Gathered from a number of sources, including the Malaysian Tourist Police, here are a few tips to avoid getting ripped off in a taxi. Taxi scams occur pretty much anywhere, but I’m using Kuala Lumpur as an example
- When you arrive at the airport take an official taxi from a taxi counter. Don’t bother with the touts as they get the worst reports. Also check the express train – it may be cheaper if there’s only one or two of you, but doesn’t run 24 hours a day.
- Drivers waiting at unofficial taxi ranks may offer a fixed price of 3-6 times the metered rate. The official taxi ranks are unattended and won’t have a person sitting behind a cheaply made box, with a sign reading ‘Taxi Coupons’ or similar, touting for customers.
- It’s far better to take a short walk to a spot with regular traffic and wave down a passing cab
- Always ask the driver to use the meter. It is illegal to charge a passenger without using the meter. If they refuse, you should leave the taxi and find another.
- If they agree to use the meter it’s preferable to follow your route on a map to ensure you’re not paying to be driven round in circles. At the same time keep an eye on the meter – it’s not uncommon for drivers to have a hidden button that adds a small charge to the meter. They may even press it a few times during the journey.
- If you’re in a rush, you can get a more acceptable deal by haggling down to RM10. You’ll probably take a much more direct route, but you will inevitably pay more than just using the meter. Generally nowhere in KL should cost more than RM20.
- An official taxi driver is required to wear a clean white shirt, tucked into dark trousers. They should also display a photo card showing their name and taxi number. Sometimes it’s the case that multiple people have joint ownership of a taxi, but they should still have their own photo card otherwise you’re not insured in the event of an accident.
- If you need to contact the Tourist Police and there’s no photo card at least make a note of the vehicle registration number and the taxi company.
Of course, I don’t believe that all taxi drivers in Kuala Lumpur are awful; it’s just that we didn’t meet either of the good ones.
If you do find a reliable driver take their business card and arrange to use them for the rest of your visit. They’ll undoubtedly be grateful for the regular work and you’ll be able to relax into your stay.