Learning to drive and getting a driving licence in Penang in 2014

You may know you have a common law right to travel – of which using a car is part of that right. It is a right, not a privilege. And I’ve rented cars without a licence in Thailand and Malaysia anyway. But if you want to be government sanctioned in Malaysia, here is the story.

And to give you another angle, there is a blog written in 2010 about getting a licence in KL, which may be of interest: Getting a driving license in Malaysia. But be warned, as with so much else, the government changes its rules every month or two. Nothing is certain for long.

First of all, anyone with Malaysian IC(identity card)or foreign passport holders who are over 17 years old can apply for Malaysian driving licence class D, including tourists.  You may need two months in total from the beginning to finally receiving the Provisional licence; it depends on JPJ, Road Transport Department Malaysia to process your documents.

This blog is written by Mrs. Tropical Expat, who decided finally to get a licence.


First I found a list of driving schools in Penang, and found the closest in Pulau Tikus – next to Police station – it’s in a printing shop, but in a corner is a chair and table used by the driving school.

The lady showed me an ‘all inclusive’ price list, cost RM1650 – she had no handout to give. She couldn’t explain what was included in the price because of her English speaking ability.  I asked a local friend for help, even so the itemised prices didn’t add up to RM1650.  I wasn’t sure about this place.

I found the next nearest driving school – one in Jln Fettes in front of Prima Tanjung.  It’s called Cathay Driving Institute. Cathay is run and managed by a family, a father and a young daughter are the driving instructors and a mother is a coordinator. They all speak good English. They explained the process to get a licence and pricing in detail to me.

I bought two books at RM20 each.  One is a handbook & test CD.  The other is a road safety book which tells you traffic offences, driving manners etc.


The process:

1                   To attend KPP theory lecture for Test Part I

2                   To pass KPP Test Part I (traffic code & safety computer test)

3                   To attend a practical lecture for Learner’s licence

4                   12 hours driving practice

5                   Pre-test

6                   Test Part II (A-hill stop & start. B-parking  C-3 point turn)

7                   Test Part III (on road driving route D or E on road driving)

8                   Driving is allowed after receiving Practical Licence

Cathay explained:

12 hours driving time is compulsory before you can take Test part II and III. But 12 hours is not the actual driving time. It starts from the time you arrive at JPJ practice field until you leave it. Cheaper schools have 4 – 5 students in one go, but hire only one JPJ car, so you have to wait for your turn to practice.  So with a cheap school you are mostly waiting around for your turn, and in three hours maybe only have 30 minutes actual driving. You may need to buy many additional lessons as a result.

Cathay’s students usually buy only 1 or 2 extra lessons.

  • You need to book with a driving institution.
  • You can’t judge an institution by the price they state
  • 12 hours driving time is compulsory before you can take the test
  • The 12 hours is from the time you arrive at the government driving licence agency to when you leave it. Cheaper schools have 4 – 6 students in one go, so you have to wait for your turn to practice. So with a cheap school you are mostly waiting around for your turn, and in three hours maybe only have 30 minutes actual driving. Once the 12 hours is up they will tell you you need more practice – you may have only got two hours actual practice. You must buy more lessons. So a cheap school turns out more expensive and wastes more time.
  • In this 12 hours you have to practice in the government driving course and when you are ready you drive on the road with an instructor next to you.
  • So I recommends Cathay. People come from all over Penang to learn with Cathay.  They are busy, so it was hard getting bookings, and it took about three months to complete the course.


DAY1         AttendingKPP lecture for Test Part I, whole day

There is a dress code for both males and females: collared, sleeved shirt and trousers. Shoes that completely cover your feet.  Although I saw a boy wearing flip-flops.

I went to Cathay at 7.15AM, the Mother took us to the JPJ practice field next to Penang airport.  She helped everybody to get a smart card. You need ID and RM20.



The six-hour course starts at 9.30, but with breaks and lunch it is about four hours.  In Penang it is all in Malay.  Tutors didn’t mind if you leave for phone calls, toilet, or if you sleep, read, play with iPad etc. Since I didn’t understand anything, I can’t write much here.  Cathay kindly gave me a lift home.



DAY2 – KPP Test Part I (traffic code & safety computer test)
The dress code – upper body – collared shirt.  They can lend a jacket for RM1.

After attending DAY1 lecture, it took 10 days for KPP to prepare my paper for the next stage, Test Part I.

KPP was so slow, but it was mid December 2013.

♫ ♬ Christmas is everywhere  ♫ ♬

The computer test venue is in Taman Green View area; registration starts from 9:30am.  You hand in your passport, smart card and RM10 for them to take a digital photo. They will call your name again when a PC is available.  You can’t take your belongings in – but can keep them behind the booking officer. Practise with CD and remember KEJARA demerit points, then you’ll be ok.


DAY 3 To attend a practical lecture for Learner’s licence

3 hour lecture in Malay. As before you can ignore it and read, listen to your iPod etc. Bring passport & smart card.

DAY 4 – 3 hours, off road practice

Driving at JPJ practice field.  In my case, two people were picked up from the school.  One boy was an intermediate level and I as a beginner. So the Father instructor can let the boy drive by himself while he was sitting teaching next to me.  The first three hours for an absolute beginner: driving within a lane, turning, roundabout, blinkers…   Actual driving time 2 hours this day.

DAY 5 –  6 hours, off road practice

Learned how to park & three-point turn.   Actual driving time 2 hours this day. Gave 2 ID size photos for Learner’s licence

DAY 6    –    9 hours, off road practice

Learned how to stop & start at hill.  Actual driving time 2 hours this day.

DAY 7 –  12 hours, on road practice

Finally driving on the road with the daughter instructor.  The route is fixed, only two choices. Drive on road towards Balik Pulau (route D) or Batu Maung (route E). Actual driving time 2 hours this day.

DAY 8  Pre-test, half day & extra 3 hours lesson

This is a day to take Pre-test with government examiner for Part II & III. The driving school picked me up at 7.30am.  There are many people (60ish) waiting for their turn, so I bought an extra lesson so that I can practice while waiting for my turn instead of sitting bored.  Actual driving time 1 hour this day.

DAY 9  – extra 3 hours lesson

I bought an additional 3 hour lesson just in case – but you don’t have to.  Actual driving time 2.5 hours this day.

DAY 10   – Test Part II & III whole day

Thursdays are the test day in JPJ field! 150 people are waiting for the test. You give your learners licence and passport and they clip with your documents and keep. They give you a laminated number board which you hang around your neck.  Mine was No44, in session 2, there are about 100 people in front of me. The coordinator mum estimated my turn would be around 2pm, and she was right.

The waiting area has been divided into 3 sections.  One is an air-conned seminar room, two are placed outside.  There is no information or announcement in the seminar room for which number has been served, so you have to go out and check yourself occasionally. When your number becomes closer you then go outside and sit in number sequence.

When it’s your turn you start with Test Part II:

A-  hill stop & start,  only people who passed can proceed to B

B-   parking,  only people who passed can proceed to C

C-   3 point turn  – finish, now wait for the final Test Part III

LULUS, yeah I passed!

Test Part III – Everyone includes the people who failed Test Part II can take Test Part III.  I waited another 1 hour for my turn, and it was about 3pm.  I paid RM100 extra to book English-speaking examiner, and his English was good. He chose route E for me.

LULUS, yeah I passed and it’s all done!

After finishing the test:

And that’s it, apart from government administration. You can’t drive until the driving school gives you a P licence – which they receive from the government. It may take a month.


20.00 handbook & test CD

20.00 road safety book

20.00 smart card for lectures

195.00 seminar 6 hours & computer test

10.00 digital photo fee at computer test

500.00 practical theory lecture 3 hours

450.00 driving lesson x 4 12hours in total

300.00 on road extra lesson x 2 6 hours in total

50.00 pre-test & L licence fee

50.00 test

100.00 English speaking examiner booking fee

80.00 P licence fee





waiting outside

waiting outside

cars for road test

cars for road test


parking practice

cars for road test

hill start test

cars for road test

cars for road test

one's number

one’s number