Local transport varies widely from place to place. Taxis are found in all large cities, and most have meters. Fares in KL and other cities on the peninsula are as follows: flagfall (first 2km) is RM3, with an additional 20 sen for each 200m or 45 seconds thereafter; 20 sen for each additional passenger over two passengers; RM1 for each piece of luggage in the boot (trunk); plus 50% on each of these charges between midnight and 6am. Drivers are legally required to use meters if they exist – you can try insisting that they do so, but sometimes you'll just have to negotiate the fare before you get in.
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, provided you can figure out which one is going your way. KL also has commuter trains, a Light Rail Transit (LRT) and a monorail system.
In the bigger cities across Malaysian Borneo, such as Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, you will find taxis, buses and minibuses. Once you're out of the big cities, though, you're basically on your own and must either walk or hitch. If you're really in the bush, of course, riverboats and aeroplanes are the only alternatives to lengthy jungle treks.
Long-distance taxis make Malaysian travel – already easy and convenient even by the best Asian standards – a real breeze. In almost every town there will be a teksi stand where the cars are lined up and ready to go to their various destinations.
Taxis are ideal for groups of four, and are also available on a share basis. As soon as a full complement of four passengers turns up, off you go.
If you're travelling between major towns, you have a reasonable chance of finding other passengers to share without having to wait too long, but otherwise you will have to charter a whole taxi, which is four times the single-fare rate.
As Malaysia becomes increasingly wealthy, and people can afford to hire a whole taxi, the share system is becoming less reliable. Early morning is generally the best time to find people to share a taxi, but you can inquire at the taxi stand the day before as to the best time.
Taxi rates to specific destinations are fixed by the government and are posted at the taxi stands. Air-con taxis cost a few more ringgit than non–air-con, and 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. Another tactic is to look for ageing taxis and taxi drivers – they must be doing something right to have made it this far!