Fire and rescue services
Call 999 or contact the Royal Malaysia Police Operations Centre on 321 159 999 or 322 662 222.
Exercise normal safety precautions in Malaysia overall.
Use common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
Reconsider your need to travel to the coastal region of eastern Sabah.
Reconsider your need to travel
Do your research and check that your insurer will cover you. If you do travel, take extra safety precautions.
Reconsider your need to travel to the coastal region 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.
There's an ongoing threat of terrorism, including in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities. Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places. Take official warnings seriously.
There's a high threat of kidnapping in the coastal areas of eastern Sabah. There have been a number of attempted and successful kidnappings. This includes islands, dive sites and tourist facilities. The risk increases on the water and waterfront after dark. If, despite our advice, you travel to these areas, get professional security advice. Obey all local governments' curfews.
Petty crime is common. Bag-snatching including by thieves on motorbikes happens often. When walking hold your bag on the opposite side to the traffic. Safeguard your belongings, especially in shopping centres, at the airport and on trains. Credit card fraud is common. Always keep your credit card in sight when paying for purchases.
Drink spiking can occur, even at reputable places. Never accept food, drinks, cigarettes or gum from strangers. Don't leave your food or drinks unattended.
Taxi drivers have assaulted travellers, especially in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Book taxis by phone at a shopping centre taxi desk. Don't hail them on the street. Check the driver's licence details. Sit in the back seat.
Piracy in South-East Asian waters is an ongoing problem. Reconsider your need to travel by boat in the southern Sulu Sea. If you travel in the region by boat despite our advice, check the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reports. Arrange personal security measures.
Full travel advice: Safety
Strict rules control the importation of prescription and non-prescription medication. If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in Malaysia.
Smoke haze often happens from June to October, but it can happen at any time. Limit outdoor activity when haze levels are high.
Dengue is common, including in major urban areas. Zika virus is also a risk. If you're pregnant, discuss your travel plans with your doctor.
Malaria is a risk in rural areas. It's less common in urban and coastal areas. Consider taking anti-malarial medication.
Other insect-borne diseases include chikungunya, filariasis and Japanese encephalitis. Ensure your accommodation is insect-proof. Use insect repellent. Get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel.
Rabies is present in Malaysia. The most recent cases were in Sarawak. It's fatal without immediate treatment. Avoid dogs, monkeys and other mammals. Get medical help straight away if an animal bites or scratches you.
Waterborne, foodborne, parasitic and other infectious diseases are common. These include hepatitis, tuberculosis, typhoid and cholera. Drink only boiled or bottled water. Avoid raw or undercooked food.
Private hospitals in major cities are of an international standard. You'll need to pay up-front at all hospitals. Services are more limited in rural areas.
Medical tourism, including for cosmetic surgery, is common. Surgery at discount or uncertified clinics can lead to life-threatening complications. Research and choose medical service providers carefully. Check your travel insurance covers complications from surgery.
Full travel advice: Health
Don't use, carry or traffic illegal drugs. Punishments include the death penalty.
It's unclear if surrogacy is legal under Malaysian civil law and what conditions apply. Get legal advice before arranging a surrogacy.
Malaysia is a multicultural but mostly Islamic country. Many areas have conservative standards of dress and behaviour. This includes at religious sites. Get advice on local customs.
Malaysia enforces some aspects of sharia law. Kelantan and Terengganu states are stricter than others. These laws apply to all Muslims, including visitors from Australia. Research laws that apply to you before you travel.
Same-sex relations are illegal for both men and women. Punishment can include whipping and up to 20 years in jail.
It's illegal to drive after drinking any amount of alcohol. Authorities strictly enforce these laws.
Malaysia doesn't recognise dual nationality. Always travel on your Australian passport. If Malaysian authorities find out you're a dual citizen, you may need to renounce one of your citizenships immediately.
Full travel advice: Local laws
Australian passport holders can get a 90-day tourist visa on arrival. In other situations, get a visa before you travel. Contact your nearest Malaysian embassy or high commission for details.
Local authorities require you to always carry photo ID. You need your passport to travel between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak).
The official currency is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). ATMs are widely available.
You can drive in Malaysia with an Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). Get your IDP before you travel. If you don’t have an IDP, apply for a local licence.
Ask taxi drivers to use the meter, or agree the fare, before you go. Take note of the driver's name, vehicle number and taxi company number. The taxi regulator has an English-language hotline for reporting problems.
If you plan to travel by bus, choose a company with a good reputation. Avoid overnight travel. Long-distance tour buses have had fatal accidents, especially at night and in bad weather.
Before booking tickets on a passenger ferry, speedboat or other vessel, check there's appropriate safety equipment available. Don't travel on any vessel that looks overloaded or in poor condition. Always wear a life jacket.
National parks are protected areas. Some are home to ethnic minority groups. Respect the law and customs in these areas. If in doubt, seek local advice.
Full travel advice: Travel
There's an ongoing threat of terrorism in Malaysia. This includes in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities.
Attacks could be random and may affect locations popular with Westerners.
In June 2016, Daesh-linked terrorists staged a grenade attack at a bar in Puchong, Kuala Lumpur. 8 people were injured. The group has threatened more attacks.
Malaysian authorities have arrested people for planning terror attacks. This includes attacks against entertainment venues in Kuala Lumpur.
The Malaysian Government has increased its visibility in 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 and restaurants
places of worship
outdoor recreation events
To stay safe:
be alert to possible threats, especially in public places
be cautious around places known to be possible terrorist targets
report any suspicious activity or items to police
check the media for any new or emerging threats
take official warnings seriously
follow the advice of local authorities
If there's an attack, leave the area as soon as it's safe.
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Read our travel advice for Thailand if you're planning to go there overland.
Avoid travelling to or through the far southern provinces of Thailand.
There is a high threat of kidnapping in the coastal areas of eastern Sabah, including islands, dive sites and other tourist facilities.
Extremists based in the southern Philippines are active in the area between the towns of Sandakan and Tawau in eastern Sabah.
Foreigners have been kidnapped from the nearby islands of Sipadan and Mataking and surrounding waters.
The risk of kidnapping increases on the water and waterfront after nightfall.
Some attempted and successful kidnappings have happened in coastal areas of eastern Sabah in recent years.
In September 2019, 3 fishermen were abducted in the waters off Lahad Datu.
In June 2019, 10 fishermen were abducted in waters between Lahad Datu, Sabah and Sitangkair, Southern Philippines.
In December 2018, 3 fishermen were abducted from Pegasus Reef near Kinabatangan, Sabah.
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 and later killed. Further in 2016, some commercial seamen were kidnapped from cargo vessels in the area.
In May 2015, gunmen entered a local seaside restaurant in Sandakan and abducted the manager and one customer.
Some commercial seamen were kidnapped from cargo vessels in the area in 2016.
Malaysian authorities increased security in the region in response to kidnapping incidents. The Sabah Government has restricted the use of waterways.
There's a 6pm to 6am curfew on water travel in 6 coastal districts of eastern Sabah state. This includes offshore areas up to 3 nautical miles (5.5km) from the coast.
All vessels travelling in the waters off Lahad Datu and Sandakan in daylight hours must get a permit or permission from police.
Vessels must travel only on designated routes.
There's a ban on resort-organised water activities at night. This includes diving and fishing.
Authorities established the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone), which includes the regions of:
There's an increased presence of security forces in the ESSZone.
Authorities may extend the water travel curfew each fortnight. If you travel by water during curfew hours without permission, authorities could fine you or jail you for up to 6 months.
The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it doesn't make payments or concessions to kidnappers.
If you decide to travel to eastern Sabah despite our advice:
get professional security advice
arrange personal security measures
check if your hotel has security measures in place
be extremely cautious
You could encounter protests or demonstrations on the streets or at certain venues.
Protest activity could lead to violence and disrupt public services, including public transport, and cause traffic congestion. However, this is rare.
Police permission is needed for public gatherings and demonstrations. If you take part in a protest or demonstration, authorities could arrest and deport you.
Avoid protests and demonstrations.
During periods of unrest:
check 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 national or commemorative days
be ready to change your travel plans
If civil unrest disrupts your transport plans, contact your airline, travel agent or insurer for help.
Petty crime is common.
Snatch-and-grab robberies happen often. This is where thieves snatch handbags, shoulder bags, jewellery, mobile phones and other valuables from pedestrians.
Hotspots include busy pedestrian crossings near major shopping malls.
Motorcyclists, and sometimes thieves in other moving vehicles, pull bags from victims. This often causes injuries.
Smash-and-grab attacks against slow-moving and parked vehicles also happen.
To avoid petty crime:
don't carry bags that are easy to snatch
walk on footpaths when you can and stay away from the curb
hold your bag on the opposite side to the traffic
when driving or parking your car, keep valuables out of sight
always keep vehicle windows up and doors locked, even when moving
Handbags, expensive watches, jewellery and cameras are tempting targets for thieves.
Many travellers have lost passports and other valuables to thieves on trains and at airports.
Carry only what you need and leave other valuables, in a secure location.
Thieves sometimes work in groups at busy shopping centres. One or more may approach you with stories of distress or warnings for your safety. When you're distracted, others steal your belongings.
Watch your personal belongings, especially:
in crowded areas
when travelling on trains from the airport
Be wary of approaches from strangers, especially in shopping centres.
Credit card fraud is common.
Credit cards are often copied for illegal use. This can happen anywhere, from small shops to large department stores and hotels.
Always keep your credit card in sight.
Online scams have increased in recent years. Scammers often pretend to be people in need of financial help.
They prey on people looking for companions on online dating websites.
To protect yourself from being scammed:
be wary of people asking for money
don't send money or provide your bank details to anyone you don't know
be careful when sharing personal information with people you haven't met in person
Scams involving gambling are also common.
You could experience violent crime in Malaysia.
Criminals have assaulted and robbed travellers after spiking their drinks. This can even happen at places with a good reputation.
To protect yourself from drink spiking:
never accept food or drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended
if you aren't sure if a drink is safe, leave it
stay with people you trust at parties and in bars, nightclubs and taxis
Taxi drivers have assaulted travellers, especially in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
To stay safe while using taxis:
don't hail taxis on the street, especially after dark
book taxis by phone at a shopping centre taxi desk
check there's a licence with photo on the dashboard or seat back before getting into a taxi
check the driver matches the photo.
If you're alone in a taxi, sit in the back seat. Keep your belongings with you in the taxi.
If your taxi stops to pick up other passengers, get out of the taxi when it's safe to do so. Taxi drivers aren't allowed to pick up extra passengers but it sometimes happens.
Rideshare apps are available. Use the same precautions as taxis.
If there's a natural disaster:
secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location
keep in contact with your friends and family
monitor local media and weather reports
follow the advice of local authorities
check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas
Register with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System to receive alerts on major disasters.
Earthquakes can happen in Malaysia.
In 2018, a 5.2 magnitude earthquake hit Sabah. No deaths or injuries were reported. The earthquake's tremors were felt and climbing activities were suspended.
Coastal regions of the world can experience tsunamis. Malaysia and its neighbours are vulnerable to earthquakes, which make destructive tsunamis more likely.
Flooding and landslides are common during the wet season from October to February.
Severe rainstorms can result in deaths and extensively damaged infrastructure.
Essential services can be interrupted.
The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators aren't always met. This includes for adventure activities, such as diving.
Operators may not provide enough safety equipment. They also may not pay attention to maintenance standards and safety precautions.
If you plan to do a tour or adventure activity:
check your travel insurance covers you for it
ask and insist on minimum safety requirements
use available safety equipment, such as life jackets or seatbelts
If appropriate safety equipment isn't available, use another provider.
Piracy in South-East Asian waters is an ongoing problem, especially:
in the Strait of Malacca
around Tioman Island off Peninsular Malaysia's east coast in the South China Sea
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. This includes waters between Sabah, Malaysia and Palawan in the Philippines.
If you decide to travel by boat in these regions despite our advice:
check IMB piracy reports
get local advice
arrange security measures
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave. Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.
You'll probably need a specialised insurance policy that covers travel to high-risk destinations if, despite our advice, you're travelling to the coastal region of eastern Sabah.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care.
what activities and care your policy covers
that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
have a basic health check-up
ask if your travel plans may affect your health
plan any vaccinations you need
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in Malaysia. Take enough legal medicine for your trip.
Strict rules control the importation of prescription and non-prescription medication. Contact the high commission or embassy of Malaysia to check what documentation local authorities may need you to have.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
what the medicine is
how much you'll take
that it's for personal use
Smoke haze often happens from June to October, but it can happen at any time.
Check the haze situation and any health warnings the Malaysian Government issues.
When haze levels are high, authorities recommend limiting outdoor activity. Get your own medical advice.
Check air quality reports from the Malaysian Department of the Environment.
Dengue is common, including in major urban areas. Sometimes serious outbreaks happen.
There's no vaccination or treatment available for dengue fever.
Zika virus is a risk. There's no vaccination for it.
If you're pregnant, the Australian Department of Health recommends you:
discuss any travel plans with your doctor
consider deferring non-essential travel to affected areas
The Zika virus bulletin includes advice on how to minimise Zika virus risks.
Malaria is a risk in rural areas. It's less common in urban and coastal areas. Consider taking medicine to prevent malaria.
Reported cases of Japanese encephalitis have increased in recent years. Get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel
The risk of contracting insect-borne diseases increases during the wet season.
To protect yourself from disease:
ensure your accommodation is insect-proof
always use insect repellent
wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing
Rabies is a potentially fatal viral disease. It's found in dogs, monkeys, bats and other mammals.
The most recent cases were reported in Sarawak. It was transmitted through feral dog and cat bites.
Rabies can also be contracted when a rabid animal's saliva gets directly into your eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin.
Avoid direct contact with dogs and other mammals.
If a dog, monkey or other mammal bites or scratches you, use soap and water straight away to wash the wound thoroughly.
Get urgent medical attention.
Waterborne, foodborne, parasitic and other infectious diseases are common.
Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.
To protect yourself from disease:
drink boiled water or bottled water with sealed lids
avoid ice cubes
avoid uncooked and undercooked food, such as salads
wash your hands often and thoroughly
Get medical attention if you suspect food poisoning, or if you have a fever or diarrhoea.
Stings from jellyfish and other marine animals can be fatal.
Ask local authorities, your tour operator or hotel about:
precautions to take
Avoid temporary black henna tattoos as they often contain a dye that can cause serious skin reactions.
You can find private hospitals with international-standard facilities in major cities.
Public hospitals in major cities have a good range of medical services. However, access can be slow. Services are more limited in rural areas.
Most private hospitals need a cash deposit or a confirmation of insurance before they will admit you. They also expect immediate payment for services.
You need to pay up-front for treatment at government hospitals.
There are decompression chambers in:
Medical tourism, including for cosmetic surgery, is common.
Standards at discount and uncertified medical facilities can be poor.
Serious and possibly life-threatening complications can result.
Before travelling for medical tourism:
research and choose medical service providers carefully
don't use discount or uncertified medical service providers
check your travel insurance covers you if things go wrong with your surgery, as most don't
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
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.
Penalties for drug offences are severe. They can include the death penalty for drug trafficking.
Malaysian civil law applies to everyone in Malaysia. Under this law, it's unclear if surrogacy is legal and what conditions apply.
Under sharia law, surrogacy is illegal. However, sharia law only applies to Muslims.
Surrogacy isn't practised openly in Malaysia. If you want to pursue surrogacy, it's mostly a private arrangement between you and the surrogate.
Get independent legal advice before entering into a surrogacy arrangement.
Malaysia enforces some aspects of sharia law.
Kelantan and Terengganu states are stricter than others. These laws apply to all Muslims, including those from Australia.
Research laws that apply to you before you travel.
Crimes that may attract corporal punishment include:
certain drug offences
Same-sex sexual relations are illegal.
Punishment can include whipping and up to 20 years in prison for same-sex acts involving either men or women.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal.
Penalties are strictly enforced.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
Malaysia is a multicultural but mostly Islamic country.
Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative in many areas. This includes at religious sites.
Always respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions.
Learn about customs at your destination. If in doubt, get advice from locals. Take care not to offend cultural or religious beliefs.
The Islamic holiday month of Ramadan will be from late April to late May in 2020. Respect religious and cultural customs and laws at this time.
If you're not fasting, avoid eating, drinking or smoking in front of people who are.
Malaysia doesn't recognise dual nationality.
If you're a dual citizen, this limits the consular services we can give if you're arrested or detained.
Always travel on your Australian passport.
If Malaysian authorities find out you hold both Australian and Malaysian citizenship, you may need to renounce either your Australian or Malaysian citizenship straight away.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders.
Make sure you meet all entry and exit conditions. If you don't, the Australian Government can't help you.
Australian passport holders can get a 90-day tourism visa on arrival.
Arrange a visa before you travel if you're visiting for:
Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
If you breach your visa conditions or overstay your visa, authorities may fine, detain or deport you.
Always check the correct dates are on the visa stamp placed in your passport.
Follow immigration rules, including your visa conditions.
Foreigners need to provide biometric fingerprints of thumbs and index fingers on arrival.
Children aged younger than 12 years and visitors with finger disabilities don't have to do this.
Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you're just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you're not sure it'll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
The official currency is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR).
When you depart, declare any MYR over MYR30,000, $US10,000 or equivalent. This covers all forms of currency, not only cash.
You can take larger amounts out of the country if you declare it when you arrive.
ATMs are widely available.
If you travel between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, you need your passport. East Malaysia includes Sabah and Sarawak.
Check if your travel insurance policy covers you for any related damage and injuries if you plan to hire:
a jet ski
any other vehicle
To drive in Malaysia, you need both:
a valid Australian driver's licence
an International Driving Permit (IDP)
Get your IDP before you leave Australia.
If you don't have both, you need to apply for a Malaysian licence.
Motorcyclists are a common traffic hazard. They often:
weave through traffic
drive through red lights and pedestrian crossings
travel on the wrong side of the road
Motorcyclists have been increasingly confronting drivers who shout, gesture or toot their horn at them. They sometimes assault drivers.
You're 4 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident in Malaysia than in Australia.
To stay safe, drive carefully and avoid road rage.
On a motorcycle, always wear a helmet.
Some taxi drivers, especially in tourist spots or when roads are jammed, don't use their meter. This is illegal.
Malaysia's taxi regulator has an English-language hotline for reporting problems. To make a report, call 1 800 88 7723 and provide the:
taxi company name
time, date and location of the incident
name of the driver if known
Always ask if 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.
There have been fatal and other serious accidents involving long-distance tour buses. This often happens at night or in bad weather.
If you plan to travel by bus, choose a company with a good reputation and avoid overnight travel.
In recent years, several passenger boats have sunk due to overloading and poor maintenance.
Before booking tickets on a passenger ferry, speedboat or other vessel, check there is appropriate safety equipment available.
Don't travel on any vessel that looks overloaded or in poor condition.
When you board, confirm there are enough life jackets for all passengers. Know where they are.
In bad weather, wear a life jacket, even if others don't.
There is a curfew on travel by water from 6pm to 6am in the coastal districts of eastern Sabah. See Safety
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check Malaysia's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
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 someone you trust know where you're going.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
family and friends
Call 999 or contact the Royal Malaysia Police Operations Centre on 321 159 999 or 322 662 222.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Contact your provider with any complaints about tourist services or products.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
For consular assistance, contact the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.
6 Jalan Yap Kwan Seng
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Phone: (+60 3) 2146 5555/2146 5575
Fax: (+60 3) 2141 5773
Facebook: Australia in Malaysia
Check the High Commission website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
You can get limited consular help, including lodging Australian passport applications, at the following Australian consulates headed by honorary consuls:
14A (1st Floor), Lorong Abu Siti,
Phone: (+60 4) 226 8955
Fax: (+60 4) 228 3366
Suite 10.1, Level 10
Wisma Great Eastern
65 Jalan Gaya
88000 Kota Kinabalu
Phone: (+60 88) 267 151
Fax: (+60 88) 266 509
Block E No 32-34 (1st Floor)
Taman Sri Sarawak Mall
Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman
Phone: (+60 82) 521 805
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
+61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
1300 555 135 in Australia
Be the first to know official government advice when travelling.