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Kuala Lumpur Travel Tips: Things To Know Before Visiting

Kuala Lumpur is the vibrant capital city of Malaysia with a population of over 8.8 million in the metropolitan area. It’s a popular tourist destination, known for iconic landmarks such as the Petronas Twin Towers and Merdeka Square, the culturally diverse fusion-flavoured cuisine, and bustling areas such as Bukit Bintang and Petaling Street (Chinatown).

Here are some tips to keep in mind before visiting.

Bring light clothes and buy an umbrella

Kuala Lumpur (KL) has a tropical climate year round, so it’s pretty much hot and humid throughout the day with some respite in the evenings. Make sure to pack light clothes when you travel or stop by a market such as Petaling Street Market (Chinatown) or Central Market, where there’ll be many outlets selling clothes appropriate for the KL weather.

It also rains often. And when it does rain, it can come down hard. So it’s worth buying a small umbrella that’s easy to carry. This can be purchased at convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and KK Super Mart.

Night time at Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
KK Super Mart at Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur.

Learn a few Malay words

Kuala Lumpur is a diverse city, known for its multicultural mix of people and cultures, with Malays, Chinese and Indians making up the main ethnic groups. KL is also a multilingual city. English is widely understood but it helps to learn a few Malay words such as terima kasih (thank you) and selamat pagi (good morning). After Malay, which is the most widely spoken language, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil are also spoken within the Chinese and Indian communities, respectively.

Familiarise yourself with the RapidKL metro system

Consisting of various transit lines including the LRT (Light Rail Transit), MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and Monorail lines, the Rapid KL metro system is an efficient, convenient and cost-effective way to explore the city. So it’s well worth familiarising yourself with the route (see map below).

The KL metro uses tokens to make journeys. These are small plastic discs that you tap on a touch-sensitive pad at an entry gate to enter a station, and then once you’ve reached your destination, you insert the token into the exit gate to leave the station.

To purchase a ticket at a station, go to a customer service counter or a Token Vending Maching (TVM). At the TVM:

  1. Choose the line you’ll be traveling on. Refer to the map above so you know the specific line that takes you to your destination.
  2. Choose your destination. If you can’t find your destination, it may be that you’ve chosen the wrong line. Check once again and choose the correct line. Hopefully you’ll be able to select your destination now.
  3. Make payment. It helps to have some coins and small denomination bills such as RM1, RM5, or RM10.
  4. Collect your token and any change.
Entry gates, Masjid Jamek station, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Entry gates at Masjid Jamek station, Kuala Lumpur.

To save money, you can also get a MyCity Pass. There’s a 1-day or 3-day pass that give you unlimited rides on Rapid KL’s rail and bus services. And if you’re staying in KL for a longer duration, consider getting the My50 Unlimited Travel Pass, which gives you unlimited travel on on all Rapid Penang and Rapid KL rail & bus services for 30 days. Both the MyCity Pass and My50 Unlimited Travel Pass can be purchased at any LRT, MRT, Monorail and BRT station.

Another benefit of the Rapid KL metro system is that the train carriages are air conditioned. As noted above, it can get very hot in KL and you’ll often see people standing near ceiling fans in open-air station platforms. On particularly hot days, it can be a welcome relief to get onto a train!

Note that if you’re arriving in KL via Kuala Lumpur International Airport, there are various travel options that can take you to the centre of the city including Airport Taxi and Metred City Taxi, and e-hailing services such as Grab (which have designated pick up points on Level 1 of both terminal buildings). The fastest way to get to central KL is via the KLIA Ekspres train that takes around 30-40 minutes to travel from the airport to KL Sentral.

KL Sentral station, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
KL Sentral, Kuala Lumpur.

Use the GoKL City Bus

An alternative to the Rapid KL metro system is the GoKL City Bus. Originally started as a free service, it now costs 1RM (equivalent to $0.21) for foreigners and stops at various tourist attractions and popular locations within KL.

Just like the Rapid KL metro, GoKL buses are air conditioned and can provide much needed relief from the KL heat. At times, the the GoKL buses can get fairly crowded, usually during peak hours that coincide with people’s work commutes (7am-10am and 4p-8pm), and when traffic is particularly bad so that a crowd builds up at the bus stop. In such cases, it may be better to simply wait for the next bus since the frequency of buses is every 5 minutes during peak hours and every 10 minutes during non-peak hours.

GoKL City Bus in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A GoKL City Bus in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur.

Check out Lalaport Bukit Bintang City Centre if you need a place to work

If you need a place to get some work done during your trip to KL, check out the Lalaport Bukit Bintang City Centre mall located between Hang Tuah and Imbi stations. On Level 4, the Garden Dining Food Court has been designed for those who want to get down to work and be productive, with various work desks, dividers for secluded work and charging points. For more suggestions, check out our article on the best places to work for free (or almost free!) in KL.

Need a gym? Check out Gold Gym in Pudu

If you want to get a workout in while visiting KL, there are various commercial gyms you can go to such as Fitness First and Celebrity Fitness. Generally they offer day passes but they’re not always at budget-friendly prices. If you’re looking for a low-cost alternative, there’s a hidden gem called Gold Gym, located in Pudu (not to be confused with the commercial gym chain Gold’s Gym).

It’s important to point out, this gym won’t be to everyone’s liking. It’s quite the experience. There are rusted iron weights, vintage bodybuilding posters on the wall and no air-conditioning. Prepare to sweat! It’s an old school gym with old equipment. But if you want a challenging workout, Gold Gym is a good place to get the job done.

Gold Gym, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Prepare to sweat!

The cost for a day pass is 7RM (equivalent to $1.50). To get to the gym, you need to walk up a narrow staircase. Keep walking until you hear music and the clanking of iron weights.

If Gold Gym doesn’t sound like your type of place and you just want to get some light exercise, then head over to KLCC Park, which you can get to via the KLCC stop on the LRT Kelana Jaya line and GoKL City Bus. The park has a 1.3km rubberized jogging track where you can do laps while taking in the greenery and tranquility in KL’s ‘urban sanctuary’.

If you need an ATM, consider using the first one you find

This is a quick tip for tourists who anticipate they’ll need cash for planned activities. While ATMs are widespread in KL, some might not accept foreign cards. Also if you look for ATMs on a maps app, it may not be accessible. For example, if you search for an ATM near Masjid Jamek, you’ll see that there’s a CIMB ATM in Masjid Jamek Station. However in order to get to the ATM, you need to buy a ticket to get into the station! Not exactly ideal if all you’re looking to do is get some money out. So if you think you’ll need cash and you see an ATM, it might be worthwhile getting cash out then and there instead of waiting for other ATMs that you think you’ll pass by later on.

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