Any time you’re traveling, even if you’re going to a relatively safe country, there are certain travel safety tips you’ll want to be aware of. From knowing where to find the embassy to learning about local laws or talking to your doctor about vaccinations that you might need prior to your trip—there’s a little bit of work that should go into planning your trip so that you can ensure that you have the best trip possible, with hopefully no injuries or other negative experiences.
While Malaysia is a relatively safe country for travelers to visit, there are some security threats that you’ll still want to be aware of before you travel.
10 Travel Safety Tips for Malaysia
#1 Know where to find the embassy
Whether its because you’ve lost your passport somewhere en route, had your things stolen, gotten into trouble with the law, need a document notarized or any number of reasons why the embassy could be useful. Make sure you know where your country’s embassy is so that should any problems arise, you know where to go.
#2 Carry your passport at all times
Personally, I don’t like carrying my passport with me while I explore new cities since doing so increases the likelihood that my passport will be lost or stolen. However, you are required to carry some form of your passport with you in Malaysia (or else you may be taken in for questioning).
Personally, I get more peace of mind if I lock up my passport back at my accommodation and carry a photocopy with me. Other people opt for money belts where they can carry their passports unseen (these can be especially useful if you plan to take any long, overnight buses).
#3 Don’t overstay your visa
Malaysia has heavy penalties for those who overstay their visa. If you’re there for ninety days or less, you may not even need a visa; although, you will receive a stamp in your passport that will state exactly how long you may stay in the country for.
Overstay this date, and you may be facing fines, imprisonment or other penalties.
#4 Sign up to receive travel alerts
I always register my travels with the State Department so that I can stay abreast of dangerous situations, strikes and other events going on in the country while I’m there, and also so that if I do encounter any situation that required evacuation, the State Department knows where I am and is ready to assist me.
#5 Be aware of your surroundings
Kuala Lumpur, like any other city, has its share of crime, including pickpocketing, credit card fraud, assault and more. It’s pretty easy to spot the areas where physical crimes will occur: in a busy crowd, walking alone late at night etc.
To protect yourself against credit card fraud, make sure you can always see cashiers ring through your transaction (rather than letting them perform the action behind a counter), and use a VPN to encrypt your passwords and other sensitive information when you’re accessing public WiFi networks.
Hackers especially like to target travelers since they often don’t pay attention to what’s going on with their bank accounts while they’re on the road, so be proactive in protecting yourself.
#6 Read Up on Common Scams
Beyond credit card fraud, there are other scams you need to be aware of prior to traveling to Malaysia. There are a lot of scams that are endemic to traveling, no matter where you go, because you often don’t know the area, don’t know how friendly or unfriendly the locals are and so on.
As long as you’re aware of the scams though, it’s a lot less likely that you’ll end up a victim of one, since you’ll know what to expect.
#7 Be Careful Where You Go
Of course, this is true no matter where you go, but you’ll want to exercise particular caution if you travel to Sabah, in Eastern Malaysia. You’ll actually need a separate visa to visit there, and if you choose to go there, you should know that there have been a number of recent kidnappings in that area, especially of foreign travelers.
Obviously, that’s not something you want to possibly get caught up in, so take every precaution to ensure your safety!
#8 Know the Local Laws
When traveling in Malaysia, no matter what country you’re from, you are subject to Malaysian laws, which may be different from what you’re used to back home.
For example, in Malaysia, it is illegal to distribute any religious material to Muslims. Or if you’re convicted of drug trafficking, you could even be sentenced to death! Familiarize yourself with the local laws before it becomes an issue.
#9 Get Your Vaccinations
Prior to your departure, you’ll want to consult the CDC’s website and talk to your doctor about what health hazards you might face in Malaysia. Dengue fever, a mosquito-born illness, is common there, but unfortunately, there is no vaccination currently available; rather, you’ll want to try to prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellent and mosquito nets.
You should make sure you’re up-to-date on your routine vaccinations and may want to consider acquiring other vaccinations.
#10 Drive Carefully
Roads in Malaysia aren’t always up to the standards as roads back home, and in places they can be downright dangerous. Traffic is often a problem in the cities, and it’s important to remember that cars drive on the left in Malaysia, rather than the right side of the road. This can make it difficult for American travelers, so you may be better off exploring alternate methods of transportation around the country.
Although there are dangers endemic to every country, with a little research prior to your travels, you can rest assured that you’re much less likely to put your safety in jeopardy during your vacation. Have you traveled to Malaysia? Share any further advice in the comments section!
About the Author: Jess Signet has spent the last 3 1/2 years (and counting) exploring every corner of this incredible globe and she doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon. You can see more of her writing at Tripelio.