What is forbidden in Malaysia?
Just like in any country, Malaysia has laws and regulations that one should know about before going on a tour or living here to ensure their safety. Knowing what is forbidden in Malaysia will also help in getting one out of trouble.
Malaysia has rules and restrictions on smoking, vaping, alcoholic drinks, and public display of affection, among others.
While it has local laws that are common to almost every country, there are also some unique laws in Malaysia. Most of these are considered acts of mischief that not everyone knows.
There are different states in Malaysia and each of them has different laws. However, there are federal laws and similar state laws that apply throughout the whole country.
Additionally, Sharia law remains dominant, even if about 30% of Malaysia’s population is non-Muslim. These residents couldn’t just ignore this religious law, so they learned to adapt to it over time.
Furthermore, a tourist may find himself in conflict with some ordinances that he couldn’t be aware of. All those who visit Malaysia need to be more cautious of their actions, not only about driving, especially in certain locations which are much stricter.
Read on to find out what things and acts are not legal in Malaysia!
1. Smoking and Vaping
In Malaysia, smoking is now banned in 23 places and the vicinity thereof, as well as within three meters from their surrounding area. Offenders who are caught could be fined up to RM 10,000 or imprisoned for up to two years.
Meanwhile, vaping is not yet regulated but selling e-liquids with nicotine is technically illegal. Additionally, many states in Malaysia, like Johor, have strict local bans regarding the sale of vaping products.
Furthermore, there has been a pending bill since December 2022 which proposes to forbid anyone born after January 1, 2007 to buy or use any smoking products. This will include e-cigarettes or vape.
No Smoking Areas in Malaysia
It’s strictly forbidden to smoke in these locations and anywhere within a three-meter radius of them:
- Entertainment centers, or theaters (except pubs, discotheques, nightclubs, and casinos during their operation hours)
- Hospitals and clinics
- Public lifts and toilets
- Eating and dining places or shops, including food preparation areas
- Public vehicles and public transport terminals
- Government premises
- Buildings used for assemblies (except private or residential buildings, or in a public place)
- Schools, educational institutions, or higher educational institutions
- School buses
- Shopping complexes or malls
- Petrol or gas stations
- Stadiums, sports complexes, fitness centers, and gyms
- Religious buildings and public places
- Internet cafes
- National Service training grounds
- Air conditioned working spaces with centralized air conditioned systems
- Rest and recreational areas in buildings, playgrounds, or gardens
- Public parks (except an open public car park)
- Observation towers, camp sites, canopy bridges, and five meters from the entrance and exit of the canopy bridge in national parks and state parks)
- Any floor with a service counter in the following:
- Banks and financial institutions
- Telekom Malaysia Berhad
- Tenaga Nasional Berhad
- Pos Malaysia Berhad
2. Drinking Alcohol and Displaying Public Drunkenness
In Malaysia, there are also restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Because it’s a predominantly Muslim country, alcoholic beverages are not widely available in many places, even in Malay restaurants.
In fact, the Malay and Muslims in this country, which make up 60% of the population, are not allowed to drink.
Moreover, Malaysian licensing laws only allow the selling of alcoholic beverages to non-Muslims at coffee shops, restaurants, food courts, pubs and clubs, and karaoke. Because of this, drinking in public spaces is looked down on.
Likewise, it’s only the locals who are neither Malay nor Muslim and non-Muslim foreigners who are allowed to drink alcohol in Malaysia. The Shariah courts would even impose caning for Muslims who violated the Sharia law prohibiting alcohol consumption.
Some cities and islands like Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Selangor, are more liberal about alcohol consumption. Meanwhile, there are also other states that only allow alcohol on private premises but there are heavy taxes.
However, there are also places like Terengganu and Kelantan where there is a complete ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol.
Because of the prohibition of alcohol, it’s also illegal to advertise alcoholic beverages like liquor, wine, and beer in Malaysia.
Furthermore, it’s illegal to pose disorderly or indecent behavior while drunk in public spaces. The penalty for those who were caught violating this law will face a penalty of a fine or imprisonment.
The following actions are considered illegal in Malaysia:
- The person is found drunk and incapable of taking care of himself.
- The drunk person is guilty of riotous, disorderly, or indecent behavior.
- The drunk person persisted in soliciting or importuning for immoral purposes in any public road or public place. This also includes public amusement or resort, or within the vicinity of any court, public office, police station, or place of worship.
- The drunk person appears in public places or trespasses any place and annoys any person therein.
- The drunk person uttered foul language in the vicinity of the court or place of worship.
3. Possessing, Using, and Carrying Illegal Drugs
Malaysia is famous for being strict with laws on illegal drugs because of the influence of Islam in the country.
It’s illegal and considered a serious crime to use and possess illegal drugs like heroin, morphine, cocaine, opium, and cannabis. The minimum penalty for doing so is whipping or imprisonment.
Likewise, it’s illegal to carry illegal drugs into the country. Anyone caught trafficking drugs would face capital punishment (death).
4. Bringing Weapons and Firearms
Malaysia is also strict about its laws on weapons, firearms, and ammunition. Bringing any of these, including replica weapons, into the country may result in a fine or imprisonment.
Meanwhile, anyone who imports unlicensed firearms or ammunition may be penalized with the death penalty.
Malaysian law also provides that only those who have a license to carry or possess firearms or ammunition are allowed to do so. Otherwise, anyone found in violation may be detained for up to seven years or fined up to RM 10,000.
5. Displaying Homosexual Acts
The Malaysian federal law makes homosexual acts illegal and punishable. Because of this, any public display of affection, activism, and even cross-dressing by the LGBTQ+ community are not tolerated in the country and doing so may even lead to penalties.
This law applies not only to tourists but also to anyone living in Malaysia.
The LGBTQ+ community is advised to act conservatively when visiting or living in Malaysia. Gay couples are advised to act as friends when in public and they should refrain from doing any act that would attract unwanted attention.
6. Excessive Public Display of Affection
As a general rule, public display of affection between a couple is forbidden in Malaysia, whether they’re a gay or heterosexual couple. Because of this, there are various signs in public places around the country prohibiting the indecent public display of affection.
A small hand-holding or quick kiss on the cheeks would be considered fine. However, excessive displays of affection in public, like too much kissing or hugging, are considered inappropriate and indecent behavior and they will be penalized.
7. Restricted Film and TV Content
In Malaysia, there are forbidden scenes that could not be shown in a movie or television show.
Before a movie or show is released, they go through the Malaysian Film Censorship Board which approves or declares that a scene is unsuitable and should be cut.
A movie or show could also be rejected and banned by the board if it determines that it’s not suitable for the Malaysian audience.
Usually, it’s because of a scene or because the subject contains inappropriate themes or references related to religion, sex, terrorism, or violence, among others.
8. Playing Obscene Songs
Malaysian laws forbid the singing of obscene songs and even those censored or banned by the government in a public environment. Whether you’re just jamming with your friends or busking on the streets, this prohibition applies to everyone.
Singing, reciting, or uttering any indecent songs, ballads, or words in and near public places could get you fined or even jailed for a maximum of three months.
Before playing a song in Malaysia, check first if they’re not banned or if they don’t have any obscene theme or language.
9. Indecent Exposure in Public
Because of the conservative nature of Malaysia, all forms of indecent exposure, as well as stripping and displaying nudity in public, are illegal in the country.
Tourists should wear their bathing suits or appropriate swimwear at all times when going to the beach. In some places, like Kelantan and Terengganu, bikinis are even banned.
Furthermore, while skinny dipping and nude sunbathing are not illegal, these may be considered obscene acts under the Malaysian Penal Code. The penalty of which is a fine or imprisonment of up to three months, or both.
The prohibition on public indecent exposure is especially strictly applied to tourists. For example, in 2016, Australian tourists were arrested for wearing swimwear with the Malaysian flag and charged with public nuisance and indecency.
Jaywalking in Malaysia is strictly prohibited under the Road Transport Act 1999.
This law requires a pedestrian to use a bridge or zebra pedestrian path when one is present within 100 meters radius. Violation of which results in a fine of up to RM 500.
In Kuala Lumpur, the fine for jaywalking is as follows:
- RM 30, if it’s paid on the spot or paid at any DBKL payment counter within 14 days
- An additional RM 50 when the deadline to pay the fine lapses
- An addition of RM 150 if a month lapsed from the deadline.
11. Excessive Noise
Tourists and locals should both be careful not to make too much noise as this may be considered a public nuisance. This may result in a penalty under the Minor Offences Act.
It’s not only verbal noise that could be a public nuisance. This also applies when blowing a horn, playing the trumpet, banging a drum or tom-tom, or other sounds that could cause annoyance or inconvenience to another within the premises.
Additionally, playing music in restaurants or cafes, hotels, clubs, or shops without a Music Authors Copyright Protection license is forbidden for being a breach of copyright.
This also includes playing music in public spaces through streaming sites which can only be done for personal use.
12. Spitting in Public Areas
Spitting in public spaces is illegal in Malaysia. Under the Minor Offences Act, spitting is forbidden in these locations:
- Coffee shops
- Eating houses
- School premises
- Public places
- Trolley bus, omnibus, railway carriages
- Other public conferences
- Near any public roads
It may cost you a fine of up to RM 100 when you are caught violating this prohibition. So, you should bring a tissue or handkerchief with you anywhere you go in case you’d need to spit, or find a nearby restroom so you won’t get caught!
13. Burning Materials in a Private Property
Burning any material even in your own backyard is considered an annoyance and danger to the public under Malaysia’s Minor Offences Act.
Don’t burn stuff in your backyard even if you own them. Otherwise, you could be fined a maximum of RM 50 when caught violating the law,
14. Accepting Food or Drinks Before or After Elections
Malaysia is also known for its strict election laws. Waiting in line before voting could be tiresome and anyone would get hungry and thirsty.
So bring your own snacks or refreshment and be mindful of people giving out free food or drinks to voters because you’re not allowed to accept them.
Once you’re caught accepting food or drinks before, during, or after casting your vote, the penalties you would face are:
- Imprisonment for two years
- Fine up to RM 5,000
- Suspension of voting rights up for up to five years
Forbidden Things Unique to Malaysia
So, after tacking several forbidden things that are quite common, let’s discuss a few laws in Malaysia that may seem peculiar or unbelievable.
You should familiarize themselves with these, especially if you want to move to Malaysia as you can get fined for these!
1. Naming Your Baby after Odd Things
One of the things actually forbidden in Malaysia is naming your baby after the following:
- Japanese cars
The National Registration Department imposed this restriction because of the series of bizarre baby names in 2006. So, after 2006, no one could be named Apple or Cherry in Malaysia!
2. Using “Allah” to Refer to God
In Malaysia, non-Muslims were forbidden to use “Allah” when they refer to God. This was the only country in the world to impose this ban.
In a landmark decision, the word “Allah” was ruled exclusive to the Malay Muslims. Because of this, there was a home ministry directive imposed in 1986 that bans Christian publications in the Malay language from using the word “Allah”.
The appeal by the Catholic Church to use the word “Allah” in Christian publications was dismissed by Malaysia’s highest court in 2015.
However, in 2021, the ban on the use of “Allah” to refer to God in non-Muslim publications was overturned.
3. Attempting Suicide
This may sound harsh, but the Malaysian Penal Code actually punishes a person for failed suicide attempts.
It states that any person who attempts to commit suicide and commits any act to commit suicide will be sentenced to imprisonment for up to one year or with a fine or both.
So, if a person attempts to commit suicide and he doesn’t die, he could be charged for his actions.
4. Selling in a Parking Lot
In Malaysia, you wouldn’t find stalls in a parking lot because they’re forbidden to set up a shop there.
Malaysia has a law that states that a person who erects an “obstruction” such as an unlicensed food stall in a public place like a parking lot would be fined up to RM 2,000.
5. Advertising Syphilis Treatments
It may be a surprise but it’s true! Advertising treatment for syphilis is forbidden in Malaysia.
A law was passed in Malaysia in 1953 which considers this an offense. Likewise, it’s illegal to advertise treatment of any sexually transmitted disease and any aphrodisiac.
Anyone who violates this prohibition could be imprisoned for a maximum of three months or fined up to RM 100.
6. Throwing a Ring and Other Acts of Mischief
You may have seen people in movies throwing rings in the river or ocean, but be warned: you can’t do it in Malaysia as it’s forbidden by the Malaysian penal code. But, there’s actually a catch!
The prohibition under the law on throwing a ring into the river applies when someone throws another person’s ring to cause the ring’s owner a wrongful loss.
This is considered an act of mischief and it’s penalized with imprisonment of one to five years or a fine.
Other actions considered as “mischief” in the Malaysian penal code that could get you punished are:
- Bringing a cattle to another person’s field, knowing that it will cause damage
- Bringing water to another person’s ice housing and causing it to melt
- Shooting a horse you co-own with someone else
- Destroying another person’s property
7. Bathing in Public
There is a provision of law in Malaysia that actually penalizes a person who bathes in public. This even includes bathing or washing another person, thing, or a pet or any animal on public roads or beside public tanks, standpipes, or streams forbidden by law.
If anyone is caught doing any of these, the penalty is a fine of up to RM 100 under the Minor Offences Act in Malaysia. So, if your pets got dirt during a walk, wash them at home!
8. Dog on the Loose
If you have pet dogs, make sure you’re attentive enough when you bring them with you out in the public or put them on a leash!
As the dog owner, you’ll be held liable if your pet runs loose and chases another person, vehicle, or other animals along a public road. The fine is up to RM 100 if your dog runs after them.
Likewise, if your dog causes injury to another person, you’ll be liable for a fine up to RM 50 and for compensating the injured victim.
9. Riding an Elephant or Horse in Public
While in some Asian countries, it’s a common sight to see elephants or horses strolling in the streets, Malaysia forbids riding an elephant or horse on public roads.
This includes even just leading an elephant in the streets without permission from the chief police officer.
This was made illegal because of the danger or traffic obstruction it may cause. Anyone caught will be fined up to RM 100.
If you want to ride a horse in Malaysia, do it on a legal riding ground and not on the streets.
10. Streaming from an Android Box
While an android box is not per se illegal in Malaysia, streaming unpaid channels, shows, and movies from an android box is against the law.
An android box owner should therefore subscribe or pay for content from legal platforms. It’s also highly recommended to use other legal streaming apps or pay-per-use platforms available in the country.
These are better options than getting caught for illegal streaming and facing the consequences!
11. Fighting in Public
In Malaysia, it’s prohibited to cause a ruckus in public; otherwise, you’d be fined or jailed! Any form of fighting or violence and any display of disorderly behavior in public are forbidden, whether or not the individual or persons involved are drunk.
The penalty for anyone caught fighting in public is six months of imprisonment and/or a fine of RM 1,000.
When in Malaysia, remember to keep your cold and hush down your voice when you’re in public so as not to cause a scene.
12. Eating Durian in Public
Did you know that it’s now forbidden to eat Durian in public places in Malaysia?
Durian is notoriously known for its repulsive and lingering strong scent that could upset some people’s stomachs or make others feel sick. Hotels and airports in Malaysia often ban bringing in durian fruit as a respect to the guests.
Nevertheless, it’s fine to eat or bring with you Durian delicacies that don’t smell as strong as the fruit.
Final Thoughts on What is Forbidden in Malaysia
Malaysia may be a diverse and multicultural country but the majority of its population is Muslim. This is why its laws and customs are largely influenced by this religion.
Anyone who wants to live in Malaysia, even the rich or expats, should respect and adhere to the laws and ordinances even if they might seem bizarre.
Otherwise, those who committed a violation would have to face the penalties for their actions.
If you’re a tourist visiting Malaysia, you should not only look into travel agencies and insurance, but you should also be aware of what is forbidden to bring and do here. This is especially needed if you want to go to the tourist attractions in the country.
You can also read our tips for tourists in Malaysia that will also guide you in preparing for your trip so it will be safe and fun, whether you’re going solo or with your family!