Malaysia is an upcoming travel destination that has seen a tremendous increase in foreign tourists in the past decade. The most popular city in the country is Kuala Lumpur, a multicultural metropolis that fulfills wanderlusters’ dreams. Before you get ready to pack your bags, check out these 10 things you want to know before visiting Kuala Lumpur to make your Malaysia holidays memorable and stress-free from the start.
1. WHAT CAN I SEE IN MALAYSIA
While there are so many places to visit in Malaysia, most visitors start their journey off in the capital of Kuala Lumpur. There’s so much to do! In fact, I spent an entire week there exploring everything. During the day, you can visit museums, temples, mega malls, gardens, palaces, or simply eat your way through Malay cuisine. Kuala Lumpur truly is one of the best places to go on vacation.
At night, you should head to the Twin Towers to see the beautiful fountain show or shop at a night market. If you are looking for something special, visit one of the many rooftop bars. Don’t forget to have some Hi-tea while you’re in Kuala Lumpur – it’s the best in the region!
Malaysia consists of two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo). Kuala Lumpur is situated on the former. Due to its unique geographic location, Malaysia offers stunning natural beauty, including some of the finest beaches in Southeast Asia. A popular beach destination is Langkawi, an archipelago of 104 islands in the Andaman Sea, around 30km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. Another popular destination is Kota Kinabalu located on the northwest coast of Borneo facing the South China Sea.
2. MALAYSIA IS A MUSLIM COUNTRY, IS IT VERY CONSERVATIVE?
Over 60% of the population in Malaysia are Muslim. You can, therefore, expect the locals to be more conservative than their northern neighbors in Thailand, for instance. Both female and male visitors should dress appropriately, especially when entering mosques and palaces. On top of that, try to avoid drinking alcohol in places where it is not allowed and marijuana is strictly forbidden. Malaysia even has two separate courts – one for Muslims and one for non-Muslims.
However, I also found that Kuala Lumpur is a very modern metropolis with a multicultural society showing equal respect for each other. During my stay, I visited numerous mosques and felt very welcome. I was given headscarves and robes to cover up but the staff was friendly and helpful. In the evening, you can certainly dress in shorts or mini skirt.
3. CAN I GET BY WITH ENGLISH IN MALAYSIA?
Absolutely. Due to Malaysia’s colonialized past, English is still an official language. This goes even so far that locals predominantly use British English terms, such as ground floor, washroom, lift, etc. You will have little trouble communicating with locals when in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia.
4. HOW SAFE IS KUALA LUMPUR (FOR A FEMALE TRAVELER)?
Generally, Malaysia is a very safe place to visit. Especially the fact that everyone speaks English because it is an official language adds to the overall safety for travelers. Violent crime against tourists and expatriates is very uncommon in Kuala Lumpur but petty theft such as pickpocketing have happened on various occasions against visitors. There seem to be a lot of homeless, beggars and drug addicts roaming the city, which are usually harmless. However, there have been incidents reported where they broke into hotel rooms.
Malaysia is a safe place for (solo) female travelers. However, be aware that it is a predominantly Muslim country. Having said that, dress appropriately, especially when visiting cultural sites such as mosques and palaces. When going out at night, it is completely acceptable to wear shorts and mini skirt. There were certain areas in Kuala Lumpur that felt a little sketchy to me as a female, especially after dark. Try to stick to touristy places after dark, or otherwise, you will encounter predominantly male pedestrians who don’t shy away from staring at you. As always, be aware of your surroundings and use common sense.
5. HOW MUCH IS A TRIP TO MALAYSIA?
Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia in general, is incredibly cheap to visit. One you are there, you will find that there is an abundance of interesting places in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is an extremely affordable city, even if you want to stay at five-star hotels or eat at upscale restaurants. Generally speaking, prices are a fraction of what you pay in the United States and Europe.
Your airplane ticket is going to be the most expensive part of the trip. If you’re on a budget, you can easily make it with around $25 or 20 EUR per day. This should enable you to sleep in a hostel and eat cheap meals. If you are looking for a bit more luxury, calculate around twice the amount.
Transportation in the city is relatively cheap. The subway offers daily and weekly tickets to save a few bucks. On top of that, Uber taxicabs are incredibly affordable with most rides of 15-20 minutes costing around $2 or $3.
Entrance fees are generally very cheap as well. Most museums and mosques are completely free and if you need to pay to get in, it won’t be much more than a dollar or two.
This easy budget calculator breaks all the expenses down for you.
6. HOW DO I FIND THE CHEAPEST FLIGHT TO KUALA LUMPUR?
A plane ticket to Kuala Lumpur is going to be your biggest expense for your Malaysia holidays. Depending on your location, a plane ticket to Kuala Lumpur can start at under $500. To get the best value possible, do some research and which airlines frequent the route. On top of that, the more flexible you are in terms of your dates, the more money you can save. In general, plane tickets hit their lowest price around 2 months prior to the departure date and then increase again.
Sometimes, it can even be cheaper to fly to nearby destinations first and then book a flight over to Kuala Lumpur. Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore are popular airports to fly to Malaysia. I can recommend using AirWander, a tool that lets you find cheap flights and add in a layover destination.
7. WHEN IS THE BEST TIME FOR TRAVELING MALAYSIA?
Kuala Lumpur sees year-round hot and humid weather with temperatures between 22ºC and 32ºC. Due to this tropical climate, daily showers are not uncommon. The rainy season goes from April to October and rainfall is at its heaviest from September until early December. When visiting Kuala Lumpur, be sure to bring an umbrella or buy one there. Convenient stores also sell reusable rain capes at low prices. The best months to visit Kuala Lumpur are considered June, July and August due to less rainfall.
8. HOW CAN I GET AROUND IN KUALA LUMPUR?
Locals advise tourists not to use taxis in the city as most of them try to scam foreigners as much as possible. The city is equipped with a developed subway system that is cheap and reliable. The easiest way to get into the city from the airport is by taking the express train to KL Station. A one-way ticket will cost you 55 Ringgits with discounted roundtrip tickets available. The train ride takes around 45 minutes.
I can highly recommend taking Uber taxicabs during your stay in KL. During my Malaysia holidays, I have spent around $60 USD for a great number of Uber rides all over the city as well as down south to the neighboring city of Putrajaya. Since I was traveling with a friend it came down to $30 per person during for our entire one-week trip for transportation. Taking an Uber in KL is also great because you get to talk to locals. Since everyone speaks English, you get a great insight into their lives and gain tips for your travels.
9. DO I NEED A VISA FOR MY MALAYSIA HOLIDAYS?
The answer to this question depends on your nationality. As goes for international travel in general, visitors must possess a national passport with a validity period of at least six months beyond the length of your stay in Malaysia. Apparently, Malaysia also offers 72-hour transit visas, like China, for those who fly into Malaysia and do not stay longer than 72 hours. Most nationalities do not require a visa before arriving in Malaysia. Again, this depends on your citizenship and the duration of your stay. For more information call your local Malaysian embassy or refer to this website.
10. WHERE CAN I WITHDRAW/EXCHANGE MONEY IN KUALA LUMPUR?
Malaysia’s currency is called “Ringgits” and is the only accepted currency. At the moment, you get about 4.46 MYR for 1 Dollar or 4.75 MYR for 1 Euro. The largest Ringgit bill is worth 100 MYR and the others are 1 MYR, 5 MYR, 10 MYR, 20 MYR and 50 MYR.
You will find a great collection of banks all over the city. Search for “Maybank”, “HSBC”, “Citibank” and “Standard Chartered”. These are the biggest international banks in the country and accept foreign bank cards. In case you cannot find a bank, head to a convenient store – they also have ATMs in their stores.
Note that not every restaurant or shop will accept card payment. It’s always best to have a good amount of cash with you at all times.
BONUS: WHERE TO STAY?
I highly recommend staying at 1000 Miles Hotel in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The hotel is located a short walk from major sights such as Chinatown, Petaling Street, KL Tower and Merdeka Square. Masjid Jamek LRT station is less than 5 minutes away on foot, offering easy access to KL Sentral Station and the airport.
Prices start at $23 or 21.50 EUR for a mini double room.
BOOK YOUR Malaysia HOLIDAYS!
There you go. Now you know everything you need to understand about traveling in Malaysia. This country totally stole my heart when I was there and I cannot wait to go back and explore all the other regions I haven’t been to.