Malaysia Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Malaysia
Threat level: Medium-High
Travel advisories are in place, and all non-essential travel to the islands off the eastern coast of Sabah are not to be visited from Kudat to Tawau, including (but not limited to) Lankayan, Mabul, Pom Pom, Kapalai, Litigan, Sipadan and Mataking. Please check with your travel operator before making plans to visit the country.
Malaysia is a popular backpacking destination, favoured by many on the south-east Asia route. For the most part, travellers enjoy their visit to the country and rarely come into any trouble providing they are sensible and respectful. Backpackers are advised to be aware of pickpockets who may target them, and thieves in hostels. You should ensure that important documents and valuables are left secure at all times.
Recent Security Risk Events
In April 2015, Malaysian Police and Intelligence arrested seventeen suspected militants who were involved in an alleged terror plot in the Malaysia capital of Kuala Lumpur. A number of those involved have been fighting with ISIL in the Middle East and had recently returned. The country is on high alert.
The general level of crime is quite high in certain areas and kidnapping is a real danger in the East of Malaysia, particularly in and around the islands off eastern Sabah.
On 28th June 2016, there was a blast in a bar in Malaysia, just outside of the capital Kuala Lumpur. The incident injured 6 people and Malaysian police have linked the attack to Islamic State after a number of extremist-related attacks in recent years. Travellers are advised to remain alert when visiting the country and watch out for any suspicious activity.
The threat of a terrorist incident in Malaysia is quite high. Over recent years there has been an increase in Islamist activity in the region and Malaysia offers a number of high profile soft targets as well being a tourist destination for many Westerners each year.
There is a high risk of kidnapping in part of the eastern coast, the Abu Sayyaf Group has kidnapped foreigners in the area of Sabah, on its coast and surrounding waters. The outcome has been of a high morbidity rate with hostages being murdered.
With poverty being an issue in much of the country crimes against westerners can turn particularly violent. Care should be taken at all times and visitors should be fully aware of their surroundings. Incidents of bag-snatching are common place and many crimes involving taxis at the airports and popular hotels. One particular issue with taxis is them dropping you off at the airport or hotel and just driving off with your luggage, so it is best to ensure that the driver exits the vehicle to open the trunk/boot before you pay him.
Attacks against ships travelling in and around Malaysia occur. People travelling aboard ship should take appropriate precautions.
Demonstrations can take place in Malaysia, when they do they can be handled quite strongly with the use of water cannons and tear gas, it is strongly advised you remove yourself from the area if such a public gathering occurs.
Credit card fraud is prevalent in Malaysia, so only withdraw money from ATMs of reputable banks, rather than from grocery stores or petrol stations. Stay vigilant when paying with your card at local shops, keep a watchful eye and maintain control of your card.
There have been some territorial disputes in the past with neighbouring countries and the larger Republic of China, however it has handled these disputes in the main through the international court system and diplomatically resolving these.
Since the September 11 attack Malaysia has worked closely with western countries in the fight against radicalism. It is part of many international organisations and associations such as UNESCO, the World Bank, IMF and a founding member of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations.
Road travel in Malaysia can be hazardous, many of the roads are in poor conditions and the standard of driving in the country and region is not the same as in Europe or the US. People drive on the left side of the road in Malaysia. You can drive in Malaysia for up to a year with an International Driving Permit.
You should respect local laws and customs when travelling through the country, a large majority of its residents are Muslims and as such appropriate clothing and behaviour should be undertaken especially when visiting places of worship.
Mopeds are often used as a cheap and quick method of transport, particularly by backpackers. There are rarely issues, however reckless driving and hazardous road conditions can sometimes lead to crashes, damaging both the vehicle and injuring the traveller. It is advised that you drive with caution and be aware of other road users.
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit
Time now in Kuala Lumpur:
British (and some other countries) stay in Malaysia for up to three months without a visa. It should be noted that Malaysia does not allow dual citizenship. Further advice can be found here: Visa advice Malaysia
It is advised that visitors to Malaysia are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You should ensure that you have been further vaccinated against diseases such as Tetanus, which is usually administered when you are a young baby. You may also want to consider Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations.
Although there is no direct risk of Yellow Fever in Malaysia, if you are coming from a country where there is a risk of the disease, or transiting for longer than 12 hours in an at-risk country, you will be required to provide a vaccination certificate. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
It is advised that all visitors take precautions against Malaria including the use of Malaria mosquito nets and anti-Malaria medications, particularly if visiting rural areas of the country.
Dengue Fever and Zika that are both viral illnesses transmitted to humans by mosquito bites, are present in Malaysia. There is no vaccine and prevention is through avoidance of mosquito bites. You can find more information on Dengue fever here: Dengue Fever facts
It is recommended against swimming in fresh water as Schistosomiasis can be contracted via a parasite that penetrate human skin when the water is contaminated.
Personal hygiene must be paramount, the local water supply avoided at all costs and bottled water inspected prior to consumption. A number of cases of bottled water being refilled with tap water and re-sold have come to our attention.
The medical facilities are up to standard in larger cities, however facilities beyond this are variable. It is recommended to check your medical insurance for coverage prior to travel as medical treatment can be expensive.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
There are seasonal storms present in Malaysia which can result in flooding and disruptions to infrastructure and general travel. There is also a high risk of earthquakes and geological activity in Malaysia and as such precautions and an understanding of what to do in such circumstances should be undertaken. You should allow plenty of time to travel to your destination if the country is experiencing adverse weather.
The air quality from June through to October can be affected by forest fires in Indonesia.
U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur
376 Jalan Tun Razak,
50400 Kuala Lumpur,
Telephone: +60 3 2168 5000
British High Commission Kuala Lumpur
185, Jalan Ampang,
Taman U Thant,
55000 Kuala Lumpur,
Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur,
Telephone: +60 3 2170 2200
Our office in Malaysia
In 2016 Intelligent Protection International Limited opened an office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to better serve our Clients.
For further information on our services in Malaysia, see: Close Protection ServicesIntelligent Protection International Limited - Malaysia
Tel: +60 32772 7346
Other useful info
Police emergency: 999 or 112 from a mobile telephone
Tourist Police: (Hotline) 03 2149 6590
Tourist Police: (Enquiries) 03 2149 6593
Fire emergency: 994 or 112 from a mobile telephone
Medical emergency: 999
Medical emergency: (St.John’s) 03-92851576
Medical emergency: (Red Crescent) 03-2164791