Sprawling Kuala Lumpur combines exciting modern architecture with British colonial relics, and boasts a unique charm that’s topped off by hospitable locals. However visitors to Malaysia‘s capital are right to ask – is Kuala Lumpur safe? Especially considering it’s densely packed nature.
The truth is that Kuala Lumpur is a safe city to visit, although crime does exist here. Pickpockets operate in popular tourist areas, and petty crime is an issue. However visitors to this bustling metropolis can reduce their chances of being a victim by being aware of what criminal activity exists here. As well as knowing popular scams being used.
Below we outline exactly that. Giving you a quick rundown of crime to watch out for in the city. As well as whether Kuala Lumpur is safe for females, LGBTQ travelers, if it’s safe at night, and must-know safety tips to stay out of trouble.
How safe is Kuala Lumpur: Crime
Thankfully violent crime is rare in Kuala Lumpur, although house robberies are becoming a little more common. However when they do take place, assault and home robberies tend to happen at night. While most robbers don’t intend to harm victims physically, some have been known to use weapons.
As a general rule, it’s best to keep windows shut at night rather than open. It’s also advisable to stay in a hotel, or complex which has 24/7 security and security cameras.
However one problem that does exist in Kuala Lumpur – and affects tourists – is petty crime.
Pickpockets, petty crime, and scams in Kuala Lumpur
The main issue for tourists and travelers to Kuala Lumpur is snatch and grab robbery – a type of theft where a robber grabs an item in a busy area and quickly disperses into the crowd.
Whilst some of these robberies take place on foot, the vast majority of thieves now use motorbikes and scooters to quickly grab bags, wallets, phones and similar items from unsuspecting tourists. Thieves in Kuala Lumpur have even been known to grab items from individuals who are also riding motorbikes.
Thieves mainly operate by stalking their victim from behind, waiting for the right moment to strike. Therefore if you suspect someone is following you, be extra vigilant and take steps to avoid being a victim. Consider heading into a shop, or mall. Make sure pockets are zipped, and bags are close to you.
Furthermore, some visitors to the city have also reported wallets and bags being stolen whilst they were in busy areas, such as mall restaurants. Pickpockets also operate on busy public transport routes in Kuala Lumpur.
Therefore be vigilant and take precautions. Always keep your bag secured. However be very careful with bag straps – there have been rare occasions when victims of snatch and grabs have been killed when a thief on a motorbike has grabbed their bag, and then they have subsequently been dragged over the road as the bag strap remains attached around their shoulder.
It’s also been known for thieves to use knifes to slash at bag straps to get a victim to release their possessions.
Even if traveling in a car, you can still be a victim. Thieves using motorbikes have been known to smash car windows and grab bags when the vehicle has stopped. As such, whether you are walking or driving, don’t flash money, or wear expensive jewelry. Keep bags hidden as much as possible and take extra care using your phone and camera in public.
Scams in Kuala Lumpur
Tourists in Kuala Lumpur can also become the victims of scams in the city. One of the more common ones involves being asked for donations by ‘monks’ on the street.
Dressed in robes, they ask repeatedly for donations to a charitable organization, but in many cases the money never goes there. It’s best to politely decline, and if you wish to make a donation to a charity in Malaysia, approach the organization directly.
Is Kuala Lumpur safe at night?
Kuala Lumpur is a relatively safe city at night, however streets and areas with a high number of bars and clubs tend to see higher levels of crime at night.
It’s best to avoid walking alone in badly-lit areas of Kuala Lumpur at night. If you can avoid walking at night completely, even better.
Using a taxi at night is the preferred option, but it’s important to only use a regulated licensed taxi that has been recommended by a friend or your hotel. That’s because taxi drivers in Kuala Lumpur have been known to be involved in criminal activity against tourists, particularly at night.
If you don’t have a recommended taxi, then two taxi apps that have regulated drivers are MyTeksi and EasyTaxi.
Is Kuala Lumpur safe for females?
There is a risk of sexual assault for females, and the vast majority of these attacks take place at night. There are also known cases of foreigners being drugged at nightclubs and then assaulted. Women in particular should always keep an eye on their drink and be wary of accepting drinks from strangers. It’s also best for woman to take a taxi to and from their destination at night, rather than walk.
However taxi drivers in Kuala Lumpur have also been known to be involved in criminal activity against tourists, and even sexual assault – most often at night. So it is important to always take a regulated licensed taxi that has been recommended by a friend or your hotel.
How safe is Kuala Lumpur for LGBTQ travelers?
Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, and in some states punishable under Sharia’ law. Discrimination against LGBTQ people in the country and Kuala Lumpur is widespread, and attacks have happened.
LGBTQ travelers to Kuala Lumpur should be discreet and aware that LGBTQ acts are punishable by prison time in the country.
Terrorism in Kuala Lumpur
There is a risk of terrorism in Kuala Lumpur, although it’s not high. However there was an ISIS attack on a nightclub in 2016, and since 2013 the police have arrested hundreds of ISIS supporters.
Be especially vigilant in tourist hotpots and busy areas such as malls.
Is water safe to drink in Kuala Lumpur?
Tap water in Kuala Lumpur is safe to drink, but may cause first-time visitors some stomach issues. It is better to boil the water first, or buy bottled water.
How safe is Kuala Lumpur to visit?
Many people visit Kuala Lumpur and experience no problems. However whilst violent crime levels are low, petty criminals are increasingly targeting foreigners and there is a real risk of becoming a victim of robbery here. You can reduce your chances of becoming a victim significantly by being vigilant and sticking to the tips we have outlined above.