Are Kuala Lumpur Taxi Drivers the Worst in the World?

by norman on September 28, 2011

I’m not sure if they are the worst. I don’t mean bad drivers, because from that point of view they are fine. What I mean is they are always trying to scam you. Probably 9 out of 10 had a go. But before I go on I’ll put a bit of perspective on it. In the first place, if they charge what they should, they are very very cheap. Possibly about half to a third of what they are in New Zealand. Maybe they are just trying to earn a decent living. However, I might be wrong in feeling this, but it does leave a bad taste in your mouth, it is tiedious and well it is a business relationship, albeit small, and I don’t like it when someone is trying to scam me.

Common scams are:

  1. Taking a much longer and slower journey than need be. For instance, our journey to a nearby museum should have cost 12 or maybe 14 ringets, not 22.
  2. So you think it is a good idea to pre-negotiate the fare. However, in most cases you’ll pay about 3 times more than if the driver uses a meter, although as above it doesn’t give them an incentive to get you to your desination fast.  For instance, wanted to go from Batu Caves to FRIM.  Should cost 10 – 15 I was thinking, but taxi drivers waiting at the caves wanted 35 and said that was a good deal.  I said not thanks and walked away.  Then they started chasing me, saying, “what’s you best price”, tedious.  Why not just put your meter on, that’s honest.  Anyway, walked a bit and went out on the road, flagged a taxi down, got there in 10.  Good driver, we were lucky.
  3. Forgetting to start the meter. And then trys to negotiate the rate during the journey. Make sure they start the meter.
  4. When you come to pay the driver, they suddenly don’t have any change so you need to pay the full note across. I was so angered with that one, I called his bluff. The fare was 21, but I only had a 50 (about $20 NZD note) and he didn’t have change. Oh really I thought, so I said, ok take me back to the hotel, I’ll pay both ways, and I said, I’ll catch another taxi at the correct charge and it will cost me less than the full 50 note. A little imbarrasing turning up to the hotel again, especially since they arranged the taxi with the company… check mate. So he said he’d arrange for the charge to go on my hotel bill. Oh please, isn’t it much more simple to just do it right and honestly.  I had 18 in small notes, if I was the taxi driver, I’d have taken the 18 (if I really didn’t have change, yeah right), especially if the fare should have been so much less if an honest quick route was taken.

Anyway, that was my last straw with taxi drivers in KL. So now I just walk everywhere. Interesting and more healthy to walk anyway, but a bit sad at the same time. This is the smallest of businesses relationships in this country. I know corruption is horrific here, so I guess it just permeates all through society. As a businessman it makes me think twice about establishing links here.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Hunter December 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I had good luck with taxis in KL. I think that there are lots of bad taxis in many places – I really doubt KL is even in the running for the worst. But it is very annoying when a few bad apples make it so annoying (especially for tourists). Cities really need to put an effort into managing taxis better if they want to promote tourism (some cities do make an effort).


norman December 15, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Yes I agree. Russian taxi drivers are up there too. New Zealand taxi drivers are expensive compared to many places in the world. I had a great time in Kuala Lumpur. Very friendly place, this is amazing as most big cities loose a little of that, I found Bangkok to be also very friendly too.


Sasha September 3, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Hahahaha reading this gave me “flashbacks” of what I went through with some of the Malaysian taxi drivers, esp. the taxi man chasing part :P

And if the taxi charge is RM 9.10 and you give them RM 10, some of them wont give you the change!
Thats why I rather walk.

But there are some nice taxi drivers though. They use meter and they treat you with respect :)


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