Just my story of female solo travel in Malaysia.
Hi, I am Carina. I backpacked Malaysia in 2023 – partly solo and partly with my husband Philipp. Even when my husband was there, I went out exploring alone. That’s why I think my story might be relevant to you if you’re a woman travelling to Malaysia on your own.
Disclaimer: I am an avid solo traveller. I have been to plenty of countries on my own, including Morocco, Egypt, El Salvador, Honduras, Albania, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and many more.
I went to three places in Malaysia:
Georgetown and Kuala Lumpur were fine (although I must say I was extremely cautious by the time I arrived in KL).
Ipoh is the place where I experienced some problems as a woman. As soon as I and my husband arrived, I went out exploring by myself as Philipp wanted to get some work done. I was wearing loose shorts and a black T-shirt (pictured above) – not that I think it should be relevant but it is as it is. I don’t know why, but it was mostly (like 90%) men out and about. As soon as I stepped out of the hotel, I experienced some intense staring. I tried to shrug it off. Then I entered the place called Mural Art’s Lane on Google. It looked a bit run down and there was nobody else but again, I did not listen to my gut and entered to examine the street art. After all, I had read about it in blogposts and nobody mentioned anything bad happening to them.
Of course, things took their turn. A man passed me very slowly on his scooter making obscene gestures. Ok, things like that happen to women. No biggie. I moved on. And he turned around. This time driving towards me making the same obscene gestures. I thought to myself “Ok, now he really got his point across and he’ll leave”. Of course, he didn’t. He turned around making the same gestures for the third time. That’s when my fight or flight instinct kicked in and I just ran to the next big street with people. I immediately returned to the hotel and did not leave it without Philipp anymore. I thought that would keep me safe from harassment. Spoiler: It did not.
The next day, we had booked a night at a Hot Spring Theme Park resort because of a YouTube video that made it look interesting. To be honest, my gut feeling was already a bit off but I just thought I’ll stick to Philipp all the time and I will be fine.
As soon as we entered the water, we noticed a guy staring at me. Soon after, he started to circle me like a shark. And you guessed it, on one of his circles he touched my butt underwater. The pool was not crowded whatsoever and Philipp was an arm's length away. After that, my husband literally acted as my physical shield, putting his body between me and the guy. Without him, I would have had to leave the hot spring theme park immediately.
I have read many articles about solo female travel in Malaysia after the incidents and every single one just generically says “Malaysia is safe”. Like always, I thought long and hard about writing something negative online. But I wished somebody would have “warned” me or at least briefed me before going.
Yes, I know that bad things can happen everywhere but two incidents in a row in the same city merit the advice to be cautious in my opinion. I don’t advise you to skip Malaysia as a solo female traveller but to execute an extra bit of caution.
Another thing to be cautious about is scams. I experienced more of them in Malaysia than in Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or Thailand.
This scam happened to me a lot before I noticed it and even sometimes afterwards. It’s hard to find information online.
When you pay, the cashier will move items through the scanner more than once to collect the money twice. Or they scan more expensive items behind the counter. This especially happened when I tried to buy (expensive) beer in kiosks – not just in local ones, but also in chains.
Oftentimes, local restaurants don’t have any visible price tags on their buffet-style food. Make sure to ask for the price before ordering if you want to avoid bad surprises.
Touts seem to offer fake bus tickets outside of the bus stations. This didn’t happen to me myself but it’s something other travellers report. Additionally, a taxi will most likely rip you off if you just flag it down on the street. Not sure if this is a scam though or just the way the world works.
Oh and of course, nobody ever has change…
Use Grab if you want to order a taxi and 12Go when you need long-distance travel. This does not only help against scams but also benefits your safety as a solo traveller.
Always be aware of your surroundings and keep track of your belongings – especially when it’s crowded or when someone is touching you for whatever reason.
This is probably the biggest danger you’ll face. Malaysia has 33 million inhabitants. “Approximately 1.35 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,700 people lose their lives every day on the roads” (Ministry of Transport Malaysia).
This is something I do wrong time and time again. If a situation does not feel right, leave it!
As much as I hate this, especially for a female solo traveller, I recommend dressing modestly and covering shoulders and knees. Better be safe than sorry.
This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission. You would help us a lot if you do so. Thanks.