A driving tour is the perfect way to experience Malaysia, a country that offers something for every traveller. Whether you long for sparkling white uncrowded beaches, love the excitement of big city life, or want to experience the beauty of the temperate highlands, touring Malaysia will be an unforgettable holiday. Malaysia is known for its excellent expressway system, and the country is relatively small, meaning your longest drive from one major city or region to another will probably be less than five hours. Here are some of the country’s highlights to experience on your road trip adventure.
Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport is one of the largest in South East Asia and handles 70 million passengers per year, so it’s no surprise that most travellers start their Malaysian journey here. But Kuala Lumpur is also a great place to hire a car and head out and into the countryside. While you’re in the capital city though, check out the impressive architecture, world-class museums and tourist attractions, and great restaurants and shops. Jalan Alor, a former red-light district, is a must if you’re a fan of food stalls. Home to some of the tastiest street food in Asia, this area is only a short drive away from the upscale hotels and hot jazz clubs and bars of the City Centre.
Less than a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, you will find Malacca (or Melaka), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Portuguese, Dutch, and British have all had a historic presence in Malacca at various points in history. Malacca is home to several major museums and thriving markets where you can browse for souvenirs. You’ll also want to check out the nearby picturesque ruins of the Porta de Santiago (A Famosa). This Portuguese fort, built in 1511, is one of the oldest surviving examples of European architecture in Asia. On Friday and Saturday nights, visit the Jonker’s Walk night market, where you’ll find hawker stalls and street performers. Nearby you can also see the Malacca Straits Mosque, which is located on the man-made Malacca Island. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset and at high tide, when it appears to be floating on the water.
Taman Negara National Park
If you are searching for a peaceful respite after enjoying the metropolis of Kuala Lumpur, the Taman Negara National Park is less than four hours away. This beautiful oasis is one of the most ancient rainforests on the planet, estimated to be more than 130 million years old. This is a great place to park the car, take a minor break from your road trip, and experience a river cruise, canopy walk or jungle hike. You’ll be able to walk under waterfalls, catch glimpses of local birds and wildlife, and just enjoy the quiet stillness.
If you love driving and are looking to experience the excitement of the road, the Cameron Highlands will be your favourite part of the trip. Just three hours from the capital you can explore this mountainous region on winding, single-lane rural roads. The area is famous for the tea plantations that thrive at these higher elevations. Cameron Highlands is popular for weekend getaways from Kuala Lumpur and offers great hiking. You can enjoy the local produce and even pick your own strawberries, or stop for tea and scones at one of the tea shops along the road.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Penang is on an island connected to mainland Malaysia by one of the longest bridges in Asia, the Penang Bridge. Penang is known for beautiful temples and easy access to white sandy beaches. Penang is also famous for is culinary scene, specifically for the fantastic variety and quality of its street food. Check out fried noodles with shrimp, deep-fried pork skewers, and Penang laksa, a spicy noodle seafood soup.
Keep in mind that much of the east coast of Malaysia is Muslim. This means that alcohol of any kind is difficult to obtain, but that doesn’t keep locals and tourists from enjoying the music and laid-back atmosphere of the beach cafes. Drivers aren’t super aggressive, but most drive over the national highway speed limit of 110 km per hour. Before setting off, check if you need to pass toll booths along your way. On highways, the most convenient way to pay tolls is with a Touch’n Go card that can be purchased and refilled at any gas station. Malaysian roads are left-hand drive, like in Britain and Australia. Stay out of the right lane except for passing, or you’ll likely be tailgated. Road signs reading “Ikut Kiri” remind drivers to keep left. Hiring a car and getting out of the city let’s you experience more of the traditional Malaysian culture. Malaysia offers some of the safest and best driving in Asia, so f you want to eat amazing food and explore new sights, enjoy an unforgettable road trip in Malaysia.