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Kuala Lumpur, or simply KL, is the capital of Malaysia. Literally meaning "muddy estuary" in Malay, it has grown from a small sleepy village to a bustling metropolis in just 50 years. With the world's cheapest five-star hotels, great shopping and even better food, increasing numbers of travellers are discovering this little gem of a city.
KL's symbol, the Petronas Twin Towers
Founded only in 1857 as a tin mining outpost, Kuala Lumpur is fairly new as far as Malaysian cities go and lacks the rich history of George Town or Malacca. After rough early years marked by gang fighting, Kuala Lumpur started to prosper and was made capital of the Federated Malay States in 1896. Malaysia's independence was declared in 1963 in front of huge crowds at what was later named Stadium Merdeka (Independence Stadium), and Kuala Lumpur continued as the new nation's capital. The economic boom of the 1990s brought KL the standard trappings of a modern city, bristling with skyscrapers and modern transportation systems.
Kuala Lumpur is a fairly sprawling city for its size. For many visitors the center of the city lies in the Golden Triangle, between Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Pudu, Jalan Tun Perak and Jalan Ampang: this is where most of the city's shopping malls, five-star hotels and trendiest nightspots are, and the KLCC development home to the famous Petronas Twin Towers is at the northern edge. But the traditional core of the city lies more to the south, where Merdeka Square has many of KL's best-preserved colonial buildings and Chinatown bustles with activity late into the night. Further south yet, the suburb of Bangsar is a popular restaurant and clubbing district.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)
All jet flights, domestic and international, arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) (IATA code KUL), 50 kilometers to the south of the city in Sepang and covered in its own article. Briefly, the KLIA Ekspres, a fast train service links KLIA with KL Sentral in 28 minutes, while the KLIA Transit takes 36 minutes with three intermediate stops. There are also bus connections and coupon taxis. Warning: Try not to use the taxis offered by touts at the arrival hall. They may end up being more expensive than the official Airport Limousine coupon taxi service.
Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (IATA code SZB) in Subang was formerly KL's main airport, but today it serves only turboprop and general aviation traffic. The largest operator by far is Berjaya Air (http://www.berjaya-air.com/), which serves the island resorts of Tioman, Redang and Pangkor in Malaysia, as well as two flights weekly to Ko Samui, Thailand.
The airport is 25 km from the city center and the best way to get there is by taxi, but if you have much time and little luggage in your hands, Rapid KL bus 47 from the Central Market may also be an option.
KTM's intercity trains arrive at the new KL Sentral (http://www.stesensentral.com) railway station, located (despite the name) a fair distance to the south of the city center. Take the Putra LRT or KL Monorail to the city center, or a RM 10 coupon taxi to most destinations in the city center.
Most services are available at the station, including showers (RM5 for shower only, RM15 if you want a towel & toiletries too).
Most buses arrive and depart from the cavernous and perennially crowded Puduraya station near Chinatown; be careful of pickpockets, ticket touts and heavy traffic. The Plaza Rakyat station of the Star LRT is within walking distance, connected to Puduraya station via a passageway. Some services have been shifted to a new terminal recently opened in Imbi.
The NICE luxury buses to Singapore, however, depart from the old Kuala Lumpur railway station.
The first phase of Kuala Lumpur's ambitious public transport system is now complete, but there's still a fair amount of room for progress.
Kuala Lumpur's public transport system consists of 3 LRT (Light Rail Transit) lines operated by RapidKL (http://www.rapidkl.com.my/), the semicircular KL Monorail (http://www.monorail.com.my) looping through the Golden Triangle and the
KTM Komuter (http://www.ktmb.com.my/page.cfm?name=commuter) for trips to the outer northern, southern & western suburbs. Fares are cheap (RM 1.20 and up), although connectivity between the lines is rather poor. The Touch 'n Go (http://www.touchngo.com.my/) card, which can be purchased for RM10 at major stations, can now be used on all lines except the airport express. Some particularly convenient stations include:
- Bukit Bintang (KL Monorail), for shopping in the Golden Triangle
- Bukit Nanas (KL Monorail), for clubbing at P. Ramlee
- KLCC (Putra), for the Twin Towers and the Suria KLCC shopping mall
- KL Sentral (Kelana Jaya/KL Monorail/KTM Komuter), for intercity trains and the KLIA Ekspres to the airport
- Masjid Jamek (all LRT lines), for LRT interchange as well as access to Chinatown and Little India
- Plaza Rakyat (Sri Petaling/Ampang), for Puduraya bus station
A few quirks to beware of:
- The Kelana Jaya LRT was formerly known as "PUTRA", while the Sri Petaling and Ampang LRTs were formerly known as "STAR". Signage is still inconsistent but is slowly being updated.
- The KL Monorail's "KL Sentral" station is in fact a poorly signposted station 250m away from the main station. Take note that the actual KL Sentral building can only be accessible from the Monorail stop by crossing a busy street; therefore visitors with much luggage will probably wish to opt for a taxi instead.
Rapid KL's newly introduced (on Jan 13, 2006) City Shuttle buses should come in handy for tourists. The 15 routes cover most major areas in Kuala Lumpur city centre. The fare for City Shuttles is RM2 for the whole day. Buy a ticket on your first ride and just flash your ticket at the driver for all subsequent rides.
All City Shuttle buses can be identified by a green circle on the windscreen and side window near the front door. They are also numbered from 101 to 115.
City Shuttle buses depart from four "hubs", all of them thankfully served by rail. They are KL Sentral (Kuala Lumpur's main railway station), KLCC (where the Petronas Twin Towers are located), Titiwangsa (at the Pekeliling Bus Terminal) and Maluri (adjacent to the Maluri LRT station in an inner suburban area east of the city centre). Many routes converge at the heart of the city centre at a place called Medan Pasar.
Rapid KL promises 5 minute frequencies. It remains to be seen whether this can be kept.
Here are the routes:
- 101: Titiwangsa to Medan Pasar via Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman
- 102: Titiwangsa to Medan Pasar via Kampung Baru
- 103: Titiwangsa to KLCC via Jalan Raja Muda (Chow Kit)
- 104: Titiwangsa to KLCC via Jalan Tun Razak (National Theatre, National Library)
- 105: KLCC to Medan Pasar via Jalan Ampang
- 106: KLCC loop service serving the Golden Triangle
- 107: Maluri loop service serving the Golden Triangle
- 108: Medan Pasar loop service serving the Golden Triangle
- 109: KL Sentral to Titiwangsa via Jalan Travers (National Museum, Islamic Arts Museum)
- 110: KL Sentral to Medan Pasar via Central Market
- 111: Maluri to Medan Pasar via Pudu
- 112: Maluri to KL Sentral via Jalan Loke Yew
- 113: Maluri to Medan Pasar via Golden Triangle
- 114: Maluri to KLCC via Jalan Tun Razak (Indonesian Embassy)
- 115 KL Sentral to Parlimen loop service passing the National Museum, Islamic Arts Museum, National Monument
Rapid KL also operates other bus routes which serve the far flung suburbs of the Klang Valley. There is little reason to use them unless you are going to be living in Kuala Lumpur for a period of time.
Because there are many bus operators besides Rapid KL (Metrobus, Len Seng, Permata Kiara, Selangor etc) and a severe lack of signboards and other forms of passenger information, Kuala Lumpur's bus network may be just a little too complicated for a short-term traveller to fathom.
Specific bus information is given at each place of interest on this page.
With RM 2.00 flagfall and RM 0.10 for every 200m after the first 2 km, red and white normal taxis are not very expensive in Kuala Lumpur and are probably the best way to get around, at least outside the congested peak hours. Note that bright yellow premium taxis have a RM 4.00 flagfall and also charge a bit more by kilometer. There are also various small surcharges for radio call (RM 1), baggage (RM 1 per piece), etc.
Try to get the driver to use the meter, although this may be difficult when demand exceeds supply as most cabbies consider the official rates too low. If you have to bargain, aim for RM 5 for short trips, RM 10 if going across town. A few popular places (notably the airport, KL Sentral and Menara KL) enforce prepaid coupon systems, which generally work out more expensive than using the meter but cheaper than bargaining.
Driving in Kuala Lumpur can be a nightmare, with heavy traffic, a convoluted web of expressways and poor signage to guide you through it all. Suicidal motorcyclists will also keep you on your toes.
Do not park at the road of busy districts such as Bangsar, Bukit Bintang etc.! Other cars might lock you in by parking in 2nd or 3rd line and will make it real hard to get out. Use covered parking lots or park a bit off the beaten path and then walk back.
KL is a notoriously pedestrian-hostile city, with heavy traffic and very few pedestrian crossings. Walking within some districts (eg. Chinatown and Bukit Bintang) is feasible but walking long distance generally is not. Beware of pickpockets and bag-snatchers on motorbikes in the Bukit Bintang area.
Kuala Lumpur is one of those cities which are a little short on must-see attractions: the real joy lies in wandering randomly, seeing, shopping and eating your way through it.
- Petronas Twin Towers, Jalan Ampang (Kelana Jaya Line: KLCC), 1 (http://www.petronastwintowers.com.my/). Until recently the tallest structures in the world, they are now second only to the newly built Taipei 101 building in Taipei (the capital of Taiwan), but are still among the most spectacular.
- Visitors may pick up passes to marvel at the view from the Skybridge (level 41-21), one of the highest suspended bridges in the world. Entry is free but limited to the first 1200 who show up, so get there early because available tickets are usually snapped up by 11:30 AM. Open 8:30 AM to 5 PM daily except Monday.
- Aquaria KLCC, KLCC Convention Center Basement Levels 1 and 2 (Kelana Jaya Line: KLCC), 2 (http://www.klaquaria.com/). A gigantic aquarium recently opened, housing 5,000 varieties of tropical fishes. Has an underwater tunnel, various exhibits of flora and fauna, and multimedia kiosks. Aquaria "offers a unique underwater 'edu-tainment experience", as stated on the KLCC website. Open from 10am to 10pm daily; last admission at 9pm. Entrance fee for adults: RM38 (RM28 with the Malaysian ID card - MyKad); Children 3-12 years old: RM26 (RM22 with MyKad); for those below 3 years old, admission free.
- Petrosains, KLCC Level 4 (Kelana Jaya Line: KLCC), 3 (http://www.petrosains.com.my/). A surprisingly well done exhibit of the science and technology behind the petroleum industry and more, and a great place to bring kids. Adults RM12, teens RM7, children RM4; you must book your tickets at least 30 minutes in advance (and expect queues on weekends).
- KL Tower (Menara KL), Jalan Punchak, 4 (http://www.menarakl.com.my/). The observation deck on the top floor provides great city views, and you'll be a few meters higher than the Twin Towers since the tower is built on a hill. Entry to the observation deck costs RM15 and is open from 9 AM to 10 PM daily; for a free bonus, check out the wonderfully bombastic free film on the tower's construction, screened in a little cinema on the tower ground floor.
- Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Association (aka Green Temple), Jalan Petaling (Monorail Maharajalela). The clan house (kongsi) of the Yuen family, this is the largest and oldest in KL, with the present version completed in 1906. Free admission (but donations welcome), open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM.
- Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Jalan Tun HS Lee (in Chinatown). An elaborate Hindu temple known as the starting point of the yearly Thaipusam pilgrimage to the Batu Caves, where Hindu devotees haul portable altars pierced to their skin with 108 lances. Check out the elaborate gopuram above the entrance. Free admission (but donations welcome).
- Muzium Negara (National Museum), Jalan Damansara, 5 (http://www.museum.gov.my/english/home.htm). Contains exhibits on traditional life among the various ethnic communities of Malaysia, numerous well-explained artifacts including fine clothing and shadow puppets, and a sizeable natural history section showing the range of flora and fauna native to the country. A visit to this museum can help you to understand more about Malaysian history, culture, and nature.
- Muzium Kesenian Islam (Islamic Arts Museum), Jalan Lembah Perdana, 6 (http://www.iamm.org.my/). Situates both modern and traditional Malaysia as part of the larger Islamic world and, through exhibitions of objects of religious and aesthetic significance, shows both the connection of Malaysian Islamic culture to the Muslim lands to its west and its uniqueness.
- Batu Caves, 13 km north of the city (45 min on bus 70 or 349 from Puduraya). Hindu priests have used these very ancient caves as temples for thousands of years. They contain a large number of beautiful and fascinating statues of the Hindu Gods. Hire a sound guide if you are interested in the stories behind the colorful statues, as they will teach you all of the symbolism which is part of the statues which you would otherwise miss, such as the fact that the creature that Shiva is standing on is actually the dwarf of inner complacency! Beware of the smelly monkeys and bat droppings in the cave, though. The stairs that take you up to the cave is about 300 steps.
Fancy a spin at Cosmo's World?
- Cosmo's World, Berjaya Times Square 4-9F (Monorail Imbi), 7 (http://www.timessquarekl.com/themepark.html). Malaysia's largest indoor theme park, located on the upper floors of the giant Berjaya Times Square mall and particularly notable for its hair-raising seven-story indoor roller coaster. The park is divided into two sections, one geared for small children, the other for those who want a little more excitement; one ticket gets you into both. Admission for adults/children RM25/15, open 12 noon to 10 PM daily.
There's some great shopping to be done in Kuala Lumpur. Goods are available in every price bracket, and while electronics are a tad more expensive than in Singapore or Hong Kong they can still be much cheaper than Europe.
Due to KL's tin mining past, various pewter products remain popular as souvenirs, and a miniature model of the Petronas Twin Towers is probably the definitive only-in-KL gift. Royal Selangor (http://www.royalselangor.com/) remains no less than the world's largest pewter producer and has stores all over KL.
Kuala Lumpur's largest shopping district is the Bukit Bintang area, named after the street of the same names, although stores and hotels sprawl in all directions along Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Imbi.
- Berjaya Times Square, Jalan Imbi (Monorail Imbi). A newly built gargantuan ten-story shopping mall that houses South-East Asia's largest Borders bookstore, British department store Debenhams, the Cosmo's World theme park (see Do) plus an IMAX theater. The upper floors are still a bit sparse but it's starting to reach critical mass and can get quite packed on weekends.
- Low Yat Plaza. Jalan Bukit Bintang (Monorail Imbi, walk past Melia and turn left into an alley before Imbi Plaza). A good place for computer hardware, game consoles and handphones. All IT Hypermart (4th floor) is a good one-stop shop, but there are dozens of specialist computing boutiques for the enthusiast.
- Sungei Wang, Jalan Bukit Bintang (direct bridge to Monorail Bukit Bintang). A favorite of teens and computer enthusiasts, lower floors retail mostly cheap fashion while the upper floors are inhabited by legions of computer geeks.
Some shopping malls of note can be found elsewhere.
- Mid Valley Megamall, KTM Komuter Mid-Valley, 8 (http://www.midvalley.com.my/). One stop south of KL Sentral, this really is "mega" with over 430 shops crammed into what claims to be South-East Asia's largest shopping mall.
- Suria KLCC, Petronas Twin Towers (Kelana Jaya Line: KLCC), 9 (http://www.suriaklcc.com.my/). An upscale shopping center which has quickly become one of the top hangout-spots in KL. Some very good eating options too. The LRT stops at another shopping mall called Avenue K. There is a tunnel from the train station which links to Suria KLCC
Street market, Jalan Petaling
Despite the onslaught of malls, the Asian tradition of markets isn't yet entirely gone in KL.
- Central Market (Pasar Seni), Jalan Hang Kasturi (LRT Pasar Seni). KL's grand old market dates back to 1936, although it may have lost a bit of its charm when refurbished in 1986, complete with air-con inside. Has a particular emphasis on local crafts.
- Chinatown, Jalan Petaling (and nearby streets). Known as Chi-Cheong-Kai to the local Chinese. Lots of food and souvenirs stalls here. A mosque known as Masjid Jamek is at walking distance. (Star LRT: Masjid Jamek or PUTRA LRT: Pasar Seni). An excellent place to look around surreptitiously for pirated DVD vendors. Prices are sometimes exorbitant. Haggle furiously.
The full panoply of Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine is available in Kuala Lumpur; see the page for more details. Kuala Lumpur is particularly well known for dark Klang-style bak kut teh and Ampang yong tau foo.
Head to Jalan Petaling in the evening (or morning, or lunchtime!) to sample cheap and tasty Chinese hawker fare. Pick any popular stall and try it out; there are particularly many bak kut teh joints around here. Jalan Alor off Bukit Bintang is another hawker center especially in the evening hours. The entire street is jammed on both sides with hawker stalls and restaurants (mainly Chinese) some of them open all night. Most places offers menus with photos of the dishes. Do watch out if you order from the sit-down restaurants, as both areas have become somewhat touristy and prices can be a little high for hawker fare.
- Al-Esfan, Berjaya Plaza, Jalan Imbi (Monorail Imbi). 24-hour mamak joint offering rice, breads, curries, dips, tandoori chicken, noodles and even pizza (at least in name). Order what you will from any stall, they'll tall your purchases on a chit and you pay when you leave. Roti canai 80 sen/piece, a plate of rice with three curries under RM5.
- Foong Foong Yong Tau Foo, Pekan Ampang (Star Ampang station, turn right onto main street, turn right at police station and walk for 15 minutes to end of street). One of three adjacent places competing for the title of The Original Ampang yong tau foo, a Hakka Chinese dish consisting of large pieces of tofu and vegetables, stuffed with fish paste, boiled in stock and served dipped into sweet and spicy sauces. 60 sen/piece plus 50 sen for a bowl of rice. Open every day for lunch only.
- Kam Lin Kee (???), corner of Jalan Petaling and Jalan Hang Lekir (opp Hong Leong Bank). No English sign, no menu in any language, and a kitchen you really don't want to look into — but it packs the crowds for its famous hokkien mee (fried noodles in dark sauce, RM5). Wash it down with a RM1 mug of cooling liang teh and soak in the busy market ambience.
- Nasi Kandar Pelita, No. 149, Jalan Ampang (opp Corus Hotel), 10 (http://www.pelita.com.my/p_finder_kl2.html). A huge outlet of Malaysia's largest nasi kandar chain, with long queues snaking out at lunchtime. Ordering is easy, just choose and point, but be sure to ask for their specialty kuah campur (mixed gravy), meaning that you get half a dozen curry sauces splashed on top. Air-con available upstairs. Open 24 hours, most servings RM5-10.
Old Klang Road (Jalan Kelang Lama), especially around Overseas Union Garden (OUG), has relatively cheap Chinese food. Try the Seafood pork noodles, Curry Noodles, Assam Laksa and Beef Noodles.
- Sri Steven's Corner, No. 18 & 18A, Jalan Hujan Rahmat 2 (off Old Klang Road), Overseas Union Garden, 11 (http://www.stevenscorner.com.my/). A famous mamak restaurant. Open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
If you want good food with air-con, Kuala Lumpur's many shopping mall food courts are among your best bets.
- Lot 10 Food court, in the basement of the shopping mall at the intersection of Jalan Bukit Bintang and Sultan Ismail. Provides an excellent spread of Malaysian food in hygienic and air-conditioned comfort at prices that are only slightly above those outdoors.
- Asian Flavours Food Court (4F) and Signatures Food Court (2F). Both offer a very good selection of Malaysian specialities from throughout the country.
- Laksa Shack, 2F, 12 (http://www.laksashack.com.my/). Specializes in nothing but the many forms of the Malaysian noodle soup (all RM8.60), but the sour assam laksa is usually the top seller.
Some mid-range restaurants also stand out from the crowd.
- Hakka Restaurant, 6 Jalan Kia Peng (Monorail Raja Chulan), tel. +61-3-243-1907/8. There are many Hakka restaurants in KL, but this is the most famous one and with reason. Try the chicken, sharksfin and shiitake wrapped in lettuce or the ever-popular stewed pork with steamed mantou dumplings. Indoor and outdoor seating, most dishes RM10-20.
- Kim Gary Beyond, Avenue K B1F (KLCC LRT). Popular Hong Kong chain serving up very modern Chinese fare. The locals' favorite is the rather un-Chinese baked rice with cheese (from RM11.90), but how about some borsht, a plate of spicy noodles "Typhoon Shelter" style and a cup of boiled Coke with ginger? Set meals for RM10-20.
- La Bodega, 31 Tengkat Tong Shin or 18 Jalan Telawi 2 (Bangsar), tel. +60-3-2142-6338, 13 (http://www.bodega.com.my/). Excellent Spanish tapas at reasonable prices, on average RM10/14 for small/large portions. Indoor and outdoor seating, get in by 8 PM for happy hour pricing on sangria.
- Madam Kwan's, Lot 420/421, Suria KLCC 4F (also Mid-Valley Megamall, Bangsar). Very popular restaurant offering excellent local fare in a pleasant ambience. Try the nasi lemak (RM12.80) or the meltingly smooth beef rendang (RM6.80), and wash it down with a bowl of sweet green chendol (RM5.50). Get there early to beat the queues.
- Chynna, Hilton KL 5F (at KL Sentral), tel. +60-3-2264-2264, 14 (http://www.hilton.com/en/hi/hotels/dining.jhtml?ctyhocn=KULHIHI#2). Wonderfully over-the-top modern Chinese restaurant that looks like it just stepped out of a kung-fu movie, with waitresses in thigh-slit cheongsams and plaited houseboys serving herbal tea from a pot with a meter-long spout. The menu is equally eclectic: try the pumpkin and shrimp dumplings or the chicken feet in black bean sauce, then finish off with coconut ice cream in avocado sauce. Lunchtime dim sum dishes a reasonable RM8-11 each, but dinner is far more expensive. Open daily 11 AM to 2:30 PM for lunch, 6 PM to 11 PM for dinner.
- Coliseum Cafe and Bar, 98 Jln. Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Old hangout from colonial times that serves Western food, although the quality has gone down recently as management changes.
- Seri Angkasa, atop the KL Tower, 15 (http://www.itc.com.my/seriMelayu/menaraKlMain.asp). A revolving restaurant that has a good reputation, but is (inevitably) fairly steeply priced. The RM55++ lunch buffet is comparatively good value.
- Wasabi Bistro, Mandarin Oriental B1F (next to KLCC), tel. +60-3-21630968 , 16 (http://www.mandarinoriental.com/hotel/516000040.asp). Excellent traditional Japanese with modern twists, or without, depending on how you navigate the menu. Surprisingly generous portions for a restaurant of this caliber, figure on RM100/head for a full meal. Open for lunch and dinner daily.
- The Rama V, 5 Jln. U-Thant, tel. +60-3-2143-2428, has arguably the best Thai food in town. Main dishes are around RM60.
Jalan P. Ramlee near Bukit Bintang is Kuala Lumpur's central clubbing district, easily accessible from KL Monorail Bukit Nanas or Raja Chulan stations. Famous clubs in the area include:
- Beach Club, 97 Jalan P Ramlee. Open-air club done up to look like a cheap beachside bar, this is the city's most infamous meat market and pickup joint.
- Luna Bar, Menara PanGlobal 34F, Jalan Punchak (off Jl P. Ramlee), tel. +60-3-2026-2211. Super-chic breezy rooftop bar with a pool in the middle and the best night views in town. Show up early to grab a romantic windowside niche. Drinks RM20 and up, cover charge of RM50 (incl. one drink) may apply on weekends after 9:30 PM.
- Nouvo, 16 Jalan P Ramlee, 17 (http://www.nouvoclub.com/)
- Zouk, 113 Jalan Ampang, 18 (http://www.zoukclub.com.my/). A branch of the famous Singaporean club, opened in 2004.
Changkat Bukit Bintang is semi-clubbing area across the Radius International Hotel in Bukit Bintang. There are a few pubs who also have live music on Tuesdays and Fridays
Bangsar, to the south of the city, is one of the busiest places in Kuala Lumpur past midnight. The action is around Jalan Telawi and its side streets, definitely the place to go for clubbing and deafening music. Despite the name the Bangsar LRT station is rather far away and finding a place to park your own car can be difficult, so a taxi is the best option.
Other zones with nightlife include:
- Sri Hartamas
- Mont Kiara
- Bar Savanh
Found all around the city, mamak stalls are wonderful places to hang out with locals and it is possible to stay at one far past midnight; many locals frequent mamak stalls to catch live coverage of sports events on a wide-screen projector/TV. They are run by Muslim Indians. They serve a variety of drinks and beverages (try the "teh-tarik"), and the non-alcoholic options are varied and inexpensive.
- BB Bistro, Jalan Bukit Bintang (next to BB Plaza). A modernized take on the mamak stall concept offering food, drinks, Arabic shisha water pipes and the house band Kapitan playing everybody's favorites in Malay, English, Cantonese and Arabic. Great for chilling out.
Most of KL's budget accommodation is clustered in Chinatown, where a bed for the night can be as little as RM20. Avoid any hotels marked Rumah Tumpangan instead of Hotel; these are dodgy boarding houses for foreign workers.
Another center for budget accommodation is the Golden Triangle (Bukit Bintang area) where prices are slightly higher than in Chinatown. However, the area is the entertainment, shopping and dining center of KL. Budget accommodations here tend to be more spacious and cozy.
- Heritage Hotel. In KL's beautiful old railway station (one stop away from KL Sentral). Offers backpacker packages starting as low as RM18 with breakfast. The facilities are modest but acceptable, and the old, slightly ramshackle building makes up for it. Full hotel rooms start at RM60.
- Red Palm, 5 Tengkat Tong Shing (Bukit Bintang), tel. +60-3-21431279, 19 (http://www.redpalm-kl.com/). A small hostel in a historical 2-storey building in the Golden Triangle (Bukit Bintang). It has basic but clean rooms upstairs and offers broadband internet and a hang-out lounge downstairs. There is a bbq area in front of the house. Hawker center Jalan Alor (1 min walk), Shopping and Entertainment Center Jalan Bukit Bintang (3 min) and Puduraya Bus Terminal (8min) are close by. Rm25-65 (dorm room to twin double).
Mid-range hotels are comparatively poor value in KL, and it's worth to it to spend a little extra (or look a little harder) for a true luxury hotel on the cheap.
- Concorde, Jalan Sultan Ismail, 20 (http://www.concorde.net/kl/). Three-star hotel getting a little scruffy around the edges, but still pretty good value in the RM150-200 price bracket. Pool and all you'd expect, plus the popular Hard Rock Cafe downstairs. Within easy walking distance of Jalan P Ramlee's nightspots and the Bukit Nanas monorail station.
- Meliá, Jalan Imbi 16 (Monorail Imbi), tel +60-3-21428333, 21 (http://www.solmelia.com/sol/hoteles/jsp/CHome.jsp?idSolRes=5702). Solid if unremarkable four-star hotel opposite Berjaya Time Square and with a Monorail station next door. "Deluxe" rooms are equipped with not just broadband access, but an entire PC! Regular rates from RM200 for two with breakfast.
- Seasons' View, Jalan Alor (near Bukit Bintang), 22 (http://www.seasonsview.com/). A mid-range hotel in the middle of the hustle and bustle of hawker street Jalan Alor, offering basic rooms starting at RM75.
KL has a deserved reputation as one of the world's cheapest places to experience five-star luxury, with rooms available (at the right time and with the right discounts) for as little as RM250 (US$65+). Most of KL's best hotels are located in the Golden Triangle, within walking distance of most things that people would want to do.
- JW Marriott, 183 Jalan Bukit Bintang, tel. 03 2715 9000, 23 (http://marriott.com/property/propertyPage/KULDT). Marriott's flagship hotel in Kuala Lumpur, decorated in a Malaysian style and conveniently located on Jalan Bukit Bintang near the shopping district.
- Mandarin Oriental, 24 (http://www.mandarinoriental.com/hotel/516000001.asp). This is a fairly new hotel in what is probably the best location in KL - adjacent to the Twin Towers, a 50 acre park, and the KLCC shopping mall (the largest in central KL and the most fashionable one of the moment). Whilst primarily for business travellers, tourists will be well accommodated for. The restaurants are some of the best in KL, there is a nice infinity pool over the park, and to top it all, the rates often undercut some of the other hotels, such as the Westin.
- Prince, 4 Jalan Conlay (Monorail Raja Chulan), tel. +60-3-21708888, 25 (http://www.princehotels.co.jp/kuala_lumpur-e/). Large modern hotel and service apartment complex packed with restaurants, convenience store, spa, gym, pool, etc. Internet rates from RM300 with breakfast.
- Renaissance, Corner of Jln Sultan Ismail and Jln Ampang, tel. 1800 807706, 26 (http://www.renaissance-kul.com/). Five-star hotel at the edge of the Golden Triangle, accessible by monorail and LRT. The Renaissance Wing is older, while the New World wing is newer and more modern. Rates from RM300 and up.
- Shangri-La, 11 Jalan Sultan Ismail, tel. +60-3-20322388, 27 (http://www.shangri-la.com/kualalumpur/). An oldie but a goodie, this hotel has been around for a while but has been kept up to date and the location right next to P. Ramlee remains unbeatable for nightlife and pretty good for shopping, with Bukit Bintang just a monorail hop away. Excellent gym and remarkable breakfast buffet.
- Westin. Jalan Bukit Bintang (immediately adjacent to the Marriott), tel. 03 2731 8333, 28 (http://westin.com/kualalumpur). A brand-new (2003) 5-star hotel offering a splendid view of the Twin Towers. Extremely modern and well-equipped but a little anonymous, with nothing but the view to remind you that you're in Malaysia.
- Istana, 73 Jalan Raja Chulan, tel. +60-3-2141-9988, 29 (http://www.hotelistana.com.my). The lobby is worth a visit in itself. Near the monorail. It has all the facilities you would expect from a luxury hotel.
The hotels at KL Sentral are convenient for the business traveler but further away from shopping and most tourist attractions.
- Hilton, 3 Jalan Stesen Sentral, tel. +60-3-22642264, 30 (http://www.hilton.com/en/hi/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=KULHIHI). Stylish new luxury hotel adjacent to the KL Sentral train station and the Le Meridien. The Hilton has funky, trendy rooms with open bathrooms and plasma TV. Plenty of restaurants and a cool executive lounge on the 33rd floor. Excellent Clark Hatch gym and one of the best spa/pool complexes in KL.
- Le Meridien, 2 Jalan Stesen Sentral, tel. +60-3-22637888, 31 (http://kualalumpur.lemeridien.com/). Adjacent to the KL Sentral train station, this luxury hotel opened in 2004 has a splendid lobby and modern rooms with great views of the nearby gardens (or the roof of KL Sentral if you pick the wrong side). Shares spa and pool facilities with the Hilton next door. Rates from RM250, including free Internet.
Internet cafes are quite plentiful in KL and you can find them in most malls. If you have your own laptop, Maxis' Utopia (http://www.maxis.com.my/business/LMC/data/wlan/wlan_main.asp) WLAN service is the best deal around: as of July 2005, a prepaid RM15 card gets you unlimited use for two weeks.
- Jomkita Food & Internet, Unit 6, Arrival Hall, KL Sentral Station, tel. +60-3-22745626. True to its name, offers a selection of basic grub and Internet access (both PCs and wifi) for RM6/hour. Spend RM15 on food and get an hour free.
- Starbucks Coffee Company, selected outlets in KL. Selected outlets of Starbucks in KL have partnered with the Time telecommunications company to provide free Zone Wi-Fi service to customers who have Wi-Fi-equipped laptops or PDAs. Outlets which do not have free Zone Wi-Fi usually have commercial WLAN services such as Utopia in its place.
- Putrajaya, Malaysia's new capital, is 30 km to the south along the way to the airport.
- Genting Highlands, 40 minutes by road, has cooler weather, theme parks for the kids and a casino for the adults.
- Fire Flies near Kuala Selangor. About 1 hour drive north-west of KL. In Kampung Kuantan and Kampung Bukit Belimbing (5 min outside of Kuala Selangor) you can do a river tour from 7pm until midnight to see the natural light show of the fire flies (Malay: kelip-kelip) in the mangroves. As their flashing becomes sychronised you can see entires trees flashing in the banks for Sungai (River) Selangor. There are also many good sea food restaurants in Kuala Selangor and you can play with monkeys in the park (the hill opposite the river).