Kuala Lumpur is known as being a respite from the rest of Southeast Asia. Do you miss wifi, malls, and grocery stores? Go to KL for a week. This developed city is surrounded by tall buildings, extravagant malls, and has an incredible infrastructure that rivals most of Europe. Well Kuala Lumpur is more than that, it’s a city with it’s own voice and culture, but yes, the shopping is great too. So if you have a few days in KL, here are some ideas that made my experience in Kuala Lumpur a great one!
- Take a food tour with Food Tour Malaysia
- If there is one “must-do” in Kuala Lumpur, it is a food tour from Food Tour Malaysia. I must note that I paid 62 Malaysian Ringgit (RM)/person (about $14 USD) for my tour back in March 2017 but on their website it says $62 USD/person, a difference of about $100 USD for two people. So, I would reach out to them and contact them about the price. Maybe we got lucky? Anyways, if it IS 62 RM instead of $62 USD, then it is totally worth it. For that price, you eat until your stomach is about to explode. In fact, we got free breakfast at our hotel (which was delicious) but had to skip it the next day because we were so stuffed.
- You meet your guide at a train station outside Kuala Lumpur, it took us about a half hour to get there by train and from there you slowly eat your way back into the center of the city. You will be transported throughout the tour via the guide’s car or van, so there is minimal walking involved. This tour emphasizes the three strong influences in Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian. With three different cuisines, you’ll feel like you ate at three different countries! Your guide will take you to places you never EVER would have visited alone and lets you eat (not sample!) food from a delicious selection of night markets and restaurants. In addition, your guide provides commentary about the culture, religions, and history of this great city, making the tour not just delicious but also educational.
- Do your shopping in Petaling Street or Central Market
- You can get here via train to Pasar Seni station which is just a short walk away from Petaling street.
- Kuala Lumpur’s “Chinatown” is interesting… It consists of mainly a few covered streets within blocks of each other where vendors will try to sell you anything from authentic Chinese-Malaysian cuisine to unauthentic fake handbags. Immerse yourself in the various sights, smells, and sounds that make Petaling Street a unique experience. Do some window shopping and don’t be quick to pull out your wallet when someone offers you a “good deal”. Chances are, you can walk a few stalls down to another stand and get offered the same item for a lower price. Because these stalls all offer similar items, threatening to walk off is a very powerful bargaining tool. Scattered across the the streets are mouthwatering food stalls, try Chinese Economy Rice if you’re hungry.
- If you’re too hot and are annoyed with bargaining, just walk across the street to Central Market. This market consists of an inside and outside market. Outside, you’ll find a bunch of stands for refreshments like fresh coconuts or freshly squeezed juices. You’ll find some shopping stalls too, but don’t expect to be able to haggle here. The products here are more genuine (I think?) and you won’t find a million fake LV/Prada/Burberry wallets around. Walk inside to the air conditioned shopping center and you can start shopping for Malaysian-made goods. We were able to snag some soaps and pants that were made by locals for a bargain price. Again, don’t expect to haggle here. You’ll also find the famous Old Town White Coffee, a huge local food court upstairs, and services like a foot spa where your dead skin will be eaten by fish. We spent a good chunk of time here and love the fact that it’s indoors, more local/authentic, and cheap.
- Make a day trip to the Batu Caves
- The cheapest way to get here is via the KL Kommuter train but you can also go with an Uber/taxi.
- This might be the most touristy thing you can do in KL besides going to the Petronas Towers. A short ways out of KL, make sure to get there early to avoid long lines and the scorching sun! There’s not too much to do here except to walk up the steps, admire the caves, and take selfies with the monkeys. The value in this activity and the reason why I include it on this list is because it’s just an easy/fun way to get out of the city. Plus, after eating a bunch the previous days, walking up and down 272 steps and sweating the whole way made me feel a little less guilty. Make sure your belongings are stowed in your backpack or handbag because those monkeys will be looking for food!
So those were our TOP 3 things but there’s a lot to do in KL. Here are a couple of other things we enjoyed:
- Why did I include both in one category? Because unlike America, shopping goes synonymously with eating! What I mean is that some of the best food you’ll find in KL will actually be at the food courts in the malls! That’s crazy! In the US, the only thing I expect to find in the mall are Sbarro’s and some rip off Chinese food. That’s not the case here! For the BEST food court experience, go to Lot 10 mall, head down to the basement, and you’ll find a collection of food stalls that are considered some of KL’s best street food. The owner gathered these former hawker stalls and brought them under one air-conditioned roof! Make sure to bring cash.
- Oh yeah, I forgot about the shopping! The main shopping district is Bukit Bintang which has like… 8 malls or something crazy like that?? There’s so much shopping in that one district that we couldn’t fit them all in our 5 day trip. Head to Pavilion and take the pedestrian walkway to Suria KL if you’re looking for mid to high end fashion. Go to Fahrenheit or Lot 10 for cheaper but still fashionable items. Want to go to a theme park INSIDE a mall? Then Berjaya’s Time Square is just for you! Oh yeah and if you’re staying in the “city center” then Nu Sentral, which is connected to KL Sentral station, will have EVERYTHING you need!
- Get a view of the city!
- People are torn between the Petronas Towers or the KL Tower for the best skyline view and experience. I would say just go with KL Tower. There’s never any lines and you can get an open-air, unobstructed view of the city below. A third popular option is to go to the Heli Lounge Bar right before sunset. You can get a drink with an amazing view of KL at a bar that used to be a helipad.
- Uber is so cheap in KL. A 20 minute ride in heavy traffic back to our hotel cost us less than $3 and most of our trips were under $1. Use it for places that are difficult to get to via public transportation.
- Speaking of public transportation, KL has an extensive rail line that we used for most of our travels. One-way is about $0.60 I believe (depending on how far you’re going) and it’s very easy to navigate.
- A pretty expensive meal is considered to be 20+ RM, or around $4.61, so even though it might seem cheap, there are probably even cheaper options out there! For example, Julia and I got a bottle of freshly squeezed juice every day for 5RM/person ($1) and have been WELL-fed for 10RM/person ($2.30). Go crazy with the food here and eat as much as you can!
- Try to get a hotel either in Bukit Bintang, by KLCC, or by KL Central if you want to stay in the thick of things. Even 5-star hotels are “cheap” here and the Doubletree Kuala Lumpur (where we stayed) is only 10,000 points/night for a 4.5 star property. Also this is Asia, if you have hotel status then you’ll be well taken care of.
- Kuala Lumpur is hot year-round with tropical weather. There will be instances of heavy thunder storms that usually only last a couple of hours, so be prepared.
- Got T-mobile? You’re good as you will get unlimited 2G data here for your Uber and other needs. If not, then bring an unlocked phone and get a sim card at the airport.
In conclusion, I loved everything about Kuala Lumpur. It doesn’t have the allure of the Thai Islands or the history of Angkor Wat, but it is still a great city in its own right and is worth a visit if you’re in Southeast Asia. As I’ve mentioned before, KL is THE hub of Air Asia (one of Asia’s budget airlines) so getting to and from other SE Asian countries will be both easy and cheap if traveling lightly. Also, don’t just spend a few days in this great country, a regret of mine is that we weren’t able to stay longer and explore the rest of Malaysia. Lastly, be prepared to be welcomed with open arms when you arrive here. The people of Kuala Lumpur were some of the nicest and friendliest people we have encountered since we started traveling, and apparently that extends to the rest of Malaysia as well. Thanks for reading, we hope you find this post helpful and informative!