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Travelling: Driving Up North to Malaysia and Thailand: Preparing to Drive PDF Print E-mail
Driving Up North: Preparing to Drive

If your car is a hire car you will need to check with the rental company to see if it is approved for travel into Malaysia, as some are not. Many companies however, will exchange your car for one that can be taken into Malaysia. Obviously prior notice is required particularly for long weekends. Nearly all Singaporean hire-car companies will not allow their cars into Thailand. Malaysian hire-car companies operate on similar lines but there is much more likelihood of being allowed to take the car into Thailand. A popular and cost effective move is to take a bus/cab to JB and pick up a hire car there. Registration documents are not mandatory in Malaysia but will be required when crossing into Thailand.

Driver's License
Under Asean these three countries all recognise each other’s licenses. If you don’t therefore have a Thai, Singaporean or Malaysian drivers license you should have an International Drivers License.

Driver fatigue
I haven’t seen the statistics for S.E Asia but I have seen some of the driving. If the statistics are anything like the West, driver fatigue is one of the biggest killers on national highways. Here are some tips gleaned from various road authorities around the world.

  • Get a good night's sleep before you depart.
  • Take a break at least every two hours especially if you are the only driver.
  • Share the driving whenever possible
  • Avoid long drives after work
  • Avoid drinking before driving
  • Find out whether any medicine you are taking may affect your driving.
  • Stop if you are sleepy.
  • Pull over and stop when drowsiness, discomfort or loss of concentration occurs.
  • Rock or fast-pace music can keep you awake; classical music, unfortunately, can send you to sleep. Stock your CD player accordingly.

Driving against the Clock
Next one on the list that many people do not think about is trying to make up for lost time. The idea of getting behind, needing to catch up creates stress, allows for poor and erratic decisions on the road and a drop in concentration. This is to be avoided.

Leave yourself plenty of time.
If you are running late stop and phone ahead. Plan your route and be prepared to do some backtracking. Ask for directions if lost, unsure or "blur". I know this is a big ask for all the guys so either know where you are going or make sure there is a female in the car. The emergency lane of the expressway is not the place to stop and check your route. Find a rest stop or service station – there are plenty in both Malaysia and Thailand.

Driving with Children
The key word here is distraction. Kids get bored easily so plan your trip accordingly. As a guide, consider getting the following items for the car:

  • Favourite toys
  • CDs/tapes they like – get them to choose them
  • Plenty of drinks
  • Snacks
  • Computer games
  • Pillows
  • The ubiquitous Sick bag – sometimes you are just not going to stop in time.

The trip
Frequent stops – Allow time & make use of the rest areas – make sure the kids get out, use the bathrooms and stretch their legs. As an uncle, I find the "make them run about until they are knackered" approach good – most kids can sleep anywhere and the back seat works just fine. Plan a stop every two hours. Drivers should break at this point anyway to avoid driver fatigue.

Make sure the kids are in proper seats and belted up. Accidents on the freeway are much less frequent than normal roads but when they do happen they do so at much higher speeds. If you haven’t trained your kids to accept the seatbelt yet you should start now. Singaporean authorities have been quite tolerant in the past but I am told this is about to change. Under no circumstances should a child ride on a parent’s lap in the front. That is tantamount to using an infant as a living airbag.

Those who drive into Malaysia regularly know that you will at one point in the journey experience rain. This can on occasions, be extremely heavy. The effect is exaggerated by highway speeds and the suddenness of some of these downpours. I have gone into one of these storms on the expressway and come out on the other side minus an indicator. At times these storms are clearly apparent ahead on the roadway looking like what other drivers have described to me as walls of water – that should give you some indication of how heavy the rain can be.
The good news is that you are on the safest roadway in Malaysia, the bad news is that you are probably driving too fast. If you can, pull to the left lane and decrease speed, turn on low beam and if you have them, the front & rear fog lights – avoid highbeam and putting on any driving lights as these dazzle oncoming traffic and will annoy the drivers directly ahead of you. In these storms, no amount of lights are going to make visibility any better. The aim is to make sure you can be seen by others.
Malaysian authorities encourage motorists to turn on their hazard lights in such rainstorms but to me, this creates confusion in dense traffic as you lose any clue of other drivers’ next move. Expect however to see most of the cars around you to do this.

Next: Safety Tips

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