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Malaysia

If you’re travelling to Malaysia, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information. 

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution.

We advise against non-essential travel to all islands off the coast of eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau, including (but not limited to) Lankayan, Mabul, Pom Pom, Kapalai, Litigan, Sipadan and Mataking.

Emergency assistance

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and security

Political unrest, risk of kidnapping

Eastern Sabah

There is a threat of kidnapping on the eastern coast of Sabah, particularly on the islands close to the Sulu Archipeligo of the Philippines.

We advise against all but essential travel to all islands off the coast of eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau, including (but not limited to) Lankayan, Mabul, Pom Pom, Kapalai, Litigan, Sipadan and Mataking.

Exercise great caution in areas on the eastern coast of Sabah including in the town of Sandakan and along the coast to Tawau, as well as the areas east of Lahad Datu and around Semporna. Keep up to date with developments and follow the advice of your tour operator and the local authorities.

Irish citizens visiting eastern Sabah should exercise extreme caution. In some areas (see above) we advise against all but essential travel. You should ensure that you take appropriate personal security measures, and follow the advice of authorities and tour operators. Despite the increased police and army presence, the size and remoteness of the region means that future security incidents cannot be ruled out.

Demonstrations

Tensions between the Malaysian Government and opposition have occasionally led to demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere. We advise you to avoid all demonstrations and follow developments in local media.

Terrorism

Terrorists may be planning attacks in and around Kuala Lumpur. Attacks could be indiscriminate and may target Western interests or locations frequented by Westerners. You should be vigilant at this time.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in Malaysia but bag snatching by thieves on motorbike is becoming a regular occurrence in the central tourist areas of Kuala Lumpur. You should be vigilant and take sensible precautions to protect yourself from street crime. 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
  • There have been a number of reports of scams involving gambling and the spiking of drinks, which has led to robbery and assault.
  • Credit card fraud and ATM scams are commonplace in the region, so be vigilant when making payments and also when using ATM machines to withdraw cash.
  • As in other countries, avoid opening your hotel room door to strangers – especially if you’re a woman travelling alone.

Reporting a crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Malaysia, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy if you need help.

 

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Local culture

Malaysia is a multicultural but mainly Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they don't offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

You should also dress moderately, particularly in conservative and rural places and when visiting places of worship.

Importing unlicensed firearms and ammunition into Malaysia is prohibited and can carry the death penalty.

LGBT

Homosexual acts are illegal.

Illegal drugs

There are severe penalties for all drug offences; this includes amphetamine-type stimulants. Trafficking incurs a mandatory death penalty. Possession incurs a custodial sentence and possible whipping.

The Malaysian authorities may require you to take a urine test on arrival if you are suspected of having used illegal drugs before your visit.

Driving

The rules of the road in Malaysia are broadly similar to those in Ireland, and roads are modern and well maintained. 

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence and those over the legal limit could receive a jail sentence and/or a heavy fine. Breath testing is common in Malaysia
  • Take care as motorcyclists don’t always stop at pedestrian crossings or at traffic lights. If you’re driving, make sure that motorcyclists are not overtaking on the inside when you’re making a left turn.

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Natural disasters and climate

Flooding

The Northeast Monsoon from November to March brings heavy rainfall, particularly to the east coast states of peninsular Malaysia and western Sarawak. This occasionally leads to heavy and dangerous flooding.

Pollution

Air quality in Malaysia is compromised seasonally on account of smoke haze. This improves with the onset of the monsoon season. At present, air pollution is worse than usual for this time of year in a number of states due to land and forest fires and the persistent hot, dry weather. You should monitor the information on air quality on the Malaysian Department of the Environment website and follow health advisories.

Volcanoes

There was a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Sabah early on 5 June 2015. This affected Mount Kinabalu. Please see the Sabah tourism website for more information and continue to monitor local media for updates.

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

In general, Irish tourists visiting Malaysia for less than 3 months do not require a visa. Malaysian immigration requires international visitors (with the exception of children under 12) to provide fingerprints before entering Malaysia. For full entry requirements for Malaysia, please contact the nearest Malaysian Embassy or Consulate.

We advise you to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.

Health

Malaysia has an extensive network of public and private hospitals. However, you should get medical advice on vaccinations and other preventative measures against various tropical diseases as well as TB and Hepatitis A and B before you travel to Malaysia.

A H1N1 Virus (Swine Flu)

There have been over a thousand reported cases of influenza A H1N1 virus (swine flu) in Malaysia and several deaths. Make sure you follow developments through the media, the World Health Organisation website and the Malaysian Ministry of Health website.

Dengue fever

Dengue fever is present in all states in Malaysia and you should take precautions to avoid mosquitoes bites by using insect repellent and covering up, particularly when in jungle areas or near stagnant water. There has been a considerable increase in the number of dengue cases this year, including in Kuala Lumpur.