Millions of tourists visit the island of Langkawi every year in search for an ideal tropical holiday. Its virgin beaches, verdant forests, warm people, and delicious food will leave you with an unforgettable experience. The tourism driven economy of the island ensures that Langkawi is one of the most tourist friendly destinations in the South East Asia. However, a lack of preparation is enough to sour a vacation, even in friendliest of the places. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, here is our list of five things to know before you visit Langkawi.
1. Lack of Public transportation
Mass public transportation is non-existent in Langkawi. Travel options for tourists are taxis, rental cars, motorbikes and bicycles. Taxis are available pretty much across the island, and run on a fixed rate system. They can be booked over the phone or simply hopping into one at the taxi ranks is also fine. However, make sure to hire a taxi with appropriate license to avoid brushing with the law. To explore the nooks and crannies of the island, where it is not easy to find a waiting taxi, renting a car, motorbike or a bicycle is a good idea. Use a reputed rental shop to avoid any tourist scams and do insist on getting a helmet when renting a motorcycle, as they are necessary to avoid any traffic fines. Insurance to cover the damage to a rented vehicle will also save a lot of trouble in case of an accident. Finally, drive on the left side of the road and stay clear of stray water buffalos and wildlife.
2. Duty Free Shopping
Langkawi is known as a shopping heaven that can be accessed without facing the final judgement. Big and small duty-free shops are spread across the island selling everything under the sun. Confectionaries, liquors, wine, tobacco, and electronics are crowd favourites. Kuah is the commercial hub of Langkawi and hosts two of the biggest shopping centres offering massive discounts. Boutique stores attract people searching for exquisite local handicrafts and traditional items such as batik songket and metal works.
3. Insects and Jellyfishes
Insects such as mosquitoes and flies are a nuisance on this island. The warm and humid weather, along with dense mangroves and vegetation nurture a wide species of insects and bugs. To avoid getting nasty bites, use an insect repellent whenever are out, especially in the rainforests or mangroves. Jellyfish are also a problem when going for a swim in the water. Langkawi’s beaches are swarmed with jellyfish in the first half of the year. Hence, before you get into the water, check with your hotel staff or locals for a jellyfish forecast and wear protective clothing to avoid any stings.
Just like the rest of Malaysia, Ringgit is the official currency of Langkawi. Most of the shops and hotels in Langkawi offer currency exchange services, but the rates are higher than the mainland Malaysia. There are not a lot of ATMs, and sometimes they do tend to run out of cash. Cash is widely used on the island and is the only option in most restaurants and small shops. A minimum of 5% tip is customary when eating in restaurants. High end cafes and restaurants usually attach a service charge to the bill as well.
5. Religion and Culture
Although a number of religions are practised in Langkawi, Islam is the most widespread. Hence, dress appropriately in general and especially when visiting any religious sites. Cover your knees and hands when you are visiting mosques or temples. Langkawi’s culture is a colourful blend of Malaysian, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese and other South east countries. Malay is the official language, but English is commonly spoken and understood by the islanders.
6. Thean Hou Temple, Langkawi
Needless to say every visitor should stay wary of scammers and pick pockets thriving in the presence of crowds of gullible tourists. Be informed and safe to make the most of your once in a life time Langkawi experience.