Safety and security – Malaysia travel advice

Safety and security – Malaysia travel advice

Local Tours – Sabah

In February 2013, about 100 armed men from the Sulu Islands landed on Sabah’s east coast, occupying the small village of Kampung Dando, about 100 kilometers east of Lahad Datu. On 1 March 2013, an exchange of fire resulted in several deaths. On March 3, 2013, further incidents were reported on the coast between Lahad Datu and Semporna. Additional Malaysian security forces were deployed to the area on March 4, 2013, and on March 5, 2013, armed groups reportedly carried out airstrikes and other military operations from locations near Sulu-controlled Kampung Tanduo.

Malaysian authorities have designated the entire eastern Sabah area (extending from Kudat town in northern Sabah to the Tawau area on the border with Indonesia) as the Eastern Sabah Security Zone, and established the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) to coordinate the deployment of security forces in the region. Activity. Malaysian security forces have increased their presence in the region and have taken steps to reduce the risk of unauthorized boat landings.

Local authorities have imposed water travel restrictions in some coastal areas of eastern Sabah and waters off the coast of eastern Sabah, including a night curfew. For more information, please visit the Sabah Tourism website.


Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from petty crime. Avoid carrying valuables, and pay special attention to your passport when walking around planes, cafes, airport and rail terminals, and hotel rooms. Don’t open your hotel room door to strangers, especially late at night. This especially applies to women who travel alone. Credit card and ATM fraud is common. Be very careful when using the card.

Bag grabs are common, especially in major cities, and include motorcycle thieves. Bags with shoulder straps should be carried on the sidewalk rather than the road, or tucked under the arm. Do not wrap the straps around your arms or shoulders, and do not try to grab your bag. People were injured or killed by being pulled to the ground by their bag straps.

The airport has a taxi coupon system. In other areas, taxis should use the meter.

Be careful if a stranger offers you a drink, even in a reputable bar or restaurant. These methods can involve the addition of beverages and lead to robberies and assaults.

If you are the victim of a crime, notify the local police and obtain a police report.

road trip

You can drive in Malaysia with an International Driving Permit (IDP) for up to one year from the date you enter Malaysia. From 1 February 2019 you can only get an IDP over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You won’t be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so do so before you travel.

After one year, you will need to get a Malaysian driving license. More information is available from the Malaysian Ministry of Road Transport.

British nationals who already have a Malaysian driving licence can continue to renew their Malaysian driving licence as before.

Roads in Peninsular Malaysia are generally in good condition, but worse in East Malaysia. Vehicles (especially motorcycles) don’t always stop at traffic lights or crosswalks. If you are involved in a traffic accident, you are required by law to remain at the scene until the police arrive. If crowds gather, it may be safer to leave the scene and report to the nearest police station.

There have been many fatal bus accidents, especially on night trips. Choose a reputable operator for your trip.

If you rent a motorbike, you should take the same safety precautions as in the UK. Malaysian law mandates wearing a helmet.

Drinking and driving is a serious offense, and traffic police conduct regular breath tests. Anyone who exceeds the legal limit could face heavy fines and/or imprisonment and deportation.

Sea and river trips

Piracy in Southeast Asian waters is an ongoing problem. There have been numerous attacks on ships in and around Malaysian waters, particularly in the Strait of Malacca and the waters between Sabah and the southern Philippines. Stay vigilant and take appropriate precautions. Reduce the chance of theft, establish secure areas onboard and report all incidents to coastal and flag state authorities.

Some passenger ships sank due to overloading and/or poor maintenance. Always be careful when travelling by passenger or speedboat and avoid vessels that are significantly overloaded or in poor condition. Make sure you have a life jacket.

Water Sports and Scuba Diving

If you rent a jet ski or any other type of water sports equipment, make sure to take adequate safety precautions. Use only reputable licensed operators, insist on pre-use training and make sure you have insurance.

Double check the dive operator’s documentation and make sure you are insured. Check for safety equipment on board, including oxygen. Ask about contingency plans, which should include the ability to call for help at sea and the ability to evacuate divers to the nearest hyperbaric chamber if necessary.

You should be very careful if you are diving at the sites of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales in international waters near Kuantan. They have been declared a “protected place” under the Military Remains Protection Act 1986. You can only dive on a “see without touching” basis. Do not attempt to penetrate debris in deep water. Make sure any boat operators you use are licensed to dive at the wreck site.

Political situation

Police sometimes use tear gas and water cannons to control public protests. Monitor local and international media and avoid all demonstrations. Under Malaysian law, it is illegal for foreigners to participate in demonstrations.

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