A visit to Malaysia isn’t complete unless you’ve spent a few days touring and eating your way through the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. Although more expensive than other parts of Malaysia, KL’s mix of cultures (India, Chinese, Malay, and Western) creates a unique blend of food, shopping, and nightlife. I find KL to be an exciting place and one of the best cities in the world for good Indian food (outside of India that is). This guide will help you navigate the city and make the most of your visit.
Hostel prices – Dorms rooms cost between 20-45 MYR, while a private room costs between 40-60 MYR per night. Free breakfast and free WiFi are both quite common, as is A/C. A hostel with a kitchen is less common, so be sure to double check if you are requiring a place to cook your own meals.
Budget hotel prices – Budget hotels start around 55 MYR per night for a basic double room with WiFi and free breakfast. This will likely include air-conditioning as well. For a hotel with a pool, expect to pay at least 100 MYR per night. For a brand-name hotel, prices start around 225 MYR per night. Airbnb is available in the city, with shared accommodation starting around 55 MYR per night and entire apartments starting around 100 MYR per night.
Average cost of food – Street food usually costs under 10 MYR per dish. Local food in restaurants will cost between 5-15 MYR per dish. If you’re going to a mid-range restaurant with table service, a meal with a drink will cost around 35 MYR. Western food is more expensive than local food but even still, a Western fast-food combo only costs around 15 MYR. Beer at the bar shouldn’t be more than 15 MYR, while a coffee will be around 5 MYR. A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 75-150 MYR, as long as you stick to local staples and avoid expensive western items (such as wine or cheese).
Transportation costs – Kuala Lumpur’s public transportation is excellent. Buses start at 1 MYR, while the LRT (subway) and monorail cost between 2-35 MYR, depending on distance. For intercity travel, a bus from KL to Singapore will cost around 70 MYR while a flight will be closer to 200 MYR. A train from KL to Bangkok will cost around 200 MYR, while a flight for the same distance will be almost 500 MYR.
Suggested daily budget – 110-150 MYR / $30-45 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out at the street food, minimizing your drinking, and using local transportation. You can use the budget tips below to lower your expenses and, of course, if you stay in nicer places, eat out more, and drink, your daily budget will be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Shop at Lot 10 – This shopping mall sells genuine designer clothes for bargain prices, among the cheapest you are likely to find in Southeast Asia.
- Stay in Chinatown – Chinatown is one of the cheaper neighborhoods for lodging in the city and it is relatively close to many attractions.
- Explore on foot – Chinatown and Little India, the neighborhoods with the most tourist sites, are right next to each other and can easily be explored in a day without spending money on transport.
- Watch out for scams – Be aware how much attractions cost before you arrive. The Batu Caves, for example, are free to enter however there will be plenty of people outside trying to see you fake tickets.
Top Things to See and Do in Kuala Lumpur
- Ascend the Petronas Towers – Standing 451m high, these towers dominate the Kuala Lumpur skyline. Visitors can take in the view from the deck on the bridge which joins the towers on levels 41 and 42. Entrance to the towers is 85 MYR for adults and 35 MYR for kids, and there is only a limited number of tickets per day — and they get snapped up fast so you’ll need to be there early. Come back at night to see them all lit up to get a wonderful photo.
- Go to the market – Make sure to visit one of KL’s many markets to pick up bargains on electrical goods, food, clothes, and everything else! Central Market and Jalan Petaling market in Chinatown are two of the city’s best. Markets are open day and night, with the daytime markets being known as ‘Pasar Tani’ and the evening ones ‘Pasar Malam’.
- Educate yourself at the National Museum – The National History Museum is a great place to familiarize yourself with Malaysia’s history and culture. The artifacts include a 40,000-year-old human skull and an eight-sided gold coin dating back to the 15th Century. Entrance to the museum is 5 MYR for foreign adults, and children under 12 enter for free.
- Eat until you explode – Indian, Chinese, Malay and Western foods are all common in KL. The multicultural social mix in Kuala Lumpur creates an extremely varied blend of local food. The markets and roadside stalls are a great place to pick up hawker food. Unsurprisingly, Little India and Chinatown serve amazing food at very reasonable prices.
- Go up Menara Kuala Lumpur – Another focal point in Kuala Lumpur’s skyline is the Menara tower. At 240m tall, it dwarfs its surroundings and is the fifth tallest building in the world. The bird’s eye views of KL from the observation deck or revolving restaurant are actually more impressive than that of the Petronas Towers. Admission is 105 MYR for adults and 55 MYR for kids.
- Visit Sri Mahamariaman – Built in 1873, the Sri Mahamariaman Hindu Temple sits just at the edge of Chinatown and is an incredible sight. This is the country’s oldest and most beautifully decorated temple. As can be expected, it occupies an important place in Hindu religious life. The temple’s most impressive feature is the gate tower which is adorned with depictions of Hindu Gods.
- Explore the Islamic Arts Museum – The Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia exhibits over 7,000 artifacts and has an extensive library of Islamic texts and art. Situated in the Lake Gardens, the museum is huge at 9,300 square meters. Within this vast space you will find the world’s largest scale model of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, 12 galleries, and artifacts including porcelain and weaponry. Admission is 14 MYR for adults, 7 MYR for seniors and students, and free for children.
- Be Awed by Masjid Negara – This is Malaysia’s national mosque. It’s set within 13 acres of garden and has the capacity to hold 15,000 people. The mosque’s standout features are its bright blue umbrella-shaped dome and its 73m minaret.
- Duck into Batu Caves – In a city of skyscrapers and crowded markets, it’s pretty cool to get out and see a natural wonder, and the Batu Caves don’t disappoint. After climbing up 272 steps, you’ll be rewarded with the huge golden Murugan statue and the entrance to the largest of the three caves: Cathedral Cave. Once inside you’ll be amazed at its 100m-high ceiling and ornate Hindu shrines. Admission is free, though there will be plenty of scammers outside the temple trying to sell you tickets.
- Wander through Lake Gardens Park – Near Chinatown and the main train station you’ll find this urban park, which is surprisingly jungle-like. The bird park can be found here as well as the Islamic Arts Museum. You can also rent a boat and float on the lake.
- Be a kid at the Berjaya times square theme park – Located inside the Berjaya times square, this is one of many theme parks that can be found throughout Kuala Lumpur. Beyond the various rides and intimidating roller coasters, there is also a water park, garden highlands, and the Mines Wonderland. Admission is 51 MYR for adults, and discounts are available for seniors and children.
- Check out the Royal Malaysia Police Museum – This might sound like an odd museum to check out, but it’s surprisingly interesting. The collection here features old uniforms, weaponry, and vehicles, which have been seized from old members of Malaysia’s underground society of organized crime. Best of all, admission to the museum is free!
- Partake in Thaipusam – This is a festival based on the Hindu religion and typically occurs during the full moon in February. Every year, over a million locals and thousands of tourists flock to the Batu Cave to offer milk and partake in a 9-mile procession.