Is Kuala Lumpur Safe For Travel? Essential Safety Tips

By Anna

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Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and a holiday hot spot for tourists with plenty of things to see and do. If you are planning a trip to this part of the world then you may be wondering, is Kuala Lumpur safe?

Luckily, we’re here to answer that question as we’ll be telling you everything needed to know about how to stay safe in Kuala Lumpur covering all the little things from water safety to night life as well as much more before revealing our top 9 safety tips for staying safe in Kuala Lumpur.

So, let’s get straight into it and find out how safe this city really is!

Is Kuala Lumpur Safe Right Now?

Kuala Lumpur is considered a generally safe place to visit and a beautiful one too as there’s lots to keep you occupied. However, like many countries and cities across the world, be aware of your surroundings as there is known to be crime in Kuala Lumpur.

We’re not talking majorly big crimes in the tourist areas but instead, scams. Scams happen constantly thought the day in Kuala Lumpur so once you’ve read this, you’ll be aware and will be able to spot a scam from a mile off.

The first are pickpockets which seem to be somewhat of a nuisance to tourists in many different countries. Pick pocketing can sometimes occur in packed areas such as Petaling Street and public transport during rush hour as well as any crowded tourist areas. Be sure to keep an eye on your belongings including phones, wallets and passports inside your bag. Although backpacks are an easy and convenient bag to take with you on day trips, these are considered a pickpockets’ paradise as it’s easier to steal something from a backpack than a cross body bag etc.

However, a more dangerous crime is snatch theft, where motorcyclists drive by and snatch handbags from those walking by the roadside. Victims who attempt to fight back often sustain injuries from the excessive force used by these criminals, so immediately let go of your bag and seek police assistance should you fall victim to a snatch thief.

The moral of these stories are, don’t take an expensive bag out, only put things in the bag that are essential and avoid wearing a backpack or handbag and stick to a cross body bag as there’s no need to carry it and you can hold onto it whilst it’s around the body.

is kuala lumpur safe
Photo credit: Azlan Baharudin via Unsplash

Other scams to watch out for

Believe it or not you may also encounter men dressed as fake monks asking for money, usually they are found in the city centre of Kuala Lumpur. These scammers who are actively looking for money or ‘donations’ will have shaved and are dressed in monks’ robes and sometimes put small medallions or cards into the hands of victims before asking for cash in return.

There are also others who may claim to be from a charity organisation, it’s safe to say you should also avoid these too as they’re scammers looking to make some quick money. Usually they’re found in areas such as Jalan Alor and Chinatown.

They often claim that they represent an orphanage, showing their ID and carrying a book that’s filled with detailed information and photographs of children as legitimacy.

China Town Kuala Lumpur
Photo credit: Ravin Rau via Unsplash

Is Kuala Lumpur Safe for Solo Female Travellers?

Kuala Lumpur is safe for solo female travellers but make sure you use common sense in some areas. There are a lot of things for solo travellers to do in Kuala Lumpur, and sometimes it’s better to do it solo rather than in a large group as you’re able to do the things at your own pace.

In the daytime, there’s no reason to feel unsafe as long as you’re in the tourist areas. Of course, be sure to look out for the scams which we previously just spoke about as more than likely travelling solo will mean more scammers may approach you.

If travelling on trains, buses or even walking through the city centre, it’s a good idea to wear clothes that will cover arms, legs and chest, in order not to attract unwanted attention. If going shopping, then we would advise using cash. The currency in Malaysia is the Malaysian ringgit. We suggest cash because there is known to be a lot of credit card scams in Kuala Lumpur, so set a budget for the day and leave the rest in the safe at the hotel.

Kuala Lumpur female
Image by brittywing from Pixabay

Shall I go out for Food?

If you are planning a solo visit to Kuala Lumpur then never walk anywhere by yourself at night time, this includes going into a night club or walking past a bar as there are more than likely going to be locals and tourists who are intoxicated and could take advantage of the fact that you’re walking alone.

Always take a taxi if you have to travel at night-time for dinner or drinks etc. We suggest getting dinner from the hotel which saves you from going out at night time, this may be annoying if you want to sample authentic Malaysian food but more than likely if staying at a resort, they will put on different themed evenings so you can sample some food from all across the globe.

Malaysia food
Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

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Is Kuala Lumpur Safe to Live?

Kuala Lumpur is considered safe to live and expats that live there already have said that it’s made all the better by friendly locals. Most properties here are extremely affordable and have a modern interior. Unfortunately, as the closest beach to Kuala Lumpur is around a two-hour drive away, there’s no escaping the city life for a more relaxed one, so if the city isn’t for you then Kuala Lumpur won’t be either.

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Like everywhere in the world, there are a few no-go areas in Kuala Lumpur which pose as a high risk to people living nearby, one if them is Chow Kit. There are a lot of alley ways in this area and more than likely if walking down here there will be drug addicts, drug dealers and violent criminals.

The second no-go area in Kuala Lumpur is Doraisamy Street. This is situated just a 6-minute walk from the main Chow Kit area just spoken about. This area is full of clubs and after a few drinks, some people are known to get a bit rowdy. Tourists, foreigners and expats should avoid this area as it’s not a safe place! People have been killed on this street due to heavy violence inflicted by alcohol.

If you are seriously considering a move a Kuala Lumpur, then it’s worth doing your research and checking out different areas first and spending a few weeks there at a time so that you can get a real feel the area and the local people. There’s lots to see and do in Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding areas of Malaysia, and with a yearly average temperature of 32 degrees Celsius and vibrant city life to explore, what’s not to like?

is Kuala Lumpur safe to live
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Is Kuala Lumpur Safe at Night?

Kuala Lumpur is safe at night for people who are in groups, but we wouldn’t recommend walking around at night to any solo travellers. Of course, safety comes first in any situation as well as using common sense so if something doesn’t feel right or you’re unsure about visiting certain place at night-time then don’t do it.

As long as you’re aware of your surroundings whether you’re in a group or travelling solo then Kuala Lumpur is a great place to be at night. However, we would say that if you are travelling solo then it’s best to avoid staying out too late, especially in place like Chow Kit which we previously mentioned as this is a dangerous place to be on your own.

Another common scam that happens at night-time is children selling flowers on streets near night clubs. The children approach strangers, mostly couples and plead with them to buy flowers for a small price. These child flower sellers are often refugee girls between the ages of nine and twelve who sell flowers until the clubs close and the last of the customers leave at about 03:00 during weekends.

Kuala Lumpur at night
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Do I get a Taxi Home?

We would advise not staying out any later than 21.00 o’clock as after this time is when most people will go out for a drink. Never walk back to the hotel or let somebody else walk you back, even if it is just a five-minute walk away, instead, call for a taxi as this is the safest way of getting back to the hotel – just be aware of taxi scammers.

When travelling in a group then staying out later shouldn’t be a problem as long as you’re in a lively area. If it’s not too late then if you all stick together then waling back to the hotel (if in close proximity) will be okay but always be wary of what’s going on. If the time is ticking on then get a taxi back to hotel and avoid public transport like a bus or train as these can be dangerous at night time.

Kuala Lumpur roads
Image by Artmor Productions from Pixabay

Is the Tap Water in Kuala Lumpur Safe to Drink?

Tap water in Kuala Lumpur is not safe to drink, a bit like other areas in Malaysia or even other cities/countries across the world. Although the water is purified at the source, the water may become contaminated en route to the tap so always stick to bottled water!

Not even the locals will drink the water from a tap as it comes out brown and has a funny smell, instead they will only drink water that has come from a bottle or water that is purified and filtered.

Hotels will provide free bottled water for your rooms which will be stocked up daily and you can ask for more if needed. The water in Kuala Lumpur comes down to more than just filling up your cup and drinking it (from a bottle in this case), when brushing your teeth, make sure that you don’t rinse them using tap water, instead use the bottled water provided and when finished don’t forget to recycle the plastic!

If eating out in a restaurant, never ask for ice in drinks as this could be contaminated too and if you’re not fancying an ice-cold beer but instead want water then always ask for it bottled and not from the tap.

There are also some foods to be wary of ordering too including vegetable dishes and fruit for dessert, this is because we don’t know how the food has been prepared and more than likely the vegetables and fruit would have been washed with tap water before being chopped up into a salad.

Want to save the planet?

Plastic pollution is covering the planet and is a tremendous threat to marine life. Do your part to help by traveling with a filter water bottle.

A filter water bottle is an effective way of purifying water to remove any impurities or contaminants.

What if I Drink Tap Water?

If you do accidentally drink some of the water than more than likely this will give you an upset stomach, so make sure there are suitable tablets in your medicine bag. Before travelling to Kuala Lumpur, we would also advise to get travel injections as if you do drink the tap water, injections will protect you against nasty infections such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery and polio.

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If you’ve spent a day at the beach and you want to rinse the sand and salt from your hair, then washing your hair using the shower in the hotel room is completely fine as this water will have been filtered through using a water filtration system. The same rules apply when washing hands, the water will have been filtered which makes it safe to hand wash. Having said this, this water shouldn’t be used for drinking, only washing yourself with.

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Tap water
Photo credit: 3345408 via Pixabay

Are Taxis in Kuala Lumpur Safe?

Taxis are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week and are safe to use, however if it’s your first time in Kuala Lumpur and you’re unsure of where you’re going then it’s more than likely that the taxi driver will try and scam you. Yes, more scamming, something by now that you’re probably realising Kuala Lumpur is infamous for.

Taxis in Kuala Lumpur are extremely affordable, especially if travelling in a large group! However, Kuala Lumpur is known to have to one of the worst taxi services among the Southeast Asian capitals, with known cases ranging from cabbies that refuse to switch on their taxi metres and ask for a flat rate to those who purposely take longer routes and busier roads in order to make extra money.

Wherever in the world you live, if working in a busy city centre then you must know the frustration of the daily commute and getting stuck in traffic whilst on the way to work and it taking 10 times longer than it normally should? Well Kuala Lumpur is exactly the same but unfortunately, their traffic doesn’t just stop when everybody is in work. Kuala Lumpur has made it into the top 50 cities in the world with the worst traffic – congrats.

To avoid getting overcharged or charged for being stuck in an hour’s worth of traffic, we suggest using reliable taxi apps that are available in Kuala Lumpur called MyTeksi or EasyTaxi which are two of the best to pre-book taxis with. Alternatively, ask the diver to switch the meter on as this will save money and always call for a licensed taxi and never track one down from the street as they might not be a legitimate taxi driver.

Kuala Lumpur taxi
Photo credit: Setyaki Irham via Unsplash

Top 9 Kuala Lumpur Safety Tips:

So, you’ve now read everything need to know about safety in Kuala Lumpur. But we couldn’t end this article here without giving out our top 9 Kuala Lumpur safety tips which will keep you super safe on your hols.

  • Never give out money to people in crowded tourists areas claiming to be from a charity organisation or a monk. You might feel like the worst person in the world for saying no, but nine times out of ten, this will be a scam.
  • Tourist areas are hotspots for pickpockets and thieves so the only valuable thing in your bag should be your phone – in case you need to phone for a taxi etc or for taking pictures to upload to social media. Try to keep wearing expensive jewellery to a minimum including watches as thieves will more than likely think that you have valuables worth taking.
  • If taking a taxi then know exactly where you want to go, otherwise the taxi driver will make the route longer to get as much money out of you as possible.
  • Remember to not drink the water in Kuala Lumpur as there is a chance the water will be contaminated, instead, drink water that is provided at the hotel from bottles as this water will be fresh and filtered. Never ask for ice in drinks, brush your teeth and swill with tap water and avoid salad or food you know that will have to be washed with tap water before being prepared.
  • If travelling solo, then never walk back to the hotel or around Kuala Lumpur at night-time as there is a chance you will run into danger. Instead take a taxi – even if the journey is short, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Try to avoid using a credit or debit card when paying for anything in Kuala Lumpur and instead use cash. This is because there are a lot of scams in the city so use cash to avoid having your account cleared out.
  • Avoid withdrawing cash at night and in secluded from an ATM machine, otherwise this could be lost to thieves.
  • Pack lots of sun cream and after sun as Kuala Lumpur can get extremely hot, especially in the summer season (March-September) so don’t be shy about slabbing on the sun cream to stop you from getting heatstroke. Even if you haven’t burnt, apply after sun in the evening to help your skin stay moisturised and supple.
  • Take out comprehensive travel insurance! In a city like Kuala Lumpur where street crime is high, taking out insurance might be one of the best things to do.

So, that’s the end of our article and we hope you’ve learnt some tips about staying safe in Kuala Lumpur. If you’ve enjoyed the read then please leave a comment in the box below. If you fancy travelling around Southeast Asia but are unsure of what to do, check out the article below.

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James Ardimento has spent the last 12 years journeying around the globe ! With its precious experiences and tips he gained around Asia, South America, Europe and the US he is a precious asset for this blog and for its readers