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Health & safety

Dangers & annoyances

In general Malaysia is very safe, with violent attacks being uncommon. However, the usual travel precautions apply, such as restraining your urge to go wandering around seedy areas alone late at night. Credit-card fraud is a growing problem so only use your cards at established businesses and guard your credit-card numbers. The snatching of bags by thieves on motorcycles is a recurring crime in KL and Penang’s Georgetown, so keep bags away from the roadside in these areas. In seedy areas such as Ipoh and KL’s Golden Triangle, male travellers may be harassed to buy pirated porn DVDs, drugs or the services of prostitutes.

A disturbingly high incidence of theft occurs in guesthouse dorms. Sometimes this involves an outsider sneaking in and other times it involves fellow travellers. Don’t leave valuables or important documents unattended, and carry a small padlock.

Rabies is an ever present problem in Malaysia – you should treat any animal bite very seriously. Leeches can be a nuisance after heavy rain on jungle walks.

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Tioman scams

Oh those tenacious entrepreneurs have cooked up a good one for Tioman-bound travellers arriving in the port town of Mersing. The Mersing-bound bus is supposed to stop at the bus station near the jetty, but instead foreigners are ‘advised’ to get off at a travel agent office in town. The agent sells standard boat tickets (no loss to the traveller here), but accommodation rates can often be doubled, turning what would otherwise be a great budget hut into an overpriced disappointment. If you’re worried about finding accommodation, call the guesthouse yourself to reserve a room.

If you don’t want to get off at the travel agency, simply tell the bus driver that you want to go to the bus station. Depending on the driver, you might get resistance so just say you are visiting Mersing for the day.

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