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Latest updates: Laws and culture - Ramadan 2019.
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).
Travel Health Notice - Zika virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued advice for travellers on the Zika virus, recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling in affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to Malaysia. See Health for more information.
Safety and security
Safety and security
East coast of Sabah (see Advisory)
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, is prevalent, especially in tourist areas and at the airport. Snatch-and-grab incidents against tourists occur. Thieves on motorcycles frequently grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, often resulting in injury. Women walking alone or with children are common targets. Try to limit the number of valuables you carry, wear your purse facing away from the street and do not put the strap over your shoulder or wrap it around your arm. Ensure that your personal belongings and passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. Do not leave valuables unattended in vehicles.
Be particularly cautious at bars or clubs because drink spiking occurs. 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 certain forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Her own way - a woman’s safe-travel guide provides travel safety information specifically for Canadian women.
There is a threat of terrorism in Malaysia, including in Kuala Lumpur. On June 28, 2016, a grenade attack occurred at a bar in the town of Puchong, near Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian authorities have made a number of arrests of individuals with suspected links to terrorism and further attacks are possible.
Terrorist targets could include government buildings, places of worship, schools, transportation hubs and public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels, and sites frequented by foreigners.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times 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 occasionally occur. Advance notice to police is required for any public gathering or demonstration. Offenders could face lengthy jail sentences. It is illegal for foreigners to participate in demonstrations. Protests can turn violent quickly and without warning. 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. Remain vigilant at all times, avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
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 the meter. 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. Do not board a vessel that appears to be overloaded or in poor condition.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
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. Do not 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 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 others are handling your card during payment processing. Scams involving debit cards also occur. Before using your card, carefully inspect the automated banking machine to ensure that it has not been tampered with.
Consult Overseas Fraud for more information.
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. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.
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 foreign diplomatic missions and consulates 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. A passport is also required to travel between peninsular (west) Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak in east Malaysia (Borneo), as east Malaysia has its own independent immigration department.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
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 diplomatic mission for your destination.
If you are leaving Malaysia with a temporary passport issued to you while in the country, you need to obtain a new entry stamp and visa. Canadians have experienced delays in getting long term visas (work, residence, student, dependent) transferred to their temporary passport, resulting in problems leaving the country.
Information on obtaining a new entry stamp and visa – Immigration Department of Malaysia
Tourist visa: Not required (for stays of up to 90 days)
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Tourist visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days. For stays of over 90 days, you must apply for an extension at any Malaysian Immigration office.
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 inside Malaysia. Foreigners are limited to three visit pass extensions, after which they must leave the country or a fine will be imposed for overstaying.
A special visa is available to individuals who participate in the Malaysia My Second Home or Mm2h program.
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.
An airport tax, which is usually included in the price of your ticket, is applied to all international flights.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
- Zika virus: Advice for travellers - February 12, 2018
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.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional about which ones are right for you.
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.
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.
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.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending a large amount of time outdoors) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world.
Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
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.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
About Yellow Fever
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.
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.
For protection of cholera
All travellers should practise safe food and water precautions.
Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care professional the benefits of getting vaccinated.
Travellers at higher risk include those:
- visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation
- visiting areas where outbreaks are occurring.
- 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 pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, 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 currently a risk of chikungunya in this 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.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. Recent or ongoing cases of Zika virus have been reported in this country.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites day and night.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.
Travellers who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy:
- Should avoid travel to this country
- If travel cannot be avoided follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
- Talk to your health care professional about the risk of Zika infection in pregnancy.
- Use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy, if you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to this country.
- Female travellers: wait at least 2 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive (get pregnant) to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- Male travellers: wait 6 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
See travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
- 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 professional or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
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
Medical services and facilities meet Canadian standards in major cities, but not in more remote areas. 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.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & 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, travellers may find particularly strict regulations on alcohol and public decency.
Proselytizing Muslims, including distributing non-Islamic religious materials, is illegal.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Possession of as little as 15 grams of some prohibited substances will be considered trafficking, which carries a mandatory death penalty.
Carry a copy of your passport at all times as a form of identification.
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.
Canadian driver’s licenses are valid in Malaysia and can be used locally for a period of three 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. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08%. 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.
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.
Culture The majority of the population is Muslim. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly and avoid discussions on race or religion.
During the lunar month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim calendar), use discretion when drinking, eating, and smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. In 2019, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around May 5.
The currency is the ringgit (MYR). Traveller’s cheques are accepted at banks, hotels and large department stores. Some major hotels will not accept credit cards. Automated banking machines 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. Exporters and importers should contact the Commercial Section of the High Commission of Canada to Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur for details affecting their transactions.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
The rainy (or monsoon) season extends from October to February. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides, resulting in significant loss of life, extensive damage to infrastructure and hampered provision of essential services.
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.
- Level of air pollution - Department of Environment of Malaysia
- Recommendations on reducing health risks - Ministry of Health of Malaysia
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 Kuala Lumpur 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, express 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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