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Kuala Lumpur Guide
Need to know
From its humble beginnings as a tin mining outpost, Kuala Lumpur has become a bustling metropolis with alpha city status. The city’s traditional Malay, Chinese and Indian heritage have transformed Kuala Lumpur into the melting pot of cultures and cuisines that many people think of today. Kuala Lumpur’s skyline is an instantly recognisable mix of colourful mosques and temples, ultra-modern skyscrapers, and somewhat incongruous palm trees. It’s a city that revolves around food, business and commerce, and which delights all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons.
Kuala Lumpur is located in West Malaysia, roughly 40 km from the coast. The city is nestled in a valley, shielded from the east by the vast Titiwangsa Mountains. Here, just inland of the bustling capital city, you’ll find hectares upon hectares of rainforests and nature reserves. At Lentang Forest Recreational Park, you can follow hiking trails, swim under waterfalls, and immerse yourself in nature by staying at the campgrounds. Cycle along the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur and discover traditional villages (kampong) among the lush scenery.
These days, Kuala Lumpur’s skyscrapers seem far more famous than their architectural predecessors. See a side of Kuala Lumpur often forgotten by visiting the grand colonial buildings of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building (the former offices of the British colonial administration) and the old Kuala Lumpur Railway station. There aren’t many things in Kuala Lumpur that would be considered ‘must-see’ attractions; but with tranquil parks, supersized shopping malls, historic monuments, food stalls, local markets and a healthy amount of nightlife, the city’s true appeal lies in simply wandering and discovering the best parts for yourself.
Central Kuala Lumpur is quite compact and easy enough to navigate on foot. However, longer distances and hotter days can quickly make public transport the only viable option for tourists. Kuala Lumpur has a fairly comprehensive, if somewhat underdeveloped, public transport system. The four types of rail services (LRT, KTM Komuter, ERL and monorail) are pleasingly cheap, but not always well connected. Kuala Lumpur also has a number of public and privately run bus services. 2012 saw the launch of ‘Go KL’, an excellent public transport initiative which brought four free-to-ride bus loops (‘Go Relax’, ‘Go Work’, ‘Go Sightsee’ and ‘Go Shopping’) to the CBD. Taxis in Kuala Lumpur are also cheap by western standards, but you should always ensure that your driver uses the meter. Those staying for a few days or more should consider getting a prepaid MyRapid or Touch ‘n Go card for easier access to public transit services.
Kuala Lumpur is characterised by its tropical climate, resulting in warm, humid days all year round. The city receives a decent amount of rain, especially around November and April, so sun-chasers are advised to visit during summer, when conditions are driest. Be aware that these dry conditions do come bundled with peak season prices.
Kuala Lumpur also experiences busy periods around Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Aidilfitri (the end of Ramadan), so be mindful of these dates before you travel.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Kuala Lumpur International Airport is located about 60 km from Kuala Lumpur. Flights travel to Kuala Lumpur International Airport from a wide range of locations, including Sydney, Bangkok, Dubai, London, Tokyo and Delhi. A bus or taxi from the airport should take about 45 minutes to reach the centre of Kuala Lumpur.