DESTINATION KL – GATEWAY TO ASIA AND BEYOND!
Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia (affectionately abbreviated to KL) is known as the Garden City and it is the cosmopolitan capital city of Malaysia. It’s also being called the new gateway to South-East Asia and it’s easy to see why because the city is not only an exciting stopover but also a central hub for visitors travelling to Asia and beyond.
From my very first visit, I was completely captivated by Kuala Lumpur.
My first visit was on a one-night stopover before I flew onto Cebu City in the Philippines. Arriving into KL at twilight and seeing the breath-taking sight of the tallest twin towers in the world – The Petronas Towers – lit up against the KL skyline and cityscape through the window of the express train from the airport, I immediately wished I’d factored in more time to explore this impressive-looking city.
My wish for more time to explore KL came true just a couple of weeks later when a typhoon cut short my planned trip through the Philippines, and I returned to KL to stay right in the heart of KLCC – Kuala Lumpur City Centre – for a whole week where the weather was hot and humid and reassuringly stable.
And, during that time, I made sure to get a ticket to take the lift to the top of the Petronas Towers and to walk across the famous Sky Bridge link – the location for so many action movies – for the incredible views.
Also for the views, I made sure to have a cocktail on the top floor at Traders Hotel at Shangri-la Hotel (with incredible views of Petronas Towers at night) and lunch at the KL Menara Tower revolving restaurant (incredible 360-degree views of the city by day). I also went shopping in the amazing malls and markets, visited Chinatown and Little India, ate lots of street food and discovered the Malaysian national dish, Nasi Lemak!
Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Kuala Lumpur Malaysia many times and now, whenever I’m travelling to or through Asia, I love to fly into KL and spend a few days there.
For travellers with a little time to spare and with a flexible agenda, it’s possible to use KL as an exciting and strategic location to rest after a long flight – to eat amazing Asian food – and to explore all that KL has to offer before flying on to so many other places throughout Asia.
Another attraction of course is how relatively affordable it is in Kuala Lumpur and all of Malaysia for western visitors, for accommodation and food and transport as although the standard of living is high in Malaysia, the cost of living is very low compared to the UK and Europe and other western countries. The currency in Malaysia is the Ringgit (RM).
WHERE TO STAY IN KL
Kuala Lumpur offers the visitor lots of options when it comes to accommodation for all budgets.
Do your research online. You can easily find guest houses, hostels, budget hotels, Boutique hotels and ‘star rated’ hotels including, in my opinion, the most affordable 5 star and luxury hotels in Asia.
I usually book hotels, homestays, and guesthouses through accommodation booking apps like Booking.com but when I stay in KL I like to stay in IHG hotels as we like to collect loyalty point rewards. When celebrating a birthday or an anniversary, we’ve often stayed in the ‘Golden Triangle’ in KLCC at The Intercontinental Hotel KL, often with a complimentary room upgrade and with views of the Petronas Towers.
When staying in KL for a week or more, we prefer to stay outside the city, at the Holiday Inn Glen Marie. It’s a resort-style hotel with a lovely swimming pool in a gorgeous setting, surrounded by a golf course. It’s just 30 mins by taxi from the KLIA airport or 40 mins by either taxi or monorail from KLCC.
When staying at the HI Glen Marie to get around we’ll use either an UBER or GRAB taxi or take the free hotel shuttle to take us to the nearby shopping malls containing the well known high street and designer stores, food courts, cinema complex and at the vast themed Sunway Pyramid Mall at Petaling Jaya – the bowling alley, archery range, and ice rink!
KUALA LUMPUR ATTRACTIONS
THE PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS: I can’t help it – I get a rush of adrenaline every time I see the twin towers. They are the tallest twin structures in the world with both towers joined one hundred and seventy-five feet above street level by the fifty-eight-meter-long sky bridge.
At the top of the towers – at level eighty-six – is the observation deck. Do note that a pass is required to enter the observation deck and the sky bridge and visitor numbers are limited each day so do plan ahead. Your hotel will be able to advise and assist.
THE MENARA KL TOWER: The Menara Tower is another of Malaysia’s most recognisable landmarks. Built-in the Bukit Nanas forest reserve, which is home to age-old trees including a hundred-year-old Jelutong tree and other plants indigenous to Malaysia’s tropical climate, the tower stands one hundred meters taller than the Petronas Towers, and it is visible from almost anywhere in KL. The Atmosphere 360 revolving restaurant is in the top section of the tower and the views from there are incredible!
THE BATU CAVE: KL’s most frequented tourist attractions. The caves are just a few miles outside the city centre and are said to be some four hundred million years old. At the top of the famous 272 steps, there is an important one-hundred-year-old Hindu temple.
THE DARK CAVE: At the Batu Cave location, there is also a separate ‘Dark Cave’ to explore – a conservation site said to be the home of the world’s rarest spider, the Trap Door Spider! For RM 35 (Adult), you can sign up for the Dark Cave Educational Tour and a torch and helmet will be provided. We did the tour and found it fascinating – although the world’s rarest spider remained elusive!
SHOPPING: If you are looking to do a little shopping in KL then you’ll be spoiled for choice. There are so many areas to explore including Chinatown and Little India. There are traditional street markets and night markets and Central Market as well as modern air-conditioned malls that can turn your shopping experience into a retail therapy session.
At the base of the Petronas Towers is the Suria Mall – a very popular high-end shopping mall.
The Pavilion Shopping Centre in Bukit Bintang is a luxurious shopping complex featuring all white marble, while at the entrance is the Pavilion Crystal Fountain, one of the most commonly photographed structures in the city.
FOOD: Malaysian food is delicious and diverse due to the cultural ties and influence of Indian and Chinese food infused with those of neighbouring countries with traditional Malay cuisine. There are amazing choices regarding restaurants, food courts, night markets and street food. The food in Malaysia is some of the best in the world. You simply must try Mee goreng mamak and Nasi Lemak!
DRINKS: For an evening cocktail when the sun goes down I would recommend the Trader’s Hotel sky-bar on the 33rd floor for its uninterrupted views of the Twin towers and the Golden Triangle that is the stunning Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC). But, if you do your research, you’ll discover there are many rooftop bars with a cool ambience and amazing views in KL.
Using KL as A Travel Hub
Ever since the backpacking husband and myself sold everything we owned to travel the world in 2014, Kuala Lumpur has become our Asian hub for transiting through Asia because KL is perfectly positioned in Asia to use as a travel hub as flights from KL are both convenient and amazingly affordable.
Book online directly with the airline and fly from KLIA1 or KLIA2 to some truly amazing destinations!
For example: from KLIA2 – flying with Air Asia – we have booked flights at amazingly affordable prices to Singapore, Seoul (South Korea), Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, Bangkok, Suri Thani (Thailand), Siem Reap (Cambodia) Da Nang (Vietnam), Cebu City, Manilla, (Philippines) Bali, Lombok, (Indonesia) Langkawi, Penang, Kota Bahu, Kota Kinabalu (for Borneo), and many other exciting places in Malaysia and throughout Asia and beyond. All these amazing destinations have inspired my series of Backpacking Housewife books published by HarperCollins. You can read more about my books on my Book Page.
Other reputable airlines operate from KLIA1 and fly worldwide.
TRANSITING FROM KLIA to KLIA2:
If you are only transiting through Kuala Lumpur by air, you should know that the city has not one but two international airports. The main airport is KLIA (sometimes called KLIA1) with its international carrier terminals. KLIA2, the home of many budget airlines, mainly Air Asia.
Shuttle Bus: You can travel / transit between the two airports for free using a shuttle bus that runs every 10 mins and 24 hours a day. Journey time approx. 10 minutes. On arriving at KLIA2 for transit to KLIA by shuttle bus, the pickup point is in the Transportation Hub on Level 1 (this is about a 5-minute walk after exiting customs) at Bay A10. There are plenty of signs everywhere. When arriving at KLIA for transit to KLIA2 by shuttle bus, the pick-up point is at Level 1 at Door 4 of the Tour Coach Lounge.
Train: You can also transfer by train between the airports via the KLIA Transit Hub. Although it’s not free like the shuttle bus,
TRANSITING FROM KLIA or KLIA2 INTO KL CITY CENTRE:
Train: Personally, I like to take the express train, as it’s faster and easier and is equipped with 4G wifi. The KLIA EKSPRES train is a fast modern and comfortable train service with regular service that also connects the two airports KLIA terminals and KLIA2.
The KLIA EKSPRES train connects you to KL Sentral in downtown Kuala Lumpur. The journey time is 28 minutes and it’s inexpensive at (currently) 100 RM Return (approx. £17). There is also a transit train option that stops along the way at Salak Tinggi, Putrajaya, Bandar Tasik and Selatan and takes approx. 40 minutes.
Taxi: From either KLIA or KLIA2 terminals, you will follow the signs to the taxi counters and stands. Here, you will need to purchase a metered taxi coupon for RM2. You then take this coupon and queue up for a metered taxi. A taxi from Kuala Lumpur Airport to the city centre currently costs approximately RM75 (less than £15) which could work out cheaper than taking the KLIA Express train if you are travelling with others and will take you straight to your hotel door.
Bus: You can take a bus from the airport into KL City Pudu Sentral in Chinatown and KL Sentral in downtown Kuala Lumpur. It’s the cheapest (10-12RM) but the slowest option – taking about an hour – but these buses are comfortably appointed with air-con and reclining seats.
Interesting Facts About KL
1. Kuala Lumpur is the capital and also the largest city in Malaysia.
2. Residents of Kuala Lumpur like to refer to themselves as ‘KLites’.
3. The city was founded by Chinese tin miners in 1857.
4. The city is located where two rivers converge: the Gombak River (earlier Lumpur River) and Klang River and so the name Kuala Lumpur means “muddy confluence”.
5. Petronas Twin Towers are the world’s tallest ‘twin’ buildings.
6. How tall are the Petronas Towers? They are 1,483ft (451.9m) tall at their uppermost pinnacles.
7. Kuala Lumpur is the retail and fashion hub of Malaysia and boasts of more than 65 shopping malls.
8. The city is home to three of the world’s Top 10 largest malls.
9. Malaysians love their Nasi Lemak. It’s the national dish!
10. The origins of Nasi Lemak can be traced back to 1909 and it was originally a breakfast dish.
Kuala Lumpur is a fantastic place to schedule a stopover for sightseeing, dining, relaxing, and of course for shopping in its fabulous malls and street markets. There is some amazing sightseeing to be done and are hotels aplenty to suit every budget. It has to be said again that a luxury treat in KL (and in Malaysia in general) is far more affordable than you might think with such a favourable exchange rate on the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) to the Euro, the UK Pound and the US Dollar. KL is one of my very favourite cities in the world because it has so much to offer and it is so centrally located in Asia.
Have you ever been to Kuala Lumpur?
What were your impressions of the city?
Did you go to the top of the Petronas Towers?
Or are you planning a trip or a stopover in KL and have a question?
Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!