A Guide to Road Tripping in Malaysia
Travelling on budget airlines can sometimes be a pain. The cramped seats, stale air and 2am flight timings could eat at your wanderlust before your trip even begins. When you have family or a bunch of friends in tow, it’s not all that cheap either.
This is why we’ve decided to help Singaporeans chart their own adventures. Journeys where you can actually stick your head out of the window in the company of your best companions. Where you can make pit stops anywhere and just enjoy taking in the sights of an unfamiliar land.
After our article on road trips you can take in Singapore, we realised how much Singaporeans love road trips. So we were inspired to take it one step further and create a whole series of road tripping adventures you could have in Malaysia.
Now, all you have to do is pick a destination, curate your best road trip playlist, grab your adventure pack and you’re good to go!
1. Desaru Road Trip
Best For: Family getaways
Desaru is a town that is 100 km east of Johor Bahru. Once very popular in the 1980s, it has since taken a backseat in terms of hype. But this beach and resort destination is still a popular choice for a suburban getaway for families.
On the way to Desaru:
You definitely have to make the Ostrich Wonderland a pit-stop if you’re taking a trip to Desaru. The aim of this place is to educate the public about ostriches and raise awareness about their breeding. This place houses about 100 ostriches.
We don’t see ostriches much in Singapore, so the city kids will be in for an educational treat when they are here. They can even take a ride on Jerry, the trained male ostrich at the farm. While you’re here, you can shop for rare ostrich-related souvenirs as well.
You can read more about our writer Jensen’s experience here.
Admission Fee: Adult RM12, Child RM8
Address: EMR 15, Teluk Ramunia, Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia
For more information, go here.
Things to do in Desaru:
After which, you can head to Desaru Fruit Farm for wholesome and close-to-nature family fun. It may say “fruit farm”, but it’s a lot more than that. There is even a petting zoo for the children and a herb farm. Day tours and overnight tour packages are available.
Source: Desaru Fruit Farm
In fact, from June to August, they have a one day Durian Feast tour that all durian lovers should not miss out on. They also have a 2D1N package which we think will be great for the family. For details, visit here.
Source: Big Tree Tours
You can also hop on a Firefly Cruise while you’re at Desaru. Keep your eyes peeled for places which offer these tours. Otherwise, most hotels should be able to arrange them for you.
Map of route from Johor Causeway to Desaru:
2. Mersing Road Trip
Best For: Family getaways, outdoors
Located 140km northeast of Johor Bahru, this town is best known for its passenger boat jetty where boats depart daily to numerous offshore islands. This charming town is a getaway from the more urbanised areas of Malaysia. You can expect to see more of outdoors and nature in here and get a taste of the Malay village life before it gives way to development.
On the way to Mersing:
Kota Tinggi is a pit stop for both Desaru and Mersing. So if you’re looking for more to do on the way to Desaru, you can also come here. Kota Tinggi also offer fireflies tours.
Map of route from Johor Causeway to Mersing:
3. Malacca Road Trip
Best For: Foodies and those into culture and heritage
This city is about 235km north-west of Johor Bahru. Malacca is a centre of Peranakan culture, so you can see a lot of these influences while you’re here. This historical city centre has been listed as UNESCO heritage site since 7 July 2008, so expect to see quaint streets preserved in the name of conservation and heritage.
On the way to Malacca:
Source: Johor Kaki
On the way to Malacca, you could make Yong Peng a pit-stop. Yuan Yean Fishball Eating House is a stall you should take note of.
Must-Try: Foochow Fishballs
Address: 123, Main Road, Yong Peng, Johor
Things to do in Malacca:
Source: Trip To Malaysia
Get your dose of history and culture at the Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum while you’re in Malacca.
Experience the richness of the Peranakan culture and heritage through the preservation of the Chan family house. Admission is RM15 for adults and RM10 for children aged 5-12. You can even book a tour around the museum if you’d like, but this is subject to availability. They suggest booking one month in advance. For more information, visit their website.
After the enriching tour, you can head over to Jonker Street, which is just a short walk away from the museum.
Source: Go Go Melaka
This is one of the places you have to visit when you’re in Malacca, where the old meets new. While it still holds the essence of Malacca and Peranakan culture, it has also seen a new wave of cafes and craft shops. Bargain hunters and vintage lovers will find something to thrill them if they search hard enough. This place also transforms into a lively night market on weekends.
Jonker Street may be a haven for these shoppers, but it will definitely excite the foodies as well. They have many street food stalls which are said to be the “must-tries”. Don’t forget to make some time for some of their famous street snacks. There are a lot of people who would recommend their favourites, but we shall start you off with these two:
1. Kedai Kopi Chung Wah
Source: The Hungry Bunny
Must-Try: Chicken Rice Balls
There are a few stalls known for their Chicken Rice Balls, but Chung Wah is said to have one of the best Hainanese Chicken Rice in Malacca. It's something you don't ever see in Singapore.
Address: 18 Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200, Melaka
2. Jonker 88
Source: Malacca Food and Travelling
Must-Try: Nyonya Assam Laksa and Baba Cendol
These are the two most raved about dishes at Jonker 88, so remember to include them on your foodie list when you drive down to Jonker Street.
Address: 88 Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200, Melaka
Map of route from Johor Causeway to Malacca:
4. Penang Road Trip
Best For: Foodies & Culture Vultures
Penang has long been regarded as the food capital of Malaysia. This charming and multiracial city is bustling with well-preserved buildings of various cultures from old colonial English mansions to traditional Chinese shophouses. The multiracialism of the quaint city extends to the food as well.
Expect street food such as Char Koay Teow Assam Laksa and Hokkien Prawn Mee. Even though these dishes sound like the things you can get in Singapore, you might be surprised to know that their versions are very different from the ones we have here.
On the way to Penang:
Malacca is on the way to Penang so that could be your pit-stop if you’re thinking of heading here.
Things to do in Penang:
Visit Georgetown, which has been conferred UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site status. Explore this bustling city of shophouses, where the traditional meets the modern with their trendy wall mural trails gaining prominence in recent years.
You can also visit Penang’s largest flea market, Lorong Kulit Flea Market, to pick up one-of-a-kind souvenirs. They also have a range of fruit and food stalls there, so you can grab a bite while looking through all the vintage trinkets and collectibles that are on sale. The flea market is located just next to City Stadium.
You can also visit all the historical buildings and attractions that Penang has to offer. You can head to Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion for its architecture, Fort Cornwallis to visit this historical site, or Little India for a little sari shopping.
Those looking to head to the beach at Penang can head to Batu Ferringhi as well.
Penang is definitely a haven for all foodies, but here’s one we like the best.
Kafe Heng Huat
Must-Try: Char Koay Teow
This is said to be one of the best char koay teows in Penang. The lady behind the wok is reputed to be rude to customers sometimes, but she cooks a mean plate of char koay teow.
Address: 108 Lorong Selamat
Map of route from Johor Causeway to Penang:
Johor Bahru Food Trail Road Trip
Best For: Foodies, Short day-trips
If you’re not looking to venture too far, here’s a food trail idea for you. This is hands down one of the more popular places for Singaporeans to take a short trip to. In fact, it’s not uncommon for Singaporeans to drive across the border for just a meal.
Here are some well-loved Singaporean foodie haunts so that you can plan your very own JB Food Trail.
1. Restaurant Teck Sing
Source: Johor Kaki
Must-Try: Teck Sing Paper Baked Chicken
Restaurant Teck Sing should be no stranger to foodies. They serve a variety of Chinese dishes such as their Curry Fish Head and Sambal Fried Fish. But their signature dish is definitely the Teck Sing Paper Baked Chicken. The chicken is baked in the paper with Chinese herbs so the juices are still sealed inside.
Address: 3 & 5, Jalan Sutera Satu, Taman Sentosa, 80150 Johor Bahru
2. Shoon Huat Bak Kut Teh
Source: Johor Kaki
Must-Try: Bak Kut Teh
This Bak Kut Teh (literally translated as “meat bone tea”) stall is another popular haunt among locals and Singaporeans alike. The soup, boiled with pork bones, is not peppery and herbal as compared to most Bak Kut Tehs, and some say it’s one of the tastiest. We also heard there’s a free flow of soup.
Address: 236, Jalan Sutera 1, Taman Sentosa, 80150 Johor Bahru
3. San Lou Seafood
Source: Johor Kaki
Must-Try: San Lou fried bee hoon
San Lou Seafood is definitely one of JB’s bigger seafood restaurants. Their signature beehoon dish is said to be an art in itself. The beehoon is full of “wok hey” (literally translated as “breath of the wok” from Cantonese) is cooked with just a few simple ingredients.
Address: Jalan Biru, Taman Pelangi, 80400 Johor Bahru
4. IT Roo Café
Source: Johor Kaki
Must-Try: Fried Chicken Chop
This established Hainanese restaurant serves one of the best chicken chops in JB. The fried chicken chop is said to be thick, juicy and moist. Plus, this place is certified halal.
Address: 17 Jalan Dhoby, 80000 Johor Bahru
5. Hiap Joo Bakery
Source: Johor Kaki
Must-Try: Banana Cake
This family-owned old-school bakery are famous for their traditionally baked goods. They are one of the few places left which still uses wood fire ovens to bake their breads and cakes. This is a practice that is slowly dying out and giving way to modernisation. Even though their banana cake is their most famous product, their curry puffs and coconut buns are not to be dismissed.
Address: 13 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, 80000 Johor Bahru
6. Restoran Kin Wah
Source: Johor Kaki
Must-Try: Nasi Padang
This restaurant serves up home cooked dishes along with their nasi lemak, mee goreng and mee rebus. Nasi Padang is served from 10am - 2pm. A note of warning: this place can get very crowded during lunch times.
Address: 8 Jalan Trus, 80000 Johor Bahru (just across the street from Hiap Joo Bakery)
Final Tips for Road Tripping in Malaysia
The first essential tip is to use a GPS and update it with the latest maps. It helps tremendously when you’re navigating on both highways and small roads in Malaysia. Another thing to note is the ICA regulations that state Singapore registered motor vehicles must have at least a three-quarter tank of motor fuel when departing Singapore. Finally, its always recommended to get insurance when travelling in general.
The Importance of Insurance:
Travelling in groups can be really fun for road trips. However, things may not run smoothly all the time and we ought to get ourselves insured in the case of unforeseen circumstances. AXA has launched a range of SmartDrive packages which offer Singapore's first true customised protection plans, that suit different lifestyle needs and affordability.
If you explorers are planning a road trip to our recommended Malaysian destinations, a protection plan for you is quickly customisable in 3 simple steps. Out of 7 available core plans in Step 1, we would choose AXA SmartDrive Flexi. This plan covers things that are sometimes not included in other standard insurance brand plans.
These include windscreen repair at no excess charges, medical and dental expenses, as well as 24/7 towing and transportation in Singapore and overseas* are provided with AXA SmartDrive Flexi. This means you’ll be able to get the help you need and peace of mind - even your car breaks down when you’re driving in the dead of the night.
After which, add on Step 2's value-add pack, Overseas Protector. It ensures you are provided with hotel accommodation, overseas allowance, and even reimbursement for cancellations should you run into unfortunate situations. If you’re worried about losing your phone or bag when you’re on the roads, this plan also provides coverage for your personal belongings when overseas*.
For Step 3, pick another add-on relevant to your needs. We quite like the option for a courtesy car in Singapore and *overseas, that you can use when your car is undergoing repairs due to an accident. This way, you won’t have to worry about the inconvenience of getting around in the event of a car mishap.
*Overseas = West Malaysia and South Thailand
Even if you’re not planning to head across the border for a road trip soon, the AXA SmartDrive FlexiFamily provides coverage for both drivers and the family members that are always riding alongside. This way, the whole family can be protected under the plan and there’s no need to go through the trouble of getting personal accident coverage for everyone.
Whatever your needs are as a driver, there will be a plan which will provide adequate protection for you and your car. These AXA SmartDrive plans stand out because of its customisability and the 24/7 protection that it provides. Choose from AXA’s range of core plans, value-added packs, and add-ons at their website (http://www.axa.com.sg/personal-insurance/motor/smart-drive) for tailored coverage while you drive.
Now that you've got all you need, it's time to get ready for your next great Malaysian roadtrip!
This post was made possible thanks to AXA Insurance.