Getting Around Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur has ambitious public transport system, which is adequately developed to be reasonably efficient and convenient. However, its integration needs more improvement. Periodic traffic jams plague the city throughout the day daily. Smartly combining various transport methods is the best option to adopt during rush hours.
Kuala Lumpur has 4 types of urban railways. Train fares are inexpensive and LRT and KL Monorail systems have been integrated using the same prepaid ticket. However, separate ticket is required to interchange between either of the mentioned two and KTM Komuter. KTM Komuter tickets can be purchased from the vending machines, which do not accept notes of greater denomination than RM5. There are booths in KTM stations to change money to acceptable denomination.
RapidKL operates LRT, which have 3 lines – Kelana Jaya Line, Sri Petaling Line and Ampang Line. Only the city centre has underground LRT stations, barring which the trains mostly run on elevated tracks to by-pass traffic. Some interchange-stations have only one pair of lines, meaning that the lines are using the same platform. Maps are hardly available.
The entire length of KL Monorail is elevated and journey between its end termini provides good aerial view of Kuala Lumpur. KL Monorail loops in a semicircle around the Golden Triangle.
The 2 lines of KTM Komuter meet in the central part of Kuala Lumpur and have their termini in suburbs, which include Midvalley Mega Mall and Batu Caves. KTM Komuter trains are less frequent than those of LRT and Monorail. 5 – 10 minutes wait is typical but up to 20-minute gap is not surprising.
KLIA express trains run directly between Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Kuala Lumpur Sentral while KLIA transit trains stop at Salak Tinggi and Putrajaya en-route destinations.
LRT lines had been variously named in the past. So, travellers may find signage denoting different names. It is notable that KL Sentral stations of Monorail and LRT are 500 meters apart and no clear signage is available. There is usually a stream of people walking towards the same direction and following them will lead to the destination.
The trains run according to the schedule, which has increased frequency of one train every 2 or 3 minutes during rush hours. However, the driverless trains on Kelana Jaya line are prone to breakdown and can disrupt services. Though such breakdowns are uncommon and have occurred few times, they are not out of book.
KL Hop-on Hop-Off sightseeing tour double-decker buses service 42 key locations in KL city. Buses have free on-board Wi-Fi and headphones to listen to information commentary. Ride is free for children under the age of 5 years.
Though buses are scheduled to arrive at half an hour intervals but may take up to frustrating long hours due to traffic jam. In 2012, two free bus services were started. Purple bus service runs from Pasar Seni to Bukit Bintang, which is the starting point for green bus service that loops around Kuala Lumpur city centre.
The public bus network operated by Rapid KL is quite comprehensive and inexpensive. However, buses run with poor frequency on most routes with only 2-3 buses per hour. Besides, lack of signs in Rapid KL bus network renders it less helpful for casual travellers. However, signage is clear and proper on the buses.
During rush hours, bus stops can be cramped with waiting passengers. Rapid KL buses are categorised into 3 – Tempatan (T), Utama (U) and Bandar (B). T-buses are to feed trains stations, U-buses ply to outlying suburbs and B-buses service city centre.
Buses run roughly from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Touch-n-Go cards can be used for Rapid KL buses but cannot be purchased on-board. Zonal tickets can be purchased in the bus.
Blue executive taxis and normal red & white taxis are good transportation options, if drivers agree to use meter. Surcharges are applicable for baggage, radio call, etc. Most taxi drivers refuse to run on meter, especially during rush hours and rain. They can inflate charge 2-10 times the meter charge. So, travellers need to negotiate price before boarding. Though it is illegal, it is rampant. In such scenarios, travellers can only walk away to find another taxi. Moreover, taxis stalking tourists and those parked at tourism hotspots are least likely to oblige to run meter. One that is hailed off street is more likely to travel on meter. Another practical observation is that Malay drivers oblige to run meter more than Indian and Chinese drivers.
Tourists have to negotiate hard. Typically, RM10 is enough for most trips of about 10 minutes. Travellers should not mention if they are staying at luxury hotel and mention nearby public place as destination. Besides, travellers with much luggage should try to keep it out of drivers’ sight. Else, negotiation will become nearly impossible. For the same reason, travellers should not approach drivers at taxi stands with destination and address written on a paper. It convinces them that the prospective hirer is not local and can be charged with much inflated price.
Night surcharge is applicable between 12 at night and 6 in the morning. Hiring a taxi during this period costs 50% more than the meter charge. Despite the meter issue, combining taxi commute with mass transit systems is the best way to reach the destination quickly.
Sunway Pyramid Megamall, Menara KL, KLCC center, KL Sentral and both airports have enforced prepaid coupon system for taxis. The charge is more than meter fare but less than average bargained price. Pavilion Shopping Mall has taxi counter that can be hired on meter but with surcharge of RM2. Even it is economical than bargaining.
Outside hotels, it is normal to find taxis that offer city tour like that offered by licensed tourism companies. Some of the drivers are really knowledgeable and can offer customised tour of special sites at much less cost than that charged by renowned tour operators.
Taxis can be booked via MyTeksi and Easy Taxi, which are free smartphone applications for taxi booking. The applications enable users to call drivers directly as well as track their location in real-time on a map. Drivers of taxis that are thus called are all certified, reliable and always run meter.
There are different types of taxis in Kuala Lumpur and different booking numbers for them. Different for-hire services are Executive Taxi Tour Service, Keeganlam Executive Taxi, Uptown Ace, Public Ace, Sunlight Taxi Unicablink, Comfort Cabs and Swift Limousine & Cabs.
Roads are good in Kuala Lumpur but the traffic system is as bad as it can be in any developing country. Traffic jams are nightmarish. Confusing road signage helps little to resolve intricate web of expressways. Drivers need to be on high alert while driving as motorists change lane suddenly and motorcyclists recklessly weave their way through traffic. Cars should not be parked on road in busy districts like Bukit Bintang and Bangsar, where others may park their cars bumper-to-bumper as well as on the 2nd or 3rd lane. Covered car parks are most appropriate. In case of lack of one, drivers should car their parks on less busy streets and walk back to their destination.
Car rentals are feasible for travelling in and around Kuala Lumpur.
Exploration of old central Kuala Lumpur is, at times, best done walking. There are old buildings, colonial relics and much more to see while strolling. More than enough lighting on all major roads make evening stroll pleasant. Pavements are wide and bear proper signage. Some roads have tree-lined shady walkways. Drivers respect pedestrian-crossings but pedestrians typically overlook illegality of jaywalking. Tourists can start walk-tour from Petaling Street in Chinatown and stroll past Maybank building in Pudu Sentral, Jalan Pudu, Royale Bintang Hotel, Plaza Low Yat and Bintang Walk in Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan P. Ramlee, Petronas Twin Towers and Kuala Lumpur Tower near Jalan Raja Chulan before heading back.
Kuala Lumpur is true to the nature of capital cities of most developing countries. It has great destinations and sites to be seen but has limitations in infrastructure. Modern developments are in accordance with international standards. Communication facilities like the railways are developing but not streamlined. However, going around in the city is known to be worth all money and effort. It is evident from the fact that Kuala Lumpur is one of the favourite tourism-destinations in the world.