Travel Guide: How to Cross the Malaysian-Thai Border at Betong Immigration Checkpoint

A couple of months ago, the Moomikins hatched an ambitious plan for our family trip: to drive from Malaysia to Thailand. Her colleagues had told her about Betong, a Thai border town where bird’s nest and petai (stink beans) aplenty, and it was apparently accessible by car from Pengkalan Hulu in Perak – about a five hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.

Cue me arguing in disbelief: “You sure or not? No way Perak borders Thailand! Isn’t it only Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis?”

Mum: 

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/mapsonline/base-maps/malaysia-thailand-border
Credit: College of Asia and the Pacific

….. okay, I rest my case.

Took the necessarily leaves, booked hotels, bundled into the car early morning on a Friday, and off we went!

CHECKLIST: Documents To Bring if Driving through the Malaysian-Thailand Border 

  • Original vehicle registration card. If you’re bringing a photocopy,  ensure it has been verified by a Malaysian police station. If you are not the owner, prepare a letter from the owner authorising you to use the vehicle.
  • Passport. Same as when you’re traveling by plane, needs to be valid for at least 6 months.
  • Driving license. If you’re Malaysian, there is no need to register for an international license (btw Thailand’s driver seat is also on the right)
  • Insurance. If you’re just traveling around Betong there is no need but to go beyond (like to Hatyai, etc) you will need Thai car insurance. This can be bought before or after crossing immigration. More on this later.

MALAYSIAN BORDER 

From Ipoh, follow the North-South highway in the direction of Taiping-Gerik-Pengkalan Hulu. Once at PH, proceed to the immigration checkpoint in your car and get your passports ready. You don’t have to get down from the car – just drive through the window. The officer stamped our passports and we were through in less than 10 minutes. Further along was a police checkpoint, where the police also checked our passports. Once through, we headed for the Betong Immigration Checkpoint.

THAI BORDER 

Unlike the Malaysian checkpoint, you can’t just drive straight through the Betong one, so park your car at the compound and get down. On the right is a counter where you can get the country’s Arrival/Departure forms: Name, passport number, etc. (like the ones they usually give out when you’re on the airplane) You can either fill that in yourself, or have the counter staff do so for RM2. 

Once that’s done, bring it inside this building. The immigration officer will check your passport and clip the earlier form inside the passport. Don’t lose the form! You’ll need it when you’re coming back to Malaysia.

Here they asked for RM3. Idk what that is, processing fee maybe?

Once that’s done, visitors can take one of the tuktuks (they look like Filipino jeepneys, not the small ones you see in Bangkok) into Betong, or if you’re driving like us, then walk down to the drive through point, where there is another counter. Here is where you’ll get the ‘import’ form to bring your car in. This is very important so don’t lose it ! Otherwise your car will be left in Thailand when you come back 😛

The form was an additional RM16, but I think this varies because there were many blogposts with different prices.

Once that has been stamped and signed, walk back to your car and now you can drive through. Welcome to Thailand!

The whole process took less than an hour. But then again it was a Friday and not peak season. Heard it’s crazy on festivals like Songkran.

Since we didn’t buy insurance before the border, we stopped at some shops by the road. There are many signboards with ‘insurance’ on them so you won’t miss it.

Can’t remember the exact price of the insurance, but I think it was around RM20 (?) Not that expensive. They have free drinks for travelers at the shop. 🙂

Finally arrived in Betong town! Feels almost like a small Malaysian town, except for the the tangled-looking electrical wires. The town is about 10 minutes drive from the checkpoint.

Extra notes:

Internet

Most hotels will probably have Wifi, but if you’re driving and need to use Waze to find spots, I’d recommend getting a data plan. Digi was supposed to have the Roaming Pass for Thailand but I couldn’t activate it for some reason. 😦 Ended up buying Simcards in town for 150 baht (about Rm20)

Language

No need to learn Thai just yet. There are many ethnic Malays and Chinese living in Betong, so most of them speak either Malay or some Chinese dialects, like Mandarin or Cantonese.

Getting Around 

You can hire tuktuks to take you to tourist spots, if not driving. We didn’t see any conventional taxis.

Accommodation 

The highest starred hotel in town is 3 stars. They do business with (mostly) Malaysian tourists.  Even so, most places are well equipped with facilities and there’s the usual Wifi, coffee making facilities, etc.

Places to Eat 

The three main ethnic groups in Betong are Thai, Malay and Chinese so food is a reflection of these three. You can get really cheap dimsum in town for 20baht per plate, and the 7-11 has lots of cheap and convenient meals to go. Halal options are available from the Malay shops. Chinese restaurants are similar to the dai chows you find in KL, but prices are about average/on par with Malaysia. There are also street food stalls at night.

More of Betong to come soon. Happy travels! 🙂

Travelogue Penang: Fort Cornwallis, Georgetown

Fort Cornwallis was established in 1786 and was named after the British Governer-General in India, Charles Cornwallis. Although called a fort, it has never engaged in battle. It is the largest and most intact surviving fort in Malaysia and was built by the British East India Company to protect the island from pirates and any possible attacks from the neighbouring state, Kedah. The walls are built with a reddish-brown brick, and there are decorative canons surrounding the perimeter.

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Entrance.

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Sir Francis Light, founder of Penang.

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The fort is divided into several sections, including the main courtyard, some cubby-hole-like structures which used to be prisons, ramparts for canons, and the wall on top where visitors can stroll through. There is also an ammunition room, which was built to be very cooling, to house gunpowder. We hid in there for a few minutes for a brief respite, because the sun was merciless.

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The biggest and nicest cannon within the fort is the Seri Rambai, which has made a long journey to be here. Cast in 1603, the greyish blue cannon was a gift from the Dutch to the Sultan of Johor. While fighting, the Portuguese (who colonised Malaya from 1511 until the Dutch took over) gained possession of Seri Rambai and took it to Java, where it sat for a long time and was later given to Acheh and Kuala Selangor before finally being seized by the British and placed at the fort.

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Fort Cornwallis is not terribly large and there aren’t that many things to do within, but it’s still a nice place to visit, especially if you love history.

Entry is RM10.

FORT CORNWALLIS

Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang

Opening hours: 9AM – 10PM

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While you’re at it: Nearby is the Queen Victoria Clock Tower, built to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. As you can see from the photo, there are local elements to it like the big yellow ‘bulb’ on top which is influenced by Moorish designs and is commonly seen on mosques.

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