The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to Malaysia. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
Travellers should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
Visits to Malaysia are normally trouble free and a considerable number of Irish citizens live and work in Malaysia. Given that Malaysia is a multi-cultural but predominantly Muslim country, visitors should be sensitive to local customs. Visitors should also be aware of the risk of bag snatching in the central tourist areas of Kuala Lumpur.
Irish citizens are advised against all but essential travel to the islands off the east coast of Sabah from Sandakan to Tawau. There is a risk of kidnapping and security incidents.
Two Taiwanese tourists were attacked in their room at the Sipadan Pom Pom resort of the coast of eastern Sabah on 15 November 2013. A male tourist was killed and a female tourist was kidnapped.
On 9 February 2013 a large group of armed men from the Philippines’ Sulu archipelago landed on the eastern coast of Sabah and occupied the village of Kampung Tanduo. Soon afterwards Malaysian security forces surrounded the gunmen. In early March there were exchanges of fire and fatalities at a number of locations on the coast between between Lahad Datu and Semporna. On 5 March the Malaysian military launched a major offensive involving ground and air assets to address the activity of armed insurgents. The Eastern Sabah Safety Zone was announced in early April, and comprises the entire eastern portion of Sabah including the districts of Kudat, Kota Maruda, Pitas, Beluran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunuk, Semporna and Tawau.
Irish citizens visiting this region should ensure that they take appropriate personal security measures, and follow the advice of authorities and tour operators. Despite the increased police and army presence, the size and remoteness of the region means that future incidents cannot be ruled out.
For entry requirements for Malaysia, please contact the nearest Malaysian Embassy or Consulate.
Malaysian immigration requires international visitors (with the exception of children under 12) to provide fingerprints before entering Malaysia. It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.
Bag snatching by thieves on motorbike is becoming a regular occurrence in the central tourist areas of Kuala Lumpur. Visitors should be vigilant and take sensible precautions to protect themselves against street crime.
Passports, traveller’s cheques and cash should be safely stored. There have been a number of reports of scams involving gambling and the spiking of drinks, which has led to robbery and assault.
As in other countries, visitors - especially women travelling alone - should not open their hotel room doors to strangers.
As credit card fraud and ATM scams are commonplace in the region, visitors should be very vigilant when making payments and also when using ATM machines to withdraw cash.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Tensions between the Government and opposition have occasionally led to demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere. In case of further demonstrations, visitors are advised to avoid sites of tension, exercise caution and seek local advice.
The southern provinces of Thailand that border Malaysia (Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhl) are under a state of emergency on account of terrorist activities in this region, including against its transport infrastructure, hotels and bars. All but essential travel to these Thai provinces is not recommended.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
Possession of illegal drugs in Malaysia may result in life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence and those over the legal limit could receive a jail sentence and/or a heavy fine. Breath testing is common in Malaysia.
Given that Malaysia is a multi-cultural but predominantly Muslim country, visitors should be sensitive to local customs. It is advisable to dress and behave modestly, especially in rural areas and, of course, in places of worship.
Malaysia has a well-developed road network to which normal road traffic rules apply. Visitors should take care as motor-cyclists do not always stop at pedestrian crossings or at traffic lights. Drivers making left turns need to ensure that motor-cyclists are not overtaking on the inside.
Malaysia has an extensive network of public and private hospitals. However, travellers should seek medical advice on vaccinations and other preventative measures against various tropical diseases as well as TB and Hepatitis A & B.
Influenza A (H1N1)
There have been over a thousand reported cases of influenza A (H1N1) in Malaysia and several deaths. Irish travellers are advised to follow developments through the media, www.who.int/en/ and www.moh.gov.my
There are no preventative measures against Dengue Fever which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Dengue fever is present in all States in Malaysia. Travellers should take precautions to avoid mosquitoes bites by using insect repellent and covering up, particularly when in jungle areas or near stagnant water.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease [HFMD]
HFMD is a communicable disease to which children are particularly vulnerable but which can affect all ages. In response to significant outbreaks of HFMD in Sarawak in the early months of 2006, a number of schools and day-centres were closed by the Malaysian Government as a precaution.
There have been no reports of human cases of Avian Influenza, though in early 2006 there were some outbreaks of the disease in Peninsular Malaysia which caused a number of poultry deaths. As a precaution, visitors should avoid visiting places where they might come into contact with live birds and ensure that eggs and poultry dishes are well-cooked.
Visitors should be aware that air quality is compromised seasonally on account of smoke haze. This improves with the onset of the monsoon season. Further information on air quality is available on the website for the Malaysian Department of the Environment