Malaysia country information and facts for travelers.

MALAYSIA

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Country Description: Malaysia is a federal parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch. Its population of approximately 21 million is ethnically divided into Malay (58 percent), Chinese (26 percent), and Indian (seven percent). Islam is the national religion. Bahasa Malay is the official language, although English is widely spoken. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A valid passport is required of all persons entering Malaysia. American citizens do not need a visa for a pleasure or business trip, if their stay in Malaysia is less than 90 days. For more information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Malaysia, 2401 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 328-2700, or the Malaysian consulates in New York (telephone 212-490-2722) or Los Angeles (telephone 213-892-1238). See also the Malaysia government home page via the Internet at http://www.jaring.my/. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Malaysian embassy or consulate.

Medical Facilities: The U.S. Embassy can provide a list of doctors and hospitals upon request. Medical facilities and services are adequate in the larger cities where Western-trained, English-speaking doctors can easily be found. Doctors and hospitals often prefer immediate cash payment for health services, although major credit cards are acceptable. Medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Supplemental overseas medical insurance, including coverage for medical evacuation, may prove useful. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide payment of medical services outside the United States. Helpful information on medical emergencies abroad is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs' brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via our home page and autofax service. For additional health information, the international travelers hotline of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be reached at (404) 332-4559, via the CDC toll-free autofax service at (888) 232-3299 or via the CDC home page on the Internet: http://www.cdc.gov/.

Haze Conditions: During several periods in 1997, Malaysia experienced haze conditions due to particulate matter from fires burning in Indonesia. Based upon readings from the Malaysian Air Pollutant Index, the air pollution levels registered in the "unhealthy" and occasionally in the "very unhealthy" ranges. If the haze returns, prospective travelers to Malaysia, especially those with respiratory ailments, may wish to consult their physicians before traveling. For current information on pollution levels, travelers should check the Malaysian Department of Environment's home page at http://www.jas.sains.my/doe/api.html. The Singaporian Meteorological Service also provides updated information on the entire region at http://www.gov.sg/metsin/hazed.html.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Malaysia has a high rate of credit card fraud. In tourist areas and shopping malls, foreigners are often the target of pickpocketing, burglaries, automobile break-ins, and purse snatching (the assailants usually operate on a motor scooter). Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State Pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad." It is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 or via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and do not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. The Malaysian criminal code includes a provision for a sentence of caning for certain white collar crimes, including criminal misappropriation, criminal breach of trust and cheating.

Drug Penalties: Malaysia strictly enforces its drug laws. Malaysian legislation provides for a mandatory death penalty for convicted drug traffickers. Individuals arrested in possession of 15 grams (1/2 ounce) of heroin or 200 grams (seven ounces) of marijuana are presumed by law to be trafficking in drugs.

Aviation Oversight:The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Malaysia's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Malaysia's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at telephone (703) 697-7288.

Dual Nationality: Malaysia does not recognize dual nationality. Adult U.S. citizens who are also Malaysian nationals could experience close scrutiny by Malaysian immigration officials when entering or departing Malaysia on Malaysian passports. The United States requires all U.S. citizens to enter and depart the U.S. on U.S. passports. U.S. visas cannot be issued to dual citizen Americans. Dual nationals may be subject to Malaysian laws which impose special obligations.

Road Safety: Traffic patterns in Malaysia move on the left. When crossing roads, pedestrians are reminded to look carefully in all directions. Motorcyclists attempt to circumvent traffic blockage by weaving through vehicles and pedestrians. Traffic is heavy at peak hours and slows down considerably when it rains. Bottlenecks are common sights in Kuala Lumpur. Development of the infrastructure has not kept pace with the proliferation of motorized vehicles. Multi-laned highways often merge into narrow two-lane roads in the center of town and cause added congestion. Many narrow and winding streets were built a century ago to handle hawkers and trishaws. Buses and minibuses within the cities and between towns are often filled beyond capacity. Taxis are metered but some drivers charge a rate much higher than the metered rate during peak hours, when it is raining, or when the passenger's destination is to or through a heavily congested area. In 1997, the government of Malaysia reported some 6,000 fatalities on Malaysian roads.

Malaysia's north-south highway system is paved and very well maintained. This four-lane highway stretches from Singapore to the Thai border. Malaysia's west coast has a well developed system of paved roads between major cities. These two-lane highways are usually congested. Serious accidents can occur from head-on collisions and vehicles which careen off the road in hilly regions.

Registration/Embassy Location: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Malaysia are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. The U.S. Embassy is located at 376 Jalan Tun Razak 50400, Kuala Lumpur. The mailing address is P.O. Box No. 10035, 50700 Kuala Lumpur; telephone (60-3) 248-9011. The fax number for the U.S. Embassy is (60-3) 242-2207; the fax number for the Consular Section is (60-3) 248-5801. Internet home page: http://www.jaring.my/usiskl/embassy/klcons.html

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