It’s not that they can’t make a living wage… and I think once you’ve been in Penang you’ll see that for yourself. They will happily sit all day at the taxi ranks playing cards and mahjong (they even set tables and chairs up to do this!), turning customers away, until someone comes along willing to pay double or treble the going rate.
Just take a look at the Gurney Drive taxi rank in Penang and you’ll see what I mean.
They could just work harder and take more customers to more destinations… but they’d rather be lazy and take less high paying customers, and sit around doing nothing the rest of the day.
Even the locals go on about this daily in the papers, it’s well documented.
The few good taxi drivers who work on the meter all day long make perfectly adequate wages by Malaysian standards, but they work driving a car all day long. The rip off artists work lesser hours but earn the same.
And why the taxi drivers don’t just up their prices… well they can’t. There is a government agency that issues licenses to the taxi drivers, and it is they who set the prices. They (the government agency) seem to think the official taxi rate is high enough. Even the prime minister and tourist minister say their wage rate is fair, they just have to work.to earn more.
I know one honest hard working taxi driver in KL who I often use, I have his mobile and home phone numbers, and he agrees that the rate is fair, you just have to put the hours in. (which this one guy does).
In KL there are plenty of public transport options, unfortunately there isn’t in Penang.
Regards agreeing on a reasonable price… well, that depends on two things:
1. your bargaining skills, and
2. what you consider a reasonable price
I find it VERY difficult. In Penang I look to pay double the going rate, and that’s after hard bargaining… in KL I avoid the taxis as much as possible and take public transport. In Langkawi I don't move off the beach or the pool bed, lol.