Enveloped within the state of Selangor on the southwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, culture-rich Kuala Lumpur is the crown jewel of the nation. Despite the clutter, there has always been something both deeply alluring yet mysteriously puzzling about the city. Perhaps it’s the uncanny juxtaposing of historic monuments amidst her looming skyscrapers, or the mish-mash of street side vendors and carts jostling each other around sprawling green gardens. Either way, the city manages to maintain a comfortable stride with the latest in technology all whilst holding on to her traditional roots with fervour.
The heat and humidity is truly the enemy in the tropics, and Kuala Lumpur is no exception. Sunshine is as common as rain and temperatures remain fairly constant all year round with an average low of 23 and a high of 34 degrees Celsius. You probably don’t need a jacket, but remember an umbrella. Fellow make up enthusiasts, be prepared to prime, power, and waterproof everything.
December – March, May-September: Dry season. Minimal rainfall. January and February are arguably the best times to visit Kuala Lumpur.
October –Dec, March- April: Wet Season. Strong Monsoon Winds. November is the wettest month of the year before it gets slightly drier in December.
Getting there and away
Air. Getting to and away from Kuala Lumpur is a breeze, with an extensive range of budget and full service airlines like Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Jetstar Airways, Tiger Airways, Malindo Air, FireFly, and Silk Air fly to either the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (55km south of city) or the SkyPark Subang Airport (20km west of the city centre).
Land. Taking a bus from Johor or Singapore is easy with services like Redbus that enable you to compare prices, schedules and drop-off points of the various bus companies before making your decision. If you plan on driving to KL, be sure to avoid peak hours as the highways and toll booths are usually heavily congested. Buy a touch-and-go card or keep spare cash on you for the various tolls you will encounter.
Getting to and from Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Bus. An hour by Airport Coach (RM18 for a one way and RM25 for a return ticket) will take you to and from any KL hotel at the city’s centre. Look out for the clear signs in the terminal to get to the bus stand. Other bus services include Skybus and Aerobus.
Train. A quick and comfortable option is the KLIA Ekspres. It departs every quarter of an hour from the wee hours of the morning till late at night. Another option is the KL Transit train that also connects KLIA with KL Sentral within the span of approximately 30-40 minutes. From KL Sentral, journey on to your final destination with the ever convenient light rail (LRT) or KTM. To plan a seamless train journey, see here.
Taxi. Taxis in Malaysia usually operate on either a fixed-fare system or a meter so I would suggest purchasing a taxi coupon before leaving the arrival hall. Although a standard taxi might cost around RM70 for an hour’s ride to the city, given the extra charges of the metered taxis for tolls, extra charges for airport pick-ups, as well as the unexpected traffic jams and hold ups, it might be less of a hassle with the fixed fare system.
Getting around Kuala Lumpur
By foot or on bicycles. Often, the best way to explore a new country is by putting on some walking shoes and letting yourself get lost in the city. Renting a bicycle is a splendid way to get some adrenaline pumping through your veins and a quick workout while you’re at it.
Rideshare apps or taxis. Rideshare apps like Uber or Grab mostly use a fixed fare system, so you don’t have to think about any extra charges the road tolls might incur. They come up with special promotions occasionally, which can help you save on travel costs. In addition, I find these services a lot safer in comparison to the regular taxis. However, if you do flag down a taxi, it would be helpful to check the road conditions beforehand to avoid paying a lot more. Otherwise, the taxis function in the same way as the ones from the airport.
Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur
Budget-friendly (less than US $25 per person per night)
Paper Plane Hostel (from US $16) – Dorm, single, and double rooms. Minimalistic with an industrial touch. Located right in the heart of downtown KL within a neighbourhood of cafes and restaurants. 15 Jalan Sin Chew Kee, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Hotel 1915 Kuala Lumpur (from US $18) – single or double rooms a stone’s throw away from modern landmarks. Experience a vintage set up in a prime location; convenient, comfortable, and safe. 49, Jalan Leboh Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Mingle KL (from US$16 per night) – Dorm or private rooms.Like its name suggests, this place is ideal for getting to know people from all over the world. Centred in Chinatown, you will be walking distance from places of interest, the train station, markets, convenience store and a laundromat. 53, Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Mid-range (less than US$100 per room night)
Regalia Suites Kuala Lumpur (from US $50) – Need that Instagram money shot of the KL Skyline complete with an infinity pool? This is your best bet. The luxury apartments that are located slightly away from the city so you’re mostly out of that hustle and bustle. 2 Jalan Anjung Putra, Off Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Fraser Place Kuala Lumpur (from US $70) – If you love the buzz of the city, these serviced apartments would definitely fit the bill. Part of KLCC itself, they lie adjacent to the Petronas Towers. The epitome of cosmopolitan living. Lot 163, 10 Jalan Perak, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur (from US $60 per night) – for those who require a fuss-free, predictably safe choice. Comfortable, spacious, and clean, pamper yourself with this award-winning stay. Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Luxury (from US $100 per night)
The Gardens Hotel & Residences (from US $100 per night) – Located between Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, live in a lap of luxury within the precinct of Mid Valley City. One for the shopaholics. The Gardens, Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Hotel Stripes KL (from US $120 per night) – Unique, personalised and luxurious, a home away from home, infinity pool included. 25 Jalan Kamunting, 50300 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur (from US $127 per night) – For those after design and heritage. Rustic and quintessentially colonial, live like a queen in this classic beauty chock full of old world charm. The original building has been deemed a national heritage site too. 5 Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Places to visit in and around Kuala Lumpur
The Petronas Towers
The pulsating heart of this vibrant city, these steel-clad twin artifices stand high over the city landscape. There’s no avoiding it so spend some time admiring it in the evenings in the lush greenery of KLCC Park. Take some pictures and watch her sparkle against the navy sky. Do remember to watch the dancing fountains at the Lake Symphony outside KLCC, and check out Aquaria KLCC while you’re at it.
Taman Negara National Park
If you have a full day to spare, Taman Negara National Park is the perfect place to indulge in outdoor activities. Trek through the canopy, visit the Kaum Batek, do some fishing and caving, and check out the wildlife in one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Tours are available should you wish to spend a day in nature, with transfer services from hotels within KL city. Alternatively, if you don’t have that much time, check out the famous Batu Caves.
Known as Kuala Lumpur’s China Town and a hot spot for film enthusiasts, Petaling Street is perfect for those who want to explore a rich source of culture. Soak in the sights, sound and smell by foot or take a walking tour as suggested above. If you’re in the area, be sure to visit Merdeka Square for a load of Mughal architecture.
Kuala Lumpur is an Asian city, which means that there’s going to be a mall at every street corner. The prices here are a lot cheaper than that of Singapore’s and they do bring in brands that are not available here. For high end retail, the district of Bukit Bintang is definitely the place to go. For more mid ranged shopping, head on over to Mid Valley or 1 Utama.
Where to eat and drink in Kuala Lumpur
Fact: most flock to Malaysia’s capital for the sole purpose of enjoying the large variety of food available to this city.
Delicacies that are a must-try in KL are the Bak Kut Teh, Nasi lemak, and of course, the Hokkien Noodles, to name a few. We’ve listed a few favourites, but make no mistake, the city is overflowing with hidden food finds that may be found at any “mamak”. So grab some change and eat to your heart’s content!
Cafes and Restaurants
The Red Beanbag is perfect for that simple cup of coffee accompanied by a plate of Eggs Benny. Located at A4-1-08, Solaris Dutamas, Jalan Dutamas 150480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Pulp is a brunch spot reminiscent of those you might find along the streets of Sydney or Melbourne. They even serve coffee approved by an Australian friend of mine. Located at 29-01 Jalan Riong 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Jibby & Co pairs the industrial warehouse effect with an elegant dining experience. Locals say the lunch menu is to die for. A fusion of styles, this café is ideal for those who can’t quite decide on one cuisine. Located at GK11, Ground Floor, Empire Shopping Gallery, Jalan SS 16/147500 Subang Jaya, Malaysia
Troika Sky Dining serves up the best of South American fare. Splendid for a sunset date, impress and be impressed with the killer view. Expect the best service and a lovely band to serenade you through the courses. It gets busy so be sure to book a table to secure the best seats! Located at Level 23a, Tower B, The Troika, 19 Persiaran KLCC, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Village Park serves up award-winning ayam goreng but make sure to sample their mouth-watering nasi lemak as well. No regrets there! Located at 5, Jalan SS21/37, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
Yap Chuan Restoran was touted as the ultimate Bak Kut Teh spot by several Malaysian friends. It might be a little far from the city, but it’s worth the drive. Just remember to be more careful in Klang; it’s not as touristy as KL city. Located at 19, Lorong Tiara 1a, Bandar Baru Klang, 41150 Klang, Selangor, Malaysia.
Jalan Alor is a famous street that has a wide selection of Malaysian hawker food. Look for a Wong Ah Wah, a store that sells Tai Lok Meen (Hokkien Noodles). Located at 9, Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Savaro by Felda offers a wide selection of authentic Malaysian delights in a more polished setting. Try the Kelantanese dish, Nasi Kerabu, which features blue steamed rice with coconut cream and Telang flower. The rice is then presented with fried Tenggiri fish, salted egg, smoked beef and complete with a handful of flavourful garnishes. Located at A3-G2-09, Publika, Solaris Dutamas,, 50480, Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
As beautiful as she is during the day, Kuala Lumpur simply dazzles at night. Although Malaysia is an Islamic country, the secular and cosmopolitan aspect of the city leaves room for some night spots that are not to be missed.
TREC Right in the middle of the golden triangle, this newly built gem consists of pubs and clubs. Home to Zouk KL, you can be sure that this one stop destination will meet all your party needs. Located at 436 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
W.I.P Restaurant & Bar was one of the first bars I visited when I started to frequent KL. Needless to say, it has been a constant ever since. The prices here are reasonable and the atmosphere is fantastic. Located at T117A, Bangsar Shopping Centre, 285 Jalan Maarof Bukit Bandar Raya, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Publika is a one stop shopping, eating as well as drinking destination. With a wide selection of bars and restaurants here, I suggest starting with dinner and going on from there. Home the previously mentioned Red Beanbag café as well as Savaro by Felda, you may also wish to try Estilo for some funky Spanish cuisine. Located at Jalan Dutamas 150480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Food and Drink.
Most folks in KL boil tap water before drinking but in the absence of a kettle, it might be safer to drink bottled water. Avoid ice in dodgy stores and remember to clean the cans if you plan to drink from it. The food safety level in Kuala Lumpur is generally good, with higher standards of hygiene than other parts of the country.
The national language is Bahasa Melayu but most in KL are able to speak English fluently. Other commonly heard languages include Mandarin and Chinese dialects like Hokkien and Teochew, as well as Tamil.
Religion and Culture.
Islam is the official religion in Kuala Lumpur. Still, other religions are freely practiced in this capital. For this reason, there are many Chinese temples as well as churches scattered around the city.
Avoid walking alone in deserted areas, alleys, and streets, especially after dark. The most frequently committed tourist crimes include pick-pocketing, snatch-thefts and muggings. Be wary of strangers offering free rides and avoid unlicensed unmarked taxis, known as Kereta Sapu.
Ladies, do not leave your drink unattended. If you need to leave to go to the bathroom, get a new drink on your way back as many have had their drinks spiked.
Top image: i.gunawan