Monday, October 6, 2008

Hello ! I Live Here Before:A Taste Of KL Taxi Driver's Hospitality

Hantu Laut

A hazy view of downtown KL from KL Tower

In spite of the sky scraping towers and gleaming high rise buildings and ultra modern and civilised looking city, there is an ugly side to this city that most locals were probably not aware of, or chose to ignore.

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that KL has one of the worst taxi drivers in the world, even taxi drivers in some less-developed countries are far better mannered than this bunch of loathsome morons.

Be they Malay, Indian or Chinese, they all behaved the same way.The few good ones have become the exception. Cheating, intimidation and rudeness had become trademarks of the profession.

The ill-mannered, crooked and loathsome taxi drivers of Kuala Lumpur would never ceased to cheat, offend and insult you. 

Cheating, refusal to use the meter and rudeness are rampant and well organised.Their intimidating behaviour not only offensive to tourists but also to out of town Malaysian like me. If you looked foreign they think you are a tourist and fair game for ripping-off.

As frontliners they have given the country a scary image and this 'Truly Asian' nation where being polite is part of the culture, is not what it  supposedly is as in Tourism Malaysia's commercial.

In KL if you hail a taxi the driver would first asked you where your are going and would than decide whether to take you, or not, or quote an exorbitant fare to discourage or try cheat you.

If he does take you than the 'Teksi Bermeter' sign atop his car become meaningless, he would not switch on his meter and would try to haggle price with you and more often than not you are the loser.

There are some who would switch on the meter and take you on a joy ride before delivering you to your destination.That's what happened to my wife and I a couple of days ago.

We boarded a taxi at Sungei Wang Plaza and asked the driver to take us to our apartment at the Ascott near Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a good walking distance if one dare attempt a walk in the blazing afternoon sun. Instead of going straight down Jalan Tun Ismail my crooked taxi driver thinking we are foreign tourists decided to turn into the jammed Jalan Bukit Bintang.

Realising what he was trying to do I asked him in Malay why he took this road instead of going straight down Sultan Ismail and turned right into Jalan P.Ramlee which was much nearer.... his answer was he wouldn't be able to make a turn to our place from Tun Ismail. I almost shouted you bloody moron! You think I am a fool! I decided to keep my silence and see what he does next.

Upon sensing my annoyance he decided to turn into a back lane, the infamous red light 'lorong' (lane) of Bukit Bintang that connects with Jalam Imbi.

The idiot had taken us full circle back to where we first started at Jalan Sultan Ismail and went straight down to Jalan P.Ramlee and finally on to Jalan Pinang to our apartment.He did exactly what he should have done in the first place.

Three days earlier my daughter, her husband and two of my grandchildren came over from Phnom Penh to join us for a family holiday and wanted to take a taxi from Modesto at Jalan P.Ramlee to KLCC, which is a five-minute walk, but since it was raining they decided to take a cab.

If there is anything more absurd and one that can make your blood boil is the sheer uncalled for rudeness and uncouth behaviour.The driver wanted RM20 for the short journey but my daughter refused to board his taxi. Guess what come next? He made a scene shouting at the top of his voice and giving some vulgar signs at my daughter.

One evening my wife and I was going to dinner at one of the restaurants at Starhill and instead of driving the car loaned to us by my brother-in-law, we decided it would be more convenient to take a cab and asked the doorman to get us one.We boarded the taxi having forgotten our previous experience. The driver told us it's RM15 and that quickly brought me to my senses and this time I actually shouted at the driver to stop for us to disembark.He unhappily reduced the price to RM5. We weren't ready what come next.The reduced fare turned into reckless driving trying to intimidate us with violent swinging of the vehicle whizzing through traffic to ensure us a most uncomfortable ride. I almost wanted to break the bastard's neck, if only I could without getting into trouble with the law.

The government minister advising passengers to note down details of errant taxi drivers and asking them to lodge report is as many have found out, a waste of time, nothing will come out of it.

Refusal to allow increase in taxi fare which taxi drivers have been asking for repeatedly but denied by the authority was the reason for the nasty and crooked behaviour of taxi drivers and in retaliation taxi drivers gang-up to show their displeasure by fleecing their passengers.

Across the causeway a taxi driver could face serious action including losing his licence if he refused to stop (except changing shift) to pick up passengers.

There, the government not only talked business, they also meant business.


supa said...

The semenanjung should learn from the Sabah BN. This is a land where the public's wishes mean absolutely nothing. Just see how the various NGOs' objection of a new coal power plant in Sandakan has been thought of as a farce using logic which if understood will immediately establish you as a psychopathic retard and should be sent straight to the bottom of the sea.
Various liars pop up to spew unintelligible rubbish of many sorts. In fact, they fear nothing because they are supported by voters who were once ruled by the likes of Arroyo, Estrada, Ramos, Aquino, Marcos, etc.
While the EIA report is being fabricated, construction work is already underway at POIC.
Compared with the administration in Sabah, taxi drivers in KL are like invisible sand.

guong said...


Well sir, you are not alone. I've tasted it myself. Now, I prefer driving my car or taking other public transport.

But it is almost the same as Sabah taxi's driver; minus the 'worst' hospitality, yet some do act the same though..

Tau said...

I returned to Malaysia from the UK about three years ago, and for the first 3 months was relying on taxis in PJ and KL for most of my travels.

My experience of taxis in KL (and less so in PJ) suggests that only about 5% of my rides fall into your category, and these are the ones who are clustered in the "expensive" areas like inner KL, or where there is no control over how the taxis ply their trade, for eg, those who are permanently stationed at The Curve and Ikano, outside Kelana Jaya LRT station and so on.

Whereas if you look at the controlled operations at One U and Mid Valley, you don't get fixed fare demands.

The taxi drivers themselves do not earn an awful lot, and their hours very unfriendly. Typically I understand that they have to work everyday for over 10 hours to manage a clear rm1500 per month (these are the meter-only taxis).

Some of the drives admit to "sub-bing" their cabs out to their mates in return for a rent on days that they are not working. This mean that there are drivers out there who are untrained and worse, unlicensed and uninsured!

I think it is not a case of vote-winning by the authorities for not squaring up to the problem, but merely a mindset that it is not important enough. This is also the same mindset that manages the unhygienic hawker stalls and restaurant toilets.

If you impose a levy (and allow the price increase passed on to passengers) and then use this levy to fund undercover staff to spot check on taxi drivers, I am sure the problem will go away in short time.

Hantu Laut said...


You are out of sync here.We are talking about the taxi drivers of KL not the coal power plant of Sabah.

FYI,the coal power plant is under Federal Ministry through Tenaga,nothing to do with Sabah state government.

There are few coal powered plant in your midst which you may not be aware of.There are few of them in Peninsula Malaysia operating for a number of years now.

Hantu Laut said...

Agree with you the taxi drivers in Sabah are no better than in KL but I have not much exposure with them there because I use my own car all the times.I believe most city dwellers in KL who own cars are the same.

Sometimes,it takes outsiders to find out what is wrong in our own backyard.

I am not alone on this there have been many complaints on taxi drivers here on the net and in foreign magazines by tourists.

There are some good drivers but they are outnumbered by the bad ones.

Hantu Laut said...

You must be the lucky one.

Most of our taxis and taxi drivers in the major town and cities here are third world standard.

I agree there are some good drivers but they are in the minority.

supa said...

I know, just wanted to say something else, my bad. Sorry.
Of course there are other power plants around which i'm not aware of such as several bio-diesel plants already in operation and two bio-mass power plants just constructed recently. If I remember correctly, there's also a gas turbine lying somewhere in Sandakan that was built decades ago but left to rot due to lack of maintenance. In terms of power output, coal power plant is fine, but do we really want it next to our house?
If the state govt. has no say in this, they can just shut up. Oh, I heard SESB tried to build the thing in Lahad Datu next to a nice little seaside spot filled w/ live corals (top notch, been there myself). Someone called Musa Aman stopped it or was it someone else? I suppose after few a more months of investigation coal power plant is now necessary and acceptable and clean?!

che said...

Taxi fares are cheap and they are mostly never owned by the driver, tips those good and well mannered ones because some day they do make your day better in this jammed up town.
Taxi drivers should be owner of their own taxi/hired on a permanent salary scale to drive and NOT to be blood sucked renting from a company as by our country system!
So let change our system and model , i am pretty sure this same group of taxi drivers would change for their livelihood too.

Anonymous said...

"The appalling behaviour of the taxi drivers in this country are the fault of those in power who turned a blind eye to keep their political career alive rather than upset the taxi drivers and lose some votes."

Some times I wonder how Malaysian can be labelled as friendly in their disposition to other fellow beings. It makes me feel like their friendliness are just a glossily painted facade, that only to reveal a dirty moldy and disgusting sights when the superficial coat are scrapped. This does not apply only to taxi drivers.... Our politicians are also the same . It makes me wonder where have all the religious and moral ( both at home and at school) education has gone to ?!

agnos said...

I have not experience out-right rudeness but a lot of non-metered ride.

The second thing that is most common is taxi driver will only go where they want to at what time.

If u try to get a cab from Pandan Indah in the morning to go to Tmn Desa or KL - most will not want your business.

If it is the peak hours or rainy day - samething.

Try calling a cab - off peak or peak and they will say not available - then tell them you are willing to give them RM3 extra and suddenly voila they say another 5-10 minutes wait.

A German friend of mine was nearly rough up by one driver who demanded extra money.

Our government is not doing much to alleviate the situation.

On another note I wonder why some places like Sunway and Times Square can be given license to operate taxi booth.

You cant get normal meter taxi from there - they force you to buy tickets and the price are outrageous. for people who want to get taxi from such places - beware - ask what type of taxi they are sending you. If you dont they will put you in a so call limo type and charge you an arm and a leg for it. Unscrupulous to say the least but nothing much we could do as our government is not consumer friendly nor rakyat friendly.

Latanya said...

Good words.

Anonymous said...

Want a great taxi driver? Use Saparee 013-2115302
He speaks English pretty well; he's friendly, knowledgeable and knows where to find the best Malaysian food!

His rates are:
RM35/hour for 0 - 5 hours
RM30/hour for 5 - 10 hours
RM25/hour for 10+ hours
the prices include waiting and tolls

He charged me RM55 to take me from my hotel in Shah Alam to KLIA

Tell him Ruth from Washington or Maria from Los Angeles sent you.