It is funny how many travelers feel that there is not much to do when in Kuala Lumpur. As a local Malaysian who has once stayed in Kuala Lumpur for years, I have found the city to be vibrant and fascinating.
Kuala Lumpur (KL) is the capital of multicultural Malaysia. It is 243 km square and holds about 1.76 million people in the city. This gives the city proper a very high population density of 17,310 people per square mile or 6,890 per square kilometer. Greater Kuala Lumpur, or the Klang Valley, is a large urban agglomeration with an estimated population of 7.2 million in 2016 with a population density that is nearly equal to that of the city proper.
According to the 2010 census, major ethnic groups in Kuala Lumpur are:
- Malay/Bumiputera: 45.9%
- Chinese: 43.2%
- Indians: 10.3%
- Other: 1.6%
Generally, Malaysians are a rather friendly bunch of people. Most Malaysians are capable of speaking English – though most of us speak Manglish (Malaysian English). It is probably one of the rare places in Asia where English is spoken commonly nationwide other than Philippines and Singapore.
KL is also a popular layover destination for many travelers thanks to Air Asia’s cheap flight tickets. While safety seems to be a concern for most travelers, it is safe to say that KL probably scores 3/5 on the safety scale. It is rather common for scams, pickpockets, and snatch thefts to happen. It is also not safe to leave your items lying around unlike in a place like Chiang Mai. Always be alert and act on caution when you are alone is an advice that every visitor should take away from this article.
Internet speed is rather stable in the city center with fiber optic cables available to most new buildings. Additionally, it is rather cheap to get a prepaid internet plan on your mobile. The cost of living in KL city itself ranges averagely from RM2,500 – RM5,000 (approximately 650 USD – 1, 250 USD). According to Numbeo, KL’s cost of living is lower than Bangkok city.
(Click here to check the estimated cost of living for expatriates.)
What to do when in Kuala Lumpur?
Enjoy affordable sky bars
Kuala Lumpur is a land filled with sky bars all around the city. An average cost for a sky bar experience in KL is from 50 USD – 100 USD for 2 people. Sky bars in KL ranges from open-air helipad lounges to 5-star hotel lounge experience. Each sky bar provides you with amazing views of the city.
One of the most popular sky bars in KL is Heli Lounge that provides patrons with a panoramic 360-degree view of KL city. This sky bar also boasts the best sunset view looking towards the Petronas Twin Towers — the tallest twin buildings in the world.
Watch the sunset on an actual helipad with a glass of Coca-Cola or orange juice for RM15 (4.50 USD) or order a bottle of wine at a starting price of RM169 (42 USD) for 2 people.
If this is not affordable, then there are no other sky bars in the world that can be labeled as affordable!
Click here to read more: All Time Favourites: Top 5 Affordable Sky Bars in Kuala Lumpur City
Visit places of interest
Nearly everyone who hears about Kuala Lumpur knows only about the Petronas Twin Towers and Batu Caves.
Come on… KL has more than these 2 wonderful attractions to offer. Here is a list of places worth visiting in KL:
- Istana Budaya — Malaysia’s main venue for all kinds of theatrical art
- Stadium Titiwangsa — legit monthly Muay Thai fights (100% real fights)
- Putrajaya Wetlands Park — tranquil evening walk in a park with beautiful scenery
- Little India (Brickfields) — cheap, delicious, authentic Indian food
- Chinatown (Petaling Street) — mural art paintings, affordable hostels and local Chinese food (beware of overpriced imitation goods)
- Masjid India — low-cost shopping for Malaysian traditional clothes while looking at colonial buildings
- Bukit Tabur (East/West) — slightly challenging hike in the city of KL
- Bukit Nanas — a small tropical rainforest reserve with bridge trails for a good view of KL in the day
- Kuala Lumpur Bird Park
- Merdeka Square — beautifully lit up colonial buildings at night
- Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre — arts events and seminars held here by both local and international talents.
- Aquaria KLCC — educational, largest and well-maintained aquarium in Malaysia
- Skytrex Adventure — fun-filled outdoor adventures and extreme sports
- Sunway Lagoon — Asia’s #1 water theme park attached to a shopping mall that looks like a pyramid
- Jalan Alor — food street with great selections
- Thean Hou Temple — Largest Chinese temple in the city
And many more…
Party up in TREC and Changkat
Every metropolitan has its own party zone and Kuala Lumpur offers you with 2 zones just for partying!
Located right in the middle of the city is Changkat. This street is almost alike Phuket’s Bangla road where the road is off limit to cars, but without strip class, tiger shows or ping pong shows. Changkat offers a wide range of bars and pubs with clubs on the 2nd floor. It is frequent by expatriates and backpackers who live nearby to the city. Bar hopping activities and sports broadcasting can often be found here. Some of the most popular bars in Changkat are:
- Havana — Great cocktails, the 90s/Latin dance music, with a big dance floor
- Twenty-One Kitchen and Bar — Fantastic Western cuisine and super cheap promotions for drinks
- Healy Mac’s Irish Bar — good place to chill and watch sports
- The Rum Bar KL — Officially the best rum bar in the city!
- No Black Tie — Your exclusive Jazz bar
- Pisco —Spanish-styled bar that offers a tantalizing dining experience
- Naga Bar and Restaurant — Open-air rooftop bar
- Pinchos Tapas Bar — Most authentic Spanish food in KL. P/S: This is where all the Latinos are at!
- Zion Club — A 2-storey club for you to rave your dance feet off
- Ciccio Restaurant and Bar — Authentic Italian food, Italian liquor and amazing cocktails
TREC Kuala Lumpur stands for Taste, Relish Experience and Celebrate. It is the city’s largest entertainment center that features not just bars and clubs but also exclusive restaurants to feast in. Here you will find Asia’s most popular super nightclub, Zouk KL, which boast 11 nightlife concepts all under one roof! TREC is set along Jalan Tun Razak, that is a ten-minute drive from Pavilion KL.
Shop for the cheapest sportswear
This is a little less-known to most people even locals that Kuala Lumpur offers one of the cheapest spots to buy branded sportswear. For all sporty people out there, you will fall in love with Sports Direct — Yes, they have physical stores in KL city!
Almost all sports items here are at half-price. Yes, most of the styles are out of season but their quality remains the same. It is the best way to get awesome gears at half the price. I am going back to shop for more when I am in KL next!
Click here to reach their official website and learn about the locations.
Be amazed by KL’s cultural diversity
Malaysia as a whole is a melting pot thus, one of our most famous tourism slogan: Malaysia, Truly Asia. As mentioned above, Malaysian are made up of 3 major races: Malay, Indian and Chinese.
However, there are so many of us out there who are a mix of more than just 1 race. One of the more popular mix culture in Malaysia is the Peranakan culture, who are also known as Straits Chinese. Some of us are known as Serani (Eurasians). Let’s not forget that aboriginal friends, the bumiputras, live among us in KL too. Each race and its culture are uniquely blended into every local you will meet in Malaysia.
Despite political reasons and attempts to cause racial disintegration, Malaysians live peacefully with one another. Respect and tolerance are part of our daily lives. Although having to said that, most Malaysians are not very prudent nor politically correct when voicing out their opinions.
Learn the local rojak language
Remember what I said about Malaysians speaking Malaysian English? Thanks to our multicultural nation, we have come up with our own language that only Malaysians can understand.
We tend to end our sentences with -lah, -leh, and -loh just like the Chinese. Additionally, it is common for us to use 4 different languages and dialects in one sentence.
English: Hey, beautiful. Would you like to go to lunch with me?
Malaysian: Leng lui(Cantonese)! Kia (hokkien dialect), come makan (Malay language) with me (English)?
Instead of saying thank you, it is common for us to say terima kasih (Malay), kamsiah (Hokkien), xie xie (Mandarin), vanakkam (Tamil) or doujehsai (Cantonese).
With all these languages jumbled into one, Malaysians are highly capable of swearing in other languages too. One of the most common swear words that I have heard in KL is vaffanculo! (Italian) with the hand movement.
Yes, nearly everyone in Malaysia is bilingual and there are many of us who are polyglots. Please bear with us when we try to come up with a proper English sentence when we have more than English to think of.
Once you learn our rojak language, you will love Malaysia, if not Kuala Lumpur even more!
Affordable stays with amazing sky pools
Singapore is not the only country with amazing sky pools in South East Asia. Kuala Lumpur definitely has some affordable choices for your best sky pool experience.
According to Agoda, for about RM180/night (45 USD/night), you will be able to enjoy a nice one bedroom apartment stay in Regalia Suites. It is located within KL city centre, 5 minutes walk from The Sunway Putra Shopping Mall and a less than RM10 Uber ride to downtown KL. Regalia is definitely a convenient base to explore the city being within walking distance to Putra Komuter, PWTC LRT, and Sultan Ismail LRT. Its strategic location also provides its sky pool with an amazing view of the city.
There are other affordable stays with infinity pool in KL city however, Regalia Suites is by far my favourite! Click here to read more on Kuala Lumpur Infinity Pools on Tripadvisor.