KL as it is well known as, is the city in which you will most likely fly into. It is a bustling, exciting city that I have come to love, after spending a few months there, on and off over 3 years.
For many, KL will be the first opportunity to rest and recuperate after the jungle experience for a while. I tend to use KL as a good pit spot, an opportunity to eat in good restaurants & enjoy relative comfort in the tropics.
How long: For a backpacker I would recommend between 3-5 days in KL. This gives you enough time to enjoy the city without it becoming too much, after all it is a very bustling, dirty city!
Budget: Eating in KL is not as cheap as rural regions of Malaysia and other parts of Asia. But you can still get Roti Canai on the roadsides for a few ringgit. High end eating and staying is also available. Therefore your budget is extremely dependant on you. Cities are more expensive though.
Safety: KL is relatively safe. Always check recent advice on embassy websites. Although Malaysia is a muslim country, and strict in some areas, KL is home to a huge variety of religions. I do not recommend walking down the street in your bikini, as this is not respectful. But shorts and t-shirts is not frowned upon in Central KL. You should always be extremely careful of your purse, mugging is extremely common.
Eco: Being "eco" is a bit more of a challenge in central KL. Your best bets are:
- Say no to straws
- Refill your bottles of water
- Eat at the local restaurants
There are some amazing Eco resorts outside of KL, but with hefty long car rides required- they aren't the most practical for short KL stays.
Head to Our eco-travelling piece for more information on eco-travel essentials!
I would highly recommend staying in the BUKIT BINTANG area that is very popular with tourists. Its easy to get to from the airport, its central and with lots to do in easy reach. I have stayed a lot of hotels in Bukit Bintang. I normally check booking, or airbnb day to day and check for deals. Hotels in KL very rarely have fixed rates and they'll fluctuate hugely depending on when in the week, or year you are staying. Here is a breakdown of where I have stayed in central KL:
V’la Heritage Hotel:
Located in a fantastic location- behind Changkat Bukit Bintang (CBB), V’la is clean and practical. Fairly cheap, especially if sharing, it’s a good option for couples. Breakfast outside is pleasant, if not a bit basic, but good for price. You may have a windowless room, but can upgrade for as little as £2 a night to have a big window! Just be aware, there can be some noise from the bars on CBB
V’la Garden Hotel:
Located a bit further out from the goings-on but still within easy reach of amenities, V’la Garden Hotel is also a clean, if more a bit more basic choice compared to the sister hotel, V’la Heritage Hotel. I had an automatic room upgrade with a window, that overlooked the Petronas Towers in the background. It was all I needed to crash for the night whilst still being close to the action.
This is my most frequented spot in KL, it’s cheap, clean but very basic. Most (if not all) rooms have no windows. The rooms are dated, but they are comfy and have large bathrooms. Location is fab, very close to eating and drinking of Changkat Bukit Bintang, is next to Feeka, a lovely coffee shop. (Did you know that “fika” is a Swedish verb for “having a coffee”?)
The outside, although no relation to what matters inside, is really beautiful and is covered in plants! Wifi is pretty good too!
Invito Serviced Suites:
We managed to grab a suite at Invito at an incredible mid-week rate, other we would not have been able to afford it. Room was lovely, with a kitchenette, so we could cook dinner ourselves (a nice rest after eating out for a week). Great balcony, pool was loovely overlooking city, if not a little bit chilly. “Hubba Hubba” is the restaurant on the bottom floor, and although "nice" (Western nice, but sterile) it’s very overpriced. Brilliant location close to Changkat Bukit Bintang.
Again, we managed to get a really good mid-week deal to stay at the Park Royal. It’s in an amazing position to get to Lot 27, Pavilion and therefore lots of food outlets, drinky spots etc. Rooms were lovely, big, clean, typical hotel. Breakfast was a vast selection, we arrived half an hour before it finished, and they are pretty strict at when it shuts so would recommend getting to breakfast early-ish in order to take full advantage of fresh juices!
WOLO Bukit Bintang:
Of all the places I have stayed, I think this is my favourite location. A one minute walk from Pavilion and Lot 27, and a 5 minute walk to Changkat, it’s a fantastic location. Really cool inside too, we got a room without a window, but it was still a big room, HUGE tv, really nice big shower (big enough for two…….) Was very clean, the cafe on the ground floor is amazing too! It is fairly pricey though, and again we just managed to get this on a mid week offer!
Tropical Guest House:
Cheap with a brilliant location, but incredibly basic. No charging sockets was a major downside for me. Good for emergency nights or if you’re low on cash. Otherwise there are plenty of much nicer hotels for not much more very close by! I would also be very nervous staying here alone, and wouldn't have chosen this spot if emergency hadn't required it.
The Journal KL:
One of my recently built favourites. We got a very good deal on a mid week 2 night stay. Beautiful "rooftop" pool overlooking the chaos of the busy streets below. Stunning modern rooms with huge windows. Breakfast was incredible too, with REAL cheese(!!)
The location of the Transit Hotel is not ideal- its about a 20 minute walk from central Bukit Bintang areas. However, its much closer to China Town and Central Market. It’s a good price for a clean, modern hotel, you’re getting a good price for the fact you're further away from central areas.
Pavilion Shopping Centre:
I love love love Pavilion, as it’s normally is my first taste of luxury again after gritty travelling on the East Coast. It has a range of shopping, some high end designer but then the old favourites such as Topshop and Forever 21. Don’t expect cheap prices, all prices are the same (if not higher) to The UK, and eating is also fairly pricey. The downstairs has a huge food court, in which you can get pretty much anything you fancy. So if you’ve been craving Western delights after weeks of Nasi Goreng, you’ll find fresh Baguette, cheeses, wines, pastries, olives, you get my drift, in Mercato on the bottom floor and in surrounding stalls… Also the Tepenyaki on the bottom floor is very good and spent 4/7 lunches there one week!
Times Square Shopping:
I have heard big things about Times Square Shopping Centre, but I'm not a fan. It was a bit tacky, hot and over crowded. It probably would have what you need, but we didn't stay long. I will stick to Pavilion!
Loved it! Full of really cool things, a must stop if you are wanting to buy some lovely things to take home. However, I would recommend going with another person, as I did feel like I had to constantly watch my back when I went alone. Alternatively just make sure your stuff is hidden, and you are wearing appropriate clothes (i.e. cover yourself up!) Plus don’t forget to haggle!
If you need electricals, you might have to suck it up and go to Low Yat. An ENORMOUS mall filled with all things geeky, it’s something from a film, but hot and with lots of people shouting at you to buy their phones etc. An experience…
Bangsar shopping centre:
Has all your normal Western shops. If it’s what you need- it will be what you need. Not cheap, but nice!
Where to eat:
-Changkat Bukit Bintang is FULL of places to eat and drink, so don’t worry about being short of an enormous range of restaurants. Of the selection of Western Restaurants on CBB itself, I have eaten at Modiva a few times, as they do some great offers on food (such as half price meals mid weeks) and managed to get some good, fairly cheap food. Healy Mac’s is also good fun, but not classy or great food.
However, for me an absolute MUST, MUST, is Sao Nam.
Sao Nam is, literally my favourite restaurant in the world, so far. Nestled alongside Changkat Bukit Bintang, Sao Nam is a little restaurant, that is absolutely bloody amazing. Their lotus prawn salad is good, but the real winner is the mid week set lunch. Chicken spring rolls followed by Grilled Chicken Salad. Absolutely beautiful fresh ingredients, crunchy, delicious-ness healthy filling cheapness. An absolute MUST if you love tasty, fresh, healthy and good priced food.
No Black Tie:
For me, NBT is a bubble of happiness in a normally pretty crazy world. Whenever I am in KL I pay a visit to NBT to sample the drinks (Espresso Martini) and relax in a bit of Jazz serenity. Look out for Terence, the manager and a dear friend, who is craz. Ask him about his favourite person from Lang Tengah Turtle Watch. Evelyn, the owner, welcomed me so wholly, she’s very cool.
Next to No Black Tie and Rainforest B&B this is a usual haunt. Excellent coffee, good food and makes you feel really cool and Indie.
On the bottom floor of Invito Serviced Suites, it’s got a lot of potential, with good menus and drinks. However, I think it’s simply overpriced average food.
Roti Chani -a must eat!
An absolute MUST EAT whilst in Malaysia, is Roti Chanai. Find a local street stall selling this unbelievably delicious treat, and you'll pay about 2 MYR (about 1AUD or 30p) for a savoury, freshly made savoury flat croissant. Delicious! Making of Roti Chani is also quite an art, watch as the chef spins and thins the bread!
Roti translates as bread.
You'll see Roti loaves (literally loaves of bread!)
Roti Chanai: Crispy, soft delicious bread with curry sauce. Be warned, often it's a fish or chicken curry. Lentil Dhal is common too, but make sure you ask for it, and bear in mind Roti dough is rarely vegan.
Roti Telur: Telur means egg in Malay, so this is Roti with an egg cooked in!
Teh Tarik is also a must drink. It's tea "pulled" through a strainer and mixed with ALOT of condensed milk.