Asia and Oceania

Malaysia Flag of Malaysia

Still current at: 11 June 2008
Updated: 15 May 2008


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Health section (prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Malaysia). The overall level of the advice has not changed.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • There is a general threat from terrorism in Malaysia.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  See the Terrorism section of this advice for more details.

  • We believe that terrorists and criminal elements are continuing with plans to kidnap foreign tourists from the islands and coastal areas of Eastern Sabah. Boats travelling to and from offshore islands and dive sites are possible targets.  If you wish to visit resorts on, and islands off, Eastern Sabah, you should exercise extreme caution.

  • If you plan to travel over the border to Thailand you should be aware that there has been a resurgence of terrorism in southern Thailand, particularly in the far southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla.  We advise against all but essential travel to these Thai provinces.  See the travel advice for Thailand for more details.

  • You should not become involved with drugs of any kind: possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment or the death penalty.  See the Local Laws and Customs section of this advice for more details.

  • Around 250,000 British nationals visit Malaysia each year (Source: Immigration Malaysia).  Most visits are trouble-free.  The main types of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in 2007 were for replacing lost and stolen passports; assisting victims of bag snatching and gambling scams; and deaths, mostly from natural causes.

  • Malaysia is a multicultural but predominantly Muslim country, and as such you should respect local social conventions at all times.  See the Local Laws and Customs section of this advice for more details.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.   See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.

Safety and security

Terrorism
 
There is a general threat from terrorism in Malaysia.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  For further information see Terrorism Abroad.
 
In neighbouring Indonesia, Westerners were killed and injured following the terrorist attacks in Bali (October 2002 and October 2005) and Jakarta (August 2003 and September 2004). 
 
We believe that terrorists and criminal elements are continuing with plans to kidnap foreign tourists from the islands and coastal areas of Eastern Sabah. Boats travelling to and from offshore islands and dive sites are possible targets. If you wish to visit resorts on, and islands off, Eastern Sabah (from Kudat eastwards to Tawau), you should exercise extreme caution. Foreign nationals were kidnapped from the Malaysian island of Sidapan in 2000, and from a resort near Lahad Datu in 2003. On 12 April 2004, a Malaysian vessel was hijacked and three crew members taken hostage just outside Malaysian waters off the eastern coastline of Sabah.  In 2001, kidnappers took hostages (including two foreigners) from the Philippines island of Palawan, close to the Philippine/Malaysian border.  One of the hostages was later killed and the other rescued.
 
You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
 
The Malaysian Government has put in place measures to combat terrorism and has arrested a number of terrorist suspects.  In Sabah, the authorities have increased security, but there is a continuing risk of further incidents.  If you wish to go to remote areas, you are advised to register your itinerary with the local police or your hotel/tour operator beforehand. 
 
If you plan to travel over the border to Thailand you should be aware that since January 2004 there has been a resurgence of terrorism in southern Thailand, particularly in the far southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla.  We recommend against all but essential travel to these four Thai provinces. Since January 2004, there have been almost daily attacks in the far south.  These include arson, bombings and shootings.  Over 2500 people have been killed and several thousand more injured.  Tourist hotels and bars, shops, market places, transport infrastructure, in particular rail tracks and in trains, have all been targeted.  No British nationals have been killed in these attacks, but some foreign citizens have been killed and injured.  For more information you should read the Travel Advice for Thailand
 
Crime
 
You should be aware of the dangers of street crime, particularly bag snatching and pickpockets - and scams involving gambling or spiked drinks.  You should:
 
  • Take particular care of your passport, as visitors' passports have been stolen on aircraft, in airport terminals, and from hotel rooms.
  • Be cautious if approached by a stranger who seems interested to learn more about the UK, and introduces you to his or her family and friends.  The individual, often a female, will befriend you and attempt to gain your confidence.  Organised groups are known to be using this approach as a ploy to take you back to their house where you will be encouraged to play cards, at the end of which victims are intimidated into paying large sums of money, or making forced purchases of jewellery as payment of gambling debts.  These groups are sometimes armed. They are currently very active and are known to operate in major tourist areas, including shopping centres, food malls and around hostels/hotels.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when parking your car – there have been an increasing number of violent attacks on people getting in and out of their cars when parked by the roadside or in open-air car parks.
  • Be careful if offered a drink by a stranger, even in a reputable bar or restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.  Such approaches can involve spiked drinks, and have resulted in cases of robbery and assault. 
  • Do not open your hotel room door to strangers, even those wearing hotel uniform, and especially late at night.  This applies particularly to women travelling alone.
  • When going out, avoid carrying valuables with you, and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not leave possessions in unattended vehicles, even if out of sight in a locked boot.
  • Credit card fraud is widespread. Take great care when making payments by credit card.
  • Scams involving ATMs and the duplication of cards are on the increase.  Exercise caution when using ATMs in case there is a "skimming" device attached.

For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.

Political Situation

Malaysia Country Profile.
 
Police permission is required for certain kinds of public gatherings in Malaysia. Since October 2007 there have been demonstrations which did not have the required police permission. Police have sometimes used tear gas and water cannons to control crowds. You should therefore avoid street gatherings and demonstrations, which might place you at risk.
 
Local Travel
 
The sites of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, which lie in international waters off Kuantan, have been declared “Protected Places” under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.  You should only dive there on a “look not touch” basis.  If you have evidence of any other type of activity on or near the wrecks, please report it to the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.
 
Road Travel
 
A UK driving licence can be used in Malaysia for three months only.  If you intend staying in Malaysia for longer than three months you should get either a Malaysian driving licence or an annually renewable International Driving Permit.
 
Road conditions in Peninsular Malaysia are generally good.  Traffic (particularly motor cyclists) will not always stop at traffic lights or on pedestrian crossings.  Visitors should take care when crossing the street to avoid accidents.  If you are involved in a road accident as a driver, you should not leave the scene until the police have attended.
 
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence in Malaysia and the traffic police regularly carry out breath tests.  Anyone over the legal limit can face a heavy fine or a jail sentence.
 
For more general information see Driving Abroad
 
Sea Travel
 
There have been a number of attacks against ships in and around Malaysian waters.  Mariners should be vigilant and take appropriate precautions; reduce opportunities for theft; establish secure areas onboard; and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.  Vessels which encounter problems at sea should contact the Maritime Rescue Co-ordinating Centre on the standard distress channel.
 
For more general information see River and Sea Safety
 
Air Travel
 
Airport departure tax is included in the ticket price.

Local laws and customs

Malaysia is a multicultural but predominantly Muslim country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
 
You should also dress modestly in conservative and rural areas, and when visiting places of worship.  Homosexual acts are illegal.
 
If you are a Muslim you should be aware that you may also be subject to local Shari'a law.
 
There are severe penalties for all drug offences in Malaysia: trafficking (defined here as the possession of a certain quantity of drugs) incurs a mandatory death penalty; possession incurs a custodial sentence and possible whipping.  This includes the possession of or trafficking in Amphetamine-type stimulants.  You could be asked to take a urine test on arrival in Malaysia if you are suspected of having used drugs before your visit.  Should the test prove positive, you could be referred for rehabilitation treatment or be deported.
 
The importation of unlicensed firearms and ammunition into Malaysia is prohibited.  Possession can carry the death penalty.
 
For more general information for different types of travellers see Travel Advice Relevant to You.

Entry requirements

Visas
 
British nationals do not need a visa to enter Malaysia as a visitor.  You will normally be given permission to stay for three months on arrival.  Visas for longer stays or for non-tourist purposes must be obtained from the nearest Malaysian diplomatic mission before travel.
 
The Malaysian authorities are running a vigorous campaign against illegal immigration and are therefore inspecting immigration documents, such as work permits, very closely.
 
It is important that you neither overstay your visa, nor infringe the terms of entry.  Persons doing so (even overstaying for just a few days) will incur a fine and possibly detention and deportation.
 
UK citizens travelling from Peninsular Malaysia to East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) need to carry their passports to enter East Malaysia.
 
Passport validity
 
Entry to Malaysia is normally refused to visitors holding passports with less than six months' validity.
 
Dual nationals
 
Dual nationals should also be aware that Malaysia does not recognise dual nationality, so technically you can be refused entry if you are found to be holding two passports of different nationality.  If you are a dual national it is advisable to enter Malaysia on the passport on which you exited your last country of departure.
 
Exchange control rules
 
Under current Malaysian exchange control rules, you may import or export up to 1,000 Malaysian Ringgit per person without prior approval.  There are no limits on the amount of foreign currency (notes and or travellers' cheques) you may import.  Non-residents may export foreign currency (notes and or travellers' cheques) up to the amount they previously imported, provided they have documentary evidence of the amount they imported.  All travellers must complete travellers' declaration forms on entering Malaysia.  Penalties for offences under the Exchange Control Act 1953 are a fine of up to 10,000 Malaysian Ringgit, three years' imprisonment or both.
 
Travelling with children
 
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  They may want to see birth certificates, a letter of consent from the other parent or some evidence as to your responsibility for the child.

Health

Medical care in private hospitals in Malaysia can be very expensive.

Some tropical illnesses are common in Malaysia.  Tuberculosis and Hepatitis A and B are also common. There are periodic outbreaks of Dengue Fever in Malaysia and there are occasional outbreaks of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) across Malaysia. The most recent large-scale outbreaks were in Sarawak in July 2006.

Malaysia has periodic problems with air quality reaching hazardous levels because of smoke haze.  For more information on the air quality in Malaysia please visit the website of the Malaysian Department of Environment.

In the 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 67,000 adults aged 15 or over in Malaysia were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 0.5% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.  You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general in0formation on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Malaysia and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
 
For more general health information see Travel Health
 
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
 
In September 2007 Malaysia`s Agriculture Minister declared Malaysia free of H5N1 avian influenza.  The last confirmed outbreak occurred in Selangor on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in June 2007.  No human infections were reported.
 
The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
 
You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which gives more detailed advice and information.

Natural Disasters

Between the months of October to February Malaysia is affected by seasonal storms, which occasionally result in heavy flooding.

General

Insurance
 
You should take out comprehensive medical/travel insurance covering all eventualities.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See Travel Insurance for more details.
 
If things do go wrong when you are overseas then this is how we can help.
 
Consular Registration

Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.  More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.
 
Voluntary work
 
Visitors to Malaysia from several countries, including the UK, have reported serious problems after responding to advertisements for volunteer work at a wildlife/elephant sanctuary in Pahang State.  Requests for volunteers are posted on a number of websites together with a related opportunity for jungle trekking and survival experiences.  Those interested in these offers in this region of Peninsular Malaysia should contact the Consular Section of the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur before responding.

Travel advice for this country

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contacts

British High Commission, Kuala Lumpur

Address:

British High Commission
185 Jalan Ampang
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Or:
PO Box 11030
50732 Kuala Lumpur

Telephone:

(60) (3) 2170 2200

Fax:

(60) (3) 2170 2370 - Management
(60) (3) 2170 2285 - Trade/Investment
(60) (3) 2170 2360 - Consular
(60) (3) 2170 2303 - Political/Economic
(60) (3) 2170 2325 - Public Diplomacy
(60) (3) 2170 2309 - Defence/Defence Supply

Email: press.kualalumpur@fco.gov.uk

Email: trade.kualalumpur@fco.gov.uk

Email: defence.kualalumpur@fco.gov.uk

Email: political.kualalumpur@fco.gov.uk

Email: info@vfs.com.my

Email: consular2.kualalumpur@fco.gov.uk

Office hours:

GMT:
Mon-Fri: 0000-0430 / 0515-0830

Local Time:
Mon-Fri: 0800-1230 / 1315-1630

Website: http://www.britishhighcommission.gov.uk/malaysia



 

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