This Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide looks at the capital city of Malaysia. It’s a large urban area that combines modern Asia with it’s traditional past. Skyscrapers and shopping malls share this city with temples and markets. Due to it’s flight connections Kuala Lumpur can often be seen as only a stopover as part of a longer journey. But it’s definitely worth investing some time to explore, it can be very rewarding. There is a lot of things to see and do as a visitor to Kuala Lumpur, with a nice variation too. This post will first look at some information about Kuala Lumpur, before showcasing some of it’s highlights. There are 10 things to do in Kuala Lumpur that are featured.
Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide – Key Info
The Kuala Lumpur International Airport has fantastic links both local and worldwide. You can fly here from all over the world. There are tonnes of cheap flight connections to the rest of Southeast Asia too. It makes the city a great place to stop, regardless of whether it’s at the start, middle or end of your trip!
If your coming from within Peninsular Malaysia or from Singapore, there are plenty of buses that travel to Kuala Lumpur. They are usually cheap and affordable. Many mini vans operate too, you shouldn’t have a problem booking road transport. There are also rail lines that run through Malaysia, linking many places with Kuala Lumpur.
Inside Kuala Lumpur the main method of transportation is by metro/rail. There is a well run Mass Rapid Transit system (MRT) and Light Rapid Transit System (LRT) that use to get around the city. There are also various other rail services that link into this. KL Sentral is the biggest transport hub in the city. They have a good map on their website that you can look at to understand how to get around. You can also take buses straight from the airport to KL Sentral, which is an effective way to get to your destination quickly if you’ve arrived by air.
In terms of walking, within areas like Chinatown, Brickfields and Bukit Bintang that’s fine, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to go to far. There’s a lot of traffic and often the pedestrian pathways don’t connect one area with another very well as they seemingly presume you will using transport.
Malaysia is famous for it’s food and Kuala Lumpur is a great place to try a variety of dishes. Its the cultural mix which has led to it’s great reputation, Malaysia really is a melting pot of different cuisines. Indian, Malay and Chinese style dishes are the most popular and found widely across the city. Normally the restaurants of these 3 styles are very affordable, particularly the Indian ones. Other types of food can be found in the shopping malls, of which Kuala Lumpur has several. They even have Nando’s!
Note for Vegetarians/Vegans
Little India and it’s surrounding is a really good place to find vegetarian food. I’ve elaborated on this below in the ‘Little India’ section. The food hall in KL Sentral has a great vegetarian stall where you can buy excellent vegetarian versions of Malay food. Look for vegetarian stands in other food halls too. As well as these 2 places look for Buddhist inspired vegetarian restaurants which sell ‘mock meat’ dishes. These should all be vegan.
Malaysia uses the Malaysian Ringgit. There are normally plenty of ATMs around, particularly at metro stations and the many shopping malls that you can find in the city. Whilst you can use card in many places you should have cash on you for buying food (outside of the malls). Particularly for street vendors, but many restaurants will prefer cash. Personally i’d advise using cash to pay for most things, to avoid any sub-charges.
There are loads of accommodation options here arranging from luxury to basic. That means there is a whole of different prices to, you get what you pay for here. Having stayed in several different parts of the city I recommend the area near to Masjid Jamek and it’s LRT stop. Its only 2 stops from KL Sentral and walking distance to Chow Kit and China Town. There are lots of good cheap food places around here too. The Hotel 1000 Miles offers private rooms and good pod style dorm beds, so i’m happy to recommend them. They have helpful staff too who can give good advice on the local area.
Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide – General Tips
As a legacy of British Colonial Rule, English is widely spoken in Malaysia. Many Malaysians actually use it as their first language. And for others it is in fact often used as a common language between different ethnic groups, who use their own language at home. Asides from that, Malay is the official national language. Specially the Malaysian form of it, Bahasa Malaysia. An array of other languages are present too, in particular amongst the Indian community you may come across several such as Tamil, Hindi and Punjabi.
It’s important when visiting the temples in Kuala Lumpur that you follow the guidelines. Particularly the Hindu temples which will require you to remove your shoes. Look to see where others are leaving there’s and place yours along with them. Normally Buddhist temples do too, though in Malaysia I have seen places which only do this for certain parts of their temple complex. Your best practise is to look for any signs with piles of shoes next to them. And to observe what other people in the temple are doing.
You should also be dressed appropriately too. If you know you will be visiting a temple that day make sure your shoulders are covered and your legs to below the knee.
Malaysia is a mixture of different cultures and regions. The majority population are Malay, who generally follow Islam. Followers of this region makes up over 61% of Malaysian population. There are significant Chinese and Indian populations too, particularity as a result of Malaysia’s importance to regional trade routes combined with British colonialism. Many merchants moved to Malaysia to trade and the British bought in others to work for them. Around 20% of the population are Buddhist and there are other Chinese regions such as Taoism present too. Christians have other 9% of the population as followers, and Hinduism over 6%.
In terms of Kuala Lumpur there are significant Chinese and Indian populations, so these percentages are actually higher in the capital than across the country as a whole. In the city they have their own cultural areas as we shall below on this Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide. Its important to understand this ethinc mix here so you can understand Malaysian culture and history.
As has already been mentioned Kuala Lumpur is full of shopping malls. Currently there are approaching 70 in the city. If shopping is your thing then the 2 I particularly recommend checking out are Suria KLCC and KL Sentral. They are both near to other attractions, plus are a good stop for lunch or dinner. The food courts/halls are great value and have a large variety on offer. Along with these the Bukit Bintang area is the cities most trendiest, and has many shops, cafes. bars and so forth.
If you are travelling through the Southeast Asia region then Kuala Lumpur is a very good place to pick up supplies, and they will generally be cheaper than neighbouring Singapore too. The Central Market in Chinatown is a good place to shop for local souvenirs too, as well as second hand books and clothes.
Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide – City Highlights
Petronas Twin Towers
These towers are the tallest twin towers in the world. They are certainly worth a look from both up close and at a distance. In the evenings they are lit up and you can watch a fountain water and light show here. It’s known as the Lake Symphony and is found in the park here, named KLCC Park. The Suria KLCC retail centre is found here too.
The Batu Caves are huge Hindu Caves found on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. They are located in limestone hills which really add to their impressiveness. You can take a train from KL Sentral to reach them. Their is a huge staircase here which has been recently painted and is very colourful, accompanied by Hindu decorations. There is also a huge statue of the Hindu god of war Murugan which towers over the entrance to the staircase. Inside the caves you can view Hindu artwork and statues depicting Hindu epics. There are also other smaller caves around, some of which have Hindu artwork in. I advise against the villa cave though as their are animals kept in poor conditions inside.
Be careful of the monkeys as you head up towards the caves. There are many here who are fed by locals . They will try to steal any food or water they see that you have. They can also be attracted to bright clothes and have been known to grab at them.
Islamic Art Museum
The Islamic Art Museum has a fantastic collection of artwork from across the Islamic world. You can really explore the history of Islamic art here, there are several galleries covering different styles and areas. There really is a wide variety of artwork and artefacts on display and the museum does a fantastic jobs of presenting them all. Whilst you are here you can also visit the museum’s restaurant. It does surprisingly good Arab influenced food at affordable prices. Its definitely worth heading here in the morning and having lunch at the restaurant.
Whilst the decorations and pretty, China Town is mostly based around Petaling Street which is full of shops aimed at tourists. As mentioned above under ‘shopping’ the Central Market is in the Chinatown area too. Honestly i’d say it is better to look for things here than in Petaling Street.
However it’s not all shopping and there are 2 temples in particular I recommend to visit here. The first is Sri Mahamariamman Temple. You will find it on the edge of China Town. It is the oldest Hindu temple in the city having been founded in 1873. It’s tower is the most noticeable here. Nearby is the Guan Di Temple, which is a Taoist place of worship. It was founded in 1886 and is dedicated to Guandi, who was an actual Chinese general in the early 200’s. He is now revered as a Taoist god of war and is present in Buddhism and other Chinese religion too.
There are actually really a wide variance of Little India’s in Kuala Lumpur, so it can be a little confusing. The one most commonly known as Little India these days in in Brickfields area of Kuala Lumpur. However you will find many Indian restaurants and shops near to Masjid Jamek and in the Chow Kit area. In truth Little India kind of merges around the outskirts of China Town, in terms of where the Indian populations congregates. But Brickfields is where to head to so you can see the biggest concentration of Indian culture, including street decorations and markets.
As mentioned earlier in this Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide, Little India is a great place to come for food. There are a host of restaurants here and in the surrounding streets. There are exclusively vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian places, the latter will usually have extensive vegetarian menu too though. Try getting a meal such as Thali (meaning a round Indian platter). They are really good value and allow you to try several different tastes. Normally your choice is of rice or a bread such as dosa or chapati. You will then have pots of curries and dalh’s to eat with it. When getting a Thali they will often give you a sweet for dessert too. Some good restaurants to try are located near to Masjid Jamek along Lepoh Ampang street. These include Saravanaa Bhavan, Betel Leaf and Sangeetha Veg Restaurant.
The Masjid Jamek Mosque is a very visually impressive building. It was built in 1909 on the site of old Malay burial grounds. You can visit it and look inside as well as walk around the grounds. The Islamic architecture is interesting to view up close, you can examine the intricate designs. Nearby on Lenoh Pasar Besar (a street name) you can find a bridge which gives you a great view towards the Mosque.
Meaning Independence Square, this is where Malaysia marked it’s independence from Britain on 31st August 1957. There is a giant flagpole here flying the Malaysian flag. This symbolism is important to the country as it’s where they first raised the Malaysian flag on the day of Independence. There are also several old buildings around here. Around the area you will see signs for a ‘colonial walk’ that show you area’s and buildings relevant to Kuala Lupur’s colonial past.
This communications tower is the 7th largest free standing tower in the world. Its quite expensive but you can go up the tower. It offers fantastic views over the city. The observation deck is enclosed in glass and offers 360 views over the city. You can head further up (for more money) to the sky deck, where you get clear views over the city (with no glass). I haven’t actually been up to the Sky Deck yet as there was a thunder storm coming in when I visited. Watching it from the observation deck was pretty crazy.
Whilst your here you can also check out the KL Eco-park, which is near to the tower. There is a forest canopy walkway here so you can walk amongst the tree’s. To be honest I wasn’t too impressed here, hence why it hasn’t got it’s own entry on this Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide. If you have the chance to visit Taman Negara, a few hours away from Kuala Lumpur, you can enjoy a much better canopy walk. As well of course as the oldest rainforest in the world to explore.
Perdana Botanical Gardens
These gardens dates from the British colonial era, having been founded in 1888. They are a large gardens with a lake that is particularly scenic. There are numerous parts of the park to walk around. Given the hustle and bustle of busy Kuala Lumpur streets, it’s a good place to come to get away from all the traffic and noise. Here you can also find a Butterfly park and a Bird park. Both require entrance fee’s.
This museum look at the history of Malaysia, from ancient times to modern day. If your interested in learning about the countries past it’s a good place to visit for a couple of hours. Its near to the Perdana Botanical Gardens so can be combined with a trip to them. The 4 gallery’s take you from ancient history through the Malay Kingdoms, Colonial Rule and the Modern Times.
Thanks for checking out this Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide! I hope it inspires you to visit and helps you plan your own trip here!
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