Road Conditions and Safety: Bottlenecks are common in major cities because infrastructure development 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 congestion. Many streets are narrow and winding. Traffic is heavy during the morning and afternoon rush hours and slows down considerably when it rains. Monsoonal rains can quickly flood roads located in low-lying areas.
Traffic Laws: Traffic in Malaysia moves on the left side of the road, and most vehicles are right-hand drive. By law, you must use your front and back seat belts and must not use your cell phone while driving unless it is hands-free (e.g., Bluetooth). Turning left at a red light is not legal unless otherwise marked. We strongly advise you to carry your passport or Malaysian identification card at all times when driving.
Motorcyclists attempt to circumvent traffic blockage by weaving in and out of traffic, temporarily using vacant oncoming traffic lanes, and running through red lights. Use your turn signals well in advance of turning to alert motorcycles of your intent to turn.
If you are involved in a traffic accident:
- Call the police immediately. Depending on the severity of the accident, you should call either the emergency number 999 (or 112 from a mobile phone) or the Royal Malaysia Police Operations Center in Kuala Lumpur, 03-2115-9999 or 03-2266-2222.
- Stay in your car and wait for the police to arrive before exchanging information with other parties involved in the accident.
- Reports of road rage incidents, especially after midnight, are rising. Avoid confrontational behavior if you are involved in an accident. If you are threatened, leave the scene and file a report with the local police within 24 hours.
Sobriety Checkpoints: Please note that laws against drinking and driving are strictly enforced and carry serious penalties. Police operate sobriety checkpoints in many entertainment districts frequented by expatriates. At these checkpoints, all drivers must submit to alcohol breath tests. If you fail a breath test, you will be arrested.
Driver?s License Requirements: International Driving Permits (IDP) may be used for 90 days. The IDP must be obtained outside of Malaysia. If you are staying longer than 90 days in Malaysia you will need a local driver?s license. The Malaysian Road Transport Department recommends contacting a local driving school to arrange all the paperwork. In order to obtain a local license, you will also need a valid work permit.
Many car rental agencies in Malaysia are willing to rent vehicles for a short term to U.S. citizens with valid U.S. driver?s licenses. Nevertheless, if you plan to drive in Malaysia, we strongly urge you to obtain an IDP before leaving the United States. More information on how to obtain an IDP is available on the Driving Abroad section of the Department of State website.
See our Road Safety page for more information. For more information about Malaysian driver?s licenses, contact the Automobile Association of Malaysia. Also, we suggest that you visit the website of Malaysia?s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.
Public Transportation: There have been fatal and other serious accidents involving long-distance tour buses in Malaysia, particularly at night or in adverse weather conditions. If you plan to travel by bus, choose a reputable company, and avoid overnight routes.
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. By regulation, metered fares increase by 50 percent between midnight and 6:00 a.m.; meters are programmed to display the higher fee automatically during these hours. Many individuals prefer to book taxi and car services through widely-used smart phone apps both for convenience and fare transparency.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Malaysia?s Civil Aviation Authority 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.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Malaysia should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts at www.marad.dot.gov/msci. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website (https:homeport.uscg.mil), and the NGA broadcast warnings website https://msi.nga.mil/NGAPortal/MSI.portal select ?broadcast warnings?.
Medical Facilities and Services:
- Medical facilities and services are adequate in the larger cities, where you can find Western-trained doctors.
- The U.S. Embassy website has a list of English-speaking doctors and hospitals.
- Psychological and psychiatric services are limited, even in the larger cities, with hospital-based care only available through government institutions.
- Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services although major credit cards are accepted at some hospitals in larger cities.
- Most over-the-counter medications can be purchased at local pharmacies but certain prescription medications are only available at doctors? offices and hospital pharmacies, requiring a locally-written prescription. If you have ongoing prescription medication needs, we advise you to consult a physician prior to traveling to Malaysia. Psychiatric medications can only be prescribed in Malaysia by physicians specialized in psychiatric care, unlike in the United States.
- Malaysian paramedics do not have training equivalent to U.S. standards. Response time may be long and response area limited. Long term visitors and residents should always be aware of the location of the nearest hospital and an alternate form of transportation.
- Callers to Malaysia’s "999" emergency number (equivalent to ?911? in the United States) are directed to whichever hospital the dispatcher chooses.
- If you are staying in Malaysia for a long time, and you have known health problems, you should investigate private ambulance services in the area and provide family and close contacts with the direct telephone number(s) of the service you prefer.
We do not pay medical bills.
- Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas and know how to reach your insurance company to authorize payment. Malaysian hospitals will not bill your insurance directly. You must provide payment and seek reimbursement.
- See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
- Most health care providers overseas only accept cash payments.
- Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Royal Malaysian Customs Department to ensure the medication is legal in Malaysia. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor?s prescription.
Disease: Malaria, Chikungunya, and Dengue are mosquito-borne illnesses that are endemic to Malaysia. Preventing mosquito bites is the most important way to prevent these illnesses. Leptospirosis, a rare bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals, has also been reported in Malaysia in recent years. See CDC?s website for more information.
Zika Virus: Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness, typically transmitted by the day biting Aedes aegypti mosquito that can be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby as well as through sexual contact and blood transfusion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has concluded that the Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other neurological conditions. For general information and the latest updates about Zika and steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual exposure to the virus, please visit the CDC website.
Air Quality: Air quality in Malaysia is acceptable most of the time. However, when Malaysia and nearby countries burn vegetation, especially from March through June and during September and October, air quality can range from ?unhealthy for sensitive groups? to ?unhealthy.?
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for travel to Malaysia.
Further health information:
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
- Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Malaysia are more severe than those in the United States, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines, or death. Malaysian law provides for a mandatory death penalty for convicted drug traffickers.
- It is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings.
- Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail.
- Certain white-collar crimes are punishable by caning.
- You may be prosecuted and sentenced to heavy fines, expulsion and/or imprisonment if you collect local flora or fauna without authorization from the Malaysian government.
- It is illegal to distribute religious literature of another faith to Malaysian Muslims. Special religious authorities and local police occasionally conduct raids on popular nightspots and hotels to deter activities among local Muslims that contravene religious customs, including drinking alcohol and adultery.
Currency: Currency exchange and Western Union money transfers are readily available. Credit cards are accepted throughout the country, but you should be aware of the risk of fraud. ATMs can be a safer means of obtaining Malaysian Ringgit. PINs in Malaysia are six digits long, and some travelers have reported having difficulty retrieving cash from ATMs using four-digit PINs.
Customs: Malaysian authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the import or export of items such as firearms, narcotics, medication, business equipment, currency, books, cultural property or any material which might be considered obscene or harmful to the public interest. Contact the Malaysian Embassy, or one of Malaysia?s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
- Department of State?s International Religious Freedom Report
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: Malaysia?s penal code criminalizes homosexual acts, termed ?carnal intercourse against the order of nature,? leading to punishment of up to 20 years in prison and/or whipping. Several states in Malaysia have instated Islamic Sharia laws, applying to male and female Muslims, criminalizing same-sex activity with up to three years imprisonment and whipping. Transgender individuals have been arrested and charged with "indecent behavior,? and received fines and prison sentences of up to three months. LGBTI individuals may face discrimination or even violence especially in more conservative rural areas. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: The government does not mandate accessibility to transportation for persons with disabilities, and few older public facilities are adapted for such persons. New government buildings are generally outfitted with a full range of facilities for persons with disabilities.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers. In cases of sexual assault, victims should go directly to the nearest major public hospital which will offer ?one-stop? response including medical care and testing, forensic testing, access to the police to make a criminal report, legal assistance, counseling, and temporary shelter.
Safety and Security
Information from credible sources suggests that there is a continued risk of armed terrorist and criminal groups operating and planning attacks against foreigners, including U.S. citizens, in the East Asian and Pacific region. Since 2013, Malaysian authorities have arrested more than 400 supporters ofISIS terrorist group, including many individuals who planned to fight in Syria and Iraq.
U.S. citizens are advised to use caution when traveling to eastern Sabah because of the threat of kidnappings-for-ransom and violence from both terrorist and criminal groups, including the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Group (see the Philippines Travel Advisory for more information). In addition to incursions on coastal or resort islands themselves, criminal or terrorist groups may attempt to intercept boats ferrying tourists from the mainland to resort islands.
Due to safety concerns, U.S. government employees traveling for both personal and official travel to Sabah east of the North-South line drawn from the cities of Kudat to Tawau, including all islands, must obtain official written permission from the Embassy. The exceptions are the cities of Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Tawau, the Sepolik Nature Reserve, and the Kinabatangan River areas, which require U.S. government employees to officially notify the Embassy prior to travel.
Malaysian law enforcement officials have enacted land and water-based curfews in the coastal areas of Eastern Sabah. Check local media or ask local police for the most recent curfew information if traveling to Eastern Sabah.
Public Demonstrations: Local law prohibits non-Malaysians from participating in public protests. While most protests in Malaysia are peaceful, even peaceful demonstrations can turn confrontational and escalate into violence with little or no warning. You should avoid areas that may be targeted for demonstrations and exercise caution in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests or demonstrations.
Crime: Petty theft and violent crime in Kuala Lumpur continue to be concerns. Purse snatchings, pick-pocketing, and residential burglaries are the most common crimes committed against foreigners. Avoid wrapping purse straps around arms or shoulders to avoid injury. Taxi drivers in central Kuala Lumpur have perpetrated violent crimes against foreign tourists and local residents. Travelers are advised to book taxis in downtown shopping areas by phone or online, rather than hailing a taxi on the street, particularly after dark.
Criminals also target motorists stuck in traffic or stopped at a light with smash and grab robberies. Keep valuables out of sight while driving or remove them from the car (including from the trunk) when parked. GPS devices should not be left on the windshield or dashboard.
Scams: U.S. citizens and businesses continue to be frequent victims of internet-based scams originating in Malaysia and have reported millions of dollars in losses. Do not send money to people you have not met in person and who claim to be U.S. citizens in trouble in Malaysia. Resources on how to protect yourself from financial fraud can be found on our International Financial Scams information page. If you become the victim of a scam you may make a formal complaint (in person) to the nearest Malaysian embassy or consulate. You can also report the crime to the FBI?s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
Credit Card Fraud: Closely safeguard your credit cards at all times and use them only at reputable establishments. If you must use a credit card in Malaysia, check your account information frequently for fraudulent charges.
Victims of Crime:
Report crimes to both the local police and the U.S. Embassy:
- The local equivalent to the ?911? emergency line in Malaysia is 999 from a landline and 112 from a mobile telephone.
- Alternatively, call the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) Operations Center in Kuala Lumpur, 03-2115-9999 or 03-2266-2222.
- Contact the U.S. Embassy at +(60) (3) 2168-5000.
- A police report is necessary for the embassy to help victims follow-up on incidents of crime.
- In some tourist areas, the police have established small "Tourist Police? stations manned by personnel familiar with helping visitors to Malaysia.
- Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: The tourism industry is generally regulated and rules with regard to best practices and safety inspections are regularly enforced. Hazardous areas/activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to stabilize a patient and provide life-saving assistance, and first responder capabilities may vary. When participating in trekking or other activities in extremely remote areas, particularly in the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo, it may be difficult for first responders to reach patients quickly. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
To enter Malaysia:
- Your passport must be valid for at least six months. You must have at least one blank page required for entry stamp. Permission to enter and remain in Malaysia is at the decision of and discretion of the Malaysian Immigration Department.
- If you are planning onward travel after departing Malaysia, please note that many other countries in the region require at least six months? remaining validity on your passport to enter.
- You do not need a visa if you are coming for business or tourism for 90 days or less.
- Immigration officials will place an entry stamp, known as a social visit pass (visa), in your passport authorizing a stay of up to 90 days. Travelers may apply to the Malaysian Immigration Department for extensions of up to two months.
- Neither the U.S. Government nor the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur can intervene on your behalf when you apply for a Malaysian visa, nor can we advocate for your admission into Malaysia if you are denied entry.
See the Malaysian Immigration Department?s website for more information.
Travel Document: Persons traveling on a USCIS-issued Travel Document must apply for a visa prior to traveling to Malaysia.
Border Crossings: You are advised to follow all entry directions, present your passports only to immigration officials, and be sure immigration officials stamp your passport with the correct date upon entering and exiting Malaysia. Lacking correct documentation or proof of entry into Malaysia may result in high fines and detention.
Sabah and Sarawak: The eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak (on the island of Borneo) have special entry requirements. You must have your passport to enter or exit Sabah or Sarawak, even when arriving from peninsular Malaysia on domestic flights.
Dual Nationality: Malaysia does not recognize or permit dual nationality. If Malaysian authorities learn that you are a U.S.-Malaysia dual national, they may require you to immediately forfeit your U.S. passport or your Malaysian citizenship. U.S.-Malaysia dual nationals should consider this issue seriously before traveling to Malaysia. See our dual nationality page for more information.
U.S.-Israeli Dual Nationals: Immigration officials have denied entry to U.S.-Israeli dual nationals who have presented their Israeli passports to show exit stamps from their last destination. Therefore, it is important that U.S.-Israeli dual nationals use their U.S. passports to depart the last country on their itinerary prior to arriving in Malaysia.
Visa Overstays: Malaysian immigration authorities have exit controls at all ports of departure and routinely fine and detain foreigners who overstay their social visit passes (visas). If you overstay your visa, you will not be allowed to exit Malaysia until you resolve the overstay with the Immigration Department of Malaysia.
Carry your passport (containing the Malaysian entry stamp) with you at all times in case authorities question your immigration status. Several U.S. citizens have been arrested during immigration sweeps and detentions may last from a few hours to several weeks. Check your visa status periodically while in Malaysia and strictly follow immigration laws and regulations.
Visit the Embassy of Malaysia website for the most current visa information.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Malaysia.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Malaysia for information on U.S.- Malaysia relations.