Car hire in Asia?
Yeah, we were scared at first too. Going from orderly Australian roads where it’s like Driving Miss Daisy to full on traffic where no one seems to know or care about the rules. We weren’t sure hiring a car in Langkawi was a good idea.
But when we were researching travel options in Langkawi, it became apparent that taxis were not really a thing. There’s also no public transport and outside of the main town of Kuah, everything is really spread out. Lots of people were recommending hiring a car. The feedback was that, if you’re going to drive in Asia for the first time, Langkawi is the place to do it. This turned out to be so true!
The roads are sealed and well kept – no potholes or anything to worry about. Some of the roads in Langkawi are quite windy but it’s mostly easy going. We did notice there aren’t a lot of speed limit signs so we tended to default to 60km/hour. The legal limit on state roads in Malaysia is 90km/hour and 60km/hour within towns.
Driving through mountainous areas, there were lots of monkeys on the side of the road. I never saw one actually venture out onto the road but it’s bound to happen. So, it’s definitely something you should be aware of. A couple of times we did see cows roam onto the road so again, just be mindful of any animal hazards.
We hired a Nissan Almera. It was a complete gutless wonder. However, it did the job. The roads are easy in Langkawi so it was fine – but I definitely wouldn’t want to drive one for more than a few days!
How to book a car in Langkawi
We hired our vehicle through Europcar. We pretty much always do hire through Europcar as we now have an account with them. Plus, we can earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points on our bookings with them. Sometimes, like this trip, we double check the rates with their competitors and they’re quite a bit cheaper. We booked through their online portal and paid upfront upon collection. The rate was AU$145 for the three days which included two toddler car seats (five-point restraints). This was a huge reason behind wanting to hire a car in the first place.
Talking to people and watching what people did at the airport, it was clear some people just rock up and go to the hire desks to negotiate a rate. This would probably get you an even better rate (a quick TripAdvisor forum search confirms this) but we didn’t want to take that chance. We needed to make sure we had child car seats and a car big enough for four people and all the luggage. If you do go this route though, there’s also rental offices in Kuah, the main town.
I can’t stress this enough though – really check over the car before you sign the paperwork. Our check-in lady, lovely though she was, seemed surprised that we wouldn’t sign the paperwork in the airport before seeing the actual car. There were nicks and scratches all over the car (common for the location and not an issue for us at all). We made sure to note them all on the paperwork and take our own photos of any damage before signing. Given my previous experiences with Europcar, and watching other people pick their car up, I think this was just genuine surprise on her behalf at our attention to detail. Definitely not Europcar trying to shonk us! But yeah, please just look over your car. Saves a whole bunch of dramas later if there’s any damage.
What license do I need to drive in Langkawi?
I found mixed feedback online as to whether we needed an international driving permit for Langkawi. Everyone who had hired a car previously said it wasn’t needed, but one guy called the Malaysian High Commission who said it was needed. The thinking for us was: if we happened to get in an accident, what would the consequences be? It was far better to have it (for the sake of AU$35 and a passport photo) than to not have it and suddenly find out there were legal ramifications when we were already in that situation. So, we popped down to the RAA (NRMA, RACV, AAA etc – your local automobile association), filled in the form, attached the passport photo and paid the money. It was a ten-minute process that gave us a lot of peace of mind.
What about insurance?
Well, yes, you obviously need insurance. It’s up to you which way you choose to do this. Hire car companies usually sell an add-on insurance which reduces the cost of your excess should you be in an accident. This is tempting because those excesses can be astronomical – in my capacity as travel agent I’ve seen them come in at over $5,000!
However, most comprehensive travel insurance policies include rental car excess. So have a look at your policy (because you wouldn’t be traveling without comprehensive travel insurance, right?). Check the rental car excess limit. If the excess on your hire contract is higher than your insurance is willing to pay, consider the additional insurance with the hire company (it’s usually a couple of dollars a day). Or, if it’s extortionate, maybe consider a hire company. If your travel insurance policy pays out more excess than your hire company charges, you’re in the clear. I recommend you make sure you’d have enough money in your savings or on your credit card to pay it out before being reimbursed by the insurance company.
Is it hard to park a car in Langkawi?
We stayed at The Andaman (you can read the review here) and parking was free and easy. Several other popular resorts list parking on their website, but don’t make it clear whether it’s free or not, or easily accessible. At The Andaman, If there wasn’t a park readily available, the valet guys would park it for you. So just double check with your hotel that they have parking, and find out if there’s any cost involved.
We also found parking at tourist attractions to be pretty easy. The bigger restaurants have car parks and so do the tourist attractions like the Cable Car (this parking was a paid arrangement). Shopping malls will also have parking lots. I found it a little more tricky to find a park along the strip in Pantai Cenang (the same can be said for similar spots all around the world). We also found it near-impossible at Eagle Square. However, I think that was poor timing on our part as there’s a huge parking lot, but there were a couple of ferries departing at the time we were there so it was full.
What’s the scenery like?
I think this was the big thing for us. It was gorgeous. I’ve put some pictures below, which absolutely don’t do the experience justice at all. I guess that’s to be expected when you’re taking pictures on your phone from a moving vehicle! But put it this way: you’re driving through mountainous rainforest. Everywhere you look you see lush, green limestone karsts and pristine beaches. There’s even an Ernie Els-designed golf course near Datai Bay if that’s your thing. It’s really quite beautiful, despite what my crappy phone pictures show you.
The second we got in the car and drove out of the airport we were in heaven. There’s nothing like the freedom of having your own vehicle and to be able to move around freely in such a beautiful place was priceless.
And therein is the whole point to this article, my friends. If you’re planning to head to Langkawi, which you absolutely should, hire a car. It will absolutely make your trip.
Where should I stay in Langkawi?
I’ve already directed you to my review of The Andaman, and I will 100% recommend it every time. It’s magnificent – and it has free and easy parking!
Langkawi is full of options from budget-friendly hotels to all-out complete luxury. Aside from The Andaman, A Luxury Collection hotel, the likes of the St Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Westin are all represented. Have a look through the booking.com search engine below to find the best rates for your dates.
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