Uber in Malaysia – Plus Alternative Taxi Apps! 🚕

Taxi Rank, Kota Kinabalu Airport, Malaysia

So, there I am, standing outside Kuala Lumpur International Airport desperately trying to avoid getting in a traditional taxi. 

“It’s fine,” I think, “I’ll just order an Uber and be in the city centre in no time.” No taxis or confusing public transport. But there’s a flaw in my plan. I’ve forgotten the number one rule of ride-hailing apps – always check whether they operate in the country you’re about to visit. 

So, does Uber work in Malaysia?

No, Uber does not operate in Malaysia. Much to my chagrin, I’m stuck with an expensive taxi, the cheap but slow bus or the fast but pricey train.

If you’re reading this, you’re better already better prepared than I was. And, the good news is, there are plenty of Uber alternatives in Malaysia! 


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Uber Alternatives in Malaysia 🚖

Uber pulled out of Malaysia and wider Southeast Asia in 2018 after intense competition with Grab. Since then, plenty of Malaysian ride-hailing apps have appeared and gained significant traction. 

Borneo vs Peninsular Malaysia 🇲🇾

Although they still work, taxi apps are less reliable in Borneo than in Peninsular Malaysia. This is purely down to the number of drivers. You may experience longer waiting times or occasionally not be able to get a ride in Borneo, especially in the less touristy parts of the island. 


Grab

Grab app logo

Grab was Uber’s main rival in Malaysia before the company took over the entire Uber Southeast Asian operation. To this day, Grab stands as the most popular taxi app in the country. 

Grab works in the same way as Uber, allowing you to book rides on demand and in some parts of Malaysia, prebook your ride.

Prebooking Grab in Malaysia

Prebooking Grab is currently only available in some parts of Malaysia. You can arrange a future ride in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Peninsular Malaysia but not in Borneo. Keep this in mind if you have to be somewhere early – you may need to arrange a different mode of transport.  

Grab in Malaysia offers several ride types including JustGrab (the nearest available vehicle), GrabCar Plus (generally slightly nicer cars), GrabCar 6-seater, GrabTaxi (actual taxis working with Grab) and GrabCar Saver (cheaper fairs but longer wait times). You can also rent a Grab for an hourly rate if you want a driver for a good chunk of the day. 

Booking a Grab is easy in the app and as with most ride-hailing services, prices are fixed. Prices fluctuate depending on demand, so be prepared to pay more or wait longer during peak times or when it’s raining. 

Grab Bike
Grab bike taxis are available in some locations too!

You can register a Grab account with any phone number, so unlike the popular Cambodian ride-hailing app PassApp, you don’t need to wait until you have a local SIM card to get set up. The app can also be used elsewhere in Southeast Asia, so you don’t need to worry about downloading a new app or setting up another account when you cross a border! 

Grab is also trying to become a super app, with takeaway delivery options, grocery shopping, hotel bookings and bus/ferry tickets also available. Payment is handled either by card or with cash payments when your ride has ended. 

Is Grab Malaysia Safe?

Yes, Grab in Malaysia is safe to use. All the rides are tracked in real-time and you can contact the emergency safety centre 24/7 through the app. Drivers are rated at the end of every ride and if a driver has too many complaints, they are removed from the service. The safety centre can also contact you through the app during the ride if they detect anything is amiss. 

“During one of my Grab rides in Malaysia, I got a message from Grab to tell me we were well off route and asking if everything was okay. Thankfully, the driver was just taking a shortcut on an unmarked dirt road and we were soon back on the correct route. It was nice to know that these safety measures actually work like Grab claims!”

Tim Ashdown, Writer at South East Asia Backpacker

Is Grab Malaysia Reliable?

Yes, Grab in Malaysia is reliable. They have plenty of drivers working at any given time. Drivers turn up when they accept rides and get you to your destination promptly. It may take some time to find a ride if you’re more than 30 minutes away from a major population centre but keep trying and eventually, someone will accept the ride. Just be aware that every three minutes the app will stop trying to find you a ride and automatically cancel. However, you can always try again. 

“The longest I waited while trying to find a Grab ride in Malaysia was 15 minutes. But I was 45 minutes outside Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo at the time!”

Sheree, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker

Maxim

Maxim Logo

The Russian ride-hailing app Maxim has been a player in Malaysia since Uber pulled out in 2018. They operate extensively in Peninsular Malaysia but are more sporadic than Grab in Malaysian Borneo. 

Maxim is battling to be the second most popular ride-hailing app in Malaysia but its market share falls well short of Grab. Maxim has far fewer drivers and most of these are concentrated in popular areas like Kuala Lumpur and Penang. In more off-the-beaten-track spots, you may have a hard time booking a Maxim car and even in popular areas, the wait is often longer than with Grab. 

Ride Hailing Pick Up Point, Kula Lumpur Malaysia
Many buildings in Malaysia have specific ride-hailing pick-up points!

However, Maxim is generally cheaper than Grab, so the wait may be worth it! 

Maxim allows you to add more than one destination to your journey So, whether you’re dropping off friends or picking up some food on your way home, Maxim allows you to do it all with just one ride. 

Is Maxim Safe?

Maxim is as safe as regular taxis but not as well regarded as Grab. There are numerous horror stories online of people who have had problems with Maxim. 

Rides are reportedly tracked and recorded in real time but Maxim lacks the safety features of Grab. There are also reports that many of Maxim’s drivers aren’t properly licensed to work in ride-hailing

Ride Hailing Permits

In Malaysia, you’ll get used to seeing lots of stickers on windscreens. The important one for taxi apps is the ‘e-hailing’ permit. This is a yellow square, with a red circle and a picture of a car inside it. These permits mean drivers are fully regulated to drive for ride-hailing services in Malaysia. In theory, without this permit, drivers shouldn’t be working. But in reality, not all drivers are licensed. In general, this doesn’t make too much difference to your safety, as rides are still tracked and the in-app safety features remain the same. 

Is Maxim Reliable?

Maxim is reliable in that when they accept a ride, they pick you up and promptly deliver you to your destination. However, Maxim has a reputation for using drivers that have been banned or removed from Grab. Driving standards are generally regarded as being lower than with other ride-hailing apps in Malaysia. 

All in all, Maxim is probably just as safe and reliable as using regular taxis but compared to Grab, Maxim doesn’t come out favourably. 


AirAsia Move

AirAsia Move Logo

AirAsia Move (previously AirAsia Ride) is Southeast Asia’s most prominent super app. An evolution of the ever-popular AirAsia airline, it allows customers to arrange car rides, bus/train/boat/plane tickets, hotels, cinema tickets, takeaway meals and insurance. Everything you need is in one, easy-to-navigate place. 

For ride-hailing specifically, AirAsia Move is a newcomer to the game. At the moment, they have far fewer drivers than Grab and are at war with Maxim for the number two spot. AirAsia Move tends to have drivers in most cities and popular towns in Malaysia but doesn’t have anywhere near the same number as Grab.

AirAsia Plane
AirAsia is most famous for being an airline!

The biggest advantage of AirAsia Move over Grab in Malaysia is that you can prebook a ride anywhere the app operates. This is excellent news if you need to get to the airport early or can’t risk missing an appointment. 

AirAsia Move tends to be a little cheaper than Grab but there isn’t much in it. 

Is AirAsia Move Safe?

AirAsia Move has a solid reputation in the ride-sharing scene. Drivers are vetted before driving for AirAsia Move and as you’d expect, all rides are tracked in real time. There is an SOS feature in the app which, when used, puts you in contact with the relevant authorities. All drivers are rated and passengers are asked to give feedback after each ride. 

Is AirAsia Move Reliable?

Fewer drivers work for AirAsia than Grab, so wait times tend to be longer. However, the fact you can prebook rides is fantastic. Drivers turn up when they’re supposed to and generally get you to your destination in good time. 


Other Taxi Apps in Malaysia 📱

While we’ve looked at the three most popular ride-hailing apps in Malaysia, there are plenty of other options too. Most of the following apps only work in popular spots or have other unique selling points! 

My Car

A popular homegrown Malaysian ride-hailing app, MyCar operates in a handful of major cities in Malaysia. 

EzCab

Another Malaysian company, EzCab offers a range of vehicles from budget options to cars nice enough to get you to your daughter’s wedding! The app currently works in Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley, Penang, Perak, Seremban, Johor Bahru, Melaka and Sabah. 

Riding Pink

Riding Pink is an all-female ride-hailing service. All the drivers are female and the service is only for women and children.


Traditional Taxis 

While the whole point of ride-hailing apps is to avoid the hassle of taxis, sometimes you don’t have a choice but to use them. If you’re stuck without a ride, the best bet is to ask your accommodation to arrange one for you. If you’re at a bar or restaurant, they should be able to arrange one for you too. 

Roundabout KK
Getting around parts of Malaysia without using a car or taxi is challenging!

Rent a Car or Scooter 🛵

Renting a car or scooter in Malaysia can be a very cost-effective way of getting around. In most places, scooter hire starts at around 50MYR per day (approx. $10USD), with cars costing 80-120MYR per day (approx. $16-25USD). 

Renting a car to explore is more common in Borneo than in Peninsular Malaysia. This is generally because Borneo is less developed than the mainland and it is harder to reach destinations using public transport. 


Is There Uber Eats in Malaysia? 🥡

No, there is no Uber Eats in Malaysia. However, there are several other food ordering services available. The most popular are:


Why Did Uber Leave Malaysia? 👋

Uber left Malaysia and the whole Southeast Asia region in 2018 after intense competition with Grab. Grab poured billions of dollars into becoming Uber’s main rival and Uber didn’t want to compete on such an epic scale. 

Instead, Uber gave their entire Southeast Asian operation to Grab in exchange for 25% ownership of the entire company. This means that although Uber doesn’t operate in the region, they still profit from every ride taken with Grab! 


Uber In Malaysia FAQs

Is there Uber in Kuala Lumpur?

No, there is no Uber in Kuala Lumpur. But there is a range of alternative taxi booking apps like Grab, Maxim and AirAsia Move. 

Is there Uber in Borneo?

No, there is no Uber in Borneo. Instead, ride-hailing apps include Grab, Maxim and AirAsia Move. Just be aware, wait times may be longer when hailing rides in Borneo, especially if you’re outside major population centres like Kota Kinabalu, Kuching or Miri

Should I tip a driver in Malaysia?

As a general rule, you’re not expected to tip drivers in Malaysia. However, if they’ve gone out of their way to help you, or have just been super friendly, a small tip is appreciated. You can either tip through the app after your ride, or in cash as you get out of the car. Ride-sharing apps tend to take 15% of the overall fare as their service fee, so a tip of around this amount is good to leave. 


A Round-Up of Uber Alternatives in Malaysia 

While Uber doesn’t operate in Malaysia, there are a range of taxi-hailing services available. So to avoid being overcharged and ripped off by unscrupulous taxi drivers, stick with the likes of Grab, Maxim and AirAsia Move! 


Contributors:

South East Asia Backpacker is a ‘travel diary for everyone’. This article has been written with the help of backpackers and local experts. We would like to thank…

🙏 Mohamed Aredzuan Bin Sudi | Grab Driver in Kota Kinabalu
🙏 Sheree Hooker |
Editor at South East Asia Backpacker

Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

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