Malaysia is a stunning country that is home to amazing wildlife, great people, food, culture and one of the worlds great cities, Kuala Lumpur. But Malaysia hates foreigners. With a GDP of of almost a trillion dollars it ranks as the 25th largest economy on earth. Neither a third world country, or a developing one, Malaysia is steaming ahead at breakneck pace and cementing its place as one of the world’s great countries. In Malaysia I have seen stunning beaches, mountains, sunsets, sun rises and just about every other thing in between.
In short I love Malaysia. But Malaysia does not love me, or you, or any foreigner.
Roll up to KLIA and you are little more than a dollar sign to be rinsed for every last cent.
There is split pricing in Malaysia, what that means is that a local might pay 10 ringgit for something, but a foreigner might pay 30 ringgit for the exact same thing. It is endemic, every attraction however significant or insignificant will charge a foreigner more to gain entrance, or experience the same service. I know this happens in other countries, mostly developing, but Malaysia ramps it up to level ten.
If you are travelling with kids, babies in strollers, toddlers clung to your arm, if you don’t have a Malaysia student ID card for your nipper then you cannot prove that person is a child so you will be charged the adult price. Here is the thing, the student ID card is only available to Malaysians. That passport that gained you entrance to the country, nope. Not proof enough of your kids age.
Not content with ripping foreigners off with multi pricing, someone somewhere decided they would charge every single foreigner in Malaysia an extra 10 Ringgit per room per night. If you are a backpacker on a budget, paying about 40 ringgit for your dorm bed, then prepare to get slammed with a 25% tourism tax, on top of the 10% service tax and 6% local tax. Every night. And 10 ringgit might not be much, about $2.50, but if you are here for a few weeks that soon adds up, especially for budget travellers. I did try and research why the government charges this, but all I could find was reports of hotels disagreeing with the charge and saying it is damaging their businesses. So whilst the government leeches of foreigners, it is the people on the ground being hit with the reality of this.
Personally, I believe that the government realised that tourists were stung with multi pricing, and thought why not push it that bit further. Pure greed.
I was waiting for a bus recently, on the fringes of Kuala Lumpur. I had tried to get a taxi (Grab) but there was no service, the two options available was walking, and a bus. With 3 kids, and having just completed a hefty hike, we waited half an hour for a bus. One turned up. I boarded the bus and the driver told me I had to have a ‘touch and go’. I asked where I could get one from, and he responded “everywhere”, I had about $200 cash in my wallet and multiple debit/credit cards, I even had Apple Pay. Yet even though you could apparently get these touch and go things ‘everywhere’ the actual bus was not one of those places. I figured there was an app I could download, and there was. But you needed a Malaysian number to activate it, turns out this couldn’t be used anyway.
The driver refused to let us board and so we began a long walk back to Kuala Lumpur.
The funny thing is, though you are treated very clearly like a second class citizen in Malaysia, they have the audacity to announce 2020 as year of the tourist. I feel bad for the locals who have to face up this tourism tax, or the locals manning a ticket office explaining why a kid in a stroller has to pay adult price, or why a foreigner is charged hundreds of percent more, those are the people really hit by the greed of the Malaysian government. Well, not just those, but any foreigner who actually believed Malaysia was truly Asia. It isn’t. Head to Thailand, where you are not just loved, but loved long time.