Taxis are found in all large cities, and most have meters – although you can’t always rely on the drivers to use them.
Bicycle rickshaws (trishaws) supplement the taxi service in George Town and Melaka and are definitely handy ways of getting around the older parts of town, which have convoluted and narrow streets.
In major cities there are also buses, which are extremely cheap and convenient once you figure out which one is going your way. KL also has commuter trains, a Light Rail Transit (LRT) and a monorail system.
In Malaysian Borneo, once you’re out of the big cities, you’re basically on your own and must either walk or hitch. If you’re really in the bush, of course, riverboats and airplanes are the only alternatives to lengthy jungle treks.
As Malaysia has become a wealthier country, with more people owning their own cars, the long-distance taxi is becoming less of a feature of the transport landscape. However, in major towns and cities there will be a teksi stand for long distance travel.
Taxis are available on a share basis for up to four people. As soon as a full complement of passengers turns up, off you go; alternatively, you can charter the whole taxi which is four times the single-fare rate. Early morning is generally the best time to find people to share a taxi, but enquire at the taxi stand the day before as to the best time to turn up.
Fares are generally about twice the comparable bus fares. If you want to charter a taxi to an obscure destination, or by the hour, you’ll probably have to do some negotiating. On the peninsula you’re likely to pay around 50 sen per kilometre. In Sarawak, the taxi metre price (for kilometres beyond the first 3km which is RM10) is RM1.20 per km.
Taxi drivers often drive at frighteningly high speeds. They don’t have as many head-on collisions as you might expect, but closing your eyes at times of high stress certainly helps! You also have the option of demanding that the driver slow down, but this can be met with varying degrees of hostility.