Because of its location near the equator, Malaysia weather is stable year-round. Although the country has two seasons (rainy and dry), there is very little variation in temperatures throughout the year.
High temperatures and humidity are the most common characteristics of Malaysian weather. Average temperatures hover around 30°C (86°F) in most of the country and humidity levels are usually above 80%.
The only exceptions to the hot and humid Malaysian weather are the country’s highlands and mountain ranges. For example, in peninsular Malaysia, areas like the Cameron Highlands stay around the mid 20°Cs (high 70s°F) and can drop below 15°C (60°F) during the winter months. Similarly, temperatures in Mount Kinabalu, located in Borneo, are usually in the mid 10°Cs (around 60°F) and can drop below zero at night.
The monsoon arrives in Malaysia between September and February. However, not all areas are affected equally. For example, in Borneo, the monsoon affects mainly the western Sarawak coast. In this area, monsoon rainfall peaks between November and February.
On the other hand, the west coast of peninsular Malaysia (including the islands of Penang and Langkawi) and the state of Sabah in Borneo see the most rainfall in September and October. As for Malaysia’s east coast, the heaviest rains fall between November and March.
This should be taken into account when deciding when is the best time to travel to Malaysia, since monsoon rains can disrupt your travel plans. Boat and ferry trips to and from the islands can be delayed for hours or cancelled altogether due to strong winds and stormy seas. Seawater is murky at this time of the year, ruling out watersports like diving and snorkelling. All in all, the monsoon season may not be the best time to travel to Malaysia if you’re here on a beach or island holiday.
Moreover, low and dense clouds can affect visibility in mountain areas (for example in the Cameron Highlands, one of the country’s top tourist destinations). Flooding can happen in low-lying areas near the coast and affect road trips. If you choose to visit during the monsoon, it’s best to stick to cities with good infrastructure.
The months between March and October are considered the best time to visit the country. This period is characterised by mostly dry weather and clear skies. In addition to that, during these months most of the country experiences a slight drop in humidity levels, which can make sightseeing and outdoor activities more comfortable.
If your travel plans include the islands on Malaysia’s west coast, consider booking a trip during the first two months of the year. This is the best time to visit Langkawi and Penang without having to worry about weather-related travel problems.
Another thing you’ll need to consider when deciding what’s the best time to visit Malaysia is haze and pollution due to slash-and-burn farming. This happens every year to some degree or another, and low air quality can interfere with outdoor activities. The haze tends to be worse in Borneo and areas close to Indonesia. There are no fixed dates, since some years air pollution peaks early in the year, whereas other it’s worse in late summer.
Being a tropical country, Malaysia does not have real winters. Between December and February, the only difference will be slightly lower temperatures in the early mornings and evenings and lower humidity. This is the best time to visit Malaysia if your travel plans involve outdoor activities and island getaways.
On the other hand, it’s best to avoid travel to the northeast during the winter, as the area will be affected by the monsoon.
On another note, winter is a good time for retail therapy. Year-end sales will be in full swing in Malaysia’s capital city. Kuala Lumpur is known for being a shopping haven and home to some of the region’s biggest shopping centres.
January - February is the best time to visit Langkawi. Calm seas and dry weather make it easy to explore the bountiful nature of this island. This is the time to take a boat trip around the island’s tropical beaches, or to hike Langkawi’s highest mountains and enjoy the views.
The same goes for Penang, located approximately 100 km (70 miles) south of Langkawi. The island boasts an exciting mix of cultural and natural attractions and is best explored during the winter months. Some popular things to do include hiking in the hills near the island’s capital Georgetown, or jungle trekking in Penang National Park. Penang’s International Dragon Boat competition is definitely worth watching, and takes place in December.
However, because this is peak season in both Langkawi and Penang, we recommend that you make reservations in advance.
Spring in Malaysia means stable weather with little rain or wind, so this is the perfect season to discover the country’s natural treasures. March and April are the best months for outdoor activities, whether they involve jungle trekking or watersports.
Although Malaysia is mostly known for its islands and rainforests, this season brings the ideal weather to explore the country’s mountains, like Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, Gunung Ledang near Singapore, or Brinchang in the Cameron Highlands.
March marks the beginning of the dry season in Borneo. This is a popular time of the year for rainforest retreats or wildlife watching trips.
Spring is also the dry season in the northeastern coast of peninsular Malaysia, so this is the ideal time to get away from it all in the spectacular Perenthian Islands. In addition to idyllic beaches, the Perenthians offer many opportunities for jungle exploration, wildlife watching, and even turtle hatching.
A relaxing stay in the Perenthians can be combined with a scenic train trip on the Jungle Railway, which meanders through the interior of peninsular Malaysia. This is one of the best train trips you can take in this part of the world and is a definite hit with photographers and young travellers.
April is a popular month to climb the summit of Mount Kinabalu, one of the highest peaks in South East Asia. The climb is perfectly doable for people without experience and is usually done over two days. The mostly dry and clear weather increases visibility, and seeing the sun rise from the summit will surely be one of the highlights of your trip.
After hiking Mount Kinabalu, you can reward yourself with a day trip to the white sand beaches of Tunku Abdul Raman National Park, which is easily reached by boat from Kota Kinabalu.
Malaysian summers are hot and wet. Humidity is high and the weather is quite variable. In a matter of minutes, the weather can quickly change from hot and sunny, to cloudy and stormy. If you visit during the summer, plan for wet weather and be flexible with your travel plans.
Early summer is one of the best times to visit Malaysia if you’re interested in its natural scenery. The island of Borneo is a great summer destination for nature enthusiasts. Top landmarks include Sabah’s Lost World (also known as the Maliau Basin Conservation Area), and the national parks in Gunung Mulu and Bako.
June and July are the best months of the year to go on a relaxing getaway to Tioman island, near Singapore. This is the closest thing to a tropical paradise that you’ll find in Malaysia’s eastern coast. Minimal chances of rain mean that the seawater is warm and crystal clear - ideal for swimming and diving! Moreover, ferry connections between the mainland and the islands are very reliable.
During summer, Borneo’s rainforests are deep into the fruiting season, increasing the chances of seeing orangutans in the wild. Other top activities include swimming with dolphins in Borneo’s southeast coast, or catching a glimpse of whale sharks off the coast of Sabah.
You may also want to include Mangrove cruising or canoeing exploration to your summer itinerary. Mangroves are some of Malaysia’s most biodiverse habitats. Day trips, mangrove safaris, and river cruises can be easily booked in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.
This is monsoon season in most of Malaysia. Rain and thunderstorms happen daily, but since they tend to take place in the afternoons, it’s still possible to enjoy your time here as long as you plan your activities around this. For example, you can set the mornings aside for outdoor activities, and leave indoor plans for later in the day.
Heavy rainfall also means tropical greenery will be at its most spectacular, especially towards the end of the season.
October and November are usually dry in Melaka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to dozens of colonial buildings.
Although tourists visit the Cameron Highlands all year round, November is the best month to explore the area. At this time of the year, the hills are covered in vibrant green thanks to the abundant rainfall of previous months. Strawberry picking, hiking in moss forests, visiting honey and lavender farms, and trips to tea plantations are the Highland’s star attractions.
Some of Malaysia’s most well-known festivals take place during these months. Mid-Autumn festival is widely celebrated by Melaka’s Chinese community, and this brings an abundance of seasonal treats and colourful lanterns to the city’s streets. And there’s also Deepawali, celebrated all over the country but especially in Hindu enclaves, such as the district of Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur or Penang’s Little India.
Monsoon rains hit Kuala Lumpur from October to March, with a peak in rainfall and humidity between September and November. The best months to avoid the monsoon are June, July, and August. However, the chances of a passing rain are always there, since the city experiences rainfall more than 200 days/year.
But outside of the monsoon season, rains are short-lived and shouldn’t interfere with your sightseeing. And this being a modern city, you’ll never be far from shopping centres, coffee shops, or museums where you can wait for the storm to pass.
If you’d prefer to travel when the humidity is below average, December and January are the best options. As for temperatures, January is the “coldest” month, with daily lows of 23°C.
Malaysia’s southern neighbour has very similar weather, but since Singapore is much smaller, there’s no weather variation within the country. The general advice is to avoid the monsoon season, which runs between September and February.
Late February to mid-April is the best months of the year to visit Singapore, since they are the driest. The dry season extends over the summer, but monsoon and higher-than-usual temperatures and humidity during these months may limit outdoor activities.
The best time to visit Borneo is spring and summer, before the monsoon rains set in. But there’s a reason why Borneo is the world’s third-largest rainforest: rainfall is abundant and can happen anytime, so you should always be prepared for showers - or thunderstorms!
Spring and summer weather brings the ideal conditions to explore Borneo’s wild nature, one of the main reason to visit the island. The warmer months are synonymous with excellent visibility in Borneo’s eastern islands like Lankayan, Mabul, and Sipadan, which offer world-class diving and snorkelling.
With so many ethnic groups and religions represented in Malaysia, you’ll be unlucky if your trip doesn’t coincide with some sort of festival. Religious celebrations range from exuberant family-oriented pageants to blood-curdlingly gory displays of devotion. Chinese religious festivals are the best times to catch free performances of Chinese opera, or wayang, featuring crashing cymbals, clanging gongs and stylized singing. Secular events might comprise a parade with a cast of thousands, or just a local market with a few cultural demonstrations laid on.
Bear in mind that the major festival periods may play havoc with even the best-planned travel itineraries, and that some festivals are also public holidays.
The dates of many festivals change annually according to the lunar calendar. The Islamic calendar in particular shifts forward relative to the Gregorian calendar by about ten days each year, so that, for example, a Muslim festival that happens in mid-April one year will be nearer the start of April the next. We’ve listed rough timings; actual dates can vary by a day or two in practice depending on the sighting of the new moon.