Kuala Lumpur, for the most part, is a very welcoming city and a safe place for travellers. While petty theft and scams on tourists are few and far between in the city, it’s important to keep yourself, your money, and your possessions safe during your travels. It may be slightly daunting at times since most local tricksters can easily differentiate between foreign tourists and expatriates, taking extra precautions and being aware of your surroundings (no matter how jetlagged you are) will ensure a scam-free and pleasant vacation in this bustling Kuala Lumpur. To avoid falling victim to opportunistic locals, get to know these 4 known scams in Kuala Lumpur and a few ‘travel safe’ tips to keep in mind.
Travelling by budget taxi can be a very convenient and affordable option in Kuala Lumpur (especially for a group of travellers), as you can get to wherever you want in a cosy and air-conditioned vehicle instead of enduring the hassle of switching lines on trains or fighting for a seat on overcrowded buses. However, Kuala Lumpur is known to have to one of the worst taxi services among the Southeast Asian capitals, with known cases ranging from cabbies that refuse to switch on their taxi metres and ask for a flat rate to those who purposely take longer routes and busier roads.
How to Avoid it: There are taxi counters available within Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), KL Sentral station and bus terminals where you can buy taxi coupons to get a fair deal. Alternatively, only take a budget taxi if the cabbie agrees to turn on the metre, or use a dependable taxi app (MyTeksi or EasyTaxi are two of the best) to book your ride.
Pick pocketing can sometimes occur in packed areas such as Petaling Street and public transport during rush hour. Tricksters often target handbags, phones and wallets, which they try to steal without the owner noticing. A more dangerous crime is snatch theft, where motorcyclists drive by and snatch hand bags from those walking by the roadside. Victims who attempt to fight back often sustain injuries from the excessive force used by these criminals, so immediately let go of your bag and seek police assistance should you fall victim to a snatch thief.
How to Avoid it: Keep your wallet in a safe place and avoid walking around with an open bag. If you are travelling by foot, make sure your handbag is held close to your body and away from the road.
Child Flower Sellers
A common sight in Changkat Bukit Bintang, children approach strangers, mostly couples, and plead with them to buy flowers for RM10 a stalk. These child flower sellers are often refugee girls between the ages of nine and twelve who sell flowers until the clubs close and the last of the customers leave at about 03:00 during weekends. More often than not, they are ignored or rebuffed but those who feel pity for these children will buy a stalk or two. After selling a few stalks, the children head back to their mother or caretaker (often seated in an alley in Changkat Bukit Bintang) to replenish their stock.
How to Avoid It: Politely decline and walk away when being approached.
Fake Monks or Donation Seekers
There is a very high chance of travellers and locals encountering a monk or individuals claiming to be from a charity organisation at least once on a day walking around the city centre of Kuala Lumpur. Actively to ask for donations, these individuals have shaved heads and are dressed in monks' robes, and sometimes thrust small medallions or cards into the hands of victims before asking for cash in return. Meanwhile, fake donation seekers often prowl open areas in Kuala Lumpur such as Jalan Alor and Chinatown. They often claim that they represent an orphanage, showing their ID and carrying a book that’s filled with detailed information and photographs of children as legitimacy.
How to Avoid It: Politely decline. Most can get pretty persistent so be patient until they leave.