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Crime and Safety

Malaysia - Crime and Safety

Malaysia is a busy country and there is a level of crime in various forms. The levels are not notoriously high, but it is important to be aware of crime for your safety and that of your family.

Crime Rates

Violent crime is low compared to levels in western countries. The death penalty is in place in Malaysia and this seems to be enough of a deterrent to keep the rates low. High levels of crime exist in scams, pickpocketing, credit card fraud and car theft.

Some of the scams to be aware of are those of jewellery sellers. They will offer you glorious pieces of jewellery to send home to your loved ones and you will pay the delivery with your credit card number and before you know it your card has been used. Card games are another common scam where you could end up losing quite a fortune. It is advisable to only pay cash for any jewellery and don’t play cards with strangers.

Corruption in Malaysia is one of the lowest in South East Asia with Singapore being the lowest level of all. Corporate fraud and the counterfeit production of items are the biggest levels of corporate fraud.

Drug trafficking is one of the highest levels of crime in Malaysia and for this there is the death penalty. Heroin is the biggest problem for Malaysia and the death penalty was brought in during the eighties to combat the problem.

Human trafficking is a major problem for Malaysia as the country is well-known for being a transit country. Women and children from Burma, China, Indonesia and Vietnam are trafficked into Malaysia and are highly exploited.

Worst Areas for Crime

The worst areas for crime are the major cities. Pickpocketing is a major problem in large cities such as Penang and Kuala Lumpur and this can happen in packed areas such as markets and while on public transport. It is vital you keep credit cards and cash on your person. Don’t leave purses and wallets on show or in pockets that are on the outside of jackets. Keep such items on the inside of clothing. Don’t place anything of value in rucksacks as pickpockets are versatile little things and can whip out a purse or a wallet in a flash. A purse on a string around your neck which can be tucked inside your clothing is always a good idea.

It is important to point out that Malaysians as a whole are honest people. With the large amount of human trafficking, this seems to be the major cause of crime in Malaysia with illegal immigrants committing crime as a way of survival. Crime occurs in busier areas as there is less chance of being caught due to the crowds. In more rural areas there are fewer problems, although that’s not to say that pickpocketing doesn’t happen. Be on your guard at all times in all areas and make sure you and your goods are completely safe and you shouldn’t have much of a problem.

How to call Emergency Services

- Police – 999 from a landline, 112 from a mobile/cell phone
- Bomba – Fire Department – 994 from a landline, 112 from a cell phone
- Tourist Police – Emergency number – 03 2149 6590

The Tourist Police in Malaysia is a branch of the Police Force specifically to help tourists. They all speak English and will also help expats who are in difficulty.

Police Carrying Guns

General police officers who are patrolling the streets and dealing with enquiries are not armed within the Royal Malaysian Police. There is a special unit where officers are armed and are required in special circumstances such as a hostage situation or terrorism.

Your safety is your top priority and broadly speaking, Malaysia is safe and you’re no more exposed to crime than you would be in your own country. It is vital you keep your wits about as you go about your daily business and with a sense of alertness to avoid the scammers, you should have very few problems while living as an expat in Malaysia.

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.