Malaysia’s capital is a colour mix of skyscrapers, shopping malls, vibrant cultural neighbourhoods like Chinatown and the Indian districts, museums, parks and some very eclectic architecture. Flights to Kuala Lumpur may cost you a pretty penny, but once you arrive, there’s plenty to see and do here that’s free.
Kuala Lumpur, not unlike London, is one of the world’s true multinational cities, where cultures from all over the world meet. Malay, Indian, Chinese and ex-pat residents mix with visitors and travellers from every corner of the globe in KL’s streets and markets. You can find cheap street food from just about every culinary tradition in the world (good news for budget travellers!).
Cash-strapped travellers rest assured, while it’s easy to spank away money like no one’s business in this city, there’s plenty to see and do that’s completely free. Don’t believe us? See for yourself!
From markets to parks, city sights to vibrant neighbourhoods
1. Find local hosts: KL is home to plenty of cheap guesthouses and hostels in Chinatown and Bukit Bintang but if you are open-minded and want a more local (and free) experience, give couch surfing a go. It’s the best way to exchange cultures and experiences with locals, who offer their spare room or couch to travellers for free. Be a good guest though, and bring along a gift from your home country for your hosts.
2. Admire the Petronas Towers: The Petronas Towers are the tallest twin towers in the world, standing at 425 metres tall, and are the city’s most recognisable landmarks. Admire the towers for free from outside and visit the information display in the ticket office for free. The ticket to go up to level 86 (360m up) where the observation deck is located will only set you back RM80 (around £14.50).
3. Galeri Petronas: While you’re in the neighbourhood of the Petronas Towers, visit this free public art gallery which showcases Malaysian artists. It’s located on the 3rd floor of the KLCC and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-8pm every week.
4. People watch in the KLCC: The KLCC is one of the city’s biggest shopping malls and one of the best places to do some serious people watching. You’ll see people from all walks of life: city business men, wealthy Malaysian women dressed in head-to-toe silks, Malaysian teens and international travellers.
5. Take a walking tour around colonial KL: There are some gorgeous colonial British buildings in Kuala Lumpur. Merdeka Square is lined with beautiful buildings from the last 1800s. You can often spot a game of cricket going on in the square’s grassy lawn too.
6. Sample Chinese tea in Chinatown: Chinatown is a crazy mix of fruit and food stalls and hawkers selling designer bags and sunglasses. It’s all a bit hectic but if you venture into the streets bordering this area, you can find some charming little Chinese tea shops. Browse the incredible selection of imported teas and you’ll no doubt be invited to try some at a small tea tasting station.
7. Lake Garden Park: Escape the city at Taman Tasik Perdana, a beautifully landscaped park and lake in the city centre. The park is full of giant tropical trees, waterfalls, a small deer park and miles of walking paths. It’s the perfect place to start your day or take shelter in the shade on a hot day.
8. Visit a temple: The city is dotted with Chinese and Indian temples, all of which welcome visitors to come in and look around. Some temple-goers buy incense at the door to light and add to the already burning incense in large brass cauldrons while they make prayers and wishes.
9. Batu Caves: Entry to these three remarkable caves is free but you’ll have to climb 272 steps to get inside! These limestone caves are located on the outskirts of the city, so you’ll need to catch a train to get there. Find more info about the Batu Caves in our post, The most incredible caves in the world.
10. Little India: About a 15 minute walk from the Central Market is Brickfields, also known as Little India. Almost all the shops and restaurants here are run by Indian families and it’s a great area to explore if you’re looking for cheap eats.
For more tips on travelling to Kuala Lumpur, check out the city’s official tourism site, visitkl.gov.my.
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