Travel Guide & Video: The Low Down on Kuala Lumpur
As you might have picked up in our last post, Kuala Lumpur really threw us a curve ball. We weren’t really sure what to expect and we weren’t exactly dying to see it, but then it surprised us in so many ways. Its truly a melting pot of people, food and culture. We were fortunate enough to be house sitting for a two adorable kittens for a week which allowed us to explore more than we probably would have had we just visited for a long weekend. We quickly found that KL is more than just another big city and we really fell in love with it. But we know you want to know more about the practical stuff – the weather, expenses, food, transportation, etc. Although we are no experts, we are going to give you the low down on our experience. Here goes…
Weather in Kuala Lumpur
We thought Florida was hot. Then we moved to Thailand. We thought Thailand was hot. Then we went to Malaysia. While many are looking to escape the harsh winters whenever possible, this was our least favorite thing about being in KL. It wasn’t just hot, but sooo humid. It ranged between 90-100% humidity every day which made exploring the city extremely exhausting. We were sneaking into the malls or even a ride on the monorail just to escape the heat. Furthermore, it rained nearly every day we were there and the city seemed to be masked with a sheet of gray. This could be a little bit depressing if staying long term and could definitely hinder travel plans if visiting for a short time.
Prices in Kuala Lumpur
We have a habit of always comparing everything to Thailand. We’ve been spoiled with prices and the cost of living in Thailand so we especially find ourselves comparing costs no matter where we go. Not only that, but we are always looking at destinations from the perspective of an expat…
- Is it live-able?
- Is it affordable?
- Can I see myself staying here long term?
What we found was that in some ways, KL was just as expensive as back home in the States and in other ways it was even less costly than Thailand. We determined that its one of those cities where you can spend as much or as little as you want.
Eating out: If you choose to eat local food, you can eat for as little as $2-5/meal. On the other hand, its quite easy to find upscale restaurants with great quality Western food and you can expect to pay quite a bit more. Prices varies as much as peoples’ tastes. We ate plenty of local meals for less than $10 for the two of us. However, we also fulfilled some Western cravings that are more difficult to find in Thailand. For example, we went for Christmas Eve dinner at Outback Steakhouse where we paid 99 RM (about $30 USD) for two meals and an appetizer. While $30 is nothing to spend on dinner back home, this is way more than we’ve ever spent in Thailand for a meal (around 1,000 baht).
Supermarkets: We were extremely excited about the supermarkets in Kuala Lumpur. You can find just about anything and everything you could possibly want. We went a little overboard buying things that we missed from home that are unavailable to us in Thailand. However, we found the prices in the supermarkets were about the same as back home, unless the products were local of course. Even still, its nice to know you have just about everything at your fingertips when you need (or want) it. Side note – a trip to Jason’s Food Hall in Bangsar is a grocery shopping experience like no other and highly recommend it if you can squeeze it in. We spent hours just walking up and down the aisles…sounds crazy until you see for yourself!
Alcohol: While you can find plenty of moderately priced food, alcohol is definitely more expensive and much more difficult to find but not that surprising since it is a primarily Muslim country. We found that an average beer at a restaurant cost $5-7 and at 7-11 was about $2.50-3.
Transportation: KL has a really decent and low cost transportation system. The price of trains are probably comparable to Bangkok, with a single journey ticket never costing us more than $0.60 USD. The taxis though are what really shocked us. We opted for taxis a few times when it was raining and they ended up often costing the same price as the train would have and saved us a lot more time. Obviously, this won’t always be the case but even still, the most we spent on a taxi was 7 RM (about $2 USD). Additionally, we opted for the Skybus from the airport to KL Sentral which cost less than $3 USD/each. The express train is another popular option that costs around $10/person each way.
Accommodations: Accommodations we felt were a little higher than Thailand, although we’re not sure how much of it had to do with the fact it was during Christmas. We only stayed two nights in the Bukit Bintang area before heading to our house sit and we paid roughly $38/night for a modern and clean, yet very basic budget hotel. That’s still pretty affordable, however compared to Thailand hotels (I can’t help it), it was quite more than we are used to paying. We usually stick to a budget of around $25/night and, to be honest, most of these places we’ve stayed in Thailand were much nicer than our hotel in KL. Even still, there are a large range of hotels to meet every budget for those visiting.
Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur
Batu Caves: this is a popular attraction and just a 25 min ride from KL Sentral on the KMUTER. It was a bit touristy, but definitely cool to see and has great views of the city. Just watch out for those cheeky monkeys. Not going to lie – they freaked me out a bit.
Petronas Towers: Obviously no trip to the capital city would be complete without viewing these breathtaking twin towers. Check them out during the day and then go see them again at night. A night viewing is an absolute must. It’s also a great place to shop, especially for those with an affection for designer clothes and accessories. KLCC is a bustling shopping mall with plenty of shops and restaurants to offer.
Bukit Bintang: This area is hugely popular with tourists and shoppers. It seems like one endless avenue of shopping malls, and surprisingly enough, they are all flooded with shoppers. Even if you don’t plan to do any shopping, they are worth checking out, especially at Christmas!
Jalan Alor: This is the street for foodies where you can sample all the local delicacies that you likely will not find back home. The street is lined with a variety of hawker stalls and eateries and they will all try to suck you into with their sales tactics and menus. However, be prepared for the array of smells that can often be overwhelming and not necessarily in a good way. Particularly, the pungent smell of that ever familiar fruit in SE Asia…DURIAN.
Petaling Street: The China Town of Kuala Lumpur and the place to shop if you’re looking for a good bargain. Also, lots of street food available. Sadly, we only made it as far as Central Market before it started pouring on us and we had to catch a cab back to the hotel. Central Market is also a great place to pick up locally handmade goods for gifts and souvenirs.
Heli-Lounge: this helipad by day, lounge by night is a must when you are in KL. This was by far the coolest thing we did and would definitely go back again. Take the monorail to the Raja Chulan stop, walk 250m to the Menara KH building and then take the elevator up to the 34th floor. It opens at 6pm daily and offers some of the best views of the city and the Petronas Towers. We’ve heard the sunsets are phenomenal but unfortunately we didn’t have much of one due to a rainstorm that swept through. Prices are not over the top for food or drinks given the atmosphere. It’s a great alternative to the KL Tower, which we never made it to. There didn’t appear to be much of a dress code either. I had no problems in shorts and sandals.
Don’t miss our virtual travel guide to see where we went, what we ate and how to use the monorail!
Have you ever been to Kuala Lumpur? If so, what things would you add to this list? If not, would you ever like to visit?