Exercise normal safety precautions in Malaysia overall. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour. Monitor the news and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
Reconsider your need to travel to the coastal resorts of eastern Sabah, including the islands, dive sites and associated tourist facilities, due to the high threat of kidnapping. The risk of kidnapping increases on the water and waterfront after nightfall and is highest in the area between the towns of Sandakan and Tawau. See
Safety and security.
- Terrorism is a threat, including in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities. Take official warnings seriously. Report any suspicious activity to police. Follow the advice of local authorities. See
Safety and security.
- Malaysian authorities have arrested a number of people allegedly involved in planning terror attacks, including against entertainment venues in Kuala Lumpur. See
Safety and security.
- Smoke haze across some parts of Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, is usual from June to October but can occur at any time of the year. When haze levels are high, authorities recommend limiting outdoor activity. See
- If you're intending to travel overland from Malaysia to Thailand, read our advice for
Thailand. Travel to or through the far southern provinces of Thailand is unsafe.
Travel smart for general advice for all travellers.
Entry and exit
If you're visiting Malaysia for tourism, you can get a visa on arrival for a stay of up to 90 days. If you're visiting for other purposes – such as business, volunteering, study or research – you may need to arrange a visa in advance.
Embassy, High Commission or Consulate of Malaysia for the most up-to-date information on visa requirements and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations).
If you violate your visa conditions or overstay your visa, you could face penalties including fines, detention and/or deportation.
- Always check the dates on the visa stamp placed in your passport are correct.
- Ensure you comply with immigration rules and regulations, including your visa conditions.
Foreigners entering Malaysia need to provide biometric fingerprints of both thumbs and index fingers on arrival. Children below 12 years of age and visitors with finger disabilities are exempt from this procedure.
Malaysia regulates the import of prescription and non-prescription medication. You may need a letter from your doctor for some medications. Contact the
Malaysian High Commission before you travel to check the rules regarding any medicines you take. Keep your medication in its original packaging. See
Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia. If you arrive with less than six months validity remaining on your passport, you could be denied entry and deported – even if you intended staying for just a few days.
Carry photo identification with you at all times. You'll need your passport to travel between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak).
Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.
Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you're forced to handover your passport, contact the Australian High Commission for advice.
If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.
The official currency is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
Declare on departure any Ringgit exceeding MYR30,000 or $US10,000 (or other currency equivalent). Larger amounts may be taken out of the country if declared on arrival.
ATMs are widely available throughout the country.
Safety and security
There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur and other major cities. Attacks could be indiscriminate and may affect locations frequented by Westerners, including in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities.
In June 2016, a grenade attack was carried out by Islamic State (ISIL)-linked terrorists at a bar in Puchong, Kuala Lumpur. Eight people were injured. The group has threatened more attacks.
Malaysian authorities have made a number of arrests of persons involved in planning terror attacks, including against entertainment venues in Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian Government has increased the visibility of its response to the threat. Joint patrols by police and military are in place at public places around Kuala Lumpur, including shopping and entertainment venues. Other possible targets include hotels, clubs, restaurants, schools, markets, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas.
- Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
- Exercise particular caution around locations known to be possible terrorist targets.
- Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
- Keep an eye on the news for any new or emerging threats.
- Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so.
Terrorist threat worldwide
Overland travel through Thailand
If you're intending to travel overland from Malaysia to Thailand, read our advice for
Thailand. Travel to or through the far southern provinces of Thailand is unsafe.
Kidnapping threat in Eastern Sabah
There is a high threat of kidnapping in the coastal areas of eastern Sabah, including islands, dive sites and associated tourist facilities. Extremists based in the southern Philippines are particularly active in the area between the towns of Sandakan and Tawau in eastern Sabah. Foreigners have also been kidnapped from nearby islands (Sipadan and Mataking) and surrounding waters. The risk of kidnapping increases on the water and waterfront after nightfall.
A number of successful and attempted kidnappings occurred in coastal areas of eastern Sabah in recent years. In November 2016, militants based in the southern Philippines attacked a yacht in waters between eastern Sabah and the Sulu archipelago. One German national was killed and another kidnapped. A number of commercial seamen were also kidnapped from cargo vessels in the area in 2016. In May 2015, gunmen entered a local seaside restaurant in Sandakan and abducted the manager and one customer (who was subsequently beheaded).
Malaysian authorities increased security in the region in response to these and similar incidents and the Sabah Government imposed restrictions on the use of waterways. Current security measures include:
- A curfew on travel by water from 6:00pm to 6:00am in six coastal districts of eastern Sabah state. This includes offshore areas up to three nautical miles (5.5 kilometres) from the coast.
- A requirement for all vessels travelling in the waters off Lahad Datu and Sandakan in daylight hours to first get a permit or permission from police. Vessels must travel only on designated routes.
- A ban on resort-organised water activities at night (such as diving and fishing).
- Establishment of the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) comprising the regions of Beluran, Kinabatangan, Kota Marudu, Kudat, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Pitas, Sandakan, Semporna and Tawau. There is an increased presence of security forces in the ESSZone.
The water travel curfew is subject to fortnightly extension. If you travel by water during curfew hours without permission, you could face a fine or up to six months in prison.
The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers.
If, despite our advice, you decide to travel to this area:
- seek professional security advice
- have effective personal security measures in place
- check whether your hotel has appropriate security measures in place
- exercise extreme caution.
Civil unrest and political tension
You could encounter protests or demonstrations on the streets or at certain venues in Malaysia. While rare, protest activity could lead to violence and could cause disruption to public services, including public transport, and traffic congestion.
Police permission is required for public gatherings and demonstrations. If you take part in a protest or demonstration, you could be arrested and deported.
- Avoid protests and demonstrations.
- Monitor the news and other sources for information on planned and possible unrest or strikes.
- Follow the advice of local authorities.
- Plan your activities to avoid unrest on days of national or commemorative significance
- Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions.
- If you're affected by transport disruptions, contact your airline, travel agent or insurer for assistance.
Petty crime is common.
Snatch-and-grab type robberies, where thieves snatch handbags, shoulder bags, jewellery, mobile phones and other valuables from pedestrians, occur regularly. Busy pedestrian crossings near major shopping malls are particular hotspots for this activity. Motor-cyclists (and occasionally thieves in other moving vehicles) pull bags from victims, often causing injuries.
Smash-and-grab type attacks against slow-moving and parked vehicles also occur. Handbags, expensive watches, jewellery and cameras are tempting targets for thieves.
Many tourists have lost passports and other valuables to thieves on trains from the airport and at airports.
Thieves sometimes work in groups at busy shopping centres. One or more thieves approach your with stories of distress or warnings for your safety. Meanwhile, other thieves steal your belongings.
- Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
- Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
- Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
- Walk on footpaths (where available), away from the curb, with your bag held on the opposite side to the traffic.
- When driving or parking your car, ensure valuables are kept out of sight.
- Ensure vehicle windows are closed and doors are locked at all times, including when moving.
- Pay close attention to your personal belongings, particularly in crowded areas, when travelling on trains from the airport and at airports.
- Be wary of approaches from strangers, particularly in shopping centres.
Fraud and scams
Credit card fraud is common throughout Malaysia. Credit cards are frequently copied in places ranging from small shops to large department stores and hotels for later illegal use.
- Keep your credit card in sight at all times.
Online scams have increased in recent years. Scammers tend to impersonate individuals in need of financial assistance, and can prey on persons looking for prospective companions on online dating websites.
- Be wary of requests for money.
- Don't send money or provide your bank details to anyone you do not know.
- Be cautious when sharing personal information with people you haven't met.
Scams involving gambling are also common. More information:
You could encounter violent crime in Malaysia.
Foreigners have been assaulted and robbed after their drinks were 'spiked', including in reputable establishments. Foreigners have also been assaulted by taxi drivers, especially in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
- Never accept food or drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
- If you aren't sure if a drink is safe, leave it.
- Stick with people you trust at parties and in bars, nightclubs and taxis.
- Don't hail taxis on the street, especially after dark.
- Book taxis by phone, use a shopping centre taxi desk or the My Teksi App.
- Confirm there is a licence (with photo) on the dashboard or seatback before entering a taxi. Check the driver's appearance matches the photo.
- If you're alone in a taxi, sit in the back seat.
- Keep your belongings with you when you're in a taxi.
- If your taxi stops to pick up additional passengers (which isn't allowed but sometimes happens), get out of the taxi when safe to do so.
Rideshare apps such as Uber and Grab are available. Use similar precautions when using these services as for using taxis.
If you travel between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), you'll need your passport.
If you intend to hire a car, motorcycle, jet ski or any other vehicle, check with your travel insurer that you would be covered by your insurance policy for any related damage and injuries.
Tours and adventure activities
The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including for adventure activities such as diving, aren't always met. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be followed.
- Don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements.
- Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't.
- If appropriate safety equipment isn't available, use another provider.
- If you plan to participate in adventure activities, talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy.
Motorcyclists are a common traffic hazard. They often weave through traffic, drive through red lights and pedestrian crossings and travel on the wrong side of the road to beat traffic congestion. Increasingly, drivers who react by shouting, gesturing or tooting their horn at motorcyclists, are physically confronted and sometimes assaulted. You're four times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Malaysia than in Australia.
- Drive defensively.
- Avoid road rage. Don't respond to bad driving.
To drive in Malaysia, you need a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) prior to arrival. You can drive with an IDP for up to 90 days. See Road safety and driving page for relevant IDP authority.
If you intend to drive in Malaysia for a longer period, you'll need a local driver's licence.
Road safety and driving
Some taxi drivers, particularly in tourist spots or when roads are jammed, refuse to use the meter despite a law requiring them to use it.
SPAD, the government body regulating taxis, has an English language hotline for reporting problems. To make a report, provide details such as the vehicle number, the taxi company name, the time/date/location of the incident and the name of the driver (if known).
- Always ask whether the driver will use the meter (or agree the fare) before you get in a taxi.
- At the start of your trip, take note of the vehicle number, the taxi company name and the name of the driver.
- If problems arise, call SPAD's English language hotline on 1 800 88 7732.
There have been fatal and other serious accidents involving long-distance tour buses, particularly at night or in adverse weather conditions. If you plan to travel by bus, choose a reputable company and avoid overnight routes.
In recent years, several passenger boats have sunk because of overloading and poor vessel maintenance.
- Ensure appropriate safety equipment is available before booking tickets on a passenger ferry, speedboat or other vessel.
- Don't travel on any vessel that looks overloaded or in poor condition.
- When you board, confirm life jackets are available and accessible for all passengers.
- In bad weather, wear a life jacket, even if others don't.
A curfew on travel by water from 6:00pm to 6:00am in the coastal districts of eastern Sabah state. This includes offshore areas up to three nautical miles (5.5 kilometres) from the coast. The water travel curfew is subject to fortnightly extension. If you travel by water during curfew hours without permission, you could face a fine or up to six months in prison.
Yachts and other vessels in the southern Sulu Sea and those sailing between Sabah, Malaysia and Palawan in the Philippines are at risk from kidnapping. In November 2016, a yacht was attacked in waters between eastern Sabah and Sulu by militants based in the southern Philippines. One German national was killed, and another kidnapped and later beheaded. In April 2014, two German nationals were kidnapped from their yacht in the Sulu Sea and held captive for six months. See
Safety and security.
Piracy in south-east Asian waters is an ongoing problem, particularly in the Strait of Malacca, around Tioman Island off peninsular Malaysia's east coast in the South China Sea, and in the waters between Sabah and the southern Philippines. The
International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issues weekly piracy reports.
Reconsider your need to travel by boat in the southern Sulu Sea, including in the waters between Sabah, Malaysia and Palawan in the Philippines.
- Check IMB piracy reports, seek local advice and take appropriate security measures before any travel by boat in the Strait of Malacca.
The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the
Aviation Safety Network for information on aviation incidents in Malaysia.
National parks are protected areas and some are home to ethnic minority groups.
- Be respectful of the law and customs in these areas. If in doubt, seek local advice.
- Don't remove any wildlife or plants from the park.
- Before entering a park, register your plans with park officials and let a reliable person know of your plans.
You're subject to local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our
Consular services charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Death penalty for drug offences
Penalties for drug offences are severe and can include the death penalty for drug trafficking.
Under Malaysian civil law, which applies to everyone in Malaysia, it's unclear whether or not (and in what conditions) surrogacy is legal. However, under Sharia law (which applies only to Muslims), surrogacy is clearly illegal.
Surrogacy isn't practised openly in Malaysia. It is mostly a private arrangement made between the surrogate and the commissioning parents.
Seek independent legal advice before entering into a surrogacy arrangement.
Some aspects of Sharia (Islamic) Law are enforced in Malaysia. Kelantan and Terengganu states are stricter than other states. Such laws apply to all Muslims, including those from Australia. Research applicable laws before you travel.
Penalties for criminal offences, including certain drug offences, commercial crime, rape and robbery, may include corporal punishment.
Homosexual acts are illegal. Punishment can include whipping and up to 20 years in prison for homosexual acts involving either men or women.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal. Penalties are strictly enforced.
Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:
- bribery of foreign public officials
- child pornography
- child sex tourism
- female genital mutilation
- forced marriage
- money laundering
Staying within the law
Malaysia is a multicultural but predominantly Islamic country. There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in many areas.
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between mid-May and mid-June 2018.
- Respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times.
- Find out what customs are at your destination. If in doubt, seek local advice.
- Ensure your words or actions don't offend others' cultural or religious beliefs.
- During Ramadan, take particular care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs.
- If you aren't fasting during Ramadan, avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting.
Information for dual nationals
Malaysia doesn't recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Malaysian dual nationals who are arrested or detained. If you're a Australian-Malaysian dual national, travel on your Australian passport at all times.
If Malaysian authorities find out you hold both Australian and Malaysian citizenship you may need to renounce either your Australian or Malaysian citizenship immediately.
Take out comprehensive
travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.
Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.
- what circumstances and activities are and aren't covered under your policy
- that you're covered for the whole time you'll be away.
Physical and mental health
Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
- At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
- Get vaccinated before you travel.
Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. Restrictions may also apply to some medications available over the counter in Australia.
If you intend to bring prescription or non-prescription medication, contact a
Malaysian High Commission, Embassy or Consulate to confirm it is legal and to check the rules that apply. If your medicine is illegal in Malaysia, consult your doctor in Australia about alternatives.
Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Keep your medicines in their original packaging. Always carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.
Smoke haze often occurs from June to October but it can occur at any time. Monitor the haze situation and any health warnings issued by the Malaysian government and seek your own medical advice. When haze levels are high, authorities recommend limiting outdoor activity. Regular air quality reports are available from the
Malaysian Department of the Environment.
Dengue fever is common, including in major urban areas. Serious outbreaks occur occasionally. There was a significant increase in cases of dengue in 2015 and 2016. There is no vaccination or specific treatment available for dengue fever.
There is some transmission of Zika virus. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and to defer non-essential travel to affected areas. The Department of Health's
Zika virus bulletin includes other advice for on how to minimise Zika virus risks. There is no vaccination available for Zika virus.
Malaria is a risk in rural areas but is less common in urban and coastal areas. Outbreaks of other mosquito-borne illnesses (including chikungunya fever and filariasis) also occur. Reported cases of Japanese encephalitis have increased in recent years.
The risk of contracting mosquito-borne illnesses increases during the wet season.
Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:
- ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
- take measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
- take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary
- get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel
- discuss your travel plans and other vaccination needs with your doctor before you travel
- if you are pregnant, defer non-essential travel to Zika-affected areas.
Rabies is a potentially fatal viral disease that can be found in dogs, monkeys, bats and other mammals. The most recent cases were reported in the state of Sarawak and were transmitted through feral dog and cat bites. Rabies can also be contracted when a rabid animal's saliva gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin.
- Avoid direct contact with dogs and other mammals.
- If you're bitten or scratched by a dog, monkey or other mammal, immediately use soap and water to wash the wound thoroughly. Seek urgent medical attention.
Other infectious diseases
Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, tuberculosis, typhoid, cholera, and hand, foot and mouth disease) are common, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.
- Boil drinking water or drink bottled water.
- Avoid ice cubes.
- Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
- Seek medical attention if you suspect poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.
Stings from jellyfish and other marine animals can be fatal. Seek advice from local authorities, your tour operator or hotel regarding swimming conditions, precautions and other dangers.
Black henna tattoos
Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions.
Private hospitals with international standard facilities can be found in major cities. Public hospitals in major cities have a good range of medical services but access can be slow. Services are more limited in rural areas.
Most private hospitals need a cash deposit or a confirmation of insurance prior to admission and expect immediate payment for services. You'll need to pay for any treatment you get at government hospitals.
Decompression chambers are located in Kuantan, Lumut, Ipoh, Semporna and Labuan.
Medical tourism, including for cosmetic surgery, is common. Standards at discount and uncertified medical establishments can be poor. Serious and possibly life-threatening complications can result.
- Research and choose your medical service providers carefully.
- Don't be lured to discount or uncertified medical service providers.
- Check your travel insurance covers you if things go wrong with your surgery – most don't.
If there is a natural disaster:
- secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag)
- contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts
- closely monitor the media, weather reports, other local sources of information, the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
- follow the advice of local authorities
- check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.
Earthquakes and tsunamis
Earthquakes occur in Malaysia. In 2015 a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck in Sabah. It caused a number of deaths and injuries among climbers on Mount Kinabalu.
Coastal regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but Malaysia and its neighbours' susceptibility to earthquakes makes destructive tsunamis more likely.
Flooding and landslides are common during the wet season (October to February). Severe rainstorms can result in loss of life, and extensive damage to infrastructure. Essential services can be interrupted.
More information: Severe weather
Where to get help
Depending on what you need, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer, or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Emergency phone numbers
- Firefighting and rescue services: 999
- Medical emergencies: 999
- Police: 999 or contact the Royal Malaysia Police Operations Centre on +60 321 159 999 or +60 322 662 222
Always get a police report when reporting a crime.
Tourism services and products
For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.
Consular services charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
For consular assistance contact:
Australian High Commission, Kuala Lumpur
6 Jalan Yap Kwan Seng
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Telephone: (+60 3) 2146 5555/2146 5575
Facsimile: (+60 3) 2141 5773
Facebook: Australia in Malaysia
High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
You can also get limited consular assistance, including lodging Australian passport applications, at the following Australian Consulates headed by Honorary Consuls:
Australian Consulate, Penang
14A (1st Floor), Lorong Abu Siti,
Telephone: (+60 4) 226 8955
Facsimile: (+60 4) 228 3366
Australian Consulate, Kota Kinabalu
Suite 10.1, Level 10
Wisma Great Eastern
65 Jalan Gaya
88000 Kota Kinabalu
Telephone: (+60 88) 267 151
Fax: (+60 88) 266 509
Australian Consulate, Sarawak
E39 Level 2
Taman Sri Sarawak Mall
Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman
Telephone: (+60 82) 230 777
Facsimile: (+60 82) 313 388
If you're unable to contact the High Commission or nearby Consulate in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1800 808 449 within Malaysia. If you're in Australia, call 1300 555 135.