Convoy driving to Malaysia: Things to know
Go Away editor Deborah Tan recently drove up to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as part of a convoy, in a trip organised by Volkswagen Singapore. Here are 8 things every driver should know before taking part in or organising a convoy driving party.
I realise that many drivers - both seasoned and new - have probably driven up to Malaysia. And why not? Given Singapore's congested roads, ubiquitous traffic cameras, and cramp-my-style speed limits, it's hard to give your car a good stretch, let alone a serious workout.
Last week, our friends at Volkswagen Singapore organised a media drive up to Kuala Lumpur as a way for us to put their new Passat models - the New Passat and the Passat Variant - to the test. With a total of 9 cars hitting the road, driving in a convoy can be a challenge. So, here are some things I learnt in my first convoy driving experience:
Tip 1: Activate data roaming
You could buy a local pre-paid card but if you're only going to be away for 2 - 3 days, why not just activate your data roaming? Your telco should have some great rates you can tap on. For example, unlimited data roaming from Singtel is $19/day. This will ensure that you don't lose data connection and can still receive updates from the other drivers through Whatsapp. Access to data is also crucial, especially if your car is not equipped with a navigation system; your phone can double up as a GPS.
Tip 2: Sort out your Cashcard and Touch-n-Go cards
While your Cashcard is probably already inside your car's card reader and has sufficient value, getting your hands on a Touch-n-Go card, Malaysia's version of our Ezlink card, is a bit more challenging. You can purchase and top up a Touch-n-Go card at a manned toll booth after crossing the Malaysian customs. These booths are located on the lefthand side. If you are driving to KL and beyond, top your card up to RM100 to save yourself the hassle. Your Touch-n-Go card has a validity of 10 years but you need to use it at least once a year or it will get deactivated.
Tip 3: Don't use the phone while you're driving
While communication between cars is important in a convoy, be sure you're not handling your phone while you're driving. Any texting and calling should be done by your passenger/partner. If you have any instructions to convey to the other cars, tell your passenger to do it for you.
Tip 4: Hook your smartphone up to your car, if possible
Some newer car models can sync up with your smartphone via Bluetooth or a USB port. Familiarise yourself with the workings and do all the syncing up before you set off. Volkswagen's New Passat and Passat Variant have a function to integrate both Apple iPhones and Android phones to their infotainment systems. I hooked my iPhone up to the car using my Lightning Cable and am able to access apps like Spotif and get Siri to perform tasks like making calls. If you've updated your iPhone's iOS, you can "wake" Siri up by simply saying, "Hey, Siri."
Tip 5: Agree beforehand where your rest-stops are going to be and how you'll get there
Clearly, it makes bad driving sense to want to from Singapore to KL non-stop. It's a drive of a few hundred kilometres and with the roads stretching past plantations and open fields, things can get drowsy. So you'll need to make stops along the way, use the toilet, get a Dunkin Donut, grab lunch, etc. Both Passats come equipped with Fatigue Detection System where the car automatically analyses your driving characteristics and recommends you take a break if needed. Most rest-stops are easy to locate along the highway. Just be sure everyone knows the exit to make and you'll likely find one. Of course, for meals, make the effort to drive to a great eatery!
Tip 6: Your responsibility is to the car BEHIND you
When it comes to driving in a convoy, it's easy to think, "I must catch up with the car in front!" But in all honesty, your duty is to the car BEHIND you. Make sure you check, through the rearview mirror, that your companions have been able to keep up. If not, SLOW DOWN. It's not the F1 and there is no need to be at the head of the convoy. And, remember to brake gently - you just need one car to come to a sudden stop to create a chain reaction of accidents. If you ever lose your party, fall back until you catch sight of them and try to get back into the formation.
Tip 7: Fast. Tight. Safe - choose 2
It's foolish to assume that as a convoy you can drive fast, stay close together, and be safe. Don't be pressured into keeping up if you feel that the conditions are not safe. Also, if you feel you need to take a break or go slower, SAY SOMETHING. The chip in your pride is better than getting into an accident.
Tip 8: Practice self-awareness on the highway
In Singapore, we often use the right-most lane as the lane where cars are supposed to go the "fastest". On the Malaysian highway, MOST Malaysian cars actually, correctly, use the right-most lane as the overtaking lane. If your convoy wants to drive on this lane, you guys had better go fast. Every so often, please LOOK into your rearview mirror and check if there is a vehicle closing in on yours. If it is, drive off to the left and let it pass. If a vehicle is blocking you, you may signal to the right as a way of letting the other driver know you want to pass.
The new Passat provided for a more luxurious drive experience and I can see how it works in an urban environment like Singapore's. It's comfortable and, once the doors are closed and the windows are rolled up, the interior is silent - perfect for the high-strung executive who just wants to forget about the goddamn traffic for a bit. The Passat Variant, however, makes for a more fun companion on a roadtrip. It's accelerates like a dream, has loads of space for you to stretch your legs, and, when driven in Comfort mode, gives a smooth drive without compromising on speed and power.
Nonetheless, regardless of the car you choose to drive, remember to always drive safe and have a partner who can take over the wheel from you when you need to rest your eyes and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
This article was first published on Go Away.