Essential items to bring with you on your very first road trip

Essential items to bring with you on your very first road trip
Now that you've prepared yourself and your car, it's time to consider what to pack. Here's what to bring on your first road trip.
PHOTO: sgCarMart

Going on your first road trip can feel like going overseas on your own for the first time.

There's a lot of excitement, but a good amount of nervousness as well, for you'll be exploring new places, trying new food and driving on unfamiliar roads.

However, simply checking your passport validity and preparing the car (and yourself) should not be all that you do.

Although we can't suggest what you should pack in your luggage, we definitely know a few things that you need to have in order before setting off.

1. Roadside assistance coverage

A flat tyre can cause a huge delay if you don't have a spare tyre and/or working tools
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Drivers should know how to change a flat tyre and jump start a flat battery. But - touch wood - you never know when you might find yourself in a more serious situation.

Before your journey, find out what kind of roadside assistance you can count on should the need arise. If you're driving a new car, does the dealer also offer assistance in Malaysia?

Now, if you're driving a used car that is no longer covered by dealer assistance, do consider enquiring with AA Singapore about its reciprocal services in other countries.

It's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

2. Touch 'n Go card

Touch 'n Go cards, especially the Enhanced type, are in short supply, so expect to pay a premium when buying them from local re-sellers
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You can't enter Malaysia without a Touch 'n Go card. You'll also need it to pay toll charges while you're driving there.

The easiest way to try and acquire one is to look for the EZ-Link x Touch 'n Go Motoring Card at a petrol kiosk or one of these selected 7-11 outlets.

You could also try to purchase either the 'Classic' or the 'Enhanced' Touch 'n Go card. Most drivers would probably prefer the latter, as you can top-up its value via the app and your smartphone's NFC function.

Bad news, though. Touch 'n Go cards, especially the Enhanced version, are in short supply. Unless you have friends who can lend you theirs, it's likely that you'll need to purchase one from a local reseller. And it's not going to be cheap.

3. VEP (Vehicle Entry Permit)

If you don't have an RFID tag yet, bring the cover letter that states you've registered for a VEP
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According to Malaysian law, all foreign-registered vehicles entering Peninsular Malaysia are required to register for a Vehicle Entry Permit.

After registering, you will be issued with an RFID tag, which must be attached to your car. As the RFID tag is unique to each vehicle, it is not transferable.

The VEP is valid for five years. Click here to register and/or find out more information.

4. Log card and insurance

No driver wants to get into an accident, but you should nevertheless keep a copy of your insurance certificate in the car — just in case
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Keep a physical copy of your vehicle's log card and insurance certificate in the glove box. You never know when you might need to produce these.

A friend recounted an incident in Malaysia when a policeman, perhaps suspecting that his vehicle was stolen, inquired as to why his car had no road tax disc displayed.

After explaining that displaying the disc was no longer required back home in Singapore, he showed the officer his log card to prove that he was indeed the vehicle's owner. Only then was he permitted to continue on his way.

5. A three-quarter full fuel tank

Under Singapore's Customs Act 1960, drivers of Singapore-registered vehicles caught violating the three-quarter tank rule could be fined $500
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You've probably heard anecdotes from friends and relatives about being able to enter Malaysia with less than three-quarters of fuel left in their tank.

While it's possible that your fuel gauge may escape inspection (thus enabling you to fill up with cheaper petrol), do you really want to take that risk and end up being turned back?

If this is your first road trip, ensure that you have enough fuel to at least cross the border. It's all part of proper preparation.

6. Local currency

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We've become so accustomed to cashless payments in Singapore that it's easy to assume we can enjoy the same convenience when we travel overseas.

To avoid the trouble of not having cash on you when you need it, or the hassle of having to find stores that only accept credit cards, don't forget to change money before leaving the country.

While you're at it, don't forget to take that cash with you, and authorise overseas payments on your credit card/s if you haven't done so.

7. Data roaming

Your smartphone is very useful, but it's just a brick (okay, camera) without a 4G/5G or a Wi-Fi connection
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While registering for a VEP, ensuring roadside assistance coverage and changing money, it's easy to overlook the need to activate data roaming for your smartphone. Charges vary depending on your service provider.

You can still enable this the moment you reach your hotel and have access to Wi-Fi, but not having cellular service before you arrive is just unwise.

It's certainly tempting to go 'off the grid' for a few hours and not have any distractions, but you'll immediately regret that decision if (touch wood) you suffer a breakdown in the middle of nowhere.

8. Traffic app

Waze is certainly handy, but when it comes to planning your departure time, an app like Beat the Jam (pictured) is even more useful
PHOTO: sgCarMart

By now, you've probably read and heard about how bad the congestion can get at both the Causeway and Tuas Second Link crossings.

To help ensure that your first road trip begins smoothly, download the aptly named Beat the Jam app. According to its description in the Apple Store, the app "provides real-time jam estimates, traffic cameras and traffic forecasts using historical data."

It can't eliminate traffic congestion for you, but you can certainly use it to plan for an optimal departure time.

ALSO READ: 'Can't believe we endured this': Woman stuck in 5-hour-long queue at JB customs

This article was first published in sgCarMart.

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