Destination Guide: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Part 1–Essentials)

DSC_3880Welcome to Kuala Lumpur, affectionately known as KL, the capital city of Malaysia and a melting pot of the best that Asia has to offer.  Offering visitors a tropical rainforest climate with constant temperatures year round Kuala Lumpur is an ideal destination, and a great way to experience a quite diverse and eclectic cultural experience.

Destination Guide: This is a guide of some of the basics of Kuala Lumpur, it is not an exhaustive list and is simply us giving you some of our advice and tips on Kuala Lumpur.  Please let us know what you think of this guide.

There are three distinct cultures in Kuala Lumpur, Malay, Chinese and Indian. There are distinct areas you can visit in KL to see how these cultures have evolved. The other areas visited by tourists is Bukit Bintang (which forms part of the Golden Triangle tourism district)and Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) which borders Bukit Bintang.


Weather

The weather in KL is not unlike any other Asian city. Hot and humid all year round, the major change in the seasons is marked by the monsoons (November to February). That being said, in an area of high humidity, afternoon showers are always a possibility. They can be from a few minutes of intense rainfall to a few hours. When they are done, they are usually followed by a cool change, which is always welcomed after a hot and humid day.

The ideal time to visit is between March and early October. The average temperature in KL will be found in the high 20’s to low 30’s and at night the low 20’s.

Culture/Customs

Malaysia has a predominantly Muslim population and alcohol is not consumed. In tourist areas alcohol is readily available. It is also seen as disrespectful to show a lot of skin. You will get funny looks and comments if you wear shoestring tops and short outfits. Also if you are visiting a temple, cultural or holy place, you should be modestly covered with shoulders and legs covered. Shoes should also be removed as a sign of respect and you should ask before taking a photo. You may be asked to wear a robe or wear a shawl.

It is rude to point with your index finger. You should instead use your right thumb and fold in your other fingers. Gifts and food should be consumed with your right hand. Don’t hand money over with your left hand.

Language

The official language of Malaysia is Bahasa Malayisa, but English is widely spoken and mostly understood.

Money

The currency of Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit displayed as RM. The exchange rate is usually around AUD$1 to RM3 so as a general rule of thumb if coming from Australia then you would divide everything by 3.

Transport

Getting around Bukit Bintang and KLCC can be done on foot. An air conditioned walkway has been built to connect KLCC with Bukit Bintang, when used in conjunction with the underground walkway from the from Suria KLCC.

To get around KL, there are the Light Rail Transit (LRT), Monorail and buses, however I am not sure even the locals have figured out the buses. The LRT has two lines that interchange at Masjid Jamek near Little India. The Kelana Jaya line (also known as the Putra line) travels through KL Sentral, Chinatown, the old colonial district and KLCC. The other line is the Ampang and Sri Petaling line (also known as Star) and travels through Chinatown and Little India. The train runs from 6am to 11.30pm and the cost is minimal. You need to make sure you have close to exact change for the fare.

LRT route map

The monorail is probably the easiest way to get around all the tourist areas of KL. It is a little more than the LRT, but its elevated system gives you a great view of KL.

Monorail route map

Getting from the airport

Kuala Lumpur Airports are located about 50km away from KL City Centre, and by taxi takes an average 40minutes. Kuala Lumpur has 2 main airport terminals – Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and the Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal (KLCCT).  Depending on your carrier you may fly into either airport, however it is mostly Air Asia that uses the KLCCT.

Notice: A new airport terminal is being built at the moment to replace LCCT and is currently scheduled to open June 2013, so this information may be outdated soon.

Low Cost Carrier Terminal

This terminal is somewhat old and not what  you could classify and glamorous (hence the new terminal expansion) however it is perfectly fine and easy to navigate around.  On arriving you will pass through immigration – which on a good day can take about 15 minutes, but on a bad day can take almost 2 hours.  From there you will move downstairs to baggage claim which is usually quite efficient (especially if it took you 2 hours to get through immigration).

Once through customs, you will be faced with a wide range of options to get yourself out of the airport and into Kuala Lumpur City.  The cheapest option is the SkyBus, it is RM9 (Approx $3AUD) per person and drops you at KL Sentral Station, from where you can take a short taxi ride to your hotel or catch public transport.  This option is the cheapest but is also the slowest as you need to wait for the bus to depart and then it takes about an hour to KL Sentral where you then have to get a taxi and go to your hotel.

The other option is a Pre-Paid Taxi from the airport, the price will depend on the quality of taxi you wish to take:

  • Budget Taxi to KL City Centre – RM74 ($23AUD)
  • Premier to KL City Centre – RM102 ($32AUD)
  • Luxury/Family to KL City Centre – RM199 ($63AUD)

We usually choose the Premier as it has enough room to handle all our luggage and is a clean, comfortable ride.

Another option that we haven’t ever used it to take a bus to the main terminal KLIA and catch the KL Express Train option.  This is another reasonably cheap option however is a lot of messing around when I would much rather be relaxing in my hotel.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)

We have only flown into KLIA once an chose to take the Pre-Paid taxi option as it was extremely late in the evening.  The prices from KLIA are the same as from LCCT.  The other option to the city is the KLIA Ekspres train – it takes only 28 minutes non-stop to KL Sentral in the city and only costs about RM35 per adult ($11AUD).  During peak periods it operates every 15 minutes.  From KL Sentral you would take a taxi to your hotel or catch the public transport.

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