Everything you need to know for visiting Kuala Lumpur – the ultimate guide
May 26, 2023
Kuala Lumpur is a vibrant and bustling city located in the heart of Malaysia. Known for its towering skyscrapers, vibrant street markets, and unique blend of cultures, there’s never a dull moment in Kuala Lumpur. The city isn’t just about the big tourist attractions – there’s a real sense of community here, with locals and tourists alike mingling at the various night markets, street food stalls, and cultural events. Whether you’re looking for high-end shopping, mouth-watering cuisine, or simply a chance to explore a dynamic and exciting city, Kuala Lumpur has something for everyone. In this article I’ve collected everything that you need to know for visiting Kuala Lumpur. I believe it’s the ultimate guide for visiting Kuala Lumpur. Safe travels!
How to travel to Kuala Lumpur?
Kuala Lumpur can easily be reached by bus, train or flight. Check Skyscanner for the cheapest flights from your city to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which is the main gateway for international flights. Below you can find some information for traveling from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur or from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
Note: ensure that you have the necessary visa to enter Malaysia. If you are from The Netherlands, you can enter Malaysia at this moment (May 2023) for free. Your visa is valid for 90 days. Please always check the most up to date information with the officials of your country.
How to travel from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur?
The most convenient way to travel from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur is by taking a flight. There are several airlines that operate daily flights between the two cities, including AirAsia, Malaysian Airlines, and Thai Airways. The flight takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes and you can easily book your tickets online.
You can also travel from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur by train. However, this is the longest option and it involves changing trains at the border. You need to take two trains. The first train is from Bangkok to Padang Besar, just over the border in Malaysia. There is single direct train a day to Padang Besar which is a sleeper train. I recommend buying this ticket online. Then from Padang Besar you need to take a Malaysian train service to Kuala Lumpur. There are 7 trains a day from Padang Besar to Kuala Lumpur. I recommend that you buy the ticket for this train at Padang Besar Train Station, because you are not sure about your departure time. The train from Bangkok to Padang Besar could be delayed for example.
I always use 12GoAsia when traveling in other countries. With just a few taps, you can easily book a ride ensuring a seamless and budget-friendly travel experience. Most of the time, you will receive a digital transportation ticket, so you don’t have to worry about printing.
How to travel from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur?
The most common way to travel from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur is by bus. There are several reputable bus companies that operate daily between the two cities, offering comfortable and affordable trips that take approximately 5-6 hours. The buses are air-conditioned, with reclining seats and onboard amenities such as Wi-Fi and entertainment systems. You can either use 12GoAsia or Easybook for bus tickets.
Another popular option is to take the train. The railway connects Singapore to Kuala Lumpur via Woodlands Train Checkpoint, and the journey takes around 7-8 hours.
Kuala Lumpur’s public transport system is well developed and consists of metros, buses, trains, and taxis. When you’re in the city center of Kuala Lumpur, it’s best to get around by metro, the free green bus or by Grab.
The KL Monorail Line
The KL Monorail Line (the “outside metro”) is the easiest line to get through all the central points in the city. This line starts at KL Sentral and goes via Bukit Bintang towards the Petronas Towers. A one way only cost a few Ringgit and the metro goes every 10 minutes, so there’s no need to plan your route strictly. As a ticket you’ll receive a coin, which you have to scan at the gates.
Using Grab in Kuala Lumpur
If you prefer to take a taxi, then it’s highly recommended to install the app Grab on your phone. This is the Southeast Asian version of Uber and offers cheap taxi rides. Sometimes, this can make a difference of 50% with a normal taxi! The taxi drivers are, most of the time, very kind and ride gently. I have very good experiences with Grab during my round trip through Malaysia.
The green free bus in Kuala Lumpur
The green bus is free and offers a great way to explore Kuala Lumpur in an eco-friendly way. The bus operates on four different routes throughout the city and runs on weekdays from early morning until late at night.
The best things to do in Kuala Lumpur
Below you can read more about the must-sees and must-do’s of Kuala Lumpur:
1. Pay a visit to the KL Tower (admission)
The KL Tower is a communications tower, which you can find in the middle of the city center of Kuala Lumpur. With its height of 421 meters, you can have some panoramic views over the city.
You can visit the KL Tower for a small amount and go all the way up to enjoy some beautiful views over Kuala Lumpur. In the city, there are different kind of possibilities to go to a “viewpoint” (KL Tower, Petronas Towers, Heli Pad). We’ve asked several locals beforehand which building was the most impressive when it comes to views and they all told us to go to the KL Tower.
There is a 360 degrees observation deck you can visit, which is located at a height of 276 meters. From here, you can already have some amazing views behind glass.
The sky deck is even higher, located at a level of 421 meters and this is the deck where you can enjoy the views outside. In this way, you can also make some better photos. Because of the fact that this deck is located higher and outside, of course it’s also more expensive. In the KL Tower itself, you can have dinner in the restaurant at a level of 282 meters. There are great deals online available including a lunch buffet, high tea buffet or dinner buffet.
Outside of the tower, you can find a Mini Zoo, a Blue Coral Aquarium, the KL Forest Eco-Park and the Upside Down House. As the other places explains their selves, the Upside Down House is like a mini museum. It provides a new experience where not only the house, but all the furniture in the house are upside down.
2. See the Petronas Twin Towers (free/admission)
The well-known Petronas Towers are the symbol of Malaysia and you see them on almost every photo of Kuala Lumpur. During the initiation of the towers in 1998, the Petronas Twin Towers was the highest building of the world. The towers have each a height of 452 meters and consists out of 88 floors.
Same as the KL Tower, you can pay a visit to the Petronas Towers and go all the way up. When you walk into the building, you’ll get into one of the most popular shopping malls of Kuala Lumpur: Suria KLCC. Here you can find shops of many international brands and they’re open until late in the evening (until 10 p.m.). Just before the shopping mall, you can find the entrance of the Petronas Towers where you can buy your ticket and go up with the elevator.
Like I said before, most locals would advise you to go into the KL Tower instead of the Petronas Towers, so we didn’t went all the way up. There are both a observation deck on the 86th floor and a walk bridge on the 42nd floor (at 175 meters high). You can buy a ticket beforehand or buy it directly at the reception in the Petronas Towers.
If you walk through the shopping mall and go out at the back of the Petronas Towers, you’ll arrive at a beautiful square and park. There is a large fountain where you can enjoy a beautiful light water show in the evening (20.00pm – 22.00pm).
3. Visiting the famous Batu Caves
One of the most well-known sights in Kuala Lumpur is the Batu Caves. The Batu Caves are several limestone caves where you can find some Hindu temples. Most of those temples, you can find in the Temple Cave, which is 400 meters long and 100 meters high.
The big, golden statue immediately gets your intention at the beginning of the stairs, which lead you to the Hindu temples in the Temple Cave. This golden statue represents Lord Murugan, a god from India who stands for victory. In order to take the stairs, you have to be dressed properly. That means that your knees, shoulders and chest need to be covered. On your way upwards, you will come across some monkeys. Be careful with your valuables, these monkeys can be very naughty.
Honestly, I found the Batu Caves quite disappointing. Although the statues are very impressive to see from nearby, it’s very overcrowded. If you would like to visit the Batu Caves, it’s best to get there by metro and train from Kuala Lumpur Sentral or to book an online tour (I booked this tour).
4. Wander around the Botanical Gardens (free)
On the other side of Kuala Lumpur, you can find the Botanical Gardens. If you would like to go out of the crowded city and find some relaxation, this can be the place for you. This park is the biggest park of Kuala Lumpur and is located very centrally. There are not many tourists visiting this park.
Besides the Botanical Gardens, you can also find a bird park, a butterfly garden and a planetarium. Keep in mind that these places aren’t free to enter, you have to pay a small entrance fee. The Botanical Gardens and free to enter though.
The best time to pay a visit to the park is in the morning or late afternoon. During the day, it can be very hot which doesn’t make it a pleasure to walk through a beautiful park. In the morning and late afternoon you can enjoy the beautiful gardens with a better temperature.
If you’re lucky you might see some otters, monitor lizards, plenty of birds and some other reptiles. I was lucky and saw these creatures.
5. Discover the city’s Islamic heritage at the National Mosque of Malaysia (free) and the Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Samad
Not that far away from the Botanical Gardens, you can find the National Mosque. The building of the National Mosque is pretty amazing. It’s very big and it can accommodate up to 15,000 people.
The Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Samad is one of the oldest mosques in Kuala Lumpur and really worth a visit. I actually liked visiting this mosque more than visiting the National Mosque of Malaysia. The Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Samad is a beautiful and small mosque, located at the confluence of two rivers. The mosque has two minarets and a large central dome, along with beautiful arches, intricate carvings, and stunning stained-glass windows. The mosque is open to visitors every day, except during prayer times on Fridays.
Visiting the mosques is free and there are many volunteers who can explain about the Islam and the buildings. Please note that you can only visit the mosques when the prayers are over and that you have to dress appropriate. You have to cover your knees, shoulders and chest. If you aren’t that prepared, you can always borrow robes and headscarves at the entrance of the mosque for free.
6. Have a drink at the Heli Lounge Bar (admission)
The Heli Lounge Bar is a big helipad made into a rooftop bar. Not only can you enjoy some amazing views over Kuala Lumpur while drinking a cocktail, the terrace is completely open! There are no rail or walls, so I guess it won’t be that fun for someone who’s afraid of heights. It’s also cool to know that, during the day, the helipad is still used as a real helipad. In the evening, you can sit on the terrace. The most beautiful time to visit this rooftop bar, is during sunset. If you have a clear sky, you can have the most amazing views at that time.
Indoor you can also find a lounge on the 34th floor. The helipad is two floors upwards and you can reach it by taking some stairs. Take into account though that the helipad is very popular (especially during sunset), so you have to come early to have a nice seat. Besides, the drinks served aren’t that cheap, but that’s quite obvious when you go to popular places. These days you have to pay an admission of 100 RM, but this fee includes 2 drinks. In my opinion, it’s still worth going when visiting Kuala Lumpur!
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7. Walk through China Town (free)
Almost every big city has a China Town: a Chinese district with lots of shops, markets and restaurants. Kuala Lumpur’s China Town is located around Petaling Street and is one of the busiest touristic places of the city. Although it’s called China Town, this district has a multicultural character. You can see this at the Sri Maha Mariamman, the Indian Temple. However, of course you can also find some Chinese Temples, like the Guandi Temple. It’s nice to have a look in the Petaling Street and maybe to shop a little bit.
Tip: have a coctail at PS150 in Chinatown, a coctail bar hidden behind an antique toy store. Please make a reservation in advance.
8. Book a local food tour in Kuala Lumpur or try some bites at Jalan Alor
If you’re a foodie, Kuala Lumpur is one of the best cities to explore the local cuisine. But with so many options, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s where a food tour comes in! With a chef-designed small-group food tour, you can experience the best food in Kuala Lumpur while learning about the culture and history of the city. I enjoyed this tour so much and got to try 20 local dishes in a non-touristy area. I didn’t see any tourist! From savory nasi lemak to sweet kuih, I tasted the diverse flavors of Malaysian cuisine. My super sweet guide provided plenty of information and made sure I didn’t eat too much at the first places, so that I could also taste all the dishes that were still to come.
9. Shop at one of the many shopping malls
Make sure to visit Bukit Bintang when visiting Kuala Lumpur. It’s the heart of Kuala Lumpur! Here you can find all the big shopping malls and other shops to enjoy yourself a whole day. You can find shopping malls everywhere. From international, luxurious brands to more midrange brand, there is something for everyone to find.
Tip: have you ever seen a roller coaster in a mall? Visit Berjaya Times Square and see for yourself!
Traveling to a country with a different currency? Avoid ATM transaction fees and pay in local currency with a Wise Visa Card or Revolut Maestro Card. I have been using these cards for several years and have saved a lot of money as a result. I recommend bringing both bank cards with you when you travel.
10. Visit the colorful Thean Hou Temple, a six-tiered Chinese temple
The Thean Hou Temple is a must-visit temple in Kuala Lumpur. It’s a blend of Chinese, Buddhist, and Taoist architectural styles and is a wonderful destination if you want to explore the rich cultural heritage of the city. There are beautiful lanterns everywhere and in the evening the temple is beautiful lit.
11. Have drinks or dinner at Changkat Bukit Bintang
A nice street in Bukit Bintang is Changkat Bukit Bintang. Here you’ll find several eateries where you can enjoy dinner or some drinks in a really nice atmosphere.
During our stay in Kuala Lumpur, we’ve had dinner at Dining in the Dark. A unique concept where you’re sitting in an extremely dark room and eat unknown dishes. Besides, you’re served by people who’re blind themselves, which makes it even more special. After your dinner, you have to guess what dishes you’ve had and then you’ll find out and get to see the menu.
Another option is to visit Jalan Alor, a well-known street with Malaysian street food. Keep in mind that this place is very touristy and that this is not the best place to try street food in Kuala Lumpur. I really recommend trying the above mentioned tour.
My favorite places to eat in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is famous for its diverse range of delicious food, from authentic local dishes to international cuisine. You must definitely participate in a food tour or try to find local delicacies like Nasi Lemak, Roti Canai, and Char Kway Teow yourself. Here are my favorite places to eat in Kuala Lumpur:
Petaling Street: This bustling market is a must-visit for food lovers, serving up some of the city’s best street food. Indulge in Chinese delicacies, including dim sum, roasted duck, and more. My favorite restaurant in this street was Da Bao.
Madam Kwan’s: Madam Kwan’s is a great place to try some of Malaysia’s most iconic dishes, such as nasi lemak, curry laksa, and more, in a hygienic way.
Bijan Bar & Restaurant: For a fine dining experience, head to Bijan Bar & Restaurant, which serves high-quality traditional Malay cuisine with a modern twist.
Jalan Alor: This is a popular food street that comes alive at night, serving an array of local delicacies such as grilled seafood, noodle dishes, and satay skewers.
Some recommended places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
There are plenty of accommodation options available in Kuala Lumpur to suit your budget. You can choose from budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels. Below are some recommended places to stay in Kuala Lumpur:
Budget accommodation in Kuala Lumpur:
Chinatown Hostel by Mingle is a clean and cozy hostel with a rooftop terrace. The location in Chinatown is a perfect base to explore the other parts of the city.
Another great hostel is Sunshine Bedz, this hostel is very social and cozy too.
Mid-range accommodation in Kuala Lumpur:
I loved my stay at The Faces Platinum 2. It’s a brand new building, with luxurious apartments, a rooftop swimming pool and gym at the 51st floor and wonderful views.
Scarletz Suites is another apartment complex where I stayed during my 2 weeks in Kuala Lumpur. This one is also pretty new, has a great location and a rooftop swimming pool, gym and co-work space located at the 47th floor. There’s also a convenience store and coffee store on-site.
Furthermore, The Eaton Residence KLCC is a great accommodation in Kuala Lumpur. It offers luxurious apartments with stunning views. Of course there’s an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness centre, a garden, a shared lounge and a terrace.
A short Bucket List for visiting Kuala Lumpur
Visit the Petronas Twin Towers and enjoy the stunning views of Kuala Lumpur.
Or pay a visit to the KL Tower.
Explore the Batu Caves, a limestone cave and temple on the outskirts of KL.
Take a stroll through the vibrant Chinatown district.
Visit the iconic Merdeka Square.
Discover the city’s Islamic heritage at the National Mosque of Malaysia.
Visit the Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Samad, one of the oldest mosques of Malaysia.
Go shopping at the KLCC Suria shopping mall, located at the base of the Petronas Twin Towers.
Explore the greenery of the KL Forest Eco Park.
Take a Chef’s food tour to sample the diverse and delicious cuisine of Malaysia.
Take a roller coaster ride in the Berjaya Times Square shopping mall.
Immerse yourself in art and culture at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia.
Visit China Town and have a coctail at PS150, a secret and hidden coctail bar.
Visit the colorful Thean Hou Temple, a six-tiered Chinese temple.
Wander around the Lake Gardens and Botanical Gardens.
Discover the history and culture of Malaysia’s indigenous people at the Orang Asli Museum.
Explore the vibrant nightlife of Bukit Bintang, home to many bars, clubs and restaurants.
Go on a street art tour to discover the murals and graffiti hidden around the city.
Have a drink at the Heli Lounge Bar.
Swim in a rooftop swimming pool and enjoy the skyline of Kuala Lumpur.
I hope this information helps you visiting Kuala Lumpur. If you have any questions about the above mentioned information, please let me know in the comment section below. Safe travels and enjoy Kuala Lumpur!
This article is part of the GPSmyCity iOS app. You can download it, read this article offline and obtain travel directions (by foot, car or bicycle) to the places mentioned in this article. Click here to download it.
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