Upon planning our move here to Kuala Lumpur we did as much research as possible but very little was curated by travellers – more locals with what they think would be helpful. This post is inspired by The City Lanes Post of a similar name. He came up with 9 tips that I would have in hand the immediate second I touched down in Tokyo. I hope we can do the same for Kuala Lumpur.
Mobile Phone Data
Even for someone moving to KL – I’m not interested in telephone or SMS deals on a prepaid phone plan. The best idea for tourists arriving into KL is to ensure their phone is unlocked and get a Maxis Hotlink prepaid sim card. The cost is only 10rm ($3.30) and with that you also get 7 days free internet. DO NOT BUY THIS FROM THE AIRPORT. Wait til you get to KL Sentral station as the airport only sells expensive plans. So you can basically get all the internet you need for $3. More countries need to do this. Link: Maxis Hotlink.
KLIA Express vs KLIA Transit
This is a weird one. The KLIA Ezpress train from the airport to KL Sentral Station takes 28 minutes and costs 35rm ($12) each way. The KLIA Transit from the airport to KL Sentral Station takes 39 minutes and also costs $35 each way. Though each train departs about 10 minutes apart – so you will get in at pretty much the same time no matter which you choose. Even if you do take the Transit, there is free wifi aboard each train so you can watch the world roll past or check your Facebook.
Taxi to and from KLIA and KLIA2 Airport
We’ve done the math and from either terminal to central Kuala Lumpur – it costs almost exactly 70rom ($24). So if you have more than 1 person you’re travelling with – cut out the airport -> train -> MRT -> destination. If you have more than 2 people you’ll make a killing in savings. Do note that you must go to the taxi counter inside the terminal to order your taxi – so that you get a legal taxi and you don’t have to encounter the taxi touts waiting for you through the sliding doors.
Bus to and from KLIA and KLIA2 Airport
We’ve travelled a few times through Asia since this was posted and now suggest this is the cheapest way to get into KL Sentral. Head to the bus level two floors below the arrivals area (follow the signs) and head to the bus ticket booth. Buses leave every 15 mins on the dot and only cost RM10 (AU$3.50). It’s an hour ride in and if you have the time it’s worth saving the money. It drops you directly under KL Sentral Station so it’s just a short escalator ride up to the LRT, KTM and Monorail departure points.
The Kuala Lumpur MRT is like the Tube but different
The MRT here has 5 lines but many are owned by a different transport company. This matters little but to know that there is sometimes a connection that looks like they’re next to each other on the MRT map yet can be sometimes quite a long walk apart. Also part of the transport system is a monorail (green line) that’s handy to get a good view of the city. You buy an MyRapid card from any station or 7/11. Your card will cost you 12rm ($4) which then has 10rm ($3.30) on it for you to use. Generally trips are no more than around (60c). There’s around 5 mins between each train. Do note that there is no manners when boarding public transport – if you’re trying to exit a train door you will find a scrum of Malaysians blocking your exit in their hurry to get on.
Why MRT when you can UBER/Taxi?
Uber has strong-armed it’s way into KL life here offering a much more professional service than local taxis. We have had some shocking taxi drivers, most not willing to drive you to your requested destination and all not having a clue what address you want to go to so unless you have internet connection and Google Maps, I 100% guarantee your diver has no idea where he’s going.
That’s why you should load Uber on your phone before you arrive. The cars are brand new, the drivers have an iPad in every car with the route for them to follow and you also sometimes get water or lollies from some drivers. In KL we have Uber X which undercuts the price of local taxis for the same journey by 20%, so it’s a no brainer to use them and since the cost does onto your credit card you can worry about the bill (cheap) when you get home.
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Taxis are super cheap. We have done some travelling in cabs now and the most we have had to pay is 12rm ($4) – and that’s when the taxi driver was seriously lost. This is really handy when you know that there is a really long MRT change at a station that could take 10 minutes to walk between. One key thing is to ensure that the taxi driver will run the meter rather than a) offering you a price to take you or b) charging you who knows how much when you arrive. If they don’t agree to put the meter on then shut the door and get the next one. A great app to use is MyTeksi – which allows you to get taxis immediately or book them if you intend are intending to catch in with more than an hour’s notice. You will also receive 5 x 12rm ($4) discounts to use when you sign up – so you may well get all your travel free. Download the MyTeksi App here.
Offline Maps are your best friend
You can go with the option of the paper tourist maps – but the amount of families I’ve seen here all standing aroun in the heat while the one of the parents twists and turns a map around trying to figure out what street they are on but that’s not marked on the map is astounding. Save face by downloading the Ulmon Kulala Lumpur Map before you leave. That way you don’t have to worry about getting a sim card – and you will have a map on hand as soon as you touch down. By just turning on your wifi on your phone it will pinpoint exactly where you are and you’re able to search destinations. Download it here.
Don’t bother with Traders Hotel Skybar
I know. All your research tells you to head up to Traders Hotel Skybar about an hour before sunset, try to score a booth on one of the windows and pay for crap overpriced drinks and to try to make that beer or wine least 2 hours+. We know you don’t want to have selfies taken in front of you the whole time as people stand in front of you to try to get a decent photo or twelve. We’re here to tell you – screw that! We have an ace up our sleeve and you only have it to yourself as Lonely Planet et al are all about 18 months behind what’s actually happening in cities. So when your friends tell you to hit Skybar – scoff and head instead to…..
The Troika Building. It’s brand new and the bar here has just opened. Head up to Fuego, which is a South American Tapas and Cocktail Bar in the Troika Sky Dining level and be amazed by what you probably have all to yourselves (until sunset and offices start to knock off). If you can get your reception of book a table on the edge even better. Here the food is amazing and the cocktails at a standard that you would expect in Melbourne of New York at about 1/2 the price. A shit cocktail at Traders will cost you about AU$16 but a well made Old Fashioned will set you back only about AU$12. Trust us – we have been to both and there is no way in hell we will ever waste our time in Traders Hotel Skybar ever again. Get here before the masses find out. Troika Sky Dining.
GO-KL Free Bus Service
This would have bypasses us until we were alerted to it. The Malaysian government has just added a few more lines to the central bus circular that is pretty easy for a visitor to navigate. Go – KL City Bus, a FREE bus service is welcome news for both visitors and residents of Kuala Lumpur. Comfortable, air-conditioned, purple coloured single-decker buses now cruise two circular routes covering many of the main sight-seeing attractions in the heart of the city. The buses, which are disabled-friendly, run at 5 minute intervals at peak periods and every 15 minutes at other times. They operate from 6am until 11pm. There are now 4 lines you can catch – but weirdly all official websites still only list the 2 original lines.
There are now 4 – each colour coded. I suggest asking your hotel reception where the closest departure point is from and then working out where you need to change to other colour lines if needed. They only travel in one direction – so if you jump on where you jumped off the bus – you will have to finish the loop before going past your stop. But since loops are relatively small it’s a good way to get cool and see a bit more of the city. Also be aware you need to wave these drivers down as otherwise they will stay in the fast lane and drive straight past you!
Print this before you arrive:
If there’s anything you think we’ve missed do mention it in the comments and if you want any tips for this amazing city do get in touch – we’re getting under it’s skin faster than we thought we would.
Check out some of our other posts on Kuala Lumpur: