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Langkawi is a relatively a very safe place to visit, but does have some of the problems that come with being a developing area. Because there is a great contrast of wealthy tourists and poor locals, petty theft does occur. This shouldn't avoid a trip to this tranquil island, but certain precautions is best be taken in order to ensure safe visit.
Petty crime does occur,and increasingly so, due to the alarming rise in Heroin abuse among locals on the island. Visitors should take certain precautions. Don't carry large amounts of money, and avoid wearing expensive jewelry or looking flashy. Drawing un-needed attention to oneself is never a good idea. Try blending into the crowd instead of sticking out.
Valuables should never be left unattended at the beach. Even leaving irreplaceable items in rooms is not a wise decision. Instead, see if a security lock box is available. If not, store the valuables with the accommodation's front desk, but make sure to obtain an itemized receipt before leaving the valuables behind.
Langkawi is generally safe but common sense should be used.
The quiet, unsupervised car-park at the remote Tengkorak beach has been the scene of many recent break ins, with tourists having their valuables taken from their rental cars while on the beach.
Though monkeys can be cheeky opportunists and regualrly mug tourists for fruit, ice cream etc (particularly at 7 wells) they will usually back off if you stand your ground. That said, the monkeys at Temerun Waterfall are particularly aggressive of late, particularly the alpha male. If you are carrying fruit or food be prepared to loose it . Most offenders are Macaques, the shy, retiring Langurs are as peaceful as they are photogenic.
The biggest health risk on Langkawi is from jellyfish and they have become an increasingly dangerous hazard for a large part of the year. In the high season uninformed visitors are stung every day and the lifeguards on Pantai Cenang and the hospital treat more or less severe cases of jellyfish stings most days. There are several species of jellyfish in Langkawi's waters and while most will give you a nasty sting or a burn there are some that will cause partial (temporary) paralysis and make breathing very difficult while others such as the lethal box jellyfish can kill within seconds. If you have been stung badly, don't exert yourself physically as this will pump the toxins around the bloodstream and aggravate the symptoms. Vinegar is the only scientifically proven treatment for tropical jellyfish stings though some suggest that urine, lemon juice and the inside of banana peel (the locals swear by it) are all good at soothing any inflammation. If in doubt, stay out of the water. Since the mid-1990s 3 people have been confirmed killed by box jellyfish (the most recent in January 2010) though authorities claimed one text book case as a drowning further raising suspicions that the death rate is probably higher than 3.
If stung by a box jellyfish - 1. Do not remove tentacles (hands, rub, scrape, sand) as this pumps more venom into the body 2. Flush stings liberally with vinegar (>30 seconds) to neutralize the stinging cells 3. Maintain life support - CPR if required and seek urgent medical attention
There is a clean, modern, hospital on the island with lots of sparkling modern technology that no one seems to be trained how to use.. Staff in the hospital may seem overly laid back with a strong emphasis placed on tea breaks and prayer time, but hey - it's Malaysia - set your watch on island time. The local interpretation of 'urgent' might not match western expectations. Needle care is very slack, so if you need a shot or IV make sure you see the needle come out of the wrapper and don't let it out of your sight until it is used. Most clinics on the island close on Friday, so don't have an accident or fall ill on Friday. There are limited medical facilities available in Langkawi and most serious situations require emergency evacuation, which is very expensive. The nearest large hospital is one hour by ferry away and located at Alor Star. In serious emergencies a helicopter is used.
In the case of passport went missing, contact the local police and then the national embassy that issues the passport. There are no foreign embassies on Langkawi, as most are located on the mainland of Malaysia, mainly in KL.
In cases of dispute between visitors and locals, the police will always favor the locals. Better to walk away and let it go rather than let it spoil your holiday. That said, locals are not usually conflictual by nature, but like the world over, after a few (illicit) beers anything can happen. For 'minor' infractions (no seatbelt, helmet, speeding) 50 ringgit 'coffee money' (Kopi Duit) will heal most situations (don't flash around money though as the 'kops' are notoriously greedy and if the think you can pay more 50 won't be enough). If you feel you are being scammed at a check point (that would never happen surely!) insist that the police write a report and take the officers number. In fairness most police are friendly, relaxed and helpful towards visitors.