Southeast Asia's southwest and northeast monsoons affect Malaysia's coasts and highlands differently depending on their location and elevation. But not all that differently.
Given Malaysia's equatorial location between 1° and 7°N, the country as a whole feels wet, humid, and occasionally sunny all year round, with only minor variations on the three depending on what part of Malaysia you find yourself in.
The southwest coast, for instance,experiences heavy rains during the southwest monsoon, just as the east coast experiences mostly sunny days.
- Blame it on the rain: read our monsoon season travel tips.
Weather on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia
The cities of Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Malacca and the rest of the west coast tends to be unvaryingly hot and humid, with rains happening almost daily and temperatures ranging between 22°C (71.6) to 32°C (89.6) all year round.
The "rainy season" (southwest monsoon) between May and October brings only slightly heavier rains than usual, with September-October rains falling especially heavily on the northern part of the coast (where Langkawi and Penang can be found). Smart divers avoid scheduling dives at this time of the year for precisely this reason.
For the present weather in the following locations on the peninsular west coast of Malaysia, visit the links next to each location.
"NOAA" links to current weather forecasts made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, under the auspices of the U.S. government. "WWIS" links to current weather forecasts made by the World Meteorological Organization's World Weather Information Service, under the auspices of the United Nations.
- Kuala Lumpur: WWIS
- Penang: NOAA, WWIS
- Malacca: NOAA, WWIS
- Ipoh: WWIS
- Petaling Jaya: WWIS
- Sepang/KL International Airport: NOAA, WWIS
Weather in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Weather in Peninsular Malaysia's highlands benefit from their lofty elevation on the slopes of the Titiwangsa Mountains. Annual mean temperatures of 18°C (64.4) drives city slickers to make the long drive to highland areas like the Cameron Highlands and Genting Highlands during the weekends or during summer breaks. Rains do fall at any time of the year, with peak rainfall occurring between September and November.
For the present weather in Cameron Highlands, visit this link: WWIS
Weather on Malaysia's East Coast
Weather on Peninsular Malaysia's east coast tends to be dry and sunny from May to October, benefiting from exposure to the South China Sea's warm currents and friendly winds during the southwest monsoon season (contrast this with driving rains on the opposite coast at the same time of the year).
But as soon as the northeast monsoon hits, the east coast experiences massive rains that often shut down east coast beach resorts (like those in Tioman Island and the Perhentian Islands) between November and April.
For the present weather in the following locations on the peninsular east coast of Malaysia, visit the links next to each location.
Weather in East Malaysia
The states of Sarawak and Sabah experience average temperatures between 27°C (80.6) – 32°C (89.6), along with high humidity of about 80 percent. These states on Borneo experience heavy rains during the northeast season, just like on Peninsular Malaysia's east coast; around here, though, the rains reach a torrential peak during January.
For the present weather in the following locations in East Malaysia, visit the links next to each location.
- Kota Kinabalu: NOAA, WWIS
- Kuching: NOAA, WWIS
- Labuan: NOAA, WWIS
- Miri: NOAA, WWIS
- Sandakan: NOAA, WWIS
- Sibu: NOAA, WWIS
When to Visit, What to Wear
Best time to visit. As different parts of the country experience different weather conditions during the same time of the year, the best time to visit Malaysian destinations will vary depending on where you plan to go.
The same southwest monsoon that makes the Peninsular east coast a sunny beach escape bring driving rains to Malacca and Penang.
Time your visit during the drier seasons in January and February (on the west coast); June and July (on the east coast); and April to July in East Malaysia.
- Just go: Read our top reasons for visiting Malaysia.
Recommended Clothing in Malaysia. Bring lightweight cotton clothing; this is worn any time of year. Even if you're arriving during the dry season, bring rainwear: as rains can occur at any season. If visiting mosques or temples is on your to-do list, bring clothes that cover upper arms, shoulders and legs.
- Cover it up: Read our dos and don't's for visiting mosques.