For motorcycle enthusiasts, Malaysia boasts stunning vistas, a variety of landscapes, a well-maintained road network, and if you can take the heat (and occasional rain), nearly 365 days of riding weather per year. Many expatriates are drawn to either continue riding or take to two wheels for the first time when the opportunity for motorcycle-related recreation is combined with the efficiency of commuting through congested urban areas via motorcycle. So, what does it take for an expat to be legally compliant on Malaysian roads? There are a few things that you need to know to approach motorcycling, and police road blocks, with confidence in Malaysia.
Malaysia’s motoring policies are created and monitored by Jambatan Pengangkutan Jalan, or JPJ for short. Malaysians are required to approach motorcycle licensure in a similar fashion to citizens of most European nations. Malaysians are able to ride motorcycles up to 250cc’s with a basic license, but are required to receive additional training to be licensed to ride larger bikes. This is known in Malaysia as a B-full license.
The good news for expats is that Malaysia is generally quite accommodating for foreigners who want to drive either a car or motorcycle while living in Malaysia. According to the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) authority, the Malaysian government no longer allows foreigners to obtain a Malaysian driver’s license, opting instead to solely accept a valid license from the foreigner’s home country, paired with an international driver’s license.
While the ease and convenience of a scooter is attractive in the city, many expats want a larger motorcycle for longer jaunts through Malaysia’s spectacular countryside. Malaysian police will regularly set up checkpoints to ensure that motorcyclists have proper road tax, which is renewed once per year by the owner, and a license that corresponds to motorcycle size. When asked, expat riders will need to explain to local police that they are credentialed to ride their particular size or power of motorcycle in their home country and then show their valid international driver’s license.
For me, an American, this means showing the “M” endorsement on my United States driver’s license and international license and, on occasion, explaining that in my home state of Alabama, the “M” allows me to ride any size motorcycle. Malaysia also has strict standards for modifying vehicles so the police may, though very rarely and normally late at night, check to see if your vehicle identification numbers for chassis and engine match and ask if your motorcycle has been modified. Expat motorcyclists need not fear if their machines have only cosmetic or internal, hard to see modifications, as this is aimed at cracking down on chop shops that may try to install stolen engines in broken motorcycles. You, with your BMW1200gs or Honda Wave 125, are not who they are looking for!
With valid license from your home country and an international license in hand, you are free to hit the road with two wheels in Malaysia, whether you are climbing the “twisties” to Genting Highlands, touring to Thailand, or just trying to make it to work in a reasonable amount of time. As we say in Malaysia, “berhati-hati di jalan” or, safe travels!
This article was contributed by Adam Potter, a Ph.D. student at Universiti Sains Malalysia studying international business and expatriation. Adam is a motorcycle enthusiast who enjoys riding all kinds of motorcycles, making YouTube videos related to motorcycles, and eating all kinds of Malaysian food. For questions about motorcycling in Malaysia, you can connect with him via email ([email protected]) or through his social media accounts: