10 Tips Every Traveler Should Know Before Visiting Kuala Lumpur

Photo of Sarah Anne Lee
13 March 2017

Kuala Lumpur is an excellent choice to see the old Asian world meld and grow with large-scale immigration and new world development to form the unique cityscape it is hailed for. As the capital city of Malaysia, it is crucial to know some tips prior to visiting so as to make the best out of the trip. From savoring national foods to making your way around the city, Culture Trip is here to provide you with some helpful guidance in exploring Kuala Lumpur.

Hotspots Are Clumped together

Kuala Lumpur, or KL, may seem like a fairly big city on a map, but most of the must-see designated areas are found in the same vicinity. From the up-to-date shopping centers found practically next door to each other in Bukit Bintang to the many connected street markets of Pasar Seni, you don’t need to worry about long trips to see all the sights. The only cumbersome part of the trip is the walking while laden with shopping goodies. If you should find yourself wanting to cut down on the walking however, take the Bukit Bintang-KLCC walkway, the LRT/Monorail, or hop on the purple free MyRapid buses to get around.

Bukit Bintang Train Station | (c)Christopher Crouzet / Flickr

Prepare For Hot Weather

Malaysia is situated right on the Equator—the most humid, tropical area of the entire planet. Combined with urban atmosphere, weather in Kuala Lumpur is more likely than not to be sweltering to a fault on some days, although recent climate change has brought about more rain. Pack your best and most durable summer clothes to accommodate external temperatures and head down to the many food destinations for a pick-me-up cool or hot drink. Rain is more likely to occur closer to the evenings, so make the best of your hot afternoons.


Pay a Visit to the Gardens

To escape the urban landscape for even just a moment, head to the nature reserves located right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. You don’t have to go too far to spend time with Asia’s most beautiful flora and fauna as well as get some green air into your lungs to replace the vehicle fume emissions. Also located in the same square, plan out half a day to explore the KL Bird Park, its neighbor KL Butterfly Park, and the adjacent KL Lake Gardens.

Butterfly Park KL | (c)Phalinn Ooi / Flickr

Shop Wisely

From the high-end luxury goods in Pavilion to the interesting cheap oddities in Sungei Wang, there is no end to the buildup of shopping that can’t be avoided. Promoting a collection of flagship stores for big brands, the Golden Triangle of Kuala Lumpur is full of things you probably have seen before. If you are done looking for the next pair of collectible designer shoes, head to the older areas of Kuala Lumpur to see the other side of the spectrum. Nestled in an area called Pasar Seni (translated to art market) lies a treasure trove named Chinatown on Petaling Street. Get lost in the myriad of antiques and trinkets in every nook and cranny, but remember to only get what your buck is worth.

Petaling St Markets | (c)Yun Huang Yong / Flickr

Have Fun At the Night Markets

One thing that you cannot miss out on is a trip to a night market or pasar malam. Witness and indulge in the slice of Southeast Asian life baring its roots at Pasar Malam Sri Petaling, or the more popular Taman Connaught. Be a little adventurous and experience roadside dining as international Asian street food mingles with the local cultural delicacies. Haggle to your heart’s content over nick knacks and knockoffs. The scene will be quite crowded, so take extra precaution with your pockets and other belongings.

Food Like No Other

Kuala Lumpur, as the melting pot of the whole of Southeast Asia, is home to a unique blend of herbs and spices from all kinds of cultures. Each exotic cuisine is a guaranteed flavor bomb, so be wise in judging your spice levels. Ranging from the sweet to the savory, the sambal that comes with the national dish, nasi lemak, can often be quite misleading in its redness. Craving for a richer palette will lead you to Nyonya food, where santan is abundantly used. Even the curries have their own flavor, sourcing locally-available ingredients. Lessen the risk of tearing up with the local specialty drinks and desserts like teh tarik and ais kacang are all very affordable.


Cultural Festivities

Since KL is a multicultural nation, you are more often than not able to witness the full regalia of a cultural or religious festival during your stay. These holidays are often celebrated widely, with special events and decorations all over the place. One great example would be Chinese New Year, where every establishment from the mall terraces to the cheap coffee shops will have some kind of Chinese animal year decoration strung up and displayed to welcome their patrons.

Pavilion | (c)Phalinn Ooi / Flickr

Venturing Out

The city of Kuala Lumpur is a great place to explore, but so is the rest of the country. Good for weekend trips, spend some time in your pre-planning to include some spots away from the capital to fully encapsulate the beauty of Malaysia in its original settings.

Malacca / Melaka | (c)Ah Wei(Lung Wei) / Flickr

KL Tower and KLCC Can Be Sped-Run

The two most visited attractions in the whole of Malaysia might take you even less than half a day to get through. After doing the normal tourist route and taking pictures, you are welcome to fork out a bigger chunk of your spending cash should you wish to dine in the elevated rotating restaurant in the KL Tower or shop at upper-class retails in Suria KLCC. If you are on a budget side, stick to getting a picture, then head down to the cheaper side of KL.

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View from the KL tower. #remoteyear #kublai

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Don’t Be Intimidated At the Local Language

Kuala Lumpur is the bustling center of tourism and business, so locals are more prepared to verse in English despite how Chinese/Malay/Indian the establishment may be. It wouldn’t hurt to learn a few phrases, but take comfort in the knowledge that people are quite comfortable in switching from their mother tongue to help you out.

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