International Student-life

This is a reference guide for international students and visitors from abroad. The information it contains will help you through the transition from your country to Malaysia, and setting out the opportunities and facilities available at the University of Malaya, should make your stay here both successful and enjoyable.

If you have any queries we will be pleased to help in order to make your stay at the University of Malaya productive and enjoyable. You can also contact the University of Malaya’s Global Enrichment and Mobility division.

Welcome to Malaysia

Malaysia covers an area of about 336,700 square kilometres. There are 13 states, namely Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor, Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan, Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo, and three Federal Territories, namely Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan. Malaysia has many seaports and international airports. It is situated in South East Asia; its neighbours are Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia. The country’s time is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+8GMT) and 16 hours ahead of United States Pacific Standard Time.


Preparation prior to travel is the most important part of your journey as this will reduce the hassle of travelling. So in this section, we will try to give you as much information for a safe and pleasant journey.

Obtaining Permission to enter Malaysia

Students from abroad undertaking a full-time course of study are welcome to enter Malaysia and remain for the period of their studies on the basis that they are expected to leave Malaysia when their studies are completed.  Prospective students should apply to the Malaysian Embassy, Consulate or High Commission abroad in order to obtain entry clearance before travelling to Malaysia. For the location of the Malaysian foreign mission please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Full-time students should not enter Malaysia as visitors and then attempt to change their status to that of a student.

If you are coming for a mobility programme, such as educational visits and attachment of less than 3 months there is no need of obtaining a student visa.

More information is available from the Education Malaysia Global Services website.


Students attending the University are expected to provide a financial guarantee to confirm that they are able to meet the cost of the fees and maintenance for the duration of their course. Grants and scholarships are difficult to obtain in Malaysia for foreign students.

It is of the utmost importance to you that you consider carefully the financial implications of studying in Malaysia so that you do not suffer unnecessary hardship or anxiety.

At present, the estimated cost of living expenses for a single student is approximately USD400-500 per month (the inflation rate for Malaysia is less than 4% per year). This is expected to cover living expenses, accommodation, clothing and study materials such as books and stationeries. Academic fees are not included in this cost.

If the Government of your country has restrictions on the amount of money you are allowed to take out of the country, you will need to make the necessary arrangements in good time to ensure that the money is available for transfer to Malaysia before your departure.

Transferring Money to Malaysia

There are several methods of transferring your money, and you may wish to discuss convenience and cost with your own bank either at home or in Malaysia before deciding which system to use. The money must be deposited in the remitting bank in your home country or placed directly in the appropriate central bank before any currency transactions can take place. Note that bank accounts are only in Ringgit Malaysia (RM) – there is no US dollar account available.

Bankers Draft

These are instructions from your home bank to credit a bank in Malaysia with a specified amount of money in sterling or another currency. You can use that amount to open a bank account. This is a reliable but often slow form of transfer.

Mail or Telex Transfer

Money is transferred between banks, the telex system being safer and quicker but more expensive. You will also be able to transfer money from your home country through international money transfer services like MoneyGram and Western Union.

You will need some money to cover your expenses for the first few days, so you are advised to bring some cash with you.

Credit Cards

In Malaysia, most retailers, petrol stations, fast-food establishments and restaurants accept credit cards as a form of transaction. The most common credit cards accepted are Visa and Master Card, some of them do accept American Express. It is better to ask the establishment before you proceed with any form of transaction, as some may impose an additional cost or minimal amount spent before accepting a credit card.

e-Wallet / e-Cash

The e-wallet or e-cash scene in Malaysia is still new. Some of the e-wallets available in Malaysia are AlipayBoost, BigPayGrabPay, Lazada Wallet, Maybank PayRazerPaySamsung Pay, Touch’n Go, vcash, and WeChat pay.

Arrival by Air
KLIA Gardens

The main international point of entry into Malaysia is the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang. For those using the low-cost airlines; your point of entry may be the KLIA2, situated just next to KLIA. Malaysia Airlines is our National Carrier which has connections to many major cities around the world and AirAsia is Malaysia’s low-cost alternative for local and regional destinations.

When you arrive at the KLIA, after alighting the escalator just before the immigration control, on the right, the Malaysian Education Global Services has a booth to provide information and assistance for Internation Students.

Education Malaysia Counter at KLIA

Immigration Control

All passengers arriving at a Malaysian port of entry are checked through Immigration Control. Please make sure that you have the proper documents at the checkpoint. Information about the visa requirement for a foreign student is available at the Immigration of Malaysia website or the Malaysian Education Global Services website.

Visa Requirement

Prospective students should apply to the Malaysian Embassy, Consulate or High Commission abroad in order to obtain entry clearance before travelling to Malaysia. For the location of the Malaysian foreign mission please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Prospective students should not enter Malaysia as visitors and then attempt to change their status to that of a student.

Travel Abroad and re-admission

Before travelling abroad to any country other than your own, you should check the visa requirements of the countries you intend to visit. Also, check to ensure that neither your passport nor leave to remain in Malaysia will expire while you are away. It is always a good idea to carry documents to show the immigration officer on your return to Malaysia with evidence that you are a full-time student with adequate financial support.

Extending leave to remain in Malaysia

Many students will be granted leave to remain in Malaysia for the duration of their course; however, some students will be granted leave to remain for shorter periods. If you require staying longer than the time limit you have been given, you must apply to the Immigration Department for an extension of your stay before the expiry date stamped in your passport. Otherwise, you may have some difficulty in obtaining an extension, and you could lose your right of appeal if your application is refused.

Customs & Excise

When you arrive in Malaysia you will pass through Customs. You will have to pay charges for any items which exceed the Customs Allowances. If you have more than the Customs Allowances, you must declare them to a customs officer. Do not try to hide goods; anything which is not properly declared may be confiscated and severe penalties can be imposed on anyone breaking Customs regulations. Customs officers may stop travellers to carry out random checks. Prohibited and Restricted Goods that may not be imported into Malaysia include controlled drugs (such as opium, heroin, morphine, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines, barbiturates and LSD); firearms, ammunition and explosives; counterfeit coins and banknotes; indecent and obscene books, magazines, films and other articles; radio transmitters.

Do not attempt to smuggle drugs or any animal into Malaysia. Never carry bags through Customs for someone else. Be warned that Malaysia has very severe punishment for drug trafficking which carries a mandatory death sentence.

Vaccination Requirements

A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over one year of age who are coming from a yellow fever endemic country or have visited a yellow fever endemic country during the past six months. The period of validity of the vaccination is 10 years beginning 10 days after vaccination. Travellers without a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate will be quarantined upon arrival in Malaysia.


There is no limit to the amount of money you may bring into the country, however, any amount more than USD10,000 must be declared. The Malaysian currency is denominated in ringgit and sen. If there is difficulty to change money before entering Malaysia, bringing credit cards, and US dollars will ensure that money will not be a problem upon arrival in Malaysia. Credit cards are widely accepted in department stores, hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies. Coins exist to the value of 5 sen, 10 sen, 20 sen, and 50 sen (the 1 sen and 1 ringgit coin have been removed from circulation; do not accept them as legal tender). Notes are denominated to the value of RM1 (Ringgit Malaysia),  RM5, RM10, RM20, RM 50 and RM100, (we used to have RM500 and RM1000 which have also been removed from circulation). They are in different colours and sizes for easy identification.

Travel from the Airports

When you are flying in by airline other than a low-cost carrier, you will most likely fly into the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and arrive at the KLIA2 for those of you who are flying in via some low-cost carrier. KLIA2 is located just next to KLIA.

From the airport, the least expensive way to KL is to use the SkyBus, which will take you to KL Sentral Station for less than RM10.00. The easiest but not the least expensive way to Kuala Lumpur is to use a taxi or ride-sharing service. Purchase a fixed-rate taxi coupon in the Terminal and board the taxi at the designated taxi area. Avoid touts who may be present to tempt you to use their ‘cheaper’ taxis.  GRAB is the main ride-sharing service operating in Malaysia.

The Express Rail Link (ERL) provides the fastest service which will take you 28 minutes from KLIA to the KL Sentral Station in the city. The current charge is RM55.00 one-way for adults.


When you first arrive in the country, you will need temporary accommodation until you have settled in. Hotels are available outside the University to suit various needs and budgets. You can browse the following website for more information:,, or

Accommodation outside the campus is variable in quality, distance and cost. Rents vary between RM 700 and RM 1,500 per month for a two or three-bedroom property. In addition to rent, which is normally paid monthly in advance, a deposit (equal to three months’ rent) will be required; water and electricity will be charged separately. You may need to provide your own bed linen and cooking utensils.

University Accommodation

The administration officer at the Institute of Postgraduate Studies (IPS) will be able to assist with your accommodation needs. It will be advantageous to do so early as you will be competing with other students for limited places. Eleven residential colleges are located within the university (within walking distance of the faculties) and two are outside the university. These colleges are equipped with a cafeteria, photocopy shop, laundry, sports facilities, meeting and project rooms, study rooms, and computer and printing facilities.

To apply, you should include supporting letters from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.

International House

The University of Malaya International House is one of the off-campus accommodation options available to students, especially international students.

Facilities include:
  1. Fully furnished (beds, cupboards, sofa, dining table & chairs, study tables)
  2. Fully air-conditioned (4 units)
  3. Bedrooms + 1 bathroom (with water heater)
  4. Kitchen (with gas hob and smoke extractor)
  5. Refrigerator
  6. Washing machine and dryer
  7. Shoe rack
  8. ASTRO point (subscription needed)
  9. Telephone/ Internet line (subscription needed)
Location and Accessibility
  1. Strategically located from the university, commercial and shopping areas
  2. University shuttle service & public transportation route
  3. Wet market, farmers’ market (every Thursday morning) and night market (Every Tuesday)
  4. Various types of food available near the complex
  5. Mosque
Married Student

If you are married, there are some very important facts that must be taken into consideration before you decide whether or not to bring your family with you.

First, is your grant/stipend adequate to support both yourself and your family?

Too many students in the past have tried unsuccessfully to budget for a family on a single person’s allowance. You will need to be certain that you have additional funding to provide for all the extra financial demands that an attendant family will bring, i.e., accommodation, food, clothing, education for children, travel and entertainment.

The University has a small amount of accommodation available for students accompanied by their families, the International House which is situated about 3 km from the main campus is a good option. You should not assume that it will be easy to find a house to rent and for this reason, you are strongly advised not to bring your family with you, nor to make arrangements for them to travel until you are certain that they will have somewhere to live. You will also have to ponder about the medical services for your family, as the University only provides limited free services for registered students.

Medical Services

As a registered student at the University, you are covered by the medical services provided at the Students Health Clinic in the University. Other Medical services are also available at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC), private hospitals, private clinics, Government Hospitals and Government Clinics. These services are provided for a fee, and the charges depend on the type of medical service and also the location of the services. Students should consult the Student Health Clinic in the first instance except for emergencies. A referral letter is useful to seek treatment at UMMC.

Electrical equipment

The electrical supply is 220-240 volts AC at 50 cycles per second. Generally, the plugs used here fall under two categories: ‘B’ Pattern – 2 round pins usually bathroom ‘shaver’ plugs and ‘C’ Pattern – 3 regular prongs. As such, you should check for compatibility before bringing your electrical appliances with you. If you buy or bring electrical appliances or equipment with you, make sure that they are connected to a plug fitted with a fuse of the correct rating.

Travel within KL and beyond

In Kuala Lumpur city and its surrounding, also known as the Klang Valley, there is taxis, ride-hailing, buses and rail transport system. The KL rail system consists of the Mass Rail Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT), KTM Kommuter and the KL-Monorail. Currently, MyRapid has been assigned by the government to provide an integrated public transport system in the Klang Valley incorporating rail and bus services. You can purchase the MyRapid Travel Card for convenient transportation within KL. You can also plan your journey using the MyRapid Plan My Journey website.

Travelling by LRT

There is a regular bus service which connects the University campus with the rest of the city throughout the day, but note that bus services may be less frequent during the evenings, on Sundays and public holidays. The RapidKL bus No. T789 connects the University with the KL Gateway Universiti LRT Station (Kelana Jaya Line). The Kelana Jaya Line will connect you to KL Sentral station where there is connections for KTM Kommuter, KL Monorail and the KTM inter-city rail service and the Masjid Jamek LRT Station where you’ll be able to transfer to the other LRT line (Ampang & Sri Petaling Line).

The shorter walk to the Department is by taking the RapidKL bus No. T790 from the KL Gateway Universiti LRT Station (Kelana Jaya Line). You will need to stop at the MASHA University bus station and follow the walking path (red-line) to the Department.

Travelling by MRT

If you decide to travel by the Sungai Buluh-Kajang MRT line, stop at the Phelio Damansara Station, take the T815 feeder bus and stop at the MASHA University bus station. You need only to follow the walking path (red line) to the Department.

Travelling by Taxis or Ride-hailing services

You may also travel to the Department by taking either taxis or ride-hailing services. There are many ride-hailing services in Malaysia, the main one is Grab. When travelling by taxi or ride-hailing service, you should stop at the main entrance of the Faculty of Medicine.

Beyond KL

Malaysia Airlines is the flagship carrier of the country and it provides extensive domestic and international networks. While in Malaysia, you may opt for AirAsia the no-frills airline, which also flies to some regional destinations. The cheaper through a much slower way to see the country is to use Malaysian Railways (KTM). This would also be better, as you will be able to enjoy the countryside scenery along the way.

Traffic rules

An International Driving Licence will be required for foreigners to drive in Malaysia. You will need to read the Malaysian Highway Code and remember that in Malaysia we drive on the left and overtake on the right. It is compulsory for front and rear seat passengers to wear seat belts, and for motorcyclists to wear crash helmets. There are also strict laws about drinking and driving, so if you intend to drive it is best not to drink any alcoholic drinks for several hours before driving. Please obey the traffic laws and speed limits while driving as penalties include heavy fines and even jail sentences.

Food and drinks

Food is the foremost priority in the life of a Malaysian. Instead of asking “How are you?” the Malaysians ask “Have you eaten?” You can choose from smart restaurants for special celebrations, informal cafés, Western-style fast food outlets and roadside hawker stalls. Alternatively, you can phone for a pizza to be delivered to your door. To ensure that food is prepared in the Islamic way, check that the restaurant is certified ‘halal’. The average meal costs from RM 10 to RM 20.

The average Malaysian should be able to tell you where their favourite chicken rice, char kuey teow, roti canai, nasi lemak or asam laksa stall is situated. Malay and Indian food are hot and spicy while Chinese food is more delicate. As these foods are probably alien to you, do try them out when you come to Malaysia.

As diversity is the name of the game, variety is the spice of life with foods from all over the world available within a stone’s throw. Malaysians are not a fussy lot when it comes to food so there are roadside stalls, 5-star restaurants, and everything else that comes in between.


Although Bahasa Malaysia is the official language of Malaysia, English is widely spoken and understood by most Malaysian. The other main languages spoken are Mandarin and Tamil.


Telephone kiosks are to be found at all airports, seaports, railway and bus stations, post offices and in the streets. Instructions for use are given inside the kiosks. Public payphones can be of different types, accepting coins, phone cards and, in some cases, credit cards. Phonecards may be purchased from convenient stalls. The long-distance code for Malaysia is 60. International Direct Dialling (IDD) is available throughout Malaysia. Full details of dialling codes are given in the Phone Book. Dial 103 if you need assistance from the Operator. Charges will vary according to distance, length of the call and the time of day when the call is made.

Mobile phone services are available in all cities, towns and on highways. The main mobile phone providers are Celcom, Maxis, and Digi. There are counters of mobile phone providers in KLIA just before the Immigration control offering pre-paid and post-paid registration services.

Foreigners can also purchase mobile phones and pre-paid phone cards to make local or international calls. All pre-paid phone users must register their number with the provider before they can make phone calls, this can usually be done during the time of the purchase of the phone card and they will need your passport.

International calls can be made through any mobile phone with sufficient credits. Long-distance calls are usually cheaper during off-peak hours (the actual hours depend on the country you wish to call) and on the weekends. But the cheapest way to call overseas is through VOIP (Voice over IP), the phone cards for which are available easily from convenient stalls and mobile telephone stalls. The almost free way to call overseas and locally is through internet telephony, e.g., Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

To get directory information or an operator, dial ‘103’ through the Telekom landline. The country code for calling into Malaysia is ’60’ followed by the city code (‘3′ for Kuala Lumpur / Petaling Jaya) and the phone numbers (7 or 8-digit numbers). An outgoing call from Malaysia can be initiated by first dialling ’00’ followed by the country code, then the area code and last the telephone number required.


The normal banking hours are from Monday to Friday from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm. Some branches do stay open later and a few also open on Saturdays and Sundays. Besides the bank counters, most banks have electronic banking that will fulfil most of your banking needs; some banks even have Internet banking. If you would like to bank through the Internet please ensure that it is a secure website and uses encryption technology (e.g., HTTPS) and the site has a trusted security certificate. You should never access a banking site from an e-mail link. There are bank and ATM facilities on the campus situated at the Perdanasiswa building.

Mails and Packages

Post offices open from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm daily except Sundays and public holidays (except Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor which are closed on Fridays and public holidays). The main post office of Kuala Lumpur is open from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm daily. There is a post office in the campus, situated at the Perdanasiswa building.

Mail is delivered daily, Mondays through Saturdays. Letters overseas may take anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks to arrive, depending on where they go. A postcard sent internationally, with the exception of nearby Asian countries, will cost RM 1.00. Packages sent overseas can be brought to any post office to be weighed and sent.

All phone, electricity, and water bills can be paid at the post office. The post office also offers telegram, telex, and fax services.

You can also use other local or international courier services for sending mail and packages.

The Weather

The weather in Malaysia can be extremely changeable, wet and windy one moment, humid and sunny the next. You will need an umbrella, at all times of the year. Temperatures normally range from 22-32° Celsius. While the country experiences high temperatures, bring some sweatshirts or sweaters to keep you warm in the libraries or lecture theatres which can get quite cold, as these are fully air-conditioned.

Your clothing

Generally, lightweight clothes like short-sleeve shirts or T-shirts are used and cotton is most suitable. Minimise exposure of legs and arms in places of worship and rural areas. More formal occasions require the use of ties and jackets, or Malaysia’s official attire, the Batik. When coming for classes you are recommended to dress in smart casual wear.

Social Customs in Malaysia

Malaysia is proud to be multi-racial and multicultural. There are a diverse lot of people of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Melanau,  Kadazan-Dusun, Bajau, Bugis, Murut, Sikh, and many other ethnic origins. You will find that people generally respect each other and are aware of the different cultural practices. Get to know the different nuances of each race, as well as what has converged and come to be known as true Malaysian culture.

As a result of the different races gathered in this country, many different languages are spoken. Bahasa Malaysia (the Malay language) is the predominant language but English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Tamil and Hindi are also widely spoken. Also peculiar to Malaysians is “Manglish” or Malaysian English – a curious combination of all the different languages spoken in Malaysia and English.

Just as there are many peoples and languages, different religions are practised in Malaysia. The official religion is Islam but there are many Christian and Catholic churches, Buddhist and Hindu temples in addition to mosques.

Generally, Malaysians are shy but friendly, tolerant and understanding, and have a long tradition of welcoming visitors from overseas. Developing close relationships may take some effort; Malaysians are usually quite willing to talk casually, but that does not imply a firm commitment to friendship. Women are independent and accustomed to entering public places unaccompanied. Men and women mix easily, although this does not necessarily imply a willingness to enter into a deeper relationship.

If you are invited to someone’s home it is usual (but not essential) to take a small gift such as chocolates or flowers or, even better, a souvenir from your own country. Try to arrive on time, as it is considered rude to be late, particularly if a meal is served. If you are unexpectedly delayed or are unable to attend be sure to let the host know. R.S.V.P. on a written invitation means that you are expected to reply stating whether or not you will be attending the function.

Smoking is banned in theatres, eateries, all public buildings and on public transport. Before smoking in public, it is advisable to check that smoking is permitted and that your companions do not object.

Culture Shock

Living outside of one’s home country is a cultural shock. The term ‘culture shock‘ refers to the period of cultural adjustment and may include everything from getting used to the food to something as simple as using the telephone. It refers to the disorientation and anxiety resulting from a loss of all-familiar signs, cues, and symbols of social interaction. Cues such as gestures, facial expressions, customs, and norms are acquired in the course of growing up. When an individual enters a new environment or strange culture, the person is suddenly stripped of all familiarity and knowledge of cultural cues. Adjusting to a new culture is challenging and frustrating no matter how flexible or patient you are. Every individual differs in the degree in which they experience culture shock. Cultural shock is unavoidable. Instead of trying to avoid it, you can find ways to alleviate the difficulties and frustrations that come with a cultural shock. Take note that it is not that people in Asia are unfriendly or don’t want to talk to you; they are generally shy and less likely to make the initial move to talk to you. Once the ice is broken, Malaysians are very curious and want to get to know you and your country better.

The following tips are to help you get through the psychological and emotional aspects of culture shock.

  • Have a positive attitude and be open-minded
  • Be curious and have a strong sense of humour
  • Have strong self-esteem and be able to cope with failure
  • Be flexible and adaptable
  • Take advantage of the services the University offers.
  • Exercise and keep active.

Remember that all international students, whether in Malaysia or elsewhere, should share what they are going through. Living in a foreign country will open new doors, introduce new ways of thinking, and provide the opportunity to make friends from all walks of life.

Legal Advice

Malaysian common law guarantees due process of the law to all persons, including overseas visitors. Visitors to Malaysia are subject to the same laws as Malaysian citizens (with the exception of immigration, voting and citizenship) and are guaranteed the same protection of the law and the same civil rights. As a foreigner, you have the constitutional right to express your views and to propagate and publish ideas (popular or unpopular) provided they are not illegal or an incitement to break the law and as long as you conduct yourself in a peaceful and orderly manner with due consideration for others.