Driving a car on penang – malaysia forum – tripadvisor signs of having a concussion

If you are from a country that drives on the left you will not find driving a car on Penang too much of a problem providing you familiarise yourself with the driving conditions and road rules. What you may not be used to will be the number of motorbikes that will be all around you.

The technique is NOT to drive close to the kerb but always to leave plenty of room for motorbikes to drive past you on the left. At traffic lights the bikes will come alongside and pass you on both sides and will gather together in front of all the cars. They know the light sequences and will set off just ahead of the light change. It looks like a massed Grand Prix start sometimes.

When driving, you will need to use your wing mirrors. Do not try to turn left without checking that there is not a motorbike speeding along on the inside lane towards you, or you will knock them over.


Similarly do not pull out to overtake without checking first.

Most motorbike riders are just carefully going about their daily business but there are a fair few who ride like lunatics. You will see them weaving in and out of traffic, and they are the ones that ignore traffic lights, suddenly zoom across a road, do a u turn or even drive the wrong way along the road. They also appear late at night driving furiously up the island. Known as Mat Rempits, the police do try and set up roadblocks to catch them as many have no insurance, no road tax, are under age, exceeding the speed limits or riding highly modified bikes.

Many of the normal rules of the road that you are used to do not seem to apply here. It is often jokingly said that the basic rule is you must get to your destination before anyone else so you do not let anyone get in front of you, you do not give way to anyone, you weave in and out without using your indicators, you stop suddenly if you see a food stall you like, you double or triple park if it is necessary, you speed up when you see the lights are about to change to red, you do not use your mirrors so it is not your fault if someone runs into you……..

An amber traffic light does not mean slow down to most drivers – it means put your foot down and get through the lights before they change to red. This results in cars going too fast and you will see a whole line going across after the lights have changed to red simply because they cannot stop. If you try to be law abiding and brake quickly when the lights change to amber, you can expect to have the car behind run into the back of you.

It sometimes seems that the smaller the car the less likely the driver is to use mirrors so be prepared for them to suddenly change lane in front of you. You will also see big cars being driven by tiny drivers who have great difficulty seeing over the steering wheel. Other drivers wander all over the road giving the impression that they have no clue as to where they are going. Drivers will speed along overtaking you on the left and tailgating is the norm. You will frequently wonder how some drivers ever passed their driving test.

You need to be fairly aggressive in busy traffic as nobody is going to give way to you. Mastering the “Penang slide” is useful as everyone does it. To change lanes cars will not indicate but suddenly slide diagonally across from their lane into the space in the lane in front of you, and if there is no space it forces you to make space for them.

Traffic in and around George Town is frequently horrible. It is affected by things like prayer times at the mosques, going to work, dropping off and picking up children from school, wet market shopping, going out to eat, mall opening and closing times, festivals, school holidays and then of course the weather. Allow much longer than you might expect.

When you drive down from Batu Ferringhi and hit Tanjung Bungah you will start to see lane markings on the road. Do not take too much notice of them as they are basically guideline markings to indicate a lane might be narrowing down or another road joining. It is best to ignore the markings altogether and drive according to where you feel you should be on the road. The road is only wide enough for two cars side by side anyway so the road markings cannot be for three cars despite what it looks like.

Parallel parking is not a skill that many drivers seem to have acquired so expect traffic to build up whilst someone tries to shuffle their car backwards and forwards into a space before giving up and going to look for a bigger space. If you are trying to parallel park do not expect the car that was tailgating you to make room for you to do so.

With regard to parking in Georgetown you may be best to use car parks unless you have managed to buy the parking coupons you need for roadside parking. If you go to Gurney Drive do not be tempted to park on the double yellow lines just because you see others parking there – you may find your car being clamped or even towed away.

As a visitor you will have to buy the parking coupons which come in books. There are quite a few shops in George Town that sell them and there is sometimes a man with a booth down on Gurney Drive near the Gurney Hotel. The most useful books cost RM4 and contain 8 x 40 sen vouchers and 1 X 80 sen voucher. 40 sens gets you half an hour and 80 sens an hour. You scratch off the date and time of arrival and stick it in the window on your dashboard. If you need longer you scratch off another card but this time for the time when the first card expires. You can sometimes end up with a long row of them. Where you need to use vouchers will be clearly marked with a coloured sign. The signs are in Bahasa so it is useful to know what they are saying.

If you have a minor accident, it is usual to sort it out between yourselves. Calling the police will probably result in a RM300 fine so most people try to avoid it. It is not unusual to end up in a backstreet garage getting quotes. With a hire car you may have no choice but to get a police report so just be aware that the other driver may not be happy doing so for a minor scratch.

Then, particularly with motorbikes, remember you are the rich foreigner. The bike rider may suddenly acquire a lot of friends by the roadside who will attest to the fact that it was most certainly your fault, even when you know the biker was performing a dangerous manoeuvre. You may find yourself having to part with a large sum of money.

When you have completed your report the police interview you. They then interview the other driver and make an assessment of who is in the wrong. That person will then be fined RM300. But one thing to be aware of is that under Malaysian Law you cannot claim insurance from Commercial Vehicles i.e. lorries, work vans, buses or taxis and motor cycles.

Try not to get involved in an accident with a police car. Vehicles owned by the police force are not protected by insurance. You have to apply to the government for costs or compensation and every accident involving a government vehicle will be referred to a legal adviser. Other government vehicles that this applies to are police motor bikes, fire trucks and some ambulances.