Kuala Lumpur Halal Travel Guide
Covid-19 Situation in Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, called KL by locals, is Malaysia’s federal capital and largest city at 6.5 million (city-proper population of 1.8 million). Kuala Lumpur is a cultural melting pot with some of the world’s cheapest 5-star hotels, impressive shopping districts, food from all parts of the world, and natural wonders within day-trip distance.
Kuala Lumpur is a sprawling city with residential suburbs that seem to go on forever. The city proper is a 243 km2 (94 sq mi) Federal Territory managed by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall and comprising eight divisions which are further split into 42 local areas, mainly for administrative purposes. The following districts have been conceptualised for visitors to Kuala Lumpur.
|Golden Triangle (Bukit Bintang, Pudu)
Kuala Lumpur’s equivalent of a Central Business District (CBD) located to the north-east of the Old City Centre. The area is brimming to the seams with shopping malls, bars and five-star hotels, along with the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.
|Old City Centre (Chinatown)
This is the traditional core of Kuala Lumpur where you’ll find the former colonial administrative centre, with the Merdeka Square, Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Selangor Club. This district also includes Kuala Lumpur’s old Chinese commercial centre which everyone refers to now as Chinatown. In 2024 the highest skyscraper in Malaysia (PNB 118) will be located in this part of the city.
The National Museum, the National Mosque, Botanical Garden, Bird and Butterfly Parks, Orchid & Hibiscus Gardens, Islamic Arts Museum and National Planetarium are located here. A short walk north of the garden is the National Monument.
|South of City Centre (Brickfields, Bangsar, Bukit Persekutuan, Mid Valley, Seputeh)
Brickfields 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. Bangsar is a popular restaurant and pub district while Mid Valley, with its Megamall, is one of the city’s most popular shopping destinations. Seputeh is home of the Thean Hou temple.
|North of City Centre (Kampung Baru, Titiwangsa, Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Chow Kit)
Located to the north-west of the Golden Triangle and an extension of the Old City Centre. Home to modern shopping malls, traditional street markets and budget accommodation options. Kampung Baru, the last Malay village of Kuala Lumpur, is a food paradise of street stalls and restaurants in traditional kampung setting.
|Western suburbs (Bukit Damansara, Desa Sri Hartamas, Bukit Tunku, Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), Taman Bukit Maluri)
Largely suburban, these districts to the west of the city house some interesting pockets of restaurants and drinking areas. Bukit Kiara – a secondary rainforest – is the most popular hiking and mountain biking spot of KL. This district also merges into the northern part of Petaling Jaya (PJ).
|Eastern suburbs (Ampang, Desa Pandan, Taman Maluri, Cheras, Salak Selatan)
Located east of the city, Ampang is home to Kuala Lumpur’s Little Korea and most foreign embassies and high commissions. Cheras is a suburb with many Chinese residents here.
|Northern suburbs (Sentul, Batu, Setapak, Wangsa Maju, Desa Melawati and many others)
This huge area to the north of the city is home to several natural wonders attractions, such as the Batu Caves, the National Zoo and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia.
|Southern suburbs (Taman Desa, Kuchai Lama, Sungai Besi, Bandar Tasik Selatan, Alam Damai, Bukit Jalil, Sri Petaling and many others)
This district may not interest travellers much, although Kuala Lumpur’s National Stadium and National Sports Complex Bukit Jalil are located here.
Beyond the Kuala Lumpur city proper are the adjacent satellite cities of Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Klang, Port Klang, Ampang, Puchong, Selayang/Rawang, Kajang and Sepang, all in the state of Selangor, which enclaves Kuala Lumpur. Within the same conurbation, also surrounded by Selangor, is the federal territory of Putra Jaya, which is Malaysia’s de facto administrative and judiciary capital. These cities all merge such that it can be hard to know where Kuala Lumpur ends and Selangor begins. The culmination of these cities is a huge metropolis known as Greater Kuala Lumpur or more commonly, Klang Valley.
Introduction to Kuala Lumpur
As in most of Malaysia’s cities and towns, Malaysian Chinese form a majority of the population, at 55%, in Kuala Lumpur. Malays (who form the majority of Malaysia’s population, overall) and Malaysian Indians are also present in large numbers in the city, and there are substantial numbers of more recent immigrants and workers from South and Southeast Asia, Eurasians, and expatriates from Western countries and the Middle East. The result is a mix of cultures that meld together to make Kuala Lumpur a modern and diverse capital.
Kuala Lumpur is said to be locked in an unofficial rivalry with nearby city-state Singapore. The ethnic Chinese-dominated Singapore was separated from the indigenous Malay-majority Federation due primarily to irreconcilable ideological differences. Singapore strove to become a viable independent state and spurred rapid development, which the Malaysians sought to keep up with by investing in Kuala Lumpur. If Singapore has a first class airport, so does KL. When Singapore got an efficient urban transport system, so did KL. As Singapore becomes clean and green, so does KL. Everywhere you go, there are swats and strips of manicured public lawns and refreshing jungle-like parks – just like Singapore. If Singapore has an aquatic park and a bird park, so does KL. Same thing with an orchid park and butterfly park. If Singapore renovates and paints its colonial shop houses with tutti frutti colours, so does KL. If Singapore builds theme parks, so does KL. And if Singapore aims to be a shopping mecca with a plethora of shopping malls and all sorts of gimmicks, so does KL. What Singapore has, KL matches, often on an even grander scale. So if you’ve been to Singapore, you will have seen it all in KL, a bit of déjà vu, or vice versa.
Both cities’ locations on the geographically, economically and politically important Bangkok-Jakarta corridor have favoured their growth. The two cities are built from the same cultural ingredients, though in different proportions: Chinese culture is more dominant in Singapore.
History of Kuala Lumpur
Founded in 1857 under British rule as a tin mining outpost, Kuala Lumpur is fairly new as far as Malaysian cities go and lacks the rich history of Georgetown or Malacca. Due to the success of tin mining, Kuala Lumpur began to flourish but had problems with gang fighting in the late 1800s. Following this, Kuala Lumpur faced further misfortune after much of the city burnt down in a large fire as most buildings were built from wood and thatch. As a result buildings in Kuala Lumpur were required to be built with brick and tile. After these rough early years, Kuala Lumpur began to prosper and was made capital of the Federated Malay States in 1896.
During World War II, Kuala Lumpur and the Federated Malay States were occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. During this time the economy was virtually halted. Soon after the British regained power it was declared that the Federated Malay States were to become the Malayan Union and work toward independence began. In 1952, Kuala Lumpur was one of the first cities in the Union to hold elections. Malaya’s independence was declared in 1957 in front of huge crowds at what was later named Stadium Merdeka (Independence Stadium), and Kuala Lumpur continued as the new nation’s capital.
In 1972, Kuala Lumpur was given city status and by 1974 became a Federal Territory of Malaysia in its own right, hence losing the title as capital city of Selangor. The economic boom of the 1990s brought Kuala Lumpur the standard trappings of a modern city, but it was severely hit by the Asian financial crisis of 1997, which stalled the Malaysian economy and led to the abandonment or delay of many construction projects. Today, Kuala Lumpur has become a modern city, bristling with skyscrapers and with a modern transportation system, and is one of the world’s major centres for Islamic banking. Despite this, Kuala Lumpur has still kept some of its historical charm.
As Kuala Lumpur is only 3 degrees north of the Equator, you can expect tropical weather all year round. Shielded by the Titiwangsa Mountains to the east and Sumatra to the west, temperatures are relatively cooler than other cities within Peninsular Malaysia. Expect sunny days with temperatures above 30°C (86°F) and slightly cooler evenings, particularly when afternoon showers occur and humidity is high. Rainfall can be sporadic and quite torrential at times, but usually does not last very long. During the wet season, around October to March, the northeast monsoon brings heavy rainfall that can occasionally flood some areas of Kuala Lumpur. The months around June and July could be classed as the dry season, but even then it can frequently rain.
Occasionally, due to forest fires from Sumatra around May to October, haze can blanket the city and surrounding regions, and it is best to remain indoors if you suffer from asthma.
As the weather can be hot and humid during the day, try to dress lightly if you expect to be outside and, while it may seem obvious, don’t forget to remain hydrated. Also keep in mind that mosques and some temples have strict dress codes, although many do supply gowns to cover you if you are inadequately dressed. If you do find it too hot to be outside, consider going to a shopping mall to relax and work that credit card in air conditioned comfort.
As befitting the nation’s capital, Malay is universally spoken and understood by locals in Kuala Lumpur.
However, as Malaysia’s largest city, Kuala Lumpur is also home to Malaysians of many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and this is often reflected in the number of languages that are used by locals in daily life. The lingua franca of the Chinese community is Cantonese, and most of the ethnic Chinese can speak Cantonese regardless of their native dialect, with a significant number also able to speak Mandarin. Kuala Lumpur is also home to many Indians, most of whom are native speakers of Tamil.
English is also widely spoken, and English-speaking tourists should generally not have a problem getting around.
Malaysia’s transportation systems function well, by regional standards. Planes, trains, buses, and taxis are linked in a system conceived and constructed by, if not an order-loving Teuton, at least a dedicated amateur. The planners’ aims are an ultra-modern, chic, European-style system that are a far cry from the city’s humble barrio beginnings. The reality is a sound B+ with still a long way to go before hitting the top. A bewildering jumble of initials and acronyms assault any first time journey planner in KL, and it will take at least a day to decipher the scheme of things.
Kuala Lumpur is served by two airports: Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) () and Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (Subang Airport, ). KLIA is used by almost all airlines that fly to Kuala Lumpur whilst Subang Airport is limited to airlines with turboprop aircraft.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport
The primary airport serving Kuala Lumpur, 50 km south of Kuala Lumpur in the Sepang district of Selangor. The airport opened in 1998 and superseded Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, which is now only used for charter and commercial turboprop flights. Over 50 airlines call at KLIA. The airport has two terminals, with Malaysia Airlines and other mainline carriers at the “main” KLIA, and Air Asia and other low-cost carriers using KLIA2. They are connected to each other (3 minutes) and the city (28-33 min) by the KLIA Ekspres train.
Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport
More commonly referred to as Subang Airport, was the city’s main airport until KLIA opened, and is designated for turboprop aircraft. The airport is much closer to the city centre and less crowded than KLIA, which can make it a convenient entry point for those flying from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand or other parts of Malaysia. The airport is 25 km from the city centre and the convenient way to get there is by taxi. An alternative is to take Rapid KL bus U81 (destination: Subang Suria/Mah Sing) from Terminal Jalan Sultan Mohammad next to Pasar Seni LRT station, which goes past the airport. The fare is RM3 one way and takes approximately 40 min in clear traffic. It can take nearly 1hr 30min during peak rush hour. The airport is served by the following airlines:
- Berjaya Air is a domestic and regional airline, which focuses on resort and island destinations. It flies between Subang Airport and Langkawi, Pangkor Island, Penang, Redang Island, Tioman Island and internationally to Hua Hin, Thailand.
- Firefly is a Malaysia Airlines subsidiary that began operating from Subang in late 2007 and operates as a regional turboprop airline. Within Malaysia the airline flies between Subang and Alor Setar, Johor Bahru, Kerteh, Kota Bharu, Kuala Terengganu, Langkawi and Penang. Additionally, Firefly also operates international flights within the region between Subang and Indonesia – Batam, Medan, Pekanbaru; Thailand – Hat Yai, Koh Samui; and Singapore.
- Malindo Air is the latest airline to enter the Malaysian commercial aviation market and is a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Lion Air. The airline flies between Subang and Johor Bahru, Kota Bharu and Penang, with plans to expand further.
Buses are a cheap, comfortable and popular transport option for Malaysians, with services reaching virtually all corners of Peninsular Malaysia and also to Thailand and Singapore. So it is no wonder that Kuala Lumpur has several bus stations (stesen bas or hentian) to handle long distance bus services. Despite the complexity of the network there is some pattern to the madness, with buses departing from particular stations depending on the region they travel to or from. To top that off, some buses may arrive at other locations including Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, Bangsar LRT Station, Corus Hotel and the Malaysian Tourist Centre (MTC). Always confirm with the bus company where your bus will depart so that you do not miss your bus. In some cases you may need to exchange your ticket for a boarding pass, so try to arrive at the bus terminal 10–15 minutes before the departure time, although bus companies suggest 30 minutes.
- Pudu Sentral (formerly Hentian Puduraya), Jl Pudu (linked to Plaza Rakyat LRT Station). The most central bus station in Kuala Lumpur, serving northbound buses. Pudu got a major facelift and air-conditioning in 2011, and could now stand in for an airport. However, ticketing and information is still not centralized, so finding the next bus to your destination still requires a lot of walking around. Tickets to services departing from other stations are also available. Taxis are on the prowl around the station and can be pushy and may not use the meter. Always negotiate a price beforehand if you want a taxi or the alternative is to head to the nearby LRT station.
- Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), Jl Terminal Selatan (linked to Bandar Tasik Selatan Station). This gigantic and ultra-modern terminal serves southbound destinations, including Malacca, Johor Bharu and Singapore. Despite its less than central location it is extremely well connected by public transport and taxis. Three train services, KTM Komuter, Sri Petaling LRT and KLIA Transit call at this bus station, making it easy to reach from Kuala Lumpur and KLIA.
- Hentian Duta (Duta Bus Terminal), Persiaran Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin. A small bus station serving express northbound services. There are no direct public transport services to this station. The nearest bus stop is 500 m north-west of the station close to Federal Territory Mosque. The busses there serve KL Sentral. It is more convenient to hail a taxi though.
- Pekeliling Bus Terminal, Jl Tun Razak (near Titiwangsa LRT & Monorail stations). This terminal handles some bus services to the East Coast, including Taman Negara and Local bus services.
There are quite a few bus companies that arrive and depart from Kuala Lumpur. Below is a list of the major companies. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Transnasional ☎, +60 3 2070-3300 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 hr.
- Konsortium Bas Ekspres Semenanjung ☎ +60 3 2070 1321 has several buses daily to/from the Golden Mile complex in Singapore.
- Alisan Golden Coach Express, Hentian Pudu Raya, ☎ +60 3 2032 2273 have three buses every day which leave Kuala Lumpur to Hatyai, departure at 09:00, 22:00, and 22:30, ticket around RM45, 7-hr journey.
- StarMart Express +60 3 21431666 Leaves to Singapore from Bukit Bintang. Tickets available there. RM45 next to Berjaya Times Suare (Jalan Imbi, under the monorail station)
Travel by train to Kuala Lumpur
The government owned Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malayan Railway or KTM) operates intercity (antarabandar) diesel rail services throughout Peninsular Malaysia. Trains arriving in Kuala Lumpur call at KL Sentral, the modern transportation hub in Brickfields, just south of the city centre, and operate as far flung as Singapore, Hat Yai in Thailand and Kota Bharu in Peninsular Malaysia’s north-east. Train services are reasonably priced, and operate as both day and overnight trains with various class options available. Day trains include reclining and non-reclining seating options only, while overnight trains have two-berth private compartments and open plan bunk-bed berths with curtains (similar to Thai trains) for privacy. Seating options are also available for overnight trains.
The Electric Train Service (ETS), a subsidiary of KTM, is a daytime express train service that operates between Padang Besar, Perlis and Kuala Lumpur. ETS trains call at Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, the old main station, in addition to KL Sentral. The old Kuala Lumpur Station is served by KTM Komuter trains and nearby the Pasar Seni LRT Station on the Kelana Jaya line. If you need to connect to any other rail lines it would be recommended continuing on to KL Sentral. Taxi services are available at both stations, but you will find more at KL Sentral and can purchase a taxi coupon when there so that drivers cannot overcharge. See the Get Around section for more information.
Tickets for KTM and ETS trains can be purchased at the KTM Intercity ticket office on level two of KL Sentral or other stations which trains call at. You can also purchase your ticket online at the KTM e-booking site up to two months in advance, but remember to print out the e-ticket.
Belmond runs its luxury excursion train Eastern & Oriental Express two to three times per month between Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The price of a ticket matches the on-board extravaganza, starting at US$3,000.
Most important roads in Peninsular Malaysia lead to/from Kuala Lumpur. The city lies about midway along the North-South Expressway (Motorway) (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 is not by the sea, so it is not possible to get in directly by boat. The nearby Port Klang, about 40 km west of Kuala Lumpur, serves as the main port for this region. Ferries operate international services from Sumatra, Indonesia and a domestic service to Pulau Ketam. Cruise ships also call at Port Klang, usually on the way to other destinations in Asia, allowing for a day trip to Kuala Lumpur. For more information refer to the Port Klang article.
Kuala Lumpur’s ambitious public transport system is sufficiently developed to be fairly efficient and convenient, but much room for improvement lies in its integration. The city, like many developing cities, suffers from paralysing traffic jams periodically throughout the day. In the rush hours, consider combining various methods of transport.
Travel by train to Kuala Lumpur
Rail comes in six distinct flavours, all under the RapidKL network except for the KTM Komuter.
- LRT Kelana Jaya (useful for getting to the KLCC area and Chinatown)
- LRT Ampang and LRT Sri Petaling (these two lines follow the same track until diverging at Chan Sow Lin)
- KTM Komuter (Not of much use to tourists besides getting to Batu Caves or Mid Valley Mall)
- KL Monorail (Passes by many important areas, chiefly the Bukit Bintang shopping district)
- MRT Sungai Buloh – Kajang
All lines, with the exception of the Ampang/Sri Petaling LRT lines travel through Kuala Lumpur’s main transport hub, KL Sentral. (The Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT stops at Muzium Negara station which is physically linked to KL Sentral.) However to reach the Ampang/Sri Petaling lines from KL Sentral involves a simple trip on the Kelana Jaya LRT to Masjid Jamek station.
All announcements are made in Malay and English, whether automated or not.
The Touch ‘n Go card (RM10 at major stations, convenience stores e.g MyNews) can be used on all lines, including KLIA Express and KLIA Transit lines. The card works like an Oyster or Octopus card and is also used to pay for toll. It can be reloaded almost anywhere EXCEPT RapidKL ticket machines on all lines bar the MRT line (as of May 2017); look for a convenience store or a petrol station. There is a significant cashless fare discounted rate if one uses a cashless method of payment.
Tips and tricks
- The LRT lines have had various names in the past (Kelana Jaya line was the PUTRA line; Ampang line was the STAR line), don’t be surprised to see signage different from the names listed here.
- KL Monorail’s “KL Sentral” station is not that close to KL Sentral. The way between the two is signposted and generally has a steady stream of people you can follow. There is a bank of escalators leading up to a shopping mall, Nu Sentral at the side of the KL Sentral concourse nearest to the KLIA Transit entrance. Follow the signposts and the metal tactile marking on the floor until you reach an escalator. Descend one level, and the monorail station will be visible through the glass doors.
- The rapid transit trains (LRT, monorail and MRT) follow intervals that change with time of the day and day of the week. Line frequencies are typically 4-7 minutes on weekends, and 2-3 minutes at peak hours. Expect a slightly longer wait on the monorail. Service disruptions on rapid transit are relatively rare.
- Accessibility to the disabled varies between lines. The MRT line is fully disabled accessible, and even has facilities for the hearing impaired to pipe announcements through their hearing aids. The LRT Kelana Jaya and Ampang/Sri Petaling lines are mostly accessible to the blind and wheelchair-bound, though once out of the station it may be difficult getting around without an assistant. The KL Monorail line is not wheelchair friendly (but has tactile markings), but lifts are slowly being installed along the line. The BRT Sunway is also largely accessible. Accessibility for the disabled along the KTM Komuter lines vary with station, and should not be relied upon as a given.
- The system can take a while to get familiar with, due to sometimes illogical design decisions e.g. some interchanges. Don’t hesitate to ask a member of the station staff (most will be able to speak English decently to give directions) for directions, or a fellow commuter (those who are smartly dressed are most likely to speak English fluently). Signposts are your friend, they are normally extremely clear and are both in Malay and English.
Detailed information on the lines
- The MRT has one line, the Sungai Buloh – Kajang line, which runs from the suburbs of Sungai Buloh and passes by many affluent districts (e.g. Mutiara Damansara) before terminating at Kajang. There are interchange stations at Sungai Buloh (with KTM), Muzium Negara (with KTM, Kelana Jaya LRT, ERL, and KL Monorail – requires some walking through a pedestrian link to KL Sentral), Pasar Seni (with LRT Kelana Jaya) ,Bukit Bintang (with KL Monorail), Maluri (with LRT Ampang Line) and Kajang (KTM) .
- The LRT is a medium capacity metro system (although the letters LRT stand for Light Rail Transit) and consists of three lines.
The Ampang line and Sri Petaling line merge at Chan sow lin station and run on the same platform at all stations to Sentul Timur station. This line can be used for access to Chinatown and Pudu Sentral Bus Station at Plaza Rakyat station. There are relatively simple interchanges at Titiwangsa (monorail), Putra Heights (LRT Kelana Jaya), Hang Tuah (KL Monorail), Masjid Jamek (LRT Kelana Jaya). The interchanges at PWTC (KTM), Bandaraya (KTM) and Sultan Ismail (KL Monorail) require exiting the paid area of the station and walking a distance, in some instances a long distance with no escalators or lifts.
The Kelana Jaya line travels through several key tourist areas including Pasar Seni station for Chinatown and the central market, KLCC station for the Petronas Towers and Suria KLCC shopping centre. It also stops by the shopping and foodie areas of Subang Jaya, which are worth a stop. Additionally you can alight at Masjid Jamek station (this station can be confusing, please make sure of which direction you are heading in, which is indicated by terminus instead of compass direction) and transfer to the Ampang/Sri Petaling lines without leaving the ticketed area. Important interchange stations are at KL Sentral and Masjid Jamek.
- The KL Monorail is an entirely elevated line that loops through the Golden Triangle in a semi-circle. Use this line for access to Bukit Bintang, a major shopping area, or Bukit Nanas, for clubbing at Jalan P. Ramlee and the Petronas towers. Fares are a little more expensive than the LRT. As of 2017, the monorail gets extremely congested at peak hours, and an 8-12 minute wait for a train does happen occasionally. Bukit Nanas station is listed as an interchange with the LRT Kelana Jaya but be aware this entails a 200-m walk, but under a sheltered walkway. As of June 2017, the monorail line is running at lower frequencies due to technical problems – Bukit Bintang (the shopping district) can be reached on foot from KLCC via the KLCC-Bukit Bintang Pedestrian walkway, via the GoKL bus system and the Bukit Bintang MRT station.
- The KTM Komuter is a commuter train service and comprise of two lines that meet in the city centre and run out to the suburbs. The service is not as frequent or efficient as other rail in Kuala Lumpur and it is not odd for trains to be late either. Despite this the rolling stock is quite modern and fares are cheaper than the LRT and Monorail. The KTM Komuter is great for travel to Batu Caves and Midvalley Mega Mall.
- The Express Rail Link (ERL) runs between KL Sentral and Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) with 2 types of train services, KLIA Ekspres and KLIA transit. The KLIA Ekspres service runs non-stop between KL sentral and KLIA, taking 28 minutes, whilst the KLIA Transit service stops at Salak Tinggi, Putra Jaya/Cyberjaya and Bandar Tasik Selatan en route, taking 36 minutes. The fare costs RM55 one-way with no stops via the KLIA Ekspres as of June 2017.
In the past connectivity between the different lines was quite poor, but upgrades to the system have helped to integrate a few key stations along the LRT and Monorail lines without purchasing separate tickets. To transfer between the Kelana Jaya line and Ampang/Sri Petaling lines, alight at Masjid Jamek or Putra Heights (at the far end of both lines) . For transfers between the KL Monorail and Ampang/Sri Petaling lines then alight at either Hang Tuah or Titiwangsa stations. Beyond the above mentioned interchange stations, the only way to transfer between lines is to purchase separate ticket for each leg and potentially walk for some of the journey. To transfer between the MRT line and the monorail, alight at Bukit Bintang. To transfer between MRT and LRT Kelana Jaya, alight at Pasar Seni.
Double-decker KL Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing tour buses serve 42 notable places. There is free Wi-Fi on board. An information commentary is given through headphones. Tickets (valid for 24 or 48 hr) give unlimited use during their validity. Children under 5 ride free. The buses are scheduled every half hour but waits may be as long as two hours due to traffic jams, so try to maximize use of the service outside rush hours.
The free bus service Go KL in the Central Business District (CBD) with four circular bus routes. The Purple Line starts at Pasar Seni and travels to the shopping area of Bukit Bintang, where it links up with the Green Line looping around KLCC. The Red Line connects the North of CBD with the South, linking KL Sentral to Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman through the Chow Kit area. At Medan Mara it meets the Blue Line, which goes on from there to join the per-existing lines at Bukit Bintang . The buses get very crowded during peak hours, but are efficient and clearly signposted. There are announcements in Malay and English.
RapidKL buses are broadly divided in three categories (refer to the RapidKL website for more information):
- Bandar (B) routes are city centre shuttles,
- Utama (U) buses travel to outlying suburbs
- Tempatan (T) buses are feeder services for train stations.
For all three RapidKL routes, you can either buy zone-based single tickets (RM1 for Zone 1, up to RM3 for Zone 4) on board, or use a Touch ‘n Go card (sold on board – unclear if this still applies as of 2017). When using Touch ‘n Go, tap in once at the reader near the driver – you may need to hold the card for 2-3 seconds until it beeps) and tap at the reader near the middle doors when exiting or you will be charged the highest possible fare. BET (Bus Expressway Transit) services use the highways and cost a flat RM3.80. Buses run from 6AM-11PM or so, with no night services.
The BRT Sunway Line is an elevated bus rapid transit line ( which is part of the RapidKL network) which serves the township of Bandar Sunway, and is useful for visiting attractions like Sunway Lagoon and Sunway Pyramid. It interchanges with the LRT Kelana Jaya at USJ7 and the KTM Komuter network at Setia Jaya. Frequency is similar to that of the rapid transit networks.
Normal red and white taxis (RM3 first 2 km, then around RM0.90/km) and bright blue executive taxis (RM6 flagfall + a slightly higher per kilometre rate) are good options if you can get them to use the meter. There are also various small extra charges for radio call (RM2), baggage (RM1 per piece), etc.
Drivers are less likely to use the meter when demand exceeds supply, such as during the rush hour or when it rains. Prices then become negotiable (before setting off) and inflated (2-10 times the meter price). This is illegal but realistically the only thing you can do is walk away and find a different driver (by law they are required to use the meter). A cab hailed off the street is more likely to use the meter than one that stalks tourist spots. If stuck with a driver that won’t use the meter, negotiate hard: RM5 should cover most cross town trips of 15min or so, even with traffic. If you are staying in an expensive hotel, hide your affluence and give a nearby shopping mall as your destination instead.
After midnight, meter prices are increased by 50% (e.g. at 01:00, if the meter shows RM12, you pay RM12+6).
During rush hour it’s generally best to combine public transport with taxis.
A few popular places (notably both airports, KL Sentral, Menara KL and Sunway Pyramid Megamall) enforce a prepaid coupon systems, which generally work out more expensive than using the meter, but cheaper than bargaining. Taxis from Pavilion Shopping Mall’s taxi counter cost the meter with a RM2 extra charge.
Some taxi drivers will hang around near hotels offering tours similar to those offered by established companies. Some of these drivers are quite knowledgeable and you may end up with a specially tailored, private tour for less than the cost of an official tour. Know the going rates before driving a bargain!
If you get so off the beaten track that you need to call a cab, here are some telephone numbers:
- Comfort Cabs ☎ +60 3 6253-1313
- Sunlight Taxi Unicablink ☎ 1300 800 222 (www.sunlighttaxi.com)
- Public Cab ☎ +60 3 6259-2020
- Uptown Ace ☎ +60 3 9283-2333
- Keeganlam Executive Taxi services ☎ +60 17 663-2696
- Executive Taxi Tour Service ☎ +60 14 267-5934
Grab (the Southeast Asia equivalent to Uber) also operates in KL. Grab allows passengers to pay fares in cash, so you do not need to register a credit card.
Kuala Lumpur has good quality roads, but driving in the city can be a nightmare with massive traffic jams, a convoluted web of expressways and often-confusing road signage. If driving, be especially aware of sudden lane changes by cars and reckless motorcyclists who tend to weave in and out of traffic.
Do not park in the road in busy districts such as Bangsar or Bukit Bintang because other cars might block you by parking next to you in the 2nd or 3rd lane. Use covered car parks or park a bit off the beaten path, and then walk back.
Renting a car is an option for travelling in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia.
The old centre of Kuala Lumpur fairly compact and the old buildings in various state of repair are great for exploring on foot. Even plodding between the colonial area and the new glass and steel sector (see walking tour below) is enjoyable outside the hottest hours of 11:00-03:00. Major roads are well lit, making evening strolling undaunting and pleasant. Signs are clear and well placed and pavements are wide and uncluttered, but slippery in the rain. Shady tree-lined walkways provide shade on some of the larger roads. Pedestrian crossings are common and are generally respected by drivers. Jaywalking is illegal (on-the-spot fine: RM20/30 for tourists/locals if unlucky) but t is generally overlooked.
This circular walking tour (2-3 hr) starts in Chinatown and loops through the modern Golden Triangle, missing the historic buildings of the old centre:
- Start in Chinatown (Petaling Street)
- Head towards the vertically striped wedge of the Maybank building. Head along Jalan Pudu, passing to the left of Pudu Sentral bus station. After 800 m, turn on to Jalan Bukit Bintang at the Royale Bintang Hotel.
- Jalan Bukit Bintang is a major shopping street: stop for coffee at Bintang Walk, or check out the electronics mega-mall, Plaza Low Yat.
- When Bintang meets Jalan Sultan Ismail and the monorail, turn left, following the monorail.
- After 1 km of Sultan Ismail, turn right on to Jalan P. Ramlee. This lead to the Petronas Twin Towers. Be amazed!
- Head back down Jalan P. Ramlee
- Merge onto Jalan Raja Chulan near the KL Tower and head back to the Maybank building and Chinatown.
If you’re fortunate enough to do this walk on a typical Sunday afternoon you will find a calm and attractive city.
Travelers with disabilities
Like many cities in SE Asia, KL presents a great challenge for travelers with mobility impairments. Sidewalks are often in disrepair, curbs are high, and curb cuts are often missing or inadequate. Wheelchair users will frequently find their path of travel obstructed by poorly designed or narrow sidewalks, parked cars, motorcycles, fences, stairs, trees, etc., and will rarely be able to travel more than 50 meters without having to backtrack or divert to the road. In many areas of the city, it is virtually impossible to travel without an assistant. Crossing the road or having to wheel on the road (in case the sidewalk is obstructed) can be very dangerous, as many drivers do not expect, nor yield to, wheelchair users. You will occasionally find accessibility features like ramps or elevators obstructed or unserviceable. A notable exception are the KLCC and Bukit Bintang areas, where shopping malls and pedestrian areas are built to modern accessibility standards. Public buildings, hotels and malls provide an adequate supply of handicap bathrooms. Much of the rail system is inaccessible, most notably the monorail (which is being fitted with stair lifts). Some buses are equipped with ramps, but they are assigned haphazardly and do not run on a fixed schedule. Many locals will not be used to seeing travelers in wheelchairs, but will generally be helpful.