Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kuala Lumpur Taxi Guide & Tips

50 comments:
 


Taxi is one of the most convenient ways of getting around in Malaysia and especially in Kuala Lumpur. There are public transport options, but they don't cover the whole city and can be unreliable.

Taxi types

Kuala Lumpur and Malaysian taxis in general can be divided into two basic groups: budget and executive. All taxis have a sign "TAXI BERMETER" on the roof. It's lit when the taxi is available, but it's not a reliable sign.

Budget

Budget taxis are usually red and white (as seen on the picture above) or just red. But you can also meet yellow, green and violet ones. The main airport terminal (KLIA) is served by black taxis, but they don't have the "TEKSI BERMETER" sign on top and can't be flagged on the road. Majority of budget taxis are Protons, the Malaysian local car manufacturer and they use LPG (gas). Only four passengers can ride this taxi.They can use meter, coupons or "fixed price". See below.

Executive

Executive taxis are blue and usually bigger, most of them are compact MPVs and can fit more people. Executive taxis use either coupons or meter. They cost double the price of the budget taxi.

Payment options

There are basically three options: meter, coupon and "fixed price". Most of the printed guides will tell you that you should always insist on turning on the meter. But let me assure you, things work a bit differently in South East Asia...

Meter

Most of the budget and all executive taxis are equipped with meters. Flagging fee is 3 RM, 1 km is about 1 RM, but nowadays waiting in a traffic jam will count to the final price too. Between midnight and 6am, 50% charge is added. Executive taxis means double price.

Maybe half of the taxi drivers will turn on a meter without question. All taxi drivers that work for on-call or on-line service will turn on the meter if you booked them through the service. The service fee is 2 RM that will be added by the taxi driver to the final price.

You have to pay all tolls on the way.

Coupon

Very common at airports, stations and premium malls. Basically you go to a taxi counter, tell them where are you going, pay fixed price and then give the driver just the receipt. Night charge applies and the prices are usually higher than using the meter, but you have no option, because the taxi drivers waiting there will send you to the coupon stand if you try to go on meter. Some of them will go, but charge you "fixed price" and it will be even more expensive. Tolls are usually included.

Fixed price

Half of the time you flag a taxi on the street and taxis at several taxi stands operate with "fixed price". Basically you haggle with the driver, but he always gets some extra. You can try using your guide book advice and insist on meter, but the taxi driver will say bye and leave. You can threaten him by calling whoever you want, but you will lose anyway. Being nice and friendly can usually get you a discount, always haggle. Tolls are incouded. BTW these taxis have meters, but they are usually turned off and covered by cloth.

How to get a taxi and avoid paying extra

The best way to avoid paying extra is to use on-call or on-line services. Don't forget to buy a SIM card when you get to Malaysia and either get a taxi service number or install an app to your smartphone. Here are the two most reliable services I've used:
  • http://www.sunlighttaxi.com/ - on-call service in Kuala Lumpur
  • http://grabtaxi.com/myteksi/ - international on-line service operating in Malaysia, good choice if you have a smartphone with data plan.
If you want to flag a taxi on the street, use the common Asian "come here" gesture. You can see it in this video.

Stay safe and further advice

As always, common sense rules apply. Some of the taxis are pretty old and they do breakdown. Taxi drivers are usually friendly or at least neutral. Unless you are on really tight budget, please realize that the taxis are in fact very cheap and sometimes little extra cost will get you to your destination faster and more comfortably.

Here's a list of situations that can happen and you should be aware of:
  • All taxis can breakdown and Proton cars are not the most reliable ones on the market. 
  • Kuala Lumpur suffers from massive traffic jams especially during rush hours and holidays, incuding school holidays.
  • Taxis can run out of fuel and Malaysian taxi drivers are well known to make trips to gas station as part of your ride. It can take 10-20 extra minutes!
  • If you flag a "fixed price" taxi and insist on using a meter on the street, you will get no taxi.
  • If you insist on meter at a taxi stand, a very friendly driver will offer his services and takes you few meters further where his executive taxi is parked.


Image (c) Two Hundred Percent, CC-BY-SA

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