Malaysia travel advice
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MALAYSIA - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Malaysia due to the threat of criminality and terrorism.
East coast of Sabah - Avoid non-essential travel
Avoid non-essential travel to the east coast of Sabah, from the northern city of Kudat southward to the city of Tawau, due to the risk of kidnapping and violence. This includes all islands and resorts off the coast, between the two cities, including resorts along both the Kinabatangan River (district of Sukau) and the Sabahan River (district of Kunak).
Safety and security
East coast of Sabah
Eastern Sabah is deemed a Special Security Area by the Malaysian government. Despite increased security in the region, the risk of kidnapping and violence perpetrated by Philippine militants remains, especially on the coast, from the city of Kudat in northern Sabah southward to the city of Tawau near the border of Indonesia. Tourist resorts, restaurants and watercrafts are targeted as well as resort islands and surrounding waters, including around Sipadan. The risk increases on the water and waterfront after nightfall. Land- and water-based curfews are in effect in the coastal areas of Eastern Sabah. Check local media or with local police for the most recent curfew information and follow the instructions of local authorities.
Violent crime against foreigners is not common. Petty crime, however, such as pickpocketing, purse snatching, and snatch-and-grab incidents is prevalent, especially in tourist areas and at the airport. Thieves on motorcycles frequently grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, often resulting in injury. Women walking alone or with children are common targets.
- Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
- Try to limit the number of valuables you carry
- Wear your purse facing away from the street and don’t put the strap over your shoulder or wrap it around your arm
- Don’t leave valuables unattended in vehicles
Scam artists operate in Malaysia. Male travellers, usually alone, have been approached in public places with invitations to participate in card games offering attractive opportunities for winning large amounts of money. Victims have lost thousands of dollars before realizing they were being scammed. Companies have also been the target of scams. Scammers will often pose as representatives from phony loan companies and fabricate documents, emails and receipts to appear legitimate. They then ask for up-front payments in order to facilitate the fake loans. Don’t enter into agreements without conducting appropriate research.
There are reports of travellers encountering serious problems after responding to advertisements to do volunteer work with some adventure or environmental organizations. If you are interested in doing volunteer work abroad, conduct careful research before making a commitment.
Internet dating and other financial scams are common. Foreigners, including Canadian expatriates, may be targeted.
Credit cards and debit cards should be safeguarded at all times as theft, fraud and skimming does occur. Credit card magnetic strips have been duplicated, even in international hotels. Swiping your own card may not always be possible.
- Pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others
- Use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
- Avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
- Cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
- Check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements
Spiked food and drinks
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as the items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.
There is a threat of terrorism. Terrorist attacks could occur at any time. Terrorist targets could include:
- government buildings, including schools
- places of worship
- airports and other transportation hubs and networks
- public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners
Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places.
Stay at hotels that have robust security measures; however, keep in mind that even the most secure locations cannot be considered completely free of risk.
Large-scale demonstrations may occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. Demonstrations are usually accompanied by a heightened police presence and traffic delays. Law enforcement officials have deployed crowd control measures such as tear gas and water cannons, and participants and bystanders have been injured. It is illegal for foreigners to participate in demonstrations.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
Touts at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, including at the KLIA2 terminal, attempt to get travellers to take their “taxi” into town. Several incidents of robbery and/or assault have occurred, as well as gross overcharges by such individuals. Take registered airport taxis only: before leaving the customs and arrivals hall, obtain a coupon from the airport taxi stand near the exit.
Many taxi drivers will often refuse to use the meter even though it is illegal not to use it. You should either look for another taxi or agree on a rate before entering the taxi.
If possible, book taxis by phone. Use a taxi desk or a trusted application on a smartphone, and confirm that the identity of the driver matches that of the photo in the dashboard and seatback.
Taxis are not permitted to pick up additional passengers. If they do, disembark when it is safe to do so.
Report any taxi-related problems to the SPAD (Malaysian body regulating public land transportation) at 1 800 88 7732. English-speaking operators are available. Be ready to provide details such as the vehicle number, the taxi company name as well as the time, date, locations and the nature of the incident.
Road conditions and road safety can vary greatly throughout the country. Signage is in the local language. In some remote areas, there may be a lack of guard rails.
Be extra cautious when driving in the rain as your visibility may be impaired.
Aggressive driving habits by motorcyclists, including driving between vehicles, may pose a risk to foreign drivers who may not be accustomed to these driving techniques.
Bus accidents have occurred on long-distance tour buses, particularly at night. Choose a reputable tour company and avoid overnight routes.
Boat accidents occur. Don’t board vessels that appear overloaded or unseaworthy.
Pirate attacks and armed robberies occur against ships in and around Malaysia, particularly in the Strait of Malacca and in the waters between Sabah and the southern Philippines. Mariners should take appropriate precautions.
Live piracy report - International Maritime Bureau
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Entry and exit requirements
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Malaysian authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave Malaysia.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Passport with “X” gender identifier
While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Expired Social Visit Passes
The Malaysian Government announced that the grace period for expired Social Visit Passes ceased on April 21, 2021.
If you're in Malaysia and your social visit pass has expired, you must leave the country. If you violate these measures, you could be fined or detained.
Immigration Department of Malaysia - Government of Malaysia
Tourist visa: not required for stays of up to 90 days
Business visa: required
Student visa: required
For stays of over 90 days, you must apply for an extension at any Malaysian Immigration office.
Immigration Department of Malaysia - Government of Malaysia
A special visa is available to individuals who participate in the Malaysia My Second Home or Mm2h program.
Before you apply for an employment pass (at an immigration office or a Malaysian high commission overseas), your prospective employer must apply for approval from the Standing Committee for Malaysianisation or the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority to fill the position with an expatriate. While waiting for the approval, your employer can apply to bring you into the country on a social visit pass (for example, temporary employment). We strongly recommend against this last step: you should obtain your employment pass before arrival because it is very difficult to change visa status once in Malaysia. Foreigners are limited to three visit pass extensions, after which they must leave the country or a fine will be imposed for overstaying.
Foreigners are required to register their biometrics (fingerprints) at their port of entry. Children under 12 years of age and diplomats accredited to Malaysia are exempt from this process.
Malaysian authorities have implemented screening measures in response to various virus outbreaks. Travellers entering Malaysia from Canada may be subject to a body temperature check. In some cases, travellers may be isolated and treated.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Pre-travel vaccines and medications
You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines are right for you.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- Contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is very low for most travellers. Travellers at relatively higher risk may want to consider vaccination for JE prior to travelling.
Travellers are at higher risk if they will be:
- travelling long term (e.g. more than 30 days)
- making multiple trips to endemic areas
- staying for extended periods in rural areas
- visiting an area suffering a JE outbreak
- engaging in activities involving high contact with mosquitos (e.g., entomologists)
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.
For destination entry and exit requirements, including for COVID-19 vaccination requirements, please check the Entry/exit requirements section.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in Southeast Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Southeast Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Cholera is a risk in parts of this country. Most travellers are at very low risk.
To protect against cholera, all travellers should practise safe food and water precautions.
Travellers at higher risk of getting cholera include those:
- visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation
- visiting areas where outbreaks are occurring
Vaccination may be recommended for high-risk travellers, and should be discussed with a health care professional.
Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is a risk of chikungunya in this country. The risk may vary between regions of a country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
Zika virus is a risk in this country.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be sexually transmitted. Zika virus can cause serious birth defects.
Pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy should visit a health care professional before travelling to discuss the potential risks of travelling to this country. Pregnant women may choose to avoid or postpone travel to this country.
- Prevent mosquito bites at all times.
- If you are pregnant, always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact with anyone who has travelled to this country for the duration of your pregnancy.
- Women: Wait 2 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy. If your male partner travelled with you, wait 3 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer).
- Men: Wait 3 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy.
For more travel recommendations, see the travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
- In this country, dengue is a risk to travellers. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue can cause flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. The level of risk also varies between regions in a country and can depend on the elevation in the region.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in Southeastern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Hand, foot and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that mainly affects infants and children. Travellers are at increased risk if visiting or living in overcrowded conditions. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against this disease.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care professional.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
COVID-19 - Testing
Contact local health authorities, or the nearest Government of Canada office abroad to find out where you can get a COVID-19 test.
Good health care is only available in major cities. Quality of care varies greatly throughout the country.
Payment is expected at time of service and can be made either in cash or by using a major credit card.
Decompression/hyperbaric chambers are located in Ipoh, Kuantan, Labuan Lumut and Semporna.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Laws and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Some aspects of Shari’a (Islamic) law have been introduced in Malaysia. Muslim travellers may be subject to these laws. In some states, such as Kelantan and Terengganu, particularly strict regulations on alcohol and public decency can be applied.
Religious preaching to Muslims, including distributing non-Islamic religious materials, is illegal.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can face the death penalty. Possession of as little as 15 grams of some prohibited substances will be considered trafficking.
You must carry photo identification, such as your passport. Keep a photocopy of your passport in a safe place, in case it’s lost or confiscated.
Traffic drives on the left.
Canadian driver’s licenses are valid in Malaysia and can be used locally for a period of 3 months. After this time, you can either drive with an international driving permit, or apply for a Malaysian driver’s license at a certified driving institute.
Seat belts are mandatory. Penalties for drinking and driving are severe. Convicted offenders can expect fines or imprisonment and could have their driver's licence suspended or revoked.
The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited.
It is common to receive on the spot fines for disobeying traffic laws.
Foreign vessels travelling in the waters off Sabah are subject to Malaysian law and must use routes designated by Malaysian authorities. Vessels must also fly both a Malaysian flag and the flag of their home country.
The laws of Malaysia prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex, and transgender individuals have been arrested. LGBTQ2 travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Malaysia.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Malaysia.
If local authorities consider you a citizen of Malaysia, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services. This will prevent us from providing you with those services.
International Child Abduction
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. It does not apply between Canada and Malaysia.
If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Malaysia by an abducting parent:
- act as quickly as you can
- consult a lawyer in Canada and in Malaysia to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
- report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.
Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
The majority of the population is Muslim. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly and avoid discussions on race or religion.
In 2023, the lunar month of Ramadan is expected to begin on or around March 22.
In public, between sunrise and sunset, be discreet when :
The currency is the ringgit (MYR).
Some major hotels don’t accept credit cards. ATMs are readily available across the country.
A special permit is required to bring in more than US$10,000 in the form of cash or other negotiable items. Without the permit, excess amounts are seized upon arrival. Visitors may leave the country with only the amount of currency declared on the Traveller’s Declaration Form on arrival.
Natural disasters and climate
The rainy (or monsoon) season extends from October to February. Seasonal flooding can hamper overland travel and reduce the provision of essential services. Roads may become impassable and bridges damaged.
Unrestricted burning periodically causes atmospheric pollution (haze) to rise to unhealthy levels in various parts of the country, especially from June to October. Levels change quickly and should be closely monitored.
Dial 999 for emergency assistance.
Kuala Lumpur - High Commission of Canada
Penang - Consulate of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the High Commission of Canada in Malaysia and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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