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Even though Bahasa Malaysia is the national language, English is also widely used in the commercial communication.
In the local market, local Bahasa Melayu Sarawak and other languages are being used daily. A variety of native tongues such as Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau, Kayan, Kenyah, Lun Bawang, Kelabit, Penan and Bisayah are also commonly spoken. While Mandarin is the medium of instruction in Chinese medium schools, it is also used in public daily communication. The Chinese community also speak several dialects such as Hokkien, Hakka, Foochow, Teochew, Hainanese, Puxian Min and Cantonese.
This is the multilingual uniqueness of Sarawak and its people.
The residents of Sarawak are of different races and belief, they are able to live in peace and harmony. As a multi-religious society, it is common to see mosques, churches and temples built close to each other. Some of the major religious structures in Kuching are the Masjid Jamek mosque in Petra Jaya, the St Thomas and St Joseph's cathedrals in the City centre and the Tua Pek Kong temple on the waterfront. There are also several Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Taoist temples in and around the city.
Most business premises are open Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm. Shopping centres and arcades are usually open from 10am to10pm on a daily basis.
Ringgit Malaysia or MYR is the official currency of Malaysia with note available in RM100, RM50, RM 20, RM10, RM5 and RM1 while 50sen, 20sen, 10sen and 5sen are available in coins. Moneychangers are available in major towns and airports. Credit cards are also widely accepted.
Visitors to Sarawak are required to fill in an immigration form upon arrival. Malaysia has strict anti-drug trafficking laws and those caught smuggling illegal drugs will be sentenced to a mandatory death penalty. Every person entering the country must possess a valid Passport or internationally recognized Travel Document. Visitors may also use a Document in lieu of Passport from the Immigration Representative for entry purposes. Application for the Document in lieu of Passport can be made at any Malaysian Representative Office abroad.
Foreign nationals who require a visa to enter Malaysia must apply and obtain a visa in advance at the Malaysian Representative Office before entering the country. A visa is an endorsement in a passport or other recognized travel document of a foreigner indicating that the holder has applied for permission to enter Malaysia and that permission has been granted. A visa that has been granted is not a guarantee that the holder will be allowed to enter Malaysia. The final decision lies with the Immigration Officer at the entry point.
Visitors are required to complete the Arrival/Departure Card (Imm.26) upon arrival at the gazette entry points. This card is available at any entry point, Malaysian Representative offices abroad or at travel agencies.
They must present his/her passport together with the duly completed arrival / departure card to the Immigration officer on duty and he/she must ensure that the passport or travel document is endorsed with the appropriate pass before leaving the immigration counter.
In Sarawak, service charges are included in billings for food, beverages and accommodation. Though tipping is not customary, some visitors are the exception to the rule.
Mobile telecommunications cover many parts of Sarawak except for very remote areas. Public phones are available in most shopping malls, street corridors and villages in the outskirts of town.
Sarawak's government hospitals, clinics and dispensaries are located in all towns and larger villages. There are numerous private medical clinics, as well as pharmacies and Chinese medicine shops.
Sarawak is eight hours ahead of GMT
Visitors are advised to remove their shoes before entering home or long houses of the local folk. They are encouraged to wear long sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts when visiting places of worship. Tourists who wish to swim or sun bathe must wear appropriate attire. Light and casual clothes as well as a good pair of walking or trekking shoes would suffice for day activities. If you plan to explore the jungle or participate in outdoor activities, the use of mosquito repellant and sun block is advised.
Sarawak is a famous pepper producer so be sure to bring some back for your friends. Visitors also purchase frozen seafood and caviar of a local fish. Local food such as "Belacan" shrimp paste, birds' nests, fruit preserves and pickles allow you to share a taste of Sarawak's local delicacies. "Kain Songket", "Batik", beaded jewelry, woven mats and rattan baskets are reminders of the native's ingenious use of natural products. The musically inclined may wish to bring a variety of traditional instruments, such as the "Sape", "Jatung Utang" wooden xylophone and native gongs and drums. One of the most popular items sought by tourists is locally manufactured Sarawak pottery.
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