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Is Malaysia a Safe or Dangerous Country?Malaysia is a relatively safe country. Violent crimes are uncommon, however, assaults and robberies do occur rarely, sometimes involving weapons. The most frequent crimes against foreigners are purse snatching, pickpocketing, and others petty thefts. There have been reported cases, when the thieves used knives or machetes in order to shock the victim by cutting them. As most countries, there are areas that are recommended to avoid. Malaysia can be safe as long as you use common sense and take advice from authorities, hotels and tour operators. It is important to follow the news on television and radio closely. The Foreign Commonwealth Office has advised against all but essential travel to all islands off the coast of eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau. Please see the map below for more detailed information. Malaysia is a multicultural, majority Muslim country, so, as you would in any other country, it is important to respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to avoid offending other cultures or religious beliefs. Dress modestly, particularly in rural areas; women should cover their legs and upper arms, and men should cover their chests. Attitudes are more liberal in bigger cities like Kuala Lumpur.
Crime and ScamsViolent crime against travelers is not common. Most of the crimes and scams against foreigners are crimes of opportunity. These semi-professional thieves target unaware travelers in tourist areas and restaurants. Bag snatching is common, so make sure you carry your bag facing away from the street and don’t strap it over your shoulder or wrap it around your arm as victims have been injured or killed by being pulled to the ground by their bag straps. Generally, streets in the country are safe, but downtown areas with clubs and bars tend to be populated by dangerous individuals. Risks of being robbed and sexually assaulted are higher around these areas, consequently if possible, avoid these areas late at night. Scratch and Win is an infamous scam in Malaysia. Victims are given reward tickets to scratch/tear/peel off on spot to see if they win prizes. The scammers ask victims to make a payment in advance if they want to claim their prizes. Credit/debit card fraud is a growing issue as well. Card magnetic strips have been duplicated in many places, including in big hotels. Use your card in reputable shops and pay careful attention when other are handling your card during payment processing.
Transportation SafetySome taxi drivers may not use the meter, so make sure you tell the driver to use it or agree on a rate before entering the taxi. If you are taking a taxi late at night, use a dial-a-taxi service instead of flagging down one as you may get in a fake/unregistered taxi. Road conditions in Peninsular Malaysia are good for the most part, but not in East Malaysia. There have been bus crashes, especially at night, so pick a reputable operator if you are planning a trip.
Natural DangersFlooding and landslides are common during the rainy season (October to February). All oceanic regions can experience tsunamis, but the Indian and Pacific Oceans tend to have a more frequent occurrence due to the large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and oceanic trenches. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre website offers more information on seismic activity and the potential for tsunamis. From June to October, smoke haze is usual in some parts of Malaysia. When haze levels are high, authorities recommend limiting outdoor activities, so always make sure to monitor the Malaysian Department of the Environment website or the Air Pollutant Index Management System (APIMS).
Cities in MalaysiaKuala Lumpur The capital of the country has the highest level of petty and serious crimes. You should follow the basic safety precautions like do not leave your belongings unattended and avoid poorly illuminated streets in order to reduce the risks of being robbed. Petaling Jaya It is surrounded be the Malaysian capital. This city has the highest cases of robberies, thefts, and murder between violent gang wars. However, the crime rate here is not high than in Washington D.C.. Be alert, follow common sense while you would be in your country of origin. Klang The highest density of criminal gangs are in this city, although tourists are rarely affected by their actions. Johor Bahru In the past, it was criticized as a dirty, chaotic border town. Now, things have changed. The city on the way to rebrand itself. Although high number of pickpocketing and car thefts cases are still present.
Warnings & Dangers
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Taking normal safety precautions is recommended in Malaysia. Exercise common sense and remain vigilant for suspicious behaviour as you would in any other country. Avoiding risky areas, Malaysia is a very safe country. It is ranked 54th out of 162 on the ranking of the safest and most dangerous countries.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
Pickpocket and bag and purse snatching are common in tourist locations (especially on the side of the roads) and can become violent. We advise to walk facing the traffic and keep a close eye on motorcycles traffic. Sometimes you can even see signs saying “Beware of snatch thief” on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Remain vigilant for thieves that use different strategies to rob you.
MUGGING RISK : HIGH
Muggings have happened, especially in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. There have been reports of physical attacks, usually during after-hours and in rural areas of cities. There is a threat of kidnapping in coastal areas of eastern Sabah, particularly in the islands close to the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines. Terrorist and criminal groups based in the southern area of the Philippines have kidnapped people from these areas. The threat is coming from both terrorists and criminal groups. Mugging occurs, there have been reported cases, when the thieves used knives or machetes in order to shock the victim by cutting them.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
As in any other country, taxi drivers will try to take advantage of travelers by overcharging them. Some taxis do not use the meter, so be prepared to negotiate your fare before you get in the taxi or ask your driver to use it. Scams at busy shopping centers are common. People may approach you with stories of distress or warnings with the purpose of separating you from your valuables. Be wary of fake donation seekers, they are numerous in Malaysia. Credit card fraud is also a growing issue. If you must use your card, only do so at established businesses.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Road conditions are poor and drivers usually do not follow traffic regulations. Book your taxi by phone or use the taxi desk instead of hailing one on the street, especially after dark. Avoid overnight routes if you are taking a long-distance bus as there have been fatal accidents. Taxi drivers in downtown Kuala Lumpur have been involved in recent incidents of violent crime against foreign tourists and local residents, thus use only trustworthy and official services. Taxi drivers know that you are a foreigner and do not acquaint with the local taxi fares used to refuse to switch on the taxi meters and call the price they deem relevant to call for their service. While driving or parking a car don’t leave any valuables on a plain site in the vehicle, as there are known smash-and-grab robberies, when a pair of thieves on a motorcycle takes the valuables off the seat., smashing the window. Be aware of pickpockets in the public transport, particularly while getting on the transport in the big transport hubs.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Malaysia is affected by seasonal storms between October and February, which may result in flooding (heavy rains and thunderstorms occur daily). From June to October, smoke haze is usual in some parts of Malaysia, so always make sure to monitor the Malaysian Department of the Environment website or the Air Pollutant Index Management System (APIMS).
TERRORISM RISK : HIGH
Terrorist attacks are likely in Malaysia. Remain vigilant and take advice from authorities, hotels and tour operators. It is important to follow the news on television and radio closely.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Many women travel safely without any issues. However, if you are traveling alone, it is important to exercise particular care in crowds, on public transportation, in rural areas, and in isolated sections. Avoid isolated locations and traveling alone after dark. Women may get some unwanted attention from men. Wear clothes that cover your arms, legs, and chest in order to blend in.