KL Traffic: Essentials for New Expats in Kuala Lumpur

The chaotic traffic situation usually comes as a shock to new expats in Kuala Lumpur. Stay safe in this challenging situation:

One of the things most expats in Kuala Lumpur seem to agree upon is that traffic could be improved in this city.


Actually, some expats in Kuala Lumpur will say that there are no traffic rules, only guidelines.

In the car for the first time as expats in Kuala Lumpur

It can be quite daunting to get into your (rental) car the first few times and drive around in this city where the infrastructure at times resembles a bowl of spaghetti. You will have motorbikes overtaking you left, right and centre, whilst at the same time your GPS is demanding you go right now, leaving you to figure out which of the three right turns it means.
Progress can get worse in the (heavy) rain. Admittedly most of the motorbikes disappear to take shelter underneath a nearby bridge, but the cars are still there and there will invariably be long traffic jams by the slowed down traffic. In certain areas you should be weary of streets flooding.

One thing never to forget as expats in Kuala Lumpur is your GPS. I have my GPS system as an app on my phone, which makes it less likely for me to leave it at home by accident. None of the GPS systems that cover the region get it right the whole time, but they will all get you to your programmed destination…. eventually. Expect to be lost in traffic a lot in the first few months: it’s what happens to all new expats in Kuala Lumpur and also quite a few old ones. The choice is either that or to employ an experienced chauffeur.

Keep your calm

I’m afraid that there is not much relief I can bring you for the traffic situation. I suppose you must be born in Malaysia to appreciate it, and as expats in Kuala Lumpur we can only accept it. Even after so much time spent in traffic, I can still get utterly frustrated when I see a bunch of cars drive straight past the long queue where everybody else is waiting to forcibly manoeuvre themselves into the front positions. The trick is not to be frustrated or angered however: some of my friends have had their car molested and battered just because they pointed out a traffic violation the driver made. Other people have been challenged to a fistfight by offended drivers. So don’t get out of your car if you don’t have to and never open the window all the way down to talk to somebody; just a few centimetres will do.
If you need to, drive to the nearest police station to get help there: do not expect much from bystanders since they will be worried about their own safety as well.
For a while there was even a radio campaign in Malaysia, which warned you against dangerous drivers and advised not to react to them.

Eastern serenity for expats in Kuala Lumpur

Traffic in Kuala Lumpur will not change by any effort of an individual driver. As expats in Kuala Lumpur, make life easier for yourself and family and friends, and just go with the flow. Don’t get upset if somebody jumps the queue you’ve been waiting in for the last half hour, don’t overreact when somebody tries to cut you off the road (again). t will spoil your day to get mad and it will not resolve anything. Why not exercise some Eastern serenity and let it be.

Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Suzanne Wishart

Suzanne Wishart has over two year of hands on expat experience in Kuala Lumpur to share: what she didn’t experience first-hand she has researched, consulted locals about or contacted officials and government organisations for.

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