Guidance

Living in Malaysia

Advice for British people living in Malaysia, including information on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more.

Introduction

This guide sets out essential information for British nationals moving to, or living in Malaysia, including where to find advice on health, education, benefits, residence requirements, finance and more. We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below. See our services for more details of what our embassies, high commissions and consulates can and cannot do to help. This information supplements our travel advice.

Our publication Support for British Nationals Abroad: A Guide sets out the steps that British nationals can take to stay safe abroad, and provides details on what help the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) can provide if you do get into difficulty.

Before you go

See our travel advice for up-to-date information on local laws and customs, safety and emergencies.

See moving or retiring abroad.

Coronavirus

Please refer to our coronavirus section of the travel advice if you are seeking information specific to the current COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia.

For information on getting a COVID-19 vaccine as a UK national in Malaysia, see our coronavirus travel advice.

We are not advising British people who are permanent residents overseas to return to the UK. You should follow the advice of the local authorities in your host country. You must carry your passport at all times, as you will be asked for it by police when they enforce any Movement Control Order that may be in place for a particular state, or country wide. British Nationals should keep up to date with social media posts as the situation can change quickly and at short notice.

British nationals who have resident status in Malaysia should consider their own personal circumstances and take into account all of the information available, when making a decision on whether or not to return to the UK. You may consider the following factors:

  • Financial support – Do you have sufficient funds to support yourself without going back to the UK for an undetermined number of months?
  • Health Insurance –. Do you have medical coverage, or are you able to meet the costs of treatment yourself? Taking your own personal health condition into account, are you confident in receiving the necessary support you need in Malaysia? (Check the Health section below for more information)
  • Legal & Employment Support – Do you understand the kind of support available to you in the case of unemployment or economic hardships due to Covid-19? Will these support mechanisms be sufficient for you to support yourself for an undetermined number of months?
  • For students: do you understand the arrangements your host university has in place? Examples include access to medical facilities, accommodation and online learning options. Keep in contact with your UK university too (if applicable) about their advice.
  • Travel permissions: Permanent Residents, holders of any valid work permit/study/MM2H related passes are allowed to leave without seeking permission from Malaysian Immigration. This is also the case for any tourists who entered on a social visit pass from 01 January 2020 onwards and leave within fourteen days of the expiry of the current management control order that is now in place until 31 March 2021. If you are a holder of a valid permit and you wish to leave and return please find further information here MyTravelPass.

Stay up to date

You should:

Entry and residency requirements

Please visit the Malaysian Immigration website for further information and contact details of your nearest office if you wish to settle, visit or work in Malaysia.

Do not overstay any visa granted. Malaysian authorities consider overstaying a serious matter. You may be held in detention, fined and deported. Any associated expenses of repatriation to the UK must usually be made by the individual.

Depending on type of employment, visit the Expats Service Division website or immigration website for Social Visit Pass information about sponsoring dependant visas for family members/dependants

Healthcare and medication

Visit the Health section of our Travel Advice page for detailed advice on medical services, vaccinations and health risks in Malaysia.

The Malaysian medical system consists of private hospitals, government hospitals, specialist clinics and general medical practices. The medical care is generally good, but can be expensive. There is no reciprocal National Health Service agreement in Malaysia and medical costs must be met by the individual.

Patients can choose providers from the government or private sector. In an emergency, patients can go at any time to the 24 hour Accident and Emergency departments located at government, or some private hospitals. It is usual for all hospitals to take an initial deposit from a valid credit card before treatment commences.

Please see the website of the Ministry of Health in Malaysia for further information.

Medicine

If you are on a prescription for any form of medication you should ensure you have a supply of it available, or are able to obtain it once in Malaysia. Certain medicines may not be available in Malaysia (including major brands readily available in the UK), or may be prohibited from being brought into the country. You should consult your GP before travelling to Malaysia to check on options for you whilst here.

Malaysian Customs authorities allow you to bring in a maximum of one month’s medication for your personal use, provided it is accompanied by the prescription from your treating doctor and it is medication that can be brought in. If you have any questions related to this, please send an email to the Ministry of Health Malaysia at: pharmacy1@moh.gov.my.

Health insurance

If you are resident in Malaysia ensure you have taken out an appropriate health insurance policy.

If you are a visitor, arrange comprehensive travel insurance before you travel. Make sure your policy covers the following:

  • an air ambulance, in case you need to be flown home by this means
  • full medical cover (medical bills can be expensive) including for pre-existing conditions
  • repatriation of your remains in the event of death
  • repatriation of your family in the event it is necessary for you to return home due to illness or injury

The Malaysian authorities expect patients to follow the formal reporting process in place.

If you have Covid-19 symptoms, you should call +60388810200, +60388810600 or +60388810700 or email cprc@moh.gov.my. After the consultation, you will be informed of the next steps and you will be required to follow all instructions

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the lives of many individuals in unforeseen ways. If you are under mental stress, Befrienders Worldwide offers emotional support services worldwide. Information on the 24/7 UK helplines are available here.

Emergencies

Dial 999 for an ambulance or the police anywhere is Malaysia.

Dial 994 for the Fire Brigade.

While the healthcare system is efficient, the quality and response times of ambulances can take up to 30 minutes or more depending on where you are calling from. Consider taking a taxi or using a ride-hailing app.

Working in Malaysia

British nationals must obtain a visa for taking up employment, study, or residence in Malaysia. This list is not exhaustive.

Before entering Malaysia it is essential you have the right visa. Do not overstay any visa granted. Malaysian authorities consider overstaying, or not having the correct visa a serious matter. You may be held in detention, fined, deported and blacklisted. Any associated expenses of repatriation to the UK must usually be met by the individual.

For further information please visit the website of the Malaysia Immigration Department.

Some jobs may require a UK criminal records check (known as a DBS check).

Money and Banking

The official currency of Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR / RM). It is easy to convert most major currencies at official money changers, banks and hotels. Passport identification usually will be required for the exchange. ATMs are a safe option to withdraw cash and they are widely available.

Debit and Credit cards are accepted at most major establishments. Smaller shops and restaurants will only accept cash and will not have a credit card facility, particularly in the more remote areas.

Travellers’ cheques can be cashed at banks or major hotels.

Tax

See tax if you leave the UK to live abroad and tax on your UK income if you live abroad. If you return to the UK after living abroad see Tax when you return to the UK.

The UK and Malaysia have had a Double Taxation Agreement in force since 1998.

Every individual who is liable to tax is required to declare their income. The Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia (LHDN) is the local tax authority of Malaysia.

Register online to obtain an income tax number.

We recommend you get professional advice on paying tax in Malaysia.

You may be able to pay National Insurance while abroad in order to protect your State Pension and entitlement to other benefits and allowances.

Pensions

See State Pension if you retire abroad and new State Pension.

Life certificates for UK State Pensions

If you get a ‘life certificate’ from the UK Pension Service, you need to respond as soon as possible – your payments may be suspended if you don’t.

Benefits

British Nationals living in Malaysia are not entitled to local social welfare benefits. See claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad.

Find out which UK benefits you might be able to get while you’re abroad and how to claim them.

Many income-related benefits such as Pension Credit and Housing Benefit can’t be paid if you’re abroad for more than 4 weeks.

Driving licences and vehicles

British nationals who wish to drive in Malaysia must possess documents recognised by the Malaysian authorities.

Two possible options are as follows:

  • a valid British driving licence and a (UK-issued) International Driving Permit
  • a Malaysian driving license

Obtaining a UK-issued International Driving Permit

For those driving under a British licence, an International Driving Permit may be obtained directly from the Post Office.

UK-issued International Driving Permits cost £5.50 and you must:

  • Have a valid UK driving licence
  • Be 18 or over

Applications for an International Driving Permit must be made from within the UK. The permit is valid for 12 months and if required, can be renewed, in person, annually.

Please note that Malaysia will only recognise a UK-issued International Driving Permit for one year following your date of entry into Malaysia (regardless of the validity date that appears on the card itself).

Obtaining a Malaysian Driving Licence

British Nationals may obtain a Malaysian driving licence by sitting for a driving test at a driving school in Malaysia.

A list of driving schools can be found through the JPJ (Malaysian Road Transport Department) website.

Obtaining a Malaysia-issued International Driving Permit

British Nationals who wish to obtain a Malaysia-issued International Driving Permit in order to legally drive overseas, must possess a valid Malaysian driving licence in the first instance.

A Malaysia-issued International Driving Permit may be obtained from any JPJ (Malaysian Road Transport Department) State or Branch offices. Applications may also be submitted at the Malaysia Automotive Association (MAA) office.

Malaysia-issued International Driving Permits cost RM150. Further details regarding the application process and required documents may be found on the JPJ website.

Sale and Purchase of Vehicles

For the sale and purchase of vehicles, the British High Commission does not endorse British passports, or issue letters confirming passport details. Your passport can be endorsed at a JPJ office, or via a local notary public.

For further information about these processes please refer to the JPJ website.

If you’re asked for a letter authenticating, certifying or validating your UK driver’s licence, you should contact your UK issuing office (eg the DVLA).

See taking a vehicle out of the UK.

Language, social ethics and traditions

The official language of Malaysia is Malay, although English is widely spoken, particularly in the major towns and also used in official matters.

Malaysia is a multi-religious society however, Islam is the official religion of the country and it the mandatory religion for all ethnic Malays. It is expected that religious beliefs are respected and criticising them is a serious offence and could lead to a fine, and/or imprisonment and/or deportation.

LGBT community face legal challenges in Malaysia and sodomy is a crime punishable by law. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

It is important to be conscious of the need for appropriate behaviour in Malaysia. In the interests of good relations with your colleagues, neighbours and government officials, it is essential that every effort be made to behave according to local customs.

Voting

British citizens living abroad can vote in some UK elections – you’ll need to register as an overseas voter.

Births, deaths and getting married

See register a birth abroad. For information about local birth registration, please visit the website of JPN, the National Registration Department.

See what to do after someone dies and the bereavement pack in Malaysia.

See getting married abroad. Same sex marriage services are not provided in Malaysia.

List of lawyers and interpreters

Lists of English-speaking lawyers, who may be able to provide you with legal services and official translations in Malaysia. Please note that inclusion in this list does not constitute official endorsement by the British Embassy or the UK government.

Notarial and documentary services

Information on how to apply for notarial services available at the British High Commission in Malaysia, such as official documents, certificates, and notes.

British passport services

The British Embassy/High Commission does not deal with passport applications and cannot provide advice on this. For information on how to apply for your first passport or renew an existing passport, please visit the overseas passport section of this website.

Pets

See travelling with pets.

Accommodation and buying property

See buying a property abroad.

Foreigners are subject to various rules and regulations in respect of purchasing property in Malaysia. This does vary from state to state. For further information please refer to the local land registry department for the state which you have an interest in.

Leaving Malaysia

If you have worked in Malaysia and you plan to leave please ensure all your tax returns are filed and completed before leaving. If you are employed your employee may be able to assist with this. If you work for yourself then please make contact with the local tax office where your tax records are held to complete the process.

If you fail to complete this process you may be refused permission to leave until the process has been concluded.

Please also ensure that all permits are cancelled before you leave.

To move your pension to the UK, contact the International Pension Centre.

See tax if you return to the UK.

See bringing your pet to the UK.

Returning to the UK

If you live in Malaysia and are considering returning to live in the UK (for example on retirement) you should consider how you will support yourself, and how non-British members of your family may be able to accompany you. There is information available to help you make informed choices about living abroad and thinking about returning to the UK.

National Insurance

National Insurance: if you have not made full National Insurance (NI) contributions, you may not be eligible for state benefits or support. HM Revenue & Customs provide some useful information on returning to live in the UK for non-residents, including how to make NI contributions from abroad.

Healthcare

Your entitlement to free NHS treatment depends on length and purpose of your residence in the UK, not your nationality. You must be able to show UK residency to be eligible for free treatment, even if you are a British citizen. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau or NHS can provide further information.

Visas

If you wish to return to live in the UK with family members who do not hold British citizenship, they will need to meet the UK’s immigration requirements for settlement in the UK. See the UK Visa and Immigration page for more details.

Disclaimer

Please note that this information is provided as a guide only. Definitive information should be obtained from the Malaysian authorities. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information.

Published 25 March 2013
Last updated 13 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated the entire guide with latest information for each section.

  2. Updated information for British nationals driving in Malaysia

  3. Added section Death in Malaysia

  4. Scams in Malaysia added.

  5. First published.