There is a new generation of Chinese tourists: FITs. Arriving in large groups on tour buses is becoming a thing of the past — 60-70% of travelers from China over the last few years have been FITs.
Malaysia is a popular destination for this kind of tourist. Getting away from group tours means that FITs can explore this fascinating country at their leisure and delve deeper into its blend of cultures. There is something for every kind of traveler, from the natural beauty of the landscape to its historical buildings; from paragliding in Borneo to shopping in Kuala Lumpur.
There is a lot to explore and many hidden gems waiting to be discovered by a certain kind of tourist. First, what is a FIT? What does Malaysia have to offer for this type of Chinese visitor?
What Does FIT Stand For?
The acronym “FIT” is often quoted as standing for “free independent traveler” or “fully independent traveler”. Originally, it stood for “foreign independent tour”, but this definition is less common nowadays.
The meaning of all these terms is more-or-less the same, with the important part being the word they all share: “independent”.
What Is a Free Independent Traveler?
A free independent traveler is a type of tourist who plans their own travel, avoiding mass tourism, package holidays, and group tours.
FITs may travel on their own, in a couple, or in a small group of friends or family members. In general, they like to organize their travel itinerary themselves. FITs explore their destinations in their own time, often immersing themselves in the local food, culture, architecture, and history.
Many free independent travelers choose to avoid destinations already overflowing with tourists. FIT travel is more suited for travelers who want to get off the beaten track and experience a destination’s lesser-known gems.
What Is the Difference Between FIT and GIT?
GIT stands for “group inclusive tour”. Unlike FIT holidaymakers, GITs have fixed itineraries and departure times catering for a group of people (usually 5-10 minimum) who may or may not know each other.
These organized tours tend to be cheaper than free independent travel, as they come as a package. This can include accommodation, transport, visas, excursions, etc. For those wanting the freedom to explore, however, FIT is the better option.
What Are the Advantages of FIT Tourism for Chinese Visitors to Malaysia?
FIT travel is becoming increasingly popular among Chinese tourists. While in the past, many Chinese travelers would opt to see the sights from tour buses, more and more are traveling solo or in couples, looking to experience new cultures and see natural wonders up close.
Because Malaysia is a popular destination among Chinese travelers, it is also making a concerted effort to attract these solo tourists. But what makes this country of Southeast Asia such an excellent destination for free independent travelers from China?
Sun and Sand in Sabah
The Malaysian state of Sabah is one of the most popular destinations for Chinese free independent travelers. Located in the north of the island of Borneo, Sabah is known for its many beautiful beaches and islands, so there are lots of options for people planning their own holidays to find the perfect scenic spot to stop.
Aside from the scenery and beaches, cities like Kota Kinabalu offer great shopping opportunities for tourists looking to avoid the crowds. The night market is a great place for independent travelers to sample local dishes.
FITs who want to avoid the busier beaches of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and the bustle of the city may prefer to search for a campsite, climb Mount Kinabalu, or engage in extreme sports such as white-water rafting or paragliding.
The other plus for Chinese visitors is that Mandarin is spoken not only by the large local ethnic Chinese population but by a lot of other locals too.
Natural Wonders and Wildlife of Malaysia
More and more, young FITs from China are traveling to see wildlife and areas of natural beauty, rather than for sun and sand.
Malaysia is a hot-spot of biodiversity. Forests cover ⅔ of the country, much of it tropical rainforest. There are many plant and animal species that can only be found here. Borneo is famously one of the few places on earth where orangutans live.
FITs can plan their own trips to Malaysia’s rainforests and national parks and visit conservation areas, rehabilitation centers, and national parks to see the great apes.
There are also many lesser-known locations to explore, such as the Mossy Forest of the Cameron Highlands that independent travelers might find enjoyable.
Experience Malaysian Cuisine as a FIT
The island of Penang (and its capital, Georgetown) is regarded as the best place to experience Malaysian cuisine. While many tourists head for Gurney Drive, FITs may prefer to ask the locals for their food recommendations or, if on a budget, try some of the famous street food.
Malaysia is a nation made up of many cultures. In addition to the native Malay and Bornean cultures, there are influences for neighboring Sumatra, Java, Singapore, and Thailand, as well as from China and India. Malaysian cuisine shows a similar blend of influences.
Noodle-based dishes, such as Char Koay Teow are commonplace. Malaysia was part of the ancient spice route and visitors can expect much of the food to be quite spicy.
How to Travel to Malaysia as a FIT
Chinese visitors to Malaysia can plan their holiday independently using online resources to choose their destination and method of travel. Some FITs may use the expertise of a travel agent to help them plan their itinerary.
In order to enter Malaysia, Chinese citizens must acquire a valid visa. There are a number of different types of visa to enter Malaysia and Chinese FITs are eligible to apply for several of these. Before you decide, make sure to learn more about Malaysia visa requirements for Chinese citizens.