Tips for Using Uber in Kuala Lumpur

a map of the east coast of malaysia

While I’m not a fan of Uber’s business practices, the advent of ridesharing in other countries has dramatically improved my travels. While taxis can still be cheaper and many claim “more authenticâ€, using companies like Lyft and Uber have some advantages:

  • Language barrier issues are reduced because the app handles communicating the origin and destination. I’ll never forget winding up at some random location in Kowloon a few years back when my cab driver didn’t understand my pronunciation of “Hong Kong Disneyâ€
  • Local currency and correct change aren’t needed. When you first get off the plane you may or may not be able to find an ATM, and even if you do, you may not have small enough bills to pay for your ride.
  • Safety. As a solo traveler, I feel much more comfortable having an app track my location, who picked me up where and when rather than getting into a taxi and hoping for the best.

All of that is to say I was thrilled when I found out Uber had arrived in Malaysia. You will want to know a few things before you ride though.

The GPS is wonky. You need to pay attention to your location on the map before requesting a ride. I noticed the app often had us a block or two away from our actual spot. It also lags, so be ready for your driver on the early side as they can arrive before you think.

Many buildings have specific pick up points (which will show up in the app when you type in your origin), and you can’t/won’t get picked up from your actual location. This is important (and annoying) particularly at malls, KL Sentral, and the Petronas Towers where your exit is across the building from the pick up point.

A consistent data connection is needed. A few years ago I was thrilled to discover I could use Uber without having my cell phone data enabled. You still can, but given the poor GPS functionality and increased likelihood of having to message with your driver, make sure you have a strong wifi or cellular connection until you’re picked up.

Taking Uber from the KUL airport to downtown.

Since it can often take an hour or more to get to downtown Kuala Lumpur from the airport, Uber is a great option. It runs ~$30USD and will be more comfortable (air conditioning!) than a budget taxi (~$20) and much less expensive than a hotel car ($100).

  • Request a car as soon as you have your bags, before you clear customs! The Uber parking lot isn’t close so you’ll be waiting a minimum of 5 minutes, likely longer. Customs won’t take long and it’s hot enough you don’t want to be standing outside any longer than necessary.
  • Your car will pick you up in the outer lane, you’ll need to cross the taxi lanes.
  • The Kuala Lumpur Airport offers free wifi, which is pretty weak outside the terminal. You’ll want a strong signal to track your driver’s progress. The first time we tried it, we waited 15 minutes for our driver who never left his spot in the parking lot.
  • Check the chat function – many drivers use them to alert you of their location or to clarify yours.
  • Pay close attention to your car’s license plate number, just like baggage, many cars look exactly the same!

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