If like me, you were only vaguely aware of Kuala Lumpur as a layover hub for connections within Asia, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Kuala Lumpur is a truly modern city – safe and clean and super friendly.
Kuala Lumpur International is a little way outside of Kuala Lumpur central district, with the cheapest way into town being one of the KLIA to KL bus lines at MYR18 p/p which includes a shuttle from the central station to your accommodation. The trip takes about 45 mins and is very relaxed. (Exchanging currency at the airport can prove rather expensive, especially when compared with competitive rates available in the central district – try exchange as little as you need to get into town and go from there).
You will notice immediately how green the city is, Kuala Lumpur is an urban jungle with botanical gardens, bird parks and butterfly parks intertwined with skyscrapers and shopping malls. With a free rapid bus transit system and cheap metro rail connecting the city it is all too easy for tourists to get around.
There is a wide range of accommodation in the city, from dorms to luxury hotels. If you are looking for somewhere reasonable with all the amenities Dorms KL was the best place we found. The atmosphere is welcoming without being overbearing and breakfast is inclusive which is always great. (They offer dorm beds as well as private rooms). For those traveling on a budget, beware that most listings don’t include p/bed tourist tax and 6% GST which will be charged when you pay for at the premise, just a heads up.
There is plenty to see and keep you active in KL for a few days.
Start your first morning nice and early with a mission to the Batu Caves in the north of the city. The caves are at the top of a flight of 272 stairs and the view of KL from the caves is majestic in the morning. Be sure to get there early and avoid the crowds and morning traffic congestion, aim for a 07:00 departure. Hailing a Grab (download in your app store), is the most cost efficient and effective method to get out of town early in the morning. Avoid rush hour traffic entering KL by taking the metro back into town. (The metro station is to the left if you are looking at the stairs about 300 m’s from the entrance to the caves).
In town, take the time to walk through the botanical gardens up to the butterfly and bird park. The botanical garden offers plenty of shaded rest areas as well as abundant tree and plant life to browse, including a dedicated orchard garden. There is no bus stop that will take you directly to the botanical garden or bird park so if you are not interested in the trek from central station (it’s about 10 mins to the entrance of the park) or you are in a rush, call a taxi or Grab to take you straight to the entrance of the park.
The Petronas Towers is the most iconic monument in KL and can be viewed from almost anywhere in the city. The towers are accessible from the purple bus line. Every night there is a water and lights show in the court yard in front of the towers which is something to behold.
On a Friday afternoon there is an informal food market near Masjid Jamek, not to be missed, for delicious local food and snacks. Alternatively the Petaling Street market in China town and the Bukit Bintang markets offer plenty of food and merchandise and are open Monday through Sunday.
On the subject of delicious food, do yourself a favor and hunt down a Tandoori chicken and naan as soon as you can. If you are near Bukit Bintang NG’s Restoran has a great nasi kandar, tandoori and naan. While if you are staying closer to China Town, Restoran Yusoof Dan Zakhit is the place.
Kuala Lumpur is the largest city in Malaysia and is the hub for travel throughout the country, be it via air or road. Busses leave to the East (Penang and Langkawi) and the West (Pulaua Perhentian) from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, are reasonably priced and fairly regular. If you would like you can book tickets online through easybook.com or at the bus station. Easybook.com is a great indicator for timing and price of trips.