Kuala Lumpur can be seen as the great hub for South East Asia. This is because of the cheap flights to almost everywhere in Asia. Not surprisingly we’ve spent more than a month in total in the metropolis on eight different visits. There are a lot of things to do in Kuala Lumpur, so we decided to dedicate a post to the metropolis! Read on about where to go, where to sleep and where to eat.
Highlights in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur can be very expensive. Especially as a backpacker you definitely don’t want to stay longer than needed in Malaysia’s capital. In general, accommodation is more expensive than in other parts of Malaysia, and, if you don’t know were the good and cheap food is, you end up spending a lot on food as well. Because it would be a waste to skip Kuala Lumpur entirely, we listen some low budget things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
Getting around in the free GO KL buses
Public transport in Kuala Lumpur is very well organized. Monorails, trains and subways run everywhere and a fare usually isn’t more than a few ringgit. Even though public transport is cheap, an even better alternative is to take the GO KL bus. These pink/purple buses can be found around Bukit Bintang, Chinatown and KLCC (were the Petronas Towers are). Just hop in and ‘go KL’.
Check the GO KL routes here
Fountain show at KLCC, Petronas Towers
Every night at 8, 9 and 9:45pm the fountains at the Petronas Towers perform the Lake Symphony Fountain Show. In the background the Petronas Towers are beautifully lit, so it is a pretty impressive sight. It’s a nice event to end the day, and on top of that, it’s completely free!
Visit the Batu Caves
Although you have to spend a few ringgits to get there (just over two euros per person for a return from KL Sentral), a visit to the impressive Batu Caves is completely free. Inside the Batu Caves you’ll find a Hindu temple which is a pretty cool sight. It’s located in the district of Gombak. Via 272 steps you reach the entrance of the cave where dozens of cheeky monkeys are awaiting you. Not only is the cave very impressive, you also have a fantastic view of the city when it is not too cloudy. In addition to the most famous cave there are a number of caves which aren’t free, but also not very expensive.
Watch an amusement park in a shopping center
Have you ever seen a theme park in a shopping mall? Berjaya Times Square shopping mall has it! The main attraction is the roller coaster with loopings, screws and everything. The theme park isn’t free (60RM), but it’s a cool sight from the floor above it. Not a highlight you’ll spent hours on, but at least it’s something unique:)
Visit a skyscraper
Another cool thing to do in Kuala Lumpur is to visit a roof top bar to see KL’s skyline. Kuala Lumpur is littered with skyscrapers, the most famous ones are the Petronas Towers which opened its doors in 1998 to be the tallest building in the world. A title that it soon after lost to Taipei 101 in Taiwan. However entrance to KL’s tallest towers isn’t free, some skyscrapers offer free entrance to their roof top terrace. It’s hard to find one were you can go without having to purchase a drink, but I’m sure they’re there.
A lot of fancy rooftop bars demand a certain dress code, but Skybar Traders doesn’t. You have to buy a drink to visit the bar on the roof though. We didn’t go for the drink, but the view (behind windows) in the cafe was free, so we were happy:).
If you know a free roof top to visit in Kuala Lumpur, please let it know so we all can enjoy the view!
The Central Market is located in a building called Pasar Seni and is not to be missed. It is very close to Petaling Street, Chinatown. In this market you will find many handmade items. An ideal place to purchase your souvenirs. On the first floor you will find a number of restaurants where you can eat (cheaply) and where you have a good view of all the stalls.
In addition to the Petronas Towers you will also find the KL Tower in Kuala Lumpur. This tower is 421 meters high and is one of the buildings you can see from all over Kuala Lumpur. The tower was built in 1996 and serves as a broadcasting tower for Malay TV. It is quite a long trip to arrive at the top of the tower, but the view is more than worth it. For a visit to the tower you pay about 40 RM per person.
Neigborhoods in Kuala Lumpur
KL is an enormous city with many different neighborhoods to stay in. Each neighborhood is like a town of its own with it’s own things to do. For example the difference between Chinatown and Little India is like being in two different parts of the world even though they are quite close to each other.
Bukit Bintang is the district in Kuala Lumpur where we spent most of our time during our visits to the city. And is therefore for us one of the nicest districts in Kuala Lumpur. The neighborhood is centrally located and from here you can reach many parts of the city on foot or you can choose to take the monorail. In addition, through this district also runs the free purple bus with which you can go to the Petronas Towers and Central Market, among other things.
Bukit Bintang is the tourist center of Kuala Lumpur and it is also the place where you will can find the most gigantic shopping malls. When you visit Kuala Lumpur for shopping, Bukit Bintang is the perfect neighborhood to stay in. Also in terms of food you have a lot of choice in Bukit Bintang. You will find many local restaurants here, but also more expensive chains and the popular food street Jalan Alor can be found here.
Our favourite accommodation in Bukit Bintang
The KLCC district is the commercial center of the city and you shouldn’t skip this neighborhood during your visit to Kuala Lumpur. You will find here the world famous Petronas Twin Towers that you should not miss. Picnic here in the park and/or enjoy in the evening of the fountain show and flickering lights of the towers. Furthermore, in KLCC you will find many immense skyscrapers. Luxury is key in KLCC, where you can find all the top brands and fine dining. As a backpacker I would only visit here to see the towers and enjoy the free fountain show as mentioned earlier:)
Chinatown is a popular neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur among backpackers. You will find the neighborhood around the street Jalan Petaling (Petaling street) where you will find a market every night with hundreds of stalls. Something for everyone. In addition, you can shop cheap souvenirs here (expect a lot of fake brands). Chinatown is the place to stay if you want cheap accommodation in Kuala Lumpur. Located centrally, this would be the best bang for your buck. Although the neighborhood is really called Chinatown, you will not only find Chinese temples, but also a beautiful Hindu temple, the Sri Mahamariamman temple. A neighborhood where you can easily entertain yourself for a few hours.
If you want to meet Malaysians then Kuala Lumpur might not be the best place. Malaysia is a very multi cultural country and especially KL houses a lot of foreign residents, mainly Chinese and Indians. One of the few places with mainly Malaysians is Kampung Baru. This traditional area near the center of Kuala Lumpur has been able to keep it’s roots. In Kampung Baru you won’t find skyscrapers and top brands. The people here refuse to sell their land to project developers, keeping it a residential area with small houses. Pretty cool to see these cute houses with the Petronas Towers towering above it in the background. Will they be able to withstand the large amounts of money offered for their land? Time will tell.
Brickfields – New Little India
The Brickfields neighborhood around Kuala Lumpur Sentral station has been popularly known as “Little India”. Only since 2009 has this area become ‘Indian’. And really, you really feel like you’ve ended up here in India. Only with slightly less dirt and noise;). In this district you will find dozens of Indian restaurants, you can shop Indian herbs, clothing and souvenirs and you hear Bollywood music coming from the speakers.
We stayed here in Brickfields:
Old Little India
Although the Brickfields district has been called “Little India” since 2009, there is another Little India. This district is located around Jalan Masjid India street near Chinatown . Here too you see women walking around in colorful saris. The neighborhood is slightly smaller than Brickfields, but can easily be combined with a visit to Chinatown and Masjid Jamek.
Want to find other awesome places to stay in Kuala Lumpur? Read all about the best Airbnbs in Kuala Lumpur.
Food in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is a fantastic city to go for food! Because there are so many ethnicities, there is a wide range of very good food available. After exhausted from all the sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur, it’s time to reload at one of KL’s local restaurants.
We start with one of the most famous places for good food in Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Alor. Jalan Alor is the popular street food street in the heart of bustling Bukit Bintang. Jalan Alor is well known among tourists and locals which means that it is almost always busy. At Jalan Alor you will find street food from all over asia. There are many Korean restaurants, you can buy fresh dim sum on the street (favorite!) And you eat the best satay.
Indian food in Kuala Lumpur
Although you will find Indian restaurants in almost every neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur, you can best go to the Little India, Brickfields or Arab neighborhood in Bukit Bintang for the best Indian food. Here you will find plenty of Indian restaurants where you can order the best curries with naan bread.
Cheap (and delicious) sushi
Everyone knows that eating sushi outside Japan is very likely to be very expensive. And most of the time it is, but we found a place for affordable food. In various places in Malaysia you can find Sushi King. This Malaysian sushi chain serves you via a conveyor belt. Which makes the food cheaper and the prices lower. Great! Besides the freshly made sushi on the belt they also have a range of dishes which can be ordered from the menu. We never spent more than 20 euro for two people including drinks. Not bad for sushi, right?
Food in Kuala Lumpur: Chinatown
Jalan Sultan in Chinatown is a street like Jalan Alor, where the street is full of tables and chairs. Dishes here mainly consist of rice and noodle dishes. Especially at the end of the day the street becomes a cozy organized chaos. Since a lot of you will be staying in China Town, you’ll definitely spend some evenings here.
Lot 10 Hutong Food Court
In the middle of bustling Bukit Bintang, between the expensive restaurants and huge shopping malls you will find Lot 10 Hutong Food Court. You will find this food court below the H&M and it can be reached by taking the escalator down. Just follow the tacky Chinese music and you won’t miss it. At Hutong Food Court you will find several stalls where you can order almost all Asian dishes that you can think of. From sushi to dim sum and from pad thai to nasi goreng. The prices in the food court are slightly higher than on the street, but are still reasonable.
Malaysian dish tips
The final tip is not a restaurant or nice neighborhood to eat in Kuala Lumpur, but my favorite dish for lunch – something you should definitely try when you’re in Malaysia is a roti chanai A kind of pancake with different types of curries Delicious! And often to order for less than euro. A nice dish for lunch.
Another favorite is Nasi Lemak. This typical Malaysian dish consists of rice, nuts, boiled egg, chicken or beef (choose ‘rendang‘ if possible) and dried sardines. Don’t worry, the dried fish is actually quite nice. Nothing is mixed together, so you can put them aside if you want to.
What’s your favorite food in Kuala Lumpur?