Best Self-Drive Road Trip Destinations for Singaporean Drivers

Michelle Lim
19 Oct 2018
 

Self-drive holidays are becoming increasingly popular with Singaporeans. Besides enjoying the scenic roads and driving at much faster speeds than you can ever go in Singapore, self-driving allows you to travel at your own pace without worrying about transits and carrying your luggage.

Especially for families with young children when there are so many more items to lug (like diapers and milk powder), the vehicle will help you transport all these essentials easily. Oh, and you know that stress you feel when your child is crying and throwing a tantrum in a crowded train? You won’t have this worry when you are in the comfort of your own transportation!

Other than that, self-driving means you can do things slowly and really take in the sights (or take as many photos #forthegram as you want) of the entire holiday. You can choose to stay as long as you want when you admire a waterfall, or heading to an attraction during off-peak #justbecauseyoucan.

Also, having your own vehicle while on a holiday means that you can go off-the-beaten-track to places where it is not as accessible by public transport – great for the adventurers!

Now that PSLE is over, some of you may need some inspirations for your year-end travel destinations, consider these locations for self-drive trips!

1. Malaysia

Yes, yes, many of you would be familiar with road trips to Malaysia… But rather than going to the same few cities, consider these Underrated Malaysian Road Trips for Families.

Plus, the new Capital 21 mall in Johor Bahru is indeed an enticing pit stop (maybe when it is more open) as it takes you around the world with the various themed floors, shopping to your hearts content! Southeast Asia’s largest indoor theme park, MCM studios, will also be housed in it.

Even though there isn’t that much planning to be done if you’re just going across the causeway, drivers should bear in mind that you can no longer top-up your Touch ‘n Go card when driving into JB and check out our tips for driving into Malaysia.

2. Australia

 

If there’s a country that is perfect for long drives, it has got to be Australia. Be it the popular Great Ocean Road Drive or up North to the Northern Territories, Australia has a ton of road trips that would suit both the new and experienced drivers.

The Great Ocean Road is located about an hour and a half away from Melbourne city. You will first need to get to Geelong and then to the start of the route at Torquay. Driving along the Great Ocean Road is generally not challenging for most Singaporean drivers. Though there are some winding stretches that require skillful steering, it should be fine if you stay within the speed limit.

 

From Melbourne, most would also include a road trip to Yarra Valley to visit the finest vineyards, tuck into farm-fresh produce, and spend a night in a quaint accommodation, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Further up north is Sydney where you could rent a car and drive to the various beaches to enjoy the sun and the sea.

The city of Sydney itself has many interesting sights and one cannot miss heading to the fish market for the freshest produce. I mean, Singaporeans are still Singaporeans even when on holiday and we absolutely can’t miss out on the food!

Your trip to Sydney would not be complete without a visit to the Blue Mountains. Even though you can take public transportation from the city to the mountains, the best way to experience it is still by car. Having your own car enables you to take time to soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of the wonderful outdoors. Also, there are some activities such as horseback riding in Megalong Valley that are not accessible via trains or buses.

The drives in Western Australia offer one a laid-back and easy-going holiday. You can start your drive from Perth, heading down to Albany and back up to Lancelin. There’s a lot to do and you can easily spend two weeks here: café hopping, tasting wine from vineyards, visiting local zoos, heading to Busselton Pier and taking the Instagram-worthy shot at Crawley Edge Boatshed (aka the Blue Boat House). 

Next up, families who are into countless theme parks should check out what Gold Coast has to offer. Drive along the coast from Gold Coast to Byron Bay, and then back up north to Sunshine Coast passing by Brisbane. Visit the Koala sanctuary to get close with the Australian marsupial natives.

 

And for those looking to visit the Great Barrier Reef, head to North Queensland’s Port Douglas. Just a leisurely one-hour drive from Cairns on the scenic coastal route, spend a bit more this time to get up in the air on a Helicopter Scenic Flight.

Finally, what’s often left out is the city in the Northern Territory, Darwin. When driving in the North, you’re really looking at heading to the various National Parks. Fortunately, most of the sights here can still be reached, in the dry season, by normal 2WDs. However, should you want to undertake a 4-Wheel-Drive (4WD), do ensure that you have clocked in many hours of driving and are experienced enough to handle them!

3. New Zealand

Another increasingly popular self-drive destination is New Zealand. Although it is a lot pricier to get to, the roads are equally, if not more scenic than those in Australia.

Like the Great Ocean Drive, New Zealand has its Great Coast Road that takes you from Westport to Greymouth. This is the route that will take you off the beaten track, discovering scenes that most tourists would have never known of, or can’t get to via public transportation.

The Milford Sound Road is an extremely famous highway and is one that brings you through dramatic waterfalls, moss-covered mountains, vivid landscapes, and mirror lakes. Here, the beauty of a self-drive holiday is realised when you have the ease of stopping as and when you want whenever you see these glorious sights! To get there, you can start either from Queenstown and end at Christchurch or the other way around. 

For those who are travelling during summer (November to March), you simply have to camp under the stars at the beautiful Lake Tekapo. The North Island is also an extremely scenic place to drive. The Hobitton is just one of the many attractions that you'll have to get to.

For more on driving in New Zealand, check out our road trip itineraries in South Island and North Island.

4. Japan

Japan is also a great country for self-drive trips. No, I’m not referring to the densely populated cities of Tokyo and Osaka but more of the smaller cities and even the island of Hokkaido.

Hokkaido is one region of Japan that is great for self-drive holidays. You could fly into Sapporo and drive to Otaru for the canals, Biei for Shirahige Waterfall and the famous Blue Pond, and definitely Farm Tomita on your way to gaze at the field of beautiful flowers. This road trip is great as you can do so in any season. During winter, having your own car is convenient as you can drive to the ski slopes and leave whenever you want. During summer, visit the countless lakes in Hokkaido that are just so hard to get to without your own transport. Oh, and don’t forget the many onsens!

As for the other regions, it may make sense to self-drive because there is just so much walking to do from an attraction to the train station and even within the train station itself. For those who don’t want to waste their energy on walking the entire trip, driving makes a whole lot of sense!

5. South Korea

 

Just around 8 hours of flight time from Singapore (including a transit in Seoul) is Jeju, an island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. Driving in South Korea needs some getting used to. Drivers will have to sit on the left side of the vehicle, which means everything is on the opposite! Ensure that you give yourself some time to familiarise with the roads on your very first day of driving and go slow… Because the chances of turning into the wrong lane is quite likely…

Jeju is a great destination for a self-drive road trip because it is a small island that has simple roads. Plus, you can try a hybrid or an electric car if you do not already own one in Singapore! The South Korean administration has focused its efforts to increase subsidies and establish the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles and in Jeju. The authorities aim to achieve 100% adoption of EVs by 2030! This means that there are charging stations across the island.

Explore the many natural landscapes of Jeju while on your roadtrip such as the various waterfalls and lava caves. For those who love hiking, consider heading up Hallasan for an incredible view of the entire island. For honeymooners or anyone who's just curious, you can also visit the Jeju Love Land or the Museum of Sex and Health for some tongue-in-cheek exhibits!

There are also various quaint restaurants and cafes by the sea, such as the MyeongJin Jeongbok Abalone Restaurant. Have the freshest grilled abalone served on a hotplate as you enjoy the views of the sea. Don't be in such a hurry to leave the area after your meal. Instead, take some shots of the sea! When I was there last year, I was very fortunate to see an entire pod of dolphins there! It was amazing as they kept jumping out of the water. Can you imagine my surprise? People usually have to pay to go for dolphin-watching tours but I had mine for free!

The Osulluc Tea Garden and Innisfree are also located close to one another. At Osulluc, tour the tea plantation and enjoy some tea and cakes in the cafe. At Innisfree, you can make your own soap or stock up on your facial care products. With just so much to do in Jeju and to do all these in your own time, isn't driving a much better alternative than to squeeze in a tour bus?

But if you are looking to go off-the-beaten-track and explore cities other than Seoul and the now popular Busan, having a car and planning that self-drive route is a great choice. Rather than taking the Train to Busan, stop by the cities along the route to Busan. This may include the less popular cities of Jeonju, Damyang, and Suncheon

6. Taiwan

Many travellers to Taiwan won’t think of driving as there’s already a whole lot to do in the city of Taipei or Kaohsiung itself. But many may have had the experience of hiring drivers to bring them to the outskirts of Taipei like Alishan, Tamsui, Jiufen, and Shifen. So why don’t do it yourselves? Yes, drivers in Taiwan can be quite aggressive, alongside the countless scooters that roam the roads, but when you get out of the city, driving is a breeze! Especially if you intend to take longer trips that require staying overnight somewhere, renting a car to drive is much cheaper than hiring a designated driver as you may need to pay for his accommodation too!

7. Iceland

Now, if we venture further away from Singapore, Iceland is another great place for self-drive trips. In this case, self-driving is in fact, the cheaper option to explore the country. Especially if you are travelling in a group of four, the cost to rent a car is cheaper than that if you were to pay for 4 people on a tour bus.

Nordic countries used to be pretty pricey destinations but with airline discounts and the ease of air travel, they have become more popular in the recent years. The amazing sceneries make Iceland a must-visit for any road tripper. The country isn’t all that large, with typical itineraries ranging from 6 to 14 days. You could do the famous Golden Circle route or the South Coast drive. For those who have more days, you’ll want to consider circling the entire country on the Ring Road!

 

After flying into Reykjavik and picking up a rental car at the airport, you’ll typically spend a few days exploring the quaint city before driving round the country. Expect to see sights like the world-famous Geysir, the Blue Lagoon Spa, stunning fjords, iceberg filled lakes, waterfalls, whales and breathtaking nature.  It really is a nature-lovers paradise with plenty of opportunities to camp, trek, hike and explore during the summer months. But do beware, the craggy terrains and startling weather make it a challenging circuit for even the most seasoned driver. The roads are narrow in some areas and there’s quite a bit of one-lane bridges to cross! Do try to keep your eyes on the road while resisting the urge to gawk at the living canvas unfolding around you and always research on all the road conditions (especially during winter) before taking that drive.

Summer months will give you the most sunlight and allow you to drive at a leisurely pace while still having time to stop for hikes and photo taking along the way, chasing the midnight sun. There are also opportunities for off-road driving in Iceland but again, only for experienced and seasoned drivers.

Winter is the prime season for observing the shimmering Northern Lights or aurora borealis and for enjoying a quiet evening in when you’ll stay in many of the comfortable guest houses dotted across this chameleonic country. Since you’re expecting icy roads, you may want to consider renting a 4x4 from a quality agency. Some travellers choose to go the budget route and may end up with worn down studded tires that may cause your car to spin off the road. Also, expect to drive during the wee hours of the morning where there’s little light and visibility. Your headlamps and high beams are your best friends in these cases!

8. United States

With the world’s longest flight that takes you from Singapore to New York in about 18 hours, you can get yourself to the city of dreams in just one (or more) sleeps. Even though public transport within the city and from state to state is convenient, there are places that are just more accessible with a car. Think: Your local grocery runs like Walmart and Target are often situated in the middle of nowhere, like our Tampines Giant, Ikea, and Courts!

Some popular road trips in the United States include the drive to Niagara Falls, driving within Orlando and to Miami, and on the other side the Pacific Coast Highway, California’s longest highway that brings you close to the dramatic pacific coastline. While on the Pacific Coast Highway roadtrip, you’ll get to see the popular attractions like the Big Sur, Golden Gate Bridge, and Monterey. For smaller drives, head to the Grand Canyon either from Las Vegas or Route 17 out of Phoenix.

9. Many routes in Europe

There are just too many road trips to take in this entire continent that we can’t possibly list down all of them! As this article is just to incite wanderlust, you can start thinking of driving during your Europe trip!

Munich is the home of BMW, Oktoberfest, and some of the best wieners in Germany. When in Munich, BMW fans (or even if you’re not) will need to head to BMW World. Then, as a start, rent a car (preferably a BMW) for a short drive from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle. Besides heading to see the castle that has been acknowledged as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, you’ll also get to go on the autobahn! With some of the most considerate and safe drivers on German roads, you will unknowingly be imbued with confidence to drive at speeds not seen on Singapore roads. For longer drives, consider crossing to Austria’s Salzburg.

Other European countries great for driving including the many scenic cities in Spain. Barcelona to Valencia, Valencia to Seville, going to the smaller cities and back to Madrid. Otherwise, deck out in full crazy rich asian style by driving along the French Riveria to Monaco to check out the other amazing cars parked in the country!

So there you go, we hope we’ve gotten you excited for the year-end holidays! Rather than being stuck in traffic in Singapore, head overseas to truly enjoy the drive!


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