Saturday, September 4, 2010
Malaysia: Australian Government Travel Warnings
We advise you to exercise caution and monitor developments that might affect your safety in Malaysia because of the risk of terrorist attack.
In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible targets include commercial and public places frequented by foreigners such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, markets, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas.
Eastern Sabah: We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the islands, dive sites and coastal areas of Eastern Sabah because of the high threat of kidnapping by terrorists and criminals. In the past, foreigners have been kidnapped from the east coast of mainland Sabah, the islands (Sipadan, Mataking and Pandanan islands) and surrounding waters. If you do decide to travel to this region, you should exercise extreme caution.
If you are intending to travel overland from Malaysia to Thailand, you should also read the travel advice for Thailand which recommends that Australians do not travel to the far southern Thai provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla, including overland travel from and to the Malaysian border through these provinces.
Civil Unrest/Political Tension
Police permission is required for public gatherings and demonstrations. You should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent and involve arrests.
Petty crime is common. 'Snatch and grab' attacks against pedestrians from passing vehicles, such as motorcycles, occur frequently and often result in injury to the victim.
Although uncommon, violent crime against foreigners does occur.
Drink spiking occurs. Victims lose consciousness and have been assaulted and robbed.
Credit card fraud and scams involving gambling are common.
Motorcyclists can be a traffic hazard in Malaysia due to unsafe driving practices, particularly weaving through traffic and failing to stop at traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. For further advice, see our travel bulletin on Overseas Road Safety.
If you intend to hire cars, motorcycles, jet skis or any other motorised water sport equipment, talk to your travel insurer to check if it is covered by your insurance policy.
The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities such as diving, are not always met. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed.
Piracy in south-east Asian waters is an ongoing problem, particularly in the Strait of Malacca, around Tioman Island off peninsular Malaysia's east coast in the South China Sea, and in the waters between Sabah and the southern Philippines. On 19 February 2009, a tug and barge were attacked in the Strait of Malacca and on 4 December 2008, a tug and barge carrying coal were attacked near Tioman Island. The International Maritime Bureau issues weekly piracy reports on its website. You should also read our travel advice on travelling by sea.
Please refer to our travel bulletin for information about Aviation Safety and Security.
Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate
Flooding and mudslides are common during the wet season (October to February).
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.
If a natural disaster occurs, travellers should follow instructions from local authorities, monitor media and weather reports, and check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.
Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.
Money and Valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.
Credit card fraud occurs extensively throughout Malaysia. Credit cards are frequently copied in places ranging from small shops to large department stores and hotels for later illegal use. Keep your credit card in sight at all times when using it.
Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
Australians are required to pay an additional fee to have their passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling Parents brochure.
If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities overseas we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments. You should exercise the same precautions you would take before placing children into schools or childcare facilities in Australia.
Ideas on how to select childcare providers are available from the smartraveller Children's Issues page, Child Wise and the National Childcare Accreditation Council.
When you are in Malaysia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
Travellers should note some aspects of Sharia (Islamic) Law have been introduced by states in Malaysia. You should ensure you are aware of relevant provisions.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and include the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking.
Homosexual acts between males are illegal and penalties include corporal punishment and long prison sentences. Homosexual acts between women may be considered an 'act of gross indecency with another' and penalties include imprisonment.
The penalty for some offences, including drug offences, commercial crime, rape and robbery, may include corporal punishment.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal and penalties are strictly enforced.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 17 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in sexual activity with children under 16 while outside of Australia.
Some sectors of Malaysian society have conservative standards of dress and behaviour. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.
During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims. See our Ramadan 2010 Travel Bulletin for further information.
Information for Dual Nationals
Malaysia does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Malaysian dual nationals who are arrested or detained. We recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.
Our Travel Information for Dual Nationals brochure provides further information for dual nationals.
Entry and Exit Requirements
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Malaysia for the most up-to-date information.
Particular care should be taken to follow all immigration rules and regulations. Violation of visa conditions and overstaying your visa may result in penalties, including fines, detention and deportation.
Passports are required for travel between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak).
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Malaysian immigration authorities may deny entry and deport people arriving in Malaysia with less than six months validity remaining on their passport, even if the person intends staying just a few days.
Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 has spread throughout the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides useful information for individuals and travellers on its website. For further information and advice to Australians, including on possible quarantine measures overseas, see our travel bulletin on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Travelling Well brochure also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while travelling overseas.
The standard of medical facilities is adequate in major cities but can be limited in rural areas. Public hospital services can be limited and access slow. Private hospitals with international standard facilities can be found in major cities. Most private hospitals require a cash deposit or a confirmation of insurance prior to admission and expect immediate payment for services.
Decompression chambers are located in Kuantan, Lumut, Ipoh, Sabah and Labuan.
"Medical tourism", including for cosmetic surgery, is common. Australians should ensure that they are not lured to discount or uncertified medical establishments where standards can be lacking, resulting in serious and possibly life-threatening complications.
Malaria is a risk in rural areas but not in urban and coastal areas. Outbreaks of other mosquito-borne illnesses (including chikungunya fever and filariasis) also occur. Dengue fever is prevalent, including in major urban areas, with more serious outbreaks reported from time to time. The risk of contracting these infections rises during the wet season. We recommend that you consider malaria prophylaxis where appropriate and that you take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent at all times.
The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis is found throughout many regions of North, South and South-East Asia and Papua New Guinea. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia. For further details please consult your travel health doctor.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, tuberculosis, cholera, and hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD)) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions. For further information see the Australasian College of Dermatologists' website.
Smoke Haze: There is smoke haze across some parts of Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, usually during the July to October period. This haze can cause health problems for some people. Keep up to date with advice of local authorities and seek medical advice on appropriate precautions. Regular air quality reports are available from the Malaysian Department of the Environment.
Avian influenza: The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human deaths from avian influenza in South-East Asia. The Department of Health and Ageing advises Australians who reside in Malaysia for an extended period to consider, as a precautionary measure, having access to influenza antiviral medicine for treatment. Long-term residents are at a greater risk of exposure to avian influenza over time. Medical advice should be sought before antiviral medicines are commenced. Australians intending to travel to Malaysia for shorter periods are at much lower risk of infection but should discuss the risk of avian influenza with their doctor as part of their routine pre-travel health checks.
If the avian influenza virus mutates to a form where efficient human-to-human transmission occurs, it may spread quickly and local authorities could move quickly to impose restrictions on travel. Australian travellers and long-term residents in Malaysia should be prepared to take personal responsibility for their own safety and well-being, including deciding when to leave an affected area and ensuring they have appropriate contingency plans in place. Australians in Malaysia should monitor the travel advice and bulletin for updated information and advice, and ensure that their travel documents, including passports and visas for any non-Australian family members, are up to date in case they need to depart at short notice.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world, including Malaysia. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website.
Where to Get Help
In Malaysia, you can obtain consular assistance from the:
Australian High Commission
6 Jalan Yap Kwan Seng
Telephone: (60 3) 2146 5555
Facsimile: (60 3) 2141 5773
Limited consular assistance, which does not include the issue of Australian passports or immigration services, may be obtained from:
Australian Honorary Consulate
Suite 10.1, Level 10
Wisma Great Eastern
65 Jalan Gaya
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah 88000
Telephone: (60 88) 267 151
Facsimile: (60 88) 266 509
Australian Honorary Consulate
Suite 504, 5th Floor, Wisma Bukit Mata Kuching
Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman
Kuching, Sarawak 93100
Telephone: (60 82) 233 350
Facsimile: (60 82) 313 388
Australian Honorary Consulate
1-C Lorong Hutton
Telephone: (60 4) 262 5285
Facsimile: (60 4) 263 3320
If you are travelling to Malaysia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate or online. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the High Commission or Honorary Consulates you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
This Advice was issued on Wednesday, 30 June 2010, 09:11:43, EST.