Malaysia travel guide
With reefs and rainforests, mountains and minarets, skyscrapers and sampans, Malaysia certainly lives up to its slogan: “truly Asia.” One of the world’s great cultural melting pots, Malaysia is a nation where Chinese joss houses, Hindu temples and gold-domed mosques jostle for space with towering skyscrapers. The British once presided over this fascinating sampling platter of Asian culture, leaving behind a legacy of hill stations, polo fields and high tea.
In fact, Malaysia offers two countries for the price of one; Peninsular Malaysia, bordering Thailand at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula; and East Malaysia, the northern half of the island of Borneo, nuzzling up against Indonesia and Brunei. This opens up some spectacular opportunities for nation-hopping across Southeast Asia.
Malaysia’s supercharged capital, Kuala Lumpur, resembles a crystal garden that has grown miraculously in the jungle. Indeed, pockets of virgin rainforest still survive amongst the towering skyscrapers, multi-storey shopping malls and monorail tracks. If you do nothing else, devote a day to sampling KL’s street food; from Chinese noodles and Indian dosas (rice pancakes) to aromatic and spicy Malay curries and seafood.
Away from the cities, untamed nature awaits, in the form of jungles dripping with rare and exotic species and coral reefs thronged by turtles, sharks and tropical fish. Malaysia’s national parks and wildlife reserves are well-organised and well looked after, and you might be lucky enough to meet Malaysia’s most charismatic resident, the orang-utan (literally, “forest man”).
Then there are the islands; tropical resorts such as Langkawi, Tioman and the Perhentian Islands have become almost legendary for fans of swaying palms, sparkling sand and scuba diving on pristine reefs. Malaysia’s dive sites – particularly those reached on live-aboard safaris – rank amongst the best in the world.
Peninsular Malaysia is where people go for bustling cities and colonial history, but the states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo are the gateway to another world. Lush rainforests are inhabited by isolated indigenous tribes, whose traditional way of life is vanishing fast as the modern world encroaches; catch it now before they put up a parking lot.
329,847 sq km (127,355 sq miles).
30,751,602 (UN estimate 2016).
92.5 per sq km.
Ruler with the title of yang di-pertuan agong: Tuanku Abdullah Riayatuddin al-Mustafa Billah Shah ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah since 2019.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim since November 2022.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Malaysia on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
See the latest list of facilities providing tests in Malaysia.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Malaysia.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Malaysia
Check local government websites, social media channels, and media reporting for up to date information on any travel restrictions.
For further clarification, you may refer to the Royal Malaysia Police directory and contact the police department near you.
You can get to and from the airport by taxi, or using the KLIA express train to/from Kuala Lumpur Sentral station. A bus service does operate from Kuala Lumpur Sentral, but infrequently.
You must wear a face mask on public transport and in taxis.
Public spaces and services
Mask wearing is a voluntary practice. However, the Ministry of Health continues to recommend that you must wear a mask in a crowded or badly ventilated area such as public transportation, medical facilities and elderly care homes. You may also be asked to still wear a face mask in some indoor areas.
You must carry your passport at all times. As of 1 July 2022, you are required to submit your current passport to HMPO when making a renewal passport application. Ensure you obtain a photocopy of the data page and any relevant visas before submitting your current passport.
You should follow local news for updates.
If you are found to be in breach of any of the operating procedures in place you may be detained and fined. This has happened to foreign nationals.
On 12 April 2021, the Malaysian Immigration Department announced that those who have overstayed on a social visit pass that has expired since 1 January 2020 must leave the country by 21 April 2021. To date we have not received any official notification of this policy, or that this deadline has been extended.
If you have not been able to leave the country and have overstayed your social visit pass, the Immigration Department recommends informing the enforcement division at the local immigration office urgently. You will have to provide a flight ticket dated within 30 days of doing so, and pay a fine based on the number of days from 22 April 2021 to your departure date. The Immigration Department will then issue the special pass. Please note the British High Commission is unable to provide any assistance for you to remain in Malaysia, including issuing any document to support your overstay.
Healthcare in Malaysia
The government of Malaysia has stated that they are currently covering all costs related to hospitalisation for COVID-19 at assigned government facilities, regardless of nationality. If you should test positive for Covid-19 whilst in Malaysia you should follow local procedures, available here.
If you have inquiries regarding COVID-19, you should call the Malaysian health authorities on +603-77239300 (between 8am – 9pm), whatsapp +60178429454 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (between 8am – 5pm).
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
If you need medication whilst in country visit a local pharmacy who will be able to give you advice. Pharmacies can be found in shopping centres in Malaysia. If a prescription is required they will give you information about local clinics.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health
View Health for further details on healthcare in Malaysia
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Local travel - Sabah
In February 2013, around 100 armed men from the Sulu archipelago landed on the eastern coast of Sabah and occupied the small village of Kampung Tanduo approximately 100 km east of Lahad Datu. On 1 March 2013 there was an exchange of fire and a number of fatalities. On 3 March 2013 there were reports of further incidents on the coast between Lahad Datu and Semporna. Additional Malaysian security forces were sent to the area on 4 March 2013 and on 5 March 2013 airstrikes and other military action was reported against locations held by the armed group from Sulu around Kampung Tanduo.
The Malaysian authorities have designated the entire eastern portion of Sabah (extending from the town of Kudat in northern Sabah to Tawau district near the border with Indonesia) as the Eastern Sabah Security Zone, and established the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) to co-ordinate security forces’ activity in the area. The Malaysian security forces have strengthened their presence in the area and introduced measures to reduce the risk of unauthorised boat landings.
The local authorities have imposed restrictions on travel by water in some coastal districts of eastern Sabah and in the coastal waters off eastern Sabah, including a night-time curfew. For more information, visit the Sabah Tourism website.
Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from petty crime. Avoid carrying valuables and take particular care of your passport whilst walking, in aircraft, cafes, airport and railway terminals, and hotel rooms. Do not open your hotel room door to strangers, especially late at night. This applies particularly to women travelling alone. Credit card and ATM fraud is widespread. Take great care when using your card.
Incidents of bag snatching are common, particularly in major cities and including by thieves on motorbikes. Bags with shoulder straps should either be carried with the bag towards the pavement rather than the road, or tucked under the arm. Do not wrap the strap around your arm or shoulder and do not try to hold on to your bag. People have been injured or killed by being pulled to the ground by their bag straps.
Taxi coupon systems are in place at airports. In other areas, taxis should use a meter.
There have been cases of assaults and robbery, particularly around bars and nightlife areas. You should remain vigilant and take sensible precautions.
Be careful if you’re offered a drink by a stranger, even in a reputable bar or restaurant. These approaches can involve spiked drinks, and have resulted in cases of robbery and assault.
If you’re a victim of crime, inform the local police and get a police report.
You can drive in Malaysia with an International Driving Permit (IDP) for up to one year from your date of entry into Malaysia. From 1 February 2019, you can only get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.
After a year, you will need to get a Malaysian driving licence. Further information is available from the Malaysian Road Transport Department.
British nationals already in possession of a Malaysian driving licence can continue to renew their Malaysian driving licence as before.
Road conditions in Peninsular Malaysia are generally good, but less so in East Malaysia. Vehicles (particularly motorcycles) do not always stop at traffic lights or pedestrian crossings. If you are involved in a road accident you’re obliged by law to stay at the scene until the police have arrived. If a crowd gathers, it may be safer to leave the scene and report to the nearest police station.
There have been a number of fatal bus crashes, particularly on overnight journeys. Choose a reputable operator for your journey.
If you rent a motorbike you should take the same safety precautions as in the UK. Malaysian law states that helmets must be worn.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence and the traffic police regularly carry out breath tests. Anyone over the legal limit can face a heavy fine and/or a jail sentence and deportation.
Sea and river travel
Piracy in South East Asian waters is an ongoing problem. There have been a number of attacks against ships in and around Malaysian waters, particularly in the Strait of Malacca and the waters between Sabah and the southern Philippines. Be vigilant and take appropriate precautions. Reduce opportunities for theft, establish secure areas on board and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.
Some passenger boats have sunk due to overloading and/or poor maintenance. Take care at all times when travelling by passenger ferry or speedboat and avoid travelling on vessels that are clearly overloaded or in poor condition. Make sure life jackets are available.
Water sports and scuba diving
If you rent jet skis or any other type of water sports equipment, make sure adequate safety precautions are in place. Only use reputable licensed operators, insist on training before use and make sure you’re insured.
Check dive operators’ credentials carefully and make sure you’re insured. Check that safety equipment is available on the boat, including oxygen. Ask about contingency plans, which should include the ability to call for help while at sea and to evacuate divers to the nearest hyperbaric chamber if necessary.
You should take great care if you’re diving the sites of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, which lie in international waters off Kuantan. They have been declared ‘protected places’ under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. You should only dive there on a ‘look not touch’ basis. Do not attempt to penetrate the wrecks, which lie in deep water. Make sure any boat operator you use holds a licence for diving at the wreck site.
Police have sometimes used tear gas and water cannons to control public protests. Monitor local and international media and avoid all demonstrations. Under Malaysian law it’s illegal for foreign nationals to take part in demonstrations.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Malaysia.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Bars and restaurants, hotels, markets, shopping malls hosting major international brand outlets, tourist attractions, places of worship and airports are all potential targets. You should be especially vigilant and maintain a high level of security awareness in crowded places and at large gatherings.
On 28 June 2016, there was a grenade attack at a bar in the town of Puchong, injuring 8 people. Malaysian authorities have confirmed this was a terrorist attack by individuals with links to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL).
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
There is a threat to foreigners of kidnapping on the eastern coast of Sabah and in particular the islands close to the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines. There has also been a kidnapping case in Sandakan on mainland Sabah.
The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), based in the Philippines, has previously kidnapped foreigners from the east coast of mainland Sabah, the islands and the surrounding waters. A number of hostages have been murdered by the group. Some groups operating in the southern Philippines, including ASG, have pledged allegiance to Daesh and are likely to regard Westerners as legitimate targets. Commercial shipping companies have been advised to adopt heightened vigilance when navigating the Sulu and Celebes Sea. Most maritime incidents occur in the Sulu Sea in the area between Sabah (Malaysia) and Mindanao, the Sulu Islands and Palawan (Philippines). Boats travelling to and from off-shore islands and dive sites are possible targets. The Malaysian authorities have increased security in the region in response to recent incidents.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.
Malaysia is a multicultural, majority Muslim country. You should familiarise yourself with, and respect, local laws and customs. You should respect local cultures, traditions and religions; and take care not to offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, other religious festivals or if you intend to visit religious sites. See Travelling during Ramadan
You should also dress modestly, particularly in conservative and rural areas and when visiting places of worship, and government buildings. You may be refused entry if you are not appropriately dressed, including closed shoes. You should check the signs displayed at the entrance.
If you are a Muslim you may be subject to local Shari’a law.
There are severe penalties for all drug offences; this includes amphetamine-type stimulants. Trafficking incurs a mandatory death penalty. Possession incurs a custodial sentence and possible whipping.
You could be asked to take a urine test on arrival in Malaysia if you are suspected of having used drugs before your visit. Urine tests can also be taken when individuals are detained following raids on bars and nightclubs. If the test is positive, you could be detained, charged and/or deported and blacklisted.
Importing unlicensed firearms and ammunition into Malaysia is prohibited and can carry the death penalty. This includes spent ammunition and souvenirs from war museums. You should not bring any replica weapons, firearms or ammunition into Malaysia. You may be detained and charged.
Homosexual acts are illegal in Malaysia and punishable under federal law. You should avoid any behaviour which could attract unwanted attention, including public displays of affection. Openly gay and lesbian support groups exist. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Travellers with limited mobility
There are many interesting places in Malaysia that are accessible to all people. But wheelchair access is often limited due to uneven paving, street furniture and a lack of lifts, ramps, etc. This includes buses, public transit systems, and many taxis have limited storage space for wheelchairs. See our general information on planning a safe trip for disabled travellers.
This page has information on travelling to Malaysia.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Malaysia set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Malaysia’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
Further information on entry requirements for Malaysia is available from the Malaysian authorities. On 30 December 2022 the Malaysian government re-imposed limited COVID-19 checks on entry to the country. The Ministry of Health stated that all travellers must undergo temperature screening upon arrival to Malaysia. Those with a fever, who are otherwise symptomatic, or who have travelled to China within the last 14 days must take a Covid-19 RTK test at the airport before entry to the country. Those testing positive will be required to isolate at home or, in moderate to severe cases, may be referred to a local health facility.
Entry requirements for Sabah
Effective from 8 January, all travellers from China must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 according to the criteria set by their respective home countries before entering Sabah. They must also present a negative Covid-19 RTK test result, taken at least 48 hours before departure, before entry to Sabah.
All other travellers must undergo temperature screening upon entry to Sabah. Those with a fever or who are otherwise symptomatic must take a Covid-19 RTK test at the airport before entry to the State. Those testing positive will be required to isolate at home or, in moderate to severe cases, may be referred to a local health facility.
If you are fully vaccinated
Entry requirements for Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status. See entry requirements for Sabah above. See ‘All Travellers’
Proof of vaccination status
You do not need to provide proof of your vaccination status for entry to Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak. See entry requirements for Sabah above.
If you are not fully vaccinated
Entry requirements for Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status. See entry requirements for Sabah above.
If you are transiting through Malaysia
You can transit (up to 24 hours only) via Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) as long as you remain airside.
If transiting between the two Kuala Lumpur terminals - KLIA and KLIA2 be aware these are separate airports and will require you to go through immigration.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
If you are visiting Malaysia, your passport should be valid for 6 months from the date you arrive. If it is not, you may be refused entry and detained. You may also be refused entry and detained if your passport has any damage or has pages missing.
British nationals do not need a visa to visit Malaysia. You will normally be given permission to stay for 3 months on arrival. Visas for longer stays or for non-tourist purposes must be obtained from the nearest Malaysian diplomatic mission before you travel.
The Malaysian authorities are running a vigorous campaign against illegal immigration. Do not overstay your visa, or violate the terms of entry. Even if you overstay for just a few days, you can be fined, detained, deported to the UK and blacklisted. Flight costs will be the responsibility of the individual. Conditions in prisons and immigration detention facilities can be poor with limited healthcare services.
Please note the British High Commission is unable to provide any assistance for you to remain in Malaysia, including issuing any document to support your overstay.
If you’re travelling between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (sometimes known as Malaysian Borneo and comprising the states of Sabah and Sarawak) you will need to carry your passport. You must get an entry stamp in East Malaysia at your initial port of entry.
You should make and keep safe a copy of your passport and visa in case your passport is lost. It may take time to obtain a replacement visa. If you cannot present your original valid visa on exit you may be treated as an overstayer, fined and blacklisted.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for exit from Malaysia. You will need to get a special exit pass from Malaysian Immigration before leaving and there will be a cost for this. This cannot be obtained at the airport, information on where a pass can be attained will be provided once an ETD application has been made. If travelling to another country, other than the UK, you will need to check with the relevant Embassy if a visa is needed in the ETD. If you plan to use an ETD to enter or transit through Malaysia, check entry requirements with the nearest Malaysian Embassy or High Commission before you travel.
Malaysia doesn’t recognise dual nationality. You can be refused entry if you’re found to be holding a Malaysian passport and one of a different nationality. For those people with dual nationality (not including Malaysian), we advise entering and exiting with the same passport.
Customs and Exchange control rules
Check the website of the Malaysian Customs Service for information on restricted or prohibited items that may not be brought into the country. If you are in any doubt about the legality of any items - including medications - you should declare them on entry.
You can import or export up to the equivalent of US $10,000 in Malaysian Ringgit without prior approval. There are no limits on the amount of foreign currency you can import or export, but you must declare any amount in excess of US$ 10,000. Penalties include a fine of up to RM 1 million and up to 3 years’ imprisonment. Further information can be found on the Royal Malaysian Customs Department website.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever occur all year round. There has been an increase in the number of cases of dengue fever, including in Kuala Lumpur. You should take appropriate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes
The states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Sarawak have been declared as rabies infected. You should take precautions to protect yourself if you’re travelling in these areas.
UK health authorities have classified Malaysia as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
In recent years, between June and October, there has been a greater incidence of haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia. Haze can cause disruption to local travel, regional air travel, and to government and private schools. Monitor the Air Pollutant Index Management System (APIMS) updates and health advisories issued by the Malaysian Department of Environment.
Government and private hospitals charge for all services; private care is expensive. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 or 112 from a mobile and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Malaysia is affected by seasonal storms, which occasionally result in heavy flooding. The timing of these storms depends on location in the country. Check local weather.
Earthquakes are known in Malaysia, but rare.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you are concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it is safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you have booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or cannot offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We are no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you are looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you cannot find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request
If you are a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.