Updated: Mar 17, 2018
In an earlier post, I shared some planning considerations for travelling around Singapore public holidays in 2018 and briefly talked about holidays in Malaysia — since it is the closest destination to Singapore, cheap and a popular choice among Singapore residents (not just Singaporeans).
In this post, I will go in-depth to look at public holidays and school holidays in both Singapore and Malaysia and how they can affect a travel plan to Malaysia.
Read this if you are planning to travel to other places:
Singapore Public Holidays in 2018
Singapore has 11 public holidays each year (more on Ministry of Manpower website).
There will be 4 holidays resulting in long weekends:
New Year's Day (1 Jan, Monday)
Chinese New Year (16-17 Feb, Friday & Saturday)
Good Friday (30 Mar, Friday)
Hari Raya Puasa (15 Jun, Friday)
These holidays will be on weekdays:
Labour Day (1 May, Tuesday)
Vesak Day (29 May, Tuesday)
National Day (9 Aug, Thursday)
Hari Raya Haji (22 Aug, Wednesday)
Deepavali (6 Nov, Tuesday)
Christmas (25 Dec, Tuesday)
Except for Hari Raya Haji, which falls on a Wednesday, the rest are mostly on Tuesdays and one on Thursday. By taking one day annual leave (for those with 5-workdays per week), each of the weekday-holidays can be "long weekend" too.
Malaysia Public Holidays in 2018
Malaysia has an average of 3 to 4 public holidays per month — total of 45 in a year but affect each of the 13 Malaysian states differently — so I will not list them all here. For travelling to a particular state during a particular period, do visit this website (on officeholidays.com) to check the respective public holidays.
In summary, all the public holidays in Singapore, except National Day, will also be public holidays in Malaysia. Singapore's National Day is on 9th August whereas Malaysia will be having their's on 31st August. Also, Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji are one-day holidays in Singapore but two days each in Malaysia.
Singapore & Malaysia School Holidays in 2018
Based on Ministry of Education (MOE) website, Singapore's school holidays will be as follow:
1st Term: 10-18 March
Mid-Year: 26 May - 24 June
2nd Term: 1-9 September
End-Year: 17 November - 31 December
For Malaysia's school holidays, I referred to this website since Malaysia's MOE website is in Bahasa Melayu.
1st Term: 16-25 March
Mid-Year: 8-24 June
2nd Term: 17-26 August
End-Year: 23 November - 31 December
Both Singapore and Malaysia will be having school holidays in June and December. The term holidays are staggered, so there will be no overlapping except for 16-18 March 2018.
Our Planning Considerations
The basis of our considerations will be on what we discussed earlier in this article:
In general, travelling during public holidays is expensive due to higher demands and also because those who need to work during the holidays are paid higher than normal days. Travelling to Malaysia during the school holidays will be crowded and expect traffic jams on the causeway and in popular tourist places.
Travelling on a public holiday during a school holiday is silly — pay more for the trip and yet get caught in huge crowds and traffic jams.
#1. Beginning of the New Year
The first day of the year is always New Year's Day. It is not a day to start travelling for most people but a day to end all holidays and prepare for the first day of work and school the next day.
For travellers who are not constrained by the school terms, the second week of January till Chinese New Year in mid-February is a better time to travel to Malaysia after waiting out the December holiday season. The only consideration is the Northeast Monsoon season with more rains than usual, and it impacts outdoor activities and low-land areas the most (see #8).
This reasoning applies to New Year's Day of 2019, at the end of this year.
#2. Avoid Chinese Places during Chinese New Year (CNY)
It is a major holiday in Singapore and Malaysia. All businesses will close on the eve of CNY, followed by two days of official holidays. Local businesses will close shop for at least 2 days, whereas traditional Chinese businesses may be closed for up to 7 days or more. Most places of attraction will be opened though.
In tourist places like Malacca Old Town, Ipoh Old Town, Georgetown, etc, some shops may open for businesses on the second day of CNY but will make up for the public holidays with off-days after the festive season — creating a lull period with many shops and food outlets closed. Some shops may choose to close for several days within the 15 days after CNY. However, there will be many more tourists — including Chinese tour groups.
To avoid disappointment, it will be better to skip any Chinese places for 2 weeks from CNY eve. But crowds will not decrease after the festive season as the first-term school holidays of both Singapore and Malaysia will kick in one after another (10-25 March). Followed by another long weekend for Good Friday (30th March to 1st April).
Places closer to Singapore, such as Malacca, will be more crowded than places to the north of West Malaysia. And, do not plan a holiday to Malaysia on Good Friday — see #3.
#3. Take note of Ching Ming Day (Tomb Sweeping Day)
Ching Ming Day is on either 4th or 5th April 2018 (weekdays) but they are not public holidays. However, traffic around this period, especially on weekends in the two weeks prior to the actual day and one week after, can get highly congested as Chinese will go to cemeteries to clean and tidy their ancestors' tombs. Many people will also cross the Straits of Johor leading to heavy congestion on the causeway and Second Link.
In short, the causeway, the 2nd Link and all roads leading to cemeteries in Singapore and Malaysia will be heavily congested during the Ching Ming period.
It will be better to avoid travelling to Malaysia during the period from mid-March to second week of April for travels or weekend day-trips. For tomb sweeping, it is advisable to take annual leaves and go on weekdays — no point wasting many hours in traffic jams starting as early as 4am on weekends. If you can think of going early to beat the crowds and traffic jams, others will too.
#4. Labour Day
First day of May is a day where most of the world will be on holiday and China's golden week, which can be 3-5 days consecutively. It is a not a public holiday to be travelling anywhere.
Crowded Malacca during Labour Day in 2015.
Other than the few days around Labour Day, the period from mid-April to end of May is the best time to travel to Malaysia — just that the weather can be hot and humid during this time with late afternoon showers.
#5. The School Holidays
During the June and December school holidays, most Singaporeans will travel to tourist places closer to Singapore, such as Malacca and Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia's internal tourists will also crowd their own country. So, places as far as Malacca will be much more crowded than those further north.
In general, June and December school holidays are not good travelling times to Malaysia. There will be crowds every where and expensive accommodations, flights and transports. And not to mention traffic jams on the roads as most Malaysians drive.
The months of July and January will be low-peak travelling seasons.
#6. The month of August
Singapore's National Day is on 9th, Hari Raya Haji on 22nd and 23rd, Malaysia's school holiday from 17th-26th and their National Day on 31st. Immediately after 31st August is one-week school holiday in Singapore. And followed by 2 public holidays in Malaysia on 11th and 16th September.
Planning a short trip in early August is still manageable but expect more crowds from mid-August to first two weeks of September. Between 17th September to November will be good times to plan a long trip to Malaysia. Don't wait until December.
#7. Year-End Holidays
As mentioned above, December is not good times to travel in Malaysia due to school holidays, the Northeast Monsoon season and the Christmas holiday season. But many people will still make use of the year-end holidays to go over.
This year's Christmas and New Year's Day will fall on Tuesdays, so it may not be as crowded and congested as 2017. Nevertheless, we don't travel during this period. It can still be crowded, rainy and more expensive than usual.
Understand and make better plans:
#8. The Monsoon Seasons
Other than the holidays, the climate should be taken into considerations too. The two monsoon seasons in Southeast Asia are the Southwest Monsoon between the months of June and September and the Northeast Monsoon from November to March.
Sheltered by the large land masses of Sumatra, Indonesia, the Southwest Monsoon will bring some light rains to Singapore and Malaysia. But during the Northeast Monsoon, heavy torrential rains from the South China Sea will pound the east side of West Malaysia and whole of East Malaysia, forcing most tourist places to shut down. Most low-land places in Penang, Muar, Terengganu, Kuantan, etc, may also experience flooding.
Avoid outdoor activities, such as nature-hiking and mountain-climbing, during the wet seasons or take necessary measures. April-May and September-November periods will be hot and humid but are better for outdoor travels.
Other than the public holidays and school holidays, the other days will be cheaper for travelling in Malaysia, less crowded and easier to get around to places. Take note of the lull periods after the holidays, where most shops will close to make up for off-days. The longer a holiday period — especially school holidays — the longer the lull period that follows.
For those who want to make use of public holidays to travel, take note of our discussions above. With a full year to plan for travels, don't wait until December.
Get around West Malaysia with public transports: