Driving in Malaysia – See The Best Bits By Car

Malaysia is located in South-East Asia and is split into two parts. There is Peninsular Malaysia (aka West Malaysia) which is part of mainland Asia and borders Thailand and Singapore. Then there is East Malaysia which occupies a portion of the island Borneo. The rest of that island belongs to Indonesia and Brunei. Most tourists holiday in the Peninsular Malaysia and this is where most of the country’s infrastructure lies.

A good starting point is Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, as it has good road networks with the rest of the country. The city is fairly young as cities go, having grown from a small mining colony to a major metropolis in about 100 years. Being new, the city doesn’t have much in the way of historical buildings, but it makes up for it in modern buildings such as the Petronas Twin Towers which are the tallest twin buildings in the world. There is a load more to do in the city and it’s best to just wander around and discover it for yourself.

Malaysia Car Hire Tip: The west coast of Malaysia is the most popular driving route – from Johor Bahru in the south (near Singnapore) to Alor Setar in the north (near the border with Thailand).

From the capital head towards the coast for about 25km where you’ll find the city of Shah Alam. This city is famous for Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque which is the largest and most beautiful mosque in Malaysia and one of the biggest in south east Asia!

About 32km from Kuala Lumper is the city of Klang which was once the former home of the Royal Family in Malaysia. While there, you simply must try the Bak Kut The (pork ribs in a herbal soup), which is a speciality dish of Malaysia and was invented in Klang.

Malaysia Car Hire Tip: In Malaysia, drive on the left.

Heading north on the North-South Highway for 2 hours will get you as far as Ipoh. This city has much to see and do, both in and around it. In the city you can explore both the Old Town and the New Town, which have interesting and contrasting architectural styles. Located just outside the city, you can find such attractions as Kellie’s Castle, and the temples of Sam Poh Tong, Kek Lok Tong and Perak Tong; all of which are definitely worth visiting. This city is famous all over Asia for its cuisine, so do try to sample some of the local fare while there!

Malaysia Car Hire Tip: If you’re heading to Ipoh, you’ll need a good city map as there’re so many one way streets and not many roadsigns!

Continuing north up along the coast you’ll come to Butterworth – the gateway to Penang Island. From here, you can take the bridge or ferry to the beautiful and exotic Penang Island. Georgetown is the only settlement on the island with any significant culture or history; the culture being a strange mix of mostly Chinese and Muslim Malays and the history is mostly colonial and architectural such as Fort Cornwallis. The city has lots to keep you busy with many historical sights, religious sights, museums, markets, shopping malls and some renowned restaurants.

Venturing outside the city, the rest of the island has a few nice beaches. If you want to relax on a white sandy beach under the shade of a palm tree, then make for the very popular Batu Ferringhi on the north coast of the island.

About 93km north of Butterworth is the city of Alor Star. Pop into the Paddy Museum (Muzium Padi) to learn all about Paddy growing and harvesting (Paddy is the Malay word for Rice Plant). Alor Star is the last major city if you’re travelling onto Thailand, as it’s only about 45km from the Thai border.

Malaysia Car Hire Tip: Roads are generally of a good quality. The North-South Highway is the main route through the country and runs from Singapore, up the west coast and goes right up to the Thai border. The motorways are tolled however.

Off this north west coast of Malaysia can be found the islands of Langkawi. Pulau Langkawi is the most popular and is a duty free haven making it a huge tourist destination along with its stunning beaches and resorts. This island can be reached by passenger ferry or by flying into its airport. When you arrive on the island you could hire another car as it’s the only way to get around. There is much to see and do on the island, you could visit its Geoforest Park, enjoy a cable car ride, go jungle trekking, snorkelling, birdwatching or how about enjoying a day cruise on a yacht! Of course, you’ll have to shop here; as cheap Malaysian shopping is even cheaper here!

The west coast of Malaysia is far more popular for tourists that the east coast. East Malaysia has some nice things to offer an adventurous tourist, but it largely covered with impenetrable jungle and has little or no roads. If you do decide to visit East Malaysia the best way around would be to fly on the rural air service. For example, a trip from Kuching to Miri by air is 1 hour and by road its 14 hours!

The east coast has uncrowded beaches and some of the prettiest little villages tucked away. The road is mainly good from Singnapore all the way up the east coast to Kota Bharu. The most popular and diverse stretch of this route is from Kuantan to Kuala Terengganu which is an unforgettable adventure!

Malaysia Car Hire Tip: While driving within cities be very away that most drivers don’t use their indicators so they make rapid lane changes without warning.

Kuantan is a major city on the east coast. It’s a busy tourist city famous for its beaches, waterfalls and shops. It’s easily accessible from Kuala Lumper on the East Coast Highway and also by air. Kuantan’s most famous beach is Teluk Cempedak, but there are many more including Batu Hitam, Balok, and Cherating. Other items of interest within the city include Gelora Park, Teruntum Mini Zoo and Agriculture Park.

Another popular stop off for tourists is Malacca a seaside city on the west coast some 150kms from Kuala Lumpur. It was once a popular port and spice route. Park up the car and walk through the Old Town district will be well rewarded with many architecturally beautiful buildings and numerous museums and other attractions.

Malaysia Car Hire Tip: Motorcyclists/mopeds are very common. They will drive in and out of traffic and cut you off without a moment’s hesitation. Be especially wary at night as they can be difficult to see.

Johor Bahru is one of the largest cities in Malaysia – even though it’s only been declared one since 1994! The best thing about visiting this city is that it’s within walking distance of Singapore (about half and hour across the causeway). Johor Bahru is home to a number of fine golf courses including the Royal Johor Country Club and the Tanjung Puteri Resort. There are plenty of other things you can get up to in the city, including going for day trips into Singapore.

Singapore, is in fact, its own country and not part of Malaysia. It is found on an island at the very tip of the Malaysian Peninsula. It’s one of the smallest city states in the world. The Republic of Singapore is mainly urban but it also consists of some rainforests and nature reserves. It’s a booming city which has something to offer everyone whether you’re looking for spas and shopping, beaches and islands, nature and wildlife, history and museums, or culture and cuisine.
Singapore is about a 4 hour drive from Kuala Lumpur and getting there isn’t too difficult. Just exit Singapore across the Straits of Johor (by taking the Tuas Bridge or the Woodlands Causeway) and once you hit the main expressway, just follow the signs all the way for ‘Kuala Lumpur’.

If you want to get a car for this once in a lifetime trip to Malaysia, then take a look at our Malaysia car hire homepage.

Hope you enjoy Malaysia by car. If you have any question on car hire in Malaysia, don’t hesitate to ask and we’ll get back to you straight away – just drop it into the box below.