MONEY & BANKS

MONEY

Malaysia’s currency is the ringgit (pronounced ring-git and abbreviated to “RM”), divided into 100 sen. Notes come in RM1, RM5, RM10, RM20, RM50 and RM100 denominations. Coins are currently minted in 5 sen, 10 sen, 20 sen and 50 sen denominations, with 1 sen coins still in circulation. You sometimes hear the word “dollar” used informally to refer to the ringgit.

At the time of writing, the exchange rate was around RM3 to US$1 and RM5 to £1. Rates are posted daily in banks and exchange kiosks, and published in the press.

BANKS

Major banks in Malaysia include Maybank, HSBC, Citibank, Standard Chartered, RHB Bank and CIMB Bank. Banking hours are generally Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4pm and Saturday 9.30 to 11.30am (closed on every first and third Sat of the month), though in the largely Muslim states of Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, Friday is a holiday and Sunday a working day. Banks in all sizeable towns and most tourist areas have ATM.

Licensed moneychangers’ kiosks, found in bigger towns all over the country, tend to open later, until around 6pm; some open at weekends and until 9pm, too. Some hotels will exchange money at all hours. Exchange rates tend to be more generous at moneychangers, though they don’t generally exchange travellers’ cheques.

You’re only likely to be really stuck for accessing money in remote rural areas; if, for example, you’re travelling upriver through the interior of Sabah or Sarawak, it’s a wise idea to carry a fair amount of cash, in smallish denominations.