Updated as of January 2020
Summary: This blog details a comprehensive budget travel guide for Kuala Lumpur which includes a DIY itinerary good for 3 to 5 days. It also shares some of KL’s top tourist attractions that are FREE of charge, options on how to get to each tourist spot by public transport, travel tips, and a list of recommended budget-friendly accommodations. Further, this Kuala Lumpur blog is intended for first time travelers either solo, family or traveling in group.
KUALA LUMPUR AT A GLANCE
The apparent capital of Malaysia, KUALA LUMPUR, sports in pride a surplus trait of a top-notch city center. Hovering its skyline is a swamp of towering buildings and well-positioned business districts solidifying its rank being the third wealthiest country in Southeast Asia. Filling its streets are luscious drippings of variant eats that are Malay, Chinese and Indian fusion propelling the megacity to a position as a haven for food lovers. Pervading its urban landscape is a wide array of historic enclaves backing up its claim as a multi-cultural paradise of old-meets-new.
Truth be told, Kuala Lumpur lives up to Malaysia’s promise of a truly Asia experience and getting around its top tourist spots is a moment you can impossibly miss.
HOW TO GET TO KUALA LUMPUR
Here are options to get to Kuala Lumpur by plane and land:
Getting to Kuala Lumpur By Plane
There are at least 21 international flights directed to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport located 75 kilometers south from the city center. The airport is divided into two terminals. To know the airlines operating for each terminal, check the links below:
From Kuala Lumpur airport, you can get to the city by train and bus.
- Going by train is the quickest option but a bit steep in the price. There are two trains that run from the airport to KL Sentral. KLIA Ekspres train which frequents every 15 minutes from 5:00AM to 12:00PM, travel time is about 28 minutes and fare is around RM55 , and KL Transit train which costs the same but takes more travel time due to several stops it makes in the way.
- Going by bus is the cheapest way to get to the city but takes the longest travel time for about an hour. At KLIA terminal, you can catch the Airport Coach at the ground floor from 5:00AM to 11:00PM, every 30 minutes, fare is around RM11. At KLIA2 terminal, take the SkyBus from 5:00AM to 1:00AM. The bus arrives every hour, travel time is around 1 hour and 30 minutes, fare is RM10.
Airport buses to get from the city back to KL Airport departs at Pudu Sentral station in Chinatown.
KLOOK offers a transfer service for a safer and more convenient trip. Check this link for details: Airport Transfers (KUL) for Kuala Lumpur.
Getting to Kuala Lumpur By Land
Kuala Lumpur can be reached by bus from cities and provinces around Malaysia and Singapore.
- Around Malaysia by bus
- There are 5 bus terminals in Kuala Lumpur but only 2 are frequented by tourists. 1) Pudu Sentral Bus terminal located at Jalan Pudu, a walking distance from Chinatown, which serves to major cities in Malaysia; and 2) Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) located at Bandar Tasik Selatan, 10 kilometers away from the city, that caters to south-bound commuters from Melaka, Johor Bahru and Singapore.
- From Singapore by bus
- The long-haul buses in Singapore are not consolidated in one place and departure point would depend on the chosen bus company as you booked online. If you opt to buy a bus ticket in person for assurance, head to the Golden Mile complex, a popular drop-off point for most long-distance buses that travel to Malaysia. It is located at the Beach road near Little India and Arab street, Nicoll Highway (5-minutes away on foot) and Lavender (15-minutes away on foot) are the nearest MRT stops.
Book online or find available transport (plane, ferry, bus and train) from your location to Kuala Lumpur using the search box below:
For tips on crossing Singapore-Malaysia border by bus, check out this link: CROSSING THE SINGAPORE-MALAYSIA BORDER – A FIRST TIMER’S GUIDE. I have cited Johor Bahru as a sample destination in Malaysia instead of Kuala Lumpur since it is the nearest to the border. Although it must be noted that the same process applies to both cities at the immigration center.
HOW TO GET AROUND KUALA LUMPUR
Kuala Lumpur is gridlocked during rush hour and worse on rainy season so it’s unwise to get a taxi or to rent a car to get around its top attractions especially that the city is short of parking areas. The usual approach if you are following a DIY travel itinerary is to utilize a mix of public transport (train and bus). Grab taxis are widely used and are a local favorite to get to short distances because it’s cheaper than a regular taxi so include that as well in the mix.
If you are not tight with schedule and want to freely wander around the major tourist spots in the city, you can catch the hop-on, hop-off GO KL City bus – a double-decked, purple-colored, FREE bus service that takes tourists around downtown area. You can catch the bus from 6:00AM to 11:00PM every 10 minutes at Pavilion shopping mall and KLCC, among others. Check this map for the complete list of bus stops.
If you are already at Petaling street, go on foot from Chinatown to Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Merdeka Square, Central Market and KLCC as these places are a walking distance from each other.
TOP ATTRACTIONS IN & NEAR KUALA LUMPUR
Here are the best places and tourist spots to visit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for 2019.
PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS
The once tallest twin structure in the world and the leading figure in Malaysia, the Petronas Towers, is a stunning building of steel inspired by Islamic design on the outside and a local art representation on the inside.
Petronas Twin Towers can be accessed for free as it is also a mall, but if you want to get an excellent vantage point to catch a panoramic view of the cityscape, head out to its skybridge and observation deck. Admission to the area is RM80 for adults and RM33 for children. Tickets are limited and issued on a first come, first served basis. Visiting hours is 9AM to 9PM, from Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed every Monday and from 1:00PM to 2:30PM on Friday. Ticketing counter is located at the Concourse level of the Petronas Towers and starts issuing tickets as early as 8:30AM. You may also purchase tickets from KLOOK if you want to be assured of a slot and skip the long queue. Click this link for details: PETRONAS Twin Towers Admission Ticket With Hotel Delivery.
Petronas Twin Towers is located at the city center near KLCC station (KJ10 LRT). From Kuala Lumpur airport, take the KLIA Ekspres train or the airport bus to KL Sentral. Once there, purchase a ticket for the LRT to KLCC station using the Kelana Jaya Line. Travel time by bus is about 1 hour and 30 minutes, total fare is around RM17.
The 400-year old, gigantic limestone hill in rainbow colors, that is Batu Caves, is a series of cave temples for Hindu worshippers that has become a major tourist attraction at the suburbs of Selangor, Malaysia, 30 minutes away from Kuala Lumpur City Center.
The cave temple is dedicated to the Hindu God of War Murugan with its statue standing 43 meters high at the very entrance marking a start of a steep climb of about 272 steps to the mouth of the temple complex 100 meters above the ground.
Batu Caves is free of entrance and opens daily from 7AM to 7PM. To get there from the airport, you can take the airport train or bus to KL Sentral, then take the KTM Komuter train to Batu Caves station, total fare by bus from the airport is about RM12 and by train is RM57. You may also take the RapidKL bus at KL Sentral which follows two routes to Batu Caves, fare ranges from RM6 to RM10. To be guided, make sure to inform the driver where you get off when taking the bus.
For convenience and safety, KLOOK offers a tour to Batu Caves and other interesting attractions at the suburbs for a fair price. Check this link for details: Kuala Lumpur Suburbs and Batu Caves.
If you are interested, a combined Petronas Twin Towers and Batu Caves Full Day Tour is also offered by KLOOK.
Resorts World Genting is composed of a cave temple, a theme park, a hotel and a shopping mall at the highlands of Pahang Daral Makmur, 1 hour and 30 minutes away from the city center of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Its high-altitude location fills the senses with a touch of cold atmosphere and a sight of lush green scenery. The theme park and shopping mall are accessed using a gondola lift or the Awana Skyway, which is recognized for being the longest and fastest cable car in Southeast Asia. The cable car operates from 7:30AM to 11:00PM, round trip ticket price is RM12, one way is RM6.
To get to Genting Highlands, you may catch the Go Genting Express bus at Pudu Sentral, KL Sentral, 1 Utama or Terminal Putra LRT Gombak from 8:45AM to 8:30PM, bus fare ranges from RM3 to RM6. For more details, visit this link: Genting Express Bus.
SULTAN ABDUL SAMAD BUILDING
The 19th-century built Sultan Abdul Samad building which was once an administration office of British colonizers is an icon at the heart of downtown Kuala Lumpur. The building features a clock tower and takes pride of its gleaming facade that lights up beautifully at night.
The building is located at Jalan Raja right across the Merdeka Square, and near the National Textile Museum, making it a favorable place to visit for its close proximity to other tourist attractions at the city center.
To get here by LRT, take the PUTRA line and alight at Pasar Seni or Masjid Jamek. From the station, the building is only a walk away for 10 minutes.
The new Istana Negara or the National Palace takes the official residence of the monarch of Malaysia. It is situated at Jalan Istana, 13 minutes away from KLCC.
The palace costs around RM800 million and covers a ground of about 28 acres. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public and can only be viewed outside the entrance gate. On your visit, pay attention to the yellow flag which indicates that the king is present in the palace.
Operating hours is from 8AM to 5PM. To get there, you can either take a metered taxi or catch the hop on, hop off bus. The National Palace is stop 13.
LITTLE INDIA (BRICKFIELDS)
The historical district of Little India around Brickfields comprises of landmarks built during 1920 through 1980. It spans an area covering Jalan Travers and Jalan Tun Sambanthan. Among the establishments that you can find in the area are textile shops, jewelry store, and low-key restaurants that usually operate daily from 10AM to 9PM.
Pay a visit early in the morning and catch the flock of birds filling its sidewalk. To get there by LRT, take the Kelana Jaya line and alight at KL Sentral LRT station. From there, Little India will just be a walk away. You can also take the RapidKL bus which goes through Brickfields.
The “starch factory” as it is known, Chinatown near Petaling street, is a sought-after tourist attraction at the heart of Kuala Lumpur for being a bustling bargain paradise. Goods and merchandise are open for bargain and sold at a dirt-cheap price. More than that, Chinatown gives off the best things to do around the megacity. You can take a stroll around Kasturi walk and Petaling street and enjoy the local cuisine, or pay a visit to the Central Market or at Chan See Shu Yuen or the nearby Guan Di temple, or let time pass at Old China cafe or by creating a latte art at Coffee Amo. There is too much to do around the area that spending a day is never enough.
To get there, take the LRT from KL Sentral station to Pasar Seni LRT. Chinatown will be a short walk from the LRT station.
Rating : 3/5
KUALA LUMPUR DIY ITINERARY
Here is a 3-day DIY itinerary for Kuala Lumpur which assumes a party of one and will set back a budget of RM276 or USD68 or P3,547, excluding expenses for accommodation, souvenir and other incidentals. The itinerary can be used for any type of traveler, from solo, couple to group traveling family.
Things to note for the sample itinerary:
- The allocated budget per activity is only intended for food, transportation and entrance fee (if there is any).
- Day 1 itinerary focuses on major attractions in and near Golden Triangle, the beating heart of the city in Kuala Lumpur. For the most part, the tourist attractions here are only a walk away from each other, the farthest are about ten minutes by bus or taxi. For convenience, take advantage of the GoKL bus which services tourists around these must-visit spots for free. Check their website for details at www.gokl.com. The same package is offered by KLOOK but is no longer for free. Check this link for details: KL Hop On Hop Off Bus Pass (24/48 Hours). You may also want to check out the Kuala Lumpur Half Day City Tour.
- Aside from Heli Lounge bar, Vertigo at Banyan Tree and Marini’s on 57 at KLCC are other rooftop bars with a clear view of the Petronas Towers and the city lights.
- The KLCC lightshow happens at KLCC park every day from 12:00PM to 2:00PM and 6:00PM to 11:00PM on weekdays and from 10:00AM to 12:00AM on weekends. The lightshow from 8:00PM to 9:45PM is accompanied with music which makes it more delightful to the senses.
|Little India (Brickfields)||10:00AM||RM10|
|Sri Mahamariamman Temple||11:30AM||–|
|National Textile Museum||4:00PM||–|
|Sultan Abdul Samad Building||5:00PM||–|
|Jalan Alor Food Street||7:00PM||RM20|
|Petronas Twin Towers||5:00PM||RM80|
| KLCC Lightshow |
Type in “Kuala Lumpur” and click “search” for the list of other discounted tours and deals for Kuala Lumpur.
|Back to City||4:00PM||RM6|
|Heli Lounge Bar||6:00PM||RM15|
WHERE TO STAY IN KUALA LUMPUR
Kuala Lumpur has gracefully adjusted to the growing need of accommodation as it gets more tourists year after year. Hence, getting the right accommodation that fits your travel need is never a problem in the megacity. From budget to luxury hotel, the capital has a wide array of options available for you.
As far as location goes to easily get around the top tourist attractions, it helps to get an accommodation in Chinatown and Bukit Bintang. These two are also notable for being a backpacker hub as they offer cheap accommodation options.
Below are few budget hotels in Chinatown and Bukit Bintang that are of good quality.
Bukit Bintang Top Budget Hotels
- Step Inn Guesthouse Check rate and availability here
- SUDO GuestHouse Check rate and availability here
- 21 Capsule Hotel Bukit Bintang Check rate and availability here
- Kuala Lumpur Dorms Check rate and availability here
Chinatown Kuala Lumpur Top Budget Hotels
- ZEN Hostel The Bed Station Check rate and availability here
- Raizzy’s Guesthouse Check rate and availability here
- Hotel Petaling Check rate and availability here
If you are looking for an apartment good for 6 persons with city view near Bukit Bintang, check this link for rate and availability.
TIPS WHEN TRAVELING TO KUALA LUMPUR
- The best time to visit Kuala Lumpur is from May to July, when there is less chance of rain and low strike of heatwave.
- Philippine passport holders are not required of Visa and are free to enter Malaysia for 30 days. For other countries, visit the Malaysian Immigration website for details about Visa application.
- The key to a smooth experience in getting around Kuala Lumpur is to choose an accommodation that’s readily accessible from the public transport system so at least stay within the Golden Triangle area.
- Walk when you can, to save on budget and avoid missing out some sweet tourist spots. The city attractions especially the ones located near Chinatown and Merdeka Square are close to each other and are better enjoyed by walking.
- Riding a taxi is highly discouraged as you are prone to getting ripped off. The better option is to go by Grab as they offer a fixed rate.
- Respect religious sites like Batu Caves and Indian temples. Observe proper decorum when going around the worship areas.
- The best way to exchange money are through banks and exchange centers in shopping malls. Note that there is a RM15 charge when you withdraw cash from ATMs in Malaysia.
A good number of locals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia understand English. But the better way to communicate with them is by using basic Malaysian phrases that they could easily understand. Here are some that proved to be useful.
Good Morning – Selamat Pagi
Good afternoon – Selamat tengah hari
Good evening – Selamat petang
Thank you – Terima kasih
How much? – Berapa harga
EXTEND YOUR TRIP
Four hours away by bus is Johor Bahru, the nearest Malaysian city from Singapore. Explore its family-oriented attractions, from Legoland to Hello Kitty town and Angry Birds Activity Park. This blossoming major tourist attraction is a great offering after a KL trip.
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