Is Kuala Lumpur an expensive city to visit?
Travelers who have never been to Southeast Asia, especially people from Western countries, may find Malaysia’s capital city to be a budget-friendly destination. But for those who have stayed in the region for quite some time, Kuala Lumpur is definitely not among the cheapest places to travel.
Having visited some inexpensive cities like Chiang Mai and Hanoi, I personally find Kaula Lumpur quite a bit more expensive than other Southeast Asian cities (except for Singapore and Hong Kong, of course).
However, if you are traveling to Kaula Lumpur on a backpacking budget soon, don’t be discouraged. You’ll be delighted to know that the city actually caters to every traveling style: luxury, mid-range, and budget. If you prefer to enjoy KL without splurging, there are practical ways to make your Malaysian ringgit (MYR) go a long way.
Setting Your Daily Budget
On a daily average, a budget traveler can spend within the range of $13.00 to $30.00 USD (53 to 122 MYR) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The costs include accommodation, food, local transportation, souvenirs, entertainment, and alcohol.
However, if you plan to drink a lot, dine at fancy restaurants, and visit a lot of attractions, be prepared to spend more than $50.00 (204 MYR) per day.
Cheap Accommodations in KL
Budget hotels and inns are scattered all over KL, and most of the cheaper options can be found in Chinatown and Bukit Bintang. Many budget hotels in the city offer free breakfast and Wi-Fi.
A good-quality budget hotel costs around $25.00 (100 MYR) per night. Book a budget hotel that doesn’t only fit your accommodation budget but also has proper license and positive ratings and reviews from actual travelers on hotel booking sites.
If you don’t mind sharing a room with strangers, you can go for hostels that cost lower than budget hotels. For instance, the costs of dorm rooms range from $4.00 to $11.00 (15 to 45 MYR).
Saving on Transportation Costs
Kuala Lumpur has a very efficient and affordable public transportation system—take advantage of it to cut on your transportation costs. Taking the monorails will cost you from $0.49 to $9.00 (2-35 MYR), and riding the bus starts at only $0.25 (1 MYR).
You can even go from one place to another without shelling out money on transport. Some destinations in KL can be explored on foot, such as Little India and Chinatown. You’re lucky if your hostel is just close to these areas.
As much as possible, avoid riding a taxi. Taxi scams are common in many Southeast Asian cities, and KL is not an exception. Use the taxi only as a last resort, if you’re sharing the fare with two or more companions, or if the driver agrees to use the fare meter.
If you have no other choice but to ride a taxi, keep these tips in mind to avoid getting scammed:
- Ride a budget taxi. In KL, you’ll find two types of taxi: the budget taxi and the premium taxi. Budget taxis (red-and-white sedans) are cheaper than premium taxis (blue station wagons). Aside from the cost, they differ in their passenger and luggage capacity. However, budget taxis are just as fast and comfortable as premium taxis.
- Insist on using the meter. Taxi drivers in Malaysia are required by law to do it, but some enterprising drivers would rather quote flat rates than charge the metered fare. Refuse if the driver asks for a fixed rate. And before boarding a taxi, make sure that the driver will turn the meter on.
- Bring loose change. Paying the exact fare amount will save you a lot, as drivers might claim that they don’t have change.
Exploring KL for Free
Being a cheapskate traveler that I am, I was able to explore the rich Malay, Indian, and Chinese heritage in KL for free. Tourists can join the free walking tours offered by the local city government. Each 2.5-hour tour is led by an English-speaking guide.
Held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 4:30 p.m., the guided walk takes visitors to the many traditional Malay wooden houses in Kampung Bharu, KL’s oldest residential district.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll enjoy local cuisine such as Malaysia’s national dish, nasi lemak (coconut-flavored rice meal), satay (grilled meat in skewers), and tapai (sweet fermented rice wrapped in banana leaves).
Travel photographers should visit three areas within Kampung Bharu that offer the best vantage points for capturing beautiful views of Petronas Twin Towers, KL Tower, and the city’s skyline.
DSLR cameras that have wide-angle lens (with focal length between 21 and 35 mm) are great for shooting spectacular cityscapes.
Popularly known as “Little India,” this residential and commercial district houses historical landmarks built from the 1920s to 1980s. If you join a guided tour around Brickfields, you’ll get to visit pre-war shops, temples, and art galleries, among many others.
The tour is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. every first and third Saturday of the month.
Dataran Merdeka (Merdeka Square)
This tour takes tourists to Merdeka Square’s 11 historical spots, including British colonial buildings built in the late 19th century. It’s scheduled at 9 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.
However, if you prefer to explore KL on your own than tour with a group of 20+ people, you can visit other free attractions and sights in the city.
KL Forest Eco Park
The Eco Park is the oldest protected forest in Malaysia, which has earned KL the distinction of being the world’s only city with a natural rainforest. Pretty neat!
Perdana Botanical Garden
A perfect spot for relaxation is the tropical garden’s man-made lake surrounded by lush greenery. Free guided tours in the garden are scheduled from Mondays to Fridays at 8 to 10 a.m.
In the heart of KL lies a unique, attractive park that boasts of an elevated bridge, where you can get a fascinating view of the Petronas Twin Towers, and a captivating musical fountain that’s best viewed and photographed at night.
Tips for Affordable Dining and Drinking in Kuala Lumpur
The best and cheapest way to satisfy your tummy in KL is to eat local cuisine, as Western food in this city is a bit pricier. Explore the street stalls and hawker centers for good yet affordable Chinese and Indian food. For less than $2.50 (10 MYR), you’ll get not only a delicious, hearty meal but also a distinct local dining experience.
Drink filtered water instead of buying bottled water
In KL, many hotels provide free filtered drinking water to their guests. Save money by bringing your own portable container and refilling it with water from the hotel you’re staying in. However, if you’d rather drink commercial bottled water, you can find the lowest-priced ones at supermarkets.
Limit your alcohol intake
Sounds like a downer, huh? While cutting down on booze doesn’t seem like a fun idea (especially if you love the nightlife), it’s actually good for your pocket.
Liquors come with ridiculous price tags because they’re heavily taxed in Malaysia, so it’s best that you do your drinking spree elsewhere. If you can’t fight your thirst for alcohol in KL, you can score cheaper drinks from bars that offer a Happy Hours promo and buying beer from a Chinese convenience store or coffee shop.
KL is a paradise for bargain hunters with its many shopping areas and annual year-end sale. Head over to Chinatown and Little India for cheap souvenirs, clothes, food, and gadgets.
So there you go guys. A nifty little starters guide to traveling Kuala Lumpur on a budget.
Kuala Lumpur may come off as a quite expensive destination, but you can make your visit there as budget-friendly as possible. As long as you travel smart in this city, you’ll never have to go home broke.
About – Liz Pekler
Liz Pekler is a travel photographer with almost 10 years of experience in the field. When she is not out exploring the world, she likes to share her knowledge about photography and travel through writing for blogs.
Like this article? Why not share it on Pinterest?
Disclaimer: We have included a few handy little affiliate links in case any of our readers want to book accommodations. We receive a small commission for any sales made, without any additional cost to you, our dear reader.