Kuala Lumpur is one of those cities I seem to spend time in over and over again. It’s a great city to explore for a few days at the beginning or end of any Asian exploration. This time we stopped over on our way to Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
As convenient KL is to jump off to other places in Asia, I wouldn’t say that its airport is my favorite. The airport is huge, busy, chaotic, and lately seems to have tons of construction happening. This will be good someday, but meanwhile it makes everything you have to do, like going through customs, take forever, even longer than usual.
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Getting to KL from the Airport
After having visited the city a few times before, we knew it was easy and cheap for getting around the city on the public transportation system, and especially easy from the airport.
From the airport, you can buy a ticket on the Klia Ekspres train, which takes about 25 minutes to KL Central Station, and costs 90 RM round trip. You buy your ticket in the kiosk machine, it spits out a ticket with a bar code, and you must tap it in and out when using the train.
To return to the airport within the month, use the same ticket. So simple. For us there was no one on the train, so it was really comfortable as well.
To use the subway, all you need to do is buy a token. There are a number of transit lines, but the maps are super easy to read, and you can get to most important sites without too much trouble.
Buying a token is easy too, merely push the button of your destination and it will tell you how much your ride will cost. We never paid more than a few ringgit, which was super cheap.
You can buy a 2 day pass at the same time that you buy your Klia Express ticket into the city from the airport, but there’s just no reason to unless you just don’t want to mess with the change and using the machine each time.
We also downloaded the ride share app “Grab” as soon as we arrived, and again, we used it a lot. It was just too cheap not to use it. I’m not the biggest fan of heat and humidity, so I may have used it more than someone else, but hey, it’s a luxury that I loved using.
Best Time to Visit KL
The temperature in Kuala Lumpur does not change much throughout the year, because it is so close to the equator. You can expect high temperatures, at least in the 90s all year long and with that high humidity.
It can rain any day, and it will most days at least for a short shower. However the monsoons come in April and May, then again in October and November. So, if rain is a deterrent, perhaps you’d want to pick the other months to travel to KL.
KL is one of those places that you want a hotel where you have a good shower. You’ll want to take one at least twice or even three times a day to rinse off the sweat.
That’s why I like to visit KL in short spans. A few days here, a few days there, in between my other Asian destinations.
5 Best Things to See in KL
- Batu Caves
- Jalan Alor/ Night food market
- Great architecture
- Central Market – Souvenir shopping
- Pedaling Street/ Chinatown
Without question, Batu is the number one place to visit while you are in Kuala Lumpur. It’s super easy to get to on the metro, and it’s free. You just have to climb a lot of colorful steps to get to the top. It’s cultural, photogenic, and there are monkeys. What else could you ask for.
Jalan Alor the Night Food Market
One of the most fun yet cheapest ways to eat dinner is to take walk down Jalan Alor and take your pick of options. You will have the choice of everything from a small snack to a full dinner. Tables are set up along the street. Hawkers try to draw you into their domain, music varies from soothing to loud. People are everywhere. It’s one of the best experiences in the city.
In central KL, you can see some amazing buildings from Victorian style to Moorish. Some buildings to check out are the KL Railway Station which is fantastical to look at with it’s filigree and domes, the Sultan Abdul Samad building which has a Victorian- Moorish fusion look, and many of the mosques and temples around the city.
This is a great place to go along with walking down the Kasturi Walk for some souvenirs. Inside the market the shops are on the ground floor, and the food court is on the 2nd floor, where you can sit and relax having a cool drink after pounding the pavement looking for souvenirs.
The Things We Loved in KL
- Foot and Neck Massage
- The variety of food and a cooking lesson
- A trip to Taman Negara for some wildlife viewing
- The proximity to so many other great Asian cities
Wellness, Spas, and Massages
Whether you have booked a chic spa hotel or a regular midrange hotel you will be offered the opportunity for some wellness massages. All hotels offer them, but, even if they didn’t, just walking along the street in Bukit Bintang or other areas, there are foot and whole body massage shops everywhere and the prices are quite reasonable. If you’ve been out sightseeing in the humid temperatures, it’s amazingly relaxing to sit and have a foot massage.
We booked full body massages in our hotel the first night we were there, to combat the travel weariness you feel after traveling several hours on a plane. The room was set up with comfortable beds and awnings. We enjoyed the massages, but it happened to be during a deafening thunderstorm, and with the crashing and banging of the storm, the quietness of the massage, it was perfect.
We love a good food tour or cooking lesson, trying to bring some of those amazing local tastes home. We booked a cooking lesson with Sarah and her mother, and after touring her organic garden, we learned how to make dumplings, sweets, and much more.
If you want to visit Malaysia’s first national park, you will have to extend your time in Kuala Lumpur. It takes almost four hours just to get there, but once you do, you can see all kinds of wildlife indigenous to the region like mouse deer or tapirs, as well as swimming in a river with a natural slide and taking some amazing hikes. For more info, read our Taman Negara article.
From KL to Other Parts of Asia
As I mentioned, we were just stopping off in one of our favorite cities before heading elsewhere. One reason KL is such a great hub, is the budget airline, Air Asia, flies out of the city and makes it a really affordable option for seeing Asia.
We were heading to Indonesia, Yogyakarta, which is a great place to get a little off the main tourist path for a week or so. Of course, Air Asia flies all over the area, so check it out when you are ticketing your next adventure and see if you can get a good deal as well as a layover. You can get to Singapore, Bali, Bangkok, and even Tokyo.
Kl is also connected to Singapore and Thailand by train. We haven’t taken the train yet, but it’s on our list, because it’s such a fun way to travel, especially when you have your own cabin on an overnight train.
Foods to Try
Kuala Lumpur is such a food center. You can get all kinds of Malaysian specialties as well as Indian and foreign foods. We suggest finding a mall food court or Jalan Alor to find some cheap eats and get an idea of the local dishes you want to try in a restaurant setting.
- Nasi Lemak – special in Kl
- Nasi Goreng
- Satay (meat skewers)
- Ikan Bakar – grilled fish
- Bak Kut Teh – pork bone soup
- Rice flour Sweets
Where to Stay in KL
The area with the most tourists, and small hotels from backpacker hostels to boutique spa hotels, is Bukit Bintang. I would highly recommend the area, because it’s within walking distance of Jalan Alor and has plenty of restaurants in the area.
We loved our stay at the Hotel Capitol Kuala Lumpur one street away from Jalan Alor, the famous foodie street. The rooms were large, comfortable and tastefully decorated. It was super close to restaurants and shopping and easily accessible from the nearby tram stop.
- Ramada Suites Kuala Lumpur City Centre
- The Kuala Lumpur Journal Hotel
- Swiss-Garden Hotel Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur