Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur is an Asian tiger that roars: in almost 150 years, it has grown from nothing to a modern, bustling city. Take in its high-flying triumphs from the viewing deck of one of the world's tallest buildings, then dive down to explore its more traditional culture in the back lanes of Chinatown. Read more...
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Kuala Lumpur is an Asian tiger that roars: in almost 150 years, it has grown from nothing to a modern, bustling city. Take in its high-flying triumphs from the viewing deck of one of the world's tallest buildings, then dive down to explore its more traditional culture in the back lanes of Chinatown.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)
All scheduled jet flights, whether domestic or international, arrive at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport http://www.klia.com.my ( ) located about 50km to the southwest of Kuala Lumpur, in the Sepang district of Selangor. The US$2.5bil modern structure of glass and steel was inaugurated in 1998 and has been ranked as one of the top airports of the world. It replaced the former Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah International Airport in Subang, which is now used for chartered and turboprop flights. Over 50 airlines call at KLIA.
A new Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) opened in March 2006, and is currently used by AirAsia http://www.airasia.com, Tiger Airways, and Cebu Pacific http://www.cebupacificair.com. Though the LCC Terminal is across the runway tarmac from the Main Terminal Building, it is nearly 20km away by road. Frequent shuttle buses connect the two terminals, costing RM1.50 per trip. At the Main Terminal Building, catch the shuttles at the Bus Terminal on the Ground Floor of the Car Park C building, while at the LCCT, wait for the buses at the bus bays right in front of the terminal.
The high-speed KLIA Ekspres http://www.kliaekspres.comhttp://www.kliaekspres.com links the airport directly with the KL Sentral transportation hub in Kuala Lumpur in 28mins. Trains run from 5am to 12 midnight. There is one train every 15mins between 5am and 9am, and between 4pm and 10pm; while trains run every 20mins outside those hours. The cost of a one-way ticket is RM35. There is no discount on return tickets. Those using this service to get to KLIA can check in their baggage at the Kuala Lumpur City Air Terminal in KL Sentral. The city check-in service however is only available to those flying Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Royal Brunei Airlines although on 13 July 2007, KLIA Ekspres' operator Express Rail Link said passengers flying on all 43 airlines which call at KLIA will be able to check in their luggage at KL Sentral from 23 July 2007. As of then only Emirates has started operating. See Get around section below on how to get to/away from KL Sentral.
The KLIA Transit http://www.kliaekspres.comhttp://www.kliaekspres.com, like the KLIA Ekspres, also links the airport with KL Sentral except that it stops at three intermediate stations-Salak Tinggi, Putrajaya, and Bandar Tasik Selatan. The journey takes 36mins. The fare from end to end is the same as for the KLIA Ekspres, which is RM35. Different fares apply for journeys to the intermediate stations. From KL Sentral, trains run every half hour from 5.33am to 0.03am, while from KLIA, trains run every half hour from 5.52am to 1am. You may use of KLIA Ekspres' check-in services even when holding a KLIA Transit ticket.
You can also catch KTM Komuter http://www.ktmb.com.my trains to Nilai station and take a connecting bus to KLIA. The frequent Nilai-KLIA buses are operated by Airport Coach and Sepang Omnibus. The entire journey may take about two hours, but the cost is considerably cheaper than the above two options. For example, the fare from KL Sentral to Nilai is RM4.70 while the bus fare from Nilai to KLIA is about RM2.50. You can also use the KTM Komuter to go to other destinations, such as Seremban in Negeri Sembilan. For other KTM Komuter destinations, see Get around section below.
Airport Coach runs a one hourly express bus between KL Sentral and KLIA from 5am to 10.30pm from Sentral, and 6.30am to 12.30am from KLIA. RM10 one way, or RM18 return.
Star Shuttle bus runs from KLIA to Chinatown (Kota Raya and Pudu Raya), RM10 one way.
Sepang Omnibus runs local bus services directly to Seremban in Negeri Sembilan, Banting in Selangor and Sepang town where you can get connecting buses to/from Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan. The buses may be a little basic and uncomfortable, and do not follow a timetable (at least, not one that is publicly known).
Both Airport Coach and Sepang Omnibus run frequent buses between KLIA and Nilai where you continue your journey on the KTM Komuter. See the Get around section below for details on the KTM Komuter.
Alternatively, you can take the bus to the LCCT then connect to KLIA.
From KLIA: Only Airport Limo limousines and budget taxis are allowed to pick up passengers at the airport. You buy coupons from Airport Limo counters just before you exit the international arrivals gate, or just outside the domestic arrivals gate. Ask for a budget taxi, which is perfectly fine and costs a fixed RM67.40 to get to Kuala Lumpur; otherwise you'll be given a misnamed limousine that costs an extra RM20.
To KLIA: Any taxi can bring passengers to KLIA, including Kuala Lumpur's metered red-and-white taxis, although you will find it very difficult to get drivers to use the meters. Make sure you agree on a price before getting into the taxi. Fares should be between RM60 and RM90.
If you have your own wheels, KLIA is well connected to Peninsular Malaysia's expressway network. The airport is directly linked with the North South Expressway Central Link (known by its Malay abbreviation Elite ) about 70km or nearly one hour away from Kuala Lumpur city centre. Exit the expressway at KLIA interchange for both the Main Terminal and LCCT.
Transfers-Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT)
There are no direct train connections to the LCCT (although the government has agreed to build one). However, you can take either train from KL Sentral to the Main Terminal, then catch the shuttle bus to the LCCT.
SkyBus http://www.skybus.com.my runs direct services every half hour or so from KL Sentral to the LCCT. RM9 one-way.
Aerobus also runs direct bus services every half hour from KL Sentral to the LCC Terminal. RM9 one-way, free return journey.
Star Shuttle http://www.starwira.com (Tel: +60-3-40438811), newly launched in January 2007, has direct buses to the Pekeliling Bus Terminal and Batu 3 (3rd Mile) Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur, as well as direct connections to the Subang Jaya KTM Komuter station and the PKNS Building in Shah Alam. Check its website for schedules. Fares are RM9 per trip.
Any taxi can bring passengers to the LCCT, including Kuala Lumpur's metered red-and-white taxis, although you will find it very difficult to get drivers to use the meters. Make sure you agree on a price before getting into the taxi. Fares should be between RM60 and RM90.
The LCCT is about 20km from the Main Terminal and can be accessed via the KLIA circular or airport cargo road.
The Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, more commonly referred to as the Subang Airport, was the country's main international airport until KLIA was opened in 1998. It was designated for turboprop aircraft and since 19 October 2007, Malaysia Airlines subsidiary community airline Firefly http://www.fireflyz.com.my began operating from Subang, flying to Penang twice daily at 08:20 and 20:50. From Penang, flights depart at 07:00 and 19:30. Journey time one hour. Berjaya Air http://www.berjaya-air.com flies daily to/from Tioman Island, five times a week to/from Pangkor Island, and special flights to Redang Island. It also has two flights weekly to/from Ko Samui in Thailand.
Getting there/away: The airport is 25 km from the city center and the best way to get there is by taxi. Rapid KL bus U81 (destination Mah Sing and Pekan Subang) from the Sultan Mohd Bus Hub next to the Pasar Seni LRT station goes past the airport. Fare is RM2 and the ticket is valid for the whole day for all RapidKL routes with U prefix.
Most important roads in Peninsular Malaysia lead to/from Kuala Lumpur. The city lies about midway along the North-South Expressway (NSE; route numbers E1 and E2) which runs from the Malaysia-Thailand border at Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah to Johor Bahru in the south, on the Malaysian side of the Causeway to Singapore. The main expressway exits for Kuala Lumpur on the NSE are Jalan Duta (from the north) and Sungai Besi (from the south).
The Karak Highway (E8), which later turns into the East Coast Expressway, links Kuala Lumpur with the East Coast states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.
For those who do not want to pay toll, Kuala Lumpur is on Federal Route One (the Trunk Road ) which, like the NSE, runs through all West Coast states of Peninsular Malaysia from Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah to Johor Bahru.
Those travelling along the West Coast Road (Federal Route Five) should leave the road at Klang and get to Kuala Lumpur via the Federal Highway.
Kuala Lumpur has several bus terminals (Malay: stesen bas or hentian) which handle long distance express bus services; many destinations are served by more than one terminal.
The biggest (and invariably most crowded) terminal, located in the city centre near Chinatown. Beware of pickpockets, ticket touts and other undesirables, especially late at night.
Access: Plaza Rakyat station (Ampang and Sri Petaling Lines) is within walking distance; many local bus stops nearby.
To/from Hat Yai, in Thailand :
Konsortium Bas Ekspres Semenanjung ( KBES) (Counter 73. Tel: +60-3-20313036) has departures at 10:30 & 23:00-RM45 one-way.
To/from Singapore :
Transnasional (Tel: +60-3-20703300) is Malaysia's biggest long-distance bus company. Economy class departures to Singapore's Lavender Street terminal at 08:45, 10:30, 13:30, 17:30, 22:30 & 23:59-RM30 one-way and takes 5 hours.
Konsortium Bas Ekspres Semenanjung ( KBES) (Counter 81. Tel: +60-3-20701321) has several buses daily to/from the Golden Mile complex in Singapore.
Most (but not all) East Coast (Malaysia) East Coast services use this terminal which is located to the north of the city centre on Jalan Putra.
Access: PWTC station (Ampang and Sri Petaling Lines) and Putra station (both KTM Komuter lines) are within walking distance.
Note that Airport Coach buses to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) no longer use this terminal-they now use KL Sentral instead.
Access: the only convenient way is by taxi.
Kuala Lumpur Old Railway Station
Now used as a bus terminal, but still handles commuter trains on both KTM Komuter lines, also accessible via Rapid KL City Shuttle No. 109, 115.
Plusliner luxury services (under the brand names Nice and Platinum Service ) are based here; destinations include Penang, Johor Bahru, Singapore, and Hat Yai in Thailand.
Corus Hotel (on Jalan Ampang) serves as the terminal for Aeroline http://www.aeroline.com.my express buses to/from Singapore. Access: KLCC station is 300m away. Rapid KL City Shuttle No. 103, 104, 105, 106, 114.
First Coach services to/from Singapore leave from the 1 Utama shopping mall in Petaling Jaya — considerably less convenient than their previous location in Bangsar, alas. Access: RapidKL U82 to KL Sentral. Tel booking: 03-7725 3311
MATIC-Malaysian Tourist Information Complex on Jalan Ampang serves as Transnasional's http://www.nadicorp.com.myhttp://www.nadicorp.com.my Executive Coach terminal (Tel: +60-3-21611864). Departures to Singapore (09:00 & 18:00-RM69.90 one-way) and to Penang.
Pekeliling bus terminal is on Jalan Tun Razak to the north of the city centre, and handles local bus services to some Pahang destinations like Genting Highlands, Bentong, Raub and Temerloh. Access: Titiwangsa station is within walking distance. Rapid KL City Shuttle No. 101, 102, 103, 104, 109.
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 RM10 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).
Kuala Lumpur is not located by the sea. However, there are ferry connections to/from Sumatra ( Indonesia ) at Port Klang, about 40 km west of Kuala Lumpur. See the Port Klang article for details on how to get there.
The first phase of Kuala Lumpur's ambitious public transport system is now complete, but there's still a fair amount of room for improvement.
Kuala Lumpur's public transport system consists of 3 LRT (Light Rail Transit) lines operated by RapidKL http://www.rapidkl.com.myhttp://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 (RM1.2 and up), although connectivity between the lines is 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 be aware 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, although poorly signposted, is just a short 250m walk away under a covered walkway adjacent to the car park outside the eastern exit of the main station.
RapidKL's http://www.rapidkl.com.myhttp://www.rapidkl.com.my City Shuttle (Bas Bandaran in Malay, hence the B prefix in its route numbers) buses come in handy for tourists. The 10 routes cover most major areas in Kuala Lumpur city centre. The fare for City Shuttles is RM2 for the whole day. If you buy an integrated daily pass (Sepadu) for only RM7, you can ride any RapidKL bus and LRT for as many trips as you like 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 Shuttles have a B prefix in their route numbers. Most City Shuttles operate from hubs which can be accessed by rail-based public transport. The routes are: B101: Titiwangsa to KL Sentral via Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman B102: Titiwangsa to Bukit Bintang via Kampung Baru B103: Titiwangsa to Bukit Bintang via KLCC B105: KLCC to MidValley Megamall via City Centre B110: MidValley Megamall to Bukit Bintang via City Centre B111: Maluri to Chow Kit B112: Maluri to KL Sentral via Jalan Loke Yew B113: Maluri to Pasar Seni B114: Maluri to Titiwangsa via KLCC B115: Pasar Seni to Jalan Duta government offices
RapidKL 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.
There are many other bus operators besides Rapid KL (Metrobus, Len Seng, Permata Kiara, Selangor etc) and a severe lack of signboards and other forms of passenger information makes Kuala Lumpur's complete bus network 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 RM2 flagfall and RM0.10 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 RM4 flagfall and also charge a bit more by kilometer. There are also various small surcharges for radio call (RM1), baggage (RM1 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 RM5 for short trips, RM10 if going across town. If staying in a fancy hotel, tell the driver the name of the mall next to it to lower his expectations.
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.
Some taxi drivers will hang around near hotels offering tours similar to those offered by established companies. Feel free to listen to their offers and bargain with them if you like. Some of these cabbies are quite knowledgeable and you may end up with a specially tailored, private tour for less than the cost of an official tour.
If you get so off the beaten track that you need to call a cab: Comfort Cabs +60-3-62531313 Sunlight Taxi +60-3-90575757 Public Cab +603 62592020 Uptown Ace +603 92832333
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. Reckless drivers are common-Malaysia infamously has one of the highest road accident rates in the world. 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 next to you in the 2nd or 3rd lane. 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 aggressive drivers), few pedestrian crossings / pathways, and poorly maintained foot-paths. Walking within some districts (e.g. Chinatown and Bukit Bintang) is feasible but walking long distance generally is not. Lately, pick-pockets and bag-snatchers on motorbikes have been a problem, especially in Chinatown district, so care needs to be taken.
When it rains the sidewalks and streets turn into small rivers and crossing a street can be an adventure.
When to go
Kuala Lumpur is a fairly sprawling city and its residential suburbs seem to go on forever. The city also merges with the adjacent towns of Petaling Jaya (originally developed as KL’s dormitory suburb), Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Klang and Port Klang, creating a huge metropolis called the Klang Valley.
The city can be divided up into the following areas, each of which offers a particular attraction or activity.
Kuala Lumpur/Central City Center – This is the traditional core of Kuala Lumpur where you’ll find former colonial administrative center with the Merdeka Square, Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Selangor Club. This district also includes Kuala Lumpur’s old Chinese commercial center which everyone refers to now as Chinatown.
Kuala Lumpur/Golden Triangle Golden Triangle – The area of Kuala Lumpur located to the northeast of the city center, the Golden Triangle is where you’ll find the city’s shopping malls, five-star hotels, Petronas Twin Towers and party spots.
Kuala Lumpur/Tuanku Abdul Rahman Tuanku Abdul Rahman – This is the traditional colourful shopping district of Kuala Lumpur north of the city center and moves into high gear when the festivals of Hari Raya Puasa (Eid ul-Fitr) and Deepavali approach. Located just beside the Golden Triangle (northern neighbour) with many popular budget accommodations. The gigantic Putra World Trade Centre & the traditional Kampung Baru food haven are among the most important landmarks.
Kuala Lumpur/Brickfields Brickfields – This area, located south of the city center, is Kuala Lumpur’s Little India filled with saree shops and banana leaf rice restaurants. Kuala Lumpur’s main railway station – KL Sentral – is located here.
Kuala Lumpur/Bangsar and Midvalley Bangsar and Midvalley – Located south of the city, Bangsar is a popular restaurant and clubbing district while Midvalley, with its Megamall, is one of the city’s most popular shopping destinations.
Kuala Lumpur/Damansara and Hartamas Damansara and Hartamas – Largely suburban, this two districts to the west of the city houses some interesting pockets of restaurant and drinking areas. This district virtually merges into the northern part of Petaling Jaya.
Kuala Lumpur/Ampang Ampang – Located east of the city, Ampang is home to Kuala Lumpur’s Little Korea and most foreign embassies.
Kuala Lumpur/North Northern suburbs – This huge area to the north of the city is home to several attractions, such as Batu Caves, the National Zoo and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur/South Southern suburbs – This district may not interest travellers although Kuala Lumpur’s main stadium at Bukit Jalil and The Mines theme park is located here.
You're unlikely to be a victim of violent crime in KL, but pickpockets are common and bag snatching is on the rise. Keep a close eye on your valuables in crowds, especially street markets and public transport (especially during rush hour), and hold your bag on the side away from the street if there are motorbikes around.
Taxis are generally safe, but they often refuse to use the meter and a few cabbies will gouge tourists mercilessly. If they won't use the meter, then don't take that taxi, as by law they are required to use the meter. However if you are desperate to use that taxi, agree on the fare in advance, and try to get an estimate of the cost from a local before you climb on board.
Be careful of a scam that has been going on for years, and seems to be doing the rounds again-you may be approached by someone on the street. They tell you that they have a friend / relative who is going to your country as a student and needs some information about living there. They ask you to go back to their place for 20 minutes to meet the person. When you get there, the person is out, so they ask you to wait and in the meantime an uncle or someone likes to play cards. They teach you how to play and how to win........ and to cut a long story short you end up gambling and losing money, and some people have had trouble getting away, or have been robbed etc.
Malaysian law requires that visitors carry their passport at all times, and both police and RELA (civil volunteers) carry out spot checks for illegal immigrants.
Locals are very friendly to the tourists. Greet them well with warm smile and if they can speak and understand English, they will be happy to show you around. Be friendly! If you are lost, just ask someone on the street.
Tap water is generally safe in Kuala Lumpur, although many visitors prefer to stick to bottled water anyway. There is no malaria, but local mosquitoes can carry dengue fever. The only way to avoid contracting dengue is to prevent bites by the Aedes mosquito. Citronella coils (called Ubat Nyamuk = Mosquito Medicine locally) are readily available in stores and can be burned in your hotel room to effectively repel mosquitoes.
Between May and October, KL is occasionally shrouded in dense haze from forest fires in Sumatra, which can be a health concern for asthmatics (and pretty unpleasant for everybody). However, the haze comes and goes quickly, and varies greatly from year to year: it was terrible in 2006, but nonexistent in 2007.
Kuala Lumpur came into being in the late 1860s when a band of prospectors in search of tin landed at the meeting point of the Kelang and Gombak rivers and imaginatively named the place Kuala Lumpur-'Muddy Confluence'. More than half of those first arrivals died of malaria and other tropical diseases, but the tin they discovered in Ampang attracted more miners and KL quickly became a noisy, brawling, violent boom town.
To quell the brewing anarchy, the local sultan overlord appointed a 'Kapitan China' to bring the unruly Chinese fortune-seekers and their secret societies into line-a problem that Kapitan China Yap Ah Loy jumped at with such ruthless relish that he became known as the founder of KL. By the 1880s KL became increasingly upmarket and residential and the general feelings of prosperity and self-satisfaction were rewarded by the transfer of the central government to Kuala Lumpur from Klang. In 1881 the entire town was destroyed by fire and a subsequent flood, but the devastation prompted a building boom and in 1896 the city became the capital of the newly formed Federated Malay States.
When the Malaysian peninsula came under British rule in 1913, its economy prospered and its Indian and Chinese immigrant populations increased significantly. However, this boom was drastically reversed by the onset of WWII and the Japanese invasion of British Malaya. Within one month Kuala Lumpur had fallen to the Japanese, who soon defeated the British at Singapore. During its occupation, many of Kuala Lumpur's Chinese population were tortured and killed and many Indians were sent to work on Burma's 'Death Railway'. When the Japanese were finally defeated, the British temporarily returned to Kuala Lumpur, only to be ousted when Malaysia finally declared its independence in 1957 in KL's Dataran Merdeka (Freedom Square). The city officially became the independent Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur when it was ceded by the sultan of Selangor state in 1974.
Malaysia was gripped by the Asian economic crisis that began in Thailand in 1997. This crash was the first significant glitch in the otherwise bullish Malaysian economy since WWII. The staging of the Commonwealth Games in 1998 was seen as a feather in Malaysia's cap, and helped restore some national confidence. Despite the economic downturn of the late 1990s, Kuala Lumpur continued to develop on a monumental scale. Today KL is not only Malaysia's political and commercial capital, but also its most populous and prosperous city.