Scroll down for practical travel advice
First impressions of Kuala Lumpur was that it is a big city, secondly l realised that l didn’t like big cities. Unless they have the history and culture of Paris or Rome l try to stay as far away as possible! Dusty alleys and busy streets were all around me and in the 35 degrees heat it seemed a bit overwhelming.
I checked into my dorm at “back home” ( a great hostel btw) and greeted the lone occupant. A cheerful looking Hungarian with the very non Hungarian name of Marcel. Turns out we hit it off pretty good and agreed to go exploring the city tomorrow.
Marcel was the strangest 21st century 25 year old l have ever met! He carried a disposable camera and a iPhone that he embarrassingly informed me was from work and admitted to not having a clue how to use it. I turned out having to give him a crash course on all things airdrop and how to attach photos to emails. It was frankly quite adorable.
That evening was Chinese New Year, fireworks and rockets exploded all night and accompanied me on my trip to find a exchange office. I walked for about 30 minutes until l reached the iconic Petronas twin towers, they are two gleaming modern skyscrapers which houses one of the biggest shopping centres I have been in. Gleaming tiles and Gucci dressed women, rubbed shoulders with scruffy looking backpackers like myself. It is surrounded by a manicured park and fountains all of which oozes luxury. They were dazzlingly impressive in the night sky and surrounded by the usual selfie stick waving tourists. I did however start to get the feeling of being very alone in a big city. I witnessed a robbery a few feet in front of me by a group of Indians and l kept my head down and purse close on my long walk home from the money exchange office which is located in the shopping centre.
Image by Colin
Malaysia has a unique history of being divided into three ethnic groups Indians, Chinese and Malay. When l first arrived l really felt like l had landed in India as the area I was staying in was predominantly Indian. Curry and dosas where on every corner as well as Hindu shrines and temples.
The following days I explored batu caves and every historical monument in town with my new friend Marcel as well as signed up for a food tour with Back Home Hostel which comprised of 4 hours of extreme gluttony punctuated by a lesson on Malay Culture. We ate goat’s tongue and chicken balls, blue rice and candied anchovies. All in all it was a very eye opening and extremely enjoyable day. Personally I would recommend checking out Jalan Alor street for amazing street food and Bukit Bintang street for nightlight. Both are walking distance from the Petronus Twin towers.
Image by Flo
My last day l bid goodbye to my new friends and promptly made my way to the wrong bus to the airport. As l was sitting on the bus quite pleased with myself and my punctuality l suddenly realised my mistake and dashed off the bus pleaded to get my bags off and legged it to the correct bus.
Coming from Thailand Kuala Lumpur did not have the same vibe as Bangkok, the prices were more expensive and as a country with a large Muslim population drinking and drugs were not as prevalent as its neighbours. However there is still plenty to see and do as a tourist in this melting pot of a city.
How to get there
From KLIA airport
There are two airports in Kuala Lumpur and you have to be careful when leaving KL that you get the bus to the right one. If you are coming from the international airport there are a few options including train and bus, bus being the cheapest. Personally I took the bus which leaves you in the KL central station which has metro links to all over the city. The shuttle bus is the cheapest connection to the city and there are a few options, personally I used Aerobus it cost me RMD 8 one way, and terminates at the KL sentral station, I had to buy my ticket before getting on the bus. If leaving from the KL central station keep in mind that the buses are on the bottom level, also the buses that leave to the different airports are right beside each other, I actually got on the wrong one the first time so make sure you double check. If you want to get there quicker than the the bus you can take the train, there are two options Klia express MYR 55 and Klia transit MYR 35, they also terminate at the KL central station. If you want more details you can find times and info on transfers on this link here
From Subang airport
From Subang airport the easiest option is to get a TAXI, prices will not be more than MYR 20 and it should take about 20-30 min. If you want to take the Bus then MyRapid KL takes you into the center the bus route number is U81 (now called 772). Cost is MYR 3 it runs every half hour, and takes about 45 min.
Where to Stay
Depending on what you want to experience and what your budget is, there are many different options for accommodation. If you are a budget traveler than a hostel is your best bet, Booking and Agoda have the most options in Asia and you can book hotels on there as well. Airbnb is also good if you prefer staying in your own apartment. If you want a USD 35 discount then use this link.
Personally I stayed at the Back Home Hostel I highly recommend it as having clean rooms, friendly staff, a central location close to public transport and with plenty of cheap restaurants in the vicinity.
What to Do
Image by David
You can take a train from one of the many metro stops and it only costs MYR 2 It takes about 45 mins from KL sentral and is a simple 200m walk from the stop. When entering the area, there are a number of food and trinket stalls along the walkway.
The entrance to the caves is via a very very steep flight of hundreds of steps. At the base there are a number of idols and statues as you go up the stairs monkeys greet you along the way, dont feed them as they are known for stealing phones and grabbing belongings.
Once at the top and entering the caves the view is amazing, however you really don’t need more than 30 min though to explore the caves.
Entry to the caves and its surrounds is free, the cost of the train is absolutely minimal, and there is no need to book a tour for this.
Image by Nico
Image by Lex
No trip to KL would be complete without a visit to the world’s tallest twin towers. The skyscrapers are utterly stunning, particularly when illuminated at night. The Ticket office is open from 8:30 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. To purchase tickets online directly from the Petronas Twin Towers website click here.
Cost: Adult MYR 85 Child MYR 35 (prices as of July 3, 2016)
Hours: 9 am – 9 pm (closed from 1 pm – 2:30 pm on Fridays)
Visiting Days: Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Monday)
Image by Sutr
I love food tours! And Malaysia has some of the most amazingly unique food I have ever tasted. The hostel I stayed at organised some amazing walking tours and I signed up with the food one. Fadly our tour guide was amazing and took us on a sampling tour that left me stretching at the seams and almost put me in a food coma. We were able to try strange local delicacies like chicken ball soup, goat’s tongue, Pink milk, home made ice cream and blue rice. I highly recommend going to the backhome hostel even just to sign up for his amazing tour, he is a great conversationalist and will randomly make you taste strange fruits and has a genuine love for the culinary experience. You can see a list of their tours here Walking tours in Kuala Lumpur
Image by Phalinn
Chinatown also called Petaling street is a great place to do some cheap shopping. You can buy almost any counterfeit goods as well a pick up some local souvenirs and food. I spent a whole afternoon wandering around the bazaars picking up gifts for friends
Image By Cecil
Jalon Alor and Bukit Bintang
These two streets adjoin one another and are a great place to go in the evening for some night life and street food. Jalon Alor is a long street lined with hundreds of food stalls, the evenings are very busy and they stay open to quite late. Bukit Bintang is the Pub Street and you will find most of the foreigners here drinking in the cocktail lounges and nightclubs. Well worth a visit.
Image By Frank
Below is a map showing the location of the two streets.