dress casually, just like most people in other countries.
Muslim women will wear long robes/dresses and headscarves.
For the formal dress code in Malaysia, citizens from each ethnic group will wear their traditional attire on special occasions.
The Chinese will wear a Cheongsam, Indians will wear Sarees, and Malays will wear Baju Kebaya or Baju Kurung.
Malaysia Packing Checklist
- You will want to pack lots of light, breathable clothing options. Cotton is preferable. You might like to pack moisture-wicking fabric made of high-quality polyester, which keeps sweat away from the body.
- I recommend packing flowing cotton skirts, denim shorts, and cotton dresses.
- Good tops include vest/singlet tops, t-shirts, and lightweight blouses.
- Though allowances are made for foreigners, you can ask helpful locals, especially the hotel front desk, what the limits are. It’s best to err on caution by dressing a little more conservatively.
- As a tourist, you can wear spaghetti strap tops or tube tops as long as you cover up before entering places of worship.
Society in Malaysia remains fairly conservative and conformist.
Anything that draws attention to the individuals concerned – is avoided.
Women’s Dressing and Shoes
In Malaysia and Asia, the soles of shoes are considered unclean as it in contact with the dirt of the street.
Before entering any home, removing footwear at the threshold is the usual practice.
The same applies before stepping onto any carpeted or matted area.
Never wear your shoes on your bed. It is considered to be dirty and is frowned upon.
Visiting places of worship
In Malaysia, you can see various temples and mosques happily existing.
When visiting mosques, men should wear long trousers and a shirt or top with long sleeves.
Women need to don a long cloak and headdress provided by most mosques.
You’ll be required to remove your shoes before entering.
No non-Muslims are not allowed to enter a mosque during prayer time or go into the prayer hall at any time.
It’s possible to stand outside and look in.
Most Chinese and Hindu temples are open from early morning to early evening.
Devotees can go in when they like to make offertory and prayers.
Hindu temples also expect visitors to remove their shoes.
Women’s Dress Code in Malaysia
Western women travelers arriving from Thailand, Singapore, or Kuala Lumpur might find themselves staring at the East Coast.
If you observe local dress codes – you may want to use a scarf to cover your hair.
Travel tips: dressing appropriately at immigration points.
For Western women, the atmosphere in predominantly Muslim areas like Kelantan or Terengganu may be too conservative and restrictive.
It is easier for solo women travelers to travel by respecting local customs and exercising common sense in Malaysia.
However, you may feel annoyed to see local Chinese women wandering around in shorts and skimpy tops in Malaysia – and no one bats an eyelid.
Travel tip: the ground rules are different for locals, and the various races in Malaysia DO dress like that.
The Malay, Chinese and Indian communities have an unspoken understanding of how the respective communities can behave publicly.
Follow these tips to learn more about the local culture and what to wear in Malaysia!
Tip: Use packing cubes to compress your clothing and learn to pack light!
Shopping for Women’s Wear in Malaysia
One of the best buys for women travelers in Malaysia is batiks.
You can repurchase a new wardrobe home for a fraction of the cost.
Some souvenirs and clothing buys include gorgeous batiks or cotton perfect for the climate.
You are spoilt for choice for matching shoes, handbags, and luggage. Well, except maybe inner-wear.
You may not find as many strapless dresses, short shorts, or spaghetti straps as you would find in Thailand.
Outside of Kuala Lumpur, shoulders and knees should be mostly covered, but sleeveless seems acceptable.
When in doubt, do as the locals do!
Your capsule wardrobe for what to wear in Malaysia should include the following:
- Several lightweight tops are cotton or rayon, which you can casually dress in Malaysia.
- Shorts or a skirt knee or ankle length
- A midi-skirt that can be worn as a strapless dress for evenings at clubs or beach resorts.
- A print Dress – wear under tops.
- Cotton slacks, breathable trousers.
- A sweater for the chilly highlands
- A scarf or shawl for temple or mosque visits and evenings
- Pack a pair of sneakers or Converse-style shoes and flats and sandals: rubber sandals or plastic shoes for boat trips or tropical rains.
Recommendation: We recommend wearing loose cotton clothing in Malaysia to stay cool in the tropics.
Business Dress Code in Malaysia
When attending ordinary business meetings, the standard Western business attire is suits and ties for men, and suits or skirts and blouses for women are appropriate.
Evening functions can be informal, with short sleeves worn by men and trousers by women.
Formal Wear in Malaysia
Aside from business suits, national clothing is considered formal.
For men, a Baju Melayu for men (with samping and songkok)
Baju Kurung, Long Kebaya, Long Cheongsam, and Sarees with full sleeves blouses are considered formal attire for ladies.
For men, a long sleeves batik shirt can be worn during formal occasions.
Malaysian Cultural Outfits
Since Malaysia is a multicultural nation, many traditional, religious, and gender-specific articles of clothing are used for formal wear.
The Malay, Chinese, Indian, and hundreds of other indigenous groups of the Malay peninsula and Borneo each have their versions.
Previously, many traditional clothes like Baju Melayu, Baju Kurung, Baju Kebaya, Cheongsam, and the Saree were worn daily.
These are only worn on special occasions such as marriage ceremonies and cultural events.
Finally: What To Wear In Malaysia?
Kuala Lumpur (KL) is a multinational place full of expats, so there isn’t any dress code.
Penang is the same, in case you wonder what to wear in Malaysia.
You can wear anything you like.
You will be surprised to see local Chinese girls wearing super short shorts!
You can wear shorts, t-shirts, and singlets.
For men, please do not walk around without a shirt!
When visiting temples, you may want to cover yourself out of respect.
The only place where knowing what to wear is significant is when you visit the east coast states of Malaysia.
These regions of the country are predominantly Muslim and adhere to conservative practices, particularly in dress ‘code.’
Both women and men in Kelantan, Terengganu, and Pahait’sress more conservatively than in other parts of Malaysia.
In these states, women often opt for modern attire that covers their head, shoulders, arms, chest, and legs.
Traditional clothing, such as the Baju Kurung, a loose-fitting blouse worn with a long skirt, is commonly worn by women.
Muslim women wear the Tudung, a headscarf, to symbolize their religious and cultural identity.
For female visitors, long pants, a loose-fitting long sleeves shirt, and a scarf to cover the head are appropriate.
For men, conservative dressing typically involves wearing shirts with sleeves covering the upper arms and long pants.
Traditional Malay attire, such as the baju Melayu, a loose-fitting shirt worn with trousers, is commonly worn on formal occasions or during cultural events.
It is essential to respect the local customs and traditions when visiting these states and to dress in a manner sensitive to the conservative norms observed by the local communities.
If you visit Batu Caves temple, you can “rent” proper attire.
The Batu Caves are worth visiting as it’s unique and not too far from the city.
Add Malaysia to your travel list; it is a great country – don’t miss it!
Do you have other tips on what to wear in Malaysia? Please comment below!