Guide Destination Kuala Lumpur

One of the most iconic cities of Asia

Kuala lumpur city view in daytime

Malaysia – a country of contrasts and surprises, a bubbly blend of people and ideologies. Malaysia has all the necessary elements for the perfect holiday: pristine beaches and breathtaking, gorgeous islands, a rich tapestry of cultures and history, well preserved heritage treasures, top-class modern facilities, an astonishing collection of flora and fauna, lush and well-maintained nature reserves, a delightful array of mouth-watering cuisine.

On top of that, the laid-back, friendly Malaysians love to socialize and welcome you to their country with a smile. Malaysia is, after all, the 9th most visited country (UNWTO 2012) and the 10th friendliest country (Forbes Online 2012) in the world. In addition, Kuala Lumpur is one of the best student cities in the world (QS Ranking 2012, place 44), with 139 500 students in total!

The Greater Kuala Lumpur, Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7,2 million inhabitants. It is among the fastest growing regions in the country in terms of population and economy. Kuala Lumpur, or simply referred to as KL by the locals, means a “muddy river confluence” in the Malay language. The city, no longer a muddy town but a lively capital of around 1,6 million inhabitants, is a prime example of Malaysia’s culture of contrasts in which towering skyscrapers and old shacks built on stilts co-exist. Well maintained parks, heritage areas, museums and lakes make KL a melting pot of delightful attractions and diverse entertainment options.

Interested in affordable five star hotel luxury accommodation even as a student? How about never-ending shopping opportunities? Delicious dining and natural wonders? There are endless opportunities for adventure-lovers to explore Kuala Lumpur– everything from cultural treats to wellness services.

Pulau Sibu beach in Malaysia

To escape the pulse-throbbing Kuala Lumpur, just visit one of the country’s many national parks or climb up to the highlands of West Malaysia. You can also enjoy the many beaches of the country by cooling off in the clear waters or utilizing the great diving facilities.

Contents

Six reasons why you should make Kuala Lumpur your home for a semester

  1. An exotic myriad of Asian cultures all in one place
  2. An unbelievable wealth of natural beauty
  3. A mild, tropical weather 12 months a year
  4. A wide range of accommodation options, from five-star hotels to basic homestays
  5. A whole range of activities to indulge in – sailing, mountain climbing, golfing, fishing, angling, rafting, trendy nightspots, upscale shopping malls, sightseeing – you name it, KL has it.
  6. Malaysia is also the 11th most popular study abroad destination in the world!

Key Facts and History

Full name: Federation of Malaysia
Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Population: 29.1 million
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Area: 329.847 sq km
Major languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese dialects, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam
Major religions: Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism
Life expectancy: 77 years (women), 73 years (men)
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR), 1 ringgit = 100 sen
Main exports: Electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, chemicals, palm oil, wood and wood products, rubber, textiles
GNI per capita: US $8,420 (World Bank, 2011)
Time Zone: UCT + 8

Kuala Lumpur was founded in 1857 at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers. The settlement started when Raja Abdullah, a member of the Selangor royal family opened up the Klang Valley for tin prospectors. 87 Chinese prospectors went up the river Klang and began prospecting in the jungle area of Ampang. Despite 69 of them dying due to the poor pestilential conditions, a thriving tin mine was established. This attracted merchants who traded basic provisions to the miners in return for some of the tin. The traders set up shop at the river confluence and a new city was born.

Geography

Geography and tea plantations in Malaysia

Geographically Malaysia is as diverse as its culture. Situated in the midst of the Asia Pacific region, Malaysia enjoys a strategic location and year-round hot and humid tropical climate. Malaysia consists of two distinct geographical parts: Peninsular Malaysia to the west and the states of Sarawak and Sabah on Borneo Island to the east, both of which sit north of the equator and are separated by the South China Sea. The geography of Kuala Lumpur is characterized by a majestic valley known as Klang Valley. The valley is bordered by the Strait of Malacca in the west, Titiwangsa Mountains in the east and a several minor ranges in the north and the south.

Climate and Weather

Kuala Lumpur has a warm and sunny tropical rainforest climate, along with abundant rainfall, especially during the northeast monsoon season from October to March. Temperatures tend to remain constant all year round. Maximums hover between 31 and 33 °C, while minimums between 22 and 23.5 °C.

The Best of KL

Petronas twin towers in Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Twin Towers

Towering at almost half a kilometer above street level, the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers is one of Malaysia´s most famous icons and Kuala Lumpur City Center´s (KLCC) most recognizable shape. Currently Petronas Twin Towers holds the title of the world’s tallest twin structure and fifth tallest skyscraper. The skybridge on the 41st floor functions as an unforgettable viewing platform of the KL skyline. Featuring futuristic glass-steel exterior and traditionally-inspired interior, the majestic building reflects Malaysia´s aspirations in moving forward while preserving its national identity.

National Museum

Located in the KL Lake Garden, the National Museum is the principle museum in the country. Built in 1963, the museum acts as a prime information hub on the nation´s culture and history, art and handicraft, flora and fauna.

Kuala Lumpur Tower

The Kuala Lumpur Tower is one of the city´s most significant landmarks, and also the highest tower in Asia and the fourth highest in the world. Its observation tower offers a view of the city from the bird perspective. Savour sumptuous cuisine while enjoying a 360´ view of the city´s skyline.

Chinatown and Little India

Jalan Petaling is the centre of Kuala Lumpur’s original Chinatown, and also known as the busiest street in KL. Shoppers enjoy this lively street 24 hours a day.
Officially launched in 2009, Little India is quickly becoming one of the city´s most popular spots for tourists. This colorful, lively ethnic enclave features a brick-paved street, decorative streetlights and arches.

Central Market

Spend a morning wandering through what was once a busy “wet market” Here you can shop for souvenirs and Asian articrafts as well as meet local artists presenting their work.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Kuala Lumpur’s most photographed building, designed by architect A.C. Norman.

Istana Budaya

“The Palace of Culture”, the site of many international shows and concerts.

Merdeka Square

8.2 hectare area of historical interest. A 100 metre-high flagpole marks the spot where the Malayan Flag was hoisted on August 1957, signifying the independence of the country.

Batu Shrine Temple in Malaysia

Batu Caves

Site of a Hindu temple and shrine. Approximately 13 km north from Kuala Lumpur.

Lake Gardens

The oldest and most popular park in Kuala Lumpur.

For sights outside Kuala Lumpur, head for Ipoh where you can find the famous colonial-era buildings. History enthusiasts will find Malacca interesting. Penang is known for its food, and Kota Bharu for its strong Islamic influence.

Shopping and Dining

Shopping mall in Malaysia

After a day in class there’s nothing quite like retail therapy. It’s fair to say that Kuala Lumpur is a shopping mecca. According to CNN (2012), KL is the 4th best shopping city in the world! It also holds the position of the second best shopping destination in Asia Pacific (Globe Shopper Index 2012). Most visitors will find Malaysia quite cheap, meaning it is affordable even if you’re on a student budget. You can find everything from street markets to luxury boutiques.

Generally shops are open from 10:30 until 21:30-22:00 in the large cities. Traditional Malaysian fabrics, namely batik, are a popular souvenir.

The main shopping district is Bukit Bintang in the Golden Triangle area where you’ll find the high street and designer stores along with the shopping malls such as Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Starhill Gallery, Suria KLCC and Lot 10 Shopping Center. Bukit Bintang is suitable for all budgets. In addition to shopping, there are various cafes and dining opportunities. There are also many malls outside the city, such as Sunway Pyramid Shopping Centre, Mid-Valley Mega-Mall and One Utama Damansara.

Try out some of the city’s nice markets, like Central Market in Chinatown’s Petaling Street. You can surely find arts and crafts as well as souvenirs here. For fabrics, head to Little India.

For some serious shopping needs there are two annual mega sale events, Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival and the Malaysia Year End Sale, to satisfy your craving. For everyday purchases, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman is one of the best known shopping streets for locals in Kuala Lumpur.

Popular shopping malls

  • Suria KLCC: Perfect location right next to Petronas Twin Towers.
  • Pavilion Kuala Lumpur: Modern complex with a wide range of international brands.
  • Avenue K: Located near Petronas Twin Towers, this six-storey mall sells high-tech products as well as handmade Asian products.
  • The Weld: Between Jalan Raja Chulan and Jalan P. Ramlee. Shop for shoes, handbags, cosmetics, clothes, fabrics, paintings, wood handicraft…
  • Ampang Park Shopping Centre: KL’s first shopping complex! Go admire the first escalator in the country among the shopping!

Food and drink

Nasi Lemak Traditional Malaysian food

Malaysian food is a colorful mix of tastes, inspired by the Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines. For an authentic Malaysian dining be sure to try Kuala Lumpur’s famous hawker food. Some of the best coffee shops and stalls are located in Jalan Alor in the Golden Triangle district and in Chinatown. Also curry houses (kedai mamak) are very popular. After a night of dining, finish with a drink at one of Kuala Lumpur’s rooftop bars such as Skybar at Traders or View Rooftop Bar.

Transportation

Airlines: Malaysia Airlines is the primary national air carrier that flies to and from KLIA.

From airport: Klia Express, a 28-minute non-stop trip from KLIA to KL Sentral, costs RM35.00 per person.

KTM, the national railway network, provides train services that run from Singapore to the Thai border and along the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. KTM Komuter also connects suburban districts to Kuala Lumpur. More than 200 trains run daily at a frequency of every 15 minutes. Malaysia Rail passes are available for periods of 5, 10 or 15 days.

Rapid KL is the country’s main service provider of public transportation in the Klang Valley. It operates the Kelana Jaya RailLine (previously known as PUTRA) and the Ampang Rail Line (previously known as STAR), together with a network of 165 bus routes. Rapid KL’s integrated transportation network transports approximately 4.8 million passengers every week with 992 buses and 48 rail stations operating daily.

KL City Buses offer several types of service in the city and the suburbs from 6:00 AM to 12 midnight. The frequency of these buses depends on the destination. Feeder buses run from Lot 10 on Jalan Sultan Ismail to Hentian Dua (the Airport Bus Terminal) on Jalan Duta. The trip takes around 30 minutes depending on traffic and the frequency is every 20 minutes. From Hentian Dua, there’s an hourly bus to KLIA (the duration of the journey is approximately 1 hour 45 minutes), with combined fares ranging from RM 18 to RM 25. Public buses and interstate air-conditioned buses travel between most cities and towns in Malaysia. They are comfortable and the fares are reasonable.

Taxis are conveniently available in all Malaysian cities. Fares are charged according to kilometers.

Modern ferry services are offered from the mainland to major islands such as Penang and Langkawi in Peninsular Malaysia. Regular boat services are also available to Pangkor Island and the Mersing-Tioman Island routes. In addition, longboat service is available from Labuan to mainland Sabah in Malaysian Borneo.

Find out more about traveling in Asia, as well as to and from the continent, from here.

Currency

The currency is the Ringgit, informally known as the dollar and abbreviated RM or MYR. It’s divided into 100 sen (cent). ATMs are commonly available in cities. Credit cards can be used in most shops, restaurants and hotels.

Vaccinations

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio and Tetanus-diphtheria should be kept up-to-date. Hepatitis A and B are recommended. Typhoid for travelers who may eat or drink outside major restaurants and hotels. Japanese encephalitis is recommended for those who are planning on spending a month or more in rural areas or who are going to spend a lot of time outdoors in rural areas after dusk. Yellow fever required for all travelers arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area in Africa or the Americas and for travelers who have been in transit more than 12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. Rabies for travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, or at high risk for animal bites, or involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats. If you will be visiting an area of Malaysia with malaria, you will need to discuss with your doctor the best ways for you to avoid getting sick with malaria. Find out more about vaccinations from here.

Safety

Kuala Lumpur is generally very safe for travelers, but be aware of the over-friendly locals trying to con you. Police presence, particularly around tourist areas and at night has increased in recent years. Malaysian law requires that visitors carry their passport at all times. You can find more information on safety at our destinations from here.

More information

Discover the most beautiful places in Malaysia

For more information on Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur, visit pages such as Wikitravel or Lonely Planet.

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