Travel agents and hotels usually pick up their guests from the airport. Taxis into town are readily available, paid for by a ‘taxi coupon’ purchased at the airport.
Non Malaysians need a valid passport, with a minimum of six months validity from their arrival date. Sarawak has its own immigration control; arrivals from Sabah or Peninsular Malaysia still need to undergo immigration clearance. Visitors to Brunei may need to apply for a Brunei visa. For peninsular Malaysians and Sabahans, Mykad may be used for immigration clearance and those intending to stay beyond six months, passport is required.
Miri, like the rest of Sarawak and Malaysia, is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 16 hours ahead of US Pacific Standard time.
Bahasa Malaysia, or Malay, is the national language. However, English is widely spoken. Other languages used in Miri include Iban, Bidayuh, Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Lun Bawang, Mandarin and several Chinese dialects.
The official religion practiced in Malaysia is Islam, but freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution. There are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and followers of other faiths living here.
Electric voltage is 220-240 (50 cycles).
The type of power plugs used is the three-square pin variety. Major hotels will be able to supply adapters. There is electricity in all towns and national parks.
Rental cars are available in Miri. A traveler planning to venture far beyond the town is well advised to take a map, though the main roads are reasonably well signposted. The cost of car rental is about RM120 a day (within Miri) and RM250 a day for travel beyond Miri. Weekly rates are around RM650. Price may be subject to change.
Lightweight, cool and casual clothes are best for the tropical climate. Shorts are acceptable for women, even in town, so long as they are not too skimpy. Visitor to places of worship must adhere to the regulations imposed. Cotton shorts and t-shirts are best for going on excursions and when trekking in the jungles.
Shopping centers open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm daily. Family run shops tend to open earlier. Government offices are open from Monday to Thursday from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. On Fridays, offices are open from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon, and from 2:15 pm to 5:00 pm, closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Malaysian ringgit (RM) is the local currency. The lowest denomination is 1 sen or RM0.01 and the highest denomination is 100 ringgit or RM100. Travellers have to declare an amount exceeding RM1,000 in local currency or more than US2,500 in foreign currency including traveler’s cheques at the point of entry.
Most star-rated hotels offer money-changing services. Major foreign currencies and travellers’ cheques can be easily changed in Miri. Moneychangers, found mainly in the old town, offer the best exchange rates (cash only). They have long opening hours, and often operate on Sundays as well. ATM machines at the airport, in bank porches and in the shopping malls take all major ATM and credit cards.
Banks are easily found in shopping centers or in the downtown area. Their opening hours are from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm from Monday to Friday. Their exchange rates for cash are lower than the moneychangers, but they do accept travellers’ cheques.
Credit cards such as American Express, Visa, Mastercard and Diners Club are accepted in most hotels and in the bigger restaurants and shops in Miri and other towns. Elsewhere, cash is preferred.
A ten percent service charge and five percent government tax is levied in all hotels and big restaurants. Tipping is not customary, but at the guest’s discretion. It is not out of place to give a tip of RM1 or RM2 to bellboys.
Sarawak is comparatively free from the more dangerous tropical diseases. Travelers do not need malaria prophylactics unless they intend to travel into the far interior near the Indonesian border.
Miri is the medical service center for Northern Sarawak. It has a general hospital, a polyclinic, two private hospitals and 30 private medical and dental clinics. A Dialysis Center is run by the Miri Red Crescent Society. Outside Miri, there are government clinics or hospitals in even the most remote locations. Hotels have doctors on call in case of emergencies.
Miri pharmacies are open seven days a week, usually from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. The resident pharmacist is qualified to fill prescriptions. In smaller towns, patent medicines are available in general stores.
Miri has a comprehensive domestic and international telecommunications system, allowing direct phone calls to all parts of the world. Telephone cards (Telekom or Unicard) can be purchased at values of RM10, RM20, RM30 or RM50 at post offices and general stores.
Cell phones can only be used within a specified radius of the larger towns. The international dialing code for Malaysia is 60; to call Miri from overseas dial 6085 followed by the number. To call overseas from Miri, dial 00, followed by the country code, area code and number.
Stamps are on sale at post offices and most hotels. A postcard costs 50 cents to any country outside Malaysia. Poslaju (Express post) and courier services are available for faster delivery.
The main English newspapers are the Borneo Post and the Sarawak Tribune. The Chinese daily ‘United Daily News’ is published in Miri and other Chinese dailies such as ‘Sin Chew Jit Poh’ and ‘See Hua Daily News’ are available daily. Newspapers are of interest to the traveler for local information, including details of bus and boat timetables.
The local radio channel RTM Miri broadcasts in Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin, Kenyah, Kayan and Iban. CATS Radio is based in Kuching and Capital FM 94.4 is the Brunei radio station. Sarawak receives satellite TV transmissions from Peninsular Malaysia on three channels, TV1, TV2 and TV3 and private subscribers 24 hours channels such as ASTRO and NTV7.
In some hotels, TV channels include the BBC World News, CNN and music videos on HBO.