Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide

*I spent 3 days in Kuala Lumpur (K.L.) in July 2013 and I had mixed feelings… In this blog post, I am going to give you an overview of the city, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based off my own experiences.

Also, please see my other related blog posts on K.L:
10 Things to do in KL
6 Malay Foods to Try
Top 10 Malay Words

General Thoughts

Kuala Lumpur, commonly referred to as KL, is virtually unknown to the Western World (specifically the USA). How many people have you met that has talked about going to Kuala Lumpur?  I know none of my friends don’t know a thing about it.

The city, located in West Peninsular Malaysia, is a melting pot of cultures, which makes it stand out as one of the most diverse places in Asia. I had no expectations going in, so I’ll provide you with my complete honest feelings about KL.

I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it, either.

KL is much bigger than I was expecting, with densely populated streets and a mesmerizing skyline. Surrounding the city limits are a variety of unique and awesome architectural buildings.

The most prominent skyscrapers, which can be seen from miles and miles away, are the Petronas Twin Towers.  They are the tallest twin towers in the world (5th tallest buildings overall), and have the highest sky bridge at 170 meters above street level. The twin towers dominate the skyline in KL and they win the prize for my favorite skyscrapers in the world.

If you want to go up to the top of the towers (which I highly recommend), then you must arrive super early (about 8AM) to wait in line. Only a limited amount of tickets are sold each day, so they sell out fast.  The views from the sky bridge and the top are AMAZING!

Alright, let’s dive into some quick facts:

Quick Facts

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 8.57.28 PM– Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
LanguageMalay
Population: 1.6 million (city), 6 million (metro)
– Kuala Lumpur boasts 66 shopping malls and is known as the retail and fashion hub of Malaysia.
– It is ranked 6th most visited city in the world, attracting some 10 million tourists per year
– The city was founded by a group of Chinese tin miners in 1857
– 61% of the population follows the Islam religion
– The word Kuala Lumpur has been derived from Malay language which means “muddy confluence”.
– Islam is the largest practiced religion in Malaysia, with about 65% of the total population

Culture & People

To be honest, I had a hard(er) time adapting to Malaysian culture than everywhere else in South East Asia.  I just couldn’t quite grasp it.

Literally, there were hundreds of different cultures represented on the streets, so I had a difficult time telling who was local and who was a foreigner.

I would like to share my thoughts on the people in KL… In my opinion, the men were a bit rude, sketchy and aggressive. Every time I walked by a store, I was haggled, bribed and sometimes harassed to step inside.  I have been to many places and I usually know how to deal with people and situations like this, but my buttons were pressed a little too hard in KL.  The women were very innocent, and most of them wear a Hijab (veil) on their head as a part of Muslim culture.

All I can say is be aware of your pockets and purses, because the people are notorious for snatching things.  A friend of mine got her purse stolen from her on the street.  If you are a girl, beware of the creepy stares that you’ll get from the older men and don’t go anywhere alone at night.

I don’t mean to be critical, I just want to share my honest opinion with you guys. The overall safety is fine, so no need to worry about extreme crime. Just be careful with pick pocketing and verbal harassing, as you always should be in any foreign city.

However, I will still encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try to make some new local friends.  Maybe you will have more success than I did!  Click this link to learn the Top 10 Malay Words to keep in your back pocket 😉

What to Do?

You will never run out of things to do in K.L..  As mentioned earlier, the #1 thing to do is go to the top of the Twin Towers.  The entire tour is phenomenal and it is an experience unlike anything else.

If you like to shop, then KL is a city for you.

The city is filled with dozens and dozens of shopping malls and street markets, where you can find everything from high-class designer stores to cheap local hand-made goods. My favorite place to shop was at the Central Market. This place was like bargaining heaven! It has been around since 1886, and you can find all sorts of cheap CHEAP things- clothes, watches, clothes, souvenirs, toys, you name it! It is made up of a giant indoor market (like the best mall you’ve ever been to) with several shops outside as well. If you are on a budget and/or you want to buy some awesome local/hand-made goodies, then go to central market!

I also recommend checking out Chinatown for some good Chinese food, and decent shopping. Walk down Pentaling Street (a pedestrian road) and you’ll get a unique experience with a pretty sweet atmosphere.

Lastly, I advise you to take a day trip to the Batu Caves, which are located 13 kilometers North of the city. Basically, there are a bunch of cave temples inside a giant limestone hill.  The cave is recognized as one of the most important Hindu shrines outside of India. To enter the main cave (where the giant statue is), you must climb up thousands of stairs.  The journey is incredible, where you will see wild monkeys the entire way up and a beautiful view of the city b behind you.  Inside this cave are an assortment of religious temples and some crazy looking rock formations.

In the cave beside the main cave, you can take an adventure tour. The cave is completely pitch black.  They will give you helmets with flashlights on them to wear. It was fascinating to see inside a cave that is over 400 million years old. You’ll hear thousands of bats flapping from the ceiling above you.  It’s a great experience.

For a more complete list, check out my post on 10 Things to do in KL!

The Food

The Food in Kuala Lumpur was nothing short of spectacular. Malaysian Food isn’t saying much by itself, because it has many influences from neighboring counties like Thailand, India and China. So the cuisine in K.L. is sort of like a fusion between these three countries.

There is an awesome street called Jalan Alor, which is lined up with street vendors selling delicious and cheap food! It’s sort of like a big outdoor hawker center (Singaporean cafeterias) with nothing else but restaurant after restaurant.  This street comes alive at night and it will be hustling and bustling with activity . I ate most of my meals there because it was so cheap and tasty.

If you want to learn more about the best local foods, then please check out my post on 6 Malaysian Foods to Try!

The Nightlife

Nightlife in KL is pretty fun!

Luckily, I was in KL on the weekend, so I got to experience some fun bars and clubs around the city.  There is definitely something for everyone, whether you want to sip on a few beers, mingle with some new friends, or dance the night away at a massive club.

One of the most popular spots to go out is at the Changkat Bukit Bintang district, which is the shopping and entertainment district of KL. However, prices are a little more expensive in this part of town.  Another area with many fun bars is Jalan Mesui, which has lots of restaurants and fun bars.  Lastly, bb park is a compact cut-through area with bars and clubs open until sunrise.

In any case, the scene is pretty fun and you will be sure to have a memorable night. And if you want some late night food, head over to Jalan Alor and you’ll be the happiest person in the world.

*Thanks for reading!  Have you been to Kuala Lumpur before? Comment Below!

Related Blog Posts
10 Things to do in KL

6 Malay Foods to Try
Top 10 Malay Words

17 thoughts on “Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide

  1. I was searching about Alaskan crab and stumble upon your blog. I’m sorry to hear about your friend that have her bag snatch by a thief here in Kuala Lumpur. That was terrible. I hope you will visit again since that is not a true perception of Malaysian people but sometimes bad people got the best of foreign travellers. As mentioned by other Malaysian my country is filled with fun and exciting things to do. It is different for every state you visit. Hope to have you here soon. There’s a lot of local dish waiting for you to taste them. We got real weird and good stuff combined! Hehe hope you’re happy with what you’ve been doing now. Malaysia hope to see you soon!! Cheers

  2. Hi…
    Nice blog bro. BUT to be honest with you, u got a wrong time and also a wrong place that u visited to KL. Serious….too many things that u never know. If u want to repeat again to come over here, I will do volunteery as your tourist guide 😉

  3. Hi Drew, really enjoying your blog. We are heading to Myanmar at the end of February, followed by Malaysia. We are planning on staying in Kuching for 2-3 days in some rainforest tree houses, and then heading to an island. We are torn between Pangkor Laut, Langkawi and the Perhenetian islands. We are probably only going to use KL as a go between (airport hub). Did you venture to any of these islands?

    1. Hi Jessica (and Drew), came across to Drew’s blog while I was doing my research for Myanmar. I’m from Malaysia and I would like to give you my views on the islands that you are contemplating to visit 🙂

      In my honest opinion, if you can only choose 1 island to visit, I’d recommend Perhentian Island (here’s an unfiltered photo I took http://oi63.tinypic.com/10h8v1j.jpg), whereby you can easily island hop to Redang & Lang Tengah island, and it’d be a good place to dive if you are a certified diver. Think sandy white beach + crystal clear water :). Early Mar would be a good time as the monsoon is expected to end by then.

      Langkawi is much bigger in size compared to Perhentian, and locals go there for 1 main reason = duty free island (cheap booze!). Here you get to rent a car or motorbike and explore the island (hiking, waterfall, cable car…)

      I’ve not been to Pangkor Island but I feel that I’m not missing anything, especially after visiting Perhentian/ Redang/ Lang Tengah and Tioman island.

      Hope it helps 🙂

  4. Visiting K.L. for the first time via cruise ship. Love your blog Drew (even if I am out of your usual demographic, lol) I’d like to hire a reliable private guide to meet us at the pier, take us to the Batu Caves and guarantee to get us back to port in time to reboard. Do you have any contacts with a local company that could help?

  5. Hello, came across your blog after an article in The Independent saying you ranked it one of the worst places. I’ve grown up in KL most of my life and would like to just to let you know that for a better experience, you gotta visit KL with an open mind. KL is home to some incredibly diverse architecture because of how many religions and cultures represented – Sri Mahamarian temple (near Petaling Street), Thean Hou temple, the national mosque. These are key places of religious and cultural significance. Also, Penang is also worth going to (you can fly there for very cheap from KL) and if you like nature, visit the East of Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) – visit Mulu Caves in Sarawak (these caves will blow your mind if you liked the side caves at Batu Caves), go white water rafting in Sabah, visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, go on a river safari in Kinabatangan river, and if you have the time, Malaysia is also home to some of the best dive sites in the world – outstanding natural beauty, especially Sipadan in Sabah. Hope you do visit Malaysia again and have a much better experience! I understand your sentiment about creepy stares from men towards women (having experienced this myself many a time growing up in KL), Malaysians are generally very friendly and warm people who are very hospitable, especially Sabahans and Sarawakians (I am from Sarawak so may be biased). Perhaps you may have encountered the ‘big city’ effect in KL.
    P.s. The statue at Batu Caves you are referring to is not Buddha. Batu Caves is a Hindu temple, so that statue is definitely not Buddha. The statue is of Lord Murugan and in fact, the whole temple is dedicated to Lord Murugan.

  6. Should try the local chinese food there ! (whereby u cant find it in China except in singapore since most of the malaysian chinese migrate there)
    -Yong Tau Foo
    – Hokkien Mee
    -Ying Yong Mee (Yin Yang Mee)
    -Bak Kut Teh (Pork)
    -Char Koey teow

    http://my.openrice.com/klangvalley/article/10-insanely-good-foods-at-jalan-ipoh-kl/405

    Indian food:
    Nasi Briyani!

    nowadays places like petaling street mainly are foreign workers who are working.
    I recommend u Penang n Melaka on your next trip to malaysia! 😉

  7. Nice blogs. thanks for sharing your great moments in my city Kuala Lumpur.. We know our the country is the most least famous to be compared with other asian cities. But we are happy with it as it is good to be underrated than overrated. hope you will come back and visit others places apart from kuala lumpur and i assured you more surprises to come 🙂 sincerely Yati, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

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