Travel Consideration: Malaysia

Contributed By RealAdventures

Malaysia is a federal parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch. Its population of approximately 22.7 million is ethnically divided into Malay (47 percent), Chinese (26 percent), Indian (7 percent), other indigenous (10 percent), and other ethnic groups (10 percent). Islam is the national religion. Bahasa Malaysia is the official language although English is widely spoken. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur.

A passport valid for at least six months is required to enter Malaysia. American citizens do not need a visa for a pleasure or business trip if their stay in Malaysia is 90 days or less. For more information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of Malaysia, 2401 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone: (212) 328-2700, or the Malaysian Consulates located in New York, telephone (202) 328-2700, or Los Angeles, telephone (213) 892-1238. See also the Malaysian Government home page on the Internet at Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Malaysian embassy or consulate.

Violent crime, particularly against foreigners, is not common in Malaysia. Foreigners are often the target of pickpocketing, burglaries, automobile break-ins and purse snatchings referred to as "snatch-thefts," in which the assailants on motorcycles or in cars snatch purses, cell phones, and other items from pedestrians and speed off. Pedestrians have occasionally been injured when dragged to the ground during these incidents. Pickpocketing is common in crowded public places. Credit card fraud is a prevalent and growing crime problem. Use of credit cards should be limited to major international establishments such as large hotels, and credit card numbers should be closely safeguarded at all times. Theft of items from parked vehicles occurs frequently, and items that are likely to be desirable to thieves should be removed from vehicles or placed out of sight. The loss or theft abroad of U.S. passports should be reported immediately to the local police and U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government printing office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at, or via the Bureau of consular Affairs home page at

Medical facilities and services are adequate in the larger cities where Western-trained doctors can easily be found. The U.S. Embassy can also provide a list of English-speaking doctors and hospitals upon request. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services although major credit cards are acceptable.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Malaysia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of public transportation: Good
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Good
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

Malaysian Road Safety: Traffic patterns in Malaysia move on the left. Pedestrians are reminded to look carefully in all directions when crossing roads. Motorcyclists attempt to circumvent traffic blockage by weaving through vehicles and pedestrians. Traffic is heavy during the morning and afternoon rush-hours and slows down considerably when it rains. Bottlenecks are common sights in Kuala Lumpur. Development of the infrastructure has not kept pace with the proliferation of motorized vehicles. Multi-laned highways often merge into narrow two-lane roads in the center of town and cause added congestion. Many streets are narrow and winding. Towns are often filled beyond capacity. Taxis are metered but some drivers charge a rate much higher than the metered rate during peak hours, when it is raining, or when the passenger’s destination is to or through a heavily congested area.

A well-maintained, heavily congested, divided highway with two separate lanes runs through Malaysia from Singapore to the Thai border. Malaysia’s west coast also has well-developed paved roads between major cities. These two-lane highways are usually congested. Serious accidents can occur from collisions and from drivers who lose control of their vehicles when driving too fast in hilly regions.

For specific information concerning Malaysian driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Malaysian National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at or the Malaysian Government home page via the Internet at

Malaysia strictly enforces its drug laws. Malaysian legislation provides for a mandatory death penalty for convicted drug traffickers. Individuals arrested in possession of 15 grams (1/2 ounce) of heroin or 200 grams (seven ounces) of marijuana are presumed by law to be trafficking in drugs.

Malaysia’s customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Malaysia of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency, ivory, and other items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Malaysia in Washington or one of Malaysia’s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. Customs officials encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212)354-4480; send an e-mail to, or visit for details.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Malaysia are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. The U.S. Embassy is located at 376 Jalan Tun Razak 50400, Kuala Lumpur. The mailing address is P.O. Box No. 10035, 50700 Kuala Lumpur; Telephone (60-3)2168-5000. The fax number for the U.S. Embassy is (60-3)242-2207; the fax number for the Consular Section is (60-3)248-5801. Internet home page:; e-mail address:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation authority as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Malaysia’s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation telephone number within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at telephone number (618) 256-480l.

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