Driving in Malaysia

Updated 2022-05-18 14:59

You are moving to Malaysia and want to drive for work or travel there? Follow our guide!

Even if it's a practical way to discover the country and get around on a daily basis, a car in Malaysia is very expensive at purchase. Luckily, however, some expat packages include a vehicle allowance and there are tax incentives for buying a car if you are part of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program. On top of this, it is worth applying for a stipend of at least RM50,000 when negotiating your job offer.

If you're on a tight budget but still want to buy a car, it's worth looking at Mudah, which is an online marketplace for used cars, among other things. It is also interesting to go to the old town of Petaling Jaya on Sunday mornings where a second-hand market is held.

Vehicles registered in Malaysia require a valid road tax and driving without a valid driver's license and insurance is an offense. Therefore, when driving in Malaysia you should always carry a valid driving license. Moreover, registration and insurance documents should always be in the vehicle.

Driving license conversion

You are allowed to drive in Malaysia with your original driver's license if you are a citizen of a country that has a bilateral agreement with Malaysia, as long as your license remains valid in your home country. However, this possibility is limited to foreigners with a short or long stay visa, beneficiaries of the MM2H program and people married to a Malaysian citizen.

Only nationals of the following countries can drive in Malaysia with their original driver's license (if they meet the above conditions): Australia, Belgium, Brunei, China, Denmark, Egypt, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Libya, Mauritius, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand and Turkey.

If your driver's license is not in English, it will need to include a Malay or an English translation. The translation, however, must be approved by the consulate of your country, or by the authorities that issued the original license. It can also be translated by the Translation Institute of Malaysia. It is also possible to drive with an international license. However, beyond 90 days, you will have to convert your license to a Malaysian driver's license, whether you hold an international license or if you use your original license. If you are a national of one of the countries mentioned above, the conversion is automatic.

You will need to apply for this at an office of the Road Transport Department (RTD) Malaysia. The application must include the original license, a copy of the license and a color passport photo. Additionally, you will have to pay RM40 for administrative costs. Above all, you will be required to pay RM60 annually for license renewal.

If you obtained your driver's license in a country that does not recognize automatic conversion, you will need to apply at a branch of the RTD or at the institution's headquarters in Putrajaya. Additional documents are required:

  • original and copy of the passport,
  • a copy of the visa which must be valid for at least three months,
  • original and copy of the driving license, and
  • finally, a letter of recommendation from the embassy or consulate of your country of origin.

In some cases, other documents may be useful, for example, a marriage certificate if you are married to a Malaysian, an official attestation if you are studying in Malaysia or a work permit if you work there, among others. Note that the more documentation is provided, the more likely your driver's license's conversion will be validated by the authorities. You will receive your response within 30 business days as of the submission date.

Also note that since December 2020, all foreigners have the possibility of submitting electronically their request for automatic conversion on the RTD website. However, as this site is only available in Malay, you might need help to complete the process. You can subscribe to our Malaysia forum to find assistance.

Road traffic regulations

Malaysia's 50 road traffic rules can be found under the Road Transport Act 1987.

The most important thing to remember is that driving is on the left, that you should never use your mobile phone while driving, always wear your seat belt and respect the speed limits. These limits are set at 90 km/h on national roads, 60 km/h in town, and 110 km/h on motorways. There are plenty of speed cameras in Malaysia, and immediate speeding fines can be issued. All speed limits are reduced by 10 km/h on all national roads during the Chinese New Year period, and heavy goods vehicles are prohibited from expressways during this period.

Although the legal alcohol limit in Malaysia is 50 milligrams per deciliter of blood, it is not recommended to drink before driving, as the police often carry out breathalyzer checks. In addition, the laws against drunken driving were strengthened in January 2022. On the first offense, offenders are now be punished with a fine ranging from RM10,000 to RM30,000, a prison term of two years, and a two-year driving ban.

Penalty points

In addition to fines for certain offenses, the Kejara Demerit Points System is a system by which drivers who commit specific traffic offenses, under the Motor Vehicles Act 1987, are struck with penalty points.

Kejara is short for Kesalahan Jalan Raya, which translates into "traffic offences" in English. There are 23 traffic offenses that can lead to the awarding of points if the offender is found guilty by the courts. Different offenses are penalized with different amounts of points. When a driver has accumulated 20 points, he receives a warning. When he reaches 40 points, his license is suspended for 6 to 12 months. The penalty points keep growing with the accumulating number of offenses. At 60 points, the license is suspended for 8 to 10 months, and at 80 points for 10 to 12 months.

Since April 2017, this points principle has been integrated into the Automated Safety Awareness System, which was established to assess the suspension or even the cancellation of the driving licenses of drivers who do not respect the rules of the road.

Motorway fees

Although it is possible to drive on many roads for free, there is also a network of tolls in Malaysia. The tolls are found on the express highways connecting some major cities like Klang Valley, Penang and Johor Bahru (Express Highways). You can pay using a Touch'n Go card or by paying in cash. The costs, very affordable, are between 1 and 6 RM depending on the highway taken.


It is compulsory to have vehicle insurance in Malaysia, regardless of the type of vehicle you drive. There are three types of insurance in Malaysia: comprehensive, third-party liability, fire and theft.

Comprehensive insurance covers you for everything, including roadside assistance and 24-hour breakdown assistance. Liability insurance covers you for damage, loss or injury to other people and their property, while fire and theft insurance covers you for engine theft, fire damage, and damage caused to yourself or third parties.

Whichever insurance you choose, it is important to always keep these documents with you when driving.

Useful links:

Road Transport Department

Traffic Police

Countries with a bilateral agreement with Malaysia

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.