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 the country.
In smaller towns and on the east coast of Malaysia, it is more appropriate for women to dress modestly.
What is Malaysia’s climate like?
Malaysia is close to the equator, a tropical country hot and humid, so you need to dress comfortably.
For women’s clothing, think breathable and flowing natural fabrics like cotton.
It is more humid as there is more water vapor present in the coastal areas and the islands.
What to wear in Malaysia?
In Malaysia, exposing a lot of bare flesh is generally not the norm. For both men and women, everyone appears conservative, prim, and proper.
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 combination.
There’s a little 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.
Is there a dress code in Malaysia?
There is no specific dress code for tourists and visitors in Malaysia – as long as you are decently dressed, there are other women dressed in shorter skirts, fitted tops, and heels.
What should a woman wear in Malaysia?
The traditional dressing 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.
During festivals and official functions, the men will wear a Songkok – a Malay traditional cap.
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.
On special occasions, for the formal dress code in Malaysia, the citizens from each ethnic group will wear their traditional attire.
The Chinese will wear their cheongsam, Indians wear Sarees, Malays wear Baju Kebaya or Baju Kurung.
What should I pack for a holiday in Malaysia?
- You will want to pack lots of light, breathable clothing options. Cotton is preferable. You might like to pack moisture-wicking fabric. These are made of high-quality polyester, which keeps sweat away from the body.
- My recommendation includes packing flowing cotton skirts, denim shorts, skirts, and cotton dresses.
- Good tops include vest/singlet tops as well as 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 the side of 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 Malaysian and Asia, the soles of shoes are considered unclean as it in contact with the dirt of the street.
Before entering any home, it is usual practice to remove footwear at the threshold.
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 on.
Visiting places of worship
In Malaysia, you can see various temples and mosques happily existing side by side.
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, which is 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 are free to go in when they like to make offertory and prayers.
Hindu temples also expect visitors to remove shoes.
What do women travelers wear 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 mostly 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 exercise common sense when they travel 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 buy a new wardrobe for a fraction of the cost back home.
Some of the buys for souvenirs and your clothing 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 many strapless dresses, short shorts, or even spaghetti straps, as you would find in Thailand.
Outside of Kuala Lumpur, shoulders and knees should be mostly covered, but sleeveless seems to be acceptable.
When in doubt, do as the locals do!
Your capsule wardrobe for what to wear in Malaysia should include:
- Several lightweight tops are all either cotton or rayon is something 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 that you wear Cotton loose clothing in Malaysia to stay cool in the tropics.
Finally: What to wear in KL and Penang when you visit Malaysia?
KL is a multinational place full of expats, so there isn’t really any dress code.
Penang is the same in case you are wondering 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, 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 part of Malaysia where you would want to dress more conservatively is the east coast states of Kelantan and Pahang, as those parts of the country are Muslim-dominated and conservative.
If you visit Batu Caves temple, you can “rent” proper attire to wear.
The Batu Caves is 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!