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How to drive in Malaysia

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Are you moving to Malaysia and considering getting a car for commuting or exploration? Then read this article to find out more.

Buying a car in Malaysia is very expensive, but it is a convenient way to explore the country and get around on a day-to-day basis. There are also tax incentives for buying a car if you are part of the MM2H programme, and some expatriate packages include a car allowance. It is worth requesting a car allowance of at least RM50,000 if you are in a position to negotiate your employment package.

If you are on a tight budget but wish to still buy a car then it's worth looking on Mudah, which is an online marketplace for second-hand cars, amongst other goods. It is also worth heading down to Petaling Jaya Old Town on Sunday mornings when a second-hand car market is held.

Registered vehicles in Malaysia require valid road tax, and it is an offence to drive without a valid driving license and motor insurance. You must carry a valid licence, car registration documents and insurance documents with you at all times whilst driving in Malaysia.

Driving licence conversion

You are allowed to drive in Malaysia on your original driving licence for a period of up to three months. After that, you will either require an International Driver's Permit, or you will need to convert your licence to a Malaysian driving licence. To do this, you first need to find out whether the country where you obtained your driving licence has a bilateral agreement with Malaysia.

If you obtained your driving licence in a country that has a bi-lateral agreement for an automatic conversion of driving licences, then the process is relatively simple.

You may first need to obtain a certificate of entitlement from the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), depending on which country your driving licence is valid in. You will then need to submit an application to any Road Transport Department (RTD) state office, along with a completed JPJ L1 form and the following documents:

  • Original and copy of your passport
  • A copy of the entry and exit stamps in passport
  • Original and copy of your driving licence
  • English translation of license by embassy of the issuing country, if applicable.
  • One coloured photograph (25mmx32mm)
  • Certificate of entitlement from DVLA if applicable
  • Processing fee of RM20
  • Annual Competence Driving Licence (CDL) fee of RM30 for a car

If you obtained your original licence in a country that doesn't have an agreement for automatic conversion, you will first need to get approval from the Director General before you can apply for the conversion. To be approved, you will have to submit a completed JPJL2 form to any RTD state office or directly to the RTD Head Quarters in Putrajaya, along with the following:

  • Original and copy of your passport (the copy must be certified by RTD officer, if the application is submitted through RTD state office)
  • Original and copy of your driving licence (the copy must be certified by RTD officer, if the application is submitted through RTD state office)
  • English translation of the driving license by embassy of the issuing country, if applicable.

Once the application has been approved, you will have to submit the application to the RTD state office for the conversion of your driving license. Along with the completed JPJL1 form, you will need to submit the following documents:

  • Approval letter issued by the RTD H.Q 0ffice. Validity of the approved letter is one year from the date of issue.
  • Original and copy of your driving license.
  • Original and copy of your passport.
  • One coloured photograph (25mm x 32mm).
  • Processing fee of RM 20.00
  • Annual Competence Driving License(CDL) fee of RM 30.00 for a car

Traffic regulations

There are 50 rules of the road in Malaysia that are set out in the Road Transport Act 1987.

However, the most important things to remember are to drive on the left, don't use your mobile phone when driving, always wear your seatbelt, and keep to the speed limits. These are set to 90km/hr on state and federal roads, 60km/hr in urban areas, and 110km/hr on expressways. There are many speed cameras in Malaysia, and on-the-spot fines can be given for exceeding speed limits. All speed limits are reduced by 10km/h for all federal and state roads during the period of Chinese New Year, when heavy vehicles are also prohibited from using the highways.

Although the permitted blood-alcohol level is 0.08% in Malaysia, it is advisable not to drink at all when driving, as breathalyser tests by the police are common practice.

Penalties

As well as fines for certain offences, the Kejara Demerit Points System is a system in which drivers who commit specific traffic offences under the Road Transport Act 1987 are given demerit points. Kejara is short for Kesalahan Jalan Raya, which translates to 'traffic offences' in English. Different road offences are penalised with different amounts of points, and once a driver has accumulated 20 points, they will be issued a warning. If they then reach 40 points, their licence will be suspended for six to 12 months, and punishments increase with the amount of offences someone accumulates.

From April 2017, this points sytem was integrated as part of the Automated Awareness Safety System, which has been established to see the suspension or even cancellation of driving licences of drivers who break traffic rules.

Tolls

Although you can drive along many roads free-of-charge, there is also a heavy toll network in Malaysia. Tolls are most commonly found along the expressways of the larger cities such as the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor Bahru, and you can travel on these using a Touch 'n Go card or by paying in cash.

Insurance

It is compulsory to have motor insurance in Malayisa, no matter what type of vehicle you drive. There are three types of motor insurance in Malaysia comprehensive, third party, and fire and theft.

Comprehensive insurance covers you for everything and will also include 24-hour roadside assistance and towing. Third party insurance will cover you for any damage, loss or injury caused to other people and their property, while and fire and theft insurance will cover you for motor theft, fire damage, and harm caused to yourself and third parties.

Whatever you choose, it's important to carry the policy with you in your car when driving.

 Useful links:

Road Transport Department
Traffic Police
Transport Department - list of driving schools in Malaysia
Countries with a bi-lateral agreement
Kijera Demerits Point System

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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