Driving in Malaysia: Good idea or nah?

Once you move to a new place, one of the things that quickly becomes desirable is mobility. Moving around will be easier if you have the means to get around at any time you want. It’s easier to explore the city and it’s a great way to meet new people and share experiences with others. So the question is, can you drive in Malaysia as a foreign student? Happily, the answer is yes. Here’s a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to drive in Malaysia.

So, what do I need to drive in Malaysia?

You can drive with an international driver’s license in Malaysia for up to 90 days. Afterwards you must apply for a Malaysian license. Drivers from certain countries, are able to apply to convert their licenses for class D car licenses. Check with the Road Transport Department to see if you are eligible. The minimum age for obtaining a driving license in Malaysia is 17 for a car and 16 for a motorcycle.

If your overseas license is not valid in Malaysia, or you wish to learn to drive, you will have to take a driving test. Before taking the test, you have to attend an approved driving school. A list of driving schools can be found at www.drivinginstitute.com.my. After registering yourself at a school, you will be given a book with questions and answers about driving which covers all the rules in Malaysia. This must be memorized, as you will be tested and must correctly answer at least 42 of the 50 questions to pass in order to start your practical lessons. On top of that, you must complete a five hour road safety course, which is conducted in Malay (most teachers are willing to speak some English to help explain), and you will also have to attend a three-hour basic car maintenance course which covers things like changing a tyre, checking oil, battery and water levels, topping up, and so on. Once you pass the written test, you will start your driving lessons.

Once you feel ready (and presumably with your instructor’s blessing), you can take the proper driving test which can be arranged quickly as it is only a practical exam. You will also have to take the test in the driving school’s car. When you pass the test, you will receive a “P” (provisional) sticker which must be displayed outside of any car you drive and must drive with it for at least two years before obtaining the Competence Driving License (CDL).

Okay, so what’s it like to actually drive in Malaysia?

Malaysia has one of the best road systems in Southeast Asia which makes traveling by car a popular choice for a lot of locals during the holiday season.  The roads are in considerably good condition and getting from one end of the peninsula to the other usually does not pose a problem. It is especially well-linked with its neighboring countries Thailand and Singapore.

The popularity of cars in Malaysia cannot be understated: Many Malaysian families have more than one car due to the ease with which Malaysians are able to secure car loans. Therefore it is no surprise to see a lot of clogged roads, especially in larger cities like KL where you may choose to take the train instead.

No, I meant what’s the driving experience like?

The driving style is rather frantic, leading many drivers to succumb to road rage. Now don’t get me wrong; Malaysian people are generally polite and friendly in nature, but when it comes to driving, things can take a bit of a turn, given the stresses of traffic on the roads. Some drivers may be inconsiderate so you are advised to always be alert on the road and aim to be considerate towards fellow drivers.

Driving in Malaysia can be rather frantic

Although Malaysia has good roads, it has been ranked as one of South-East Asia’s worst when it comes to road safety. Estimates have put losses from road traffic accidents at an estimated 1.6% of the national GDP.

According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety, Malaysia suffered 25 accident-related deaths per 100,000 of the population in 2010, compared to 3.6 deaths per 100,000 in Britain.

It’s not all gloom and doom, however. Steps are being taken to understand what can be done to improve this situation. In the meantime, it’s good to understand the types of behaviors that may cause this. There’s an interesting article which discusses this at length.

Stay safe out there. There are plenty of considerate drivers out there, be one of them and keep an eye out for the safety of your fellow drivers on the road.

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