Southeastern Asia, peninsula bordering Thailand and northern one-third of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia, Brunei, and the South China Sea, south of Vietnam. Its strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea has made it a historically important area. Read our Malaysia Travel Information page for more details on how to get in and around the country.
Malaysia’s total area is 329,750 sq km, making it slightly larger than New Mexico. Its climate is tropical, with annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons. The terrain consists of coastal plains rising to hills and mountains. Its highest point is the Gunung (Mount) Kinabalu with a height of 4,100 m. Malaysia’s natural resources include tin, petroleum, timber, copper, iron ore, natural gas, and bauxite.
More than 24,000,000 people live in Malaysia. Life expectancy is 72.76 years. Birth rate is 22.65 births per 1,000. Literacy rate is 88.7%.
Bahasa Malaysia is the country’s official language: English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai are also spoken. East Malaysia is home to several indigenous languages, of which the most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan.
Malay, Chinese, indigenous, Indian.
About 60% of the population professes the Muslim religion; the remainder is mostly composed of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Confucians, Taoists, and practitioners of other traditional Chinese religions.
During the late 18th and 19th centuries, Great Britain established colonies and protectorates in the area of current Malaysia; these were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. In 1948, the British-ruled territories on the Malay Peninsula formed the Federation of Malaya, which became independent in 1957. Malaysia was formed in 1963. During the 22-year term of Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad (1981-2003), Malaysia was successful in diversifying its economy from dependence on exports of raw materials, to expansion in manufacturing, services, and tourism.
Malaysia, a middle-income country, transformed itself from 1971 through the late 1990s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy. Growth was almost exclusively driven by exports - particularly of electronics. As a result, Malaysia was hard hit by the global economic downturn and the slump in the information technology (IT) sector in 2001 and 2002. The economy grew 4.9% in 2003, despite a difficult beginning when external pressures from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Iraq War led to caution in the business community. Growth topped 7% in 2004 and 5% per year in 2005-06.