Difference between revisions of "Kuala Lumpur"
Revision as of 10:31, 8 September 2013
Literally meaning "muddy river confluence" in Malay, Kuala Lumpur has grown from a small sleepy Chinese tin-mining village to a bustling metropolis of around 6.5 million (city-proper population of 1.8 million) in just 150 years. A cultural melting pot with some of the world's cheapest 5-star hotels, cheap, great shopping, even better food and some of nature's wonders in just an hour away, this dynamic city has much to offer for every visitor.
Kuala Lumpur is a sprawling city and its residential suburbs seem to go on forever. The city proper, is a Federal Territory has an area of 243 km2 (94 sq mi) which consists of the city center and its surrounding urban areas, managed by the KL City Hall. It also merges with the adjacent satellite cities of Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Klang, Port Klang, Ampang, Selayang/Rawang, Kajang, Puchong, and Sepang, all in the state of Selangor, which enclaves KL, and all with their separate local authorities, creating a huge metropolis called Greater Kuala Lumpur, or more commonly, Klang Valley. The city can be divided into the following areas, each of which offers a particular attraction or activity.
This district also merges into the northern part of Petaling Jaya.
Founded only in 1857 as a tin mining outpost, Kuala Lumpur is fairly new as far as Malaysian cities go and lacks the rich history of George Town or Malacca. After rough early years marked by gang fighting, Kuala Lumpur started to prosper and was made capital of the Federated Malay States in 1896. Malaysia'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. The economic boom of the 1990s brought KL the standard trappings of a modern city, bristling with skyscrapers and modern transportation systems. Like most of Malaysia's towns and cities, the Chinese, traditionally involved in trade and mining, forms the majority of the population with about 55% of Kuala Lumpur's population of Malaysian Chinese descent. This the Malays, though the majority in the country, populate the rural areas as they were an agrarian society. Indians were either estate workers or traders too, and populated the towns and rural areas equally. However, mass immigration of all races to KL, Malaysia's primary city has made the racial composition of the city more or less balanced.
Malaysia's transportation systems are, by regional standards, pretty well functioning. 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 International Airport (KLIA)
All scheduled flights, domestic and international, arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport  (IATA: KUL ICAO: WMKK), about 50 km south of the city, in the Sepang district of Selangor. The US$2.5bil glass and steel structure was inaugurated in 1998 and has been ranked as one of the world's top airports. It superseded the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah International Airport in Subang, which is now only used for charter and turboprop flights. Over 50 airlines call at KLIA.
The Main Terminal is what gives KL its world class airport status. The Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) opened in March 2006, and is used by AirAsia , Tiger Airways , and Cebu Pacific . Though this terminal is across the runway from the Main Terminal Building, a trip between the two involves bussing for 20km (RM2.50). From the Main Terminal Building, these buses depart from the Bus Terminal on the Ground Floor of the Car Park C building. At the LCCT, they can be found at the bus bays in front of the terminal. From the KLIA Ekspres train station, head to Level 2 and follow the signs to Car Park C and the Bus Station.
In the Main Terminal, unscrupulous taxi drivers pretending to be customer service staff may try to steer tourists to much more expensive mini-buses or taxis and try to charge RM90 for them.
A gigantic new LCC Terminal is being built close to the Main Terminal and will be called "KLIA2", was due for completion in 2012, now postponed to May 2014. All operations from the former LCCT will be moved to the new terminal. It will also be linked to the KLIA Ekspres fast train from KL Sentral Terminal in the city centre.
Transfers - Main Terminal
The drivers that hang around the airport and KL Sentral will try and scam you. If anyone approaches you asking you where you want to go, do not trust them: they will be shameless in inflating the price for you and lying about the unavailability of other options.
If you have your own wheels, KLIA is well connected to Peninsular Malaysia's expressway network. The airport is directly linked with the North South Expressway Central Link (known by its Malay abbreviation "Elite") about 70 km or nearly 1 hr away from Kuala Lumpur city centre. Exit the expressway at KLIA interchange for both the Main Terminal and LCCT.
Transfers - Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT)
By bus: Several bus operators run services to KL and other cities from the bus stands outside the terminal.
The Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (IATA: SZB) (ICAO: WMSA), more commonly referred to as the Subang Airport, was the country's main international airport until KLIA was opened in 1998. As it is much nearer to the city centre and less crowded than the newer KLIA, it can make a convenient entry point for those flying from Singapore or other parts of Malaysia. After the opening of KLIA, it was designated for turboprop aircraft and is currently served by two airlines.
Subang Airport's Terminal 1 has been demolished. The Immigration Department utilise Terminal 2 for the issue of passports and local documentation. Getting there/away: The airport is 25 km from the city centre and the best way to get there is by taxi. Rapid KL bus U81 (destination Mah Sing and Pekan Subang) from the Sultan Mohd Bus Hub next to the Pasar Seni LRT station goes past the airport. The fare is RM3.00 one way and takes approximately 40 min in clear traffic. It can take nearly 1 hr and 30 min during peak rush hour.
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 has several bus stations or terminals/terminuses/termini(Malay: stesen bas or hentian) which handle long distance express bus services; many destinations are served by more than one terminal. Note that usually you will need to exchange your ticket for a 'boarding pass' before boarding the bus, so it is advised to arrive at the bus terminal 10-15 minutes before the departure time (they say 30 minutes, but that is not necessary).
Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS, Southern Integrated Terminal)
The main place for south-bound buses (i.e. towards Malacca, Johor Bharu and Singapore) is the gigantic & ultra-modern TBS in Selangor. TBS is in Bandar Tasik Selatan and is served by 3 train lines - KLIA Transit, the KTM Komuter Rawang-Seremban line, and the Sri Petaling LRT line.
The most central place for buses is Pudu Sentral (formerly Puduraya Bus Station). The station has quite bad navigation, after arriving by escalator from main street take stairs or elevator one floor above, where you will end up at toilets booth, from here cross parking lot towards east and you will reach very well hidden ticket counters. Especially on this floor you will meet very annoying ticket sellers following you, just ignore them, they are not dangerous, just annoying. Access to platforms is from floor with escalators, doors to platforms are not automatic, you must press button, so don't wait for it. If you have problems with breathing polluted air it's worth considering bringing face mask, since you will wait then in bus for long time to depart in underground level full of air polluted with bus engines which can make you little bit dizzy (it's the worst air you will experience anywhere in Malaysia). The nearest LRT station is Plaza Rakyat (Ampang and Sri Petaling Lines).
Most East Coast services use this terminal which is in the northern part of the city centre on Jalan Putra near PWTC LRT station (Ampang and Sri Petaling Lines) and Putra KTM Komuter station. Chow Kit monorail station is a 15 min walk away.
Many north-bound Transnasional  express buses use this terminal which is located a distance to the west of the city centre on Jalan Duta. The only convenient access is by taxi.
Kuala Lumpur Old Railway Station
The impressive old station (now just a KTM Komuter stop) is also a bus terminal. Rapid KL City Shuttle bus Nos. 109, 115 as stop here. Plusliner luxury services (under the brand names "Nice" and "Platinum Service") are based here; destinations include Penang, Johor Bahru, Singapore and Hat Yai in Thailand.
Most other operators have banded together in one large shared booking portal Bus Online Ticket . The boarding locations are at various places like Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) / (Southern Integrated Terminal), Hentian Puduraya, Berjaya Time Squares.
Pekeliling Bus Terminal is on Jalan Tun Razak to the north of the city centre, and handles local bus services to some Pahang destinations like Genting Highlands, Bentong, Raub and Temerloh. Access: Titiwangsa station is within walking distance. Rapid KL City Shuttle No. B101, B102, B103, B104, B109. Deluxe long-distance buses leave from all over the place:
KTM's intercity and international trains arrive at KL Sentral  railway station: a large, modern transport hub located (despite the name) a fair distance to the south of the city centre. There are day and overnight trains to places as far flung as Singapore, Hat Yai in Thailand and Kota Bharu in Malaysia's north-east. Overnight trains are very reasonably priced and have two classes of sleeper accommodation (two-berth compartments and open sections, similar to Thai trains) both of which provide a comfortable night's sleep. Timetables and seat availability information is available online. The ETS express trains to Ipoh also stop at Kuala Lumpur's architecturally impressive and more convenient old station, Kuala Lumpur Railway Station near Merdaka Square and Pasar Seni LRT station.
Both old and Sentral stations are on the Kelana Jaya LRT line and are served by KTM Komuter trains. KL Sentral is also connected to the KL Monorail. A RM10 taxi coupon should be enough to get to most destinations in the city centre by taxi from KL Sentral. Taxi drivers outside the station are unlikely to be honest. Various services are available at KL Sentral, including showers (RM5 for shower only, RM15 for shower plus towel and toiletries) and baggage check in for certain airlines' customers.
Kuala Lumpur is not located by the sea. However, there are ferry connections to/from Sumatra (Indonesia) at Port Klang, about 40 km west of Kuala Lumpur. See the Port Klang article for details on how to get there.
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. For example: soar over traffic jams by monorail then finish the journey by taxi.
Urban rail comes in four distinct flavours, which are not always fully connected:
Fares are cheap (from RM1). If it rains, you might get wet when transferring between lines. From 2012, connectivity between different LRT lines has improved a lot, passengers just need to purchase a single ticket for transferring between LRT and monorail lines or inside LRT system. A notable exception are the KTM Komuter lines, a separate ticket is still required for these lines. For buying LRT tickets you must use vending machine which takes maximum RM5 banknotes, worker in the booth will not sell you ticket, he will only change your banknotes to lower value and you have to use vending machine again, so be prepared with smaller denominations.
The Touch 'n Go  card (RM10 at major stations) can be used on all lines except the airport express. Photo ID is required to buy the card and it can only be bought on weekdays and part of Saturday. Concession prepaid cards are available but require proof of qualification.
Some notable LRT stations:
A few quirks:
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 48hrs) 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.
Two new FREE bus services (i.e. GOKL City Bus)started 1st September 2012. The purple bus service starts at Pasar Seni and travels to the shopping area of Bukit Bintang where it links up with the green bus service that loops around KLCC. 
RapidKL  operates a cheap and comprehensive public bus network in and around Kuala Lumpur, but low frequencies (2-3 per hour on most routes) and the near-total lack of signs makes this a poor option for the casual visitor. The buses themselves have clear destination information; so if you happen upon one heading in the right direction, jump on board - though be prepared for cramped waits in rush hour traffic. For those (few) attractions best visited by bus, specific bus information is given at each place of interest on this page. If you do venture on board a RapidKL bus, it's worth nothing that these buses are broadly divided in three categories:
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 (not sold on board). In addition, Ekspres (E) services use the highways and cost a flat RM3.80. Buses run from 6AM-11PM or so, with no night services.
Normal red and white taxis (RM3 first 1km, then RM1/km) and bright blue executive taxis (RM6 first 1km, then RM2/km) are good options if you can get them to use the meter. There are also various small surcharges for radio call (RM2), baggage (RM1 per piece), etc.
The city's rail coverage is good enough so that you shouldn't take a taxi to most hotels and tourist hotspots. But, if you must take a taxi, expect many drivers to refuse to use the meter, particularly during rush hour or when it rains. Prices then become negotiable (before setting off) and inflated (2-10 times the meter price). Although this is illegal, the only realistic thing you can do is walk away and find a different driver. A cab hailed off the street is more likely to use the meter than one that stalks tourist spots or parked.
If stuck with a driver that won't use the meter, negotiate hard: RM10 should cover most cross town trips of 15 min or so, even with traffic. If staying in an expensive hotel, hide your affluence and give a nearby shopping mall as your destination instead. If you have lots of bags, try not to let him see it during negotiations. Malay drivers are generally more inclined to use the meter than Chinese or Indian ones.
Avoid going to a taxi stand and bringing a sheet of paper with your destination written down with the intention of showing it to the driver; you will have four or five of the drivers congregate and pass around your written address. They are most certainly discussing the best way to charge you an inflated price. Have your destination memorised or, even better, hail a taxi and avoid taxi stands.
Midnight surcharge is applicable on pickups 00:01-05:59. This surcharge means meter prices are increased by 50% (e.g. at 01:00, if the meter shows RM12, you should 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 surcharge.
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!
Booking of taxis can also be done via an app called "Easy Taxi", a free taxi booking app. Drivers are certified safe and all will use taxi-meters. The app will also allow you to call the driver directly, with the cool bonus of tracking him real-time on a map.
If you don't have a smart phone at hand, here are some telephone numbers to book taxies:
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 oft-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 at the road of busy districts such as Bangsar or Bukit Bintang because other cars might lock you in 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 11:00-15:00.
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 technically illegal but overlooked (on-the-spot fine: RM 20/30 for tourists/locals if unlucky).
This circular walking tour (2-3 hrs) starts in Chinatown and loops through the modern Golden Triangle, missing the historic buildings of the old centre:
If you're fortunate enough to do this walk on a typical Sunday afternoon you will find a calm and attractive city.
Like many cities in SE Asia, KL presents a great challenge for travellers with mobility impairments. Pavements 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 (poorly designed or narrow sidewalks, parked cars, motorcycles, fences, stairs, trees, etc), and will rarely be able to travel more than 50 metres 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 pavement is obstructed) can be very dangerous, as many drivers neither expect nor yield to wheelchair users. You will occasionally find accessibility features like ramps or elevators obstructed or unserviceable. A notable exception are the 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 toillets. Much of the rail system is inaccessible, most notably the monorail (which is in the process of being fitted with stair lifts, but is currently off limits). 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 people in wheelchairs, but will be generally helpful.
As expected of Malaysia's capital, the national language, Bahasa Malaysia, is almost universally spoken and understood.
However, Kuala Lumpur, as Malaysia's main economic centre, is also home to Malaysians of different backgrounds and ethnicities, so unsurprisingly, many other languages are commonly heard as well. The ethnic Chinese form a slight majority in KL (as they do in many of Malaysia's larger cities), and Cantonese serves as the lingua franca of KL's Chinese community. Other Chinese dialects, such as Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka are also spoken by smaller numbers, but even native speakers of those dialects usually speak Cantonese as well. Ethnic Indians, mostly of Tamil descent, are also plentiful, so how about ordering your delicious curry in their language?
In reality, despite (or perhaps because of) an official policy to learn Bahasa Malaysia on almost all levels in the primary & secondary education, many non-Malays aren't appreciative of speaking the language and get along with each other mainly in English, which is great for visitors. English is widely spoken in Kuala Lumpur, and foreigners will generally not have a problem getting by with English though some locals might have trouble understanding you if you speak in a heavy accent. Mandarin, while no-one's first language, is also widely taught and understood among the Chinese community.
Kuala Lumpur is short on must-see attractions: beyond the Petronas Twin Towers, the real joy lies in wandering randomly, seeing, shopping and eating your way through it.
KL hosts an amazing variety of architectural delights. The grandest old British colonial buildings lie in the city centre and include the former offices of the Colonial Secretariat (now the Sultan Abdul Samad Building) on Merdeka Square and the old Kuala Lumpur Railway station. They blend themes from the architecture of Britain and North Africa. On Merdeka Square's west side, looking like a rejected transplant straight from Stratford-upon-Avon is the Royal Selangor Club. Near Merdeka Square is Masjid Jamek, a charming Moorish-style mosque set at a confluence on the Klang River. The National Mosque, Masjid Negara, (1965) celebrates the bold ambitions of the newly independent Malaysia. The National Monument in the pretty Lake Gardens is inspired by the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Also in the lake gardens is Carcosa Seri Negara, the former residence of the British High Commissioner, which now houses an upmarket hotel and colonial-style tea rooms. While some buildings in the high-rise Golden Triangle, such as the KL Tower, are uninspired copies of other famous structures, the Petronas Twin Towers are truly marvelous.
Within the city centre is also the fascinating narrow streets of Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur's traditional commercial district, with its many Chinese shops and places to eat.
KL is hot, humid and sometimes crowded, so schedule some cooling off in air-conditioned shopping malls or restaurants. You may find that most attractions are only crowded on weekends and holidays and are otherwise deserted on weekdays.
See the respective district pages for more details.
Other activities include usual urban sports such as golfing, cycling, running, jogging and horse riding. If you’re into rock climbing, the Batu Caves in the Northern suburbs is popular. However given Malaysia's stunning terrain, you’re better off heading to other places for anything more strenuous or challenging.
Several good theatres and performance halls have emerged as part of Malaysia's drive to encourage greater cultural expression. These include the National Theatre (Istana Budaya) and the KL Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) in the northern part of the city, the KL Philharmonic in the Twin Towers, and the Actors Studio at Lot 10.
Leading museums in the city centre are the National Museum, which covers the region's history, and the well-regarded Islamic Arts Museum, which houses a small but captivating collection.
Pampering and spas can be found in several five-star hotels and independent centres in the Golden Triangle. There's also nail parlours and beauty salons, which are generally good value, there's also high-end ones offering similar services for a premium. Reflexology and foot massage places are everywhere, especially in Bukit Bintang in the Golden Triangle and in Chinatown.
Kuala Lumpur also has many theme parks around the city and in the surrounding cities. The most famous of these parks is Sunway Lagoon in the neighbouring city of Subang Jaya. The theme park has rides, a huge waterpark, an extreme park for adventure junkies, a scream park for those wanting a good scare, and a petting zoo for children. Sunway Lagoon is a 40 minute drive from central Kuala Lumpur in good traffic and can be reached by bus or taxi. You can also watch the local football match at the KLFA Stadium in Cheras. Kuala Lumpur FA is a football team based in Kuala Lumpur and currently plays in the top divison of football in Malaysia. the Malaysia Super League. Match schedule and fixture can be seen at the KLFA website.
Skyscraper Gazing - glass and steel abound, but only one (rather a pair) shine. However, the view from the KL Tower is cheaper and better than that from the Twin Towers.
While KL is more of a concrete jungle compared to other parts of the country, there are some natural gems that are accessible by public transport. Among them are: FRIM Forest Reserve: You can get to FRIM via KTM Komuter. Stop at Kepong and grab a short taxi ride. The hikes are easy and you can go up a canopy walkway for RM5 to get a good view of KL on a clear day. There is a nice tea house in the FRIM compound where you can sample various types of local teas and snacks. Get there early as it is more likely to rain later in the day. Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve : Located close to KL Tower, this urban jungle is a good respite from the city heat. The forest provides for an easy trek that you can enjoy on your own; but the many specimens are likely more appreciated through guided tours which are free and can be arranged from KL Tower. Nature Escapes Malaysia  is a good website for more details on natural trails located within or a short drive away from KL.
Near the KL Convention Centre is the Aquaria KLCC which contains some 5,000 varieties of tropical fish.
If you are taking an extended trip consider spending a week or more volunteering.
Shopping in Kuala Lumpur is one of travel's greatest pleasures! Kuala Lumpur alone has 66 shopping malls and it is the retail and fashion hub for Malaysia. Goods are available in every price bracket.
Suria KLCC is one of Malaysia's premier shopping destinations due to its location beneath the Petronas Twin Towers. Kuala Lumpur's premier shopping district, the Bukit Bintang area in the Golden Triangle, resembles Tokyo's Ginza, New York's Fifth Avenue and Singapore's Orchard Road and has the highest concentration of shopping outlets in Kuala Lumpur, which cater to varying budgets. Bukit Bintang, which is part of the Kuala Lumpur's Golden Triangle, spans over 3 roads, namely Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Imbi and Jalan Sultan Ismail. It houses various cafes, alfresco (open air) dining outlets and shopping complexes such as Berjaya Plaza, Berjaya Times Square, Bukit Bintang Plaza, Imbi Plaza, Kuala Lumpur Plaza, Lot 10, Low Yat Plaza, Pavilion KL, Starhill Plaza and Sungei Wang Plaza. Pavilion Kuala Lumpur is a recent addition to the cluster of shopping malls in this area and houses a wide range of international retail brands in an ultra-modern complex. Fans of electronic gadgets would delight in the multitude of choices at Low Yat Plaza, whilst shoppers hunting for the latest in affordable Asian style should definitely check out Berjaya Times Square and Bukit Bintang / Sungei Wang Plaza. It is also the location of the largest single department store in Malaysia, SOGO Kuala Lumpur which is located at a landmark site on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, one of the best known shopping streets for locals in Kuala Lumpur. Several popular malls lie outside the Golden Triangle. The Bangsar and Midvalley areas are home to some of the best shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur, namely the MidValley Megamall and the adjacent upmarket The Gardens, the more cozy Bangsar Village and Bangsar Shopping Centre in Bangsar. The Damansara area north-west of Kuala Lumpur, though not in the city-proper, it is one of the high concentration of shopping outlets in Kuala Lumpur. It houses various shopping malls like The Curve, e@Curve, Ikano Power Centre, IKEA, Cathay Multi Screen Cinemas, Courts Megastore, NiuXehSui Ara Damansara and 1 Utama (one of the top shopping centres in Malaysia). There are also many shopping malls in the neighbouring cities of Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya. Malls such as Sunway Pyramid Megamall  in Petaling Jaya and Empire Subang in Subang Jaya are very nicely designed, and it is worth making the trip down to have a look even if you don't plan to buy anything. Despite the onslaught of malls, Kuala Lumpur still offers some Asian tradition with traditional shopping streets and markets. The best area for such shopping is Chinatown in the City Centre. This district is also the best place to hunt for souvenirs, especially in Central Market, a former produce market which has been converted into an art and craft market. It is also known as Pasar Seni in Malay. The Little India near Jalan Masjid India offers various fabric for use. Most of the fabrics are imported from countries like Indonesia, India and China while some are locally produced. Indonesian traditional batik and songket are traditional fabric commonly found in Central Market. For greater satisfaction choose the hand made ones. You may be interested to buy ready made baju kurung or baju kebaya (the traditional Malay blouse). For peace of mind, buy from the bigger stores(e.g. Hugoclothier). Some Thai handicrafts are also sold here, alongside handmade Malaysian wooden souvenirs. Since 2000, the Ministry of Tourism of Malaysia has kick-started the mega sale event for all shopping in Malaysia. The mega sale event is held thrice in a year—in March, May and December—where all shopping malls are encouraged to participate to boost Kuala Lumpur as a leading shopping destination.
K.L. is a good place for an introduction to Malaysian food as most people speak English and can explain to you what's in the dish. Most restaurants close by 10PM, but in the city centre there's always a few 24hr kedai mamak (curry houses) or fast food places if you get stuck.
Delicious food can be very cheap too: just head to the ubiquitous roadside stalls or kedai kopi (literally coffee shop, but these are all about the food). These shops operate like a food court with many stalls selling a variety of food. Some coffee shops have tables and chairs by the roadside. Chinatown (especially Jalan Sultan, Jalan Hang Lekir and Jalan Petaling) in the city centre and Jalan Alor in the Golden Triangle have some of the greatest concentrations of coffeeshops and stalls. They mostly open only at night.
Also extremely common are kedai mamak (curry houses). One famous collection of streetside Mamak stalls is at Jalan Doraisamy near the Heritage Row (Tuanku Abdul Rahman). Along with full-blown curries, these places also serve roti canai (generally RM1 each), a filling snack that is almost half chapati, half pancake but certainly wholly delicious. It is served with dhal and curry sauce.
Shopping malls' food courts provide cheap Malaysian food in more hygienic conditions, although the prices will be a little higher. Lot 10 shopping mall in the Golden Triangle has a collection of 20 street vendors who were invited to relocate in the food court. While there are some international choices, the specialty here is Chinese.
Ethnic generalizations: Malay food can be found in Jalan Masjid India and Kampung Baru in the Tuanku Abdul Rahman district. Chinatown is the best place for Chinese (especially Cantonese) food, although all kinds of Chinese cuisine, from the simplest to the most sophisticated, can be found all over Kuala Lumpur. Head to Lebuh Ampang in the city centre and Brickfields for Indian food. Bangsar has many high-end restaurants offering Western food. If you are dying for Korean food, head to Ampang Jaya. A lot of Arab and Middle Eastern restaurants have mushroomed in Bukit Bintang, Cyberjaya and Damai.
Kuala Lumpur has quite a vibrant night-life and the Golden Triangle is the epicentre of most of the partying which goes on in the city. Jalan P. Ramlee, just south of KLCC, is Kuala Lumpur's central clubbing area, while the action also spills onto Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan Ampang, Jalan Pinang and Jalan Perak. Nearby Bukit Bintang also throbs with action, and its neon-lit nightclubs, many of them with hostesses, certainly have a more Asian feel to them. Changkat, in the Tuanku Abdul Rahman district, is arguably the most popular nightspot in Kuala Lumpur. The entire Changkat area, focused around Changkat Bukit Bintang, is a vibrant place and has over 40 eating and drinking venues. It is on Changkat Bukit Bintang just off Bukit Bintang. For the budgetary person, almost every bar has a happy hour, usually from 5-9pm. During Wednesdays they have "Ladies Night" at many venues and ladies will often drink for free for a limited time. On weekends the prices are a bit steeper, but cheaper options are still available. The weekly pubcrawl in Changkat is a good way to save money and meet other travelers, locals and expats. Bangsar has long been one of the busiest places in Kuala Lumpur after the sun goes down. The action is around Jalan Telawi and its side streets, and is definitely the place to go for clubbing and deafening music. Sri Hartamas and Mont Kiara in the Damansara and Hartamas district have popular pubs and some clubs as well as nice coffee places. You may be able to find live performances in some of the outlets. After a tiring night out, Malaysians like to head to Mamak stalls - street side stalls or shops operated by Indian Muslims - which offer a range of non-alcoholic beverages like teh tarik (frothed tea) and light food. In fact, these stalls have also become night hangouts in their own right, and many outlets have installed wide-screen projectors and TV where they screen football matches. Most outlets are open 24 hours. They are found all over the city and are a wonderful part of the Malaysian night scene. Another trend that has hit Malaysia is the kopitiam fad, a more upmarket version of the traditional Chinese coffee shop. These mostly open during the day and offer some of the best tea and coffee and light meals and snacks like nasi lemak (coconut flavoured rice with fried anchovies and peanut) and the ever popular toast with kaya (coconut curd, used as a spread). If you prefer Western style coffee, there are many coffee outlets in Kuala Lumpur: most of them are part of international and local chains like Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and San Francisco Coffee. Most of them can be found in shopping malls.
Budget accommodation can be found everywhere; dormitory beds can cost as little as RM12 per night, though RM20 and higher is common. Find the cheap ones online if cost is an issue. Increasingly, newer & better ones are opening in the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman/Chow Kit and Jalan Ipoh areas, the so-called growth areas in the city centre. An example is the Tune Hotel - Downtown KL on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (Chow Kit area). If you are willing to take the 10 minute LRT to the main attractions, then hotels can be found for as little as US$16 per night with free WiFi, A/C, and breakfast often included. If you are arriving on the overnight buses (arriving at 4AM) from the east coast islands, buses will stop at Hentian Putra in the Chow Kit area. Mid-range hotels are comparatively poor value in Kuala Lumpur, and it is worth it to spend a little extra (or look a little harder) for a true luxury hotel on the cheap. Kuala Lumpur is similar in price to Bangkok for 5 star luxury hotels, with rooms available for as little as RM400 or even less (internet rate for single occupancy in the luxury 5 star "Traders Hotel" is around US$100. Other luxury hotels include The Hilton, Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur, Shangrila and JW Marriot. Prices will vary seasonally.
Please see the individual Kuala Lumpur district pages of a list of places to stay.
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Kuala Lumpur is ostensibly a liberal city and wearing revealing clothes will rarely cause major problems. However, avoiding overly revealing clothes goes a long way towards blending in. Many mosques and temples require covering up, and you will get more respect from officialdom if you dress up a little. Many places of worship including all mosques will require you to take your shoes off before entering.
If you can speak just a few words of the four main local languages, namely Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese (especially Cantonese), Tamil and English, it will ingratiate you a lot with the locals. Also, while you may drink in pubs, restaurants and bars, public drunkenness is not tolerated. You will be more vulnerable to getting robbed or will find yourself in the back seat of a police car.
Tap water in Kuala Lumpur is heavily chlorinated and thus safe, but unfortunately the pipes that carry it may not be. Most locals boil or filter it before use; alternatively, bottled water is cheap and ubiquitous. There is no malaria in the city, but dengue fever can be a problem at times, so take precautions against mosquitoes. Between May and October, Kuala Lumpur is occasionally shrouded in dense haze from forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo, which can be a health concern for asthmatics and pretty unpleasant for everybody. However, the haze comes and goes, and varies greatly from year to year: it was terrible in 2006, but non-existent in 2007, and had started again in 2008 and very clean after 2009 onward. However, in June 2013 the smog was so severe that a state of emergency was declared.
Crime is not rampant in Kuala Lumpur. The perception of crime is high, but in recent years the Malaysian police have managed to reduce crime significantly in and around urban Kuala Lumpur. Reports of violent crime against foreigners are uncommon but instances of pick pocketing and bag snatching have risen in recent years.
Walking in the city is usually fine but, as anywhere, caution must be exercised, especially if alone. Snatch thieves can be rather ruthless: women have been injured by purse-grabbers on motorcycles. If this happens to you, let go of the bag rather than be dragged several metres and risk injury. Hold your bag away from the street side and try not to appear flashy if possible. Be wary in alleyways or parking grounds that appear dark and deserted, petty thieves with knives or firearms might mug you.
Kuala Lumpur is generally safe for travellers (it is locals who are often the targets of crime). Be wary of over-friendly locals trying to con you. Police presence, particularly around tourist areas and at night has increased in recent years.
Beware of Scratch and Win Scams
Scratch and Win Scams are rampant in all over Malaysia. Victims are given reward tickets to scratch/tear/peel off on spot to see if they win prizes. In these cases, victims would be informed that they had won prizes in foreign lottery or lucky draws.
The scammers would ask victims to make advance payment if they wanted to claim their prizes. They would even offer victims car rides to withdraw the large sums of money, reported a local news source. After which, victims would realise that the prizes never existed or were of lower value than previously promised.
During the rains, pavements and streets become small rivers and crossing a street can be an adventure. Pavements become as slippery as ice so wear proper footwear.
Be careful of a poker scam that involves friendly locals. They normally target lone tourists in popular tourist places. It starts with a friendly approach and an invitation to their home to chat and learn about your country. Then comes poker, accumulated losses and the loss of your cash and jewellery. Such scams can also happen through couchsurfing.
The bogus cop scam is usually run by Middle-Easterners. You will be stopped by "plain-clothed police officers" on the pretext of checking your travel documents. You will be brought to a secluded area in the process and made to handover your wallet. Should you be stopped, you have the right to insist that you be taken to the nearest police station before saying/showing anything. While undercover policemen generally patrol the city center, they are mainly serving the vice department. A genuine police officer will be able to produce his or her police I.D. card, which is a combination of white and dark blue in color.
Taxis are generally safe, but they often refuse to use the meter and a few cabbies will gouge tourists mercilessly. If they refuse to use the meter, then take another taxi, as by law they are required to use the meter. However, if you are desperate to use that taxi, always agree on the fare in advance, and try to get an estimate of the cost from a local before you climb on board. Many also pretend to not know your hotel and will bring you to their preferred hotels by saying that your hotel is in a bad area, closed or far. A good idea would be to buy a public transport map and get well acquainted with the locations of stations, train times, etc. If you can use a train or bus to get to a place, it would be cheaper and safer to do so.
Also watch out for counterfeit banknotes (such as RM50) given as change by a dishonest taxi-driver: the easiest way to tell being to hold it up to the light to see the continuous silver strip. If in doubt, avoid and refuse RM100 notes.
Malaysian law requires that visitors carry their passport at all times, and both police and "RELA" (civil volunteers) carry out spot checks for illegal immigrants.
Locals are very friendly to the tourists, and many in Kuala Lumpur can speak decent English. Communication with the locals is almost as easy as it is in Singapore and significantly better than in Bangkok or many other Asian countries. Greet people with a warm smile and they will be happy to show you around. Be friendly: if you are lost, just ask anyone smartly dressed on the street.
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