Call me foolish, crazy or both, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Holidays were approaching, two families were contemplating escaping KL and the possibilities seemed endless. Months before the impending departure, possible destinations were suggested, discussed and evaluated.
Thailand finally won out and then the bidding for various in-country destinations commenced with Krabi finally being declared the winner as it presented uncharted waters and sounded kid-friendly without the crowds found in many other Thai beach destinations.
While there are direct flights from KL to Krabi, it appeared to be a good proposition to drive as there were so many people travelling in our group. Total driving time each way was about 11 hours so bear this in mind before following my tyre tracks north.
See Also: 5 Great Road Trips in Malaysia
The quickest and most direct route to the Thai border is along the North South Highway. It’s a leisurely six-hour journey and we chose to break the trip in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar.
This is highly recommended as it’s half way and there are several interesting architectural features such as the Ubudiah Mosque, the Sultan of Perak’s royal residence and the Istana Kenangan in the town.
Other stops along the way included the well-equipped R & R centres spaced out at regular intervals. Petrol is cheaper in Malaysia so before reaching the border at Bukit Kayu Hitam, it’s a good idea to fill up.
Having now driven to and from Thailand, I admit to still being a little hazy as to how the border crossing was negotiated. You will need documentation for the car – registration papers and insurance, plus driver’s license.
This is to satisfy the Thai authorities that you own the car – goodness knows what you do if you’re driving a rental car. If you don’t own the car or it’s a company car, you’ll need a letter from whoever owns it stating that your are responsible for the car.
Departing Malaysia is effortless, but passports have to be examined and chopped. On the Thai side, you need to park your car to the left-hand side and behind the immigration building, have all passengers alight from the car with documents. Malaysians don’t require a visa to enter Thailand and for most other nationalities, 30-day visas are issued free of charge upon arrival at the border.
The driver then needs to walk to the checkpoint booths in the middle of the road to have the papers for the car sighted. The officer will issue an authority and retain this paperwork while you all return to the car to then drive through the same booth to collect the paperwork and depart (don’t lose the paperwork as you need it when returning to Malaysia).
Customs is cleared a few kilometres down the road, but on both occasions this simply involved a slow drive through, a wave of the hand and a cheerful smile. Hat Yai is about one hour down the road. Driving conditions change noticeably with more motorcyclists and narrower roads.
It’s good to have a map of Hat Yai (obtainable from Thai Tourism in KL prior to your departure) and a knowledgeable navigator to pick your way through what is a deceptively large city. A bustling market town, Hat Yai is a cheap destination for those living in Malaysia with most things being at least 20% cheaper and there’s an abundance of value-for-money food and accommodation. If you stay in the centre, there are several shopping malls and markets within walking distance.
Krabi is a pleasant four hour’s drive away with Trang being the main town along a mostly rural road that; in parts, winds through a scenic mountainous landscape with lots of waterfalls off to the side.
The main road bypasses Trang if you want to save time and avoid the town’s narrow streets. Past Trang, the road is mostly two lanes so slow vehicles can delay the journey.
The maps from Thai Tourism were useful in navigating the best route and locating the tourist attractions along the way.
Krabi’s settled outskirts extend for at least 20km with my final destination of the Sofitel Krabi Resort being located on the westernmost extremity of the settled strip.
After the long journey, the luxurious resort was a most welcomed sight for passengers and drivers.
A cluster of islands line the long sandy coastline of Krabi to offer visitors the opportunity to island hop and to discover the natural beauty that abounds here. Being the tourist destination that it now is, Krabi offers an extensive range of attractions and activities from elephant riding, bar hopping, shopping, dining, Thai boxing and a plethora of watersports.
For more information:
Thai Tourism Authority
(Tel: +603.2162 3480, W: www.tourismthailand.org)
for more details.
- What to Pack for A Road Trip in Malaysia
- KL To Johor Bahru Road Trip
- An Expat’s Road Trip to Kampar
- Kuala Lumpur To Taman Negara Road Trip
Source: The Expat April 2011
This article has been edited for ExpatGo.com and was re-updated by ExpatGo Staff on 17 June 2016.