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Travel Security Advice for Malaysia





Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with an elected federal parliamentary government.  The country is comprised of 13 states, 11 on the Malay Peninsula and two, Sabah and Sarawak, on the island of Borneo.  There is also a federally administered set of territories: the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, the administrative center of Putrajaya, and the island of Labuan.  Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country of 27 million people.  Malays form the predominant ethnic group.  The two other large ethnic groups in Malaysia are Chinese and Indians.  Islam is the official religion and is practiced by some 60 percent of the population.  Bahasa Malaysia is the official language, although English is widely spoken.   Travelers to Malaysia may access information on areas of interest through the Malaysian government’s web site and Tourism Malaysia’s web site.  Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Malaysia for additional information.


U.S. citizens living or traveling in Malaysia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page , in order to obtain updated information on travel and security within Malaysia.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 


U.S. citizens are required to have a passport valid for at least six months to enter Malaysia, but Americans do not need to obtain a visa in advance for a pleasure or business trip if their stay in Malaysia is 90 days or less.  Upon arrival immigration officials will place an entry stamp in an American’s passport that specifies how many days the traveler may stay.  Though immigration officials generally grant 90 days, they do not always do so.  Travelers therefore are advised to check their stamps upon entry.  While in Malaysia, U.S. citizens should carry their passports with them at all times.
Travelers are required to carry their passports for travel from peninsular Malaysia to eastern Malaysia (on the island of Borneo) and between the provinces of Sabah and Sarawak, both of which are on Borneo.  Entry stamps issued at immigration points such as KLIA airport, Johor Bahru, and Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) for entry into peninsular Malaysia are not valid for entry into the state of Sarawak and usually have three months’ validity.  New entry stamps must be obtained upon arrival at Kuching or Miri airports in Sarawak.  In most cases, entry stamps issued by Sarawak immigration officials are valid for any part of Malaysia and usually have one month’s validity.

Travelers with Israeli entry or exit stamps in their American passports do not encounter difficulty at Malaysian Immigration.  However, American-Israeli dual nationals have been denied entry after presenting their Israeli passports to show exit stamps.  It is therefore important that American-Israeli dual nationals use their U.S. passports to depart the last country on their itinerary prior to arriving in Malaysia.

For more information on the latest entry procedures and requirements, contact the Embassy of Malaysia, 3516 International Court NW, Washington, DC  20008, telephone: (202) 572-9700, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; the Malaysian This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , telephone: (212) 490-2722; or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , telephone: (213) 892-1238; or visit the Malaysian government’s web site, which has information on Malaysian embassies and consulates abroad.

HIV/AIDS Restrictions:

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Malaysia. 

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

Visa Overstays:

Malaysian immigration authorities routinely detain foreigners who overstay their social visit passes (visas).  In light of the arrests of several American citizens in connection with immigration sweeps conducted by Malaysian police and immigration authorities, American citizens should carry their passports (containing the Malaysian entry stamp) with them at all times.  Depending upon the nature of the violation, detentions may last from a few hours to several weeks, pending a formal hearing.  American citizens are urged to check their visa status periodically while in Malaysia and strictly follow immigration laws and regulations.


The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens in Southeast Asia.  Extremist groups in the region have demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in locations where Westerners congregate, and these groups do not distinguish between civilian and official targets.  The U.S. Government has designated two such groups, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.  JI, which has a known presence in Malaysia, is linked to al-Qaeda and other regional terrorist groups and has cells operating throughout Southeast Asia.

There are indications that both criminal and terrorist groups continue to plan acts of violence against foreigners.  The July 17, 2009, attack in Indonesia serves as a reminder that terrorists retain the intent and capability to attack Western targets in the region, although the Government of Malaysia and other regional governments have also increased their ability to detect, deter, and prevent attacks. The most recent incident involving U.S. citizens in Malaysia occurred in 2000, and the most recent incident involving other foreigners occurred in 2003.  The ASG, based in the southern Philippines, has kidnapped foreigners in Malaysia.  Criminal elements are also responsible for kidnapping and piracy committed against foreigners.  These acts of violence have occurred in the eastern islands and coastal areas of the state of Sabah, closest to the maritime border with the Philippines. 

For these reasons, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to evaluate carefully the risks of travel to the eastern islands and coastal areas of the state of Sabah.  U.S. citizens who wish to visit these areas should exercise caution, remain alert to their surroundings, and use good personal security measures.  Also, U.S. citizens who travel overland from Malaysia to Thailand should be aware of the Department of State's safety and security information for Thailand, and in particular for the several Thai provinces bordering Malaysia.  U.S. citizens planning to travel to Malaysia are encouraged to register and update their contact information at the
Department of State’s travel registration page .

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on
traveling safely abroad


Violent crime involving tourists and expatriates in Malaysia is relatively uncommon.  Petty theft, particularly purse snatching and pick-pocketing, and residential burglaries are the most common criminal activity directed against foreigners.  Other types of non-violent criminal activity include credit card fraud and automobile theft.  Malaysia’s national emergency number is 999 (equivalent to the U.S. 911).  An alternate number is the Royal Malaysia Police Operations Center in Kuala Lumpur, 03-2115-9999 or 03-2262-6555.  In tourist areas such as Bukit Bintang, Petaling Street (Chinatown) and Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, and the main square in Malacca, the police have established small "Tourist Police” stations.

  • Purse-Snatchings:  In most incidents, two men on a motorcycle speed up from behind a victim and the passenger on the back snatches a purse, handbag, or cellular phone.  Thieves have also conducted snatch-thefts while leaning out of the passenger side of moving vehicles.  These thefts occur at all hours and often in front of large groups of witnesses, even in upscale neighborhoods frequented by expatriates.  Women walking by themselves or with small children are the most common targets.  Victims have been injured and even killed after falling and being dragged by thieves in cars or on motorcycles.

    To avoid becoming the victim of a purse snatching, be alert and aware of your surroundings.  Pedestrians should walk facing traffic and keep a close eye on all vehicular traffic, particularly motorcycles.  If possible, try to walk on the sidewalk away from the curb.  Avoid poorly lit streets, shortcuts, and narrow alleys.  Purses or shoulder bags should be closed and tucked under the arm.  Do not wrap the strap around your arm or shoulder.  People have been injured or killed by being pulled to the ground by their purse straps as the thieves speed off.  If your purse or bag is snatched, report the incident as soon as possible to the police.
  • Smash-and-Grab Robberies:  The targets in these crimes, which are on the rise, are motorists who are stuck in traffic or stopped at a light. The usual scenario is that a pair of men on a motorcycle identifies a car with a lone passenger (male or female) and with valuables (e.g., purse, bag) visible.  The men use a hammer or crowbar to smash the window of the car, grab the bag and speed off.  When the motorist’s windows are already open, the motorcyclists simply reach in and take bags off the seat of the car.  These crimes can be prevented by keeping valuables out of sight.
  •  Scams:  An increasing number of Americans have been victims of scams originating in Malaysia.  Confidence artists contact Americans through the Internet, including dating web sites.  These confidence artists almost always pose as U.S. citizens who have unexpectedly experienced a medical, legal, financial or other type of “emergency” in Malaysia that requires the immediate financial assistance of the U.S. citizen in the United States. Co-conspirators pose as Malaysian “lawyers” or medical professionals to verify the story and the supposed urgent need for cash.  We strongly urge U.S. citizens in the United States to be very cautious about sending money to people who claim to be Americans in trouble in Malaysia.  For additional information on these types of scams, see the Department of State's publication.
  • Credit Card Fraud:  Travelers in Malaysia should avoid using credit cards, except at reputable establishments, and credit card numbers should be closely safeguarded at all times.  Credit card fraud continues to be a serious problem in Malaysia, although enhanced technology has somewhat reduced reported instances of fraud.  Unauthorized charges may not show on a credit card account for several months, but can unexpectedly appear in amounts of $5,000 or more.  One of the more common methods is for retailers to swipe the credit card under the counter where account information is received into a machine containing a mobile phone SIM card and is transmitted to a criminal organization for reproduction.  Travelers should watch retailers closely and any “under the table” transactions should be reported to the local police.  In some cases sophisticated criminal organizations have tapped into data lines emanating from retail establishments.  Credit card information is then stolen while it is being transmitted to financial institutions.  If you must use a credit card in Malaysia, you are advised to check your account information frequently for fraudulent charges.  ATM cards are safer as long as the machines where they are used are associated with reputable Malaysian banks.  Travelers should note that personal identification numbers (PINs) in Malaysia are 6 digits long.  Some travelers have reported having difficulty retrieving cash from ATMs using 4-digit PINs.

    In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.



If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the end of this sheet or the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of a crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. 

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Malaysia is “999”.

Please see our
information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.


While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be fined, expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Malaysia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Malaysia strictly enforces its drug laws.  Malaysian legislation provides for a mandatory death penalty for convicted drug traffickers.  Individuals arrested in possession of 15 grams (1/2 ounce) of heroin or 200 grams (seven ounces) of marijuana are presumed by law to be trafficking in drugs.

The Malaysian criminal code includes a provision for a sentence of caning for certain white-collar crimes, including criminal misappropriation, criminal breach of trust and cheating.  Unauthorized collection and/or removal of local flora and fauna may be prosecuted as a crime and can result in heavy fines, expulsion, and/or imprisonment.  Distribution of religious leaflets or books of another faith to Malaysian Muslims is illegal and may result in arrest and imprisonment.

Although access to prisoners is permitted, the U.S. Embassy may not learn of the arrest of U.S. citizens in smaller, more remote areas until several days after the incident.  Prison conditions are harsh.  U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports and of their current social visit pass (visa) with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity, U.S. citizenship and legal status in Malaysia is readily available.


Currency:  Currency exchange is readily available; international bank-to-bank transfers may take several days and require adequate identification.  Credit cards are accepted throughout the country, but travelers should be aware of the risk of fraud by criminal syndicates.  ATMs can be a safer means of obtaining Malaysian Ringgit.  Travelers should note that personal identification numbers (PINs) in Malaysia are 6 digits long, and that some travelers have reported having difficulty retrieving cash from ATMs using 4-digit PINs.  Western Union money transfers are available through various Malaysian banks and the post office.  To find a Western Union location in Malaysia, complete with address, you may access it through Western Union’s web-site.


Malaysia’s customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Malaysia of items such as firearms, narcotics, medication, business equipment, currency and books or other printed material, video, and audio recordings which might be considered obscene or in any way harmful to public interest and cultural property.  It is advisable to contact the Malaysian Embassy in Washington, D.C., or one of Malaysia’s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs’ requirements.  Please see our information on customs regulations.

Dual Nationality:

Malaysia does not recognize or permit dual nationality.  If Malaysian authorities learn that an American citizen is also a citizen of Malaysia, they may require that the dual national either renounce U.S. citizenship immediately or forfeit Malaysian citizenship.  Dual American/Malaysian citizens should consider this issue seriously before traveling to Malaysia.  See our dual nationality flyer for more information.


Medical facilities and services are adequate in the larger cities, where Western-trained doctors can be found.  The U.S. Embassy can provide a list of English-speaking doctors and hospitals upon request.  Psychological and psychiatric medical and counseling services are limited.  Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more.  Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services although major credit cards are acceptable at some hospitals in larger cities.

Malaysian ambulance attendants lack training equivalent to U.S. standards.  Callers to Malaysia's "999" emergency number (equivalent to dialing 911 in the United States) are connected to the Red Crescent (a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), and patients are directed to whichever hospital the dispatcher chooses.  Americans staying in Malaysia for extended periods, especially those who have known health problems, are advised to investigate private ambulance services in their area and to provide family and close contacts with the direct telephone number(s) of the service they prefer.

Air quality in Malaysia is acceptable most of the time.  However, when burning of vegetation occurs in Malaysia and nearby countries, especially from March through June and during September and October, air quality can range from “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to “unhealthy.”

For information on avian influenza (bird flu), please refer to the Department of State's
Avian Influenza Fact Sheet Information on H1N1 influenza (commonly referred to as swine flu) can be found at the U.S. Government pandemic influenza website.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.


The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page .


While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Malaysia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic in Malaysia moves on the left side of the road, and most vehicles are right-hand drive.  Seat belts are mandatory.  Cell phones cannot be used while driving.  Laws against drinking and driving are strictly enforced with stiff penalties.  Motorcyclists attempt to circumvent traffic blockage by weaving in and out of traffic, temporarily using vacant oncoming traffic lanes, and running through red lights.  This poses a hazard for both drivers and pedestrians unfamiliar with such traffic patterns.  Drivers should use their turn signals well in advance of turning to alert motorcycles of their intent to turn.  There has been a recent rise in the reported number of incidents involving late-night road rage.  The majority of these violent incidents occur after midnight.  Drivers are advised to avoid confrontational behavior if involved in an accident, especially with a motorcyclist.  If threatened, drivers should leave the scene and file a report with the local police within 24 hours.  Traffic is heavy during the morning and afternoon rush hours and slows down considerably when it rains; monsoon rains can quickly flood roads located in low lying areas.  Bottlenecks are common in major cities.  Development of the infrastructure has not kept pace with the proliferation of motorized vehicles.  Multi-lane highways often merge into narrow two-lane roads in the center of town and cause added congestion.  Many streets are narrow and winding.  Taxis are metered, but many drivers refuse to use the meter and instead charge a much higher rate, particularly during peak hours, when it is raining, or when the passenger’s destination is to or through a heavily congested area.

Sobriety Checkpoints:

Police operate sobriety checkpoints in many entertainment districts frequented by expatriates.  At these checkpoints, all drivers are required to submit to alcohol breath tests.  Failure of the breath test will result in an arrest.  Laws against drinking and driving are strictly enforced with serious penalties.

Please refer to our
Road Safety page for more information.  Also, we suggest that you visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.


The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Malaysia’s air carrier operations.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.


Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.


Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates .

The U.S. Embassy is located at 376 Jalan Tun Razak 50400, Kuala Lumpur.  The local mailing address is P.O. Box No. 10035, 50700 Kuala Lumpur.  The U.S. Embassy’s telephone (60-3) 2168-5000 is available 24 hours a day for emergencies such as arrests, serious illness/injury, or death of Americans (after business hours, please press 1 at the recording).  The American Citizen Services Unit’s telephone number is (60-3) 2168-4997/4979, and the Consular section’s fax number is (60-3) 2148-5801.  The U.S. Embassy’s general fax number is (60-3) 2142-2207.  You may also contact the This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it There is also an This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for issues specifically related to U.S. citizens.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Malaysia dated November 24, 2008, to update sections on Registration, Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, Currency, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Embassy Location.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Malaysia HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)..........

There is also a Malaria Warning from CDC provided HERE....


The SW Team.......


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