Grab Penang: 5 reasons why it’s better than taxis

If you are still thinking about whether it's best to call a taxi or use your smartphone to get your ride via Grab Car while in Penang, this post should help solve all your last doubts.

Uber and Grab have become the way to go in Penang.

LATEST NEWS:  Grab Takes Over Uber in Malaysia

From April 8th, 2018, Uber (including its services Uber Eats and Uber for Business) ceased operations in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. 
All Uber drivers have been asked to transfer to Grab: all you really have to do from now on is just use Grab while in Penang and Malaysia.


No biggie, as you can still use Grab in Penang and Malaysia. Your existing Uber account doesn’t need to be cancelled either, as Uber still operates in many countries outside of Southeast Asia. Just switch to Grab when in Penang.


Nothing much for the moment, as Grab guaranteed that his GrabCar and JustGrab services will maintain the same fares, subject to calculated distance and the usual increase when there is high demand.

Getting around without your own transport in Penang can be difficult, especially because getting a Malaysian driving license is not so straightforward. The island is certainly not like Kuala Lumpur — where distances can be huge and points of interest spread apart — but if you live outside of George Town or want to explore the best of Penang in 48 hours, you can’t really do it on foot. Plus, we have already advised you against taking the reckless Penang driving lightly.

Until a couple of years ago, the only viable transport choices were slow and unreliable buses or red taxis. Penang taxis, however, had and still maintain a bad reputation: they have inflated prices, never use the meter, and cost double after 11 pm when buses have stopped service.

You are in luck because things have improved drastically in recent years since mobile apps like Uber – now no longer operational – and Grab Car arrived in Malaysia and Penang. To us, there are 5 main reasons why using Grab in Penang is always better than hiring local taxis.

Uber & Grab

1Grab Car Fares in Penang are always more competitive than taxis’

Malaysian cabbies strike against Uber and Grab, instruments of the Devil 🙂 (sourced from Malay Mail Online)

In the first few months Grab arrived in Penang, newspapers started publishing stories about drivers being harassed or attacked by jealous taxi drivers. Why? Because all customers had turned to Uber & Grab, completely ditching the more expensive taxi services. Indeed, choosing Uber & Grab over taxis is a real no-brainer: for example, a taxi to the airport would cost between RM40 to RM50. With Grab, I got the same ride for less than RM20. Even night prices are not so steep, as they are dependent on the number of drivers on the road at a particular time of the day/night. The obvious result is that almost anybody with a smartphone is using Grab in Penang these days. Many taxi drivers have then ditched their jobs, and turned into Grab drivers to chase customers. It was a real revolution.


Unfortunately, even the fares of Grab Car in Penang have somewhat increased. The worst news is certainly the new cancellation fee, which started on 25 March 2019. In other words, now Grab Car can charge between RM 3 to 5 to any users who cancel their ride within 5 minutes of booking.
There is also a new RM 3 to 5 no-show fee, which is charged to those users who fail to show up at the pick-up point within 5 minutes after a driver has arrived.
These fees go towards compensating drivers for their time lost on the road, and they will be waived only if a rider has waited up to 10 minutes for a driver to arrive.

What is not clear, however, is whether or not drivers will be charged if they are late. Make sure you are not late for your Grab Car in Penang, and save yourself the hassle of wasting money on Grab Car’s new cancellation fees.

2Grab come to you. All the time.

In Penang, taxis usually hang out either below KOMTAR’s underpass, at Gurney Drive, in Batu Ferringhi where more foreign package tourists hang out at the resorts, and around the hotel and Penang nightlife area around upper Penang Road, where most of Penang backpackers hang out. Beside these spots, it’s actually not so easy to hail a cab. On the other hand, using Grab you can request a car to meet you wherever you are on the island. The application will even show you where your car is, and how long will it take for it to reach you. You’ll never get stuck again.

3Better Conversations make Better Rides

I remember that taxi drivers in Penang were quite a mixed bag in terms of politeness and friendliness. There were certain exceptions, but in general, most didn’t shine in conversation. The advantage of using Grab Penang, on the contrary, is that your drivers are locals who have started driving people around to earn a side income. This is great, as none of them has the desperate hustle of professional taxi drivers. On my Uber rides, I have met students, retirees, street food hawkers and whatnot. All of them had an interesting story to share.

Grab Penang is safer.

The point above is good to realise that with Grab Penang, rides are also safer. Have you ever been harassed by a Malaysian taxi driver who demanded higher pay than what the meter showed, or what you had agreed before getting in the car? I have, and I can tell you stories of many other friends who were harassed, too. One got a wrench shoved under his face because he refused to pay what an angry taxi driver had suddenly demanded.
With Grab Car, each ride is registered into a system with a unique ID — this means that you are also able to see the name and license plate of your driver. Call it a security measure, but if someone wants to rip you off, you will be able to report them to the service and get them banned immediately. Drivers know this, too, and transactions are pretty much as safe as you can get.

5Grab VS Taxi in Penang: More Comfortable Rides

Have you ever seen a Malaysian red taxi? If you haven’t, imagine an ugly steel box on wheels with a grumpy driver behind the wheel. Most have no a/c, broken seats, smell of cigarette smoke and would turn into deadly metal blades if crushed in a road accident. On the contrary, Grab Car use regular drivers who come to you with their own cars. It’s extremely rare to find anyone driving an old wreck. I’ve seen friends getting lifts in BMWs, and I had pretty comfortable rides myself. In a Grab Car, you will have working a/c, music, and seats that are still in very good shape. A normal car, used by a friendly individual on his daily routine. Can a smelly red taxi beat that? Mmmm…

These are the top 5 reasons why we believe that when in Penang and looking for a ride, Grab Car is the way to go. Have you ever had a bad experience riding Uber or Grab? We’d like to hear about it in the comments below.

Disclaimer: The content of this post is based on personal experience. Penang Insider cares to precise that this is not a sponsored post, and we have not received payment from Grab Car to review their services.

And if you liked this, why don’t you sign up for our mailing list? We will send you immediately a FREE photographic eBook with some incredible pictures of Penang, and we promise, we will disturb you only about once a month with some good local advice you won’t find on the site.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here