Kuala Lumpur

Families will find much to do in KL city. It is a great getaway for architecture, shopping, food and nightlife.

Kuala Lumpur – or KL as it is fondly known – is a great getaway for architecture, shopping, food and nightlife. By day, stroll around British Malaya edifices and visit temples and mosques, or shop till you drop at the city's many malls and high streets. Come sundown, sip a cocktail while enjoying the city lights, and sample the incredible variety of food on offer; in KL it's possible to try a different cuisine at every meal. At midnight, the city's great clubbing scene revs up.

Families will also find much to do in the city, whether indoors or out. KL-ites love children. So, while facilities might not always be kid-friendly, a helping hand is always close by.

 

When to go

KL is hot and sunny all year round. The wettest months are usually from March to April and October to November, while February is usually the hottest.

Visa requirements

Passports must be valid for at least six months at the time of entry. Generally, visas are not required for citizens of Commonwealth countries for stays of up to three months, nor for citizens of ASEAN countries for stays of up to a month.
Check the Immigration Department website (www.imi.gov.my) for details.

Money

The Malaysian Ringgit (RM) is divided into 100 sen. Bank notes come in units of 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100. Coins are 5, 10, 20 and 50 sen. Money changers are plentiful and credit cards widely accepted. For ATM withdrawals, banking networks include MEPS, Maestro, Cirrus and Bankcard.

Transport

From Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), the high-speed KLIA Ekspres takes 28 minutes to reach the main transport hub of Stesen Sentral (popularly known as KL Sentral). Taxis take 40-60 minutes and buses over an hour to reach KL Sentral.
 

Kuala Lumpur's public transport system is modern and efficient and there are three types of service: the LRT, the KL Monorail and the KTM Komuter. If you're pushed for time, the KL Hop-on Hop-off double-decker bus service is a good option. The free GO-KL bus services downtown. Taxis are plentiful, but make sure that the driver will use the meter before you get in.

Health and safety tips

Kuala Lumpur has high health standards with well-stocked' pharmacies and good hospitals. However, take out travel medical insurance and have hepatitis and tetanus shots. Dengue fever occurs occasionally and visitors suffering from respiratory illnesses should avoid visiting during the haze period during August and September. Always ensure your belongings are secure, as snatch thefts are prevalent and pickpockets operate in crowded areas. Exercise common sense when walking at night and when approached by strangers.

Emergency details

209 Jalan Tun Razak (tel: (603) 2161 6277, www.mfa.gov.sg/kl).
 

For police, ambulance or fire brigade, dial 999 (112 from a mobile phone)

Basic greetings
English Malay
Hello Helo
How are you? Apa khabar?
Fine, thanks Khabar baik
Goodbye Selamat tinggal
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Maafkan Saya!
Thank you Terima kasih
Yes Ya
No Tidak
OK Baik
What's your name? Apakah nama anda?
My name is… Nama saya ialah…
Pleased to meet you Gembira berjumpa anda
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Awak ada Facebook/Twitter?
Where’s an internet café? Di manakah kafe internet?
Where can I get a taxi? Di manakah saya boleh mendapatkan teksi?
Where is the bus/train station? Di manakah stesen bas/keretapi?
A one-way/return ticket to… Tiket sehala/ulang-alik ke…
Do you have a room for one/two? Ada bilik untuk seorang/dua orang?
When's check out? Bilakah untuk mendaftar keluar?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Bolehkah anda mencadangkan sebuah restoran/bar?
A table for two, please Sila berikan meja untuk dua orang
A menu, please Sila berikan menu
The bill, please Sila berikan bil
Where's the toilet? Di manakah bilik air?
Help! Tolong!

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Dataran Merdeka

Jalan Raja

Anchored by a field, Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) was the core of colonial British administrative and social life. Besides government offices, a town hall and courts, the square included a post office, bank, printing office, Anglican church and a clubhouse. The architecture is largely a combination of Western classical and Indian styles, adapted for the local climate.

Sri Subramaniam Temple (Batu Caves Temple)

Batu Caves

The Sri Subramaniam Temple complex is best known for hosting the Thaipusam festival. The main deity worshipped here is Murugan, whose 43-metre-tall gilded statue lords over the site. The Batu Caves became a site of pilgrimage over a century ago and the main Temple Cave, a massive chamber with a skylight, is still accessible up 272 steps. The main shrine here pays homage to Lord Murugan.

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

Jalan Lembah Perdana

Arguably the city’s best museum, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia showcases collections from all over the Islamic world. Asian and Southeast Asian Islamic art are particularly well-represented here. Of note are Koranic manuscripts from the Malay Peninsula, which was once renowned for its Islamic scholarship and intricate models of the world’s best-known mosques. It also has an excellent gift shop and decent restaurant.

Petaling Street

Jalan Petaling and surrounds

An area of pre-war Chinese shophouses and predominantly Chinese businesses, Petaling Street is home to a festive bazaar best known for its fake branded goods. Savour the excellent street food and snacks on offer in the neighbourhood and check out temples such as the Sin Sze Si Ya temple and the ornate Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Association. Opposite the Guan Di Temple is the Hindu Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, a focal point of the Thaipusam festival.

Petronas Twin Towers

Kuala Lumpur City Centre

The glass-and-steel Petronas Twin Towers are among the tallest in the world, rising to a height of 452 metres, with 88 storeys. While there are Islamic geometric elements, it is the state-of-the-art engineering that impresses most. An immensely popular tour takes in the skybridge midway up, as well as Level 86, the topmost level allowed to visitors, which offers a breathtaking panorama. At the base of the towers is a mall and concert hall as well as a lovely park with 'dancing' fountains.

Taman Botani Perdana (Perdana Botanical Garden)

Jalan Cenderawasih

Commonly known as the Lake Gardens, Taman Botani Perdana is Kuala Lumpur’s green lung and its largest park. Avoid the heat and explore it comfortably either in the morning or evening. There are 104 hectares to discover: lawns, trees and landscaped gardens, as well as enclosed parks for birds, butterflies and deer. Flower-lovers will enjoy the Hibiscus Garden, the adjoining Orchid Garden and the excellent Conservatory and Herbal Garden. There is also an interesting plot of trees and plants after which many places in the country are named.

Shop

Central Market

Jalan Hang Kasturi

Probably the best place for souvenirs in terms of range, the Central Market has two storeys of shops, an annexe and an open-air bazaar. This is the place to buy Malaysian batik, t-shirts and handicrafts. Also plentiful are products from elsewhere in Asia, particularly Thailand and Indonesia. The Annexe is strong on artwork and antiques, and hosts occasional events such as daily cultural dance and martial arts performances at 9pm.

Budget $$

Jalan TAR & Masjid India

Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman

Named after the first King of Malaya, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman was KL's original high street and is now the centre of the city's garment district. Cloth merchandisers stock a vast array of fabric: wholesale, retail, local and imported. The colourful area east of this, Masjid India, sells bargain Malay and Indian outfits, jewellery and wedding paraphernalia.

Budget $

Mid Valley Megamall

Mid Valley City

One of the largest malls in the country, the Mid Valley Megamall has a good selection of clothing and household goods. Spacious walkways link its 400 outlets, which include two department stores, two supermarkets and 70 eateries; there's also  an exhibition centre, a bowling alley and a cinema. It is easy to reach, too: it's connected to its up-market sister mall, the Gardens, a walkway goes to the KTM Komuter train station, and a free shuttle bus goes to the Bangsar LRT station.

Budget $$

Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

168 Jalan Bukit Bintang

A rival to the high-end Starhill Gallery, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur focuses on up-market fashion, beauty and food. This glamorous, gargantuan mall is arranged in precincts, which include Fashion Avenue, where brands include Diptyque and Ben Sherman, and the Ginza-inspired Tokyo Street, selling Japanese brands. A covered walkway links the mall to the KLCC.

Budget $$$

Starhill Gallery

181 Jalan Bukit Bintang

With its facade of steel, stone and glass the Starhill Gallery has seven themed floors of luxury goods including a range of fashion labels. Quite unique is the floor dedicated to luxury watch boutiques. The health and beauty floor has some good spas, while the feast floor has some seriously good restaurants as well as the Starhill Culinary Studio, which offers a variety of classes conducted by professional chefs.

Budget $$$

Sungei Wang Plaza

Jalan Bukit Bintang

The 800 tightly-packed small shops in Sungei Wang Plaza offer moderately-priced products and services. With an emphasis on Hong Kong and Korean styles, its fashion stores are good for bargain-hunting. Camera equipment is also a good buy here. The mall conjoins the Bukit Bintang Plaza, another good mall for bargains.

Budget $

Dine

Enak

LG2 Feast Floor, Starhill Gallery, 18 Jalan Bukit Bintang

Traditional Malay cuisine is not often presented in a fine-dining environment, but at Enak time-honoured family recipes are on the menu. The food at this charming restaurant is beautifully cooked and presented, and the service is professional yet down-to-earth. Signature dishes include prawns in tamarind sauce and slow-cooked beef with spices and herbs. The coconut custard meringue is not to be missed.

Budget $$$

Hakka Republic

Lot 2.05 Menara Hap Seng, Jalan P Ramlee

A creative bistro whose owners also take their wine seriously, Hakka Republic serves East-meets-West signature concoctions like the tuna tartare with a Japanese twist and baked miso-marinated cod with mustard greens. The weekday set lunch menu is good value but, for a real treat, try the four or five-course degustation menu. Things liven up some nights with live music.

Budget $$$

Jalan Alor

Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang

A mouthwatering array of local street food can be found along Jalan Alor, a bustling lane. Dinner time is particularly atmospheric. Just sit down at any of the tables on the sidewalk and order away. Local options include Malay favourites such as grilled fish and satay. Renowned northern dishes range from oyster omelette to a variety of noodles. Also available are 'Western' options such as grilled chicken wings and pork chops Hainanese-style.

Budget $

Old China Café

11 Jalan Balai Polis

The old-world ambience, vintage photos, and marble-topped tables of the Old China Café provide the perfect setting for a memorable Nonya meal. Specialities of this blend of Chinese and Malay cooking include laksa (noodles in spicy gravy) and fish head in tamarind sauce. Try the delicious sago dessert called gula melaka. There is a sister restaurant in Central Market.

Budget $$

Purple Cane Tea Restaurant

KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, 1 Jalan Maharajalela

Every dish on the menu at the Purple Cane Tea Restaurant contains Chinese tea as an ingredient – even the desserts. The flavours are sometimes too subtle to be tasted but, gimmicky or not, the food here is good. Largely Cantonese in style, the menu is innovative with lots of vegetarian options. As you would expect, there is a huge selection of high-quality teas to have with your meal and a range of tea products can be purchased.

Budget $$

Vishal Food and Catering

22 Jalan Scott, Brickfields

A simple Chettiar family-run restaurant, Vishal Food and Catering serves excellent traditional meals that are subtle blends of sweet, sour and lightly spicy. A typical meal offers rice on banana leaf with dhal and condiments such as puli kulambu (tamarind curry) and rasam (spicy soup). End your meal with sweet payasam (pudding). The place can get crowded, so be prepared to share a table.

Budget $

Stay

Hotel Capitol

Jalan Bulan, Bukit Bintang

Located in the bustling Bukit Bintang commercial strip, the Capitol has comfortable rooms and a reputation for good service. Lifts can be noisy so avoid the rooms next to them. The rooms on the left side of the building have great views of the skyline. For a truly top-of-the-world feeling, splurge on one of the luxury lofts on the 19th and 20th floors. These rooms have high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and nifty extras such as access to a private gym.

Budget $$

Mandarin Oriental

Kuala Lumpur City Centre

Located in a prime position next to the Petronas Twin Towers, the Mandarin Oriental derives its reputation from attentive and friendly service and luxurious rooms. The Club rooms have fabulous views of the Twin Towers. There is a wide choice of good restaurants, and a delicious breakfast buffet. The luxury spa offers top-class pampering, from tailor-made treatments to half- and full-day treatments.

Budget $$$

Rainforest Bed and Breakfast

27 Jalan Mesui, off Jalan Nagasari, Bukit Bintang

A pretty boutique hotel, the Rainforest Bed and Breakfast makes good its name with a lush, green setting and lots of wood and bamboo inside. It has comfortable beds, clean bathrooms, and a designated balcony for smokers. The staff are knowledgeable and there is easy access to public transport, sightseeing and restaurants for every budget.

Budget $

BackHome

30 Jalan Tun H.S. Lee

Right in the heart of the city, BackHome is within walking distance of the Pudu Sentral bus terminus and Petaling Street. This thoughtfully renovated backpackers’ hostel spreads across several lots in a row of pre-war Chinese shophouses. Beds are comfortable and have partitions for privacy. All rooms have washbasins and there is also a female-only dorm. A nice touch is an open-air chill-out section.

Budget $

Cititel Mid Valley

Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid-Valley City

Shopaholics will love the location of Cititel Mid Valley as it sits within the massive shopping complex of the Mid Valley Megamall and its sister shopping centre The Gardens. Downtown is 15km away and trendy Bangsar 3km. It is well connected by train and taxis are plentiful. The standard rooms are a little small so the deluxe rooms are worth paying extra for. Ask for a higher floor room for a city view.

Budget $$

Fraser Place

Lot 163, No. 10 Jalan Perak

A serviced apartment facility, Fraser Place has large, spacious rooms and good facilities. Every apartment comes with a living, dining and study areas as well as a fully-equipped kitchen. The bathrooms are supplied with quality toiletries and the two-bedroom apartments have a self-serve laundry room. Fraser Place is in a great location, within walking distance of both KLCC and Bukit Bintang.

Budget $$$

Chinese New Year

Date varies in January, February

The main Chinese festival celebrating the lunar new year features street decorations, traditional lion dances and the thronging of Taoist and Buddhist temples. Try festive food such as the yee sang and cookies such as pineapple tarts and 'love letters'.


Colours of Malaysia

Third Saturday of May

Malaysian culture is on show at Dataran Merdeka in a colourful evening parade of costumes, traditional performances and floats.


Deepavali

Early November

Indian cookies and sweets, clothing and paraphernalia go on sale in the lead-up to this Hindu festival of lights. The Brickfields neighbourhood is especially buzzing.


Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix

End of March

The second race of the season is held at the Sepang International Circuit. In town, shopping sales and numerous parties related to the event are held in different venues.


Hari Raya Puasa

Varies

Also known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, this Muslim festival marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer. Visits are made to ancestral graves and prayers offered to elders alongside much feasting.


Thaipusam

End of January

This remarkable, sensual Hindu festival of penance in honour of Lord Muruga is celebrated at the Sri Subramaniam Temple, Batu Caves.


Culture

For colonial architecture, head to Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square). Here, 19th-century British architects combined Mughal and Western classical styles to create a distinctive architectural style. The centrepiece is the Sultan Abdul Samad building, with its graceful domes, colonnades and arches, and imposing clock tower. Around it, similar buildings include the Old High Court, the Old Town Hall and the Old General Post Office. Near the giant flagpole, in the former Government Printing Office, is the KL City Gallery with charming miniature models of Kuala Lumpur.

 

East of this area is where the city's first brick buildings were constructed. The Petaling Street vicinity still contains fine examples of double-storey Chinese shophouses, where owners would run businesses downstairs and live upstairs. Look out for elaborate clanhouses, family guilds for 19th-century migrants from southern China. Taoist temples also abound. Check out the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, whose odd orientation is due to feng shui rather than bad planning. It was built by the city's most influential clan leader, Yap Ah Loy. Look for a bust of him amongst the many statues of deities.

 

To the southwest lies Brickfields, where the bricks for many of the city's old buildings were once made. Today, a strong south Indian flavour pervades the neighbourhood. An heady combination of curries, sweets, saris and flowers is accompanied by loud Bollywood music from competing shops. Stroll around after a hearty banana-leaf meal to take in the numerous places of worship, particularly in Jalan Scott and Jalan Berhala. Hindu temples, Buddhist temples and churches of every denomination cater to the largely Indian community.

 

Shopaholic

Mall rats should head to Bukit Bintang, which has eight air-conditioned shopping malls catering to every budget. They offer shoppers not just local and international brands but eateries, cinemas, exhibitions and even ice-skating rinks. Photography and electronic goods are often good buys.

 

For handicrafts, take a train or taxi to Central Market, west of Bukit Bintang. This Art Deco building houses shops and stalls selling traditional kites (wau), pottery and Bornean beadwork, as well as souvenirs such as pewter ware, wood veneer items, and bamboo and rattan products. This is a good place for traditional fabrics, which are available in contemporary designs too. Besides the ever-popular batik, there is songket, the distinctive gold-woven fabric, and the Sarawakian pua kumbu indigenous weave. Behind the main building is the Annexe, where local artists sell tourist-targeted pieces as well as fine art.

 

In the evening, walk several streets north to experience the city's most intense street market, the Petaling Street Bazaar. Besides t-shirts, jeans, leather products, and art and curios, you'll find the usual range of fake branded items. Be sure to bargain hard. End the day by strolling alongside locals through a neighbourhood pasar malam (night market). These itinerant markets set up around 6pm and sell everything from fresh produce to underwear. The closest pasar malam to Central Market is at Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman (Saturdays). Grab a taxi to experience the ones at Jalan Berhala, Brickfields (Thursdays) and Jalan Maarof, Bangsar (Sundays).

Kids-friendly

Kids will enjoy the tropical outdoors by spending the morning at the Taman Botani Perdana (Perdana Botanical Garden). Popularly known as the Lake Gardens, this green expanse is full of wildlife attractions. The large covered aviary that is the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park is home to over 200 species of birds, and feeding time and the bird shows are fun to watch. Another covered attraction is the Butterfly Park. Here, hundreds of species of butterflies and moths flit about a beautifully landscaped garden. Visitors get to see the insects in all stages of development, too. Meanwhile, the Deer Park is one of the few places in the country where it is possible to see the world's smallest deer. The mouse-deer is the size of a cat and extremely shy.

 

As the day heats up, head to the air-conditioned Petronas Twin Towers, where there are family-friendly eateries and activities for children. Inside the mall, the two-storey Petrosains discovery centre has great interactive displays on science and the oil and gas industry. Fun exhibits include a prehistoric section featuring an animatronic dinosaur. Children can also experience a real-life oil rig and 'drive' a racing car. Alternatively, music-lovers should head to the Ground Floor of Tower Two to check out the offerings for kids by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Their family fun days and music appreciation sessions are popular and affordable.

 

In the evening, kids can run around in the park outside the towers, where there is a large playground and a paddling pool. At dusk, they'll enjoy the lake's illuminated 'dancing' fountains.