Tropical weather, coconuts, curry, the Petronas Twin Towers and Batu Caves. If these are the only things that come to your mind when thinking about the capital of Malaysia, then this travel guide is for you. Here, I will share with you my top 12 essential tips that would be a great help when you plan for your trip to Kuala Lumpur. This post will cover important tips and information such as transport, money, and avoiding scams. Happy reading!
1. Getting there
If you are planning to fly to Kuala Lumpur from outside of Asia like us, you may want to check out Skyscanner. This is the go-to website for me when it comes to researching and comparing air ticket prices. If you are flying to Kuala Lumpur from another country in Asia, you may wish to check out Air Asia, a budget airlines company based in Asia. The main airport for both domestic and international flights is KLIA2.
With the abundance of highways, railways and waterways, you will never lack transportation options in Kuala Lumpur. Personally, I still think that the easiest way to get around Kuala Lumpur is by car. You can opt to rent a car if you’re travelling in a group or as a family. One of the best tip I can give you is to use Grab car. This cheaper cousin of Uber is easy to use and it is widely used in South East Asia.
3. AVOID TAXIS
Foreigners are often warned about taxi drivers in Kuala Lumpur, and for good reason. Most of the time taxi drivers would refuse to use the meter. They would give excuses such as the meter chose to break down that day. Save yourself from this risk and use Grab, or other public transports such as the bus, train or metro. With that being said, always avoid accepting rides from ‘taxi drivers’ that approach you at airports asking, “Need taxi?”
4. Money, Money, Money.
The Malaysian currency is Ringgit Malaysia (RM), or just simply ringgit (RM1 = $0.2, €0.2, £0.19). While some places in Kuala Lumpur do accept cards, you will find that most places only accept cash. You probably already know this but do not exchange your money at KLIA2 or any airport for that matter. Either exchange some Malaysian ringgit from where you’re coming from, or wait until you find a money changer in Kuala Lumpur. Here is a small tip: when you use your bank card, you will get asked “Wave or pin?” and wave = pay using contactless and pin = pay by putting card in the machine. If you’re worried about the low currency exchange rate or extra fess from banks, you may want to look into applying for a multi-currency wallet such as Revolut or Big Pay.
5. Always check the price before paying
Some might think this is common sense or that I’m exaggerating, but I have had my foreigner friends tell me that they paid for something, only to realise later on that they paid much more than the locals. This is not to say that this is common in Malaysia, but do be extra cautious and ask for the price prior to paying, if the price is not shown. Another tip: do not be afraid to bargain when shopping!
6. Where to stay?
Depends. Determining the best neighbourhood for you to stay will depend on the activities you would like to do during your time here. Bukit Bintang or anywhere around Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) is great if you want to be close to the main tourist attractions such as the Petronas Twin Towers and KLCC. Bandar Sunway and Subang Jaya is great especially for families because it is slightly less touristy than central Kuala Lumpur, and the area is hip and young with all the universities around. Not to mention there is also the Sunway Lagoon theme park!
As a Malaysian, I am pretty proud of my multicultural roots. Having a country made up of a diverse population — Malays, Chinese, and Indians, to name a few — means that not only do Malaysians speak more than one language, foreigners can also be rest assured that they can get by with English in Kuala Lumpur. However, if you feel like you are up for the challenge and you wish to learn a few Malaysian phrases during your visit, you can take a look at my guide to the most useful Malaysian phrases.
8. Phone plans
During your visit to Kuala Lumpur, you may wish to get a prepaid SIM card. If so, there are many phone carriers that offer great prepaid phone plans that include talk time, messaging and mobile internet at good value. Some of the main one phone companies include DiGi, Maxis, Celcom, and U Mobile. To give you an idea of the cost, I chose this prepaid plan by DiGi during my 2-month stay in Kuala Lumpur.
As someone who works from her laptop, this is one of the most important information I look for when I travel. A lot of restaurants, malls and cafés in Kuala Lumpur offer free wifi. Most coffee places such as Starbucks require you to buy something from them in order to obtain the wifi password. Although those of you who are used to fast internet speed may find the connection in Malaysia to be quite slow.
10. What to wear?
I have gotten a few questions in regards this topic, especially considering Malaysia is a muslim country. Given that the weather is hot and humid throughout the year, the answer is pretty simple (and practical): comfortable and light clothes! Linen shorts, sun dresses, cotton shirts, sun hats and sandals. These are a few clothing options that most Malaysians have in their daily wardrobe. If you wish to visit a religious site, make sure you research before hand what the appropriate dress code is. Small backpacks and crossbody bags are not only the most efficient method in keeping your essentials and a bottle of water with you, these are also great in safe-guarding your belongings from pickpockets. If you are planning to walk a lot, pack some comfortable shoes such as sandals and always remember; sunblock, sunblock, sunblock.
11. Eat like a local
There are many great reasons for this delicious tip. Firstly, it is a great way to get to know Malaysian culture. Secondly, it will save you a lot of money as western cuisine is usually very expensive in Malaysia. If you ever find yourself spoilt for choices and not knowing where or what to eat (because that will happen), simply ask a Malaysian on the street and they would definitely be happy in helping you out. Also, if you haven’t read my guide on the top 15 must-try Malaysian food, you can take a look here.
12. Things to do
Aside from soaking in the tropical sunshine and enjoying the amazing food experiences that Malaysia has to offer, there are many things that you can do. I have written a complete guide to things that you can do in Kuala Lumpur, which you can read here. In the mean time, here is a brief look at the things that you can do during your time here in Kuala Lumpur.
Shopping – Shopaholics, rejoice! There are many places in Kuala Lumpur where you can shop from. From luxury items and designer brands at Pavillion, to bargaining for clothing at Sungai Wang, there is always something for every budget.
Family activities – Parents with young children especially will be delighted to know that there are many kid-friendly activities that you can do as a family here in Kuala Lumpur. You can visit the Kuala Lumpur Zoo for a safari-themed day, or spend an afternoon exploring science with your children at PetroSains. There are also many wonderful theme parks that both adults and children can enjoy, such as Sunway Lagoon. Tip: always check online to see if there are discounted tickets or value tickets!
Cultural – If culture is what you’re after, you can spend the day exploring the many religious sites that Kuala Lumpur has to offer. Buddhist and Hindu temples generally allow visitors. Always remember to do your research on the appropriate attire and etiquette first.