Jun 23 2011

Kuala Lumpur’s “hop-on hop-off” tour bus

Published by at 10:17 am under Transport

It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it, a comfortable double-decker bus that links the major sights of a city, which you can get off and on, as you wish? An a la carte tour, if you will. And what better city to operate such a service in than Kuala Lumpur, with its inadequate public transport system and pedestrian-unfriendly climate? The good news is that KL offers just such a service, the Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour, the bad news is that it has so many things wrong with it.

Does the company ask why its buses are often empty?

First off, let’s start with the theory. The tour covers a 22-stop circuit of the city, stopping near almost all of KL’s major tourist attractions, accommodation, entertainment and shopping areas, including Menara KL (KL Tower), Bukit Bintang, Chinatown, the National Museum, Lake Gardens, the Islamic Arts Museum, Masjid Jamek (Jamek Mosque), Titiwangsa Lake Gardens and the Petronas Twin Towers. Buses run from 08:30 to 20:30, at scheduled intervals of 15-30 minutes. A pre-recorded commentary is promised in eight different languages.

The route, in all its glory.

A 24-hour ticket costs 38 ringgit for adults, and 17 ringgit for kids (5-12 years olds). That rises to 65 ringgit and 29 ringgit respectively for a 48-hour ticket. Tickets can be bought on the bus, from kiosks near major stops, travel agents and some hotels. So, that’s the theory. How does the actual service match up?

– The route and the stops cannot really be faulted. The tour does indeed offer a fairly comprehensive link between most of the best stuff to see and do in KL. It also provides the opportunity to get to know some of the city’s most congested roads.

– Waiting times are often far greater than 15 minutes, with a number of passengers reporting waits of more than an hour. This is probably down to a combination of too few buses, and those that are operating getting stuck in traffic jams.

– The buses are inadequately maintained. Most crucially, many of them have faulty air-con systems. What’s more, the windows are often so dirty it is difficult to see out of the bus, somewhat defeating the purpose of a sightseeing tour.

– Most of the commentary headsets appear to be broken. And when a working one is found, the commentary itself is difficult to understand.

Well worth "hopping off" to see.

Given all the shortfalls in the service, the biggest problem has to be the price. For one person, who splits the 24-hour ticket over the space of two days (say 13:00 to 20:30 on day one, and 08:30 to 13:00 on day two), and does a lot of sightseeing, it could just about work out as worth buying. But for two or more people travelling together, a combination of public transport and taxis would end up both cheaper and more convenient, so long as the cabbies use their meters.

Whenever possible, let the train take the strain.

One of the surest ways to tell whether something offers decent value for money in Malaysia is to see whether dual-pricing exists. In this case, locals are charged 19 ringgit for a 24-hour ticket, and 32 ringgit for 48 hours. It’s hardly great value even then, but it’s much closer to the fair price for a service that delivers much less than it promises.

KL Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour
T: (1800) 88 5546


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