After managing this blog for such a long time, I realised that I have never written about Kuala Lumpur!
Kuala Lumpur is the gateway to many Asian destinations. As I travel in Asia extensively, I definitely have had many layovers in Kuala Lumpur. Besides the fact that Kuala Lumpur is a wondrous city full of surprises, I also find that layover in Kuala Lumpur is more convenient for me — it’s home for me! Moreover, layover in Kuala Lumpur is cheaper (because KLIA and KLIA2 are two major transport hubs in Asia) and less touristy as compared to cities like Bangkok and Singapore!
There are just so many things that you can do during a layover in Kuala Lumpur so I am gonna squeeze it all in into 8 hours! You can check the extra things out that I’ve also included if you have more time!
As always, the rates in both KLIA and KLIA2 suck. My advice is to change just enough for you to get out of the airport. If you do need more, you can change it at KL sentral. There’s a massive shopping mall attached to KL sentral where you can find many money changers.
Many places in Kuala Lumpur accept cards — good news for those who don’t prefer holding much cash! Places that wouldn’t normally accept cards: Jalan Alor (the amazing street to sample Malaysian street food) and Petaling street (Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur).
Heading out of the airport: 0.5-1.5 hour
There are three major ways to head out of the airport really quickly depending on your budget. Both KLIA and KLIA2 are around 60 km away from the city.
Taking the bus is the most economical options of all.
Price (Adult and children): RM 12 (~3 USD)
Journey time: 1 – 1.5 hour to KL sentral
Frequency: every 15 minutes
If you have limited time, take the KLIA ekspres train.
Price: Adult RM 55 (~14 USD) Child RM 25 (~6 USD)
Journey time: 28 minutes to KL sentral
Frequency: every 20 minutes
There are many taxis and Grab (Uber) around.
Price: Depending on where you wanna go
Journey time: 1 hour to the city without jam
Frequency: always there
I normally take the bus because it’s the cheapest and I have time to spare. The bus is very comfortable and has AC. Both KLIA and KLIA2 have their own bus stations and they are both located in the terminal. Just follow the signs of the airport to get to the bus station. You’ll arrive in KL sentral in 1 – 1.5 hour depending on traffic.
I use KLIA ekspres only if I have a short layover. Check out the official page as they have amazing family package sometimes. It’s convenient for me to have a quick meet with friends. It’s the fastest way to get to KL sentral, which is the hub of KL. From KL sentral, it’s really easy to get to your destinations by public transport.
I have never used taxis in KLIA and KLIA2. It’s too expensive simply because of the distance covered! However, if this is your preferred mode of transport, make sure you take official, metered taxi that is found at the entrance of both KLIA and KLIA2. Ignore all those pushy hustlers.
KLCC: 1-1.5 hour
This has got to be the biggest reason why you are heading out of the airport during your layover in Kuala Lumpur. They are the tallest twin buildings in the world. I have friends who literally go like “Oh I know KLCC” but they had no idea that it’s in Malaysia!
It’s pretty easy to get from KL sentral to KLCC.
1. If you are using the bus, you need to enter the KL sentral building. Look for the escalator as the building is not on ground level. If you are using KLIA ekspres, the LRT (metro) entrance is just right opposite to the exit of KLIA ekspres.
2. Get a token from the machine to go to KLCC on the red line. KLCC itself is a metro station. There is no interchange and it costs RM 1.60 (~0.40 USD). For more details, check this website.
3. KLCC station is not located inside of the actual KLCC building. Leave the LRT station and follow the sign. I’m sure you’ll find it — it’s too tall to miss it.
KLCC itself is a shopping mall — it’s called Suria KLCC. It’s very geared towards tourists so prices are not cheap. If you don’t have much time to go anywhere else and you wanna sample something truly Malaysian, you can go to Madam Kwan at the top floors of KLCC. After that, have a slice of the glorious Nadeje crepe cake, which is also in KLCC. Nadeje is actually from Malacca and they incorporate many local flavours into their crepe cakes. They are not cheap but I’m sure you’ll like them.
Bukit Bintang: 1-2 hours
Bukit Bintang is the main shopping district in Kuala Lumpur. Many people come here to shop during their layover in Kuala Lumpur. However, what I find most appealing to me is Jalan Alor! Jalan Alor is an infamous street that’s saturated with cuisines all around Malaysia. If you don’t have much time in Malaysia to sample our food, this is the best you can get as you get everything!
From KLCC to Bukit Bintang, you can take one of the GOKL free shuttle bus. The Malaysian official tourism website has specific info about the shuttle here. Both green and purple line will get you to Bukit Bintang.
Prices at Bukit Bintang are cheaper than those you get at KLCC. Make sure you stop by Jalan Alor. I have brought many friends here and they all loved it! There are many food stalls here and everything tastes amazing. My favourite is Char Kuay Teow and carrot cake! I forgot the stall number for the carrot cake so comment down below if you can find it!
Pavilion, which is one of the major malls in KL, has the best decorations. If you go during a festive season, which there are four of them (Chinese New Year, Eid, Diwali, Christmas) in Malaysia, the in-mall decorations are even crazier.
Petaling street: 1-1.5 hour
Petaling street is the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur. Although it’s not like what it used to be anymore (it was much more charming when I was younger), there are still lots to do and see there!
From KLCC to Petaling street, you can also take the GOKL free shuttle bus. Just go back to the bus stop where you were and take the purple line. Journey time is around 15 minutes when the traffic is cooperative.
One of my childhood memories in Petaling street is getting a packet of roasted chestnuts. You’ll see them everywhere, they smell fantastic, you buy them, you eat them, your tummy will thank you.
Another place to visit is Madras Lane. This is heaven for foodie out there who want to sample authentic Malaysian street food. It’s cheap, the portion is small, you will get the most out of your buck! I love the yong tau fu stall. Yong taufu means marinated tofu but actually, there’s more than just tofu at this place. You can pick as many pieces as you want and pay accordingly. You can also find assam laksa (sour and spicy fish soup with vermicelli) and juyok fun (pork noodle) here! Omg I’m drooling.
If you wanna buy anything at the outdoor market at Petaling Street, make sure you bargain HARD. Like if they offer RM100, go RM30. See what you get. I once bought a wallet here for RM15, where the original price was RM85.
There is another market called Central Market at Petaling Street. It’s indoor so it’s a bit more pleasant compared to the one outside. They sell many cultural items and some of them really highlight the time needed in producing them.
Get back to the airport and don't miss your flight!
So now, get back to KL sentral. From Petaling Street, you can walk to Pasar Seni LRT station and take the train to KL sentral. From KL sentral, take the bus/ KLIA ekspres back to the airport where you intended to go.
If you have more time...
There are so many other things that I haven’t included above. These are the extra things that you can do if you have more time!
Batu Caves is magnificent! I haven’t included it in because it’s simply too far away from the city. If you can, try to go with Grabcar (Uber equivalent in Malaysia) because it’s so much quicker. There is also public transport (KTM) that goes from KL sentral to Batu Caves but it is ALWAYS LATE. The journey is also super long so using Grabcar would be worth it. I would advise you to go to Batu Caves first before KLCC and so on just because it’s at the furthest end of the city. Allow at least 2 hours at Batu Caves before you move on to KLCC.
If you love food markets, you have to go to Chow Kit Market. It’s one of the oldest markets in KL and it’s lovely. It’s within the city proper and also very accessible (I’d walk there if it’s not too hot). Compared to other major markets in KL, this is more local and you can see many locals actually get their produce from here. There are also many small cafes and restaurants around. I love the ikan bakar (grilled fish) but I don’t know if it’s still here!
Update: 1/4/2020: Unfortunately the Jalan-Jalan @ Kampong Baru tour no longer runs! If your layover in Kuala Lumpur coincides with 4-7pm, take the free guided tour by Jalan-Jalan @ Kampong Baru — Let’s walk around Kampung Baru (meaning New Town)! Kampung Baru is easily accessible by train. Just take the LRT from KL sentral to station Kampung Baru (KJ11). To join this tour, you need to book 24 hours in advance. Check the official website to see if it’s running on the day that you intend to visit.
Merdeka Square is one of the most historical landmarks in Malaysia. If you have never seen a Neo Mughal-styled building, you need to head to Merdeka Square. It’s actually not too far away from Petaling Street so you can walk/ take a short Grabcar ride there!
Tun Sambanthan is Little India of KL. It’s a small neighbourhood with many traditional Indian shops selling items that are catered to their own community. Tun Sambanthan is literally next to KL Sentral so if you have some time to spare, make sure you come here! The Malaysian Indian food here is really authentic.
Thean Hou Temple has got to be one of the most instagrammable temples in the whole of Malaysia. The red lanterns are always there to make a captivating shot. It’s a 10-minute Grabcar ride from KL Sentral and it’ll be worth it
If you are staying for a night in KL, I highly recommend Gold 3 Boutique Hotel. I have stayed there many times with my mum — it’s right in the heart of Bukit Bintang and you are literally a stone throw away to everything! It’s also very affordable.
Those with a tight budget, opt to stay with Sunshine Bedz Kuala Lumpur, which is also located in Bukit Bintang.
If you prefer to stay at the airport area (which is really far away from downtown), you can stay with Tune Hotel KLIA2. I don’t recommend staying so far away (60km!!) so it’s better to opt for those two above!
Better safe than sorry
I never leave home without getting a travel insurance. Not everything can happen according to to your plan. It’s not unusual for unfortunate events to happen at times. That’s why, I always go with World Nomads before leaving! They have been wonderful to help with my mishaps when I lost my wallet in South Korea and lost my baggage in Bangkok!
The plus side, it’s quite cheap as well – considering the service and the benefit that you’d get. Reimbursement comes in quick and they’ve always got your back!
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Born and raised in Malaysia, Aaron is a medical student that is deeply in love with travelling. He loves to inebriate all his readers with the crazy travel stories and personal travel tips that he has gathered throughout years of travelling experience. Learn more about him here!
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