New to Kuala Lumpur? Here’s How to Make the Most of Your Stay

The excitement of moving to a new city comes with the possibility of exploration. You can go someplace new every weekend and never run out of places to see.

Since moving to Kuala Lumpur  in 2012, I’ve collected tips that I would like to share with foreigners who have just arrived in the city and have some time on their hands. Most tourists can see the highlights of the city in a few days. If you’re staying longer, I recommend these:

1. Play the tourist. I compiled suggestions for self-guided sightseeing, cultural attractions, and free attractions for travel 3Sixty°. While you’re at it, pick up some souvenirs.

2. Subscribe to the Time Out KL newsletter. TOKL is the best source for things to do in the city. Every Thursday, they send out the top events for the weekend, plus useful articles on just about everything in the city and beyond. To sign up for their mailer, create an account on the site. It’s totally worth surrendering that email address of yours.

3. Hit the local food joints. Expats find it comfortable (and within their means) to stick to “proper” restaurants and bars, but the Malaysian experience is incomplete without having breakfast at the hot and crowded Chinese kopitiam for all the noodles and dimsum you could possibly want, and supper of roti canai (bread with a side of curry) and teh tarik (pulled tea) at the mamak, the Indian Muslim outlets that are usually open 24 hours a day. Apart from these, there’s also a bunch of apps for eating out (or in, with Food Panda). I use Offpeak (discounts) and Kindmeal (vegetarian meals).

4. Go outdoors. The weather in Malaysia is pretty constant year-round—lots of sun with occasional rain and thunderstorms. Mornings and evenings are perfect for a walk (or run) in city parks. My favorite is Taman Botani Perdana (KL Lake Gardens), but there should be one or two close to where you live.

5. If you don’t have a hobby, get one. Now is a good time to take up classes and workshops in the activities you are interested in. It’s also an opportunity to join a community and expand your circle of contacts and friends. There are enthusiast groups for everything you can think of, from urban sketching to sewing. Me? I picked up lindy hop via KL Swing and Lindy KL.

6. Sign up for InterNations. The site is geared towards expats and like-minded individuals. The KL groups seem pretty active in organizing meet-ups and events. I’ve only gone to the monthly drinks once, but I find it a good place for finding out what you can do in the city.

7. Keep your eye on the cultural beat. Being a fairly small city, performances and exhibits in KL are limited compared to larger Asian capitals, but there’s still enough to keep you inspired. Attend a performance at the lovely Dewan Filharmonik (where the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra plays) or the equally pretty klpac for theater and dance. ILHAM Gallery and Galeri Petronas are free, centrally-located private galleries that are worth checking out every few months.

8. Take a  road trip. Get behind the wheel or find a friend who’s willing to drive out of the city to visit waterfalls and nearby towns, such as Klang. Feeling playful? Try theme parks: water fun at Sunway Lagoon, faux-French selfies at Colmar Tropicale and some high-rolling action at Genting Highlands, home to Malaysia’s only casino.

9. Travel solo on long weekends. The heritage towns of Melaka, Ipoh and George Town (Penang) are easily accessible via public transportation. You can fly to so many places around Asia on AirAsia (watch for seat sales every quarter) that you aren’t even confined within the borders of Malaysia. This is especially advantageous for ASEAN citizens who don’t need visas for Southeast Asia, but since you’re on this side of the world, you might as well see more of it.

10. Download Grab and Uber. If you didn’t have these ride-sharing apps where you came from, it’s time to change the way you get around. While most urbanites drive, those who take public transportation to work (like me) don’t need a car on a daily basis, so ride sharing is the way to go. It also helps that there are promotions every month, which help add up the savings.

Now go forth and enjoy KL!



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