Kuala Lumpur is a very fun city. There are a few tourist sites that you should visit during your stay but you can see them all in one day, which gives you some time to really explore the streets of the city. It was a lot cleaner and more developed than I thought it would be which was a nice surprise. If you are able to, try to travel to some of the other parts of Malaysia, like Georgetown or the islands down the Peninsula’s east, Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Tioman, as they are supposed to be spectacular.
When to Go
The temperatures in Kuala Lumpur stay about the same all year round, at around 30˚C but if you want to avoid the rainy season head over during the months of March to October. The busiest months for tourism are the summer months of July, July and August. So if you want to avoid the crowds March/April and September/October are good months to visit.
Before You Go
It is very hot here and you will sweat a lot, so pack some clothes that are breathable/dry-fit. A good pair of walking shoes is also good to pack as the city is small and you can walk almost everywhere, if you can bear the heat. Don’t forget to pack a converter. Here they have 3 pronged Type G plugs (the same as the UK) that usually supply electricity between 220-240 volts. There isn’t really a need to put your phone on a plan as you will be able to find free Wi-Fi everywhere around the city.
Many international airlines fly to Kuala Lumpur but there are no directs from the US or Canada. If coming from North America, you will have to connect through Japan, China or South Korea. No visa is needed for Canadians or Americans. If you are coming from Singapore or Indonesia, flights can be as low as $30US. Check AirAsia’s website as they will have the best deals from bordering countries as well as for domestic flights.
If you are coming from Singapore, an alternative option to flying is to take the train. The trip is about 6-7 hours and costs 33MYR (USD$10) for 2nd class seat, 39MYR (USD$12.50) for 2nd class sleeper, and 114-135MYR (USD$36-43) for 1st class deluxe sleeper (private cabin sleeper with private shower/toilet and TV). This is cheaper than the 4-5 hour bus ride which cost about USD$24. If you aren’t pressed for time, definitely look into taking the train as you will get to see some of the countryside, and you will save money. There are 3 trains from Singapore (Woodlands) to Kuala Lumpur (KL Sentral).
- Train #2 Ekspres Rakyat: Departs daily from Woodlands at 9:12am, arrives to KL Sentral at 2:56pm (Class 1, 2)
- Train #12 Ekspress Sinaran Selatan: Departs daily from Woodlands at 2:18pm, arrives to KL Sentral at 8:25pm (Class 1, 2, L, S)
- Train #24 Senandung Sutera: Departs daily from Woodlands at 11:55pm, arrives to KL Sentral at 6:30am (Class 1, 2, L, F, S)
Reserve a spot ahead of time as they fill up. Reservations open 60 days before the departure date. You can buy tickets online and if you do this, make sure to choose Sentral Kuala Lumpur, and not Kuala Lumpur, as they are different stations and your options will be different.
The city’s metro lines are easy to use to get around. You can buy tickets at each station before you get on but make sure you know which stop you are getting off at because it will ask you to input it to calculate the cost. Also, make sure you keep your ticket until you exit the station because they will always collect it and will fine you if you don’t have it.
If you are up for it, you can also walk to many places around the city but the heat may get to you. If you are traveling in a group, it might be worth looking into taking an Uber or Grab car. Download the apps before heading over as prices are way cheaper than taxis. You also can order the car and pay with cash or credit card. A taxi to the airport from Chinatown would normally cost around 100MYR but with Grab it will cost 72MYR including tolls. If you take a normal taxi, they will still be quite cheap but make sure that they turn the meter on because otherwise they will try to charge you much more.
The cheapest way to get from the airport to the city (and vice versa) is by taking the Shuttle Star bus. After grabbing your luggage at the airport, go to the shuttle bus ticket booth to buy your ticket. To get dropped off at a central common location, it will cost only 11MYR but for an extra 4MYR you can have them drop you off right at your hotel or hostel, which comes out to only ~$4US. Make sure you are not in a rush to get to the city though if you take this route as it can take up to two hours with traffic. The quickest way to get into the city is to take the high-speed train which brings you to the Sentral station in 30 minutes for 55MYR.
Currently, the Malaysian Ringgit is 4.1MYR to $1USD or 3.1MYR to $1CAD. If exchanging USD, it is best to bring large bills as the rate will be lower if exchanging $20 bills or lower. When exchanging money, ask for small bills as you will find food stand and shopping stalls will rarely have change for large bills.
Where to Stay
Hotels are quite cheap here in Kuala Lumpur. If you are traveling in a group you can find some good deals if splitting the cost. KL Journal Hotel was very nice and had a rooftop pool. If you are traveling alone, there are many good hostels in the city but I highly recommend Reggae Mansion.
- Kuala Lumpur Journal Hotel – located in the central area of Bukit Bintang. Rooms are around $65US per night and they have a nice rooftop pool.
- Reggae Mansion Hostel – located near Chinatown and the Central Market with a rooftop bar. A private twin with shared bathroom is $30US per night or a basic 4 or 6 bed mixed dorm with shared bathroom is $15US per night (have your own pod). Here they provide free dinner every night.
- BackHome Hostel (boutique backpackers hostel) – located in the financial and historical district. A private room with queen bed is $35US per night or a four bed female dorm is $18US per night. Breakfast is included.
- Sunshine Bedz Hostel – located in the heart of the city on Bukit Bintang Walk (there was construction going on right outside though when I was there). A private single bed with shared bathroom is $13US per night and a deluxe 4 bed female dorm is $9US per night. Breakfast is included.
Where to Eat
There are many delicious local dishes that you should try here, and it won’t be expensive. Here is a short list of some of the local dishes:
- Nasi Lemak – a dish Malaysians usually eat for breakfast or lunch that consists of steamed rice in coconut milk, crunchy dried anchovies, peanuts, sliced cucumber, hard boiled eggs and sambal
- Mee Rebus – a yellow egg noodle dish in a think peanut based sauce
- Mee Siam – a think vermicelli noodle dish in a soupy sauce
- Mee Goreng – stir-fried yellow noodles that usually are cooked with soy, garlic, shallots, and chilies; along with them might be shrimp or chicken, beef or vegetables
- Chicken Curry
- Kentang Putur – fried potato chips on a stick that you can get flavored
- Roti Canai – an breakfast dish consisting of a type of naan-like bread that you dip in curry sauces
Here are a few places that you can check out to eat some good food in Kuala Lumpur. Mix it up between some nicer restaurants and the hawker stands to see the variety of local foods.
- Atmosphere 360 restaurant – located at the top of the KL tower, this all you can eat rotating restaurant will provide you with an amazing view of the city while trying local specialties. The cost for lunch is about $22US and it is worth it because after you can ask them to take you to the observation deck at no additional cost (usually cost about $12US). You can reserve your spot online ahead of time.
- Jalan Alor – a street full of local food stands in the heart of Bukit Bintang open late. It is best to eat here late for dinner and you can even get a late night snack after going out. Two good places to eat here are Xin Ji Kitchen to try some typical dishes and Wong Ah Wah for their wings.
- Juice Bars – you will see many fresh juice bars around the city and they won’t cost more than a few dollars. Definitely try some as it can be very refreshing after walking around in the heat.
- Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa Kampung Baru – a great place to try Nasi Lemak in Kampung Baru.
- Sedap Leko – a food stand located next to the Central Market serving kentang putar.
- Between Jalan Changkat Thambi Dollah and Jalan Pudu (behind Times Square) – for a more local experience, explore this area for street food stalls.
Where to Go Out / Grab a Drink
Prices here are very reasonable and if you are a girl, you will find many places to drink for free! Here are a few good spots to go out.
- Sky Bar – here you will find an amazing view of the Petronas Towers. Drinks here are expensive but go Wednesday night from 6 to 11pm as girls drink free and it is self-serve. If you are a guy, go with some girls and they can bring you back some drinks.
- Heli Pad Lounge – another great view of the city, both of the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower. Ladies night is on Thursdays after 9pm, where girls will get free drinks, but they have happy hour from 5 to 9pm if you want to go watch the sunset.
- Changkat Bukit Bintang (a street) – here you will find many bars and girls drink free every Wednesday night. Places here don’t close until 4am.
- No Black Tie – to listen to some jazz music. Located in the Bukit Bintang area.
What to Do
When planning your trip, it might be a good idea to plan around the heat. It can be 35+˚C (95˚F) and almost 100% humidity during the middle of the day (1-4pm). Try not to be outside unless you are in a pool!
- Tour the Petronas Towers. You can’t go to Kuala Lumpur without going up the Petronas Towers. The tour takes about an hour and will cost 85MYR for an adult or 68MYR if you have a student card. They have set tours at set times so it might be worthwhile booking ahead of time online to guarantee a spot at the time you want.
- Visit the Batu Caves, just north of the city that consists of three main caves featuring temples and Hindu shrines. It is best to visit early as it can get very tiring climbing the stairs mid-day in the heat. To enter you will need to have something to cover your shoulders and knees. If you forget though, you can rent a sarong at the entrance. Also don’t bring any food or drinks here as the monkeys will steal it from you. Take the train to get here from KL Sentral and it will only cost you 2.60MYR for the 25 minute ride.
- Eat at Atmosphere 360 Restaurant at the top of the KL Tower.
- Shop in China Town (Jalan Petaling and Jalan Sultan) and the Central Market – negotiate before buying as they mark up prices sometimes by more than half for tourists – you will find some really good deals here though!
- Get a massage in Bukit Bintang. Places here are open late and will only cost you $7-10US for an hour massage.