You are allowed to drive in Malaysia (ergo Penang) if you hold an American, British or international driving licence for the short period of your visit as a tourist. An international driving licence allows you to drive in the country for up to a year. If you are staying here for over one year, you need to get a Malaysian Driving Licence.
The first step to get a driving licence is to contact one of the driving instructors or driving schools in Penang. The school will be able to advise you the steps required. Go through the list of driving schools I have listed in the above link, and choose one that is most convenient or suitable to you.
The first step towards getting your driving licence is to sit for the Regulation Test (Ujian Undang-Undang). This is a computerised test where you answer a set of multiple-choice questions. It is given after you have completed the mandatory six hour safety course. The test is often conducted at a school classroom on a weekend. Your driving school will provide you further instructions. You have to get at least 42 out of the 50 questions correct in order to get a Learner licence.
The Learner licence may be reneweed every three or six months, to a maximum of two years, while you prepare for the road test.
JPJ Batu Uban, where driving tests are conducted on Penang Island (18 February, 2012)
JPJ Road Test (Ujian Memandu)
Once you have received your Learner licence, the driving school can schedule you to take the road test. In between, the school will prepare you for the various parts of the test. During on-road lessons, the "L" learner plate (red letter on white background) will be affixed to the vehicle you are practising on, to warn other road users of your learner status.
The JPJ Road Test is conducted at the Road Transport Department offices in either Seberang Jaya or Batu Uban. Expect to be there the whole day, or about five hours. On the day of your driving test, be sure to arrive early. Your driving instructor may be on hand to help getting things in order for you. Be vigilant to note when your name is called. By all means, be polite to the tester.
The Road Test has two parts. The first part is done off road, and is the one that many people fail. It tests the following skills:
Stop and go on slope
The second part is the on-road (Ujian Memandu Jalan Raya) test. Here's a bit of advice: follow the driving school's instruction. How you drive on the road during the driving test is a well choreographed step-by-step process that you must demonstrate in order to pass. In other words, knowing how to drive a car is not enough to get you a pass. Naturally most people are pretty nervous when the tester sits next to you in the car, but you must remember to show him every step, including those prior to starting the engine and stepping on the accelerator.
Assuming you pass your road test, you are given the Probationary Driving Licence. You are now allowed to drive on the road, as long as you affix the "P" probationary licence plate (white letter on red background) to the car you are driving. There is a demerit point system in the country. If you commit traffic offenses totaling 10 demerit points and above in a year, your licence will be revoked.
Regular Driving Licence
After two years with the "P" licence, you may upgrade to the regular driving licence, or "Competent Driving Licence". This regular licence allows you up to 15 demirit points before it is suspended or revoked. This licence has to be renewed at regular intervals: you can opt to renew it for one, two, three or five years. The renewal can be done at most of the post offices in the country.
Classes of Driving Licence
These are the varioius classes of vehicular licences in Malaysia:
Class A: For disabled people
Class B: Motorcycles
Class B1: Motorcycles not exceeding 500 cc
Class B2: Motorcycles not exceeding 250 cc
Class C: Motorised Tricycles
Class D: Cars not exceeding 3000 kg
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Local Guided Tours of Penang
If you are coming to Penang and need someone to show you around, I can arrange for you a licensed tour guide to take you around. Guides charge a fixed fee of RM360 for taking a small group of up to 10 people on 4-hour walking tours. Walking tours exceeding 4 hours is charged an additional RM90 per hour. Tours are tailored to guest requirement. For more details, contact tour coordinator. Other types of tours also available. For details, click here.
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What's the best way to see Penang on a budget? Take the bus! In Penang, there are at least 12 absolutely FREE bus routes which cover almost every major neighbourhood on Penang Island and Penang Mainland. All you need to do is hop aboard!
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