Driving a car across a country is an extremely interesting experience, which i did not think i would have the chance to enjoy in a country where travel and public transport services are as convenient as in malaysia. But fate had me on a five-day road trip through malaysia to find the beautiful treasures of this country and create wonderful memories. If you are thinking of exploring this tropical paradise, consult these 9 strikingly delightful things that i learned on my own memorable road trip through malaysia.
1. FREEDOM OF SELF
Driving a car will give you a more authentic experiences, you can wander through plenty of the narrow alleys of this country without worrying about keeping pace with a tour group. In addition, the feeling of driving on the left is quite exciting as in Vietnam we drive on the right. Of course, a car can carry four people so the expense for the trip would reduce significantly if you take some friends. You can freely wander on the hills of Cameron or Old Town in Penang or take a stroll in Melaka (once called Malacca) because time is yours. You have full control over your own schedule which is designed by you for you.
2. CAR RENTAL, PETROL, ROAD TAX ARE CHEAP
Malaysia’s transportation system is so developed that with a map or GPS system you can comfortably drive yourself without stopping to ask for directions. The current petrol price in Malaysia is only about VND10,000 for RON97(at present in Vietnam RON95 is over VND17,000). This means that if you drive a car like the Toyota Vios with an average highway fuel consumption of only 6L/100km, you only pay VND60,000 for the petrol on this 100-kilometre journey.
The road tax in Malaysia is also very cheap, I drove 250 kilometres from Putrajaya to Ipoh, but only paid about 30 Ringgit (VND150,000) for the toll, meaning I paid just VND600 per kilometre. Currently, road tax for expressways in Vietnam is from VND1,000 to VND2,000 per kilometre. In addition, most sections on the North-South expressway of Malaysia have 8 to 10 lanes, just a few sections have 6 lanes. Motorcycles can also drive on the expressway. So it’s easy and economical to explore Malaysia by car or motorbike.
3. EVERYTHING IS VERY CLEAN
Everything in Malaysia is very clean, from the highway to the allies in the countryside. We drove all day long in the heavy rain, but when we got out of the car, we did not see any mud sticking to the car, it was as if we just went to a car wash rather than driving in the rain. Driving the car for days, the tires were still clean and the body of the car was not dusty. Even the guardrails on the highway are very clean, which shows that roads and vehicles emit very little dust into the environment. The streets in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Ipoh are neat and clean and lined with urban forests. These are fresh cities without noise, smoke and dust, unlike other industrialised cities I have seen.
4. HIGHWAY REST STOPS ARE LIKE HOTELS
There are many Rest & Relax Areas on the North-South expressway. It’s usually a complex of restaurants, toilets, petrol stations, motels, shopping counters and supermarkets and all of them are very clean and neat. When going to the toilet area, you may get lost if not being careful, because it is quite large. Public restrooms at rest stops are usually divided into 3 separate areas, one for Muslims with clean showers, faucets, sinks and toilet pedestal, one for men and the other for women. All of them would make you feel like you are using a restroom at a 4 – 5 star hotel rather than a rest stop. And although they are clean and nice, this public service is completely free.
5. EVERYTHING IS AUTOMATIC
Malaysia’s tollbooths are very large and automated. You buy a card with the value of a certain amount of money (like a phone card), then when coming to a tollbooth you just need to swipe the card, the barrier will automatically open, and at the same time the toll charges and the amount left appear on the screen. I almost never saw any staff at a tollbooth like you do in Vietnam. Even at gas stations along the roads, you can use swipe cards, choose the amount and pump the petrol yourself or you have to go to the counters and give cash to the staff and they will fill in the number of litres, but you also have to pump the petrol yourself. This means that a petrol station with dozens of machines requires only 2-3 operators.
6. THE ROAD IS VERY QUIET
Unlike Vietnam, vehicle users in Malaysia rarely honk their horns. It would not be surprising if in 10 days of crossing the country you do not hear a horn. Because to the people of this country, honking is something very horrible and impolite. The speed on the highway is quite fast, the vehicles drive very close together and turn into other lanes continuously but I did not hear any horns. If you walk across the road, they are ready to stop the car and wait for you to pass.
7. THE ROAD SIGNS GIVE INSTRUCTIONS VERY CLEARLY
The system of signage in Malaysia is very detailed and clear, which is always useful for those who love driving to explore this beautiful country. Most of the signs are in accordance with international standards, so it is easy to understand, as many of them are similar to signs in Vietnam, others just differ in colour. Also, during the days wandering in Malaysia, we encountered very few traffic police, even at the intersection we rarely saw any, everyone drives in accordance with the traffic lights. On the highway, there is only one patrol car on nearly 300-kilometres of road. Unlike Vietnam, on each 50-kilometre section of the expressway, there is one traffic police station.
8. THE CLIMATE IS FAVOURABLE
Malaysian climate is like Saigon, there are 2 seasons: rainy season and dry season, average temperature is from 24oC – 35oC. However, the sun here is not too harsh, the weather is windy and there are many forests around the city and on the highway (palm trees, coconut and rubber trees), so the climate is very pleasurable, but at night if it rains you may feel slightly cold. Here, you can freely open the door and enjoy the fresh air.
9. THERE ARE TOO MANY PLACES TO HANG OUT
The total land area of Malaysia is equivalent to Vietnam’s, but this country is split into two regions by the sea: West Malaysia and East Malaysia, its population is just over 30 million people. The landscape is quite diverse with jungles, rivers, seas, waterfalls and caves. Malaysia is also a multicultural, multi-ethnic country so you can explore the many temples, caves or customs of each ethnic group in this country. Of course, Malaysia also has many specialties and tropical fruit for you to indulge in. From the capital Kuala Lumpur you can drive all the way South to Singapore, or to the North to Thailand with a lot of famous tourist attractions.
Malaysians are very friendly and generous, and the most wonderful thing is that they can speak many languages including English, so you do not have to worry too much about the communication with locals.
Tran Giap | Wanderlust Tips