Thinking Of Bringing Your Overland 4WD To Malaysia?

Life is a journey, not a destination” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Overlanding as the name suggests, describes undertaking a journey over land whether with your own vehicle or on your own two feet or in an overland truck with other people. The essence of overlanding, no matter what your mode of transport, is that the journey is what is important, not the destination.

The beauty of overland travel is that you get to see and experience parts of a country or continent that would be very difficult to access, if not impossible without a vehicle. You get the opportunity in meeting new people, or simply after an affordable way to travel from one stunning location to another, an overland trip will cover the best highlights, national parks and adventure travel activities that the location has to offer.

But overall, overlanding is more about your attitude. You need all the usual attributes to enjoy travel. You need an open mind, to be tolerant of other people, a sense of humour and you must relish the idea of foreign places and unusual situations. By nature there is a lot of camping involved which makes it a cost-effective way to travel. If you enjoy camping in the open, sitting around a campfire, looking out of the window at different scene every day, and don’t mind skipping a shower every now and then, overlanding is for you.

Once you have completed building your dream overland 4WD, the next question is how do you bring your vehicle to Malaysia? The first is to drive it through the Thailand border in Peninsular Malaysia or Singapore and the other is by shipping your vehicle first into Malaysia by sea. All shipments into Malaysia will need to be shipped to Port Kelang in Peninsular Malaysia before a transhipment to other ports. So bringing your vehicle to Sabah means you have to ship your vehicle to Port Kelang and later a transhipment to Port of Kota Kinabalu.


A carnet (pronounced car-nay) is a simple customs document, which acts as a passport for your motor vehicle when you take it overseas. It allows you to temporarily import your vehicle for a limited period of time without the need to pay cash at the border, equivalent to the customs duty and other excise taxes. It helps to save time and hassle when dealing with customs officers at international borders.

The vehicle, to which the carnet refers, once having been granted temporary importation status, must be removed from the country within the time limit imposed by that country. If it is not, the country will be paid all duties and taxes that would normally be required to permanently import the vehicle.

The use of a carnet is an alternative to leaving cash security deposits with foreign governments. Use of the carnet is restricted to the countries listed on the back cover and it is valid for one year from the date of issue. There are currently 85 countries worldwide accepting carnets including Malaysia. To find out the list of countries accepting ATA Carnets, please visit:


You must apply to a member of the AIT/FIA carnet network, which guarantees to Customs’ authorities around the world payment of customs duties on motor vehicles, temporarily imported for touring purposes.  Generally this means your local Automobile Association or in the case of American’s The US Council for International Business. You will be asked to fill in an application form and supply relevant information about your vehicle (along with proof, like a vehicle registration document). You will also need to pay an administration fee, the cost of the carnet and often a deposit, which will be refunded after the carnet is discharged. To find out who issues ATA Carnet in your respective countries, please visit:

With all this information the issuing organisation will then estimate the value your vehicle and calculate the highest level of duty payable in all of the countries you plan to visit. The level of duty payable varies considerably from country to country and is usually based on the value of the vehicle, plus a percentage. For example for  a USD10,000 value vehicle going to a destination country that requires 150% duties, the carnet bond will be USD15,000.

As a surety to the carnet bond, you will need to provide security to the Carnet issuing organisation which can be done is three ways.

  1. Leave the required bond deposited in a sealed bank account.
  2. Get your bank to cover the amount of bond against some kind of collateral (money, property or shares).
  3. Pay an insurance premium to underwrite the cost of the bond (usually between 3 to 5% of the bond). You will be required to fill in an application form and submit various documents.

When you have sufficiently covered your bond you will be issued with a carnet, which will be valid for one year from the date of issue.  The cost of your carnet will vary depending in which country you apply and also whether you choose to pay the full amount of the bond upfront or whether you choose to use an insurance company to underwrite the amount of the bond. Please consult your local ATA carnet issuing organisation in your respective countries for more information.


tum-carnetThe carnet form consists of these parts:

  1. Front green cover – holder/user & country information. The front of the green cover includes the Holder (Owner of the goods) Information and lists all the ATA Carnet countries. It must not be altered or amended in any way.
  2. Back green cover – carnet General List of merchandise & equipment. This list cannot be amended but it is possible to travel with partial shipments.
  3. Yellow, white & blue certificate sets – counterfoils & vouchers. Counterfoils are the control documents of the holder and remain with the carnet. Vouchers are the control document of customs and are removed by customs.


International Driving Permit (IDP) – This permit is a multilingual booklet that is basically a translation of your driving licence into various common languages like French, Japanese and Arabic. Although it is rarely asked for, it is required in certain countries and as it contains your photograph it is quite useful as a further piece of documentation to show border officials. It is easily obtained, for a small fee, from your National Automobile Association.


When your vehicle arrives or enters Malaysia, you will need to:-

  1. Produce your ATA Carnet documents to the Malaysia Customs to process. Once accepted by the Malaysian customs, your vehicle will be exempted from Malaysian customs duties subject to the validity period of your ATA Carnet.
  2. Produce your International Driving Permit (IDP) so you could drive on Malaysian roads.
  3. Apply for your International Circulation Permit (ICP) issued by the Road Transport Authority of Malaysia where this document is a temporary permit for foreign registered vehicles for tourist wishing to drive in Malaysia. Each ICP is valid for 90 days only. Depending on the validity of your ATA carnet, you can renew your ICP for a further 90 days. To apply for your ICP, you will need an ATA carnet, your IDP, purchase local Malaysian Motor Insurance for the period of your stay and complete a declaration form.tum-icp

For a processing fee of RM150, the Automobile Association of Malaysia can assist you to process/renew your ATA Carnet upon arrivals usually within 1 business day. You could also purchase your Malaysian motor insurance from them. They can be contacted at:

Automobile Association of Malaysia
225 Block 4, No 7 Persiaran Sukan, Laman Seri Business Park
Section 13, 40100 Shah Alam, Selangor Darul Ehsan
GPS Coordinate: 3.086179, 101.550544
Tel:        03-5511 1932 (General Line)
Fax:       03-5511 2519
E-mail:  Web:
Office Hours:    Mon-Fri: 9.00am – 5.30pm , Sat: 9.00am – 1.00pm, Sun/Public Holiday : Closed


Don’t miss the opportunity to capture the very Best of Sabah has to offer in the upcoming THE BORNEO EXPEDIITON event from November 29 to Dec 6 this year. This expedition is opened to anyone who has an interest to discover the island of Borneo through 4WD overlanding. This year’s route and itinerary will cover the best locations Sabah has to offer covering jungle trekking to the lost world to visit the former Camel Trophy camp (built by the Camel Trophy team in 1993), river cruise in search of wildlife, paddle the Padas River,  trek to the best waterfalls, take the most nostalgic train ride (only train line in Borneo which remained very much the same since 1993), join a charity event at a remote village and get to know the ancestral guardian of the caves!

To capture the true spirit of the Camel Trophy and as a tribute to the Land Rover Defender, schedule to end in production this year, this first edition of this event is exclusively for Land Rover vehicles. At least 3 units of Camel Trophy replicas owned by passionate Camel Trophy enthusiast will be joining the expedition. You are most welcomed to dress your Land Rover for the occasion. A full sand glow yellow coloured convoy of Land Rovers will be a dream come true!!

We wish you a wonderful journey and hope to see you soon in Malaysia!



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