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There is a real risk of terrorism in Malaysia. Stay up to date with local news reports if there has been civil unrest leading up to your visit. As of July 2019 more than 500 people had been arrested for being involved in activities that the government consider as terrorism.
There is no need to be paranoid, and government advisories have not issued any warnings for travelers to Malaysia, so the risk is minimal. Just be aware terrorism is a threat in the country.
There is a kidnapping risk in the southern region of the Philippines, which meets with Malaysia near the coastal areas of Sabah, but in particular the islands close to the Sulu Archipelago or in the Sulu Sea.
Avoid the area, but chances are you will not be on any charter boats to these islands. Don't try to be adventurous and explore the region near the southern Philippines – it just isn't safe.
This 500mi (805km) stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra has been known for piracy. Piracy and kidnapping in this area is something travelers should be aware of. Since 2003 the number of kidnappings has dropped more than half, thanks to increased patrols in this area.
Lahad Datu is located on the island of Borneo. There are still some reports of speed boats in these waters armed with machine guns, so the best advice would be to stick to the land if traveling in a small group or alone. Lahad is flooded with tourist resorts – making it a target. Don‘t visit deserted ATMs on the waterfront at night if you don‘t want to chance being a pirate's treasure.
In the past, particular concern was for isolated resorts which can only be reached by water. This includes the islands of Sipadan and Mabul. While still a risk, the increased patrol in this area will put travelers minds at rest to let them soak up the sun, pirate free.
If you do run into some unlucky trouble, keep the following in mind:
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From exploring remote islands to trekking through ancient rainforests, Intrepid Travel on how to explore lesser-known Malaysia.