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Malaysia - Travel advice
Malaysia has a stable government and growing economy. Facilities for tourism are well developed. The best way to ensure a carefree and relaxing trip is to prevent problems before they happen. The more you learn about passports, visas, customs, local laws, and other travel basics, the less likely you are to have difficulties during your vacation.
• Never bring any recreational drugs into Malaysia, even if you are only there for transit. Possession and/or trafficking of even minute amounts can lead to a mandatory death sentence.
• Crime levels are relatively low in Malaysia, but common sense precautions should be observed. Pickpockets and snatch-and-run thieves ply their trade in Kuala Lumpur and large cities, and the security of cheaper accommodations may have room for improvement.
• Vehicles will not stop at pedestrian/zebra crossings. Seeing that this will not change, the problem is overcome by building pedestrian bridges and installing pedestrian traffic lights.
• Drunk driving is a serious offence and breathalyser tests by the police are common.
• Travel documents and valuables are best deposited in a hotel safe or carried safely with you, as there is a potential of theft from hotel rooms while guests are away.
• Women travelling alone should be wary of opening their room doors to strangers. In such situations, common sense judgement should prevail.
• If using a taxi after midnight or before dawn, it is best to use the dial-a-taxi service as there have been incidents where taxis flagged down during those hours being fake/unregistered. The unregistered taxi driver might then rob or assault their victims with the help of assailants.
• Do not accept drinks from strangers in any pub or club as there is a risk they might be spiked.
• Credit card fraud can be a problem, so use plastic only at large, reputable retailers, and do not let your card out of sight.
• Public demonstrations are almost unheard of in Malaysia - should any occur, they may be treated with heavy-handed tactics, so avoid them at all costs.
• Tap water is drinkable but even locals boil or filter it first just to be on the safe side. Otherwise stick to bottled water.
• Ice in drinks might be made from tap water but the cylindrical variety with a hollow tube down the middle are mass-produced at ice factories and are safer to consume.
• Avoid buying cold drinks or cut fruit from street vendors.
• Heat exhaustion is rare, but do consume lots of fluids, use a hat and sunscreen and shower often!
• Peninsular Malaysia is largely malaria-free, but there is a significant risk in Borneo especially in inland and rural areas.
• Dengue fever occurs throughout Malaysia in both urban and rural areas, and can only be avoided be preventing mosquito bites. The mosquito that transmits dengue feeds throughout the daytime, and is most active at dawn and dusk. If you experience a sudden fever with aches and lethargy, seek medical attention immediately. Aspirin and ibuprofen should not be used until dengue fever has been ruled out.
• Haze from burning vegetation in neighbouring Indonesia may come and go without warning from the months of May to August so travellers with respiratory ailments should come prepared. The Malaysian government is actively seeking Indonesia's co-operation in this matter but up until now, efforts seem to have been mostly futile.
• Most public washrooms will have both sitting and squatting toilets. If the condition of the sitting toilets is questionable, use the squatting toilets instead - they are more hygienic and just as easy to use as sitting toilets. Before use, check that the toilet paper has been replenished.
• Adhere to safe sex practices for all sexual encounters.
• It is extremely rare for tourists to seek medical treatment from government hospitals. Private medical care is the only option and costs can be staggering (albeit generally much less expensive than in the West). Be sure to have the appropriate travel health insurance.
As in any predominantly Muslim country, you should dress respectfully, particularly in rural areas (wearing trousers not shorts and covering your shoulders is recommended but not essential). In more metropolitan areas such as Kuala Lumpur, attitudes are more liberal.
As a tourist, it is best not to criticize the Government and especially the Malay royal families.
When entering a home or a place of worship, always take off your shoes. Also, never eat with your left hand, or give a gift with your left hand; and never point with your forefinger (you may use a closed fist with the thumb instead), point your feet at a person or touch a person's head.
Public showing of affection in larger cities is tolerated but might invite unnecessary attention from the public. In more rural areas it is frowned upon and is to be avoided.
Same-sex relationships is a taboo subject in Malaysia. Gay and lesbian travellers should avoid any outward signs of affection, including holding hands in public.