KUALA LUMPUR ULTIMATE GUIDE
Despite its wide size, Kuala Lumpur has much to offer and it is ranked as the 7th most visited city in the world. Malaysia’s capital is known for its heritage, skyscrapers and cultural diversity, a melting pot of culture from all over the world. During a trip to Malaysia, it’s really worth spending a couple of days in this metropolis to explore its iconic landmarks like the sky-high Petronas Towers, the country’s National Mosque, the historic Merdeka Square, the exquisite colonial architecture, and taste the delightful local food in the atmospheric districts of Chinatown, Chow Kit and Jalan Alor.
- BEST TIME TO GO
The climate in Malaysia is equatorial, always quite hot and humid all years round; therefore, you should often expect rainy days. Anyway, you can visit Kuala Lumpur and the west coast all year round taking in mind that the wettest months are September and October. If you want to visit the East Coast and its beautiful Islands the best period is between March and October (November and December are the rainiest months). In the end, the best time to visit Malaysia as a whole is from June to August. We visited Malaysia in July, and the weather was often cloudy or partly cloudy, but we bumped into quick rains 3 days out of 20 only at night.
- VISA REQUIREMENTS
Before booking the flight, you must check if you are entitled to a Visa exemption, a Visa on arrival or if you need to apply in person at the Embassy/Consulate in your country. Click here to read more information about the Visa requirements.
- HOW TO GET TO KUALA LUMPUR
Kuala Lumpur International Airport is served by the primary flight companies and by the well known low-cost company Air Asia. If you are already travelling through South East Asia or you want to reach another Malaysian destination, the best option is to fly with Air Asia that always offers great deals. The best websites where you can find out all the means of transport to reach your destination around Malaysia or Asia and purchase the tickets are Trip.com and 12Go.asia.com.
How to reach the city centre from KL International airport
After landing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, you have four options: taxi, bus, Klia Express train or a private transfer.
First of all, you have to buy the ticket at the “taxi counter” in the arrival area, then follow the sign “Teksim/Taxi” and queue up with the other customers (the price is around 90 RM, but if you need more space like Van 9 seaters the price is about 240 RM).
It is the cheapest means of transport and the ticket to KL Sentral (central railways station) costs about 10 RM and the ride takes around 1 hour. You will find the buses of the Star Shuttles, Airport Coach and Aerobus. Star Shuttles also operates direct services to Chinatown – stop on Jalan Pudu road, near Pudu Sentral bus terminal – and to Bukit Bintang district – stop along Jalan Bukit Bintang, close to Jalan Sultan Ismail.
3) Klia express train
Once in the arrival hall, follow the violet sign to Klia express station. The ticket to KL Sentral (KL central railway station) costs 55 RM, and the ride lasts only 30 minutes. You can purchase the ticket at the ticket counter, through the Klia official website or using the web platform Klook.com.
Once you arrive in KL Sentral, you can take the tube, the KTM Komuter train or a taxi to reach your accommodation. There is a taxi counter where you have to book your ride just a few meters from the taxi stop (a trip to Chinatown is 13 RM).
4) Private Transfer
If you don’t want to catch public transportation, you can also use private transfer. It is an excellent service to directly reach your accommodation above all if you are a group. We can suggest using Kiwitaxi. It is a pre-paid service, and the driver will wait for you inside the terminal with a sign that has your name. A shuttle bus transfer operates typically in an eight-seat van.
- Click here to book your private transfer with Klook.com;
- Click here to book your private transfer with Viator.com.
- HOW TO MOVE AROUND KUALA LUMPUR
Going around KL is very easy. You can catch the tube, the Komuter train (ticket around 1 RM), taxi (average expense 10/15 RM – ask the driver to use the meter), Uber (cheaper than a local cab; download the app for your mobile phone) or the bus. The only negative note about taxis is that not all drivers will be inclined to use the taximeter and it may happen that they refuse to take you to your destination (especially at night). It happened to us just one late evening that several taxi drivers refused to take us to the hotel using the meters but demanding a much higher rate.
Tip: To calculate the route and find public transports to your destination, download the Moovit smart app for your device.
If you have time, a cheap and useful way to visit KL is to catch the free bus service called Go KL city bus. It runs from 6 am to 11 pm with a frequency of 5 minutes. There are four different routes with stops at the main attractions and business centres.
Another great option (in our opinion the best one if you have a few time) is to take the “Hop on-Hop off” bus. It costs 55 RM for 24 hours, and it is convenient because there is only 1 route (a loop) stopping in front of the main attractions of KL.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN KUALA LUMPUR
Like all large cities, Kuala Lumpur offers accommodation for all budgets, from hostels to luxury hotels. Without a doubt, the area we recommend is the folkloristic Chinatown because this neighbourhood offers a variety of excellent budget accommodation and is perfect as a starting point for visiting the city. Chinatown is directly connected to KL international airport with a Star Shuttle bus – the bus stop is on Jalan Pudu road, near the Pudu Sentral bus terminal -, it is an attraction of the city itself, it has a long pedestrian street – Petaling street – with a market, it is full of shops and cheap restaurants and is only a 15-minute on foot from Merdeka square. If you arrive by train at KL Sentral, the taxi ride is only 15 minutes. We slept at the Swiss-Inn Chinatown, in the heart of the neighbourhood, just behind the bustling Petaling street.
Other good accommodations in Chinatown:
- The Explorers Guesthouse and Hostel;
- Sisiseni Hotel;
- Kitez Hotel & Bunkz;
- Avenue J Hotel;
- Pacific Express Hotel Chinatown;
- Pacific Express Hotel Central market;
- Season Point Hotel;
- Travelodge City Centre;
- Tian Jing Hotel.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for a more “trendy” area with international restaurants, clubs and a lively nightlife, we recommend the Bukit Bintang neighbourhood. Like Chinatown, the Bukit Bintang district is connected to the airport by a Star Shuttle bus – the bus stop is along Jalan Bukit Bintang, next to Jalan Sultan Ismail.
If you have a higher budget, an excellent neighbourhood – called the city centre – is the area near the Petronas Twin Towers and KLCC Park. It is easily accessible by taxi from both KL Sentral Central Station – approximately 20 minutes traffic permitting – and from the Bukit Bintang bus stop – 10 minutes.
Here you will also find superior category hotels and famous hotel chains such as:
- Saba Suites at Platinum KLCC;
- Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur;
- JW Marriot Hotel;
- Ascott Kuala Lumpur;
- The RuMa Hotel and Residences;
- The Mandarin Oriental;
- Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur;
- Four Season Kuala Lumpur;
- W Kuala Lumpur Hotel;
- Shangri La Hotel Kuala Lumpur;
- Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur.
- WHERE TO EAT IN KUALA LUMPUR
Kuala Lumpur will not disappoint you as it is full of restaurants for any budget, from stalls with delicious street food to international restaurants. Our favourite place is the Bukit Bintang neighbourhood where Jalang Alor is located. It’s a long street well known for attracting thousands of locals and tourists and locals to its cheap restaurants and dozens and dozens of stalls that cook great street food. A short distance from Jalan Alor, is Changkat Bukit Bintang, a street famous for its lively nightlife and full of international restaurants, discos, cocktail bars and pubs. Other neighbourhoods where you will find cheap restaurants and street food stalls are Chinatown and nearby Little India.
If you want to have an alternative experience, you should try the ”Dinner in the sky” – a restaurant where you can dine suspended in the air – or the fancy Atmosphere 360 Revolving Restaurant – an elegant restaurant on top of a skyscraper that rotates 360° offering a fantastic view over Kuala Lumpur.
- CURRENCY EXCHANGE and METHOD OF PAYMENT
The local currency is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). 1 USD is around 4.35 MYR (May 2020), 1 Euro is around 4.76 MYR (May 2020). You can exchange your currency at the Airport where you’ll find several money exchange shops and ATMs to withdraw. In downtown, there are many money changers with very good rates like Vital Rate, Max Money, NS Cashpoint, UAE Exchange and Metro Exchange. Many of these money exchange chains have their branches in the shopping mall too. Usually, you can convert your currency in the hotels as well, but the rate is higher. The method of payment is mostly cash. Hotels, malls stores and many restaurants accept the credit card.
- NIGHTLIFE IN KUALA LUMPUR
The most famous place for enjoying the Kuala Lumpur nightlife is Changkat Bukit Bintang. It is busy street plenty of international restaurants, cocktail lounges, bars, pubs and, of course, clubs playing all the hit of the moment.
- WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN KUALA LUMPUR
Kuala Lumpur is a large modern city full of history and is ranked as the seventh most visited city in the world. It is known for its culture, the mix of races, traditions and religions, ancient colonial architecture and of course interesting attractions. We spent two days in this fascinating city managing to visit all the most important attractions at a leisurely pace. A full day can be fine too, but obviously you won’t be able to visit everything and you will have to move faster by taking taxis.
If you will stay more days, you can organize beautiful day trips such as the famous Cameron Highlands, explore the Kuala Selangor River, visit the city of Putrajaya, meet the Orang Utans on the island of Bukit Merah, and much more.
- HOW TO MOVE AROUND MALAYSIA
The easiest way is to take a flight from KL airport with Air Asia. If you book in advance, you can get very cheap tickets. The other option is by bus, and there are two main bus stations: Puduraya Bus Terminal (Pudu Sentral) close to Chinatown and Bersepadu Selatan Terminal, the biggest bus station of KL where you can also leave to Thailand or Singapore.
We recommend to buy your ticket online in advance and collect it at the ticket office inside the terminal because the queue is often very long. If you decide to buy it directly at the terminal, go there well in advance of the scheduled time because the buses are always full. To reach Bersepadu Selatan you can take the KTM Komuter train from KL Sentral. KTM Komuter station is “Bandar Taksit Selatan” and the ride takes only takes 20 minutes (it costs 1 RM).
- TRAVELLER’S SAFETY AND HEALTH
In general, Kuala Lumpur is a safe destination, but, as in all big cities, always pay attention to personal effects without showing them too much. The risk of being pickpocketed and mugged is quite high, especially in crowded areas because it happens not infrequently that criminals try to snatch bags, cell phones and other valuables from tourists. Also, be careful when walking the streets or waiting for public transport because we witnessed people injured by purse-grabbers on motorcycles.
Mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue fever and Zika fever are an actual threat in Malaysia and even in Kuala Lumpur. Therefore, take protection measures against mosquitos bites. Click here for more information.
If you ever need medical attention, the health services in Kuala Lumpur are good. Anyway, the best services are provided by private hospitals/clinics that boast the best technologies and often multilingual doctors, but the medical expenses are very high.
For more information on safety and the health situation, always consult the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country or contact your embassy in Malaysia.
Travel insurance: it’s always recommended to take out travel insurance to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and, in case, repatriation. We always do our travel insurance with Worldnomad.com.