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The Essentials: Kuala Lumpur

February 19th, 2018 Kuala Lumpur Guide

Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting! Visa, Where to Stay, How to Get Around, Kuala Lumpur Cost of Living, Kuala Lumpur Guide / Outglobing.com #kualalumpur #malaysia #wanderlust

I’m beginning to really love writing these essential posts! After spending time in an area, I get super excited to share information about the place. If you’re new to the Essential series, I basically inform you with everything you need to know before visiting a destination. I cover important topics such as visas, vaccinations, where to stay, and much more! Instead of searching over and over in Google, I want people to be able to find all that they are looking for in one spot. This is the only Kuala Lumpur guide that you will need whether you are on a vacation or live a digital nomad lifestyle, like myself. Don’t forget to bookmark this page and share with your friends who are traveling!

Is a Visa Needed Before Traveling to Kuala Lumpur?

There are 162 countries that are exempt from needing a visa to enter Kuala Lumpur. 63 of these countries are granted a stay up to 90 days, 97 are granted a stay of 30 days, and 2 are able to enter for 14 days. Based off my experience, being an American or European Union citizen, you are categorized with the 90 day allowance. To verify how long you’re able to stay, you can visit Travelscope.

If you enjoy your visit and plan to come back, yet have used all your days allowed, the laws were recently tightened to prevent border runs. You must leave for 30 days before you can enter again.

Vaccinations

Yellow Fever vaccination is mandatory for those travelling from countries mainly within Africa and South America.

For the majority of countries, none are needed before traveling to Kuala Lumpur. However, boosters and the basic immunizations such as Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Typhoid are recommended.

Currency

Kuala Lumpur’s currency is Malaysian Ringgit, stylized as RM or MYR. It previously was called Malaysian Dollar, so it is common to hear locals refer to amounts in dollars. The following are a variety of conversions to give you an idea of how the exchange rate compares: 1 USD to 4 MYR – 1 AUD to 3 MYR – 1 EUR to 4.75 MYR – 1 GBP to 5.50 MYR.

Point of Reference Costs

  • 1.5L Coca-Cola: 3 MYR
  • Instant Coffee (15 Packets): 12 MYR
  • Local Food: 8 MYR*
  • Sliced Bread 400g: 2.50 MYR

*I’ll talk more about the prices of local food further in this Kuala Lumpur guide.

Kuala Lumpur GuideKuala Lumpur Takeaway Drink in a Bag

Alcohol Laws and Costs

There was a recent change in the drinking age, as of December 1, 2017, you must be 21 to purchase alcohol. The cost of alcohol here can be quite pricey, it actually has one of the highest taxes in the entire world! If you want to avoid paying the high tax, you are allowed to enter the country with 1 liter per person.

Best Methods of Transportation

There’s many options when it comes to getting around. Depending on what you feel the most comfortable with, these are the easiest ways to get around the city.

Renting a Car

Driving in Kuala Lumpur is actually very structured. The past places I’ve been to such as Bangkok and Bali, the road rules seemed non-existent as people were flying by any direction they pleased. You won’t find that here! It’s very calm without an excess of honking. It’s important to know that if you decide to get a rental car that you must get used to driving on the left side of the road.

Public Transportation

The local transportation is also a good choice. There’s a train system that will take you to every corner of Kuala Lumpur and farther, such as the Batu Caves. Buses run every 20 minutes or so, just be aware of what your stop looks like. My experience on a local bus didn’t announce upcoming stops or have a screen showing you what’s next. You can also opt for a Rapid KL reloadable card if you know you’ll be using the public systems frequently.

The Rapid KL card works for both trains and buses. It offers a discount on each fare and even at some restaurants and shops! It’s easy to reload, either at train stations or in stores, just make sure you look to see which shops are Rapid KL friendly. You can usually find the logo at the cashier/checkout area.

Not into local transportation? That’s fine, Grab will be your number one here. It’s more commonly used than Uber. The rates are affordable and you get a private car, can’t beat it! A 20 minute ride cost me about 15 RM and the least I’ve paid was 4 RM for about 5 minutes. I also discovered that Grab has a reward system, so if you use it enough you may get money off your next ride. You can also redeem your points for a discount at restaurants and more!

Should I Learn the Language Before Traveling to Kuala Lumpur?

If you are somewhat fluent in English, you will be just fine! Being colonized by the British, English is spoken just as much as Malay and Chinese here. You most likely will even be able to read signs, words are often spelled how they are pronounced. For instance, counter is ‘kaunter’ and bus is ‘bas’. With this being a Kuala Lumpur guide, I would normally list 5 basic phrases that you would commonly use, but speaking English is more than enough to know.

Kuala Lumpur KLCCKuala Lumpur Petronas Towers

Choosing Where to Stay

No Kuala Lumpur guide is complete without talking about where to stay. There seems to be 3 main areas people tend to choose when deciding where to reside. These being near KLCC, in Bukit Bintang, or outside of the city.

Outside of the City

Outside of the city is where I stayed for 28 days and it was great. I love being able to access the city easily, and also being away from the noise. Although, I must admit that there really isn’t much noise here… yet! I think the city and tourism will grow majorly over the next few years. The neighborhood I resided in was Taman Desa and it was the perfect location for me. Even better because I had access to a large food court, a real grocery store (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve been traveling in Asia), and a main square that was full of restaurants and stores within a 5 minute walk.

Bukit Bintang

Bukit Bintang, however, is the favored area to stay. If you’ve read any Kuala Lumpur guide then you probably recognize this name. This is a popular shopping street which is located nearby a famous night food market. Initially, I looked into staying in this area, as it was the only area I was recommended, but the accommodation prices were a bit too steep for what I was looking for. Perfect for those looking to be in the city!

KLCC Area

KLCC, aka Kuala Lumpur City Centre, is exactly how it sounds: the center of city! This area will bring you closest to the Petronas Towers, which is a must-see when you visit. You won’t find much accommodation suited towards a budget here, mostly luxury hotels and lots of shopping malls in this area. There is a train that brings you right to this area, so staying here doesn’t appeal me much considering it is easy to access no matter where you are located.

SIM Card

There’s 3 main service providers that you can choose from: Digi, Maxis Hotlink, and Celcom. I used Celcom during the entirety of my stay and it was perfect. I even was able to hotspot internet from my phone to my MacBook and the connection was incredible! As usual, you can often find options to purchase a SIM card from arrival at the airport. Many times there is a tourist option that offers 7-10 days of activation, or if you travel for longer like myself, then a 30-day option may be more cost efficient. Take your time when comparing plans to make sure you find the one that suits you best.

Internet

As mentioned above, I used my hotspot function to carry the signal from my phone to my MacBook, and I have no complaints! At the time of writing this, it is 6 in the evening on a Monday, and my speeds are as follows: download 13mbps / upload 3 mbps. A bit slow at the moment, but I’m a night owl and I’ve found speeds to reach as high as 45 mbps during the night.

Kuala Lumpur Hawker StallsKuala Lumpur Mamak

A Simple Kuala Lumpur Guide to Local Food

There’s 3 types of places you’ll find: restaurants, food courts/hawker stalls, and mamaks.

You’ll be able to easily spot restaurants, there’s nothing special about these. However, what may be new to you is coming across a food court, or what the locals call hawker stalls. It’s basically a large food court with many stalls set up inside. You can find the largest variety of food from Thai, Malay, Chinese, Western, and more! These food courts are great because the dishes are delicious and so cheap. The most I’ve spent at a hawker stall was 8 RM. Lastly, you’ll find mamaks. These are often recognized as being under tents along a street. You kind of have to wing it when ordering food at these places because they don’t usually have a menu. However, I’ve been able to get a meal (food + drink) for as little as 4 RM! How is that even possible?

Proper Etiquette

– Tipping is not customary, unless in fine-dining restaurants.
– Dress conservatively when visiting temples. Shoulders and knees must be covered.
– Avoid pointing with your index finger, using your thumb and entire hand is more appropriate.
– Remove your shoes before entering another person’s home.
– When eating a meal with chopsticks, if you need to put them down, lay them down across the plate. Do not stick them in your food so they stand up.

Take Note Before Traveling to Kuala Lumpur

Like many surrounding countries, the tap water from the sink is not safe to drink. It’s best to find an accommodation with a water refill system on-site (here’s what they look like and how to use them) or be located near a store to purchase water easily. It’s also important to keep in mind that the electricity outlets here are the British standard.

Weather

The weather in Kuala Lumpur is similar to many surrounding countries, being that they have a wet and dry season. Overall, the weather is hot with the average temperature being around 30 celsius. The sun will dry you out, make sure to use lotion, premature aging is not cute! The wet season lasts from November to March with the dry season being April to October. I visited the city from January to February and the rain was very frequent, I recommend you always bring an umbrella with you, anywhere you go.

What to Pack Necessities

Kuala Lumpur FoodKuala Lumpur Food

My Opinion of the City

One of the first places I’ve travelled to, so far, where I fell in love immediately. I can only explain so much in this Kuala Lumpur guide, it’s truly an area you have to experience yourself. I love the food, the cost of living, the calm traffic, the weather… a bit of everything! For the most part, it is perfect here. In my opinion, the only downfall is the alcohol prices. I’m just a little spoiled, a bottle of Jose Cuervo Tequila Silver runs about $22 in the states instead of $35 here. I can’t win ‘em all, but Kuala Lumpur is pretty close so far! I think it’s definitely worth a visit.

Save this Kuala Lumpur Guide

Now you’re absolutely prepared for your travels, don’t forget to save this Kuala Lumpur guide and share it with your tavel buddies! If you want to gain more insight, you can view my archive of Kuala Lumpur posts here. As always, I wish you safe travels and let me know how these tips helped you in the comments!

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18 comments
    1. Hi Carly!

      That’s so awesome that you’ve visited already, how long did you stay before? <3

      Reply
  1. Kuala Lumpur looks lovely. I had never considered it as a place to visit on my list, but after reading your post it now is!

    Aimsy xoxo

    Reply
    1. Hey Aimsy!

      First of all, your name is super cute, I love it =D Do you get that a lot? And I feel like KL is under the radar, I actually never really considered going here for enjoyment… more so as a stopping point between traveling. But now that I’ve visited, Malaysia is high on my list when it comes to countries in Southeast Asia! <3

      Reply
  2. This is super helpful! I love Essentials Posts like this. Definitely going to keep up with your blog 🙂

    Xx Ash // themessylife.com

    Reply
  3. This travel essential series is exactly what I need!!! Planning to travel next year with my family and now, I wanna visit Malaysia because of this post 🙂 I really love it, always an amazing post from you! I’m a sucker for cheap meals haha

    Reply
    1. That’s so exciting, Mary! I’m so glad you find this series helpful!

      I feel like no one ever hears about Malaysia, so it’s cool hearing that you want to visit it now =D And yes, cheap meals ARE LIIIIFFFFEEE. Like, who doesn’t love good food?! <3

      Reply
    1. Hi Vivian!

      Unfortunately, I haven’t made my way out to explore East Malaysia, so I can’t speak from experience. However, I learned from a local that Grab was actually created here in Malaysia, so I can assume it’s just as popular there! <3

      I can't wait to hear read about your travels in Sabah!

      Reply
  4. I so love your local etiquette section of the post! it’s SO important to know these things. what you wrote about pointing with you finger is interesting, discovering cultural differences is what make traveling fun.

    Reply
    1. That was one of the first things I thought of when I began my travels, how do I make sure I DON’T accidentally offend people! I agree with you on that one, the cultural differences is the most exciting part! <3

      Reply
  5. I love your travel essentials posts, they are so informative but still full of enthusiasm! How long have you been in Kuala Lumpur? There’re so many details here…!
    this year I hope to travel a lot, so this is definitely bookmarked for the future! <3

    Reply
    1. I was in Kuala Lumpur for about 28 days total (I think!), since then, I took a bus up north and am settling in Penang for a bit longer! =) I HIGHLY recommend Malaysia. I’ve yet to explore East Malaysia, but I’ve heard very great things there as well! <3

      Reply
    1. Hi Alice!

      I think you will have no problem finding vegetarian food! I’ve been to multiple countries in Asia now and they are really great with offering vegetarian options. They often replace meats with tofu and many meals are comprised of noodles, vegetables, and soups. All very delicious! In fact, you’ll probably find more diverse meals here in Malaysia (compared to other Asian countries) because I’ve been able to find dishes of all different kinds from many cultures. <3

      Reply
    1. I can’t wait for you visit and see what you think of the area!

      I know, the cheap meals are so great! $2 to get full? Okay, I’ll take it! <3

      Reply
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