SAFETY TIPS

SAFETY AND SECURITY

EAST COAST OF SABAH

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.

Risk level(s)

CRIME

Violent crime against foreigners is not common. Petty crime, however, such as pickpocketing, purse snatching, and snatch-and-grab incidents is prevalent, especially in tourist areas and at the airport. Thieves on motorcycles frequently grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, often resulting in injury. Women walking alone or with children are common targets.

  • Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
  • Try to limit the number of valuables you carry
  • Wear your purse facing away from the street and don’t put the strap over your shoulder or wrap it around your arm
  • Don’t leave valuables unattended in vehicles

SPIKED FOOD AND DRINKS

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’S SAFETY

Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.

Safe-travel guide for women

TERRORISM

There is a threat of terrorism. Terrorist attacks could occur at any time. Terrorist targets could include:

  • government buildings, including schools
  • places of worship
  • airports and other transportation hubs and networks
  • public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners

Always be aware of your surroundings when 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.

DEMONSTRATIONS

Large-scale demonstrations may occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. 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.  It is illegal for foreigners to participate in demonstrations.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)

TAXIS

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 it. 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 SAFETY

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.

MARITIME TRAVEL

Boat accidents occur. Don’t board vessels that appear overloaded or unseaworthy.

PIRACY

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.

Live piracy report – International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre

AIR TRAVEL

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

General information about foreign domestic airlines

SCAMS

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. Don’t 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 and debit 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 your cards are being handled by others
  • Use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
  • Avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
  • Cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
  • Check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements

More about overseas fraud