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.
Hostel prices – Dorms rooms cost between $4-7 USD. Private rooms at the hostels cost around $12 USD per night for a single room, or $20 USD for a double.
Budget hotel prices – A single room in a budget hotel costs the same amount as hostel room but with your own bathroom. For a nicer quality hotel, expect to pay around $25 USD per night.
Average cost of food – Street food usually costs between $1.50-2.50 USD per dish. Local food in restaurants starts at $1-4 USD per dish. If you’re going to a nice sit down restaurant with table service, a meal with a drink will cost around $10 USD. Western food, as always, is more expensive than local food, but even still, a Western fast food combo only costs around $4 USD
Transportation costs – Kuala Lumpur’s public transportation is excellent. Buses cost $0.25 USD, while LRT (subway) and monorail journeys cost $0.25-1 USD, depending on distance.
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 South East 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.
Top Things to See and Do
Ascend The Petronas Towers – Standing at 1500 feet high, they 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 $25 USD, and there is only a limited number of tickets per day – 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 more or less everything else! Central Market and Jl 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 History 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 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 which at 421 meters tall, 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.
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 7000 artifacts and has an extensive library of Islamic texts and art. Situated in the Lake Gardens, the museum is huge at 100,000 square feet. 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.
Be Awed by Masjid Negara – Set within 13 acres of garden and with a capacity of 15,000 people is the Masjid Negara, Malaysia’s national mosque. The mosque’s standout features are its bright blue umbrella-shaped dome and its 73-meter tall minaret. Walk just across the street to explore the Old Railway Station building.
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 a tiring climb up the 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 320 foot high ceiling and ornate Hindu shrines.
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 Cosmo’s World – 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.
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. Admission 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 the 15-km procession.