I was really looking forward to visiting Kuala Lumpur on my most recent trip to Asia, it had been on my bucket list for a while. Unfortunately the experience was a complete let down, and I was left feeling like I couldn’t wait to leave the city. I certainly won’t be in a hurry to return. Here’s why…
The Taxi Scam
I arrived quite late in Kuala Lumpur, around 9pm at night. I had read beforehand to not trust the taxi drivers that stand in the airport, to make sure you take the airport taxi service. The minute we walked through the airport, we were asked constantly if we wanted a taxi and around them were the signs saying do not take those taxi’s, to go to the airport taxi desk. They have obviously had some trouble, so I thought it was nice the locals were looking out for the tourists…well so I thought. There were loads of men just stood there, waiting for someone to take them up on the offer. Some of the men were quite pervy, and made us feel uncomfortable so it wasn’t the best of starts, but we ignored them and carried on to the airport taxi desks. I got to the airport taxi desk, showed them the address I wanted to go. I asked for a rough price to make sure I had enough cash, and she just kept telling me it was done on meter, she didn’t know. I appreciated it was done on meter, something I had read to make sure it’s done on, but surely they would know a rough cost?! I had to pay 2 ringgit for a ticket to get a taxi, which personally I didn’t understand. I know in sterling, it’s around 50p, but still. No other airport I’ve visited, have I had to pay for a ticket to get a taxi?!
Got outside to where the taxi’s were. Around 5 men surrounded us, asking us where to go, grabbing our ticket. I showed them the address, then asked them if they could give us a rough idea of cost, to make sure we had enough cash. They told us 150 ringgit. After not visiting Malaysia before, I didn’t know if this was expensive or cheap for a taxi. One man came over and insisted he was the driver to take us, he then gave a little smirk to the rest of the men. Something I said I wasn’t happy about and wanted to know what was going on. If it had been during the day, and not so late at night, I would have refused to go with him. Something which my gut instinct at the time was telling me to do, but my friend pointed out the time of night, and we had been travelling for the past 5 hours, so she just wanted her bed. We got in the taxi, and soon worked out that the cost of the taxi was going to be around £30. It was just under an hours journey, so for us, it was still quite cheap, so didn’t think anything of it. I soon noticed that the taxi meter was half covered, and the taxi driver seemed reluctant to move his hat, so we could see the full meter. The meter was going up by the second, not the usual every 30 seconds, like most taxi’s. We thought it was strange, but again, with it being late, and just wanting our bed, we just kept quiet. Now, looking back, I wish I had said something to him, because we soon realised we had been scammed. So much for “make sure you use the airport taxi service!”
The total came to 180 ringgit, and in the last 30 seconds, the meter jumped up 30 ringgit. I couldn’t be bothered to argue with the bloke, so just handed him his money and went on our way.
It wasn’t until the next day that we realised how much we had been scammed. We flagged down a taxi, and a half hour journey cost us under 20 ringgit. Even for an hours journey, in theory, it should have cost us 50 ringgit max. We had paid triple that. No wonder the guy had a smirk on his face! The upside to it was that when we compared it what we would have paid in the UK, it was still a cheap taxi. So although we were ripped off, we weren’t massively out of pocket.
But unfortunately, this wasn’t the only time we were scammed by the taxi drivers in Kuala Lumpur. On our final day, we wanted to catch a bus to Singapore, which we had pre booked, and needed to be there for half 7 in the morning, on a Saturday. Kuala Lumpur is like most cities, quite quiet at the weekend. There was no traffic whatsoever. And what should have been a 5 minute journey, turned into a half hour journey, and I think we had a full detour of the city. We kept telling the driver, who kept insisting there was traffic and the roads were closed. Firstly, there’s no traffic at that time on a weekend morning, secondly we could see his sat nav, and saw that he was purposely driving the opposite direction, hoping to get a bigger fare! By this point we were sick of the city, and just couldn’t wait to get to Singapore!
How to not be scammed like us!
My advice is at the airport, use the KL Express. It’s a train that costs 55 ringgit, and takes you into the city centre of Kuala Lumpur. It takes around 45 minutes, and you can easily flag down a taxi at the train station, which shouldn’t cost you much to get you to your hotel, as long as you’re in the city centre.
Always flag down a taxi yourself. When we were scammed the second time, the taxi had been flagged down by our hotel, and it wouldn’t surprise us if they were in it together. The red and white, or red and blue taxi’s always seemed reliable and honest whenever we flagged them down. They are quite scruffy looking taxi’s, but they do their job properly, and get you to where you need to be. Always insist it’s on a meter. A lot of taxi drivers refused to take us because we insisted we wanted a metered taxi. They were wanting to charge us triple the amount the meter ended up costing us. They aren’t stupid, they know tourists will pay it. But if you’re on a budget, like we were, it’s easy enough to flag down the next taxi.
The experience did ruin Kuala Lumpur for me. A city that I was looking forward to visiting for a while. I hate nothing more than being scammed because I’m a tourist! They should be grateful for tourism and it left me wanting to leave the city as soon as possible. It’s always going to happen at some point during your travels, and the best advice is to just learn from it, and carry on!