Kuala Lumpur passes many travellers by on their journey to far-flung destinations, but it’s well worth sticking around for a little longer and to see what the city has to offer.
If you strike a long layover, take advantage of the opportunity to explore a new city — especially a culturally rich place like Kuala Lumpur.
#1 Step Off The Plane
… And out the doors of Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It’s 56km from Central Kuala Lumpur, but don’t let that distance intimidate you. The best options for getting to the city centre is by taxi, Uber, or by the KL Ekspres train. The train will take about an hour and costs MR100 (AU$31) return or MR55 (AU$17.50) one-way.
If you go by car, the trip will take 45 to 60 minutes and the average cost is between MR65 to MR75 (AU$20 and AU$24).
#2 Drop Your Bags Off
Whether you land early in the morning and have a late flight out on the same day, or land in the afternoon and have a connecting flight the next morning, it’s a good idea to book a room at a hotel. You don’t want to lug around a suitcase while you’re exploring. Plus, it can be a comfortable place to freshen up or take a nap.
You’ll find that most places in KL have air conditioning and Wi-Fi. The Pacific Express Hotel Central is a great budget option (rooms start at just MR94 / AU$29 per night), particularly for its rooftop pool with views of the city. It’s also a 10-minute walk from the train station and nearby markets.
#3 Grab Some Local Food
Kuala Lumpur is rich in food culture and teeming with flavour. If you arrive in the evening, head to bustling Jalan Alor street for a major dose of Malaysian food culture. Slurp on asam laksa, a spicy noodle soup that’s one of Malaysia’s most iconic dishes. And, for dessert, snag a few goreng pisang (banana fritters) from a street vendor.
If it’s daytime, take a stroll through Petaling Street Market in Chinatown. On the way, you’ll pass by Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Malaysia’s oldest and most intricately decorated Hindu temple.
If you’re looking for breakfast, make sure to try roti canai, a crispy, sweet flatbread that’s a traditional Malaysian breakfast item. For lunch, feast on nasi kandar, steamed rice served with a variety of curries and side dishes. Most dishes will set you back between MR10 and MR15 (AU$3 and AU$5).[related_articles]58216[/related_articles]
You can find these dishes at most of the food stalls in the markets, which are full of traditional and local cuisine. Markets are open day and night. The daytime markets are known as pasar tani and the evening ones pasar malam.
#4 See The Sights
Depending on the length of your layover, you may be able to see some of Malaysia’s most iconic attractions, like the Batu Caves and the Petronas Towers. The Batu Caves are a 15-minute train ride out of the city centre and are open daily from 6am to 9pm.
When you get there, you’ll notice a 42m-high, gold statue of Murugan, a Hindu deity. Snap a photo with it, then climb the 272 steps up the limestone hill and into the caves. They’re free to enter, so be wary of scammers trying to sell you fake tickets.
Oh, and look out for the monkeys – they like to get up close and personal.
If you don’t have time to visit the Batu Caves, take a stroll through KLCC park. It’s a 50-acre garden set at the foot of the Petronas Towers. If you’re keen to see the city from a different angle, go 170m to the Skybridge and Observation Deck, which connects the two towers. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 9pm, and tickets cost MR85 (AU$27) for adults.
There are a limited number of tickets per day, but if you’re determined to get there, you can book online.
# 5 Hit The Town
You might be exhausted after traveling, but it’s worth mustering up the energy for one of Kuala Lumpur’s best-kept secrets. Take the elevators to the 34th floor of the Menara building and walk onto a helicopter pad-turned-rooftop bar for a drink during sunset.
There are no rails, no walls and no boundaries of any kind. Sounds scary, right? Never fear, because you’ll get dazzling views of the Petronas Towers and the colourful Kuala Lumpur Tower. Arrive between 6pm and 9pm to access the rooftop bar for free.
No matter what time of day, remember to give yourself time to head back to the airport as it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Plus, if it’s an international flight, you’ll have to go through immigration. But, hey, you’ve added another stamp to your passport![qantas_widget code=KUL]Check out Qantas flights to Kuala Lumpur.[/qantas_widget] (Lead image: Paweł Szymankiewicz)