Foreigners can only drive on Malaysian roads for three months with a foreign licence. After that, they could previously convert their licence to a Malaysian one, and expats from some countries even benefitted from a reciprocal agreement whereby their licences (such as those from several Western countries) were valid for use in Malaysia. This was all fairly straightforward until the government decided they were not willing to convert or recognise foreign licences anymore. It appears a few people were producing fake licences, supposedly from overseas countries, and then converting them to genuine Malaysian licences. If that rumour is true, it begs the question why everyone has to suffer because of a few bad apples.
The change in rules gave foreigners only two options if they wanted to drive legally. They could acquire an international licence. Despite requiring no test, but only the presentation of a valid licence from the home country, these licences are usually issued by driving organisations and are widely recognised internationally. However, they are only valid for one year and some countries insist you collect them in your home country which is obviously very difficult if it’s far away.
The other option was to take a local driving test, which is quite frustrating when you have been driving for many years. As one person living here under the Malaysia My Second Home remarked, “I have been driving for over 40 years, and I have not had an accident since I was teenager. It is not only upsetting that I have to take a test, but I worry that I will not drive in the style expected of a first- time driver.”
Well, it appears the government has heard the voices of concern and agreed that the rules will be changed, so you can now convert your foreign licence to a Malaysian one. Curiously, however, it has to be a probationary licence. This should happen within the next two months according to the Minister of Transport, Amthony Loke Siew Fook. He commented that the new rules “will ensure that they have the competence to drive here and educate them to comply with all the road rules in Malaysia, as other countries have different driving cultures and rules, especially those used to left hand drive vehicles.”
This probationary (P) licence is currently given to people who have passed their test here, but do not yet have much experience driving. The sign is a white capital ‘P’ on a red background which is placed on the back and front of the vehicle. This also serves to warn other drivers that the driver is less experienced. It lasts for two years and if the driver receives more than 10 demerit points (versus 20 for driver on a full licence) in that time, their licence will be revoked.
The plan is to finalize the details and have the new rules implemented by November of this year.