Tips to Avoid Kuala Lumpur Taxi Scams and Know Difference between Budget & Executive Taxis28 January, 2014
Getting around by taxi around Kuala Lumpur can be a very convenient and affordable option (especially if you are travelling in a group of 2-3) as long as you are travelling on a budget taxi which agrees to charge you the metered fare.
Unfortunately, the taxi experience in Kuala Lumpur is a hit and miss one as Kuala Lumpur taxis are notorious for refusing to turn on their taxi meters and are quite likely to ask for a flat fee to bring you to your destination.
Our taxi experience during our recent Kuala Lumpur trip was a relatively pleasant one – of the 6 taxi trips, 2 were fixed coupon prices (more on this later), 3 were metered fares and only 1 tried to quote us a flat fee (which we refused and the taxi driver eventually agreed to turn on the meter). If you understand how the taxi industry work and the taxi price differentiation and some tips to ensure you get a fair taxi price, you should be in for a quite a smooth taxi ride around Kuala Lumpur. I will try to share some of my experience in this blog post.
Airport Taxi Coupon Counter
Let’s start with the airport taxis because that’s where most people will first start their taxi experience in Kuala Lumpur. There are cheaper options to get to the Kuala Lumpur city from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) or Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) e.g. KLIA Ekspres (KLIA Express) can bring you to KL Sentral from KLIA in 28 minutes for RM35 one-way. However, if you are travelling in a group of 2-3, it can be cheaper to take a taxi to your destination in Kuala Lumpur (if you buy a coupon from the airport taxi coupon counter).
At the LCCT, the Airport Taxi Coupon Counter is located right after you have cleared customs – you can’t miss it – look out for the booth shown in the picture below (note that this info is accurate as of 26 Jan 2014; the booth will likely change when LCCT closes and is replaced by KLIA 2). For KLIA, I think there will be a similar Airport Taxi Coupon Counter right after you clear customs.
Tell the staff where is your destination and the number of people and luggages and the staff will quote you a price. If you have a group of 2-3 people with 1-2 pieces of big luggage, ask for a budget taxi. If you have more people or luggage, the staff might require to take the bigger premier taxi (which is more expensive – also known as executive taxi). There is a third category of taxi – the family taxi which can take 6 passengers.
Once you pay the staff at the airport taxi coupon counter, you will be issued with the coupon as shown below which states clearly your destination and how much you have paid. There is no need to pay the taxi driver again – unless you want to tip the driver (there is no tipping culture here in Malaysia so it is entirely up to you). The driver will tear part of the coupon to record the trip. It cost us RM 74.30 to get from Kuala Lumpur LCCT to Grand Millennium Hotel at Bukit Bintang (in the heart of Kuala Lumpur city). Thus, if you have a group of 2-3, it is not worth it to take the KLIA Express (which would cost you RM 105 for 3 pax) and the KLIA Express only takes you to KL Sentral where you will need to take either public transport or taxi to your destination.
Once you have bought your coupon at LCCT, walk out towards MacDonalds and there will be long line of taxis – head to the centre lane (as indicated by the arrow in the picture below) and show your coupon to the first taxi in line. The area around here can be quite chaotic as this is also where passengers will alight to go to LCCT to board their flights. Ignore any taxi touts hanging around the area.
KL Sentral Taxi Coupon Counter
There are a number of such authorised taxi coupon counters within Kuala Lumpur city e.g. at KL Sentral (Central Railway Station) but do note that they may impose a service charge so it might be more expensive for you to buy the coupon than to take a taxi with metered fare to your destination. On a few travel forums, travellers had also highlighted that there are a few taxi coupon counters at KL Sentral which charge different fees.
But at least you buy a peace of mind with the coupon – saving you the potential hassle of having to negotiate fares with the unscrupulous taxi drivers and still ending up being overcharged. This service will also be useful if you are travelling by taxi to destinations outside Kuala Lumpur city e.g. Batu Caves. For info, we took a taxi from Grand Millennium Hotel (in Bukit Bintang) to Batu Caves for about RM22 (metered fare on a budget taxi).
Kuala Lumpur Budget Taxi
There are two kinds of taxi service in Kuala Lumpur, standard taxi (also known as budget) and executive taxi. I have been talking about budget taxis – budget taxis are actually sedan cars (or saloon cars in British English); the typical Comfort/Citycab taxis we see in Singapore.
It is termed budget because they are the cheaper taxis compared to executive taxis (in terms of flag-down fare) – however they drive just as fast and are just as comfortable as the executive taxis (but just more limited in terms of capacity for passengers and luggage). An example of a standard (budget) taxi is shown in the picture below.
The fare chart below shows the metered fare rates by distance and additional charges for toll and transfers to the airport. That is if you are lucky to get a taxi driver who agrees to turn on the meter.
When you manage to hail a taxi, tell the driver your destination and he might quote you a flat fee of perhaps RM 10 to RM 20 (sometimes a lot more) if you are travelling within Kuala Lumpur city. You can either choose to refuse and insist he use the meter or try to negotiate it to a more reasonable price – most (non-rush-hour) rides in the city are about RM6 to RM10. Just don’t board the taxi until you are sure the driver will turn on the meter or you have agreed on a price with the driver.
The picture below shows what an executive taxi looks like – the flag-down fare is double that of the standard (budget) taxi and the per kilometre fare is also double that of the standard taxi so taking this taxi can be quite expensive even with metered fares. These are station wagons and can take 4-5 passengers comfortably.
Booking Taxis via Taxi Apps
I have not tried this option before but I have read that you can secure metered taxis by booking them via Kuala Lumpur taxi booking apps e.g. “Easy Taxi” or “MyTeksi”. The apps claim that their drivers are certified safe and all will use taxi-meters. The apps will also allow you to call the driver directly and you can apparently also track him real-time on a map.
Paying a Service Fee for Guarantee of Metered Taxis
This whole hassle of trying to find a taxi who agrees to use their taxi meters had spun out an interesting industry. At Berjaya Times Square, we encounter this taxi queue which guarantees you metered taxis but only if you pay them a service fee of RM 2 so your total taxi fare will be metered fare + RM 2.
You pay the RM 2 direct to a counter nearby which will then issue you a receipt. It doesn’t matter what your destination is.
You will be issued with a receipt which you can show to the taxi usher who will wave in a taxi for you – interestingly, it appears that all the taxis in this queue are executive taxis so expect quite high metered charges. I don’t quite like the idea of a major shopping centre like Berjaya Times Square condoning the implementation of such a service (it seems a bit of a shady practice) but at least you buy a peace of mind for quite a small fee.
One thing to note though (as indicated in the signboard above) is that if the taxi eventually refuses to use the meter, you can only complain to the Land Public Transport Commission – apparently the counter is not responsible if that happens – sort of defeats the purpose of providing this service in the first place.
Booking Taxis via Websites
To get back to LCCT, we booked a taxi via this website – www.taxilcctairport.com for RM 74 – the fare quoted on the website for a taxi from Bukit Bintang (where Grand Millennium Hotel is located) to LCCT. As I didn’t have a local SIM card and being mindful of expensive roaming charges, I contacted the number provided on the website via Whatsapp using the hotel Wi-Fi. I arranged the taxi in the morning at around 10.30am and I received a confirmation of my booking by 12 noon (after a few to and fro Whatsapp on the details of the pick-up). The taxi arrived on time and I paid RM 74 upon arrival at LCCT.
By doing a Google search, you can find many other similar taxi booking websites. I cannot guarantee the reliability of the taxi booking website I provided above but I had a good experience during the one time I travelled with their taxi service to the airport.
Regardless of the mode by which you secure your taxis – from coupon counters, taxi queues, taxi booking apps, taxi booking websites, there will always be some unscrupulous taxi driver who don’t play by the rules so don’t be complacent and exercise common sense when taking taxis in foreign countries especially if you are travelling alone.