Many foreigners who live in Malaysia and tourists who visit wonder whether they can legally drive in Malaysia and what the legal requirements are with regard to either getting a Malaysian license or using the license that you might have from your own country.
In this article I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to better understand the ins and outs of whether you can use your driver’s license in Malaysia.
Let’s get started…
Table of Contents
Can I use an international driving license/permit in Malaysia?
Yes, you can use an international drivers license in Malaysia.
In Malaysia, you can drive with an international driver’s permit for up to 90 days.
However, you’ll need to use an International Driving License together with your domestic driving license (from your home country) to drive in Malaysia. After that period of time, you’ll have to apply for a Malaysian driver’s license.
Practically speaking, it might be difficult for the average police officer to figure out how long you’ve actually been in the country for.
For instance, if you’re just a tourist, even if you come and go frequently, you’ll need to regularly exit Malaysia.
Therefore, you’ll probably never be in a situation where you have been in Malaysia for more than 90 days unless you have a visa to live here and are still using your driving license from back home.
Citizens of Commonwealth countries (which Malaysia is also a member of) can use their domestic driver’s license without the need to also show an international drivers license.
Again, this is only for a period of up to 90 days from the time you entered Malaysia. After that period of time you’re supposed to get a Malaysian license to continue driving.
For example, if you are Australian, you can legally drive a car in Malaysia and if the police stop you they will not cause you any problems as long as you can present them a valid Australian driver’s license AND you haven’t been inside the country for longer than 90 days.
As of September 2018, the Malaysian government has suspended the conversion of foreign driving licenses to Malaysian driving licenses. This has frustrated many expats who have moved to Malaysia, including me.
Now, we are faced with the option of either renewing our licenses in our home country when they expire, or otherwise, we need to go through the painful process of “learning how to drive” in Malaysia all over again.
I looked into this process and it involves logging a minimum number of hours being taught by a local driving instructor and then passing a driving test. You can’t just book a test and go and do it, even if you’ve been driving for decades.
What do I do if my overseas license is not valid in Malaysia?
If your overseas driver’s license is not valid, you will have to take a driver’s test to be able to drive in Malaysia.
Prior to taking the test, you’ll be required to attend an approved driving school to learn about the rules and regulations of driving in Malaysia.
If you’re looking for an approved driving school to get your local license, I recommend UnisexDriving.
They have multiple locations and are good at what they do.
What do I need to do after registering myself at the local driving school?
After registering at a driving school, you’ll be given a handbook about the rules and regulations of driving in Malaysia. Take some time to go through and complete the questions in the handbook, which will help you to prepare for the theory test.
In order to get your Malaysian driving license, you’re required to complete a theory test and correctly answer at least 42 out of the 50 questions to pass and start your practical lessons.
You’ll also be required to complete a five-hour road safety course and attend a three-hour basic car maintenance course to start your driving test.
After passing your driving test you’ll be given a P (provisional) sticker which must be displayed on the windscreen of any car you drive. It will take you two years before you can obtain the competence diving license (CDL).
Do you need an international driving license in Malaysia?
Whether not you need an international driving license or permit during your stay in Malaysia depends on which country your driver’s license is from.
If you have a valid driver’s license from any of the 10 ASEAN member countries you can drive in Malaysia without the need to get an International Driving Permit.
Those 10 ASEAN countries are:
Also, as previously mentioned, Malaysia also recognises driver’s licenses issued by other Commonwealth nations.
But, if you’re not from an ASEAN or Commonwealth nation, you will need an international driver’s license and your domestic driver’s license to drive a car in Malaysia.
How can a foreigner get an international driving license in Malaysia?
If you’re a foreigner and you’re thinking of applying for an international driving permit to drive in Malaysia, there are some criteria that you need to meet.
You will need to prepare the following documents:
- A valid driving license from your home country with more than 1-year validity remaining
- A photocopy of your driving license (both sides)
- One passport size photograph
- A completed JPJ L1 form (you can obtain and fill it at the JPJ office)
- A payment of RM150 per year
If you’re thinking about applying for one, you can visit the nearest JPJ office or the Malaysia Automobile Association (MAA) office to do so.
However, if you’re submitting your application through the Malaysia Automobile Association, you’ll be charged an additional RM30 for the application.
Driving in Malaysia
Most people say that Malaysia has some of the best roads in southeast Asia.
From one end of the peninsula to the other, the roads are generally in good condition.
To be honest, a lot of the road signs are almost identical to what you might see when you drive in Australia and driving in Malaysia is often a pleasure once you’re on the open road.
Despite having some of the best roads in the region, there are still some things that you should know while driving in Malaysia.
Driving in Malaysia might be convenient, however, it’s not always free of charge.
If you’re driving on certain highways apart from the state and federal roads you might be required to pay toll fees.
In order to pay the toll fees, you’re required to purchase a touch-n-go card which is a type of cashless card which you can purchase at the toll kiosks along the highway, petrol stations, and other touch-n-go hubs, including many convenience stores that you’ll see all around Kuala Lumpur.
Parking is by far one the most frustrating aspects of driving in Malaysia besides the traffic jams.
In Malaysia, especially within the city area, it can be really hard to find a parking spot.
This is because in areas such as KL and Klang valley there aren’t enough parking spots to cater to the large population that lives there.
In Malaysia, parking is only legal on private land or on specified marked spaces in public areas.
Parking areas that operate by parking meters are common throughout the country. The meters in these parking areas are usually in effect from 9am until 6pm unless it’s stated otherwise.
The meter rates vary depending on what area you’re in. Usually, on Sundays and public holidays, these parking areas are free of charge.
Public parking spots, especially those where you can park free of charge are usually taken before you even get a chance to spot one. It’s at these moments that some people might be tempted to follow some of the locals by parking illegally.
This might sound like a good idea until you find yourself with a summon letter slapped on your car windscreen.
Traffic jams are a common occurrence almost everywhere in the Klang Valley and Kuala Lumpur area.
Traffic jams can happen just about any time of the day or night. Sometimes, these traffic jams might be caused by road works, construction, accidents, rain or even Friday prayers.
But one thing that’s for sure is that during the morning and the evening rush hour you can expect the traffic to be extremely congested.
Ok one occasion I booked a Grab to get from my place in Bukit Bintang to Avenue K at about 5 or 6 in the evening. The journey took a full hour.
I could have walked in about half that time.
Renting a car
If you’re in KL for a short time, the best option might be to rent a car.
There are lots of well known international and local car rental companies in Malaysia that you can rent from such as:
International car rental companies:
- Sunny cars
Local car rental companies:
- Hawk Malaysia
Local car rental companies are generally much cheaper than their international counterparts.
However, at times it can be a little troublesome as you might need to make a reservation and pay in advance.
If you do rent a car it might be advisable to always get the highest insurance package available to avoid incurring any additional future costs should something go wrong.
I’ve never seen it, but I have heard stories of people deliberately causing accidents with foreigners if they see them driving because they know that they can get money from the foreigner.
Again, I’ve never come across that, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
The final word on driving in Malaysia
Driving in Malaysia is pretty easy if you come from an ASEAN or Commonwealth member country.
The most challenging thing will probably be navigating, but that is easily solved with an app like Waze.
Always have your wits about you, because you might see some “creative” drivers on the roads around Kuala Lumpur.
If you think the petty crime on the streets of KL is dangerous for tourists, just wait until you see some of the antics people pull on the road with cutting each other off!
But, overall, there’s not much to it and you’ll probably find it to be very similar to driving in your home country.
For some great ideas for things to do in Kuala Lumpur, check out my other article that covers plenty of awesome ideas that only locals would know.
I hope this article was helpful and stay safe on the roads when you’re driving in Malaysia ✌