The Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur is a bit less known and popular with backpackers than the neighboring cities of Bangkok or Singapore, but a visit to the metropolis is worth it. Kuala Lumpur is an interesting melting pot of different cultures, religions and ethnic groups – there is a lot to see and to discover. In addition, Kuala Lumpur is generally a little quieter and more organized than other Southeast Asian metropolises, also there aren’t as many tourists. Kuala Lumpur (and Malaysia in general) is therefore great as a starting point to a Southeast Asia trip, since the culture shock is not quite as big as in some other places. Here I’ll tell you everything about your Kuala Lumpur backpacking adventure including the best places to visit in KL and important travel tips for backpacking around Kuala Lumpur. Mostly due to its favorable location, most travelers in Southeast Asia sooner or later pass Kuala Lumpur. The large airport is a hub for various regions of Southeast Asia and also the center of the cheap airline Air Asia, which is why you can access KL with cheap flights from most Asian destinations. This makes Kuala Lumpur also perfect for a short city getaway or even a visa run from one of the neighboring countries.
Kuala Lumpur Backpacking: Places you have to Visit!
Let me tell you more about the best places and highlights you should visit on your backpacking journey in Kuala Lumpur!
The world-famous Batu Caves
The Batu Caves are probably – next to the Petrona Towers – Kuala Lumpur’s most famous attractions. These are located just outside the city, but are easily accessible by public transport. Here you will find a huge cave system with several temples built in and you can watch the believers praying and holding ceremonies. In front of the stairs to the caves you see the famous and very large gold statue and you have to climb countless steps before entering the caves. On the way you will also be able to see some monkeys. A visit to the Batu Caves should not be missed when backpacking in Kuala Lumpur
Visitng the Petrona Towers when backpacking Kuala Lumpur
The twin towers are the landmark of Kuala Lumpur and an important part of the skyline. For the ticket price of just under 20 € you can go up to the Observation Desk and also cross the bridge between the two towers. You can buy tickets in advance, or directly on site (though you may have to wait a bit). Of course it is a great experience to see this highlight of Kuala Lumpur from up close. However, you must be aware that despite the cool view of KL, the skyline seems incomplete, as you are standing on the twin towers and can not see them anymore.
Explore the KLCC Park
Directly behind the Petrona Towers and the shopping mall on the ground of the towers is the large KLCC Park. Here you can recover from the stress of the big city, watch the locals enjoy the culture and atmosphere in Malaysia. The park is well maintained, clean, there are food stalls and water pools and generally the park is well visited and full of life. In addition, you get great views of the Petrona Towers and you can see the famous towers from different angles.
The KLCC Park
Visit the KL Tower (Menara Kuala Lumpur)
This Kuala Lumpur attraction offers the best views of the city skyline. In contrast to the view from the Petrona Towers, you can also see the twin towers in the from here. You have a 360 ° view from the viewing platform and can choose between the Observation Desk (about 10 €) and the Open Deck (about 21 €) – depending on which view you want. I definitely recommend a visit to the KL Tower and the view of Kuala Lumpur is worth seeing.
Walk around Chinatown (Petaling Street)
As mentioned above, Kuala Lumpur is generally less chaotic than other Southeast Asian capitals. However, if you miss the chaos, the smells, the night markets and the crowds which are so typical of Southeast Asia, you should stroll through KL’s Chinatown. Especially at night, there is a lot to discover and see. You can try the street food and enjoy the hectic atmosphere.
Visit Masjid Negara – the national mosque
This is probably the most important mosque in Kuala Lumpur (or even in the country). Malaysia is mostly Muslim and here you can learn more about the religion. Especially since the entry is free, you should not miss this highlight in Kuala Lumpur. Before entrance, your knees and shoulders must be covered and there are very interesting capes offered that tourists can wear when visiting the Masjid Negara Mosque. Note, however, that tourists are not allowed to enter the mosque during prayer times and you should have a look when prayers take place to avoid this time for your visit.
Enjoy a drink at the Helipad Bar Kuala Lumpur
The Helipad Bar in Kuala Lumpur certainly can not be missed among the best Kuala Lumpur attractions. While this platform is used as a helicopter landing pad during the day, it is converted into a bar in the evening with plastic tables and stunnig views. Here you have a wonderful and free view over the city, especially at sunset you should head there for a drink. The helipad opens at 6 pm and you have to buy a drink in the (closed) room in the bar a level below before you can enter the helipad platform and enjoy the view. Do not forget your camera!
Explore the beautiful Merdeka Square
This beautiful square is a symbol of Malaysia’s independence and is considered particularly interesting as it also houses the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery. In this museum you can learn a lot more about Kuala Lumpur’s history and sights and it’s well worth a visit.
Spend an evening in the Bukit Bintang area
This is the Arabian nightlife district of Kuala Lumpur, which is worth a visit especially in the evening. Walk the streets, meet the locals, visit the countless bars and restaurants. You’ll have fun and a cool experience!
Important travel tips for backpacking Kuala Lumpur
In the following, I will give you some important tips and information for your backpacking adventure in Kuala Lumpur.
How do I get in and out of Kuala Lumpur?
Reaching Kuala Lumpur and therefore Malaysia is very easy on your backpacking trip. The airport in Kuala Lumpur is one of the biggest and most connected hubs in Asia and there are plenty of flights which will take you to the city. You can fly for very little money from other destinations in Asia, such as Bangkok or Bali, to Kuala Lumpur. There are also cheap flights to many other countries in Europe and other parts of the world.
If you’ll be visiting Singapore, you can also easily take a bus to Kuala Lumpur and cross overland into Malaysia. Getting by public transport from Thailand to Malaysia is also possible, but a long journey and the border region between the country is has had some safety issues in the past. In this case, I’d recommend taking a flight to save time and hassle.
Do I need a visa for Kuala Lumpur?
This depends on your nationalities, but many nations (including Germans) can easily visit Malaysia without a visa. When I entered the country, I got my passport stamped – that’s it! Very easy and less complicated than in other Asian countries where you need to apply for a visa in advance. However, make sure to check the immigration rules for your nationality before planning a trip.
Where should I stay in Kuala Lumpur?
KL is a backpacking hotspot and therefore, there are plenty of good and affordable hostels in the city.
What else is there to see and explore for backpackers in Malaysia?
You certainly shouldn’t only visit Kuala Lumpur, but also explore other regions in Malaysia when backpacking the country. Head to the beautiful Cameron Highlands for some hiking, explore the food scene and street art in Penang, Georgetown and go diving on the Perhentian Islands. There’s much to do and to see! You can even got a short flight to Borneo – the island which is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and the kingdom of Brunei.
Is backpacking Kuala Lumpur expensive? What’s a good budget?
In my experience, Kuala Lumpur is a great backpacking location and you can explore the city on a low budget. However, I found Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia not as dirt cheap as e.g. Vietnam or Thailand, but very close to it. Keep in mind that alcohol will cost you much more than in other Southeast Asian destinations, since the country is mainly Muslim and there are high taxes on alcoholic drinks.
How’s the culture in Kuala Lumpur?
What I liked most about Kuala Lumpur is that the city and its culture is different to Bangkok, Hanoi or Saigon. KL and Malaysia is predominantly Muslim, but in fact, KL is a melting pot of different influences. You will see this in religion, food and culture. There are mosques, churches and temples in the city which makes Kuala Lumpur a diverse place for backpackers to visit.
How’s the nightlife in Kuala Lumpur?
Malaysia is not known as a huge party destination, mainly since alcohol is heavily taxed and therefore pretty expensive. However, there are still plenty of bars and also clubs in the city where you can have a few drinks and a fun night out. If you’re looking for a party holiday, I’d rather stick with Bangkok or Vietnam though.
Is Kuala Lumpur safe?
Yes, Kuala Lumpur is a very safe destination to visit and there’s not much crime targeting foreigners (besides the classic tourist scams or pickpockets). KL is generally pretty organized and a bit more developed than e.g. Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. Therefore, it’s easy and safe to explore the city, even if you’re backpacking solo.
What’s the best season to visit Kuala Lumpur?
Malaysia has a varied climate and in the end, it depends on the area of the country you’d like to visit. However, keep in mind that KL has the opposite climate than Thailand and surroundings. In Kuala Lumpur, there’s a rainy season in the winter (which is the dry season in Thailand) and the best time to visit the city would be summer (which is rainy season in Thailand). A bit confusing, but what you should keep in mind in a nutshell is that Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam have a similar climate (dry winters and wet summers) and Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have the (opposite) climate (wet winters, dry summers).
Conclusion about Kuala Lumpur backpacking
I’m sure you’ll have a great time when backpacking Kuala Lumpur and you should certainly stay at least 2-3 days in the city to experience the capital of Malaysia properly. Although tKL may not have world-famous attractions like other Asian cities, Kuala Lumpur is a great place to explore and since visiting the city is fairly easy, it is also a good spot for first-time backpackers in Asia. Have fun in Kuala Lumpur!
Have you already been to KL? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments!
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