Pickpockets tend to target people on public transport and in markets, or queuing for a tourist attraction. As for bag snatchers, they are also common in Malaysia and often operate on motorcycles or other fast moving vehicles. They can be men, women or children, and are usually part of very organised groups.
Please note that pickpockets are not the only threat - muggings and sexual assaults can also occur. Muggers are armed in Malaysia, and won’t be afraid to use a knife or a machete on you, especially if you are walking alone at night. If you are targeting by an armed mugger general advice is: don’t fight back, and throw your wallet or phone away from you. The mugger will likely go after it giving you a chance to run.
There are ways to minimise your chance of being pickpocketed in Malaysia (and the rest of the world).
- Only carry a small amount of cash in your wallet, and only one ID.
- Make copies (or take pictures) of all your legal or travel documents.
- Be extra careful on public transportation, especially when getting on and off the train/bus. Avoid crowds, which are pickpockets’ favourites situations.
- Women should carry handbags securely closed tightly under their arm, and on the inside of the sidewalk (away from traffic). Truthfully, the best bag is still the money belt.
- Do not put all your money in the same pocket.
- ATMs in Malaysia are often tampered with. Only use ATMs located inside banks, and do not walk away counting your cash!
- Avoid neighbourhoods you’re not familiar with and walking around at night in badly lit streets.
- Try not to park your car in dark streets or a long way away from your destination.
- Stay aware of your surroundings at all times, and try not to look too much like a tourist!
As in many big cities around the world, Kuala Lumpur has a high street crime rate and you should be extra careful when visiting. Although Kuala Lumpur has some of the highest crime rates in Malaysia, be extra careful of pickpockets in the other major cities such as Batu Pahat and Kuching.
The Australian High Commission website offers detailed information about security in Malaysia and advice on how to stay safe in the country.
The emergency number for the police, a fire or an ambulance in Malaysia is 999.