Find out what you can do and see in three days in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
There are some cities that we look forward to visiting, only to be disappointed when we finally get there. Others on the other hand, perhaps because we don’t know much about them, prove to be better than we expected. Kuala Lumpur is definitely one of the latter.
Although I have often heard good things about the capital of Malaysia, I honestly didn’t expect much (especially after having seen many Asian cities). But it turned out to be a nice surprise: friendly people, a green city, great food, and a special architecture due to the great ethnic diversity of its population.
Kuala Lumpur is a city with three souls where Muslims, Indians, and Chinese live together without too many problems.
Three days may be enough to visit Kuala Lumpur, but if you have a little more time you can explore some less crowded places and maybe have a day trip to Malacca or elsewhere.
How to get to Kuala Lumpur and how to get around
Once you land in one of the two airport terminals in Kuala Lumpur (the airport is about an hour’s distance from the city) you have three options to reach your hotel.
- The first, and fastest is using the KLIA Ekspres, the train that takes you to Sentral Station in the center of Kuala Lumpur. However, this is not the cheapest option. Also, once at the station, you will need to take a taxi to reach the hotel (some sites offer KLIA Ekspress tickets with a taxi ride included).
- The second option is by taxi. Taxis at the airport work differently than other places. You will first have to purchase a ticket in the appropriate kiosks specifying the destination and you’ll have to pay for it there. Then you can search for the taxi and show the receipt to the driver. You won’t have to pay anything to him. I think it’s a great way to avoid scams by taxi drivers at the airport, who often take advantage of tourists and ask them for very high prices (hello Vietnam?!).
- The third option, and definitely the cheapest, is to take the bus that for a few Ringgit will take you to the Sentral station. Once there you can take the taxi or the metro to your hotel. To take the bus (available in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2) you need to search for the ticket office you see in the picture.
One thing I didn’t quite like about KL is the way the subway works. The metro is managed by different companies and the various lines are not very well connected. In addition, for some lines, you have to wait a long time before the train arrives. For example, to take the train to the Batu Caves I had to wait for about an hour and a half, something really strange if you think that it is perhaps the most popular tourist destination of KL. The monorail is very old and when I visited Kuala Lumpur it only had two cars, really few for a city of about 8 million people.
Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur
Like most cities in Asia, hotels are relatively cheap, especially compared to Europe. During my trip to Kuala Lumpur, I stayed at the Furama Bukit Bintang, an excellent 4-star hotel in the center, surprisingly inexpensive. It’s also quite close to the subway: less than 5 minutes on foot, something really important when visiting tropical countries and the weather is really hot and humid all year round.
Another very interesting aspect of this hotel is the possibility to access a lounge room available for a few guests where you can have breakfast with more privacy. There is also an outdoor swimming pool and a gym. I truly recommend staying at this hotel.
Things to do and to see in Kuala Lumpur in 3 days
Here are some of the main attractions of the capital of Malaysia that you can visit in 3 days.
Batu Caves are one of the world’s most important Hindu religious sites outside of India. It’s one of the most frequented by tourists and is also full of monkeys. Be careful because they like to steal water bottles and food from tourists (just like Kaohsiung in Taiwan).
Batu Caves can be reached by train from the Sentral station. Check out the timetables because you might have to wait for up to one hour before you can get on to the train.
Originally built by the British in 1888, the Central Market has since been renovated several times. It represents the traditional markets that since 1800 have become quite popular in Malaysia. The market is inside a building and therefore has air conditioning: if it’s too hot outside, take a trip around the Central Market to rest a bit.
Lebuh Ampang – Little India
Little India is where you can find real Indian food (if you love spicy food). It was established by the “Nattukottai Chettiar”, a community of southern India. The street is not very long, but it’s close to the Central Market and definitely worth a visit.
Merdeka Square and Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Near the Central Market area, there is also Merdeka Square, the square where the Malaysian flag was first raised in 1957. Opposite the square is the Sultan Abdul Samad Mosque, which was used to house several members of the government.
Petaling Street – China Town
Petaling Street is the China Town of Kuala Lumpur. About 3 minutes from the Central Market, it’s perhaps the equivalent of Khao San Road in Bangkok. It is the ideal place to buy discounted things and try Chinese food. Having lived in China and Taiwan, this street didn’t really impress me, but it’s worth a visit, especially after 6 pm.
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
Sri Mahamariamman is a Hindu Temple with an unpronounceable name. It’s the oldest in Kuala Lumpur and it was built in 1873 and opened to the public in the 1920s.
Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque
Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque is the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur. It’s located at the point where the two rivers Klang and Gombak meet. In my opinion, it’s always fascinating to listen to the call of the muezzin when it’s time for the prayer.
Rivers Klang and Gombak
One of the city’s most spectacular spots, especially at sunset when the tall buildings light up and the fountains are lit. I discovered this place almost by chance since I didn’t read about it on any travel guide. This place is also located a few minutes from the Central Market.
Berjaya Times Square
Berjaya Times Square is the equivalent of the Dubai Mall in Dubai. It’s a mall that includes a fully covered amusement park with a roller coaster.
Watching the sun set over the Petronas Towers from the Sky Bar – Traders Hotel
Often the best view of a city is not from the top of its skyscrapers but from a roof-top bar.
This is also true in the case of Kuala Lumpur. I strongly suggest you book a table in the best roof-top bar of KL: the Sky Bar at the top of the Traders Hotels, directly opposite to the Petronas Towers.
Inside the bar, there is a swimming pool. Since it is a very popular destination I recommend booking your table a few days in advance. Unfortunately, tripods are not allowed and the waiters do check constantly if people use them. Keep it in mind.
Titiwangsa Lake Garden (Taman Tasik Titiwangsa)
Titiwangsa Lake Garden is a beautiful park where you can relax and walk around a small lake. There is also a beautiful view of the Petronas Towers not too far away.
Eat as much as you can
Malaysia is famous for its excellent street food. The mix of Indians, Muslims, and Chinese people has created an inexhaustible variety of dishes and flavors that makes Malaysia, and especially Kuala Lumpur, a unique place in the world. Don’t be afraid to try strange foods: you’ll love Malaysian street food!
Here are more pictures I took on my trip. If you are planning to visit Malaysia you can maybe add a stop-over to Singapore. Here you can find some suggestions about what to see and what to do in this beautiful city.