At some point in your travels through SE Asia, you’ll end up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital. It’s a super cheap hub for air travel and a much-needed return to “city life” after months of traveling without a proper store to stock up on basic necessities such as toiletries, new clothes, modern (western) medicine, etc. Plus, there are some great sights to see!
Most people plan to stay here 3 nights, I stayed 10. Why does this always happen to me?
I didn’t stay 10 because I loved the town, I stayed because I had friends coming in and out of town so frequently, that I just couldn’t leave without saying hello!
How crazy to meet up with a friend from America?!
Note: This is Jalan Alor street, the “food street” mentioned below.
Kuala Lumpur is FILLED with things to do! Most include shopping at the vast variety of malls, but there are some cultural and “cool” city-things to do too.
- Petronas Twins Towers – You MUST visit the twin towers at night. There is a park located behind the towers with a beautiful water show at 9pm every night. It is a peaceful walk in the park and a perfect way to end a long and hectic day in the city.
- Aquaria KLCC – While I didn’t visit the aquarium, it’s located directly under the Petronas Towers. Under the towers you’ll find Suria KLCC mall, a food court, a convention center, and the aquarium.
- KL Tower – This is the “other” tower you’ll see in the skyline. I didn’t go up, but you can get an awesome view of it from the Heli Bar, Sky Bar, or some of the insanely gorgeous infinity pools at hotels, Airbnbs, and hostels. One of my favorite Airbnbs is The FACE at KLCC.
- Merdeka Square, Royal Selangor Club, Sultan Abdul Samad Building & Jamek Mosque – This is the cultural hub of Kuala Lumpur and foundation for Malaysia’s history and independence. You can find it at the Masjid Jamek stop on the LRT (metro/subway system). It’s easy to navigate the LRT, train, monorail, etc. They overlap routes and there is an attendant at the ticket counter to assist you if you need help. One way trips are typically cost 2.40rm ($0.55).
- Central Market – Close to Merdeka Square you’ll find the Central Market with tons of food and souvenirs to purchase. Walk around and embrace the culture. You can find the market on maps.me (offline map app) or ask a local to point you in the right direction
- Chinatown – No trip to a big city is complete without visiting their version of Chinatown! It’s just a short walk from Merdeka Square and the Central Market. There are tons of great restaurants here!
- Bukit Bintang & Golden Triangle – Jump back on the LRT and get off at Bukit Bintang station, KL’s best stop! This area is known as the Golden Triangle, as it is filled with shopping malls, awesome food courts, restaurants, street food, bars, etc. This is my favorite place in the city.
- Jalan Alor (Food Market) – A few blocks from Bukit Bintang LRT stop, you’ll find the infamous Jalan Alor food market filled with tons of cheap, local food. I believe it is open all day but I only visited at night. This is a must if you are in KL. I highly recommend going at night, as the street is lit up and packed with people!
- Berjaya Times Square Theme Park – This theme park is located within the Berjaya Times Square mall, the 9th largest mall in the world! The mall is insanely large and you can get lost in it for days. While its not my favorite mall to “shop” in, there are tons thing to do such as play in the amusement park, ride the roller coaster, go bowling in the full-size bowling alley, watch a movie at the cinema, shoot archery, and more! Admission to the roller coaster / amusement park is 50-something ringgits for the day ($11.51).
- Batu Caves – I missed this while I was in KL. Getting to the Batu Caves is simple and every hostel or hotel can point you in the right direction. I was told that you must do the “Dark Cave Tour” which lasts about 45 minutes and costs 35-40rm ($9). I found a great review of Batu Caves here.
- Shopping – This is the MAIN thing to do in Kuala Lumpur! Check out the shopping section below.
Petronas Twin Towers at Night (view from park)
Water show in front of the Petronas Twin Towers (starts at 9pm)
Jalan Alor Food Street
A trip to Kuala Lumpur is not complete without shopping! There are dozens of malls in the city (maybe hundreds) and they are all equally special in their own way. Almost all of them are within a short walk from the Bukit Bintang LRT stop. Here are a few of my favorite:
Main Bukit Bintang area…
- Pavilion – This mall is a 5 minute walk from the Bukit Bintang LRT station and it has a variety of western stores ranging from lower-priced H&M and Forever 21 to top-of-the-line brands such as Gucci and Tiffany & Co. This is my favorite mall in the city!
- Starhill Gallery – This mall is located next to Pavilion and it is filled with ultra-luxury shops. Come here if you’re looking to splurge!
- Fahrenheit 88 – Honestly, I’m sure where this mall begins and ends. Look for the “Brands Outlet” signs on the street (typically across from 7-11 and the random restaurants you’ll see on the street while walking toward Pavilion Mall) and walk downstairs into Brands Outlet. Follow the signs to the Pavilion’s underground walkway and somehow you walk through Fahrenheit 88 (I think) and pass through an amazing food court! Bonus: There is an awesome grocery called “Mercado” in this food court! You can’t miss it, it’s all the way at the end.
- Brands Outlet – This is a discount store with tons of basic clothing. You’ll easily see it in the Pavilion / Lot 10 area. There are signs and you must walk downstairs to access it.
- Lot 10 – This reminds me of Fahrenheit 88. I’m not sure where it begins and ends. Somehow magically you’ll end up in all the malls– Lot 10, Fahrenheit 88, Brands Outlet, and Pavilion!
Just down the road…
- Sungei Wang Plaza – This is just down the street from Pavilion Mall but does not connect to all the malls listed above. This is a 7 story mall filled with cheap clothing, knockoff items, and basic touristy things. It’s a fun place to practice your bargaining skills.
- Low Yat – This is a huge electronics mega mall just down the street from Sungei Wang.
- Berjaya Times Square – This is the 9th largest mall in the world complete with an indoor roller coaster, theme park, bowling alley, cinema, etc. While I don’t particularly love shopping here, the other activities are super fun!
A few metro stops away…
- Suria KLCC – I love this mall! It’s located under the Petronas Twin Towers and reminds me of Pavilion with tons of western stores ranging from cheap, backpacker-friendly stores to many luxury stores as well. Also note that across the street is a stand-alone H&M store. FYI, there is a medical center in this mall on the 4th floor that is fast, professional, and cheap (I had to make a visit).
- NU Sentral – This mall is located at KL Sentral station and also great! Expect to see stores such as Sephora, H&M and Starbucks.
- Kenanga Wholesale City – This mall is a bit out of the way so I didn’t get a chance to visit it, but I heard that it has awesome discounts on brand name clothing (most likely knockoffs). From what I could tell, the (possibly fake) clothes look like the real thing!
I believe most of the malls close at 10pm, then its time to turn it up and head out for a night on the town!
Roller Coaster at Berjaya Times Square Mall
Inside of Suria KLCC (under the twin towers)
- Wednesday is ladies night in Kuala Lumpur. Be prepared to drink for free at tons of bars! Ladies drink free at Sky Bar from 6pm-11pm, 21 Kitchen & Bar from 9pm-2am, and Luna Bar from 9pm-midnight. These are just a few of the many free drink specials. Do a quick google search before heading out.
- You MUST check out a rooftop bar while in Kuala Lumpur. Heli Bar is a converted helicopter pad that offers great views of the city. Come here around sunset and watch the skyline light up, it’s magical! Drinks start at 30rm ($7) and you must purchase a drink to access the rooftop. I had the Lychee Martini is it was spectacular! Another popular bar is Sky Bar, but head here on Wednesday for ladies night and free drinks!
- If you’re looking to bar hop, there’s a street for that! Just off Jalan Alor (food street) is the “pub street” of Kuala Lumpur filled with bars and clubs. Any night out will most certainly end up here. Some popular bars include: Healy Mac’s Irish Pub, Sutraa, and The Whiskey Bar. Enter any of these into maps.me (free offline maps app) and you’ll find this “going out” street.
Girls Night Out!
Skyline View from Heli Bar
Lychee Martini at Heli Bar
Rooftop Infinity Pool
Places to Sleep
- Reggae Mansion – If you’re looking to party, this hostel is for you! It has a rooftop bar with tons of travelers looking to meet people and socialize. They also have a restaurant onsite and bar downstairs too. This hostel is huge! I almost felt like I was in a hotel while staying here. It’s a little pricier than some of the other hostels at 45rm ($10+) per night, but the amenities are clean and the beds are HUGE! Plus, they serve free dinner every night (noodles or rice). The cons– I felt like it was a little too big and I had a hard breaking into a clique of people. The top bunks are really high up so request a bottom bunk or be prepared to get a workout in every day. It’s located near Chinatown (which is great for some of the touristy stuff such as Merdeka Square and Central Market) but a little far from the Golden Triangle area with all the malls, great food, and nightlife.
- Sunshine Bedz – This is a slightly cheaper hostel at 35rm ($8) per night and perfectly located next to the Golden Triangle. I stayed here and LOVED it. It was clean and cozy. I felt like everyone got to know each other and it was super social without being too much of a party (aka you could sleep without music blasting). There was always a handful of people going out and the hostel organized group events to gather everyone too. This hostel is a short walk to the malls in the Bukit Bintang area, Jalan Alor food street, and the “pub street” for going out. Its about a 10 minute walk to the Petronas Twin Towers. I highly recommend this place!
- The FACE Suites at KLCC – I had a friend stay at this Airbnb (there are dozens of options) and LOVED it! The infinity pool here is insanely gorgeous. Check it out! If you have a few friends, this is a great (and affordable) option to split a private room.
- Step Inn Too & Dorms KL 2 – Both of these hostels were recommended to me by other travelers. They seem to be centrally located between Chinatown and the Golden Triangle. I believe these were also slightly cheaper at 30rm ($6.91) per night.
Map from Sunshine Bedz
- BTS, subway, train, metro, monorail, etc. – Whatever you want to call it, there is an above ground transportation system that will take you around the entire city (and into neighboring cities too). They have attendants at the stations to assist you if you need help. Tickets are typically 2.40rm ($0.55) for a one way transfer. Note: I felt very safe riding this alone and most (maybe all) are air-conditioned!
- Uber & Grab – Both of these apps work in the city! You can place an order while connected to wifi and your trip will continue even when you disconnect from wifi during your transport. After public transportation, these are typically the cheapest option compared to taxis or private cars.
- Taxis, Motorbikes & Private Cars – These are usually more expensive than the other modes of transportation. Most taxis have a meter (which they should be using) but don’t use so they can rip tourists off. Ask your hostel or hotel what an average price should be before agreeing to whatever ridiculous price they through at you. Also, you can check the price on the Uber app and then use that as a bargaining tool. BE SURE TO AGREE ON A PRICE BEFORE ENTERING THE TAXI.
I would suggest taking the LRT train system and walking around. This is an awesome city to explore on foot and there is always a station nearby to jump back on if you’re feeling tired.
Nearby Day Trips
- Batu Caves – Mentioned above, these are a must while visiting Kuala Lumpur! They are short ride out of the city and your hostel or hotel can easily point you in the right direction. Plan to spend half a day at the caves and make sure to take the “Dark Cave Tour”. Everyone who goes without taking the tour deeply regrets it! I found a great review of Batu Caves here.
- Melaka / Malacca– This is a cute, colonial town about 2 hours from Kuala Lumpur. You can visit it as a full day trip or by spending 1 night in the city. Melaka is filled with adorable street vendors and an awesome night market that you don’t want to miss. Another highlight here is the beautiful mosque!
- Kuala Selangor – An evening trip to Kuala Selangor (about 45 minutes from Kuala Lumpur) will allow you to see some beautiful fireflies light up the river during the night. I did not have a chance to visit, nor did any of my friends, but I would love to hear from someone who did!
- Bukit Tinggi – This is an adorable French town located about 40 minutes outside of Kuala Lumpur. Again, I did not get to visit this place during my travels but pictures online make me feel like you would be dropped into a cute village in France.
Last Bit Of Advice
Safety— As with any big city, pay attention to your belongings. Keep you money in your front pocket or crossbody handbag (which you should hold onto as well). I felt very safe in the city, but I was warned to pay extra attention to my belongings.
Clothing— Even though Malaysia is a primarily Muslim country, you do not need to cover your head, shoulders and knees. I would dress conservatively (aka use common sense), but know that you can wear a tank top and shorts in the insane heat without anyone looking at you funny.
Who’s making a visit to Kuala Lumpur? Did I miss anything? Tell me about it in the comments below!