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Driving to Malaysia? Here’s what you need to be ready

(Update 29 May 2024 – Malaysia is enforcing its Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) requirement for all motorists entering the country from 1 October 2024)

Driving from Singapore to Malaysia is a common experience for many Singaporean drivers seeking to explore its many attractions, including food, shopping, and beaches. It could be a quick weekend jaunt to nearby Johor, or a longer trip to explore places further afield like Penang or Terengganu.

If you are thinking of driving your car or riding your motorbike up north, especially for the first time, it is important to be well-prepared. Other than the necessary travel documents, here are some things you need to have ready before making your cross-border journey.

Have valid travel and driving documents

You must have a passport with a validity of more than 6 months. Remember to check that your passport has been properly stamped when you pass through the immigration checkpoints.

If you are driving into Malaysia, you will also need a valid driving licence. Singapore licence holders do not need an International Driving Permit. With your Singapore driving licence, you can drive on Malaysian roads so long as you don’t stay in the country for more than 90 days.

Have your driving licence, registration and insurance papers with you while driving. But do not leave them in your parked car in case of vehicle theft.

Apply for a Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP)

It is compulsory for all foreign-registered vehicles to have a VEP to enter Malaysia by land. This includes private, government, embassy and commercial vehicles, as well as motorcycles.

Malaysia has announced that it will enforce the VEP system from 1 October 2024. Any foreign-registered vehicles without the VEP-RFID tag risk being denied entry to Malaysia. If caught in the country without one, you could be fined up to RM2,000 or risk jail time.

How to apply for the VEP:

  1. Apply for the VEP at Road Traffic Department’s official website. You need to create a log-in ID and password, and enter your personal and vehicle details. To save time, you can upload a pdf of your Vehicle Registration Card (get it via the One Motoring website).
  2. Wait for an email with a VEP confirmation slip in pdf.
  3. Download the Touch ‘n Go eWallet app and set up an account in the meantime. For Singaporeans, please choose NRIC as the ID type in the app to sync it with your VEP profile. This Touch ‘n Go eWallet is needed to validate your VEP and is linked to the collection of a VEP-RFID tag.
  4. When you receive your VEP confirmation email, you will be directed to the user login at the VEP portal to complete your registration. You must submit your Touch ‘n Go eWallet info as part of the process.
  5. You will be notified via email if your VEP application has been successful.
  6. In the email, you will also be asked to choose how your VEP-RFID tag should be collected. This could either be delivered by courier to your address or collected from designated VEP collection centres in Johor Bahru.
  7. You will then be directed to pay for the processing fee which costs RM10, excluding service and delivery charges.

Remember to activate your VEP-RFID tag!

  • Log in to the VEP portal and click on the acknowledgement for the vehicle number you have registered. Key in the RFID serial number for validation.
  • When you receive the VEP-RFID tag, paste it on the top left hand corner (i.e. passenger side) or the left headlamp of your vehicle. Make sure the tag is not obstructed.
  • Take a picture of the tag with your car registration number clearly displayed, and upload this to the VEP portal.
  • You will be notified once your tag has been activated.

With the tag, your car will automatically be detected at Malaysia Customs. The VEP-RFID tag is non-transferable, and it is valid for 5 years from the day that it is activated. It must be renewed at least 3 months before the expiry date.

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Be prepared to pay toll charges if you want to use the highways in Malaysia

Get a Touch ‘n Go Card …

If you are driving in Malaysia, you will need the Touch ‘n Go (TNG) Card. Each time your vehicle enters Malaysia via the checkpoints at Woodlands or Tuas Second Link, you must pay the Road Charge (RM20) using the TNG card. Cash and credit cards are not accepted. The TNG Card is also used for the payment of highway toll fees and electronic car park charges in Malaysia.

(Note: If you are riding a motorbike, you don’t have to pay toll charges.)

The TNG Card has a 10-year validity. It will remain active as long as you reload or use it at least once a year. You can use the Touch ‘n Go eWallet to reload the stored value.

>>READ: 10 essentials you need for that motorcycle trip to Malaysia

… or get the EZ-Link x Touch n’ Go Motoring Card

Alternatively, you can buy the EZ-Link x Touch n’ Go Motoring Card. This is a dual-currency cross-border smart card that can be used to pay motoring and travelling fees in both Malaysia and Singapore.

In Malaysia, the EZ-Link x Touch ‘n Go Motoring Card can be used to pay for things such as toll charges and car park fees. It is also accepted at various retail and dining outlets.

In Singapore, it can be used to pay for checkpoint tolls, car park fees and ERP charges. The EZ-Link x Touch ‘n Go Motoring cards can be purchased at selected 7-Eleven stores and petrol stations in Singapore.

Tip: There are times when there is a shortage of the TNG and EZ-Link x TNG cards. When that happens, you might have to check Telegram groups, Carousell, or ask your Malaysian friends to procure one for you.

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Make sure you are well covered as you traverse cities such as Kuala Lumpur (above)

Have proper vehicle insurance coverage

Vehicle insurance is compulsory if you are planning to drive in Malaysia. In any case, having a comprehensive insurance plan helps protect you in the event of vehicle theft, breakdowns, or accidents along the way.

If you are using your own vehicle, check if your existing insurance policy covers Malaysia as well. If it doesn’t, you may have to pay for additional or separate premiums.

For those renting a car to drive in Malaysia, the vehicle insurance should typically be provided by the car rental companies. Nonetheless, be sure to check and clarify the extent of the insurance coverage.

By the way, you should also have a travel insurance plan that complements your vehicle one.

>>READ: Special occasions when you need to rent a car

Make sure your vehicle is in good condition

Unlike Singapore, you are in for a long drive if you are headed to Malaysia. You don’t want to be stuck if your vehicle breaks down on the highway or on unfamiliar roads.

Have your vehicle properly checked and serviced before driving into Malaysia. It also doesn’t hurt to pick up useful skills like how to change a flat tyre or jumpstart a flat battery.

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Download Google Maps or Waze

Getting lost in an unfamiliar area can be scary, especially when driving overseas. GPS might not be of much help if you are in a location with spotty Internet connection.

It might be a good idea to download an offline version of Google Maps or Waze to your mobile phone in advance. The Waze navigation app is especially popular among Malaysian motorists. So when in Rome Malaysia, do like the Romans Malaysians.

Don’t forget the “three-quarter tank rule”

Ensure your fuel tank is at least three-quarters full before exiting the Singapore-Malaysia land checkpoints. This also applies to the fuel tanks of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

If you do not abide by this “three-quarter tank rule”, you might be forced to do a U-turn at the check points, be slapped with a fine of up to S$500 by Singapore Customs, or even be prosecuted in court.

This three-quarter tank rule is to regulate the amount of fuel Singapore-registered vehicles can load up in Malaysia. Anyway, you also don’t want to be caught running low on fuel at the start of a road trip to Malaysia.

>>READ: Electric drive from Singapore to KL in the BMW iX

Avoid peak period travel

If you are in no particular hurry to drive into Malaysia, avoid the usual peak periods on the Causeway or Tuas Second Link.

Malaysians working in Singapore tend to start crossing the borders to head home after their working week. This is usually from 5pm on Fridays or at the start of a public holiday or long weekend. For the return leg into Singapore, traffic is usually congested between 6am and 10am on Mondays as they return for the start of a new work week.

Still, it can be hard to predict the traffic situation at the immigration checkpoints. A useful tip would be to look at the Land Transport Authority’s TrafficCam SG app, which provides real-time traffic updates through its webcams. Or check out Jalanow with its Johor-Singapore live traffic cams, and Beat the Jam app (which monitors traffic for the Causeway and Tuas 2nd Link).

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Scenic drive across the Penang Second Bridge

Keep to the traffic rules

Once you have crossed into Malaysia, drive carefully and resist the temptation to speed. You might be pulled over by scammers posing as the police, who are targeting Singapore-registered vehicles to extort money from the drivers.

Be sure to familiarise yourself with Malaysian traffic rules and regulations. Remember that road conditions and the driving behaviours are different from Singapore. You can find yourself driving long, and sometimes narrow and unlit, stretches without a break. But there are also heavy traffic jams, especially when you enter the bigger cities like Kuala Lumpur. Take occasional breaks and have water and some snacks to sustain you along the way.

If you get into a car accident in Malaysia …

  • Stay calm and check if there are any injuries. Call 999 if you or your passengers require medical attention.
  • If possible, move your vehicle to a safer location away from traffic. Take photographs of the scene of the accident and damages. If there is another party involved, exchange contact details and other relevant information.
  • Contact your insurer’s roadside assistance hotline for a tow truck. Do not accept the services of random tow truck drivers that may appear quickly to “offer” their help.
  • You must file a police report within 24 hours of the accident at the nearest police station.
  • Contact your insurance company or agent to file a claim.

Consider renting a car

If you find things like getting the vehicle permits and insurance a hassle, consider renting a car instead. Car rental companies will usually take care of these essential items for you. Just make sure that the car you rent is approved for driving into Malaysia. A daily surcharge may be applicable.