Health & insurance
Before You Go
Proof of yellow-fever vaccination will be required if you have visited a country in the yellow-fever zone (such as Africa or South America) within the six days prior to entering the region. Otherwise the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following vaccinations:
- Adult diphtheria & tetanus Single booster recommended if none have been had in the previous 10 years.
- Hepatitis A Provides almost 100% protection for up to a year. A booster after 12 months provides at least another 20 years’ protection.
- Hepatitis B Now considered routine for most travellers. Given as three shots over six months. A rapid schedule is also available, as is a combined vaccination with Hepatitis A.
- Measles, mumps & rubella (MMR) Two doses of MMR are required unless you have had the diseases. Many young adults require a booster.
- Polio There have been no reported cases of polio in recent years. Only one booster is required as an adult for lifetime protection.
- Typhoid Recommended unless your trip is less than a week and is only to developed cities. The vaccine offers around 70% protection, lasts for two to three years and comes as a single shot. Tablets are also available but the injection is usually recommended as it has fewer side effects.
- Varicella If you haven’t had chickenpox, discuss this vaccination with your doctor.
Even if you’re fit and healthy, don’t travel without health insurance – accidents do happen. You may require extra cover for adventure activities such as rock climbing or diving, as well as scooter/motorcycle riding. If your health insurance doesn’t cover you for medical expenses abroad, ensure you get specific travel insurance. Most hospitals require an upfront guarantee of payment (from yourself or your insurer) prior to admission. Enquire before your trip about payment of medical charges and retain all documentation (medical reports, invoices etc) for claim purposes.
Availability & Cost of Health Care
The standard of medical care across the country is good, and most problems can be adequately dealt with in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities.
For an initial consultation with a doctor, the charge will be between RM60 and RM80.
- Never drink tap water unless you've verified that it's safe.
- Boiling water is the most efficient method of purifying it.
- Check bottled-water seals are intact at purchase.
- Avoid ice in places that look dubious.
- Avoid fresh juices if they have not been freshly squeezed or you suspect they may have been watered down.
- Iodine, the best chemical purifier, should not be used by pregnant women or those who suffer thyroid problems.
- Rabies does occur in Malaysia, so any bite from an animal (especially if from a dog) should be treated very seriously.
- In the jungles watch out for leeches (annoying but harmless), snakes (some kinds are highly venomous), macaques (prone to bag and food-snatching), orangutans (occasionally aggressive).
- In muddy estuaries, keep an eye out for saltwater crocodiles (deadly if they drag you under).