Who said a weekend away had to start with a flight from Changi? Why not hire a car (or hop in your own), and hit the highway on a Malaysian road trip instead? Here are four destinations with plenty to offer the whole family.
Johor Bahru (30km)
Just a quick ride across the causeway, “JB” is a decent spot for a day trip. Right next to the causeway is Johor Bahru City Square, with various shopping and dining options – and cheaper prices than Singapore. Popular cafés surrounding the mall include drinks-specialist Chaiwalla & Co. Container Cafe, and the IT Roo Cafe (try the chicken chop).
A much bigger drawcard if you’ve got kids is the Legoland theme park and water park. Along with a bunch of family friendly rides, Legoland showcases miniature versions of iconic landmarks around the world – spot the Merlion! You can extend your stay with a night at the Legoland Hotel, which has fully themed rooms and interactive features.
Also in the area is Sanrio Hello Kitty Town at Puteri Harbour, where the little ones will enjoy checking out Hello Kitty’s house, taking part in craft activities and snapping photos with characters including Bob The Builder and Barney.
A short drive to the north is Johor Premium Outlets, for international brand shopping and food outlets.
Keen for a longer Malaysian road trip? Rich in culture and history, this small but famous town boasts a strong Dutch heritage, which is evident as you stroll along the streets admiring the architecture. You can drop by Christ Church, a historic Protestant church with a distinctive red façade, see the nearby Windmill Dutch Square, or head to the Melaka Maritime Museum (which is set inside a replica of a Portuguese ship), to learn about the port city’s maritime prominence. Also, pay a visit to the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum and find out more about the history of the ethnic Chinese-Malays.
Once night has fallen, explore famous Jonker Street for delicious street eats, including grilled meats and dim sum, and to pick up some souvenirs. In terms of accommodation, Melaka has plenty of pretty boutique hotels, along with some international chains.
For fans of fun theme parks, 10 kilometres to the northwest of the town is Melaka Wonderland, with a giant wave pool, plus slides, rides and more.
Kuala Lumpur (360km)
Bustling and modern, Malaysia’s capital is worthy road-trip destination. If it’s your first visit, get a bird’s-eye view of the city atop the iconic Petronas Twin Towers or the KL Tower. Shoppers will want to head to Bukit Bintang, the retail and entertainment hub in the city. The area is home to many mega malls, including Pavilion KL, Farenheit88 and Lot10.
KL is famous for its food, too, so be sure to go on the hunt for some local specialties. Roti canai and satay are two great items to start with, but you’ll find all types of cuisine – a quick Google search should set you on the right path.
If you’re around for a while, take a day trip to the famous Batu Caves, which consists of plunging limestone caves and cave temples. It’s about 30 minutes from the city (if you want to leave the car, it’s easy to access the caves by train).
Located off the northwest coast of the country, Penang is about an eight-hour drive from Singapore. Don’t miss the island’s renowned hawker fare; the most popular dishes will likely ring a bell with our readers – char kway teow (fried noodles), assam laksa (sweet and sour noodle soup), rojak (fruit and vegetable salad), mee goreng (Malay fried noodles) and chendol (shaved ice dessert) – but many consider Penang’s versions of these to be among the best.
The capital George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its street art that you can see on the walls of shophouses and buildings while exploring. Or, if you crave some nature, head to Penang National Park, which boasts beaches and jungles and has a rich biodiversity to explore.
Tips for crossing the border
- Have your Employment or Dependent Pass handy, as well as your passport.
- It costs a few dollars to leave and enter Singapore, so make sure your vehicle’s cash card has sufficient credit.
- Make sure the petrol tank is three quarters full before leaving Singapore (this is a legal requirement).
- Buy a freeway toll card at the first booth so you can use the “Touch’n’Go” lanes at each toll point along the highways. You can also get them at selected petrol stations.
Like this Malaysian road trip story? Read more in our Travel section.
This article first appeared in the February 2018 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!