Kuala Lumpur is one of the fastest upcoming destinations for travellers from the world over. This is, perhaps, because of its easy-going vibe along with a strong cultural heritage, which is a multi-ethnic assortment of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Persian and Arabic. These cultures beautifully intertwine, and permeate through the architecture, food, and people of this city. Equal parts culture, impressive modern recreation, and natural beauty make Kuala Lumpur a great city to visit!
Getting in and around
The Kuala Lumpur International Airport is the main international airport serving the city and is located roughly 45 kilometres south of the city centre. Being a hub of airlines like the flag carrier Malaysia Airlines, as well as Air Asia; this airport connects the city and country to the world with more than 50 airlines flying into and out of KLIA. The fastest way to get to the city from here is to take the KLIA Ekspres train that runs every 20 minutes, getting you to KL Sentral station in about 30 minutes, tickets costing RM55 (RM: Malaysian Ringgit) one way. There is also an Airport Coach bus reaching KL Sentral in 1 hour, every half-an-hour, costing RM11 one way.
Getting around KL is decently convenient with a public transportation system that is constantly developing, consisting of the LRT train lines, KL Monorail, KTM Komuter train line, and the MRT train line. The KL TravelPass is a smart card that enables unlimited use on the LRT, MRT and KL Monoral lines for a period of 2 days, as well as the KLIA Ekspres. A Single pass (includes a single airport transfer) costs RM70, and a Return pass (includes a return airport transfer) costs RM115. You can purchase the pass at counters at KLIA. The public service bus is not advisable due to low frequency and signage. The red and white taxis of KL are another great way to get around, as long as you insist upon metre use. However, during rush hour it is advisable to use public transport.
Budget: Geo Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Paper Plane Hostel, KLCC Dorm Hostel
Mid-range: Tribeca Hotel and Serviced Suites, Ascott Kuala Lumpur, Impiana KLCC Hotel, Ramada Suites Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Hotel Stripes Kuala Lumpur Autograph Collection, THE FACE Suites
Luxury: Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur, The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, Hilton Kuala Lumpur, The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur.
This French bistro in Bangsar, your breakfast spot for the day, serves up eggs in various delicious forms. The Oeufs Pochés Benedictine, Oeufs Cocotte, and the Oeufs Mollets Florentine are some soft boiled/baked egg dishes that you must try. The croissants, danishes, pastries, and breads are great sides. A lovely start to your day, here, will cost you not more than RM100 for two people. Yeast Bistronomy opens at 8:00 am every day.
A 15-minute taxi ride (RM15) should drop you at the National Museum of Kuala Lumpur . A great way to get oriented with the Malaysian heritage, and how its culture has developed from ancient times to what it is now. You can see life-sized models of traditional life such as wedding rituals, weaving, fishing, farming, amongst others. Don’t miss the beautiful life-sized traditional Malacca Baba house. The museum is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm every day (except public holidays), for an admission fee of RM5 for international visitors above the age of 5, RM2 for international visitors between 6-12 years, and is free for children under 6 years old. Make it in time for the free guided tour of the museum by the volunteers that take place in English (also available in French, Japanese, Malay and Mandarin on specific days) every day at 10:00 am, except Sundays and public holidays.
From the Museum, take a taxi (10 minutes, RM7) to the Jamek Mosque. Don’t miss the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad Building along the way. The Jamek Mosque, built in 1909, is designed in Indian Mughal architecture and is believed to be the oldest mosque in the city. Volunteers from the mosque provide free guided tours of the structure, and the history of Islam in KL. The entry to the mosque is free, and can be visited every day but Friday, between 8:30 am - 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm. It is necessary to be dressed appropriately to enter the mosque, and robes for visitors wearing shorts/sleeveless tops, as well as hijabs for women, are available.
Just a 7-minute walk down from the mosque is the Central Market. This pastel blue building is one of the most famous street shopping locations of the city, along with its exotically covered outdoor walkway known as the ‘Kasturi Walk’. It’s the perfect place to get a feel of the city, where you can purchase traditional souvenirs and gifts like batik, embroidery, and sculptures, as well as taste some local snacks and produce. A vibrant place to be, you won’t stop by without picking a couple things up! The market is open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm daily. You can also make your way to the ‘River of Life’ waterfront for great views of the skyline (including the Jamek Mosque) rising from the Klang River in the forefront.
Not more than 5 minutes away by foot, is one of the most culturally strong neighbourhoods of the city: Chinatown. Enter the Petaling Street market, under the red Paifang, and all your senses will come alive. This lively flea market is packed with shops selling off-brand clothes and accessories, aromatic Chinese herbs, and a whole lot of interesting Chinese trinkets. Don’t forget to bargain! You can also taste a dumpling or two from one of the many stalls. A visit to one of the Guan Di Temple is a serene break from all the bustle.
Take a taxi from Chinatown (15 minutes, RM10) to Nasi Lemak Tanglin right next to the KL Bird Park. You are going to taste an all-time-favourite Malay dish here for lunch today: nasi lemak. Also considered the national dish, the nasi lemak consists of fragrant rice that is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. Here, it is served with either sambal sotong (cuttlefish in chili), chicken rendang, or beef dendeng/daging; and topped with an omelette, crunchy anchovies, cut cucumber, and peanuts. Their nasi lemak is priced at RM2 for the base, and can go up to RM 10, depending on your curry, sides and add-ons. The stall in the food-court is open between 7:00 am – 12:00 pm and 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm. So, make sure to reach by 3:30 pm for late lunch, so that you get the food freshly made.
The entrance to the KL Forest Eco Park (opposite the St. Andrews Church) is a 15-minute taxi ride away (RM11). Formerly known as the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, this is a taste of the Malaysian rainforest right here in the centre of KL! Located at the foot of the mighty KL Tower/Menara KL, you can walk through the canopy of the forest on narrow bridges suspended high in the treeline, and view the skyscrapers in the distance. Make sure to carry water, and some mosquito repellent with you. As of now, entry to the park is free and open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm every day.
A taxi from the KL Menara exit of the park should take you to the Petronas Towers in about 10 minutes (RM9). These twin-towers are the icon of Kuala Lumpur, and stand at a whopping 1483 feet from ground to tip. Today, you will be able to ascend the towers to dizzying heights, to get some unmatched views of KL. Book a slot just before sunset, for the tour of the Skybridge at the 42nd floor and then the observation deck on the 86th floor, on the official website at RM85 per adult. Make sure to make bookings weeks in advance as the officials only allow 1000 visitors every day, and the sunset slot is very popular. However, it is all worth it as you see the sun setting over the skyline of KL from the most iconic building in the city! You can also check out the Suria KLCC mall at the base of the towers.
15 minutes by taxi (RM12) from the Twin Towers, is one of the most happening districts of Kuala Lumpur. Bukit Bintang is a hub for shopping and recreation in the city with malls, street shopping, hawkers, cafés, bars and nightclubs galore. After exploring the area and its attractions, make your way to Jalan Alor (Alor Street) which is a gastronomic experience like no other. Chinese restaurants and hawkers line this relatively narrow street with rows upon rows of tables and chairs pouring out on the road. Meats, noodles, rice and vegetables grilling on fire and smoke all around you; it’s the epitome of the Southeast Asian street-food experience! And the best part, it won’t burn a hole in your pocket at all!