Driving tips to your travel destination

 You need to be extra careful driving in heavy rain on the PLUS Expressway.

For those who just got their wheels and also those who are going outstation driving to their travel destination, driving up Cameron Highlands seemed daunting at first. As a season traveller, here's some driving tips that I hope would help you plan your vacation trip.

Everybody has to start from somewhere at sometime in their life, whether it is learning a new skill, starting a new hobby, or even starting out in their work employment or business. Likewise, driving a car is no different and it takes practice and experience to master it effectively. Though we will not all be rally or F1 drivers, for most of us, we would like to get to our travel destination from point A to point B safe and sound.

There are many things the driving school never quite taught, and we have to learn it on the road or from friends advise or even from car magazines. The driving tips here are from what I have learned over the years driving around not just for holiday travel destinations but also for work and business trips. The government would like us Malaysians to do defensive driving, however thinking about it, it is not quite so practical given the kind of general driving attitude of Malaysians, many do not 'give chance' or give way while in a traffic jam or busy intersection. That's life in the big city facing rush hour traffic trying to get work on time, trying to get to appointments on time, etc. Anyway while on a vacation travel, do take it easy and have no rush. Hopefully the tips below might help new drivers making their first trip to Cameron Highlands a truly enjoyable one.

Driving the Plus Expressway

Driving the expressway should be a breeze, with two lanes and some stretches with three lanes, the long journey is easy. Try to keep to the speed limit which is 110 kph, though do watch out for some stretches where the speed limit is slower (80 or 90 kph). Keep a wary eye on 'big brother' like trucks, lorries and buses, especially empty trucks and lorries who drive like giant rally drivers. Let them pass if they want to speed, no need to get angry and speed with them. Keep left if you plan to drive like a snail, but it would be advisable if you could drive near to the speed limit. Unless there is something wrong with your car, do avoid driving like a snail. Driving slow is not driving safe if your car becomes like a road obstruction/road hazard, somebody faster from behind might not be aware of your slow speed and still knock you from behind.

Long journey can be boring even with beautiful green jungles, rolling hills and mountain scenery. With the droning sound of engine, a person may start to get drowsy. Even if your eyes close for a few seconds, it is very dangerous. When driving alone, it would be best to find a R'n'R pit stop and take a break. Even a 5 - 10 minute nap would do you good. If you have a partner in your car, strike up a lively conversation. That would keep you awake throughout the journey.

The end of the road for this set of tires

On rainy days, switch on your lights for better visibility. So that cars behind and in front of you could spot you easily. Drive slower as the road becomes more slippery. Pools of water do form on the highway and could cause your car to slide, or worse, spin. In preparation for rainy situation, do use rain repellent on your windshield. Visibility improves vastly with the use of rain repellent. One of the best rain repellent is "Rain-X" and I do highly recommend to use it. Do not listen to people who says the chemical will damage your wipers, after all wipers can be replaced, but not your life. Make sure your tire condition is still good. Tires that are worn out has less grip during wet condition and has higher chances of slipping and losing control. When purchasing tires, always ask for tires that has good wet handling, after all we live in a tropical country where rain is a common occurrence. Tires that wear out faster mean that the rubber is made softer, which also usually mean it have better grip on the road. Tires that last very long time are made harder but have less grip on the road.

Driving the winding road of Cameron Highlands

There are two ways to go up or down Cameron Highlands, the Tapah way or the Simpang Pulai way. For the less experience drivers, it would be advisable to use the Simpang Pulai route as the road is wider and the twist and turns are not as sharp as the Tapah route. There are also double lanes in the Simpang Pulai road for easier overtaking of slower vehicles.

Driving up is easier and it all depends whether you car engine can take it or not. In most case, for automatic car, leaving it in Drive mode ("D" setting) is usually ok. If you need a little more push, release the 'Overdrive' button or drop to 3rd gear for slightly more power. For manual, 4th gear would be a good balance, though for steeper gradient, you may need to drop to 3rd gear. The Cameron Highlands' road is not as steep as compared with Genting Highlands where you may actually need to drop down to 2nd gear in order to crawl up Genting Highlands steep climb.

As for driving downhill, you will need to pay some extra attention as it is not the same as driving uphill. With the help of gravity, you may feel it is easier to drive and it becomes easy to speed. This is very dangerous especially driving the winding roads of the highlands. Using brake to slowdown a car all the way is not advisable as the brakes can overheat and you will lose the ability to brake. To decrease the vehicle speed on a descent, drop down to a lower gear like 3rd or release the 'Overdrive' button. By this method, you would be using the engine to control your descent speed, and should your car somehow go faster, you can apply your brakes. Using a combination of engine drag and braking would avoid the situation of overheating brakes, which is very dangerous.

When driving into a corner do note that you do not brake while in the curve. If you are moving quite fast, this is a sure way to lose control of your car. Due to the centripetal force at work, the car has a tendency to swing out of the curve held down only by the resistance of your spinning tires. By applying your brakes in the bend, you are reducing the holding power of the tires on the road and thus your car will want to fling out of the corner. Therefore entering a bend, do slowdown first especially if you have sped up on a straighter stretch of the road. If you feel you have to brake while in the bend (well it could happen like some crazy drivers cutting into your lane in a bend!) do apply so sparingly. Some people advice: slow in, fast out. IE enter the bend in a slower speed, and speed up while exiting a bend to maintain control of the car. I think the second part of speeding up is not necessary as this technique is more for racing where the drivers want to maintain their lead in the race. Since we are not in a race, the speeding up part is not quite necessary.

Driving the narrow tea plantation road

Here's something that requires courtesy and civic mindedness. You also need to keep your cool here. The winding road to the tea plantation is very narrow and oft times it is only possible for one vehicle to travel at a time. There are also blind corners, so do take precautions when driving this kind of roads. When turning into a blind corner, honk you car horn to warn any possible oncoming traffic that you are entering the bend. Also do listen out for people blaring the car horn. Slowdown or stop to let the other car to pass the blind corner.

For the road where only one vehicle can pass, there will also be pockets of road shoulder where one can place their car so that the opposing traffic can pass. Whoever is nearer to one such pocket should do the gentlemen way of letting the other car pass. Although I did come across stubborn inconsiderate drivers where they refuse to go to one side even though they have easy access to the wider road shoulder, do keep your cool, though I know you would be fuming away. This is where a spouse helps to cool down temperature. Sometimes it takes a partner to see the unfair situation objectively and advise you to give chance. Life's like that, there are just some people who seem to have a bad day or very bad attitude and make other people life just as bad. Ignore them, after all we came all the way to Cameron Highlands to take a break from work and stress; you can always blog about this bad people in your blog later on. Haha!

Drive carefully, be safe then be sorry

So I hope the above would be helpful for your vacation trip to your travel destination. So drive well and drive safely and have wonderful holiday break in the highlands!


Hi Jan,

Just to add to your good article for new drivers to CH.

1.) switch off the car air-condition..it helps the engine to "pull" the car without the extra air-con as load. CH is cool anyway

Rain-X is a very handy; apply them on your windscreen to have clear view during heavy downpours.

2.) Rain-X is a MUST...and keep spare wiper blades in the trunk in case someone stole yours! Someone did so to me at Penang but he got a very old wiper! Ha3X

3.) Let faster vehicles pass you, flick on the Left turning indicator lights and slow down slightly ...They will get the signal and rev up to pass. Some of them may "salute" you for doing that!

4.) Service your car with new lubricants - engine and gear box..and check those brake pads too.

5.) After traveling, the tyre pressure is always higher due to the heat. so check the tyre rated max psi it can take before ascending at the lay-by. If it is too high for the tyres, deflate it and all pump stations have the air pumps in case you deflate it too much. Remember an expansive "sport tyres" does not mean it will grip like F1 on inclines..the psi is critical for long haul drive. (My trip from Sg to T'ganu - started with 32 psi and reached 42 psi at Batu Buruk - even after deflating back to 32 at Kuantan!)

6.) Don't attempt to drive up BOH Sungai Palas if you have never tried steep inclines..or worse Gunung Brinchang! Get the tour guide at Tanah Rata and pay some money for him to drive up with his 4X4..it is worth it!

7.) Driving down...Slow and very slowly...Use engine brakes. In Auto cars just knock the lever from 1 to 2 and then tap brake. I hardly need to use the accelerator at all when driving down CH. My slow in fast out method is to avoid the rear vehicle kissing me as it is human behavior to rev up once the road straightens or the car driver came in the turns too fast initially! I will compel them to pass at the next bend by "snailing" and with my left turn lights indicator switched on...

8.) For those with motion sickness, take the medication 30 minutes before ascent or descent. You can get the likes of Dramamine at pharmacies..anyway there are Lata Iskandar as a good "half-way" point marker for a short stop from Tapah, or any of those huts selling orchids along Simpang Pulai route and you can take very beautiful panoramic shots of the mountainous skyline too!

9.) Anticipate oncoming vehicles at every turns and YES those that don't want to go slightly off road and get their tyres muddy! but perhaps they too are new to the roads and do not dare to go off road or notice the pockets....

10.) If the roads are wet, amplify your defensive driving techniques! After the rain, sand or mud may still be on the surface of the roads..

11.) Driving down with gear engaged and not FREE gear! Certainly not with the engine switched-off to save petrol...when the engine is OFF so are your brake hydraulic pumps! It is almost impossible to apply brakes without the pumps running....

12.) Fill up the car wiper reservoir with water...you will not know when you need to clear up mucks or squashed bugs off the windscreen....Some parts of PLUS sometimes I do encounter a proliferation of insects that smacks into the windscreen. At the nearest lay by, stop over to check the radiator are not clogged by these squashed bugs or keep an eye on the engine temp indicator...Remove the bugs as much as you can from the radiator fins with wood sticks slowly, I use satay sticks attached to the end of an old car telescopic antenna with tapes to pick off those dead bugs...(Don't use metal pole or metal sticks unless you want to puncture the radiator!)

But my Rule number 13 is for the very green drivers to CH - Drive up with a 3-car convoy with you in the middle, led and protected by seasoned driving buddies.

Dec 15....KL here I come!!!!!


Dear Idil,

Thanks for the driving tips. As a seasoned driver you've accumulated a lot of experience. Though for tip #12 about poking the radiator with Satay sticks, I rather not attempt it then risk puncturing those fine filaments, besides I have not have to do it in my entire driving experience. Though personally I have encountered insect swarms during the evenings where the insect swarm did a lemming and splattered across my windshield however they did not clog up the radiator. They were probably attracted by the car headlights.

Cheers and safe driving!

Hi Jan,

I don't poke but pry off those bugs...another way is to buy the extra grill mesh so it will stick onto the mesh and not the radiator fins...I had some "experience" with swarms of moths or whatever it was with my many driving escapades in M'sia before. I noticed my car temp slightly higher than usual because of the muck at the radiator...so had to remove the mucks.

But these insects are not attracted by the car headlights but warmer air hovering on the road surfaces....they normally come out at dusk and at this time they are flying low but will fly higher later as they are using the warmer air from the road that rises as night progresses...So depending on the warm air, the insects could be flying/hovering at that height. The buffalos also sleep on the roads as the road surfaces are warmer in the start and that is why the buffalos clustered up to each other in the middle of the road to get warm as night progresses...

BTW....Once I had a juvenile python sleeping in my car engine compartment too.It must be the heat of the engine that attracted this heat seeking reticulate. I discovered the "batik" coil when I was checking my car in the morning. Pushing it awake with an umbrella doesn't work....But one slight poke with my satay stick,it slither out effortlessly! Whoa..what a shocker.


Hello Idil,

OMG, Python in engine compartment! That's not an experience I would like to have. There were instances of this happening. I read in the newspaper before where the owner couldn't start the engine and found out later when the mechanic arrived and open the hood and found a giant python sleeping soundly in the engine compartment. They had to call the fire services to help remove the python.

Driving the East Coast area and kampong area sure has to be careful with the cows not giving a hoot about road safety. That's one of the road hazards of driving around in the East Coast and kampong areas.


Okay lah...my visitor was a juvenile so pendek and certainly not that frightening but comical...I used to be a kampong boy anyway..

Cows...... Well my cousin died at Sungai Bahru Melaka in early 80's. Drove smack into a herd at 1 a.m. RIP


Oh dear, sad to hear that.
Do take care!

Dec 15 I am in KL w my family but taking the coach.(KL is the only state in Msia that I still cannot figure out how to drive!!!) ..any happening to check out there?

Dear Idil,

KL is like that. Road changes every few years. Sometimes I also get confused. I seldom go downtown unless I really need to. Going to KL depends what you want to do. I don't really follow any happenings so can't really advise you there. Usually most people head to Sg Wang/Lot 10 area for shopping and stuff, something like Orchard Road in Singapore. If you like IT stuff, head on to Low Yat Plaza. You may get some good price there. It is next to Sg Wang Plaza somewhat behind Federal Hotel.

Petronas Twin Tower is another draw, if you can go there in the morning, you may want to try going up the bridge. So far no luck for me. You have to go there early as they seem to have a quota for the number of people going up there. The KLCC shopping is adjoined to the Petronas Twin Tower so you could also do more shopping there. There's a nice park next to the KLCC Petronas Twin Tower which has a nice fountain display especially during the night. Otherwise the alternate choice for towering experience would be KL Tower.

Around Sg Wang area there is the famous Jalan Alor street for hawker food and such. There was a protest by the people when the city council changed the road name. Now they revert back to Jalan Alor. The hawker food comes alive during the night.

Petaling Street, so called Chinatown is where you could look for some bargains on imitation stuff. Not my favourite place, but it is tourist attraction nevertheless. Nearby there is the Central Market selling many art and craft products. Many aspiring street artist, you could also have your portrait drawn. Bring along a nice photograph for them to render into an artwork or pose for them if you can sit still for awhile.

If you like gardens and parks, head on to Lake Gardens. Inside there is a bird park and butterfly park where you can have birds fly all over you or have a rabble of butterfly stuck to you respectively.

If you like old buildings, the Merdeka square is a must visit. Here you can find the Malaysian mini version of the Big Ben clock and the old Moorish buildings. This is also where the High Court is located. The cricket field in front has the big giant Flagpole with the Malaysian Flag and if you want you could drop in the Museum (forgot the name) next to it.

I can only think of this for now. For anything interesting, will depends on what you and your family would like to do.

Anyway have a good trip and cheers!


Posted on 16-Nov-2008

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