From The Straits Times    |
8 Instagram-worthy cafes to visit in Ipoh, Malaysia

14 tips for your next drive up to Malaysia

There are many things in life that can test the most solid of relationships. Suffering illness, having children, choosing a bedroom colour scheme together…and going on a road trip with your other half.

While myself and my partner, Josh, don’t have kids, we do have a 1972 vintage mini car, which means the odds of a smooth journey were already against us due to seats you swear you can feel the road through, and air-con that has about as much oomph as a small bird blowing on you. While we were only heading to Malacca in Malaysia, it was over the long Easter weekend, meaning a trip that can take around three hours from Singapore turned into an epic eight hour adventure.  

You might be pleased to hear that we survived the journey without falling out with one another. However, it was touch-and-go at some points, which is why I’m listing some helpful tips should you also have the romantic notion of owning the highway out of Singapore, and cruising the causeway with the wind whistling through your hair while singing Take That classics.

Here’s the reality:

       1. Singapore to Malacca is a 148 mile drive. Preparation is required for your vehicle – have a bottle of water ready for the radiator, check the air pressure of your tyres and    the oil level. Pack plenty of liquids for the passengers.   

2. When you leave Singapore ensure that your petrol tank is three-quarters full beforehand; this is the law and you could concur fines if you disobey this. Fill your tank for less with Malaysian RM on your return at the petrol station near to the Tuas border.

3. I don’t mean to be patronising, but please remember your passport. You may be escaping on four wheels but, whatever your nationality, you’ll still be entering a foreign land.

4. The same goes for your ID. If you’re an expat, security at the toll gates will want to clarify your status against your passport. Have appropriate documents with you.

5. Travelling between Singapore to Malaysia is easy; it’s basically one long straight road. The problem is WHEN to travel as the traffic can bring on major road jams and stress. Combat this by using that fabulous invention called Google maps, checking out which highlights travel issues around the area. Alternatively, download the Waze app for a reliable idea of how busy your journey will be, plus estimated waits at the toll gates. We left at 5.30am, and arrived in Malacca at around 10am due to the national holiday rush.

6. Once in Malaysia, get your toll card to clear immigration at the first set of toll booths. This is sold for a few dollars with around RM30 on it, and it lets you use the ‘Touch ‘n’ Go’ automatic lanes at each toll gate (which are a bit like a McDonalds drive-thru) afterwards. If you’ve done this drive before you can keep your existing toll card with cash in Singapore.


WARNING! The toll gates between countries can suck the life-force out of you. The queues to pass through these can vary from nothing to never ending, fuelling terse conversations about how you genuinely believe you can walk to Malaysia quicker than you can drive there.



7. Problems can arise when you reach a toll booth and no one’s manning it to pass you a card or top it up. This happened to us, and I felt like a total idiot as Josh left me sitting in the mini with a million cars beeping behind me while he tried to locate an actual human being to help us.

8. Talking about sitting there, it pays to be safe in Malaysia at all times. Keep your car doors locked at all times, and keep any expensive belongings hidden from view.

 9. We’ve heard rumours that the furthest toll booth on your right (as you approach them) will always be manned, so aim for this if you have doubts about getting a ‘Touch ‘n’ Go’ card or topping it up.

10. Rumour also has it that the Tuas checkpoint is quieter than Woodlands. Whichever you opt for, watch your speed. The limit in Malaysia is 110 km/h, but it changes according to road works. To be fair, in a mini it’s tough to go over 60mph.

11. After the first toll, you’ve got one easy breezy road ahead of you. You’ve also got very few options for substantial refreshment stops. Like toddlers, men will say they “don’t need the toilet”. Then they suddenly really really really do and they might EXPLODE if they don’t reach one within the next two minutes. This is a slightly comical, yet serious situation (“You’re 41 for goodness sake, how can you not control your bladder?”). Around the 70km mark out of Singapore is Machap R&R, and while I will always be excited by the sight of a toilet that includes an attached door, the eating options couldn’t raise an ounce of joy. We wished we’d set off with more than just two packets of Fisherman’s Friend.

12. There are few other refreshment stops with food/toilets/facilities until Pagoh at the 140km mark, so kick back and do all you can to prevent the person driving from nodding off. Options for a game of ‘I Spy’ are limited. A pre-loaded Spottify playlist is advisable.

13. The service stop at Pagoh in Johor is perfect for freshening up before you reach Malacca. Top up your petrol if you’re going to be driving around the…and fill your tank to the brim before you head home again.

14. Generally, the traffic is at its worse at the toll gates of Malaysia. Here, the person driving will need to concentrate as what starts as seven lanes of traffic whittles down to two. If aggression arises, comfort yourself with the fact that you’re not on a motorbike (in heat! with those lorries!), and neither are you on a scheduled bus where you have to go through immigration on foot…