Malaysia is a very special nation which embraces different cultures such as Indian, Chinese and, of course, Malaysian, as well as the presence of ethnic groups linked to the original tribes of the jungle. The multifaceted nature of this unique amalgam of tradition, spirituality, culture and popular beliefs is reflected in the various celebrations and festivals of the individual ethnic groups, which maintain their own traditions, characterised by lively costumes, distinctive dances and their own music.
Malaysia is an enigmatic country, wrapped in a special atmosphere that can ‘bewitch’ those who visit it for the first time and arouse in those who have had the opportunity to get to know it a feeling of nostalgia, a call to the heart. Its extraordinary beauties fascinate the traveller with their incredible variety, together with the culture and traditions so deeply rooted in this splendid country.
In order to travel safely in Malaysia, it is necessary to take a few simple precautions. More than anything else, these are rules dictated by common sense and a few small precautions to avoid inconveniences. Let’s see together, therefore, how to organise ourselves in order to visit Malaysia with peace of mind.
Travellers intending to enter the country must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months before it expires. We inform tourists that the Malaysian authorities are very strict about this rule. There have been problems at the border for people who have not had their passport in order (torn cover or pages), which have even led to refusal of entry. It is therefore a good idea to check both the expiry date and the status of your passport before you start your journey.
An entry visa for a tourist trip to Malaysia is not necessary for all stays not exceeding three months. In any case, the Malaysian Embassy will be able to give you any kind of information.
When entering Malaysia it is compulsory to declare the total amount of currency you hold, whether in cash or traveller’s cheques or any other form, if the amount exceeds the equivalent of US$10,000. This declaration is a simple formality as there are no real limits on the importation of currency. Travellers can fulfil this requirement by filling in the form provided, known as ‘Customs Form K22’. Furthermore, when you leave the country for repatriation, you will have to repeat the declaration, remembering that you cannot export foreign currency for an amount greater than you declared when you entered Malaysia.
It is prohibited to import weapons and ammunition into Malaysia without a valid firearms licence. Please note that the authorities can inflict severe penalties (even the death penalty) if you violate this prohibition.
Private healthcare in Malaysia is undoubtedly of a higher level than public healthcare. In general, all medical needs are covered on site. However, if there are more serious problems or surgical operations are required, repatriation is advisable, as such treatments in private facilities would be very expensive. This is why it is advisable to take out private insurance, even before departure, to cover any medical expenses and also a possible repatriation with an equipped flight. Generally speaking, medicines are readily available in the country.
Among the diseases present in Malaysian territory we find mainly Dengue fever, a disease very similar to influenza, caused by the bite of a particular type of mosquito. To avoid contracting this disease, which can have serious complications, we recommend the use of insect bite repellent sprays, wearing comfortable clothing to protect your legs and shoulders, and, if possible, staying in facilities with air-conditioned areas or mosquito nets. If you suspect that you have contracted dengue fever, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible or go to a health facility. Remember that you should avoid taking antipyretic drugs if you have not had a prior medical examination, as antipyretics can cause complications in the case of dengue fever.
Other endemic diseases in the country are hepatitis and Japanese encephalitis (a disease transmitted by the ‘culex’ mosquito), a common disease in almost all of South-East Asia. There have also been a few cases of the ‘Zika’ virus, another disease transmitted through the bite of the ‘aedes aegypti’ mosquito, the same one that causes Dengue and Chikunguya. The same precautions apply to these diseases, as indicated above.
There have also been cases of leptospirosis (bacterial infection caused by contact with infected water, soil or urine from infected rats or animals). If you contract this disease, you should immediately go to an emergency room if you experience symptoms such as joint pain, headache or fever, in order to establish an exact diagnosis.
There have also been reports of cases of rabies, caused by the bite of infected stray monkeys, dogs or cats. Therefore, avoid approaching monkeys and other animals during your excursions to avoid any inconvenience. In case of a bite, you should go to the nearest emergency room for investigation.
As already suggested, the best precaution is to take out an insurance policy before leaving to cover medical expenses and possible admission to a hospital in another country, or even repatriation on an equipped flight.
Food should be treated with great care as hygiene in the country is rather lacking. Always wash raw vegetables and fruit very carefully and avoid food that has been cooked and stored poorly. As for soft drinks or water, it is safer to buy them in sealed bottles, without adding ice, which may have been produced with non-pure water.
The only compulsory vaccination to enter Malaysia is against Yellow Fever and is required for all travellers over 1 year of age coming from countries at risk or who have been in one of the airports of these countries for more than 12 hours: Senegal, Guinea, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, Congo, Uganda and Gabon, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.
Before leaving, consult your doctor for advice on possible vaccination against hepatitis, malaria and cholera (the last two will be useful if you are travelling to Borneo).
Malaysia is a fairly stable nation from a social point of view. Nonetheless, there are some critical situations in certain areas of the country, caused by social tensions resulting from political clashes. It is therefore not possible to exclude the possibility of serious conflicts between demonstrators and the police.
For the same reason, the risk of terrorist episodes cannot be excluded, even though the intelligence authorities are constantly monitoring the territory. In fact, security measures have been stepped up, especially in areas with a greater influx of people, such as tourist destinations, government buildings and accommodation facilities.
Travel to the north and west coasts relating to the Sabah region, as well as nearby islands, is discouraged due to a number of kidnapping incidents. It will be sufficient to keep up to date through institutional channels (see “Security warnings” below) in order to be informed even before departure about the real security situation in the country. It is always recommended to avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place or crowds are gathering. At the moment, there are no reports of public order problems in the country, only a few episodes of petty crime in areas of high tourist flow.
The Malaysian religion is predominantly Muslim, so we advise you to take care in your clothing and behaviour, especially when visiting outside tourist areas. Remember that during Ramadan there are specific rules to be adopted in order to respect the host country.
We encourage travellers to adopt, in general, these simple rules for a safe journey:
The use of drugs is strictly prohibited. The penalties for this type of offence are very severe and even include the death penalty. Border police may require travellers suspected of using drugs, including amphetamines, to undergo a medical examination. We recommend that our fellow countrymen and women, in the event that they are apprehended by the police for these offences, contact the Embassy immediately and do not make any statements or testimonies without first consulting a lawyer.
For such offences, Malaysian law provides for up to 20 years’ imprisonment. In the unfortunate event that you find yourself unwittingly involved in issues related to alleged or apparent sexual abuse or prostitution, you should contact your embassy as soon as possible.
Since 2018, there has been a directive issued by the Malaysian Department of Transport according to which foreigners wishing to drive cars in Malaysia must show their international driving licence in addition to their valid country’s classic driving licence if checked. If either of these documents is not in order, you will need to obtain a Malaysian driving licence, in accordance with local regulations.
Remember that driving is on the left and overtaking on the right. Seat belts are compulsory, as is a helmet if you are driving a moped.
Roads in Malaysia are in fair condition. The motorway that connects the border between Thailand and Singapore is very convenient as it speeds up travel from north to south and to the western parts of the country. In Kuala Lumpur you will find a convenient overground metro and fast trains to the suburbs.
Even taxis, which are paid by the meter, are fairly cheap but difficult to find at central or peak times. There are also private taxi services such as MyCar or Grab agencies. Bear in mind that traffic in the city is chaotic only during a limited period of time or when it rains. Be careful when driving as Malaysian drivers are not very disciplined and drive at high speeds, especially those on scooters.