city guide   ■  

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

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As one of the few cities at the center of the world’s economy, Kuala Lumpur, or simply KL, stands tall in Southeast Asia close to its sibling Singapore.

The health and wealth of Kuala Lumpur continues to attract visitors, whether on a tour itinerary or a business agenda. This Malaysian Federal Territory, i.e. administered by the government, gleams with world renown businesses from across all industries. No wonder, its populace is considered to be one of the most ethnically-diverse among its neighbors in Southeast Asia. Everybody wants a piece of this alpha city. Let’s get past the facade, though, and have an insider’s look to the travel trade of Malaysia’s capital. The following guide will provide you with everything you need to know to enjoy KL.

If you already know the basics of the city, check our blog post 6 Things Not To Miss In Kuala Lumpur.

Why Kuala Lumpur?

Who would have thought that the modern city of Kuala Lumpur used to be a muddy mining town upon the junction of two rivers? That’s where its name actually came from!

Kuala Lumpur literally means “muddy confluence.”

There are more to KL though than its history. Now it’s a thriving multicultural city with sky-scraping buildings, cultural architectures and religious mosques and statues surrounded by karst formations and scenic hills.

Many airlines fly directly to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL). British Airways and Malaysia Airlines have daily direct flights from London to Kuala Lumpur, starting from around 800 euros (normal return ticket, economy class) to around 3400 euros for a nonstop return business class seat. However, being far away from Europe, Kuala Lumpur offers excellent options for point runs by making multiple stops on the way. For example routes like London-Doha-Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur or London-Doha-Hong Kong-Kuala Lumpur may offer cheap business class flight options and possibility to gather a lot of frequent flyer points.

What To Know

Communication is least of a problem when visiting KL. Since it’s a business city, English is common even to locals. In fact, based on English Proficiency Index, 60% of Malaysians are proficient in English. This is because although their primary language is Bahasa Malaysia, English is the nationally spoken language.

Malaysia’s currency is Ringgit (RM). Currently, 1 USD and 1 EUR would equate to 4.5 and 4.7 RM, respectively. Cost of living is definitely cheaper as compared to western countries, although not as cheap when held against other SEA countries.

Local means of transportation include buses and the systematic metro railway transit. This may be a good experience for adventurous tourists, but Uber and Grab cars are more comfortable for a fair price. You may also avail of regular taxis, just make sure that they are metered.

Although Kuala Lumpur is generally safe and non-violent, any visitor should practice street-smart skills since roads can be too busy with vehicles and pedestrians. Valuables should be held close to the body. Do not flaunt gadgets that might catch the interest of others. If staying out late at night, it’s a best practice to be accompanied.

Islam is the dominating religion in Malaysia. You will find almost all restaurants to be “Halal”. An act to shake hands may not be reciprocated. Public display of affection may not be acceptable to some. Nevertheless, despite the difference in culture, people are definitely welcoming.

When To Visit Kuala Lumpur

The equatorial location of Malaysia makes it hot and humid, with two monsoon seasons every year happening every October through April. Despite that, March is recorded to be the hottest month.

This leaves May to September an option if you want to avoid the possibilities of thunderstorms during your stay.

Who Are There

Being Asia’s miniature, Kuala Lumpur brims with peoples of different cultural roots. Aside from native Malaysians, you will encounter people that originated from China, India, Bangladesh, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia, but they could be holding Malaysian citizenship. The first three groups dominate the population, though. With this diversity, it’s difficult to generalize the characteristics of Kuala Lumpur’s people. Innate with the natives though are the values of courtesy, non-confrontation, contentment and temperance.

Where To Stay

Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur in Jalan Ampang offers excellent breakfast buffet and premier suites. A shuttle leaves every 2 hours to transport its guests to Bukit Bintang and KLCC.

JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur in Bukit Bintang is one of the top options for people on a business trip in Malaysia. Its proximity to Bukit Bintang shopping district puts it in an excellent location, allowing executives to roam around the city after their meeting agenda.

Hilton Kuala Lumpur located in Kuala Lumpur Sentral is another excellent hotel strategically located at the city center. From there, the KLIA express to the airport is conveniently accessible.

What And Where To Eat

Locals could have up to six meals a day in Malaysia. Breakfast, elevenses, lunch, dinner, afternoon snacks, dinner, and maybe another snack. The countless eating opportunity combined with the different cultural traditions form a cuisine variation that will definitely have something to fit your taste buds. Try Laksa, Malaysia’s traditional noodle soup. Have a taste of Satay; it may not be purely Malaysian it is deeply embedded in Malaysian menu. Nasi Lemak (pictured below) is almost a staple meal in KL, easily found in any restaurants. Other specialties you might want to try are Mee Goreng (classic stir-fried noodles), Beef Rendang (slowly tendered in turmeric and ginger), and Sambal Udang (shrimp in a specialty sauce).

  • Bijan Bar & Restaurant near Bukit Bintang is an award-winning option that serves high-end Malay dishes for 200 RM for two people
  • Troika Sky Dining provides not just good food with starters that costs 75 RM and up, but an elegant elevated ambience
  • Bistro à Table offers a mix of Malaysian taste to your typical International cuisines.

Summary

Kuala Lumpur may be an economically-inclined city, but it definitely has more to offer to its visitors than just the high-end skyscrapers, malls and restaurants. Whether you are visiting Malaysia as a business executive or as a tourist, you will not run out of things to do, new food to eat, or new cultural traditions to learn - for more information, check our blog post 6 Things Not To Miss In Kuala Lumpur.