Kuala Lumpur (KL), the glittering, bustling, dizzying capital of Malaysia, is a feast for the senses. An early sign of this for travellers is at Kuala Lumpur International, where flights to KL land. This major hub is ultra modern but has a section of transplanted rain forest in its satellite building.
The city's architecture is a mix of old colonial buildings, Asian, Malay Islamic and modern of which the most sky scraping is the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin buildings in the world. To enjoy the view from the Skybridge on the 41st floor (at 170m) free, snap up one of the 1,300 timed tickets given out each day. The KL Tower offers fantastic views too, from 276m above ground level.
Down on the ground, KL is a mecca for shoppers. The Bukit Bintang area is where most shoppers go. Souvenir hunters head for Central Market, a great starting point for a wander through Chinatown (its heart is Petaling Street, home to bustling night markets) and Little India, a jumble of stalls selling brightly coloured saris and food stands offering Indian snacks.
For a brief respite from the city, Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens (Taman Tasik Perdana) is green and verdant with resident monkeys.
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Kuala Lumpur climate
KL’s equatorial climate is hot and humid throughout the year with lots of rain. Daytime temperatures are usually in the 30s (Celsius) and nights in the 20s. The relative humidity averages 90 per cent. Although rain is common, it is usually in the form of a quick shower. The exception is the monsoon season, from November through February, with torrential downpours and strong winds along the east coast of Malaysia. June and July usually have the least amount of rain.
When to fly to Kuala Lumpur
Malaysians crowd the city during school holidays in early April, early August, and mid-November to early January. The hotels will be full, so book your reservations well in advance.
With its year-round, uniform climate, KL does not have an off season. The closest you can get to a low season are the holiday weekends when many city dwellers head for the beaches.
Getting around Kuala Lumpur
Public transport and taxis are the way to go in Kuala Lumpur. The monorail and light rails are both fast and easy to figure out. Take the KL Monorail to get to the main shopping and hotel districts or the Putra LRT to get to Chinatown.
Taxis can be hailed or picked up at stands. Note that calling for a taxi will cost you a surcharge. There is also a surcharge for late-night and early-morning trips. Don’t worry about finding a taxi; there are tons, unless it’s rush hour or raining. It’s smart to make sure your driver is clear on your destination, that he knows how to get there and that the meter is turned on.
Driving in Kuala Lumpur is not recommended. It’s amazing how much farther away your destination will seem after walking in Kuala Lumpur’s heat and humidity – consider distance before taking a stroll. Traffic will make your trip even slower and crossing the street can scare years off your life. Follow a group of pedestrians and cross with them if you can. Traffic is so congested that renting a car is a waste of time. There isn’t any space on the road and traffic jams slow rush hour to a crawl.
Kuala Lumpur insider information
- Petronas Towers isn’t just a destination for sightseeing during the day. From dusk until 10pm the Towers are lit up and the fountain at the bottom reflects the lights of the buildings around. It’s extremely popular with families and romantic couples…
- Batu Caves is easily reached from KL. The limestone caves are filled with statues to Hindu deities, as well as five temples. Climb 272 steps to reach the largest cave. If the effort is too much, take frequent pauses along the way to play with the many monkeys.
- For shopping or just people-watching, head to Central Market. The market is housed in a splendid refurbished building and you can buy any type of souvenir here, especially arts and crafts. There are also restaurants and an English pub on the ground floor. Take a seat and you’re sure to catch some sort of performance – from a cultural offering on the open air stage, to watching the portrait artists at work…
- You can readily eat a variety of different cuisines in KL. Most popular is Malay, Chinese and Indian. Malay specialities include satay (skewered, barbecued meat), noodles and rice. Much of the food is cooked with lemon grass or kaffir lime leaves.
- There are lots of gardens and parks within the city, for a walk on a sunny day. Try the butterfly park, orchid garden, Kuala Lumpur bird park, hibiscus garden, deer park or the Asean sculpture garden.
- KL was the starting point for the Hash House Harriers, “The Drinking Club with a Running Problem”. Started in the city in 1938 by British colonials who were concerned about their weight, hash harrying still takes place today. It is similar to a fun run; competitors race through the jungle chasing a series of markers.