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Malaysia

Page last updated on 13 November 2018

Malaysia is a highly diverse country, both geographically and culturally. With three main ethnic groups; Malays, Chinese and Indians, Malaysia is home to a variety of festivals including Chinese New Year, Deepavali (Hindi festival of lights) and Eid al-Fitr (Muslim celebration marking the end of Ramadan). With its diverse culture comes a heaven for foodies, with cuisines influenced by Thailand, Indonesia, China and India.

Latest security advice
Normal safety precautions
To drive in Malaysia, you need a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) and a valid Australian driver’s licence (see Local travel). The level of our advice has not changed. Exercise normal security precautions in Malaysia overall.​ Reconsider your need to travel to the coastal region of eastern Sabah.

If it’s your first time visiting Malaysia, a good place to start is in Kuala Lumpur, the nation’s capital. It’s a modern architectural marvel that is a hub for South-East Asia. Here you’ll find a buzzing culinary scene and shopping galore.

Head out of the city and you’ll find Taman Negara, the world’s oldest tropical rainforest – even older than the Amazon rainforest. It’s estimated to be approximately 130 million years old. If you’re lucky enough to visit, see if you can catch a glimpse of the famous Malayan tiger.

For those who prefer a cultural experience, visit Kek Lok Si (the Temple of Supreme Bliss), the largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia, built in 1893. It’s situated on the island of Penang and boasts a seven-story pagoda with stunning white alabaster and bronze statues of the Buddha.

As exciting as a trip to Malaysia may be, it’s important to consider the risks of disease and illness that can very quickly turn an unbelievable trip of a lifetime into an unforgettable one, for all the wrong reasons.

Speak with your healthcare professional about which vaccinations or other preventative measures you might need prior to your departure.

Before you go to Malaysia

Do you need vaccinations to visit Malaysia?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all travellers are up-to-date with their routine vaccinations; measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, polio, influenza and pneumococcal. These vaccinations are given as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP). In some cases, you may need a booster or re-vaccination against a disease to ensure you still have immunity. 

Other diseases that are considered a risk in Malaysia include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, malaria and rabies. Your doctor will be able to let you know which vaccinations are recommended for you, based on the time of year, destination/s, activities planned and the duration of your stay. 
 

How long before you travel to Malaysia do you need vaccinations?

It is best to consult with your doctor or travel health clinic at least 4-6 weeks prior to your departure. They will be able to advise you about any vaccinations that you may need for your trip well before you leave, based on your specific travel plans. 

What your doctor will need to know:
•    When you plan to travel (time of year/season)
•    The duration of your trip 
•    The regions of Malaysia you are visiting 
•    Your planned activities (i.e. if you are going trekking or visiting remote and/or wilderness areas)
•    If you will be in contact with animals
•    If you are up-to-date with your routine vaccinations  
Your doctor may also conduct a general health check-up. This may be needed for your travel insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

If you are not up-to-date with your routine vaccinations, or if your doctor believes you may be at an increased risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable disease, then they may recommend that you get a booster or be revaccinated against a particular disease. 
 

Are vaccinations for travel covered by health insurance?

Some health insurance companies provide coverage for vaccinations. You will need to contact your health insurance provider to see what they cover.

When you see your doctor regarding your trip, Medicare may cover the total cost of your consultation fees (if it is a bulk billing practice), or otherwise a portion of the cost. However, if you need to be vaccinated, Medicare will not cover the cost of the vaccines themselves.

Do I need malaria medication for Malaysia?

Malaria is present in certain areas of Malaysia. If your doctor believes you may be at risk of contracting malaria, you may need to take prescription medicine before, during and after your trip to prevent malaria.

Malaria is spread by the bite of a particular type of mosquito. The best way to prevent malaria is to avoid mosquito bites altogether. Preventative measures you can take include protecting yourself with insect repellent, wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs, and staying in accommodation that has air conditioning, fly nets or screened windows provided.

In order to advise correctly, your doctor will need to know a little bit more detail around your travel plans, such as where you are travelling, the time of year and the activities you have planned. Visit your healthcare professional 4-6 weeks before travel to see if medication is needed for you.

How to keep healthy when travelling in Malaysia?

The standard of healthcare facilities in Malaysia varies from place to place, however, there are good clinics and international-standard hospitals in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. It is important you a prepared before heading off on your trip.  

See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before departure to discuss your travel health requirements.

Before travelling: 

  • Register your trip with Smart Traveller 
  • Make sure you have enough of your regular prescription medicines;
  • Ensure you’re up-to-date with your routine vaccinations 
  • Put together a travel kit with paracetamol and aspirin, diarrhoeal medicine, oral rehydration salts, antiseptic lotion or ointment, adhesive bandages and other wound dressings, insect repellent, sunscreen, latex gloves, thermometer, motion sickness medicine, water purification tablets and compression stockings

During travel:
 

  • The tap water is Malaysia is not safe drink. It is advised that you drink bottled or filtered water only and check the plastic seal on bottled water is intact. Avoid adding ice to your drinks, and check that salad and fruit have been washed with filtered water prior to consumption. 
  • Traveller's diarrhoea is common in Malaysia. Important ways to prevent traveller's diarrhoea include:
    • ensure you wash your hands with soap and water regularly.
    • Where possible, opt for fully cooked fresh food and only eat fruit that you peel yourself. 
  • Avoid mosquito bites, as malaria is considered a risk to some travellers in Malaysia, particularly those visiting rural areas. Speak with your healthcare professional about whether or not you might need medication for malaria, 4-6 weeks prior to your departure. You can further protect yourself with insect repellent, wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs, and staying in accommodation that has air conditioning, fly nets or screened windows provided.
  • Rabies is a deadly disease and considered a risk in Malaysia. It is spread by the bite, lick or scratch of an infected animal, such as a dog or a monkey.  Avoid close contact with wild and domestic animals, this is especially important for children. Do not carry food around, or feed/play with monkeys or other animals. Vaccinations for rabies are available – your doctor can advise whether vaccinations are required for your trip.
  • Use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, human papillomavirus, herpes, syphilis, hepatitis B and HIV. 
  • Diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B can also be spread through fluids such as blood and semen. To protect yourself, do not inject drugs, do not share needles or devices that can break the skin including those used for tattooing, piercings or acupuncture. Vaccinations are available for hepatitis B.

VaccineHub offers general information only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice

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Sources & Citations

  1. Worldometers, Malaysia Population (live). Available at: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/malaysia-population/ [accessed 21 May 2018]
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Travelers’ Health. Health Information for Travelers to Malaysia, Traveler View. Available at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/select-destinations [accessed 21 May 2018].
  3. World Health Organisation. International Travel and Health. Available at: http://www.who.int/ith/vaccines/en/ [accessed 21 May 2018].
  4. Finder, Travel Vaccinations – Can I claim travel vaccinations on my private health insurance? Available at: https://www.finder.com.au/travel-vaccinations [accessed 21 May 2018].
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Malaria, Resources. Traveling? Make Sure You Protect Yourself from Malaria. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/resources/pdf/travelers.pdf [accessed 21 May 2018].
  6. Lonely Planet. Malaysia, Health. In Kuala Lumpur. Available at: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/malaysia/kuala-lumpur/health [accessed 21 May 2018].
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Travelers’ Health. Rabies in Malaysia. Available at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/rabies-malaysia [accessed 21 May 2018].
  8. International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. Country Health Advice – Malaysia. Food & Water Safety: Overview. Available at: https://www.iamat.org/country/malaysia/risk/food-water-safety-overview [accessed 21 May 2018].

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0159 - Date of preparation May 2018

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