Contrary to what most people think, Malaysia is currently one of the richest nations in Southeast Asia, especially due to the fact that the country has invested more than enough in technology and high technology industries.
Moreover, even though the infrastructure is highly developed, as previously mentioned, the prices are quite reasonable – the reason for which most tourists choose Malaysia as their getaway during their holiday.
As for the country itself, Malaysia is split between the West and East Malaysia – the first one is more economically developed and urbanized while the latter is the country’s hinterland for industry; moreover, it focuses more on mass tourism.
Therefore, when it comes to which part of Malaysia you should visit, be sure to take into consideration the aspects we’ve just mentioned – after all, it depends on what exactly you want to see.
In terms of terrain, Malaysia is run by coastal plains that rise to hills and mountains – on the other hand, in terms of climate, the country is characterized by a tropical one, with temperatures ranging from 32 degrees Celsius at noon to around 26 degrees Celsius at midnight. However, during the monsoon season, which lasts from November until February, temperatures can get as low as 23 degrees Celsius, especially during the rainy days.
Furthermore, the two mentioned regions are divided into smaller regions – West Malaysia is composed of the West Coast, East Coast, and South. The West Coast is home of Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
East Malaysia, on the other hand, is split into Sabah and Sarawak – Sabah offers its visitors the opportunity to engage in scuba diving in the island of Sipadan while the Sarawak region shelters national parks, jungles, and traditional longhouses.
There’s no doubt that Malaysia is one of the most beautiful countries in Asia and perhaps in the world – however, before we start planning any travel, we must ask ourselves some questions and do some research – in our case, we’ll be determining if is Malaysia safe to visit overall, by taking into account certain safety-related aspects.
Therefore, without any further ado, let’s find out how prepared you should be before landing in one of the Malaysian airports!
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Malaysia
Overall Risks in Malaysia: LOW
According to this map, you should only avoid the islands that can be found on the coast of the eastern Sabah region. This is because there has been some information claiming that a certain terrorist group, Aby Sayyaf, may conduct kidnaps in the Sulu Sea – this reported is dated back to May 2017. However, you should tread with extreme caution if you are to visit this area, especially if you think of setting sail on the sea itself.
When it comes to the rest of the country, various governments around the globe recommend that visitors seek travel advice before departing for Malaysia, simply because the threat of criminality and kidnapping might extend beyond the eastern coast of the Sabah region.
One of our first Malaysia safety travel tips is to always seek advice from either authorities or reputed websites before visiting a foreign country – moreover, be sure to check more than one source so that you get the full picture of any possible situation.
So far, there have been no reports of serious incidents outside of the danger zone we mentioned a couple of times before – therefore if you choose to visit any other region than the coast of eastern Sabah, you should be generally safe.
Still, in order for you to ensure your safety, there are a couple more things you need to know before boarding your airplane.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Malaysia: LOW to MEDIUM
Naturally, as with any other tourist-popular country, petty crime does exist, especially in the form of bag snatching. While no serious incidents have been reported, it is better to take the basic precautions in regards to pickpocketing and theft.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Malaysia?
For example, you should avoid carrying any valuables with you – instead, leave them behind at your hotel or don’t bring them with you at all. Moreover, you should be extremely careful when it comes to your passport – it might get stolen or you might lose it, case in which you’ll probably be left with no time to enjoy your holiday.
Also common in Malaysia are the thieves on motorbikes that drive by any person that’s wearing a shoulder strap bag and snatch it – thus, it is recommended that you don’t let the bag lean on your bag and, instead, tuck it under your arm or keep it in sight and at close reach.
Important to remember is that, if a motorbike thief attempts to steal your bag, you should not hold tight to or strap it around your arm/ shoulder, as multiple people have been injured as they were pulled to the ground.
Scam Risk in Malaysia: MEDIUM
In terms of scams, you should expect to meet with almost any form of scam that’s out there – as more and more tourists come here every year, it’s only natural that some of the locals will try to make some profit out of this.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Malaysia?
Obviously, the most common type of scam and the one that tourists are most susceptible to is the one that involves unmetered taxis. That’s why, if you’re asking yourself how safe is Malaysia for tourists, we tell you that it’s safe enough if they make use of the taxi coupon systems that are in place and if they make sure that the taxi they are about to use is metered.
Moreover, you should limit your contact with any strangers or with the locals – in this case, we refer mostly to those that want to offer you drinks, which are usually spiked and might have assault and/ or robbery as a result.
In short, avoid making any contact with the locals, unless you need some information or guidance – however, you should rely on a trustworthy guide for this.
Kidnapping Risk in Malaysia: MEDIUM to HIGH
When it comes to kidnapping, we advise you to be, in general, extremely cautious. So far, the only kidnapping incidents have been reported on the coast of eastern Sabah – here, tourists are prone to criminality and kidnapping, mainly because of the presence of the Abu Sayyaf group.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Malaysia?
It has been reported that the Abu Sayyaf group may conduct kidnappings around the seas and islands that are located near the east coast of Sabah, around the islands of the Sulu archipelago, and in the Sulu Sea – thus, if you find yourself in the eastern part of East Malaysia, it is recommended that you don’t spend too much time, or even no time at all, on the sea and on the coast.
Furthermore, you should be extremely careful when in the town of Sandakan, as well. According to various reports, two Malaysian nationals were abducted here, back in May 2015. It is also recommended that you avoid the coastal area that’s south of Tawau and the regions in and around Semporna and Lahad Datu.
Terrorism Risk in Malaysia: MEDIUM to HIGH
Is Malaysia safe to visit in terms of terrorism and terrorist attacks? Well, it depends on the region of the country that you are visiting – as you have been accustomed so far by our Malaysia safety guide, the eastern coast of the Sabah region is not safe in terms of terrorism.
The Abu Sayyaf Group is responsible for the kidnapping and sometimes murdering of locals and foreigners as well, especially from the east coast of mainland Sabah. Moreover, this terrorist group has also pledged its allegiance to the Daesh terrorist group, making it likely to target foreigners/ Westerners.
Furthermore, an attack conducted by individuals that have been linked to the Daesh terrorist group was carried out in the town of Puchong, at a bar, managing to injure eight people.
- How to avoid terrorism in Malaysia?
Therefore, you should tread with caution not only if you are visiting the eastern part of the East Malaysia, but through the rest of the country as well, as terrorist attacks are likely to be carried out.
In the case of such events, it is recommended that you flee the area and try to report what happened to the authorities as soon as possible.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Malaysia: MEDIUM
If you’re wondering if is Malaysia safe for solo women travelers, then, as with almost any other country across the globe, the answer is no, mainly because a solo woman traveler is more likely to be targeted by certain individuals.
As we are about to see, the rape risk in Malaysia is in a continuous decrease – however, the risk is still there, and a solo woman traveler might not be able to defend herself if assaulted.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Malaysia?
Furthermore, if a woman was to be assaulted and/or robbed, there’s the chance that things might escalate if the attackers notice that she is alone. Therefore, it is recommended that they get at least a trustworthy guide from a reputed travel agency to accompany them as they visit the town/ region they are in.
Moreover, it’s extremely important, not only for solo women though, that they don’t display any valuables or expensive gadgets, as these attract thieves – our Malaysia safety guide recommends you that you are always accompanied in order to ensure your safety.
Rape Risk in Malaysia: LOW to MEDIUM
According to several sources, the number of such unfortunate events seems to be continuously decreasing – however, it is still a problem in Malaysia. With 1582 cases in 2017, the most common mistake that people do, and which leads to such events is that they accept drinks from strangers.
Multiple articles on the internet state that the main thing one should be afraid when in a Malaysian club or bar is the very drink that’s on their table – as previously mentioned, drink-spiking is common in Malaysia and, most of the times, it doesn’t end with just assault and robbery.
- How to avoid getting raped in Malaysia?
Our Malaysia safety guide recommends that you should always keep your eyes on your drink, and on the drinks of your traveling companions. However, you must not forget about the basic safety measures when it comes to such a thing.
First of all, you should avoid walking in the town during the evening or night – of course, you should also stay away from any shady alleys or slums of the city. Just keep yourself on the beaten path and you should be safe from any danger.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Malaysia: LOW
When it comes to how safe is Malaysia for tourists that have children with them, the country is as safe for children as their parents make it – namely, you should always keep an eye on your children, no matter the surrounding circumstances.
Remember that Malaysia enjoys a lot of tourists throughout the year and, thus, there will be plenty of crowds for you to lose your children in – that’s why it is recommended that you always keep them close and, if you can’t keep an eye on them, have someone else care for them while you buy souvenirs or take photos, for example.
Overall, there have been no reports of kidnapped children or such – therefore, your children could only get lost in the crowds or while visiting some points of interest. It’s very easy for them to sneak out and start exploring the surrounding areas – however, a foreign country is not quite the place for them to do so.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
As mentioned before, the only thing you have to do to keep your children safe is to keep an eye on them at all times - as we all know, they can get quite eager to explore the surroundings on their own and you might find yourself alone in a market or store, with them wandering around in a completely different store.
Thus, you or someone else accompanying you should take care of them - especially when you will be looking for souvenirs or such. If you are alone, then make sure to hold their hands when you are buying things or such so that they won't feel like going away from you.
Natural Disaster Risks in Malaysia: LOW to MEDIUM
According to various sources and reports, the most frequent natural disaster in Malaysia is flood, occurring in a percentage of 62%. Then, we have the storms of the monsoon season, occurring in a percentage of 12,5%, and landslide and wildfire, with a percentage of 8,3%.
When it comes to storms, they are seasonal and usually occur between October and February – these may also cause heavy flooding, which is quite dangerous, as 24,1% of the natural disaster-related deaths have been caused by flood.
On the other hand, storm itself is responsible for more than 39% of the deaths caused by natural disasters – the percentage was calculated taking into account the period between 1990 and 2014.
Furthermore, on the 5th of June 2015, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit Sabah, mainly affecting Mount Kinabalu.
Thus, if you decide to travel to this country, remember one of our most important Malaysia safety travel tips – namely, always check the weather for the time of the year you are visiting and always listen to the weather report before leaving your accommodation.
Transportation Risks in Malaysia: MEDIUM
In terms of transportation, the roads are generally good in the peninsular part of Malaysia - their condition, however, decreases as you move towards Eastern Malaysia.
One thing to keep in mind is the fact that vehicles, especially motorcycles, don't have a habit, so to say, of stopping at traffic lights or pedestrian crossings. This usually leads to a number of accidents in which both locals and foreigners are involved. In case of an accident, you must stay at its scene until the arrival of the police.
There have also been a number of bus crashes that resulted in more than just a couple of fatalities, especially on night journeys. In order to avoid such incidents, we recommend you to choose a reputed company/ operator for your journey.
If you, by chance, decide to rent a motorcycle in order to make it easier for you to travel across Malaysia, keep in mind that helmets are mandatory - moreover, you should not be driving under the influence of alcohol, as it is seen as a serious offense in Malaysia. Furthermore, police officers carry out breath tests regularly - thus, not a single bit of alcohol before driving. If you are caught in such a circumstance, you can risk a heavy fine or even a jail sentence.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Malaysia: MEDIUM
Even though most governments report of only a small number of incidents involving spiked drinks and such, it is well-known that, in Malaysia, this is quite a serious problem, so to say, as more and more online media outlets have talked about such issues recently.
Naturally, if we are to take into account the fact that this country is heavily visited by tourists/ foreigners, it's no surprise that criminals would try to take advantage of them - in this respect, we recommend you to refuse anyone that offers you drinks. Even if you are in a reputable restaurant, bar, or night-club, we advise you to keep an eye on your drink and limit any contact/ conversation with any local/ stranger.
You should also avoid bringing too much money or any valuables with you in night-clubs, pubs, and bars, as most cases that involved the use of spiked drinks resulted in assault and robbery.
Health Risks in Malaysia
In terms of health, the hospitals and medical facilities of Malaysia are in good condition - however, keep in mind that both private and government facilities charge for all of their services and that the private care in this country is expensive.
In this respect, you should have made an adequate travel health insurance and come equipped, so to say, with enough funds to cover all of the treatments/ medicine that you might have to buy in case you suffer an injury or illness.
List of Vaccines You Need in Malaysia
Due to the forest fires that usually occur in Indonesia, the incidence of haze that affects Malaysia has increased, thus disrupting the local travel, travel to private and government schools, and the regional air travel.
Also, various health authorities around the globe have classified the country as having a certain risk of transmitting the Zika virus. Therefore, it is recommended that you visit your doctor with at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip and make sure that you get the following vaccines.
- Routine Vaccines – MMR boosters, varicella, flu shot, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, polio.
- Typhoid – this type of disease comes from the contaminated water or food that you can find in Malaysia. This vaccine is recommended especially if you plan to visit rural areas or smaller cities.
- Hepatitis A – you can get this through contaminated water or food, no matter your location/ accommodation.
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis – depending on the time of the year and the duration of your travels, you may need this vaccine. It is usually recommended that you get this one if you plan on spending more than one month in Malaysia.
- Malaria – it might be required for you to take prescription medication before, during, and even after your visit to Malaysia.
- Yellow Fever.
Besides getting these vaccines, you will also need to do your best and prevent any bug bites, keep away from animals, especially the stray ones, reduce your exposure to germs, and to drink and eat safely.
Most Dangerous Areas in Malaysia
- Pom Pom
Concluding Remarks: Is Malaysia Safe to Visit?
As a country that’s almost entirely surrounded by the sea and with temperatures that rarely drop under 25 degrees Celsius, it is no doubt that Malaysia is one of the travelers’ favorite Asian countries.
Here, you have the chance to do muck diving – at Mabul -, scuba diving in Sipadan, visit Mount Kinabalu and the federal enclave of Labuan, and gaze at the beauty of the jungles and the national parks of Sarawak.
Overall, Malaysia is indeed one of Earth’s most beautiful countries – and, in turn, it is quite safe as well. At the moment, tourists are only asked to keep away of the coast of eastern Sabah – while the rest of the country remains free for you to explore.
However, keep in mind that you always have to take basic safety measures, no matter how safe the country you are visiting is deemed as – you should always be on your toes and ready to act in case something happens.