Just Grab and Go – Mobility in Asia

Just GRAB one and Go. What an amazingly easy way to travel in Asia!

Given our short stay & relatively packed schedules, taking public transportation while in Singapore and Malaysia would have meant losing precious hours in transit, plus the added stress of handling money, buying tickets and (let’s face it) unavoidable discomfort in the heat of the tropics.

I already knew of Grab as Uber’s or FreeNow’s equivalent to mobility in Asia, and I figured it’d be a better idea to use the regional ride-sharing app instead of Uber. So with this in mind, I let the gang know (ours was a fairly sizable group of 9 people): we are all to install Grab and use it as our primary means of transportation.

Here are my thoughts on using Grab – two countries, 12 days and and 23 Grab trips later.

Grab: The Service

I’ve had impeccable service in almost all my rides, except for one single mediocre ride where the car was slightly on the old side and the driver seemed a bit of a speed junkie. For all the rest, drivers were prompt, courteous, they all spoke good /excellent English.

Grab: The Safety

First off, I’ve felt completely safe, drivers were professional and also (with all the Corona-virus craze going on) they all wore protective masks.

An auto generated message from Grab will tell you to “do your part to stop the spread of the COVID 19”

Interestingly enough, Grab in Malaysia has a facial recognition feature, confirming both your and your driver’s identity with a selfie. More on that later.

Grab: The Cost

Whereas with Uber and traditional taxis the cost is influenced by distance and duration, Grab gives a fixed price, always transparent from the beginning. Also, compared to Europe, rides were on average 2x, 3x times cheaper.

Grab – The Human Factor

While I don’t always enjoy chatting with taxi drivers (think 20h flight, time zone shifts and the tiredness that comes with) I do mostly enjoy those fleeting human interactions that happen in a taxi ride. And I’ve had some great chats during my trips with Grab – specifically, in Malaysia.

Our first driver was a 9 to 5 banker working for Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia doubling as Grab driver when time allows.

He loved driving people around because he said, it’s a great way to meet interesting people and exchange life views. I agree. And indeed, for the entire one-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur city center to the KLIA airport, we chatted about life.

We talked about how the corona-virus outbreak actually looks like from the ground in KL – as opposed to the media craziness reports. We compared healthcare systems in Malaysia and Romania.

I got some explanation to the crazy low cost of a Grab ride: the cost of 1 liter of gasoline in Malaysia is 2 ½ times cheaper than in Romania – and by extension, Europe. We learned that the average salary in KL is 23-25k EUR (not too shabby).

Credits: Reuters

Small Talk or Silent Rides..

Whether you enjoy small talk or you’re more of a silent rider, Grab drivers seem to know how to read a room and acct accordingly.

I mostly enjoy the small talk. It’s a personal preference. And ours had everything from infrastructure, best snorkeling spots in Borneo Sabah, some must eat foods. A few good laughs on the way to the airport, and the conclusion: Malaysian hospitality at its best: 5* my friend!

Our second driver was C. Weber, in Kota Kinabalu. I remember because his name stood out as European in the sea of Malay and Chinese names.

Turns out, he was half British, half Malaysian. His grandfather came to Borneo (Kota Kinabalu) after the WW2 Japanese occupation ended, and after meeting Charles’ beautiful Malay grandmother, he never left.

Seven decades later, Charles was telling us about his visit to Romania two years ago, for his daughter’s wedding with a Romanian fellow – figure that! – and how struck he was by the relative poverty of the country. Admittedly, his term of comparison was Sweden, the adoptive country of his second daughter.

With all three of his daughters married and living abroad (in USA, Australia and Sweden) Charles was well traveled and mastered the art of conversation. I almost felt sorry for leaving the car, when we got to our destination.

He told us about the illegal Filipino immigrants living in Borneo, the occasional bursts of violence that taxi drivers are facing here – and how much safer GRAB is, compared to the local taxi service (but we knew that already).

Grab: Takeaways

The convenience of being able to track your ride, get access to your driver’s personal details, and basically be in control – it was one of the reasons we were travelling by Grab as well.

Charles explained that the new facial recognition technology implemented together with the support of the Ministry of Transport of Malaysia one year ago (Malaysia’s Personal Data Protection Act PDPA), providing safety both for drivers and passengers, as part of the company’s commitment to #SaferEveryday.

Or as Grab say: Forward Together

Grab Is Here to Stay – and Grow

From recent news of joint feasibility study with Volocopter, for air mobility in Southeast Asia, to merger talks  with the region’s largest  food delivery company (the Grab app already has a food delivery feature), or even more recently, the $850 Million raised by GRAB to expand into financial services -GRAB is rapidly becoming your one stop shop.

Have a look below at the services currently provided:

Where you can use Grab

You can use the Grab multi-purpose app in Asia in 8 countries and over 500 cities and towns in: Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam.

Note that this article is by no means sponsored by Grab or any other company. I do not have financial gains (or otherwise) from this review, these are my opinions and mine only, based on personal experience.

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